Not to be confused with Mohammed Khodabanda (Safavid Dynasty).
Öljaitü and ambassadors from the Yuan Dynasty, 1438, "Majma' al-Tavarikh"

Öljeitü, Oljeitu, Olcayto or Uljeitu, Öljaitu, Ölziit (Mongolian: ᠦᠯᠵᠡᠢᠲᠦ ᠺᠬᠠᠨ, translit. Öljeitü Ilkhan, 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.

He was the son of the Ilkhan ruler Arghun, brother and successor of Mahmud Ghazan (5th successor of Genghis Khan), and great-grandson of the Ilkhanate founder Hulagu.


The mausoleum of Öljaitü in Soltaniyeh.

Oljeitu was the son of Arghun's third wife, the Christian Uruk Khatun.[1] Oljeitu was baptised as a Christian and received the name Nikolya (Nicholas) after Pope Nicholas IV.[2] 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,[3] although another source indicates he converted to Islam through the persuasions of his wife.[4] 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.[5] In 1306, Oljeitu founded the city of Soltaniyeh,[6] 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.[7] 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.[6]

In 1309, Öljeitu founded a Dar al-Sayyedah ("Sayyed's lodge") in Shiraz and endowed it with an income of 10,000 Dinars a year.

He died in Soltaniyeh, near Qazvin, in 1316, having reigned for twelve years and nine months.[6] 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

Trade contacts

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).[8] According to Marco Polo, Tabriz was specialized in the production of gold and silk, and Western merchants could purchase precious stones in quantities.[8]

Military alliance

Mongol soldiers at the time of Öljeitü, in Jami al-Tawarikh by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, 1305-1306.
Letter of Öljeitu to Philippe le Bel, 1305. In classical Mongolian script, with the seal of the Great Khaan in Mongolian Quadratic Script (Dörböljin Bichig). The huge roll measures 302x50 cm.
Translation of Öljeitu's message by Buscarello de Ghizolfi, on the back of the letter (visible here).
Ghazan and his brother Öljaitü.

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.

1305 embassy

In April 1305, he sent a Mongol embassy led by Buscarello de Ghizolfi to the French king Philip IV of France,[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

This message reassured the European nations that the Franco-Mongol alliance, or at least attempts towards such an alliance, had not ceased, even though the Khans had converted to Islam.[12]

1307 embassy

Another embassy was sent to the West in 1307, led by Tommaso Ugi di Siena, an Italian described as Öljeitu's ildüchi ("Sword-bearer").[13] 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".[14] Relations were quite warm: in 1307, the Pope named John of Montecorvino the first Archbishop of Khanbalik and Patriarch of the Orient.[15]

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).[16] A corps of Frank mangonel specialists is known to have accompanied the Ilkhanid army in the conquest of Herat in 1307.[17] 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.[18]

1313 embassy

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.[19] 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,[20] and died soon after in a hunting accident.[21]

Öljeitu finally launched a last campaign against the Mamluks (1312–13), in which he was unsuccessful, though he reportedly briefly took Damascus.[6] A final settlement with the Mamluks would only be found when Oljeitu's son signed the Treaty of Aleppo with the Mamluks in 1322.

See also


  1. Ryan, James D. (November 1998). "Christian wives of Mongol khans: Tartar queens and missionary expectations in Asia". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 8 (9): 411421. doi:10.1017/s1356186300010506.
  2. "Arghun had one of his sons baptized, Khordabandah, the future Öljeitu, and in the Pope's honor, went as far as giving him the name Nicholas", Histoire de l'Empire Mongol, Jean-Paul Roux, p.408
  3. Alizadeh, Saeed; Alireza Pahlavani; Ali Sadrnia. Iran: A Chronological History. p. 137.
  4. The preaching of Islam: a history of the propagation of the Muslim faith By Sir Thomas Walker Arnold, pg. 197
  5. Al Oraibi, Ali (2001). "Rationalism in the school of Bahrain: a historical perspective". In Lynda Clarke. Shīʻite Heritage: Essays on Classical and Modern Traditions. Global Academic Publishing. p. 336.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Stevens, John. The history of Persia. Containing, the lives and memorable actions of its kings from the first erecting of that monarchy to this time; an exact Description of all its Dominions; a curious Account of India, China, Tartary, Kermon, Arabia, Nixabur, and the Islands of Ceylon and Timor; as also of all Cities occasionally mention'd, as Schiras, Samarkand, Bokara, &c. Manners and Customs of those People, Persian Worshippers of Fire; Plants, Beasts, Product, and Trade. With many instructive and pleasant digressions, being remarkable Stories or Passages, occasionally occurring, as Strange Burials; Burning of the Dead; Liquors of several Countries; Hunting; Fishing; Practice of Physick; famous Physicians in the East; Actions of Tamerlan, &c. To which is added, an abridgment of the lives of the kings of Harmuz, or Ormuz. The Persian history written in Arabick, by Mirkond, a famous Eastern Author that of Ormuz, by Torunxa, King of that Island, both of them translated into Spanish, by Antony Teixeira, who liv'd several Years in Persia and India; and now render'd into English.
  7. Curatola, Giovanni; Gianroberto Scarcia (2007). Iran: The Art and Architecture of Persia. Perseus Distribution Services. p. 166. ISBN 9780789209207.
  8. 1 2 Jackson, p.298
  9. Mostaert and Cleaves, pp. 56-57, Source
  10. Quoted in Jean-Paul Roux, Histoire de l'Empire Mongol, p.437
  11. Source
  12. Jean-Paul Roux, in Histoire de l'Empire Mongol ISBN 2-213-03164-9: "The Occident was reassured that the Mongol alliance had not ceased with the conversion of the Khans to Islam. However, this alliance could not have ceased. The Mamelouks, through their repeated military actions, were becoming a strong enough danger to force Iran to maintain relations with Europe.", p.437
  13. Peter Jackson, p.173
  14. Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the West, p.171
  15. Foltz, p.131
  16. Peter Jackson, p.185
  17. Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the West, p.315
  18. I. Heath, Byzantine Armies: AD 1118–1461, pp. 24–33.
  19. Peter Jackson, p.172
  20. Jean Richard, "Histoire des Croisades", p.485
  21. Richard, p.485


Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mahmud Ghazan
Ilkhanid Dynasty
Succeeded by
Abu Sa'id
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