The Slave Soldiers Who Controlled a Caliphate
In 861, things came to a head in what came to be known as “The Anarchy at Samarra”. It began when the Turkish Guard murdered the caliph al Mutawakkil, and replaced him with his brother, al Muntasir. The new caliph lasted for six months, before the Turks did him in. They then held a conference to appoint a successor, al Musta’in. He escaped in 865, but the mercenaries pursued, captured, and put him to death. The Turks then appointed another caliph, al Mu’tazz, but he bucked. So they deposed and killed him in 869, and replaced him with another puppet, al Muhtadi.
Al Muhtadi also tried to assert his authority, only to get murdered by the mercenaries and replaced in 870. The anarchy finally ended with the appointment of a caliph who realized that power no longer lay with himself, and accepted his role as a puppet. The Abbasid Caliphate stumbled on for another four centuries. It survived as a shadow of what it had once been, with its caliphs as playthings of strongmen and sultans. It finally came to an end in 1258, when the Mongols sacked Baghdad. They rolled the last caliph inside a rug, then trampled him to death beneath their horses’ hooves.