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Michael Baizerman "Unveiling the alien: the art of medieval diplomacy on the brink of a total war" The article

covers attempts of the Latin West to establish contacts with the Mongolian empire after the Mongol invasion into Western Europe in the 13th century. These contacts aimed at providing spiritual guidance or requesting military support. When the official channels dried up, individual merchants and adventurists took the lead.

In the aftermath of the Mongol invasion into western Europe (1241-1242), the Pope Innocent IV established contacts with the winners to learn more about their intentions. The emerging diplomatic correspondence opened the window for the curious to watch what was happening on the other side. However, these overtures failed because of mutual inability to find a compromise. Later on, due to the failure of military advances against the Mamluk sultanate, the Mongol authorities sought to forge an alliance with the crusaders. These plans crashed because of mutual distrust. Besides, the Mongol setback at Ain Jalut exposed a crack of the Mongol dreams about the world empire. The article includes four parts: a) The Storm from the Easthow an unexpected onslaught took Europeans by surprise; b) The early attempts to throw a bridge across the abyssthe Pope's attempts to find a mutual language with the Mongols; c) Further attempts to forge an alliance- The Mongols' overtures to make crusaders take their side in the warfare against the Muslims; d) Approaching the new horizons- why the talks ended in vain and how the political balance between the Mongol empire and European powers paved the way for early western travelers to make a breach in medieval walls. Unveiling the alien: the art of medieval diplomacy on the brink of a total war a. The storm from the East If Europeans hadn't been too busy with their own woes, they would have watched closely the latest developments in the East where the swelling confederation of nomadic tribes poured down a flood of spectacular conquests swallowing their clumsy neighbors one by one. Soon, these "devil's horsemen" appeared on the frontiers of Eastern Europe and crushed the coalition of Rus' and Cuman troops who happened to stand in their way. Meanwhile, the author of the "Novgorod Chronicle" found it difficult to identify the "unknown tribes" who, according to mounting rumors, have "captured many countries". The learned cleric was still unaware of their origin, language, or religion. Only their name traveled faster than their horses: Tartars (in tune with the descendants of hell). Fourteen years later, on their second arrival, when the mortal threat was already hanging upon Rus' principalities, the same writer could add with deep regret two more features to this scary group portrait: lack of morality and utter brutality. He witnessed the consequences of a thoroughly-planned Mongol campaign carried out by a well-greased military machine that encountered only sporadic local opposition. The inevitable defeat of Rus' princes concluded with mass slaughter by fire or sword without regard for age, rank, or sex: "cutting down everybody like grass" and humiliation (rape of girls in the presence of their mothers). Being unable to explain this outburst of rage against innocent people, the monk shows the catastrophe on an ecological scale as an invasion of locusts and as an apocalyptic event: a scourge of God's wrath. The same year the bell tolled for the Western Christianity when a delegation of terrible Assassins, bitter enemies of crusaders, urged the French king and other European monarchs to weld an alliance against the "monstrous and inhuman race of men" who were devastating the

