The first butcher of Baghdad

Justin Marozzi introduces the murderous eighth-century caliph al-Mansur, who left a remarkable legacy but whose brutality foreshadowed a more recent Iraqi leader...

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on trial in December 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo by Nikola Solic-Pool/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

Mahdi and his wife Rita hurried down to the locked, underground storeroom in a palace in central Baghdad. They didn’t know exactly what they would find behind the door that had remained barred to the outside world for all these years, but they were expecting great treasures of one kind or another: prodigious stores of gold and silver, precious stones and priceless artefacts. They were in for a shock.

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