Mongolia’s greatest heroby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
There have been many powerful generals who conquered, expanded their nation’s borders, and influenced millions of people with a clash of culture around the world. Among the most renowed leaders are Alexander the Great spreading Greek Hellenism, Gaius Julius Caesar of the Roman Empire, Hannibal of Catharage with his elephants, Frederick II 'the Great' of Prussia, and Napoleone Buonoparte I of France.
Few generals, however, matched the effectiveness and cunning that was possessed by Genghis Kahn of the Mongol hoard. Genghis Khan was an incredibly skilled general, and led the Mongol nation to heights that it had never experienced before.
Genghis Kahn (Jenghiz Kahn, Chinggis Khaan), or Temujin as he was called before his rise to power, was born sometime between the late 1150’s to the early 1160’s (Britannica 2002, n.p.). He was called Temujin because, in the Mongol culture, children were named after the leader of the last tribe to be defeated by the child’s father (Price-groff 81). Childhood was short and difficult for the Mongols, and Temujin learned how to ride horses when he was three, and hunt and fish before he turned six years old (81). The Mongols also had very early arranged marriages, and Temujin was no exception. At the age of nine, his father, Yesugei, made arrangements to have him wed a girl from a neighboring tribe (“Genghis Kahn”, par. 1). As part of the arrangement, Yesugei left Temujin with the tribe until he came of age. On his way home, Yesugei was poisoned by a tribe offering him hospitality, and in his last breaths, he expressed his desire to have his son succeed his reign.
However, Yesugei’s followers did not want to let Temujin reign, for he was still a child. So, they exiled his family, believing that without a clan and the protection it offered, they would die. However, instead of giving up, the resourceful Mongol family lived off the land and prospered. Temujin became stronger and stronger, and took control of the family. When one of his brothers stole a fish from him, Temujin killed the thief with an arrow, a harsh discipline that was somewhat common for Mongols (Price-goff 82). As he continued to grow, other tribes feared that he was becoming too strong, and devised a plan to capture Temujin (Britannica 2002, n.p.). Temujin was tied with a wooden yoke that restricted his movement. However, he was able to use this device as a weapon, and escaped one night by knocking his guard in the head (Price-goff 82). Even at the young age of sixteen, Temujin’s resourcefulness and strength were gaining respect.
After escaping, Temujin considered himself a grown man, and went to peruse the items that had been taken from him when he was exiled. He found the wife that had been promised to him and married her. He started to make alliances with other tribes, and was eventually assimilated into the tribe of his wife. Soon after this event, the camp was raided and his wife was captured. Temujin soon planned a counter attack and, with the help of Toghrul (his wife’s father) and Jamuka (his friend from childhood), he rescued his wife, as well as gaining respect as a war leader.
"The 13th century reign of Genghis Kahn was a significant time for the growth of Christianity, which had been introduced as early as the 8th century by Nestorian Christian missionaries from Persia. Genghis Kahn was married to a Christian woman. One of the Khan's daughters-in-law, Sorkaktani, was a Nestorian Christian who became the mother of three great emperors, including Kublai Khan. Another significant Christian influence in the 13th century was the assignment by Pope Innocent the IV of more than a dozen Dominican and Franciscan missionaries to Mongolia."1
After this event, many men from Jamuka’s tribe started to follow Temujin instead of their tribe leader (Price-goff 85). Temujin was starting to become a Kahn, a leader of the Mongol people. Jamuka was understandably jealous, and was pushed over the edge when one of Temujin’s soldiers killed Jamuka’s little brother (Price-goff 86). This event caused former allies and best friends to become enemies, and Temujin fled to northeastern Asia, possibly China, to escape from Jamuka’s wrath. Over next several years, Temujin gained several more followers, and started training his men for battle. The scattered Mongol people were starting to unite and become a single nation. Temujin organized his men into different categories: group of 10 called squads, groups of 100 called squadrons, and group of 1000 called quarans (Price-goff 85). These groups had precise functions and instructions, and each squad was a specialty unit that had a very specific skill set or task.
One of the emperors of China, hearing news that Temujin was near-by, called for his assistance in driving away raiding nomads, the Tartars. Temujin readily agreed, for these were the same people that had driven his ancestors out of their lands. So, Temujin once again made an alliance with Toghrul, his wife’s father, and Chin, the emperor of a Chinese tribe. They proceeded to massacre the Tartars, leaving “only the young alive” (Price-goff 86).
At this time, all of the Mongols had chosen one of two leaders: Jamuka or Temujin. With the added alliance of Toghrul, Temujin was now ready to take his vengeance on Jamuka. The first battle was so fierce that it forced Jamuka to retreat (Price-goff 89). Just when Temujin though he finally had the upper hand, he got word that his ally, Toghrul, had betrayed him. Fearing Temujin’s growing strength, he had planed with Jamuka to assassinate Temujin. However, Temujin heard of the plot and was able to retreat, regroup, and destroy Toghrul’s followers. He went on to defeat Jamuka and had him executed. Temujin was now the leader of all Mongols, the supreme Kahn, Genghis Kahn!
After unifying the Mongols, Genghis Kahn went on the conquer all of China. He breached the Great Wall, laid waste to many cities along the way, and captured the capitol (Britannica, n.p.). However, instead of become a tyrannical dictator after capturing the country, Genghis Kahn let the Chinese live had they had, with no pressure to change their customs or persecution to their religion. He saw that it would be more profitable to force the people to pay a light tax then conquering their culture. Additionally, because he was fair in his taxation, the Chinese people were much less likely to revolt.
After conquering the Chinese, Genghis Kahn turned his attention to trade. When the sultan of Persia killed his ambassadors and refused to trade, Genghis Kahn went to war yet again. He conquered almost all of west Asia, so that the Mongol empire covered almost all of Asia. After restoring the trade route in the west, Khan returned to his home in East Asia only to find the people in China had revolted. After stopping the revolt, Genghis Kahn was finally returning home. However, while on his horse, he became ill and died, ending the reign of one of the greatest rulers ever (Britannica 2002, n.p.).
Genghis Kahn was one of the most feared leaders of his time, and Mongolia reached levels of wealth it had never achieved, and never would achieve again. Genghis Kahn lived to about 70 years of age and died in August, 1227, one of Mongolia’s greatest heroes (Price-goff 91)
1 Dr. David Wu, "Mongolia - GBGM Staff Briefing Summary", <http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=577> Accessed January 31, 2005
"Genghis Khan." Britannica 2002 Deluxe Edition CD-ROM. September 20, 2003
Lister, R.P. “Genghis Khan.: New York: Barns and Noble Publishing
Price-Groff, Claire. “Great Conquerors.” San Diego: Lucent Books, Inc.