Genghis Khan was born "Temujin" in Mongolia around 1162. He married at age 16, but had many wives during his lifetime. At 20, he began building a large army with the intent to destroy individual tribes in Northeast Asia and unite them under his rule. He was successful; the Mongol Empire was the largest empire in the world before the British Empire, and lasted well after his own death in 1227.
Born in north central Mongolia around 1162, Genghis Khan was originally named "Temujin" after a Tatar chieftain that his father, Yesukhei, had captured. Young Temujin was a member of the Borjigin tribe and a descendant of Khabul Khan, who briefly united Mongols against the Jin (Chin) Dynasty of northern China in the early 1100s. According to the "Secret History of the Mongols" (a contemporary account of Mongol history), Temujin was born with a blood clot in his hand, a sign in Mongol folklore that he was destined to become a leader. His mother, Hoelun, taught him the grim reality of living in turbulent Mongol tribal society and the need for alliances.
When Temujin was 9, his father took him to live with the family of his future bride, Borte. On the return trip home, Yesukhei encountered members of the rival Tatar tribe, who invited him to a conciliatory meal, where he was poisoned for past transgressions against the Tatars. Upon hearing of his father's death, Temujin returned home to claim his position as clan chief. However, the clan refused to recognize the young boy's leadership and ostracized his family of younger brothers and half-brothers to near-refugee status. The pressure on the family was great, and in a dispute over the spoils of a hunting expedition, Temujin quarreled with and killed his half-brother, Bekhter, confirming his position as head of the family.
At 16, Temujin married Borte, cementing the alliance between the Konkirat tribe and his own. Soon after, Borte was kidnapped by the rival Merkit tribe and given to a chieftain as a wife. Temujin was able to rescue her, and soon after, she gave birth to her first son, Jochi. Though Borte's captivity with the Konkirat tribe cast doubt on Jochi's birth, Temujin accepted him as his own. With Borte, Temujin had four sons and many other children with other wives, as was Mongolian custom. However, only his male children with Borte qualified for succession in the family.
The 'Universal Ruler'
When 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.
Through 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.
The early success of the Mongol army owed much to the brilliant military tactics of Genghis Khan, as well as his understanding of his enemies' motivations. He employed an extensive spy network and was quick to adopt new technologies from his enemies. The well-trained Mongol army of 80,000 fighters coordinated their advance with a sophisticated signaling system of smoke and burning torches. Large drums sounded commands to charge, and further orders were conveyed with flag signals. Every soldier was fully equipped with a bow, arrows, a shield, a dagger and a lasso. He also carried large saddlebags for food, tools and spare clothes. The saddlebag was waterproof and could be inflated to serve as a life preserver when crossing deep and swift-moving rivers. Cavalrymen carried a small sword, javelins, body armor, a battle-ax or mace, and a lance with a hook to pull enemies off of their horses. The Mongols were devastating in their attacks. Because they could maneuver a galloping horse using only their legs, their hands were free to shoot arrows. The entire army was followed by a well-organized supply system of oxcarts carrying food for soldiers and beasts alike, as well as military equipment, shamans for spiritual and medical aid, and officials to catalog the booty.
Following 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."
Genghis Khan wasted no time in capitalizing on his divine stature. While spiritual inspiration motivated his armies, the Mongols were probably driven as much by environmental circumstances. Food and resources were becoming scarce as the population grew. In 1207, he led his armies against the kingdom of Xi Xia and, after two years, forced it to surrender. In 1211, Genghis Khan's armies struck the Jin Dynasty in northern China, lured not by the great cities' artistic and scientific wonders, but rather the seemingly endless rice fields and easy pickings of wealth.
Although the campaign against the Jin Dynasty lasted nearly 20 years, Genghis Khan's armies were also active in the west against border empires and the Muslim world. Initially, Genghis Khan used diplomacy to establish trade relations with the Khwarizm Dynasty, a Turkish-dominated empire that included Turkestan, Persia, and Afghanistan. But the Mongol diplomatic mission was attacked by the governor of Otrar, who possibly believed the caravan was a cover for a spy mission. When Genghis Khan heard of this affront, he demanded the governor be extradited to him and sent a diplomat to retrieve him. Shah Muhammad, the leader of the Khwarizm Dynasty, not only refused the demand, but in defiance sent back the head of the Mongol diplomat.
This act released a fury that would sweep through central Asia and into eastern Europe. In 1219, Genghis Khan personally took control of planning and executing a three-prong attack of 200,000 Mongol soldiers against the Khwarizm Dynasty. The Mongols swept through every city's fortifications with unstoppable savagery. Those who weren't immediately slaughtered were driven in front of the Mongol army, serving as human shields when the Mongols took the next city. No living thing was spared, including small domestic animals and livestock. Skulls of men, women, and children were piled in large, pyramidal mounds. City after city was brought to its knees, and eventually the Shah Muhammad and later his son were captured and killed, bringing an end to the Khwarizm Dynasty in 1221.
Scholars describe the period after the Khwarizm campaign as the Pax Mongolica. In time, the conquests of Genghis Khan connected the major trade centers of China and Europe. The empire was governed by a legal code known as Yassa. Developed by Genghis Khan, the code was based on Mongol common law but contained edicts that prohibited blood feuds, adultery, theft and bearing false witness. Also included were laws that reflected Mongol respect for the environment such as forbidding bathing in rivers and streams and orders for any soldier following another to pick up anything that the first soldier dropped. Infraction of any of these laws was usually punishable by death. Advancement within military and government ranks was not based on traditional lines of heredity or ethnicity, but on merit. There were tax exemptions for religious and some professional leaders, as well as a degree of religious tolerance that reflected the long-held Mongol tradition of religion as a personal conviction not subject to law or interference. This tradition had practical applications as there were so many different religious groups in the empire, it would have been an extra burden to force a single religion on them.
