vendredi 14 avril 2006

King Mas'ud

The Assyrian of today wishes to make himself known. He searches for his living memories, keys of his cultural ethnic, political identities. The Syriac Chronicles are a good source to the understanding of his History. For instance, the Assyrians, sometimes, complain to have had no king in the Christian era. However, during the Mongolian empire, they had a great king in Mâwsil (Mosul), a Mesopotamian city. His name was Mas’ud.

The Mongols in the Thirteenth Century

In 1206, The Mongols- the nomadic tribes of central Asia- joined forces, headed by the famous Temujin (Gengis Khan) and dashed into a series of conquests. In the East, they seized China of Song and the Tibet. In the west, they captured and plundered the city of Baghdâd, in 1258, putting an end to the dynasty of the Arabic khalîfahs.

The Mongol Khâns established a great empire, which extended from the China Sea to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia and the Volga River in Russia.

The Christians of Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor had waited for the arrival of the Mongols, hoping for an improvement of their condition. They expected greats changes: no longer to be considered “Dimmi’ or lesser citizens. As the believers of the others religions, they met considered themselves equal in right, in front of the authority of King of King, in a Khanat where they encountered greater tolerance. Correspondence was established with China and with Europe. They lived under the first IL-Khans of Persia for a peaceful and prosperous period. They built churches, spread some missions, increased a literary production.


The story of king Mas’ûd is inspired by “Chronography”, written by Gregory Abû’l –Faraj (1226-1286), a doctor, a patriarch, a great Syriac writer. He lived in the court of the Mongols. He was known to Europeans as Bar Hebraeus

The Chronography, written in the Syriac language, begins from the creation of the world until the Mongolian period. It is divided into two parts, Chronicum Syriacum, dedicated in political and civil history, and Chronicum Ecclesiastical, which deals with the patriarchs of the Church of the East. After the death of Gregory Abû’l –Faraj, on the 30th of July, another writer, perhaps his brother Bar Sâwmâ Sâfi, wrote, in the following years, the political history of the world.

Mas’ûd Bar Kâwtî 's reign

In the year A.D. 1276, under the reign of Abâkâ (1265-1282), the son of Hûlâkû and the Il-khan of Persia, Mas’ud of Bar Kawtâh’s rule was established. He was the son of a rich, Christian trader who traveled on a caravan to Pekin (modern Beijing) in China and wanted to visit the great Kûblâi Khân. The trader was accompanied by his sons and by the Amîr ‘Ashmût, a man from the tribe of Ighûrâyê, who led an ascetic life :

“At this time, ‘A’lâm Ad-Din Ya’kûb, a great merchant and a Christian, a native of Bar Kawtâh, a village in the country of ‘Arbîl, coming from doing homage to Kûblâi Khân, died on the road in the country of Khôrâsân. Then ‘Ashmût, the ambassador who was appointed [to go] with him, who was himself a great man and an honourable man of the race of the Ighûrâyê [one of the Mongol tribes], and who led the ascetic (or monastic) life, took his sons and brought them to do homage to the King of Kings ‘Abâkâ. And the King of Kings received them kindly, and he made Mas’ûd, the eldest son, ruler over Mâwsil and ‘Arbîl; and ‘Ashmût became the administrator of the Amîr. ” (in Ernest.A.Wallis Budge, The Chronography of Gregory Abû’l-Faraj 1225-1286, known as Bar Hebraeus, translated from the Syriac into English, London, 1932, APA-Philo Press, Amsterdam, 1976. P. 456. ).

The government of Mas’ûd

Governor Ma’sûd had soon to deal with the Kurdish neighbors in the mountains who, since 1260, had been attacking the Christians villages of the region.

On 7 June, in the year 1277, the Kurds made a new raid against the western Syrian monastery of Mâr Matta, near Mâwsil, and kidnapped ten monks.

The next year, the troubles, the rivalries began. Ma’sûd was libeled by the Persian Nasir al-Din Pâpâ, the former governor of Mâwsil. Ma’sûd and ‘Asmût were dismissed after a board of inquiry. Pâpâ ruled over Mâwsil in their place.

“And in this winter[A.D. 1278], the Persian Pâpâ (Bâbâ), who had put an end to Mas’ûd, the son of Kâwtî, in the kingdom of Mâwsil, calumniated ( i.e. brought an accusation against) Mas’ûd, saying that he was ‘destroying the country of Mâwsil, and that he did not know how to rule’. Then the King of Kings commanded certain nobles, and they came with the Pâpâ to Mâwsil. And the Pâpâ set up false witnesses against ‘Ashmût and Mas’ûd, and they bribed the judges, and perverted the judgement ( i.e. obtained a verdict by fraud). And they (i.e. the Tâtârs) condemned those Christians, and made and end of them, and they appointed the Pâpâ governor.” (P. 459-460)

Mas’ud and the noble ‘Ashmut accused Pâpâ and his judges of corruption. In the year 1280, they went to ‘Abâkâ Khan and asked him to reopen the inquiry which lasted one month

