Khwarezmia was a bustling Islamic empire during the 1200’s when it made the terrible mistake of pissing off Genghis Khan.
Then ruled by Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad, Khwarezmia was a huge, sprawling empire that encompassed the lands of Greater Iran. The Shah had at this time just extended the empire’s borders, and was involved in a pissing c0ntest of a sort with the Caliph of Baghdad.
Many historians agree that the Mongolians originally had no intention of obliterating the empire, but were only interested in trade and even saw a potential alliance with the Shah. After all, the Empire was the Mongolians’ first contact with the Islamic Middle East.
In fact, Genghis Khan sent his messengers to the empire with a message that basically acknowledges the Shah’s authority: “You rule the rising sun and I rule the setting sun,” which is like having the biggest, meanest bully in the schoolyard ask you politely if it’s all right to, you know, hang out with you.
So how did the Khwarezmians respond, did they slaughter a few thousand sheep, offer their daughters to the Great Khan's messengers, and compose a few songs to welcome the ambassadors and celebrate their alliance?
Well, not exactly. In one of history’s most stupidest displays of assholery, the governor of the Khwarezmian city of Otrar had the Khan’s messengers arrested, their caravan seized, and all the merchants, save one, killed.
Genghis Khan, refusing to believe at first the breathtaking chutzpa that these people displayed, sent another group of envoys; this time to the big boss himself, Shah Ala ad-Din. Perhaps to ask, “Did you just kill off my homies? What’s up with that?”
Or words to that effect.
To which the Shah responded by shaving the heads of the messengers, and cutting off the head of the interpreter.
That finally convinced Genghis Khan that this Ala ad-Din fellow did not really want to hang out with him.
Genghis Khan, with a force of 200,000 men led by some of the greatest generals that ever lived, went after him, in the process launching the Great Khan’s invasion of CentralAsia.
He then proceeded to give the Khwarezmid Empire a beating so brutal the world would not see anything like it until the 20th century. The annihilation was so complete, the destruction so absolute, that this campaign essentially earned the Mongols’ reputation for bloodthirstiness and savagery in battle.
“O would that my mother had never borne me, that I had died before and that I were forgotten [so] tremendous disaster such as had never happened before, and which struck all the world, though the Muslims above all . . . Dadjdjal [Muslim Anti-Christ] will at least spare those who adhere to him, and will only destroy his adversaries. These [Mongols], however, spared none. They killed women, men, children, ripped open the bodies of the pregnant and slaughtered the unborn…”
The Mongols overwhelmed the Shah’s army, destroying Bukhara, Samarkand, and the Khwarezmid capital of Gurganj. They captured the Governor of Otrar alive, and according to one legend, poured molten silver into his eyes and mouth.
The Shah himself eventually fled to an island in the Caspian Sea and died there shortly after, a broken man. Perhaps thinking, over and over, “I could have just acted like a good neighbor, you know? But nooo...”
The Mongols destroyed an army five times their size, and did their best to wipe the empire off the map. Four million of the empire’s inhabitants were slaughtered.
Payback really is a bitch.
The Mongol armies, as a result of this campaign, cleared a path to Europe. As for the rest of the Islamic world—Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, all three were eventually conquered by future khans.
Genghis Khan prided himself in being known as the “punishment from God.”
But which god is anybody’s guess.