Social isolation gave me enough time to read Peter Jackson: The Mongols and the Islamic World: From Conquest to Conversion (Yale University Press, 2017), which I can strongly recommend to anyone interested in this part of history. While reading this book, I recognized that as a medieval coin collector, I could illustrate much of the history of the Mongol westward conquests with coins from my collection, especially since I recently developed a side interest in “Eastern” medieval coinage. Thus, I thought it might be time for a write-up! (Since I am still a beginner in this field, please excuse but feel free to correct all possible missattributions or mistranscriptions of Arabic legends.) When the Mongol westward expanse began in 1219, Genghis Khan already ruled a vast empire. Having first united, often by force, the nomadic peoples of the Mongol steppe, he had conquered the realms of the Jurched (Jin Dynasty) and of the Qara Khitai, a sinicized dynasty ruling over lands that today are mostly part of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and northwestern China. The Mongol empire now bordered the territory of the Khwarezmian dynasty, which controlled most of what today is Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and some neighboring regions. Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, the Sunni Muslim ruler of Khwarezmia, was in a position similar to that of Genghis Khan. Just as the latter, he had built vast Empire in only a few years. Having inherited the comparatively small province of Khwarazm as well as some only recently conquered parts of Khorasan from his father Tekish in 1200 AD, Muhammad soon had come into conflict with the Ghurids and other neighbouring dynasties, defeated them, and annexed their lands. Now, he ruled over a vastly heterogeneous patchwork of territories: “however impressive it appears on the map, moreover, Muhammad’s empire was in reality a brittle edifice, comprising territories which, apart from Khwārazm, had been accumulated only recently. Transoxiana had been annexed within the past ten years; Ghūr and the rest of Afghanistan, within the past six” (Jackson 2017, p. 77). It thus doesn’t surprise that a plethora of different local types of coinage was struck in his name. To some degree, this reflects the heterogeneity of the Khwarezmian Empire during Muhammad’s reign. My first example comes from Qunduz (today in northeastern Afghanistan). The type derives from the longstanding Asian tradition of bull-and-horseman jitals, but it is much larger than regular jitals and doesn’t seem to contain any silver at all. I can’t say I properly understand this coin: Khwarezmian Empire, under Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, AE large jital, 1200–1220 AD, Qunduz mint. Obv: stylized bull l.; legend around: "abu'l fath / muhammed bin / al-sultan"; circular marginal legend (mint and date) is completely off-flan Rev: stylized horseman holding spear l.; legend around and in margins: "as-sultan al-azam ala al-dunya wa ud-din," mostly off-flan. 23mm, 4.84g. Ref: Tye 243; Album 1740. My second coin only bears Arabic legends naming the ruler. It was struck at an unclear mint from low quality billon. Just as the next coin, it falls under the broad definition of “jital” proposed by Robert Tye but isn’t part of the bull-and-horseman tradition. I’ll adopt the term nonetheless and leave discussions about the limits of the category “jital” to those with more knowledge and expertise in this area: Khwarezmian Empire, under Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, BI “jital,” 1200–1220 AD, unclear mint. Obv: legend in three lines, including "as-sultan / ? / ?". Rev: legend in three lines, including "muhammad / as-sultan /?". Tye 286; Album 1727. 17mm, 3.00g. Here is a third coin minted for Muhammad, again in a completely different design, from copper, and struck in the city of Kurzuwan (today in Afghanistan). Remember the city of Kurzuwan – it will come up again further below. Khwarezmian Empire, under Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, AE “jital,” 1200–1220 AD, Kurzuwan mint. Obv: "Kurzuwan" in circle, legend around "as-sultan al-azam muhammad bin as-sultan". Rev: Kalima. 