« And in the year fifteen hundred and ninety-one [of the Greeks (A.D. 1280)], ‘Ashmut , the Igûrian Amîr, and Mas’ûd, the son of Kâwtî, approached ‘Abâkâ, the King of Kings, and they showed [him] that the judges who had been sent with Pâpâ (Bâbâ) the Persian had wronged them, and that the judgement against them had been brought about by bribery. Then ‘Abâkâ commanded that his brother and his son-in-law should be the judges and that they should see which of the two parties was the innocent one. And having passed about a month of days in investigating [the matter], Pâpâ was found guilty and these former judges were exposed, and they confessed to the bribe which they had taken from Pâpâ. And the command went forth, and the head of Pâpâ was cut off with the sword on the fifth day [of the week], on the eighth day of the month of ‘Âb (August) of the year aforesaid, and brought to Mâwsil. And those Christian governors again ruled over Mâwsil and ‘Arbil and they triumphed nobly.” (P. 462)

Papa the traitor was executed around the same time than a Persian, Jelâl Ad-Dîn Tûrân, on August 8, was beheaded and whose head was brought to Mâwsil and exhibited.

In the summer A.D.1281, the Persians of the house of Jelâl Ad-Dîn Tûrân , and of the house of Pâpâ stirred up a quarrel against Mas’sûd . They claimed that he had carried off a great quantity of treasure from Jelâl Ad-Dîn, gold and precious stones. Mas’ûd was arrested, tortured and condemned. He was brought back to Mâwsil but he fled by night.

Ma’sûd, King of Mâwsil

Later, in the year A.D. 1284, ‘Arghôn, the son of ‘Abâkâ, , sat on the throne of the King of Kings. He did not forget his friends.

“For Arghôn , the King of Kings, at the beginning of his kingdom made Mas’ûd Bar Kâwtî king of Mâwsil and the districts thereof, and there was gladness for all the Christians. But they were grieved because… The sons of Jalâl ad-Dîn Tûrân killed the Igûrian monk, the Amîr ‘Ashmût, in avenging the cause of their father.” (P. 472)

In the year A.D. 1286, on the 17 day of the month of June, four thousand mounted robbers and brigands, Kûrds, Tûrkmâns and Arabs, and three hundred horsemen from the Egyptian slaves, gathered together and went to the country of Mâwsil. They spoiled the villages along the road, and finally burst upon the city at dawn.

“Then King Mas’ûd and the other horsemen who were found in the city mounted and rode out to engage them in battle. And when they saw how great was their number, and that they themselves had no force equal to theirs, they turned back and went into the city.”(P. 475)

The marauders brought the spoil from the city all day long, they looted and robbed the whole of the people. They plundered Mâwsil ‘s commercial districts and took by leaving 500 slaves. Ma’sûd, in the citadel, had not been able to prevent this looting.

The Death of Ma’sûd

‘Arghôn appointed a treasurer, Amîr Bôkâ, for his service who boasted of his power.

The others Amîrs, his opponents, complained against him. Bôkâ began to concoct a secret rebellious against ‘Arghôn. Ma’sud neglected the submission and obedience to those Amîrs who were permanently in the Royal Service :

“And because Mas’ûd Bar Kâwtî, (Kûtî), and his brethren, and his kinsfolk, knew no one besides Bôkâ in the Royal camp, and they considered the service of the other Amîrs as of no account, they were unwilling to make a meaning-less salutation to these others. And because the command of Bôkâ over all the Amîrs was superior and sublime, they neglected them all. And they accepted Bôkâ only, although through this [behaviour] they were condemned and blamed by every man.” (P. 480-81)

Bôkâ who had acted treacherously against the king, was arrested. This could land Ma’sûd much difficulties, for he was not helped by the others Amîrs. The Mongols set guards over the king of Mâwsil.

“And because Ma’sûd , the son of Bar Kâwtî, was sick they did not inflict blows upon him. They feared lest he should die and his money perish with him. And verily they employed empty promises in dealing with him, saying that if he would give them ten myriads of gold [dînârs] , he should remain in his honourable office, and that no man should harm him. Now Ma’sûd himself thought that since he had not been beaten by them they would confer some honour upon him, and he was exceedingly avaricious, and he used severe words in converse with them. Nevertheless, they, in their artfulness, partly by means of stripes and blows and partly by threats and curses, took that amount of money from him. And they carried him off with them to ‘Arbil and there they killed him on the second day of Passion Week, on the fourth day of the month of Nîsân (April) of that year. And they placed wooden fetters on his son , and shut him up.” (P. 481)

Hereupon Ma’sûd ‘s story finished sadly; his monarchy lasting only five years.

The kings of the Huns (Tâtârs)

Hûlâkû (1256-1265)

‘Abâkâ (1265-1282)

Tâkûdâr ‘Ahmâd (1282-1284)

‘Arghôn.( 1284-1291)