Hardship and CaptivityWhen Temujin was nine, his father took him to a neighboring tribe to work for several years and earn a bride. His intended was a slightly older girl named Borje. On the way home, Yesukhei was poisoned by rivals, and died. Temujin returned to his mother, but the clan expelled Yesukhei's two widows and seven children, leaving them to die. The family scraped a living by eating roots, rodents, and fish. Young Temujin and his full brother Khasar grew to resent their eldest half-brother, Begter. They killed him; as punishment for the crime, Temujin was seized as a slave. His captivity may have lasted more than five years.
Temujin as a Young ManFree at sixteen, Temujin went to find Borje again. She was still waiting, and they soon married. The couple used her dowry, a fine sable-fur coat, to make an alliance with Ong Khan of the powerful Kereyid clan. Ong Khan accepted Temujin as a foster-son. This alliance proved key, as Hoelun's Merkid clan decided to avenge her long-ago kidnapping by stealing Borje. With the Kereyid army, Temujin raided the Merkids, looting their camp and reclaiming Borje. Temujin also had help in the raid from his childhood blood-brother ("anda"), Jamuka, who would later become a rival. Borje's first son, Jochi, was born nine months later.
Wives and children
Temujin to Chinggis KhanWhen Temujin was about 20, he was captured in a raid by former family allies, the Taichi'uts, and temporarily enslaved. He escaped with the help of a sympathetic captor, and joined his brothers and several other clansmen to form a fighting unit. Temujin began his slow ascent to power by building a large army of more than 20,000 men. He set out to destroy traditional divisions among the various tribes and unite the Mongols under his rule.
Khan's brilliant military tacticsThrough a combination of outstanding military tactics and merciless brutality, Temujin avenged his father's murder by decimating the Tatar army, and ordered the killing of every Tatar male who was more than approximately 3 feet tall (taller than the linchpin, or axle pin, of a wagon wheel). Temujin's Mongols then defeated the Taichi'ut using a series of massive cavalry attacks, including having all of the Taichi'ut chiefs boiled alive. By 1206, Temujin had also defeated the powerful Naiman tribe, thus giving him control of central and eastern Mongolia.
Early Success of Mongol army
Universal RulerFollowing the victories over the rival Mongol tribes, other tribal leaders agreed to peace and bestowed on Temujin the title of "Genghis Khan," which means "universal ruler." The title carried not only political importance, but also spiritual significance. The leading shaman declared Genghis Khan the representative of Mongke Koko Tengri (the "Eternal Blue Sky"), the supreme god of the Mongols. With this declaration of divine status, it was accepted that his destiny was to rule the world. Religious tolerance was practiced in the Mongol Empire, but to defy the Great Khan was equal to defying the will of God. It was with such religious fervor that Genghis Khan is supposed to have said to one of his enemies, "I am the flail of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you."
Establishment of Empire
First campaignGenghis Khan’s first campaign outside of Mongolia took place against the Xi Xia kingdom of northwestern China. After a series of raids, the Mongols launched a major initiative in 1209 that brought them to the doorstep of Yinchuan, the Xi Xia capital. Unlike other armies, the Mongols traveled with no supply train other than a large reserve of horses. The army consisted almost entirely of cavalrymen, who were expert riders and deadly with a bow and arrows. At Yinchuan, the Mongols deployed a false withdrawal—one of their signature tactics—and then initiated a siege. Though their attempt to flood the city failed, the Xi Xia ruler submitted and presented tribute.
Attack on Jin dynasty
War against Khwarzem empire
Genghis Khan's personality
SimplicityIt is not entirely clear what Genghis Khan's personality was truly like, but his personality and character were doubtlessly molded by the many hardships he faced when he was young, and in unifying the Mongol nation. Genghis appeared to fully embrace the Mongol people's nomadic way of life, and did not try to change their customs or beliefs. As he aged, he seemed to become increasingly aware of the consequences of numerous victories and expansion of the Mongol Empire, including the possibility that succeeding generations might choose to live a sedentary lifestyle. According to quotations attributed to him in his later years, he urged future leaders to follow the Yasa, and to refrain from surrounding themselves with wealth and pleasure. He was known to share his wealth with his people and awarded subjects who participated in campaigns handsomely.
Honesty and loyalty
SpiritualityToward the later part of his life, Genghis became interested in the ancient Buddhist and Daoist religions. The Daoist monk Ch'ang Ch'un, who rejected invitations from Sung and Jin leaders, traveled more than five thousand kilometers to meet Genghis close to the Afghanistan border. The first question Genghis asked him was if the monk had some secret medicine that could make him immortal. The monk's negative answer disheartened Genghis, and he rapidly lost interest in the monk. He also passed a decree exempting all followers of Daoist religion from paying any taxes. This made the Daoists very powerful at the expense of Buddhists. Genghis was, by and large, tolerant of the multiple religions he encountered during the conquests as long as the people were obedient. However, all of his campaigns caused wanton and deliberate destruction of places of worship. Religious groups were persecuted only if they resisted or opposed his empire.
