Sorghaghtani Beki
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Sorghaghtani Beki ( mn, Сорхагтани Бэхи/ ; ) or Bekhi ('' Bek(h)i'' is a title), also written Sorkaktani, Sorkhokhtani, Sorkhogtani, Siyurkuktiti (c. 1190–1252;
posthumous name A posthumous name is an honorary name given to royalty, nobles, and sometimes others, in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hem ...
: ) was a
Keraite The Keraites (also ''Kerait, Kereit, Khereid''; ; ) were one of the five dominant Mongol or Turco-Mongol tribal confederations (khanate A khaganate or khanate was a political entity ruled by a khan, khagan Khagan or Qaghan ( otk, 𐰴 ...
princess and daughter-in-law of
Genghis Khan Genghis Khan (August 18, 1227), born Temüjin, was the founder and first () of the , which became the in history after his death. He came to power by uniting many of the s of , and, after being proclaimed the universal , or ''Genghis Khan'', he ...

Genghis Khan
. Married to
Tolui Tolui, , Tolui Khan (meaning the Khan Tolui)) (c.1191–1232) was a Mongol khan, the fourth son of Genghis Khan ''Chinggis Khaan'' ͡ʃʰiŋɡɪs xaːŋongol script: ''Chinggis Qa(gh)an/ Chinggis Khagan'' , birth_name = Temüjin ; xng, ...
, Genghis' youngest son, Sorghaghtani Beki became one of the most powerful and competent people in the
Mongol Empire The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the List of largest empires, largest contiguous land empire in history and the second largest empire by landmass, second only to the British Empire. Originating in Mongolia in East Asia, the ...
. She made policy decisions at a pivotal moment that led to the transition of the Mongol Empire towards a more cosmopolitan and sophisticated style of administration. She raised her sons to be leaders, and maneuvered the family politics so that all four of her sons,
Möngke Khan Möngke ( mn, ' / Мөнх '; ; 11 January 1209 – 11 August 1259) was the fourth khagan Khagan or Qaghan ( otk, 𐰴𐰍𐰣, Kaɣan, mn, Xаан or ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ, Khaan, ota, خواقين, Ḫākan, or خوان ''Ḫān'', tr, ...
,
Hulagu Khan Hulagu Khan, also known as Hülegü or Hulegu ( mn, Khalkha Mongolian, Хүлэгү/Chakhar Mongolian, , lit=Surplus, translit=Hu’legu’/Qülegü; chg, ; fa, , ''Hulâgu xân''; Arabic: ; ; 8 February 1265), was a Mongols, Mongol ruler w ...

Hulagu Khan
,
Ariq Böke Ariq Böke (after 1219–1266), the components of his name also spelled Arigh, Arik and Bukha, Buka ( mn, Аригбөх; Chinese: 阿里不哥), was the seventh and youngest son of Tolui Tolui, , Tolui Khan (meaning the Khan Tolui)) (c.1191– ...

Ariq Böke
, and
Kublai Khan Kublai (; also spelled Qubilai or Kübilai; mn, Хубилай, Khubilai ; ; 23 September  1215 – 18 February 1294), also known by his as Emperor Shizu of Yuan, was the fifth - of the , reigning from 1260 to 1294, although after the this ...

Kublai Khan
, went on to inherit the legacy of their grandfather. Given her enormous impact at such a critical point of the mighty Mongol Empire, she is likely one of the most influential and powerful women in history. Sorghaghtani Beki was a Christian, specifically a member of the
Church of the East The Church of the East ( syc, , ''ʿĒḏtā d-Maḏenḥā''), also called the Persian Church, East Syrian Church, Babylonian Church, Seleucian Church, Edessan Church, Chaldean Church, or the Nestorian Church, was an church of the , based ...
(often referred to as "
Nestorian Christianity The Church of the East ( syc, , ''ʿĒḏtā d-Maḏenḥā''), also called the Persian Church, East Syrian Church, Babylonian Church, Seleucian Church, Edessan Church, Chaldean Church, or the Nestorian Church, was an Eastern Christian Ea ...

Nestorian Christianity
"). As a moving spirit behind the
Mongol Empire The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the List of largest empires, largest contiguous land empire in history and the second largest empire by landmass, second only to the British Empire. Originating in Mongolia in East Asia, the ...
, Sorghaghtani is responsible for much of the trade openings and intellectual exchange of the largest contiguous empire in world history.


