Executions · Iraq · Political

Caliph executed by starvation, told to “eat (his) treasure”

February 20, 1258
Baghdad, Iraq
Caliph Al-Musta’sim Billah is executed by invading Mongolian forces

According to The Travels of Marco Polo, Al-Musta’sim was locked in his treasure room without food or water, sentenced to die by dehydration or starvation. As he was imprisoned, Mongolian leader Hulagu Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan) reportedly said “eat of thy treasure as much as thou wilt, since thou art so fond of it.”

Supporting Marco Polo’s claim was a report by Persian scholar Nasir al-Din Tusi who wrote, “[Hulagu Khan] set a golden tray before the Caliph and said: ‘Eat!’ ‘It is not edible,’ said the Caliph. ‘Then why didst thou keep it,’ asked the King, ‘and not give it to thy soldiers? And why didst thou not make these iron doors into arrow-heads and come to the bank of the river so that I might not have been able to cross it?’ ‘Such,’ replied the Caliph, ‘was God’s will.’ ‘What will befall thee,’ said the King, ‘is also God’s will.’”

Despite these 13th Century reports, modern historians believe was killed in a manner Mongolians preferred for royalty: to be rolled in a carpet and trampled by an elephant. The reason behind this peculiar execution method was to avoid the spilling of royal blood.

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