16mm, 2.49g. Ref: Tye 246. The conflict between the Mongols and the Khwarezmian Empire probably was a tragic escalation of historical contingency. As Jackson argues, “it is far from certain that the original decision to attack the Khwarazmian empire was inspired by a programme of world- conquest” (Jackson 2017, p. 75). In fact, seems as though the Mongols initially even tried to establish friendly diplomatic relations with their western neighbours, probably because their main military ambitions pointed eastwards to China. Yet, a governor of Muhammad II had a group of Mongol merchants killed, assuming, maybe correctly, that they were spies. In response, Genghis Khan sent a group of envoys to Muhammad II, asking for the responsible governor to be handed over. In an ill-advised move, Muhammad had the envoys and an accompanying trading party executed. The reasoning behind this is quite unclear. Maybe, Muhammad, protecting his governor, saw a need to aggressively demonstrate his power and underestimated his eastern neighbors. Possibly, he also wasn’t aware that “the Mongols were extremely sensitive to the treatment of their ambassadors” (Jackson 2017, p. 75) and might have taken their execution as a provocation that could only be answered by fully-fledged war. On the other hand, the threat to Mongol commerce posed by Muhammad as well as swelling territorial conflicts might have played a role in the unfolding of events, too. It is also imaginable that Muhammad simply regarded a future military conflict with the Mongols as inevitable and assumed that his chances of winning it were quite good at this point. In any case, executing the Mongol emissaries proved to be a terrible decision. In response, Genghis crossed the Tien Shan mountains and invaded with extreme brutality in 1219. After a series of military misjudgements and defeats, the Khwarezmian Empire was no more. Muhammad II died in December 2020 on an island in the Caspian Sea where he had taken refuge after the fall of his capital Samarkand had fallen. By spring 1221, the Mongols controlled all of Khorasan and had massacred the inhabitants of the cities who had resisted them. Muhammad’s heir Jalal ad-Din Mangubarni assembled the surviving Khwarezmian forces and retreated into Afghanistan. Mongol forces pursued him and, after an initial Khwarezmian victory at Parwan, finally defeated Jalal al-Din and drove him and his remaining followers into exile to India. It is in this context that the coin below was struck in the abovementioned city of Kurzuwan in May or June 1221, probably while the city was under siege by Genghis. These coins were minted by an anonymous local malik, probably some local governor left behind by the retreating Khwarezmian forces, just a short time before the city fell into Mongol hands: Khwarezmian Empire, struck by an anonymous local governor, AE “jital,” June or July of 1221 AD (Jumada of 618 AH), Kurzuwan mint. Avers "al-malik" ("the ruler") in central circle; around: "tarikh jumada sanat thaman asbar wa sin mi'at" ('dated to Jumada, of the year 618'). Rev: inscription in four lines "kurzuwan / la ilah illa allah / muhammad rasul / allah" ('Kurzuwan. There is no God but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God'). 20mm, 2.78g. Tye 324.2; Album 1971. Originally, the Mongols themselves didn’t use coinage for trade but relied heavily on barter. Yet with time, they adapted and started to strike coins in the tradition of the lands they had conquered. These two jitals were struck in the province of Nimruz in southern Afghanistan, which had been ruled by a Nasrid vassal of the Khwarezmian empire – but by the late 1220s or 1230s, when the second coin was struck, it already was under the control of the khan: Nasrid Dynasty of Sistan (Khwarezmian vassals, also known as the Saffarids of Sistan or Maliks of Nimruz), under Taj ad-Din Harb, citing caliph al-Nasir, AE/BI jital, 1167–1215 AD, Sistan mint. Obv: "harb" in circle; partially struck legend in margin. Rev: "[unclear word]/ la illah illa / muhammad rasul / al-nasir ud-din / muhammad." 14.5 mm, 2.96g. Ref: Tye 123, Album 1427.1. Great Mongols, under Genghis (Chingiz) Khan or slightly later, BI “jital,” 1220s/1230s AD, Nimruz (Sistan) mint. Obv: "qa’an / al-‘adil" ('the just khan'). Rev: " zarb i/ nimruz" ('struck in Nimruz'). 14.5mm, 3.42g. Ref: Tye –; Album A1973. After the Mongol annexation of Khwarezmia, the Mongol empire bordered the rich Islamic territories in Anatolia, controlled most of the Silk Road, and had learned of its rich neighbors to the West and their weaknesses. This set the fundament for the Mongol conquests and raids into Asia Minor, the Levante, and Eastern Europe in the following decades. Central Asia became Mongol core territory, as this coin of the Golden Horde struck in the former Khwarezmian heartland almost a hundred years after Genghis' conquest illustrates. By that time, the Mongol rulers had widely adopted the Muslim faith of the people they had conquered: Golden Horde, under Uzbek Khan, AR dirham/dang, 1314–1315 AD (714 AH), Khwarizm mint. Obv: "al-sultan / al-adil / uz bek" in square. Rev: mint and date formula for Khwarizm 714 AH in polylobe. 16mm, 1.80g. Ref: Album 2025C. Please post your coins related to Khwarezmia or the Mongols!