The Abbasid Caliphate was a major dynasty that ruled over the Islamic Empire during its peak. Like the Umayyad Caliphate before it, the leader of the Abbasids was called the caliph. During the time of the Abbasids, the caliph was usually the son (or other closest male relative) of the previous Caliph.
When did it rule?
The Abbasid Caliphate had two major periods. The first period lasted from 750-1258 CE. During this period, the Abbasids were strong leaders who controlled a vast territory and created a culture that is often referred as the Golden Age of Islam. In 1258 CE, however, the capital city of Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols causing the Abbasids to flee to Egypt.
The second period lasted from 1261-1517 CE. During this time the Abbasid Caliphate was located in Cairo, Egypt. While the Abbasids were still considered the religious leaders of the Islamic world, a different group called the Mamluks held the true political and military power.
What lands did it rule?
The Abbasid Caliphate ruled over a large empire that included the Middle East, western Asia, and northeast Africa (including Egypt).
The early part of the Abbasid rule was a time of peace and prosperity. Great advances were made in many areas of science, mathematics, and medicine. Schools of higher education and libraries were built throughout the empire. The culture flourished as Arabic art and architecture reached new heights. This period lasted from around 790 CE to 1258 CE. It is often referred to as the Golden Age of Islam.
Fall of the Abbasids
The early 1200s saw the rise of the Mongol Empire in eastern Asia. The Mongols conquered China and then began their march west to the Middle East. In 1258, the Mongols arrived at Baghdad, the capital city of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Caliph at the time believed that Baghdad could not be conquered and refused to meet the Mongols' demands. The leader of the Mongols, Hulagu Khan, then set siege to the city. In less than two weeks Baghdad had surrendered and the Caliph was put to death.
In 1261, the Abbasids reclaimed the Caliphate from Cairo, Egypt. The real power in Egypt was a group of former slave warriors called the Mamluks. The Mamluks ran the government and the armies, while the Abbasids had authority over the Islam religion. Together they ruled the Caliphate from Cairo until 1517 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
Interesting Facts about the Abbasid Caliphate
The sacking of Baghdad in 1258 is considered to be the end of the Islamic Caliphate by many historians.
The Mamluks were once the slave warriors of the Islamic Caliphate. However, they eventually gained power of their own and took control in Egypt.
The Abbasids got their name from being descendents of Abbas ibn Abd al.Muttalib. Abbas was an uncle of the Prophet Muhammad and one of his companions.
The first capital city of the Abbasids was Kufa. However, they founded and built the city of Baghdad as their new capital in 762 CE.
Historians estimate that around 800,000 people were killed during the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols. They killed the Caliph by wrapping him up in a carpet and trampling him with horses.