Hulagu Khan (1217-1265), a grandson of the Mongol emperor Ghengis Khan and brother of Mongke Khan, Kublai Khan and Arik Boke, expanded the Mongol east into southeast Asia before his defeat at the ancient battleground of Armageddon in Palestine.
Hulagu began his campaign while his brother Mongke was Great Khan. Mongke conceived a strategic plan in 1255 to conquer all the remnants of the Moslem empire at least as far as Egypt. He equipped Hulagu with a fifth of all the Mongol warriors, supported by engineers other auxiliaries, and commissioned him to destroy every Moslem state in his path that did not submit.
Hulagu’s army easily overwhelmed the Moslem rulers of southern Iran and laid siege to the Caliphate of Baghdad in 1258 after destroying most of the caliph’s army late in 1257. The Mongols destroyed Baghdad after its surrender and marched on to Syria in1259, conquering the Ayyubid rulers of Damascus in 1260 with the aid of the last Crusader principalities in southern Syria.
Cairo under the Bahri Mamluks remained as the last seat of Moslem power. Hulagu turned south through Palestine with the intention of invading Egypt. Hulagu abandoned his plan at this point when he received news of his brother’s death. He returned to Karakorum to claim his place as Great Khan, leaving only a relatively small force of Mongols to complete the occupation of Palestine. They occupied Gaza and Ashkelon, but the Mamluks did not remain idle.
Instead, the Mamluk sultan Kutuz made a deal with the Crusaders to secure peaceful passage of their forces through Palestine, where they met the Mongol cavalry in the Valley of Jezreel at Ain Jalut, the biblical Spring of Harod below Mount Gilboa, on September 3, 1260. Each side fielded about 20,000 troops. The Mamluk split their forces to lure the Mongols into an ambush in the highlands. After fierce combat, the Mamluk heavy cavalry won a decisive victory over the Mongol cavalry, with the aid of primitive hand cannon, and executed their general, Kitbuqa.
Ain Jalut, on the battleground of Armageddon, marked the reversal of the Mongol armies, hitherto invincible. Hulagu lost control of Syria and the boundary of the Mongol Empire receded to the Tigris River despite repeated Hulagu’s attempts to reconquer Syria. The battle of Ain Jalut thereby ended the Mongol threat to Europe.
Note: Although Ain Jalut means “Goliath’s Well” in Arabic, the Arabic tradition is mistaken. Ain Jalut has nothing to do with the duel between David and Goliath, which took place in the Valley of Elah in Judah.