Politics and economics
Cultural diversityAmong nomads, the Mongol Empire did not emphasize the importance of ethnicity and race in the administrative realm, instead adopting an approach grounded in meritocracy. The exception was the role of Genghis and his family. Genghis wrote into the Yasa that only a member of his family, the Golden Family, could exercise the highest authority. The Mongol Empire was one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse empires in history, as befitted its size. Many of the empire's nomadic inhabitants considered themselves Mongols in military and civilian life. There were, to some degree, ideals such as meritocracy among the Mongols and allied nomadic people in military and civilian life. However sedentary peoples, and especially the Chinese, remained heavily discriminated against. There were tax exemptions for religious figures and so to some extent teachers and doctors.
Religious toleranceThe Mongol Empire practiced religious tolerance to a large degree because it was generally indifferent to belief. The exception was when religious groups challenged the state. For example Ismaili Muslims that resisted the Mongols were exterminated.
TradeThe Mongol Empire linked together the previously fractured Silk Road states under one system and became somewhat open to trade and cultural exchange. However, the Mongol conquests did lead to a collapse of many of the ancient trading cities of Central Asia that resisted invasion. Taxes were also heavy and conquered people were used as forced labor in those regions.
Creation of Civil stateModern Mongolian historians say that towards the end of his life, Genghis attempted to create a civil state under the Great Yassa that would have established the legal equality of all individuals, including women. However, there is no contemporary evidence of this, or of the lifting of discriminatory policies towards sedentary peoples such as the Chinese, or any improvement in the status of women. Modern scholars refer to a theoretical policy of encouraging trade and communication as the concept of Pax Mongolica (Mongol Peace).
- Genghis refused to divide his troops into different ethnic units, instead creating a sense of unity. He punished severely even small infractions against discipline. He also divided his armies into a number of smaller groups based on the decimal system in units of tens, taking advantage of the superb mobility of his mounted archers to attack their enemies on several fronts simultaneously. The soldiers took their families along with them on a military campaign.
- These units of tens were like a family or close-knit group with a leader, and every unit of 10 had a leader who reported up to the next level of the 100s (10 leaders of 10s), 1,000s (10 leaders of 100s), 1,000s (10 leaders of 1,000s) or 1 tumen. The leader of the 100,000 (10 leaders of 10,000s) soldiers was the Khagan himself. Strict discipline and command under Genghis and others made the Mongol military highly efficient and better relying on scope of operation or space and the tactics, speed, and strategies that came out of it.
- Genghis Khan expected unwavering loyalty from his generals and gave them free rein in battles and wars. Muqali, a trusted general, was given command of the Mongol forces over the Jin Dynasty while Genghis was fighting in Central Asia, and Subutai and Jebe were allowed to use any means to defeat Kievan Rus. The Mongol military also was successful in siege warfare—cutting off resources for cities and towns by diverting rivers, causing inhabitants to become refugees—psychological warfare, and adopting new ideas, techniques, and tools from the people they conquered.
- Another important aspect of the military organization of Genghis was the communications and supply route, or Yam, borrowed from previous Chinese models. Genghis dedicated special attention to this in order to speed up the gathering of military intelligence and support travelers.
- In military strategy, Genghis generally preferred to offer opponents the chance to submit to his rule without a fight and become vassals by sending tribute, accepting residents, or contributing troops. He guaranteed them protection only if they abided by the rules under his administration and domain, but his and others' policy was mass destruction and murder if he encountered any resistance.
Division of the empire into khanates
- Yuan Dynasty, Empire of the Great Khan, or Yuan Dynasty-third son but designated main heir Ögedei Khan, as Great Khan, took most of Eastern Asia, including China.
- Il-Khanate—Hulegu Khan, son of Tolui and brother of Kublai Khan, established himself in the former Khwarezmid Empire as the Khan of the Il-Khanate.
- Mongol homeland (present day Mongolia, including Karakorum)—Tolui Khan, being the youngest son, received a small territory near the Mongol homeland, following Mongol custom.
- Chagatai Khan—Chagatai Khan, Genghis’ second son, was given Central Asia and northern Iran
- Blue Horde and White Horde (combined into the Golden Horde)—Genghis Khan's eldest son, Jochi, had received most of the distant Russia and Ruthenia. Because Jochi died before Genghis, his territory was further split up into the Western White Horde (under Orda Khan) and the Eastern Blue Horde, which under Genghis Khan's grandson Batu Khan, attacked Europe and crushed several armies before being summoned back by the news of Ögedei's death. In 1382, these two khanates were combined by Tokhtamysh into the Kipchak Khanate, better known as the Golden Horde.
Amazing facts about Chinggis Khan
He was responsible for the deaths of as many as 40 million people.While it’s impossible to know for sure how many people perished during the Mongol conquests, many historians put the number at somewhere around 40 million. Censuses from the Middle Ages show that the population of China plummeted by tens of millions during the Khan’s lifetime, and scholars estimate that he may have killed a full three-fourths of modern-day Iran’s population during his war with the Khwarezmid Empire. All told, the Mongols’ attacks may have reduced the entire world population by as much as 11 percent.
He was tolerant of different religions.