"rich lands of the East". The leader of these rascals, explained the ambassadors, claimed to receive a divine order to conquer all the nations and those who opposed that order were treated as rebels. To lay it on thick, the Mongol warriors were presented as raw eaters, blood suckers and cannibals, and their army spread like plague. All these warnings fell on deaf ears and in the following years, the West had to experience the same stinking odor of disaster. The steppe horsemen knew no mercy: they defeated armed forces, burned cities and slaughtered civilians. These "creatures" should have breached the Gates of Alexander which the famous Macedonian (that is European and thus legitimate) conqueror erected to drive a wedge between the civilized and nomadic worlds: "Alexander endeavored to shut [barbarians] up in the precipitous Caspian mountains by walls cemented with bitumen". Their narrow eyes already focused on the Adriatic Sea and Vienna through the smoke of great cities reduced to ashes and heaps of bodies left without a burial. The entire Latin Christendom seemed helpless to cope with the vigor of the unleashed hordes who acted as the forerunners of Antichrist. Europe silently resigned itself to the fate of its orthodox brothers: "the Tartars, in their rash an d cruel violence struck great fear and terror into all Christendom" The Western chronicler describes the Mongol onslaught as a natural calamity ("eruption of Tartars"), historical mystery ("making their way through rocks apparently impenetrable"), and a moral disaster ("The men are inhuman and of the nature of beasts, rather to be called monsters"). The salvation descended from the sky like a flying deity in an ancient Greek drama. As soon as the news about the Great Khan Ogodei having rested with his fathers reached the outlying camp, the Mongol generals would suspend military operations and withdrew troops from central Europe. They took a time out to blow up their old disputes, wage wars over succession, and promote their candidate for the supreme ruler to be elected on the general convention of tribal leaders in Karakorum, the newly-built capital of their steppe empire. They had never come back in the same format. b. The early attempts to throw a bridge across the abyss Meanwhile, nobody knew what was on the minds of these brutal villains. The newly-elected Pope Innocent IV realized that one of the reasons for the failure of the West was a lack of reconnaissance. As he was worried about the Tartars' further military advances, the pontiff decided to take a chance sending envoys to Karakorum. The Mongols seemed to respect the diplomatic status and were eager to dispatch their own ambassadors. The first papal messengers were churchmen whose mission also included spreading the Word of God and finding hard evidence. They soon learned the most important socializing lesson in dealing with steppe barbarians: your mission won't open any door unless you leave lavish gifts at the threshold. In his bulls issued in Lyons in March 1245, Innocent the IV presents an overview of the Church history to base his role as the Vicar of Christ "to lead those in error into the way of truth". He urges the emperor of Tartars to stop the persecution of Christians, repent and accept baptism. The Pope was puzzled concerning the further Mongol plans. He begs the reader of his message to give an account of "what moved [him] to destroy other nations and what [his] intentions are for the future". As for the conversion to Christianity, Guyuk finds this request arrogant. How can the Pope be so sure that only Catholicism is the true faith? Besides, the Mongol subjects belong to various confessions, and the state cannot interfere into religious matters leaving them within the realm of an individual's conscience. Nothing came out of the papal overtures. Innocent IV expected the emperor of Tartars to embrace the Christian faith and switch the Mongols spiritual orientation to Rome while the Mongolian overlord demanded that the Vicar of Jesus and Christian kings would acknowledge the Great Khan's political supremacy and deliver a yearly tribute as a sign of submission. Ogodei assumed that the Pope ruled a vast Christian empire comprising a great number of kingdoms. The writer suggested that the pontiff would bring all these kings to swear a