With the annihilation of the Khwarizm Dynasty, Genghis Khan once again turned his attention east to China. The Tanguts of Xi Xia had defied his orders to contribute troops to the Khwarizm campaign and were in open revolt. In a string of victories against Tangut cities, Genghis Khan defeated enemy armies and sacked the capital of Ning Hia. Soon one Tangut official surrendered after another, and the resistance ended. Genghis Khan hadn't quite extracted all the revenge he wanted for the Tangut betrayal, however, and ordered the execution of the imperial family, thus ending the Tangut lineage.
Genghis Khan's Death
Genghis Khan died in 1227, soon after the submission of the Xi Xia. The exact cause of his death is unknown. Some historians maintain that he fell off a horse while on a hunt, and died of fatigue and injuries. Others contend that he died of respiratory disease. Genghis Khan was buried without markings, according to the customs of his tribe, somewhere near his birthplace—close to the Onon River and the Khentii Mountains in northern Mongolia. According to legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything they encountered to conceal the location of the burial site, and a river was diverted over Genghis Khan's grave to make it impossible to find.
Before his death, Genghis Khan bestowed supreme leadership to his son Ogedei, who controlled most of eastern Asia, including China. The rest of the empire was divided among his other sons: Chagatai took over central Asia and northern Iran; Tolui, being the youngest, received a small territory near the Mongol homeland; and Jochi (who was killed before Genghis Khan's death). Jochi and his son, Batu, took control of modern Russia and formed the Golden Horde. The empire's expansion continued and reached its peak under Ogedei Khan's leadership. Mongol armies eventually invaded Persia, the Song Dynasty in southern China, and the Balkans. Just when the Mongol armies had reached the gates of Vienna, Austria, leading commander Batu got word of the Great Khan Ogedei's death and was called back to Mongolia. Subsequently, the campaign lost momentum, marking the Mongol's farthest invasion into Europe.
Among the many descendents of Genghis Khan is Kublai Khan, who was the son of Tolui, Genghis Khan's youngest son. At a young age, Kublai had a strong interest in Chinese civilization and, throughout his life, did much to incorporate Chinese customs and culture into Mongol rule. Kublai rose to prominence in 1251, when his eldest brother, Mongke, became Khan of the Mongol Empire and placed him as governor of the southern territories. Kublai distinguished himself by increasing agricultural production and expanding Mongol territory. After Mongke's death, Kublai and his other brother, Arik Boke, fought for control of the empire. After three years of intertribal warfare, Kublai was victorious, and he was made Great Khan and emperor of the Yuan Dynasty of China.
- Name: Genghis Khan
- Birth Year: 1162
- Birth Country: Mongolia
- Gender: Male
- Best Known For: Mongolian warrior and ruler Genghis Khan created the largest empire in the world, the Mongol Empire, by destroying individual tribes in Northeast Asia.
- War and Militaries
- Mongolian (Mongolia)
- Death Year: 1227
- Death Country: Mongolia
- Article Title: Genghis Khan Biography
- Author: Biography.com Editors
- Website Name: The Biography.com website
- Url: https://www.biography.com/political-figures/genghis-khan
- Access Date:
- Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
- Last Updated: August 30, 2019
- Original Published Date: April 3, 2014
- I am the flail of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.
- I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.
- Mother Earth is broad and her rivers and waters are numerous. Make up your camps far apart and each of you rule your own kingdom.
- I leave you the greatest empire in the world, but your preserving it depends upon your remaining always united. If discord steals in among you all will most assuredly be lost.
- Every man has his use, even if only to gather dried cow dung in the Gobi for fuel.
- How can one withdraw? Even if we die, let us challenge their boasts. Eternal Heaven, you be the judge!
- [A leader] can never be happy until his people are happy.
- The greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him.
- If you insult the mother who gave you your life from her heart, if you cause her love for you to freeze up, even if you apologize to her later, the damage is done.
- Without the vision of a goal, a man cannot manage his own life, much less the lives of others.
- People conquered on different sides of the lake should be ruled on different sides of the lake.
Queen Elizabeth II
Alexander the Great
Genghis Khan Biography
Genghis Khan (1164 – 1227) was a fierce and brilliant military commander, who achieved unprecedented success in setting up the Mongol Empire which stretched across Europe, China and Asia. His Mongol armies left a trail of fear, death and destruction. But, he also created a vibrant empire with a common language, booming trade, tolerance of religion and some basic customs and laws.
Short Bio of Genghis Khan
The young Temujin was born the son of a local tribal leader, Yesugei – sometime between 1163 and 1167. This was a period of turbulence, intermittent warfare and internecine conflict. At a young age, Temujin’s father was murdered by rival tribesman; this left Temujin powerless and at the mercy of rival tribes. For a few years, he and his family lived in great poverty. Then in 1177, he was captured by former allies of his father and imprisoned with a wooden head brace. However, on one occasion, sensing a weakness in the guards, Temujin used the wooden head brace to knock out a guard and then through great good fortune and tenacity, he escaped. One anecdote about his escape is that coming across a farm, Khan implored a stranger for a horse. So impressed was the stranger with Khan’s presence he helped him escape and pledged life-long loyalty. It is typical of how Khan could inspire awe and reverence from those who met him. Free of his former captives he gained a reputation as a fearsome warrior and leader of men. He gathered together a band of men who were very loyal and he astutely created alliances to increase his power base. Reports suggest many instances, where people saw something in his eyes that encouraged great loyalty and devotion. It was a loyalty Temujin was keen to exploit as he held great determination and ambition.
At the age of 16, he married his childhood bride Borte, whom he had great admiration for. Shortly after the marriage, Borte was kidnapped, but Temujin was able to call on some friends to lead a rescue operation. This was successful, and although Borte was found to be with child, Temujin would bring up the child as if it was his.