Life

Sorghaghtani was the daughter of Jakha Gambhu, the younger brother of the powerful Keraite leader
Toghrul Toghrul ( mn, Тоорил хан ''Tooril han''; ), also known as Wang Khan or Ong Khan ( ''Wan han''; ; died 1203) was a Khan (title), khan of the Keraites. He was the blood brother (anda (Mongol), anda) of the Mongol chief Yesugei and served a ...

Toghrul
, also known as Ong Khan. According to ''
The Secret History of the Mongols ''The Secret History of the Mongols'' ( Traditional Mongolian: ''Mongγol-un niγuča tobčiyan'', Khalkha Mongolian: Монголын нууц товчоо, ''Mongolyn nuuts tovchoo'') is the oldest surviving literary work in the Mongolian l ...
'', around 1203, when Toghrul was a more powerful leader than Temüjin, Temüjin proposed to Toghrul that Temüjin's eldest son
Jochi Jochi ( mn, Зүчи, ; kk, Joşı, Жошы, جوشى; ; crh, Cuçi, Джучи, جوچى; also spelled Djochi, Jöchi and Juchi; c. 1182– February 1227) was a Mongol army commander who was the eldest son of Genghis Khan ''Chinggis Kh ...
might marry Toghrul's daughter or granddaughter, thus binding the two groups. However, Toghrul refused this alliance, and later attempted to kill the increasingly powerful Temüjin through an invitation to discuss this proposal. However, Temüjin discovered this plan and they escaped at the last moment. Eventually, the Keraites were routed in the ensuing war and Toghrul was killed, possibly by the
Naimans The Naiman (Mongolian language, Mongolian: Найман/Naiman, "eight"; ; Kazakh language, Kazakh: Найман; Uzbek language, Uzbek: Nayman) is a medieval tribe originating in the territory of modern Western Mongolia (possibly during the time of ...
. Unlike his brother, Jakha usually supported Temüjin and gave his two daughters to him and one more daughter to Genghis Khan's oldest son Jochi. Genghis married the elder of the daughters,
Ibaqa Beki Ibaqa Beki was a Keraites, Kerait princess and Mongols, Mongol khatun active in the early 13th century. She was briefly married to Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, and then subsequently married to the general Jürchedei (Mongol gen ...
(later handed over to the general Jürchedei), and gave young Sorghaghtani, who was still a teenager, to his son
Tolui Tolui, , Tolui Khan (meaning the Khan Tolui)) (c.1191–1232) was a Mongol khan, the fourth son of Genghis Khan ''Chinggis Khaan'' ͡ʃʰiŋɡɪs xaːŋongol script: ''Chinggis Qa(gh)an/ Chinggis Khagan'' , birth_name = Temüjin ; xng, ...
. Sorghaghtani's father Jakha was killed by Jürchedei when the Keraites revolted against Genghis Khan after 1204. Like most Mongol women of the time, Sorghaghtani wielded great authority at home. had far more rights than in many other cultures at the time, especially since the men were often away and they were the ones responsible for the home. Although she herself was illiterate, she recognized the value of literacy in running such a far-flung empire. Each of her sons learned a different language for different regions. Sorghaghtani, a Nestorian Christian, respected other religions. Her sons, like Genghis, were all very tolerant in matters of religion, and the Mongol Empire promulgated the notion of state above religion while supporting all major religions of the time. Sorghaghtani also financed the construction of a
madrasa Madrasa (, also , ; Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental count ...

madrasa
in
Bukhara Bukhara (; Uzbek language, Uzbek: /; Tajik language, Tajik: Бухоро, ) is the List of cities in Uzbekistan, fifth-largest city in Uzbekistan, with a population of 247,644 , and the capital of Bukhara Region. People have inhabited the region ...

Bukhara
and gave alms to both Christians and Muslims. Sorghaghtani's husband Tolui, whose
appanage An appanage, or apanage (; french: apanage ), is the grant of an estate, title, office or other thing of value to a younger child of a sovereign, who would otherwise have no inheritance under the system of primogeniture Primogeniture ( ) is ...
s included eastern Mongolia, parts of
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
and
North China North China, or Huabei ( ) is a List of regions of China, geographical region of China, consisting of the provinces of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. Part of the larger region of Northern China (''Beifang''), it lies north ...

