Born in 1162, Genghis Khan was a Mongolian ruler and warrior who created the world’s largest empire, the Mongol Empire after destroying tribes that lived individually in Northeast Asia. He married his first wife at the age of 16 and would later marry many other wives in his lifetime. When he was 20, Genghis started organizing a huge army of soldiers with the intention of creating a large empire. Even after dying in 1227, his empire continued to last and thrive.
Genghis was initially named ‘Temujin’, a name derived from a Tatar captured by Yesukhei, his father. The young warrior was of Birijigin tribe. He was the descendant of Khabul Khan, the man who had succeeded in uniting Mongols albeit briefly against the Chin Dynasty of China in early 1100s. A contemporary account detailing the history of Mongol titled Secret History of Mongols notes that Genghis had been born with his hand having a blood clot. According to Mongols traditions and folklore, this signified that his destiny was to become a great leader.
Hoelun, his mother taught the young Genghis the reality of life in the turbulent Mongol tribe and why forming alliances was important. At age 9, Genghis was taken by his father to live with his future bride’s family in Norte. When he was returning home, he encountered some members of Tatar tribe who were rivals with his tribe and invited him for a conciliatory meal. They poisoned him in revenge for transgressions of the past against Tatars. When news about the death of his father reached him, Genghis returned home to claim the position of clan chief that his father held previously.
But when Genghis reached home, the clan didn’t recognize the leadership ability of the young boy and the family of his brothers was ostracized to almost refugee status. The family had great pressure and as Genghis disputed with his half brother over hunting expeditions, he killed him instantly and confirmed his position as the head of his family. When he was 16, he married Borte and cemented the alliance that existed between his tribe and Konkirat tribe. Soon after they married, the Merkit tribe kidnapped his wife and was married off of a chieftain.
Soon after, Genghis rescued her and she bore him Jochi his first son afterwards. However, the captivity of Borte by the rival tribe created doubt on the birth of Jochi but Genghis willingly accepted the son as his child. He had three more sons with Borte and just as it was the custom of Mongolian, he married other wives and had more children. But as traditions would have it, on the male children he had with Borte, his first wife were eligible for succession.
Genghis’ military tactics
By the age of 20, Genghis was captured by former allies of his family in a raid and was enslaved temporarily. A sympathetic captor helped him escape and joined hands with other clansmen and his brothers to form a strong fighting unit. This marked the start of his ascent to power, albeit slowly and build an army of over 20000 men. His aim was to bring the different tribes of Mongol under his kingship. To achieve his goals, he used a combination of merciless brutality and outstanding military tactics. He decimated Tatar army to avenge the death of his father and ordered that every male of Tatar tribe with a height exceeding 3 feet to be killed. He then employed a series of extreme and massive cavalry attacks to defeat Taichi’ut including boiling Taichi’ut chiefs alive.
In a nutshell, Genghis was a brilliant and fierce military commander who enjoyed unprecedented success in battle and set up a great empire that stretched across Asia and Europe. His fierce Mongol army left behind a trail of destruction, fear and death. However, he also succeeded in creating a vibrant Mongolian empire with a booming trade, common language, religion tolerance and some basic laws and customs.
Unification of Mongolia
Genghis completed his unification efforts of Mongolia in 1214 after he triumphed and defeated the seemingly powerful Naiman clan after which he was confirmed as Chingis Khan. Within a period of five years, Mongols had succeeded in annexing much of modern day Chinese Xinjiang and Siberia. The Jurched Dynasty that ruled northern China from modern day Beijing noticed the threat that Mongol Khan posed on them and demanded that he personally kowtow to the Golden Khan they had. In response to this, Genghis spat on ground and declared war on them.
In the same year, he fought and defeated the Tangut, their tributaries and also conquered Jurchens including their 50 million people. The number of Mongol army at the time was just 100, 000. He then concentrated his conquest over to the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Many tribes all the way to Kyrgyzstand and Kazakhstan heard of the tales of Great Genghis and overthrew the Buddhist rulers who reigned in the area in preparation to joining the now growing empire. Genghis, by 1219, ruled from Siberia to Tibet border and Northern China to Afghan border.
Genghis also sought trade alliances with the Khwarizm Empire which was by then very powerful as they controlled the entire Central Asia including Black Sea and Afghanistan. Mohammed II, the sultan of Khwarizm Empire agreed to his request but would later murder the first trade convoy of Mongol that comprised 450 merchants after they were found stealing his goods. In retaliation, the now furious Genghis brought war to the sultan and captured all his cities and added lands to his realm ranging from Turkey to Russia.
The ‘Oceanic Ruler of Universe’
In 1206, Genghis was declared the ‘Oceanic Ruler of Universe’ by a council of the loyal Moghul tribesmen. He received immense backing from three of the strongest tribes in the region which helped him to unify the different Mongol tribes and formed one of the most impressive, historical war machines that had ever been assembled. This kind of unity and loyalty wasn’t common during the era and this enabled Genghis to be one of the strongest and most powerful warriors to have ever lived. He had a great ambition of conquering and plundering root and his first point of focus was the rather powerful Chinese empire.
Genghis succeeded in capturing the empire’s city and gained the obeisance of Chinese people. With this success, Genghis was able to focus his attention to the west where he led his powerful Mongol army deep into Europe and spread destruction and fear all over. Actually, Genghis wasn’t just determined to kill people but he was equally interested in accumulating wealth and conquering the land. When a defeated enemy surrendered, he would accept and employed his consummate skills for avoiding conflict by just sending emissaries to spread tales of the force that his war machine would exert if they tried to resist.
People who were loyal to Genghis had a lot to be thankful about as he also showed great loyalty towards them as well. Equally, he would fiercely turn on those who resisted his rule and were disloyal to him. For instance, he undertook a brutal campaign in Khwarazm for three years and revenged on the civilians living in the area. Also, Genghis encouraged commerce and trade within his realm and he advised his army not to attack any merchant especially along the major trading routes that he controlled. As a result, culture and trade flourished greatly as people were able to trade and travel safely within Monghul Empire that stretched all the way from East China to Black Sea. He was also very tolerant to priests and religious personalities whom he excluded from tax payments.
Death and Legacy
Ironically, Genghis died in 1226 after he fell from his horse. Estimates show that nearly 8 percent of Asians today can have their blood DNA traced to Genghis. Kublai Khan, his grandson continued and completed the quest that his grandfather had started in China. However, upon his death, Monghul Empire soon started breaking up among different factions.
Within Mongolia, he reformed the traditional law and revolutionalized social structure. He created an egalitarian society where even the humblest slave had a chance of rising to power provided he showed Genghis bravery and skill. He divided war booty evenly among all the warriors in his troop regardless of their social status. Ironically, unlike most rulers and kings during the era, Genghis had more trust on his loyal followers than his family members. This was one of the reasons that stirred up a difficult succession in his old age. Genghis was also known to forbid his troop from kidnapping women, partly because it made different Mongol groups to start fighting and partly due to his personal experience when his wife was kidnapped.
Genghis also granted freedom of religion and protected rights of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians. Even though he worshipped the sky himself, he was against the killing of holy people like mullahs, nuns, priests and monks. He also protected ambassadors and envoys regardless of the message they brought to his land.