Harhorin – the landscape of where Genghis Khan grew up
One of his most important early victories was leading a small unit and allies in defeating the Merkit tribe who bore a grudge against Temujin. Temujin routed his opponents and proceeded to kill all people taller than a cart axle. It was typical of Temujin’s ruthlessness and determination to quell any possible rebellion by having potential rebels killed.
Temujin becomes Genghis Khan
With the backing of the three strongest tribes, in 1206 Genghis Khan was now able to unify the various Mongol tribes into a united nation and one of the most impressive war machines ever assembled. It was at this council meeting that Moghul tribesmen declared Temujin as ‘Genghis Khan – meaning ‘Oceanic Ruler of the Universe.’ This loyalty and unity were very rare in that era. For the first time, it created a concept of a unified Mongol nation, and despite the frequent civil conflict, the modern state of Mongolia can be traced to Genghis Khan’s unification of the different tribes.
However, unifying local tribes was only a starting point for Khan. Genghis Khan had a tremendous ambition to conquer and plunder loot. He first turned his attention to the powerful Chinese empire, who was at the time divided by internal conflict. He was successful in capturing the Tangut Kingdom and then conquering the Jin Empire in 1211. In 1215, he captured the ancient city of Beijing and effectively gained the obeisance and surrender of the Chinese. This allowed him to turn his attention to the West and Genghis Khan led his Mongol armies west – deep into the heart of Europe – spreading fear and destruction.
“The Greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who live him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.”
– Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan did not just look to kill people; he was mainly interested in conquering and gaining wealth. He would accept the surrender of a defeated enemy and often used a consummate skill to avoid conflict merely through emissaries who would spread tales of fear about the impending force of Genghis Khan’s war machine.
Siege warfare in the time of Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan could show great loyalty to those who were loyal to him, and equally, he could turn on those he considered to be disloyal or resisted. After the conquest of China, Khan turned his attention to Khwarazm a region in modern-day Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan. In this case, Khan was furious that the Khwarazm ruler had attacked Muslim merchants under the protection of Genghis Khan. He turned his fury on the Empire and was particularly brutal in destroying and killing huge numbers of subjects. The brutality and scale of killing were remembered for many centuries.
Despite a well-deserved reputation for brutality, Genghis Khan also encouraged trade and commerce within his realm. He forbade his troops to attack merchants, and through his control of the main trading routes, trade and culture flourished as people could travel within the Mongol Empire stretching from China in the East to the Black Sea in the East. Genghis Khan was also tolerant of religions and exempted priests from paying tax.
The personality of Genghis Khan
The personality of Genghis Khan is often hard to decipher. He was interested in religious matters and often felt a sense of a divine mission. He worshipped the supreme deity of the Mongols – ‘The Eternal Blue Heaven.’ He also received a Daoist sage, Qiu Chuji who talked about religious issues. In some respects, Khan was adaptable and willing to take advice – including his mother, wife, and close friends. But, he could be both brutal in taking revenge on those who he felt had wronged him and was willing to slaughter civilians who had surrendered if it suited his needs. He was adept in using psychological warfare and was often successful in instilling sufficient fear to encourage whole cities to surrender. But he also had a more pragmatic side and fostered trade, commerce and respected local customs. He took numerous wives and had innumerable children. It is estimated that 8% of Asians can have their DNA traced back to Genghis Khan.
Ironically, he died after falling from a horse in 1226. By his own request, he was buried in an unmarked grave within Mongolia.
How did Genghis Khan change the world?
Genghis Khan conquered Mongolia, much of China and a large part of eastern Europe and Central Asia. His conquests also led to the growth of towns, cities and intra empire trade. His grandson Kublai Khan completed the conquest of China, but after his death, the Mongol Empire started to break up amongst different factions. Yet, although the Mongol Empire did disintegrate, Genghis Khan undoubtedly changed the course of world history. He created a new sense of Mongol identity and helped bring in modern inventions such as writing and the adoption of the Uyghur script. He also encouraged a degree of religious tolerance and trade – helping to strengthen the infrastructure of the Silk Road – trade between east and west. Yet, despite these ‘progressive’ developments for many on the receiving end of Khan’s conquest, he remained a byword for genocidal killing and ruthlessness that stayed long in the popular imagination.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan . “Biography of Genghis Khan”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net. Published 16 March 2010. Last updated 1 March 2020.
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Biography of Genghis Khan, Founder of the Mongol Empire
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Genghis Khan (c. 1162–August 18, 1227) was the legendary founder and leader of the Mongol Empire . In a span of just 25 years, his horsemen conquered a larger area and greater population than the Romans did in four centuries. To the millions of people conquered by his hordes , Genghis Khan was evil incarnate; in Mongolia and Central Asia, however, he was widely revered.
Fast Facts: Genghis Khan
- Known For : Khan was the founder and leader of the Mongol Empire.
- Also Known As : Temujin
- Born : c. 1162 in Delun-Boldog, Mongolia
- Died : August 18, 1227, in Yinchuan, Western Xia
- Spouse(s) : Borje, Khulan, Yesugen, Yesulun (plus others)
- Children : Jochi, Chagatai, Ogedei, Tolui (plus others)
Records of the Great Khan's early life are sparse and contradictory. He was likely born in 1162, though some sources say 1155 or 1165. We know that the boy was given the name Temujin. His father Yesukhei was the chief of the minor Borijin clan of nomadic Mongols, who lived by hunting rather than herding or farming.
Yesukhei had kidnapped Temujin's young mother, Hoelun, as she and her first husband were riding home from their wedding. She became Yesukhei's second wife; Temujin was his second son by just a few months. Mongol legend claims that the baby was born with a blood clot in his fist, a sign that he would be a great warrior.
Hardship and Captivity
When Temujin was nine, his father took him to a neighboring tribe to work for several years and earn a bride. His intended wife 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 survived by eating roots, rodents, and fish. Young Temujin and his full brother Khasar grew to resent their eldest half-brother Begter. They killed him and as punishment for the crime, Temujin was seized and enslaved. His captivity may have lasted for more than five years.
