If you are a student of medieval world history, you are bound to come across the name of Genghis Khan. Genghis was often referred to as the Great Khan or the universal ruler of the Mongols. He played a pivotal role in bringing the nomadic tribes, hailing from the Asian steppe, together to build up an army that was known for its agility, coordinated cavalry, aggression, and the devastation it inflicted. Khan was the main architect of the Mongol empire that dominated Asia. The borders of the kingdom stretched from the Korean peninsula in the east to the Black Sea in the west. The descendants of Khan ruled a portion of this great empire and went down as great leaders in history. This article would discuss all that you wanted to know about the biggest empire ever in history.
Foundation Laid by Genghis Khan
Before Genghis Khan emerged as their leader, the Mongol nomads were leading a tough life. However, they had a highly mobile nature and were used to archery and horse riding since their childhood. Their ability to travel over a vast territory in the shortest possible time and survive on minimum supplies helped them overcome many hurdles in their path. The tribal women knew how to carry out the chores of camp-making and commuting from one place to another really fast. Thus, they offered the crucial logistic support that their husband warriors needed.
Genghis Khan, in all probability, was the first Mongol leader who realized that if the different clans and tribes can be brought under a single umbrella, the world would be at its feet. Genghis Khan was born as Temujin in 1162. He had a troubled childhood throughout which he had to fight against poverty and abandonment. He overcame everything to become an efficient military commander for the Kerait tribe chief, Toghril.
A chronicle from the 13th century, The Secret History of the Mongols, narrates the life and times of Khan. Between 1195 and 1205 CE, Khan emerged as a leader and used a ruthless combination of terror, warfare, and diplomacy to take several territories and tribes under his control. Tartars, Naimans, Kereyids, Merkids, and other tribes chose to award Genghis the title of the Great Khan in a grand meeting held in 1206 and accepted him as their universal ruler. It marked the moment when the foundation stone of the great Mongol empire was laid.
Expansion of the Kingdom to Norther China and Persia
Genghis followed the footsteps of the other Mongol tribe leaders and kept his control over a captured territory by offering equipment, vehicles, armament, and other goods snatched from their enemies in war to their loyal followers. The core of the Mongol army consisted of 10,000 men.
This core was the kesikten or the personal bodyguard of Khan. Members of this core were also given various administrative roles throughout the Mongol empire. Additional troops were assembled from the Mongol tribes, the armies of its allies, as well as the territories it conquered. Mongol horses were known for their stamina and sturdiness. Thanks to their sheer number, an army could cover a huge area with amazing speed. The composite bow that the Mongols used while riding on their horses was supposed to be the prime offensive weapon of the army.
The Khanates and Decline
The Great Khans had all their focus on the eastern part of the empire. Therefore, they gradually lost control of the central parts and other areas. The mid-14th century saw the rise of the Lithuanians and the Russians. While the Golden Horde, founded by Khan’s grandson Batu Khan, survived for quite some time till 1480, the Ilkhanate, founded by Khan’s other grandson Hulegu, disintegrated in 1335. The Chagatai Khanate of Khan’s second son Chagatai collapsed in the year 1363. Domestic disputes were also considered to be one of the major reasons for the downfall of the Khanates and the Mongol Empire on the whole.
Though the Mongols didn’t leave behind much for the museum curators to preserve or build any fine structure for the people to admire in the later times, they deserve all the credit for connecting the East to the West. This had a huge effect on world history and culture. The Mongol Empire, at one point, covered one-fifth of the planet. That era will always be considered the Golden Era in Mongol history.
If you visit Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, you can definitely witness the ceremonies that have been continuously honoring the Great Khan and his legacy over the centuries.