collective oath to the great Khan: "to offer service and homage". Neither of the "great men" gave each other a chance to keep a low profile balancing between neutrality and non-aggression. The Roman bishop offered to choose between the true faith and spiritual salvation and a false creed and eternal peril. The steppe emperor suggested either unconditional submission or merciless war. c. Further attempts to forge an alliance A new development occurred in the Levant after the united Mongol empire had split into four separate khanates and lost much of its initial vigor. On the one hand, the crusader states of the Outremer had already lost Jerusalem to Saracens and were struggling for their survival in the Holy Land. On the other hand, the Tartars having seized Bagdad and Damascus could not inflict a mortal blow against their stoutest enemy, the Mamluk Sultanate. Both sides needed a strategic ally to pursue their specific, not necessarily contradicting goals. The Mongol ambassadors who were often Eastern Christians, or European expatriates never lost the chance to add "sexy" details like the baptism of the Great Khan or his marriage to a Christian princess. At other times it was the influence of his baptized mother or a planned attack on a major Muslim city. These "good tidings" inspired the cardinal Odon de Chateauroux to rise over the Church partition as he allowed the new converts to stay in the Orthodox faith if they wished on condition that they would recognize the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of its head. In his report to the Pope about the Mongol embassy, Odon de Chateauroux, excited at the news about the great Khan's sham conversion, is ready to compromise on the issue of the conversion of the Tartars to the "true religion" assuming that they could choose among various Christian persuasions : "even if [the Mongols] wish to adhere to the Orthodox faith". However, not everybody shared this "liberal" approach to conversion. The predominant view asserted that the Gospels should be preached universally and the pendulum of the historical clock would swing across Rome: "all the world will be subject to the one Catholic Church, and there will be one shepherd and one flock". The French monarch was eager to run a risk, but the mutual mistrust, the load of other commitments and sudden unfavorable political developments withheld both parties from taking a decisive step. Although they had mutual interests in defeating their common enemy, each of them was keen on imposing its own version of peace on the potential ally. Instead, the ruler of Akko, a crusader state, allowed the Saracen army to cross its territory on the way to Ain Jalut where a limited contingent of Mongol troops suffered their first setback on a battlefield dispelling the myth of invincibility of the steppe warriors. d. Approaching the new horizons In the 1240s, the Latin West suffered a terrible blow: the meticulously-staged Mongol invasion into the central Europe. This calamity exposed the vulnerability of the European self-defense. It was high time to wake up from a deep medieval sleep. The drive for the encounter with alien cultures stirred in Western Europe owing to the onslaught of the Mongol army that had sprung out of the blue taking the Latin Christendom by surprise. Nobody in the West knew how to drive the invaders out; it seemed that nothing could stop them. Even the origin of the Tartars was unknown, and the informed minds could do nothing better than put forward near-sighted hypothesis placing barbarians at the outskirts of a habitable world. The Holy Roman emperor Frederic endowed that they lived in southern latitudes, near the equator, and got their dark skin being "burnt by the sun of the torrid zone". The Mongol geopolitical vision was a supreme universal monarchy headed by a descendant of Chinggis Khan. All the other nations were put before a dilemma: either to join a lucrative club or suffer a bitter humiliating defeat. The art of diplomacy was applied by the winners to

convince those in doubt that any resistance was useless: Tartars had received a divine mission to conquer the world and reaped their laurels on battlefields. Therefore, to oppose the "order of God" was to deny His will and commit national suicide. Both the leader of the civilized Christendom and the emperor of barbarians were infected with a "superstar virus": they sought universal recognition, the former on the spiritual scene, the latter on the political stage. Both were fanatically committed to their particular goals and demanded unconditional surrender. Neither of them was able to make concessions for the sake of mutually beneficial peace. The Tartars could not accept the Roman Catholicism as their state religion since they were carrying the image of religious freedom on their banners. Besides, they adhered to their own shamanist faith and a nationalistic myth of the triumph of the House of Chinggis Khan that had enjoined them to conquer all the lands of the globe from sunrise to sunset or wherever an ear can hear and the horse's hooves tread on. At the same breath he claimed that there was one God, one true Church and one "correct" confession. All those who reject the embrace of Catholicism, will perish in hell. He dreamed of uniting Christians of all persuasions under his spiritual wing. Both sides sought a military ally to eliminate their mutual enemy, the Mamluk sultanate. At some points they were close to striking diplomatic relations. All these attempts crashed against the following bone of contention: the Mongol authorities refused to be baptized and receive spiritual support from the Pope; the bishop of Rome could not bow to the Emperor of Tartars. Though split politically, Western Europe could not give in to the alien power. Its leaders preferred to die in glory rather than to live in misery. The defeat at Ain Jalut was only the first in a number of setbacks that eventually forced the Mongols to suspend the program of the world conquest. Western Europe woke up from its deep medieval sleep still embracing precious old dreams and mischievous misconceptions. The triumph of Islam and the climax of the Mongol "world order" clearly showed that the Alexander Gates had been dismantled for ever. However, this deplorable experience served the source of inspiration for a squadron of volunteers who dared to breach Europe's own protective walls in search of lost souls and spices.