Set free at age 16, Temujin went to find Borje again. She was still waiting for him 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 Jamuka, who would later become a rival. Borje's first son Jochi was born nine months later.
Consolidation of Power
After rescuing Borje, Temujin's small band stayed with Jamuka's group for several years. Jamuka soon asserted his authority, rather than treating Temujin as a brother, which started a two-decade feud between the 19-year-olds. Temujin left the camp, along with many of Jamuka's followers and livestock.
At the age of 27, Temujin held a kurultai (tribal council) among the Mongols, who elected him khan . The Mongols were only a Kereyid sub-clan, however, and Ong Khan played Jamuka and Temujin off one another. As Khan, Temujin awarded high office not just to his relatives, but to those followers who were most loyal to him.
Unification of the Mongols
In 1190, Jamuka raided Temujin's camp, cruelly horse-dragging and even boiling alive his captives, which turned many of his followers against him. The united Mongols soon defeated the neighboring Tatars and Jurchens, and Temujin Khan assimilated their people rather than follow the steppe custom of looting them and leaving.
Jamuka attacked Ong Khan and Temujin in 1201. Despite suffering an arrow shot to the neck, Temujin defeated and assimilated Jamuka's remaining warriors. Ong Khan then treacherously tried to ambush Temujin at a wedding ceremony for Ong's daughter and Jochi, but the Mongols escaped and returned to conquer the Kereyids.
The unification of Mongolia ended in 1204 when Temujin defeated the powerful Naiman clan. Two years later, another kurultai confirmed him as Genghis Khan or universal leader of all Mongolia. Within five years, the Mongols had annexed much of Siberia and what is today the modern Chinese Xinjiang province.
The Jurched Dynasty, ruling northern China from Zhongdu (Beijing), noticed the upstart Mongol khan and demanded that he kowtow to its Golden Khan. In reply, Genghis Khan spat on the ground. He then defeated their tributaries, the Tangut , and in 1214 he conquered the Jurchens and their 50 million citizens. The Mongol army numbered just 100,000.
Conquests of Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Caucasus
Tribes as far away as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan heard about the Great Khan and overthrew their Buddhist rulers in order to join his growing empire. By 1219, Genghis Khan ruled from northern China to the Afghan border and from Siberia to the border of Tibet .
He sought a trade alliance with the powerful Khwarizm Empire, which controlled Central Asia from Afghanistan to the Black Sea. Sultan Muhammad II agreed, but then murdered the first Mongol trade convoy of 450 merchants, stealing their goods. Before the end of that year, the wrathful Khan had captured every Khwarizm city, adding lands from Turkey to Russia to his realm.
In 1222, the 61-year-old Khan called a family kurultai to discuss the matter of succession. His four sons disagreed over which should become the Great Khan. Jochi, the eldest, was born soon after Borje's kidnapping and might not have been Genghis Khan's son, so the second son Chagatai challenged his right to the title.
As a compromise, the third son Ogodei became the successor. Jochi died in February 1227, six months before his father, who passed away on August 18, 1227.
Ogodei took East Asia, which would become Yuan China. Chagatai claimed Central Asia. Tolui, the youngest, took Mongolia proper. Jochi's sons controlled Russia and Eastern Europe.
After Genghis Khan's secret burial on the steppes of Mongolia, his sons and grandsons continued to expand the Mongol Empire. Ogodei's son Kublai Khan defeated the Song rulers of China in 1279 and established the Mongol Yuan Dynasty . The Yuan would rule all of China until 1368. Meanwhile, Chagatai pushed south from his Central Asian holdings, conquering Persia.
Within Mongolia , Genghis Khan revolutionized the social structure and reformed traditional law. His was an egalitarian society, in which the humblest enslaved person could rise to be an army commander if he showed skill or bravery. War booty was divided evenly among all warriors, regardless of social status. Unlike most rulers of the time, Genghis Khan trusted loyal followers above his own family members—which contributed to the difficult succession as he aged.
The Great Khan forbade the kidnapping of women, probably due in part to his wife's experience, but also because it led to warfare among different Mongol groups. He outlawed livestock rustling for the same reason and established a winter-only hunting season to preserve game for the hardest of times.
Contrary to his ruthless and barbaric reputation in the west, Genghis Khan promulgated several enlightened policies that would not become common practice in Europe until centuries later. He guaranteed freedom of religion, protecting the rights of Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus alike. Genghis Khan himself worshiped the sky, but he forbade the killing of priests, monks, nuns, mullahs, and other holy people.
A 2003 DNA study revealed that about 16 million men in the former Mongol Empire, about 8% of the male population, carry a genetic marker that developed in one family in Mongolia about 1,000 years ago. The most likely explanation is that they are descended from Genghis Khan or his brothers.
- Craughwell, Thomas. "The Rise and Fall of the Second Largest Empire in History: How Genghis Khan's Mongols Almost Conquered the World." Fair Winds Press, 2010.
- Djang, Sam. "Genghis Khan: World Conqueror, Vols. I and II." New Horizon Books, 2011.
- Weatherford, Jack. "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World ." Three Rivers Press, 2004.
- Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
- What Motivated the Mongol Conquests of Genghis Khan?
- Effects of the Mongol Empire on Europe
- Biography of Kublai Khan, Ruler of Mongolia and Yuan China
- The Battle of Ayn Jalut
- Asia's Great Conquerors
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- Genghis Khan Exhibit Photos
- Biography of Tamerlane, 14th Century Conqueror of Asia
- What Is a Kurultai?
- Emperors of China's Yuan Dynasty
- The Mongol Invasions of Japan
- Karakorum: Genghis Khan's Capital City
- The Tangut People of China
- What Was the Pax Mongolica?
- Biography of Marco Polo, Famous Explorer
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By jake rossen | nov 22, 2019.
