Byzantine–Mongol Alliance

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The Mongol Empire bordered the Byzantine Empire for several decades around 1265.[1]

A Byzantine-Mongol Alliance occurred during the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century between the Byzantine Empire and the Mongol Empire.[2][a][b] Byzantium attempted to maintain friendly relations with both the Golden Horde and the Ilkhanate realms, who were often at war with each other. The alliance involved numerous exchanges of presents, military collaboration and marital links, but dissolved in the middle of the 14th century.

Diplomatic overtures[edit]

Soon after the Battle of Köse Dağ in 1243, the Empire of Trebizond surrendered to the Mongol Empire while the court of Nicaea put its fortresses in order.[5] In the early 1250s, the Latin emperor of Constantinople Baldwin II sent an embassy to Mongolia in the person of the knight Baudoin de Hainaut, who, following his return, met in Constantinople with the departing William of Rubruck.[6] William of Rubruck also noted that he met an envoy of John III Doukas Vatatzes, Emperor of Nicaea, at the court of Möngke Khan in circa 1253.

Following the Mongol partition of the Sultanate of Rum between the pro-Mongol Kilij Arslan IV in the east and the pro-Nicaean Kaykaus II in the west, the Nicaean emperor Theodore Doukas Laskaris engaged in active diplomacy with the Ilkhanate, receiving a Mongol embassy in 1257. Through Laskaris' shrewd deception, the embassy was convinced that Nicaea was a large and powerful state with a formidable army and covered entirely by mountains, thus making it exceedingly difficult for the Mongols to subjugate. The Mongol ambassadors were therefore content with Nicaea remaining independent in exchange for Rum being recognized as a Mongol protectorate. The embassy also lead to negotiations for a marriage alliance between the two rulers, however Laskaris died in 1258 before the alliance could be finalized.[7]

Alliance under Michael VIII (1263–1282)[edit]

Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, after re-establishing Byzantine Imperial rule, established an alliance with the Mongols,[8] who themselves were highly favourable to Christianity, as a minority of them were Nestorian Christians.[citation needed]

He signed a treaty in 1266 with the Mongol Khan of the Kipchak (the Golden Horde),[9] and he married two of his daughters (conceived through a mistress, a Diplovatatzina) to Mongol kings: Euphrosyne Palaiologina, who married Nogai Khan of the Golden Horde, and Maria Palaiologina, who married Abaqa Khan of Ilkhanid Persia.[10]

According to a 1267 letter by Pope Clement IV from Viterbo, Abaqa had agreed to combine forces with his father-in-law Michael VIII to help the Latins in the Holy Land, in preparation for the Eighth Crusade (the second of Louis IX):

The kings of France and Navarre, taking to heart the situation in the Holy Land, and decorated with the Holy Cross, are readying themselves to attack the enemies of the Cross. You wrote to us that you wished to join your father-in-law (the Greek emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos) to assist the Latins. We abundantly praise you for this, but we cannot tell you yet, before having asked to the rulers, what road they are planning to follow. We will transmit to them your advice, so as to enlighten their deliberations, and will inform your Magnificence, through a secure message, of what will have been decided.

— 1267 letter from Pope Clement IV to Abaqa[11]

In 1265, Berke Khan sent the Golden Horde army under Nogai to Thrace, prompting to force the Byzantines to release the Mamluk envoy and the former Seljuk Sultan Kaykaus II. According to Egyptian sources, Michael agreed to send fabrics to the Mongol Khan in Russia. When Michael realized the importance of the Mongols and became an ally of Noghai, he used his help to defend himself against Bulgaria when it tried to attack the Byzantine Empire in 1273 and 1279.[4] A group of 4,000 Mongol soldiers were dispatched to Constantinople in 1282, just before the death of Michael, to fight against the despot of Thessaly.[12][13]

Alliance under Andronikos II (1282–1328)[edit]

After 1295, Andronikos II offered Ghazan a marital alliance, in exchange for Mongol help to fight against the Turcomans at the Oriental frontier of the Byzantine Empire. Ghazan accepted the offer and promised to stop the incursions.[14] The death of Ghazan in 1304 was mourned by the Byzantines.[15]

This alliance would continue under Ghazan's successor, Oljeitu. In 1305, Ilkhan Oljeitu promised Andronikos II 40,000 men, and in 1308 dispatched 30,000 men to recover many Byzantine towns in Bithynia.[16] Andronicus II gave daughters in marriage to Toqta, as well as his successor Uzbek (1312–1341),[12] but relations turned sour at the end of Andronikos's reign and the Mongols mounted raids on Thrace between 1320 and 1324, until the Byzantine port of Vicina Macaria was occupied by the Mongols.

End of friendly relations[edit]

Under Andronikos III relations seem to have turned even more conflictual. In 1341, the Mongols planned to attack Constantinople, and Andronikos III had to send an embassy to stop the attack.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "…agreed to prolong the Byzantine-Mongol (Iranian) alliance."[3]
  2. ^ "From 1273 Michael allied with Noghai, giving him an illegitimate daughter in marriage and using him as a means to put pressure on Bulgaria."[4]


  1. ^ Shepherd, William R. Historical Atlas, 1911.
  2. ^ Sicker 2000, p. 132.
  3. ^ Dagron et al. 2001, p. 309.
  4. ^ a b Jackson 2005, pp. 202–203.
  5. ^ A. A. Vasiliev History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453, p. 531
  6. ^ Richard, p. 377.
  7. ^ Angelov, pp. 169-171.
  8. ^ Richard, p. 453. "The sustained attacks by the Sultan Baibars (…) rallied the Occidentals to this alliance [with the Mongols], to which the Mongols also convinced the Byzantines to adhere."
  9. ^ Cambridge, p. 304.
  10. ^ Canal and Runciman, p. 320.
  11. ^ Quoted in Grousset, p. 644.
  12. ^ a b c Jackson, p. 203.
  13. ^ Heath and McBride, p. 24.
  14. ^ Luisetto, pp. 144–145, referencing Pachymeres.
  15. ^ Luisetto, p. 145.
  16. ^ Heath and McBride, pp. 24–33.


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