Reframing the Mongols in 1260: The Armenians, the Mongols and the Magi
By Angus Stewart
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 28, Number 1, 2018
Introduction: The irruption of the Mongols led to profound changes in the political, cultural and confessional climate of the thirteenth-century Near East. While many did not survive the initial onslaught and the years of turmoil that followed, and rulers that opposed the Mongols were largely swept away, the communities and dynasties that remained were forced to seek some sort of accommodation with the new overlords.
While subjection to the Mongol yoke was far from desirable, rulers could seek to make the best of the situation, in the hope that the ambitions of the Mongols might come to match their own, or that the Mongols might be persuaded to support their cause. This paper will consider how certain Christian groups in the Near East sought to reconcile themselves to the Mongol presence, and how they sought to place these alien invaders within a more familiar framework.
In particular it will examine the visual evidence for this process by looking at a couple of appearances of recognisably Mongol figures within Christian artwork, dating from the time of the second major Mongol invasion of the region, led by the Ilkhan Hülegü, which by 1260 had extended Mongol power into Syria and to the borders of Egypt.