MILITARY (1162–1227); KHENTII MOUNTAINS, KHAMAG MONGOL
Of history’s many colorful tyrants, few have captured contemporary imaginations quite like the Mongolian warlord known as Genghis Khan. Assembling disparate tribes to form the world’s largest contiguous army, Khan’s empire eventually dominated nearly 12 million square miles. For more on the man who helped shape the modern world, check out some facts about his death toll, his empire, and his many, many descendants.
1. Genghis Khan’s empire map was vast.
Genghis Khan was remarkable for his time for building armies without regard for religious affiliation and choosing capable leaders for his empire rather than relatives. Once his force was in order, Khan went on a spree of hostile takeovers. Among the lands conquered by Khan and his descendants over a brief, brutal 25-year period:
- China, including Xi Xia, Jin, and Sung
2. Genghis Khan’s childhood was extremely unpleasant.
Thanks to books like Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004) and The Secret History of the Mongols (circa 13th century), certain facets of Khan’s life have come into sharper focus. Born Temujin near the border separating Mongolia and Siberia in 1162, Khan had a difficult childhood. His father was poisoned by an enemy clan, at which point his family’s own clan abandoned Temujin, his mother, and his six siblings. After killing his half-brother, Temujin took over. Once he achieved infamy, he became known as Genghis Khan, or “universal ruler.”
3. Legend says Genghis Khan and his armies killed more than 40 million people.
Thanks to decades of barnstorming across continents, Khan tallied a considerable body count. His armies are believed to have slaughtered upward of 40 million people, though that number comes with an asterisk, as Khan may have exaggerated figures recorded by historians in order to intimidate his foes. Khan’s soldiers utilized a number of tactics that led to their battlefield domination, including feigning a retreat and then returning, catapulting stones and diseased animals over walls, and cutting off water and food supplies to towns.
4. Genghis Khan’s death was anticlimactic.
While suppressing a revolution in the Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia in 1227, Khan died in a military camp. The exact cause is not known but may have been related to injuries he sustained falling off his horse the previous year. If the people of Xi Xia thought they might be granted a respite owing to his death, they were wrong. Before his death, Khan ordered his men to capture the kingdom completely, resulting in widespread death and destruction.
5. No one knows the location of Genghis Khan’s burial site or tomb.
As secretive in death as he was in life, Khan’s final resting place was never recorded. After his death, his heirs held a private funeral procession back to his home of Karakorum and killed anyone who accidentally witnessed it. Khan was then placed in an unmarked grave, which was trampled upon by over 1000 horses to erase any trace of disturbance. Despite historical interest in its location, no one has ever found the site. With Mongolian customs of the time putting people of Xiongnu descent—as Khan potentially was—65 feet below ground in log chambers, no one likely ever will.
6. Thanks to DNA, we know Genghis Khan has a lot of descendants.
The direct heirs of Khan can be difficult to ascertain, but what historians do know about Khan’s descendants often leaves people aghast. Because Khan forced himself upon women following his territorial conquests, it’s been estimated that more than 20,000 births were a result of his lineage in the century following his life. In 2003, researchers found that 16 million men in central Asia shared the same male Y chromosome. While not conclusive proof they’re descended from Khan, it’s strong circumstantial evidence.
7. Genghis Khan’s son and grandson, Kublai Khan, were highly reproductive, as well.
Khan sired a number of children, who in turn took advantage of conquered lands in their own right. His oldest, Tushi, may have had as many as 40 sons of his own. Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, was known to have 22 sons.
8. Genghis Khan probably would have hated the Genghis Khan statue.
Khan was infamously reluctant to have his image captured in any way. While he was alive, he never consented to having anyone paint or sculpt his likeness, nor did he want to appear on any currency, making things like his facial features or height hard to substantiate. Today, he’s represented in a number of monuments, but the most famous might be the one located near Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Standing 131 feet tall, the sculpture depicts Khan on horseback and symbolically lording over Europe.
Famous Genghis Khan Quotes
- “I am the flail of god. Had you not created great sins, god would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”*
* Note: This quote was first attributed to Khan by ancient Persian historian Ata-Malik Juvaini.
Who was Genghis Khan, the warrior who founded the Mongol Empire?
Genghis Khan (1160 to 1227) founded the Mongol Empire, which covered much of Asia and parts of Europe.
- When did he live?
- Early life and wives
- Army and empire
- His death and tomb
Genghis Khan was a 13th-century warrior in central Asia who founded the Mongol Empire , which stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Europe.
Much about Genghis Khan remains unknown. For instance, we don't really know what he looked like, because not a single authentic portrait of the man survives to the present day, Jean-Paul Roux , who was a professor emeritus at the Ecole du Louvre, wrote in his book " Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire " (Thames & Hudson 2003). All images of him that exist today were created after his death or by people who never met him.
Additionally, until Genghis Khan gained control over the Uyghur people, the Mongolians did not have a writing system. As such, many surviving records of him were written by foreigners. One important Mongolian record, called "The Secret History of the Mongols," was written anonymously (as its name suggests) sometime after Genghis Khan's death.
When did Genghis Khan live?
From what modern-day historians can gather, Genghis Khan was born sometime around A.D. 1160 (the exact year is uncertain) and died in August 1227, possibly of bubonic plague , while waging a campaign against the Tangut people.
Genghis Khan's Early Life and Wives
Genghis Khan was born with the name Temüjin (also spelled Temuchin). At the time, Mongolia was not unified and was ruled by different clans and tribal groups. His father, named Yesüge (also spelled Yesükai), "was lord and leader of 40,000 tents or families. Even his brothers, including those senior to him, acknowledged him as their leader and head of the Borjigin clan," Syed Anwarul Haque Haqqi, who was a professor at Aligarh Muslim University in India, wrote in his book " Chingiz Khan: The Life and Legacy of an Empire Builder " (Primus Books, 2010).
