Jezereel Valley, location of the Battle of 'Ain Jalut

Battle of ‘Ain Jalut

The Battle of ‘Ain Jalut was a major military defeat for the Mongols. The battle took place in early fall of 1260 in the Jezereel Valley of modern-day Israel. This battle marked a distinct turning point for the Mongols, as it was the first conquest which they not only lost, but never avenged. It also prevented Mongol expansion into Egypt and Africa.

The Jezereel Valley is a wide, fertile plain between two mountain ranges. Since antiquity it had been part of a major trading route between Asia and Africa. It was also used as a battle field since Biblical times. The name ‘Ain Jalut means the Spring of Goliath after the Philistine giant. Though Goliath himself never fought in the valley, the Philistines waged battle against the Israelites there, causing the suicides of Israelite King Saul and his son Jonathan.

After conquering the Abbasid Caliphate in Persia and gaining the submission of the Ayyubid Dynasty in Syria, the Mongols continued south to capture the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and Mamluk governed Egypt. Just as the Mamluks and Mongols prepared for war, Hulegu, commander of the Mongol army, received message that the Great Khan in China had died. He left with the majority of his cavalry to settle the succession dispute, hoping to become the next ruler. While traveling through Iran, Hulegu received word that his brother Kublai had inherited the throne, so he turned back to fight. But he arrived too late. Mamluk ruler Qutuz took advantage of Hulegu’s absence and organized a preemptive attack. The Mongols were outnumbered and outwitted. They lost the battle in a crushing defeat, and forever lost the chance to conquer Africa.

European depiction of the Battle of 'Ain Jalut.

The Battle of ‘Ain Jalut became important in Europe because it protected Christian Crusaders in the Holy Land from the Mongols. This is a European depiction of the battle from the German National Library.

 

Tapestry of Mongol defeat in battle.

An Arab tapestry depicting the Mongols being defeated by the Mamluks in battle.