North China
, died at the age of 41 in 1232.
Ögedei Khan Ögedei (also Ogodei; mn, Өгэдэй, translit=Ögedei, Mongolian Mongolian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Mongolia, a country in Asia * Mongolian people, or Mongols * Mongolia (1911–24), the government of Mongolia, 1911 ...
, Genghis's third son who had succeeded his father, gave her enduring authority to handle Tolui's estates. The ''Secret History'' suggests that Ögedei may have consulted Sorghaghtani on various matters, and he always held her in high regard. Ogedei appointed her in charge of the Empire's administration, which meant she played a pivotal role in securing the lands won under Genghis Khan. Ögedei sought to link her realm to his and proposed marriage, which she declined; he then proposed that she marry his son Güyük (widows often married again within the family among Mongols), but she refused, claiming that her four sons needed her attention. This decision later turned out to be one of the most important ones in the formation of the Mongol Empire, as all four of Sorghaghtani's sons (grandsons of Genghis) became leaders in their own right. When Sorghaghtani asked for part of
Hebei Hebei (; alternately Hopeh) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, firs ...
province as her appanage in 1236 after the end of the
Mongol conquest of the Jin dynasty The Mongol conquest of the Jin dynasty, also known as the Mongol–Jin War, was fought between the Mongol Empire The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the List of largest empires, largest contiguous land empire in history ...
, Ögedei hesitated, but not for long. She shunned him into compliance by pointing out that the place was hers by right anyway, because her husband had conquered it. However, Ögedei also expanded his personal appanage, seizing some territories of Tolui and took most of Sorghaghtani's soldiers. After Ögedei Khan's death in 1241, his wife
Töregene Khatun Töregene Khatun (also Turakina, , ) (d. 1246) was the Khatun, Great Khatun and regent of the Mongol Empire from the death of her husband Ögedei Khan in 1241 until the election of her eldest son Güyük Khan in 1246. Background Töregene was b ...
ruled as regent until 1246, when she managed to get her son Güyük elected as the
Khagan Khagan or Qaghan ( otk, 𐰴𐰍𐰣, Kaɣan, mn, Xаан or ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ, Khaan, ota, خواقين, Ḫākan, or خان ''Ḫān'', tr, Kağan or ''Hakan'', ug, قاغان, Qaghan) ''Khāqān'', alternatively spelled Kağan, Kagan, Kha ...
at a large
kurultai Kurultai ( Mongolian: , Хуралдай, ''Khuraldai''; Turkic: ''Kurultay'') Kazakh: Құрылтай, ''Qurıltay''; tt, Корылтай, ; ba, Ҡоролтай, ; az, Qurultay; tk, Gurultaý was a political and military council of ancie ...
. However, he immediately set out to undermine his mother's power as well as that of Sorghaghtani, Alaqai Beki (the Ongud ruler and daughter of Genghis Khan) and Ebuskun (the wife of Chagatai Khan, regent for the Central Asian Empire). Meanwhile, the ambitious Sorghaghtani had secretly teamed up with Güyük's cousin Batu Khan, the senior male in the Borjigin and ruler of the Golden Horde (north of Caspian Sea to Bulgaria). In 1248, when Güyük was setting out on a campaign to the Middle East (ostensibly for conquest, but possibly to defeat Batu Khan), he died under somewhat suspicious circumstances; some have speculated that Sorghaghtani may have taken "direct action against Güyük". After Güyük's death, Sorghaghtani sent her eldest son Möngke to Batu Khan. Batu and Sorghaghtani championed the name of Möngke, who had fought along with Batu in the European campaign, as Khagan. Möngke was named Great Khan at a ''kurultai'' organized by Batu in Siberia some time before 1250, but this was contested as not being properly in Mongolia. However, the ancient Mongol homeland where Genghis was born was in her regency, so she organized a ''kurultai'' here which was attended by Batu's brother Berke. Möngke was formally named the Great Khan. The Ögedei and Güyük families attempted to overthrow him, but failed. Möngke arrested and drowned Güyük's widow Oghul Qaimish, and many other members of Ögedei's family. Sorghaghtani fell ill and died in February or March 1252 around Tsagaan Sar, the Mongol New Year festival, a few months after Möngke's accession ceremony. She was buried in a Christian church in Gansu.


