Öljeitü, Oljeitu, Olcayto or Uljeitu, Öljaitu, Ölziit (Mongolian: ᠦᠯᠵᠡᠢᠲᠦ ᠺᠬᠠᠨ, Өлзийт хаан), also known as Muhammad Khodabandeh (Persian محمد خدابنده - اولجایتو, khodābandeh from Persian meaning the "man of God" or "servant of God"; 1280 - December 16, 1316), was the eighth Ilkhanid dynasty ruler in Tabriz, Iran from 1304 to 1316. His name "Ölziit" means "blessed" in the Mongolian language.
Oljeitu was the son of Arghun's third wife, the Christian Uruk Khatun. Oljeitu was baptised as a Christian and received the name Nikola Nicholas after Pope Nicholas IV. In his youth he at first converted to Buddhism but then to Sunni Islam together with his brother Ghazan. He later converted to Shi'a Islam after coming into contact with Shi'a scholars, although another source indicates he converted to Islam through the persuasions of his wife. He changed his first name to the Islamic name Muhammad. Some of his relatives and companions gave him a nickname of Khutabanda. Rashid al-Din wrote that he adopted the name Oljeitu following Yuan emperor Oljeitu Temür enthroned in Dadu. But some Muslim source mentions that it rained when he was born, and delighted Mongols called him Mongolian name Öljeitu (Өлзийт), meaning auspicious.
After succeeding his brother, Öljeitu was greatly under the influence of Shi'a theologians Al-Hilli and Maitham Al Bahrani. In 1306, Oljeitu founded the city of Soltaniyeh, and upon Al-Hilli's death, Oljeitu transferred his teacher's remains from Baghdad to a domed shrine he built in Soltaniyeh. Later, alienated by the factional strife between the Hanafis and the Shafis, Oljeitu changed his sect to Shi'a Islam in 1310, believing it to be the true version of Islam. However, it has also been reported that he reconverted to Sunni Islam prior to his death. Mirkhond reportedly claims he started the custom of taking children from Christian and Jewish families to be raised as Muslims, analogous to the later Ottoman system of Devshirme.
He died in Soltaniyeh, near Qazvin, in 1316, having reigned for twelve years and nine months. Afterwards, Rashid al-Din Hamadani was accused of having caused his death by poisoning and was executed. Oljeitu was succeeded by his son Abu Sa'id. His magnificent tomb in Soltaniyeh remains the best known monument of Ilkhanid Persia.
Relations with Europe
Trading contacts with European powers were intense during the reign of Öljeitu. The Genoese had first appear in the capital of Tabriz in 1280, and they had a Consul in residence by 1304. Oljeitu also gave full trading rights to the Venetians through a treaty in 1306 (another such treaty with his son Abu Said was signed in 1320). According to Marco Polo, Tabriz was specialized in the production of gold and silk, and Western merchants could purchase precious stones in quantities.
After his predecessor Arghun, Öljeitu continued diplomatic overtures with the West, and re-stated Mongol hopes for an alliance between the Christian nations of Europe and the Mongols against the Mamluks, even though Öljeitu himself had converted to Islam.
In April 1305, he sent a Mongol embassy led by Buscarello de Ghizolfi to the French king Philip IV of France, Pope Clement V, and Edward I of England. The letter to Philip IV, the only one to have survived, describes the virtues of concord between the Mongols and the Franks:
"We, Sultan Oljaitu. We speak. We, who by the strength of the Sky, rose to the throne (...), we, descendant of Genghis Khan (...). In truth, there cannot be anything better than concord. If anybody was not in concord with either you or ourselves, then we would defend ourselves together. Let the Sky decide!"—Extract from the letter of Oljeitu to Philip the Fair. French national archives.
He also explained that internal conflicts between the Mongols were now over:
"Now all of us, Timur Khagan, Tchapar, Toctoga, Togba and ourselves, main descendants of Gengis-Khan, all of us, descendants and brothers, are reconciled through the inspiration and the help of God. So that, from Nangkiyan (China) in the Orient, to Lake Dala our people are united and the roads are open."—Extract from the letter of Oljeitu to Philip the Fair. French national archives.
Another embassy was sent to the West in 1307, led by Tommaso Ugi di Siena, an Italian described as Öljeitu's ildüchi ("Sword-bearer"). This embassy encouraged Pope Clement V to speak in 1307 of the strong possibility that the Mongols could remit the Holy Land to the Christians, and to declare that the Mongol embassy from Öljeitu "cheered him like spiritual sustenance". Relations were quite warm: in 1307, the Pope named John of Montecorvino the first Archbishop of Khanbalik and Patriarch of the Orient.
European nations accordingly prepared a crusade, but were delayed. A memorandum drafted by the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers Guillaume de Villaret about military plans for a Crusade envisaged a Mongol invasion of Syria as a preliminary to a Western intervention (1307/8). A corps of Frank mangonel specialists is known to have accompanied the Ilkhanid army in the conquest of Herat in 1307. Mongols besieged the castle in Gilan for so long, that epidemic and lack of food supply forced Gilans to submit to them. He punished Kartids in Herat as well.
Military operation of 1308
Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II gave a daughter in marriage to Oljeitu and asked ilkhan's assistance against growing power of the Ottomans. In 1305, Oljeitu promised his father in law 40,000 men, and in 1308 dispatched 30,000 men to recover many Byzantine towns in Bithynia and the Ilkhanid army crushed a detachment of Osman I.
On April 4, 1312, a Crusade was promulgated by Pope Clement V at the Council of Vienne. Another embassy was sent by Oljeitu to the West and to Edward II in 1313. That same year, the French king Philippe le Bel "took the cross", making the vow to go on a Crusade in the Levant, thus responding to Clement V's call for a Crusade. He was however warned against leaving by Enguerrand de Marigny, and died soon after in a hunting accident.
Öljeitu finally launched a last campaign against the Mamluks (1312–13), in which he was unsuccessful, though he reportedly briefly took Damascus. A final settlement with the Mamluks would only be found when Oljeitu's son signed the Treaty of Aleppo with the Mamluks in 1322.
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