Kitbuqa Noyan, also spelled Kitbogha or Ketbugha (died 1260), was a Nestorian Christian of the Mongolian Naiman tribe,[1] a group that was subservient to the Mongol Empire. He was a lieutenant and confidant of the Mongol Ilkhan Hulagu, assisting him in his conquests in the Middle East. When Hulagu took the bulk of his forces back with him to attend a ceremony in Mongolia, Kitbuqa was left in control of Syria, and was responsible for further Mongol raids southwards towards Egypt. He was killed at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.


In 1252, Möngke Khan ordered Kitbuqa to battle the fortresses of the Ismaili Nizaris. He advanced with Hulagu into western Persia, mounting a series of sieges, and commanded one of the flanks that sacked Baghdad, before assisting in the conquest of Damascus in 1260.[2][3][4] Historical accounts, quoting from the writings of the medieval historian Templar of Tyre, would often describe the three Christian rulers (Hetoum I of Armenia, Bohemond VI of Antioch, and Kitbuqa) entering the city of Damascus together in triumph,[4][5] though modern historians have characterized this story as apocryphal.[6][7][8]

When Hulagu Khan withdrew his forces, responding to internal events in the Mongol Empire (the death of Hulagu's brother, the Great Möngke Khan), Kitbuqa was left in charge of the Mongol army remaining in the Middle East:

Kitbuqa, who had been left by Hulagu in Syria and Palestine, held the Land in peace and in state of rest. And he greatly loved and honoured the Christians because he was of the lineage of the Three Kings of Orient who came to Bethlehem to adore the nativity of Our Lord. Kitbuqa worked at recovering the Holy Land

Monk Hayton, La flor des estoires de la terre d'Orient (1307).[9]

Battle of Ain Jalut

In command of a force including 10,000 Mongol troops, Kitbuqa attempted to continue the Mongol advance towards Egypt. However, the Mamluks had negotiated a passive truce with the Crusaders, allowing the Mamluks to advance northwards through Crusader territory, and camp for resupply near the Crusader stronghold of Acre. In this way, the Mamluks were able to engage the depleted Mongol army near Galilee, at the pivotal Battle of Ain Jalut (spring of Goliath). The Mongols were defeated, and Kitbuqa was captured. When he was brought, bound, before the Mamluk sultan he was defiant, describing the Mongol vengeance that would befall the victors. He taunted the Mamluk emirs, saying how he had always been loyal to his master, whilst they had betrayed theirs.[10] Kitbuqa was slaughtered at the hands of veteran Mamluk Jamal al-Din Akoush al-Shamsy.

Mamluk histories speak of Kitbuqa with respect, painting him as a great warrior who refused to retreat when the Mongols were clearly being overpowered at Ain Jalut, and who favored death in battle over retreat and shame. It was expected that Kitbuqa's death would be avenged by Hulagu, but an internal conflict between Hulagu and his cousin Berke of the Mongol Golden Horde prevented this from happening. Kitbuqa's death and the defeat of the Mongols at Ain Jalut marked the beginning of the end for the Westward expansion of the Mongol Empire. It was the first occasion they had been decisively defeated and failed to avenge such a loss, though the Mongols continued to invade Syria, Japan, India, Hungary, Poland and Southeast Asia for the next several decades.[11]


  1. René Grousset (1970). The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. Rutgers University Press. pp. 361 &amp, 363. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
  2. "Saudi Aramco World "The Battle of Ain Jalut"". Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  3. Grousset, p.581
  4. "On 1 March Kitbuqa entered Damascus at the head of a Mongol army. With him were the King of Armenia and the Prince of Antioch. The citizens of the ancient capital of the Caliphate saw for the first time for six centuries three Christian potentates ride in triumph through their streets", Runciman, p.307
  5. Grousset, p.588
  6. David Morgan, The Mongols (2nd ed.)
  7. Peter Jackson, "Crisis in the Holy Land in 1260," English Historical Review 376 (1980) 486
  8. "While this report cannot be taken literally, it may contain a grain of truth. Armenian troops were part of Ketbuqa's force, while some time during the Mongol occupation Bohemond visited Baalbek and even intended to ask Hulegu for possession of the town. (...) If this prince reached as far as Baalbek, it is most probable that he also passed through Damascus." De Reuven Amitai-Preiss, "Mongols and Mamluks", p.31
  9. in Charles Kohler (ed.), Recueil des historiens des croisades, Document Arméniens, tome II, Paris, 1906; quoted in Ugo Monneret de Villard, Le leggende orientali sui Magi evangelici, Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1952, p.162. Quoted in "Histoire des Croisades III", René Grousset, p.593; Nam ipse fuerat de progenie trium regum, qui uenerunt natiuitatem domini adorare (For he was a descendant of the Three Kings who came to the Nativity to adore the Lord). Simon Grynaeus Johannes Huttichius, Novus orbis regionum ac insularum veteribus incognitarum, Basel, 1532, caput XXX, De Cobila Can quinto Imperatore Tartarorum, p.445.
  10. Runciman, S. (reprinted 1987) A History of the Crusades: Volume III, The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades, Cambridge University Press Archive.
  11. Amitai-Preiss, Reuven. Mongols and Mamluks: The Mamluk-Ilkhanid War, 1260–1281 (first edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
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