On this day in 1258 the Mongols captured the Muslim city of Baghdad, the capital of the once-mighty Abbasid Caliphate.
It was an event of great historical significance because it is usually considered to mark the end of the Golden Age of Islam. The Mongol state then neared the peak of its territorial extent, reaching from Poland and all the way up to Korea and Vietnam.
On the eve of the Mongol siege Baghdad was a great city, ruled by the caliph (a title signifying a “successor” of Muhammad) of the Abbasid Caliphate, which at the time of its peak stretched from Algeria to Afghanistan. When the Mongols attacked Baghdad, the ruling caliph was al-Musta’sim. When the city fell, the Mongols captured and killed the caliph, which also put an end to his state.
The Mongol conquerors committed a massacre in Baghdad (some estimates mention as many as one million civilian victims, but these sources are unreliable) and destroyed many cultural treasures which had accumulated in Baghdad throughout the centuries.
Namely, Baghdad was one of the most important centers of Islamic culture in the Middle Ages, and also included a rich library (called the House of Wisdom). The Mongols destroyed the library, so that the River Tigris was allegedly blackened from the ink of the books thrown into the water, and reddened by the blood of the murdered scholars.