He created one of the first international postal systems.Along with the bow and the horse, the Mongols most potent weapon may have been their vast communication network. One of his earliest decrees as Khan involved the formation of a mounted courier service known as the “Yam.” This medieval express consisted of a well-organized series of post houses and way stations strung out across the whole of the Empire. By stopping to rest or take on a fresh mount every few miles, official riders could often travel as far as 200 miles a day. The system allowed goods and information to travel with unprecedented speed, but it also acted as the eyes and ears of the Khan. Thanks to the Yam, he could easily keep abreast of military and political developments and maintain contact with his extensive network of spies and scouts. The Yam also helped protect foreign dignitaries and merchants during their travels. In later years, the service was famously used by the likes of Marco Polo and John of Plano Carpini.
The Soviets tried to snuff out his memory in Mongolia.Genghis Khan is now seen as a national hero and founding father of Mongolia, but during the era of Soviet rule in the 20th century, the mere mention of his name was banned. Hoping to stamp out all traces of Mongolian nationalism, the Soviets tried to suppress the Khan’s memory by removing his story from school textbooks and forbidding people from making pilgrimages to his birthplace in Khentii. Genghis Khan was eventually restored to Mongolian history after the country won independence in the early 1990s, and he’s since become a recurring motif in art and popular culture. The Great Khan lends his name to the nation’s main airport in the city of Ulan Bator, and his portrait even appears on Mongolian currency.
Some of his most trusted generals were former enemies.The Great Khan had a keen eye for talent, and he usually promoted his officers on skill and experience rather than class, ancestry or even past allegiances. One famous example of this belief in meritocracy came during a 1201 battle against the rival Taijut tribe, when Genghis was nearly killed after his horse was shot out from under him with an arrow. When he later addressed the Taijut prisoners and demanded to know who was responsible, one soldier bravely stood up and admitted to being the shooter. Stirred by the archer’s boldness, Genghis made him an officer in his army and later nicknamed him “Jebe,” or “arrow,” in honor of their first meeting on the battlefield. Along with the famed general Subutai, Jebe would go on to become one of the Mongols’ greatest field commanders during their conquests in Asia and Europe.
1230-War against the Jin Dynasty begins.The Great Khan Ogedei personally leads his army against the Jin Dynasty in China. His general, Subutai, captures the Emperor Wanyan's capital city, Kaifeng. Three Mongol armies form an alliance with the Song Dynasty and finish off the Jin. After the defeat of the Jin Dynasty, Ogdei orders the construction of the Tumen Amgalan Ord, the "Palace of Myriad Peace," and he turns the city Karakorum(now Pakistan)into the Mongol capital. From this point, Ogedai's forces continue to push into China, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
1241-Ogedei dies.Ogedei dies, which forces Batu Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson and leader of the Golden Horde, to withdraw his invasion of Europe, which had reached the Holy Roman Empire. Batu Khan is forced to return for the kurultai to select Ogedei's successor but he refuses, sparking a four-year stalemate.
1246-Guyuk is elected Great Khan.Due to a threat from Genghis Khan's youngest brother, Temuge, Batu finally allies with Guyuk and allows his forces to attend the kurultai, which elects Guyuk as the next Great Khan. He refutes his mother's policies and punishes her supporters. He continues campaigns to expand into Song China, Iraq, and the Korean Peninsula.
1248- Mongke Khan succeeds as ruler.In 1248, Guyuk gathers troops to march westwards from Karakorum(now Pakistan), but he dies before battle begins. His rival Batu calls a kurultai in his own territory, which his rivals refuse to attend, and he nominates Mongke, a grandson of Genghis Khan. This causes a division in the empire between the descendants of Ogedei on one side and Mongke and the descendants of Genghis's other son, Tolui. Mongke comes to power and institutes a bloody purge of the Ogedei line.
1258- Baghdad is captured.Under the leadership of Hulagu Khan, Baghdad is besieged and captured in 1258. This represents the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate and opens the way for further conquest into the Middle East.
August 11, 1259-Mongke Khan dies.Mongke Khan, leading an army to complete the invasion of China, is forced to stay through the hot summer due to the protracted campaign. Disease spreads among the army, and Mongke catches it and dies. The Mongol forces are again forced to withdraw from their wars of conquest to return for a new kurultai to decide on the succession, which weakens their tactical positions. In the Middle East, the Christians and Muslim Mamluks ally and end the Mongol's invasion. This sets off a civil war between Ariqboqe Khan and Kublai Khan for the right to succession.
August 21, 1264-Kublai Khan becomes the Great Khan.After a protracted civil war, Ariqboqe surrenders to Kublai Khan at Shangdu. This solidifies Kublai Khan's power and allows him to once again begin campaigns of conquest. He finally defeats the Song Dynasty in southern China and puts his own regime in place, called the Yuan, which makes the Mongols the first non-Chinese people to conquer all of China.
1368-The Ming Dynasty reclaims China and the Mongol Empire ends.After Kublai Khan, the Mongols disintegrate into competing entities and lose influence, in part due to the outbreak of the Black Death. In 1368, the Ming Dynasty overthrows the Yuan, the Mongols' ruling power, thus signifying the end of the empire.
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