The Mongol conquest of Baghdad in 1258 has often been described in retrospect as a medieval holocaust, an extremely violent act directed against the Islamic civilization and religion as a whole, and leading not only to the collapse of the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258) but to the decline of Islamic culture as a whole. Such depictions have certainly increased in the last decade ,when the Mongol conquest became a favorite metaphor for the 2003 American occupation of Iraq.
Contemporaneous accounts of Ilkhanid Baghdad, however, portray a different picture of both the conquest and the city's subsequent fate under Mongol rule (1258-1335). Based mainly on Arabic biographical materials from both the Ilkhanate and the Mamluk Sultanate, as well as on later descriptions of the fall of Baghdad in various Muslim and non-Muslim contexts, this paper contrasts the different reactions to and reconstructions of the city's collapse with the contemporaneous evidence of the flourishing cultural life in Ilkhanid Baghdad. It concludes that the residents of Baghdad maintained a far more positive assessment of their city's fate under Mongol rule than the later or further reconstructions of the conquest in the Arabic collective memory would like us to believe.