Temüjin's mother, Hoelun, had been captured by his father's clan and forced to become Yesügei's wife (a common practice in Mongolia at the time). Their son was named Temüjin to celebrate his father's triumph over an enemy who was also called Temüjin, Haqqi wrote, noting that it was common to name a newborn child after an auspicious event.
We know little of Temüjin's early life, "but it is reasonable to suppose that as the years rolled by and childhood turned into youth [he] was brought up in the hard and harsh atmosphere of nomadic life, in which the tribal lords and chiefs fought, drank, and duelled, married and slept with their weapons underneath them — a rigorous life in which chiefs shared the miseries, hungers and privations of their people," Haqqi wrote.
Around age 9, Temüjin was betrothed to Börte, the 10-year-old daughter of Dai Sechen, the leader of the Jungirat tribe (there are different spellings of these names). At some point, Temüjin's father died (apparently poisoned), and the family's power faded as many of his father's followers deserted them.
Temüjin, his family and their remaining followers were forced to eke out a living on marginal pasturelands, contending with thieves and old rivals of Yesügei hoping to kill his family. Around age 14, Temüjin murdered his half brother Bekter according to "The Secret History of the Mongols." This may have arisen from a dispute over resources. After a few years, Temüjin was able to marry Börte, and she became the most prominent of his multiple wives.
Genghis Khan's army and empire
Around 1200, Temüjin and his friend Toghrul launched a campaign against the Tatars, a group that lived in parts of what are now Mongolia and China , and whom they defeated in 1202. The two would later have a falling out, and Toghrul was killed after Temüjin defeated his forces.
By 1206, Temüjin had conquered most of Mongolia, and the remaining tribes were forced to acknowledge him as their leader. He took the name Genghis Khan, which has a few different translations, one of which is "oceanic sovereign," Roux wrote.
Genghis Khan then launched a successful campaign against the Jin dynasty, taking northern China. Historical records indicate that by 1234, the population of northern China had dropped by two-thirds due to war, Jinping Wang , an associate professor of history at the National University of Singapore, wrote in her book " In the Wake of the Mongols: The Making of a New Social Order in North China, 1200-1600 " (Harvard University Asia Center, 2018).
Jinping Wang holds a PhD from Yale University (2011) and is a social-cultural historian of pre-modern China. She specializes in Chinese history, Chinese religions, regional studies, and the Mongol-Yuan and Ming Empires.
Her monograph, " In the Wake of the Mongols: The Making of a New Social Order in North China, 1200-1600" describes how northern Chinese people interacted with their Mongol conquerors to create a drastically new social order.
He then turned his attention westward, moving deeper into central Asia. In 1219, Genghis Khan launched a successful campaign against the shah of Khwarezm (based in modern-day Iran), whose kingdom was suffering from internal disputes, David Morgan , who was a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote in a paper published in the book " The Coming of the Mongols " (London Middle East Institute, 2018). Genghis Khan's campaigns caused so much death and destruction that there was a small drop in global carbon dioxide emissions.
The use of cavalry and the composite bow were important, as they provided the Mongols with excellent mobility Timothy May , professor of central Eurasian history at the University of North Georgia, wrote in his book " The Mongols " (Arc Humanities Press, 2019). Research indicates that Mongolia's climate was wetter than normal , allowing for more grass to grow and thus more horses to graze.
Timothy May specializes in the history of the Mongol Empire and is the author and editor of six books, over 30 articles and chapters and numerous other publications. He is also the editor of Mongolian Studies: The Journal of the Mongolia Society.
As Genghis Khan took over more land, he made innovations in the form of government and organization. "Once he had conquered territories beyond Mongolia, he instituted a more sophisticated administrative structure and a regular system of taxation," Morris Rossabi , an associate adjunct professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, wrote in a section of the book " Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire " (University of Washington Press, 2009). "Recruiting captured Turks, Chinese and others, he began to devise a more stable system that could contribute to a more orderly government, with specialized official positions."
He devised a system of laws and regulations. "In accordance and agreement with his own mind he established a rule for every occasion and a regulation for every circumstance; while for every crime he fixed a penalty," the Persian writer Ata-Malik Juvayni, who lived in the 13th century, wrote in his book " History of the World Conqueror " (translated by John Andrew Boyle in 1958).
Genghis Khan said that plunder from his campaigns must be shared among his troops and insisted they follow a vigorous training routine focused on hunting. This was "not for the sake of the game alone, but also in order that they may become accustomed and inured to hunting and familiarized with the handling of the bow and the endurance of hardships," Juvayni wrote.
He ordered his troops not to harm artisans and to leave clerics alone, respecting people of other faiths. Genghis Khan himself followed a system of beliefs that revolved around Mongolian shamanism, according to historical records.
Genghis Khan's death and tomb
Genghis Khan died in 1227, amid a campaign against the Tangut people. His tomb has never been found , and texts written during his lifetime are virtually silent about its location.
After Genghis Khan's death, his son Ogedai (also spelled Ögedei or Ögodei) ruled over the Mongols until he died in 1241. Ultimately, the Mongol Empire did not remain unified, falling into civil war after the death of Möngke Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, in 1259.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has an article that looks at the legacy of Genghis Khan. The National Palace Museum in Taiwan has several portraits showing Genghis Khan and his descendants. But these paintings were completed after Genghis Khan's death and may not reflect how he looked in life. An attempt was made to find the tomb of Genghis Khan through satellite survey. It was unsuccessful but its results were published in an article in the journal PLOS One .
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Owen Jarus is a regular contributor to Live Science who writes about archaeology and humans' past. He has also written for The Independent (UK), The Canadian Press (CP) and The Associated Press (AP), among others. Owen has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from Ryerson University.
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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History Essays
The legacy of genghis khan.
