Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland

The Assassination of King Het'um II: The Conversion of The Ilkhans and the Armenians


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On November 17, 1307, the Armenian king, Het'um II, was assassinated by a Mongol, recently converted to Islam, the noyan Bularghu. In this paper I will look at this assassination, which has often been seen as significant in the context of the conversion of the Mongols of Persia to Islam, and also at the effects, or perceived effects, of that conversion, especially regarding Ilkhanid foreign policy. I shall consider the attitude of the Ilkhans to the small Armenian kingdom centred on Cilicia, now in south-eastern Turkey, which, by 1307 had shrunk from the size and importance it had enjoyed in the middle of the thirteenth century. First, I intend briefly to describe Armenian relations with the Mongols, from the irruption of the latter until about 1307; then I shall discuss the assassination, the sources and reasons for it; next I shall look at the conversion of the Mongol rulers of Persia to Islam, and any effects that this may have had on Ilkhanid foreign policy; finally I shall consider how both this conversion and the assassination have been interpreted by historians, and what this event actually shows us about the effects of the Mongol Ilkhans' conversion to Islam on their relationship with their subject, Christian, Armenian satellite.