Children

Sorghaghtani bore Tolui at least four children. They included: *
Möngke Khan Möngke ( mn, ' / Мөнх '; ; 11 January 1209 – 11 August 1259) was the fourth khagan Khagan or Qaghan ( otk, 𐰴𐰍𐰣, Kaɣan, mn, Xаан or ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ, Khaan, ota, خواقين, Ḫākan, or خوان ''Ḫān'', tr, ...
: Great Khan (1251–1259) of the
Mongol Empire The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the List of largest empires, largest contiguous land empire in history and the second largest empire by landmass, second only to the British Empire. Originating in Mongolia in East Asia, the ...
. *
Kublai Khan Kublai (; also spelled Qubilai or Kübilai; mn, Хубилай, Khubilai ; ; 23 September  1215 – 18 February 1294), also known by his as Emperor Shizu of Yuan, was the fifth - of the , reigning from 1260 to 1294, although after the this ...

Kublai Khan
: Great Khan (1260–1294) of the Mongol Empire and the Yuan dynasty *
Hulagu Khan Hulagu Khan, also known as Hülegü or Hulegu ( mn, Khalkha Mongolian, Хүлэгү/Chakhar Mongolian, , lit=Surplus, translit=Hu’legu’/Qülegü; chg, ; fa, , ''Hulâgu xân''; Arabic: ; ; 8 February 1265), was a Mongols, Mongol ruler w ...

Hulagu Khan
: khan (1256–1264) of the Ilkhanate dynasty that ruled Persia, Turkey, Georgia (country), Georgia and Armenia. *
Ariq Böke Ariq Böke (after 1219–1266), the components of his name also spelled Arigh, Arik and Bukha, Buka ( mn, Аригбөх; Chinese: 阿里不哥), was the seventh and youngest son of Tolui Tolui, , Tolui Khan (meaning the Khan Tolui)) (c.1191– ...

Ariq Böke
, her fourth son, was also declared Great Khan (rivalling Kublai) for a short period in 1260; he fought Kublai in the Toluid Civil War and would eventually be captured by Kublai in 1264.


Legacy

In 1310, she was regarded as "Empress" in a ceremony that included a Nestorian mass. Sorghaghtani was enshrined in a Christian church in Zhangye, Ganzhou in 1335, and sacrifices were ordered to be offered here. By 1480 a cult had been conducted for her memory at the Orda (organization), orda that was kept by the Chahars. This ordo moved to Ordos City (in modern Inner Mongolia) in the 17th century. She is spoken of very highly both in the ''Secret History'', as well as by Muslim, Chinese and Christian historians.


Prester John

Sorghaghtani was the niece of the powerful
Keraite The Keraites (also ''Kerait, Kereit, Khereid''; ; ) were one of the five dominant Mongol or Turco-Mongol tribal confederations (khanate A khaganate or khanate was a political entity ruled by a khan, khagan Khagan or Qaghan ( otk, 𐰴 ...
leader of the Mongols, Ong Khan (often known simply as Toghrul). To Europeans, Toghrul was one of the distant Eastern rulers who was sometimes associated with the legend of "Prester John". During Mongol-European diplomacy, the Mongols sometimes played upon this perception by the Europeans, describing Mongol princesses such as Sorghaghtani and Doquz Khatun as being "daughters of Prester John".Jackson, p. 175


Notes


References

*Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Davis-Kimball, Jeannine. (2002) ''Warrior Women, An Archaeologist's Search for History's Hidden Heroines''. Warner Books, Inc. pp. 223–226. * Peter Jackson (historian), Peter Jackson, ''Mongols and the West'' (Longman, 2005). *Igor de Rachewiltz, ''Papal Envoys to the Great Khans'' (Stanford University Press, 1971). *Jack Weatherford, ''Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World'' *Jack Weatherford ''The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire's Crown'' 2010 * {{DEFAULTSORT:Beki, Sorghaghtani 12th-century births 1252 deaths Women of the Mongol Empire Mongol Empire Christians Church of the East in China 13th-century women rulers Nestorians Genghis Khan Kerait people Yuan dynasty posthumous empresses