Safe Conduct Pass (Paiza) with Inscription in Phakpa Script
Basin with Figural Imagery
Stefano Carboni Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Qamar Adamjee Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Genghis Khan (ca. 1162–1227) and the Mongols are invariably associated with terrible tales of conquest, destruction, and bloodshed. This famed clan leader and his immediate successors created the largest empire ever to exist, spanning the entire Asian continent from the Pacific Ocean to modern-day Hungary in Europe. Such an empire could not have been shaped without visionary leadership, superior organizational skills, the swiftest and most resilient cavalry ever known, an army of superb archers (the “devil’s horsemen” in Western sources), the existence of politically weakened states across Asia, and, of course, havoc and devastation.
Yet, the legacy of Genghis Khan, his sons, and grandsons is also one of cultural development , artistic achievement, a courtly way of life, and an entire continent united under the so-called Pax Mongolica (“Mongolian Peace”). Few people realize that the Yuan dynasty in China (1271–1368) is part of Genghis Khan’s legacy through its founder, his grandson Khubilai Khan (r. 1260–95). The Mongol empire was at its largest two generations after Genghis Khan and was divided into four main branches, the Yuan (empire of the Great Khan) being the central and most important. The other Mongol states were the Chagatai khanate in Central Asia (ca. 1227–1363), the Golden Horde in southern Russia extending into Europe (ca. 1227–1502), and the Ilkhanid dynasty in Greater Iran (1256–1353).
The Mongols were remarkably quick in transforming themselves from a purely nomadic tribal people into rulers of cities and states and in learning how to administer their vast empire. They readily adopted the system of administration of the conquered states, placing a handful of Mongols in the top positions but allowing former local officials to run everyday affairs. This clever system allowed them to control each city and province but also to be in touch with the population through their administrators. The seat of the Great Khanate in Dadu (Beijing) was the center of the empire, with all its pomp and ceremony, whereas the three semi-independent Central and western Asian domains of the Chagatai, the Golden Horde, and the Ilkhanids were connected through an intricate network that crisscrossed the continent. Horses , once a reliable instrument of war and conquest, now made swift communication possible, carrying written messages through a relay system of stations. A letter sent by the emperor in Beijing and carried by an envoy wearing his paiza , or passport, could reach the Ilkhanid capital Tabriz, some 5,000 miles away, in about a month.
The political unification of Asia under the Mongols resulted in active trade and the transfer and resettlement of artists and craftsmen along the main routes. New influences were thus integrated with established local artistic traditions. By the middle of the thirteenth century, the Mongols had formed the largest contiguous empire in the world, uniting Chinese, Islamic, Iranian, Central Asian, and nomadic cultures within an overarching Mongol sensibility.
Genghis Khan’s grandson Hülegü (died 1265) subdued Iran in 1256 and conquered Baghdad, the capital of the ‘Abbasid caliphate , in 1258. Hülegü’s dynasty—the Ilkhanids, or Lesser Khans—ruled this area, called Greater Iran, until about 1353. After their rapid gain of power in the Muslim world, the Mongol Ilkhanids nominally reported to the Great Khan of the Yuan dynasty in China, and in the process imported Chinese models to better define their tastes. However, the new rulers were greatly impressed by the long-established traditions of Iran, with its prosperous urban centers and thriving economy, and they quickly assimilated the local culture. The Mongol influence on Iranian and Islamic culture gave birth to an extraordinary period in Islamic art that combined well-established traditions with the new visual language transmitted from eastern Asia.
Carboni, Stefano, and Qamar Adamjee. “The Legacy of Genghis Khan.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/khan1/hd_khan1.htm (October 2003)
Amitai-Preiss, Reuven, and David O. Morgan, eds. The Mongol Empire and Its Legacy . Leiden: Brill, 1999.
Carboni, Stefano, and Komaroff, Linda, eds. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353 . Exhibition catalogue. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002.
Rossabi, Morris "Genghis Khan." In The Encyclopedia of Asian History , vol. 1, pp. 496–98. New York: Scribner, 1988.
Additional Essays by Stefano Carboni
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Venice and the Islamic World: Commercial Exchange, Diplomacy, and Religious Difference .” (March 2007)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Islamic Art and Culture: The Venetian Perspective .” (March 2007)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797 .” (March 2007)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Venice’s Principal Muslim Trading Partners: The Mamluks, the Ottomans, and the Safavids .” (March 2007)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ A New Visual Language Transmitted Across Asia .” (October 2003)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Courtly Art of the Ilkhanids .” (October 2003)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Folios from the Great Mongol Shahnama (Book of Kings) .” (October 2003)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Folios from the Jami‘ al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles) .” (October 2003)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Takht-i Sulaiman and Tilework in the Ilkhanid Period .” (October 2003)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ The Art of the Book in the Ilkhanid Period .” (October 2003)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Blown Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Cut and Engraved Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ The Mongolian Tent in the Ilkhanid Period .” (October 2003)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ The Religious Arts under the Ilkhanids .” (October 2003)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Enameled and Gilded Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Glass with Mold-Blown Decoration from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Hot-worked Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Mosaic Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Carboni, Stefano. “ Stained (Luster-Painted) Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
Additional Essays by Qamar Adamjee
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ A New Visual Language Transmitted Across Asia .” (October 2003)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Courtly Art of the Ilkhanids .” (October 2003)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Folios from the Great Mongol Shahnama (Book of Kings) .” (October 2003)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Folios from the Jami‘ al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles) .” (October 2003)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Takht-i Sulaiman and Tilework in the Ilkhanid Period .” (October 2003)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ The Art of the Book in the Ilkhanid Period .” (October 2003)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Blown Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Cut and Engraved Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ The Mongolian Tent in the Ilkhanid Period .” (October 2003)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Enameled and Gilded Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ The Religious Arts under the Ilkhanids .” (October 2003)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Glass with Mold-Blown Decoration from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Hot-worked Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Mosaic Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- Adamjee, Qamar. “ Stained (Luster-Painted) Glass from Islamic Lands .” (October 2002)
- The Art of the Ilkhanid Period (1256–1353)
- A New Visual Language Transmitted Across Asia
- Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)
- The Art of the Book in the Ilkhanid Period
- Byzantine Art under Islam
- Chinese Cloisonné
- Constantinople after 1261
- Courtly Art of the Ilkhanids
- Folios from the Jami‘ al-tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles)
- Folios from the Great Mongol Shahnama (Book of Kings)
- The Mongolian Tent in the Ilkhanid Period
- Nineteenth-Century Iran: Continuity and Revivalism
- Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127)
- The Religious Arts under the Ilkhanids
- Takht-i Sulaiman and Tilework in the Ilkhanid Period
- Venice and the Islamic World: Commercial Exchange, Diplomacy, and Religious Difference
List of Rulers
- List of Rulers of China
- List of Rulers of the Islamic World
- Anatolia and the Caucasus, 1000–1400 A.D.
