Rashid al-Din

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Rashid al-Din Tabib (1247 - 1318), a Persian official of the 13th-14th century Ilkhanid court, possibly the steward to the Il-Khan Geikhatu (1291-95), and as financial adviser to Abaqa's grandson, Ghazan (1295-1304), wrote an enormous universal history, the Jami al-Tawarikh, in the Persian language.

Rashid al-Din was born into a Jewish family and converted to Islam sometime around the age of 30. He served as vizier and physician, though with colleagues, from 1298 until his death; he was brutally executed in 1317 after being charged with having poisoned the Khan Oljeitu.

The Jami al-Tawarikh was commissioned by Ghazan Khan, begun as a history of the Mongols and their dynasty and then expanded to include history from Adam to Rashid al-Din's present day. It was completed during the reign of Oljeitu (A.D. 1307-16).

Rashid al-Din had access to information from a now-lost Mongol chronicle for the period of Genghis Khan, and historians find by comparison with material that survives in Chinese sources that he made good use of the source. His treatment of the Ilkhanid period is felt to be partisan -- he was himself a high official -- but is still seen as the most useful written source for the dynasty.

The work was at the time of completion (circa A.D. 1307) of monumental size. Unfortunately all sections have not survived or been discovered . Portions of the Jami al-Tawarikh survive in lavishly illustrated manuscripts, some produced during the lifetime and perhaps under the direction of Rashid al-Din.

Two portions of the surviving encyclopedia, volumes II and III, are of great importance for the study of the Il-Khanate. Volume II is an account of the successors of Genghis Khan while volume III describes the Il-Khans of Iran. In his narration down to the reign of Mongke (1251-59), Juvaini was Rashid al-Din's main source, however, he also utilized numerous now-lost Far Eastern and other sources. The Jami' al-Tawarikh is perhaps the single most comprehensive Persian source on the Mongol period.

Rashid al-Din owned large estates in the Caucasus and Asia Minor. The administration of the state (during 0ljeitu's reign) had become almost a private monopoly of his family: of his fourteen sons, eight were governors of provinces, including the whole of western Iran, Georgia, Iraq, and the greater part of what is now Turkey.

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