- Central and North Asia, 1600–1800 A.D.
- China, 1000–1400 A.D.
- Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, 1400–1600 A.D.
- Iran, 1000–1400 A.D.
- Iraq, 1000–1400 A.D.
- Abbasid Art
- Central and North Asia
- Central Europe
- Chinese Literature / Poetry
- Ilkhanid Art
- Islamic Art
- Islamic Art in the Early Period
- Southeast Asia
- Yuan Dynasty
- Occupation: Supreme Khan of the Mongols
- Reign: 1206 to 1227
- Best known for: Founder of the Mongol Empire
- One of his greatest generals was Jebe. Jebe was once an enemy who shot Genghis in battle with an arrow. Genghis was so impressed he spared Jebe's life. Jebe's nickname became "The Arrow".
- Despite being one of the most powerful rulers in the world, he preferred to live in a tent called a yurt.
- The Mongols used a similar system to the Pony Express to carry messages quickly throughout the empire.
- His four favorite sons were Ogedei, Tolui, Chagatai, and Jochi. Tolui's son was Kublai Khan who would conquer all of China and establish the Yuan Dynasty.
- He once said that "conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard."
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10 Things You May Not Know About Genghis Khan
By: Evan Andrews
Updated: June 26, 2023 | Original: April 29, 2014
Born c. 1162 into a small nomadic tribe on the steppes of Central Asia, Genghis Khan became famous as the Mongolian warrior-ruler who built the largest land empire in the world. Through both brutal conquest and savvy alliances, he amassed more than twice as much territory as any person in history. At its peak, his Mongol Empire spanned more than 11 million square miles, stretching from Korea to Europe and bringing Eastern and Western cultures into contact. Remembered for his ruthlessness and bloodlust—and for his purported millions of genealogical descendants—he left a broad and surprising legacy. Here are 10 surprising facts:
1. 'Genghis' wasn’t his real name.
The man who would become the “Great Khan” of the Mongols was born along the banks of the Onon River sometime around 1162 and originally named Temujin, which means “of iron” or “blacksmith.” He didn’t get the honorific name “Genghis Kahn” until 1206 when he was proclaimed leader of the Mongols at a tribal meeting known as a “kurultai.” While “Khan” is a traditional title meaning “leader” or “ruler,” historians are still unsure of the origins of “Genghis.” It may have meant “ocean” or “just,” but in context, it is usually translated as “supreme ruler” or “universal ruler.”
2. He had a rough childhood.
From an early age, Genghis was forced to contend with the brutality of life on the Mongolian Steppe. Rival Tatars poisoned his father when he was only nine, and his own tribe later expelled his family and left his mother to raise her seven children alone. Genghis grew up hunting and foraging to survive, and as an adolescent, he may have even murdered his own half-brother in a dispute over food. During his teenage years, rival clans abducted both he and his young wife, and Genghis spent time as a slave before making a daring escape. Despite all these hardships, by his early 20s, he had established himself as a formidable warrior and leader. After amassing an army of supporters, he began forging alliances with the heads of important tribes. By 1206, he had successfully consolidated the steppe confederations under his banner and began to turn his attention to outside conquest.
3. There is no definitive record of what he looked like.
For an influential figure, very little is known about Genghis Kahn’s personal life or even his physical appearance. No contemporary portraits or sculptures of him have survived, and what little information historians do have is often contradictory or unreliable. Most accounts describe him as tall and strong with a flowing mane of hair and a long, bushy beard. Perhaps the most surprising description comes courtesy of the 14th-century Persian chronicler Rashid al-Din, who claimed Genghis had red hair and green eyes. Al-Din’s account is questionable—he never met the Khan in person—but these striking features were not unheard of among the ethnically diverse Mongols.
4. 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.
5. He rarely left a score unsettled.
Genghis Khan often gave other kingdoms a chance to peacefully submit to Mongol rule, but he didn’t hesitate to bring down the sword on any society that resisted. One of his most famous campaigns of revenge came in 1219 after the Shah of the Khwarezmid Empire broke a treaty with the Mongols. Genghis had offered the Shah a valuable trade agreement to exchange goods along the Silk Road , but when his first emissaries were murdered, the enraged Khan responded by unleashing the full force of his Mongol hordes on the Khwarezmid territories in Persia. The subsequent war left millions dead and the Shah’s empire in utter ruin, but the Khan didn’t stop there. He followed up on his victory by returning east and waging war on the Tanguts of Xi Xia, a group of Mongol subjects who had refused his order to provide troops for his invasion of Khwarizm. After routing the Tangut forces and sacking their capital, the Great Khan ordered the execution of the entire Tangut royal family as punishment for their defiance.
6. 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 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.
7. He was tolerant of different religions.
Unlike many empire builders, Genghis Khan embraced the diversity of his newly conquered territories. He passed laws declaring religious freedom for all and even granted tax exemptions to places of worship. This tolerance had a political side—the Khan knew that happy subjects were less likely to rebel—but the Mongols also had an exceptionally liberal attitude towards religion. While Genghis and many others subscribed to a shamanistic belief system that revered the spirits of the sky, winds and mountains, the Steppe peoples were a diverse bunch that included Nestorian Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and other animistic traditions. The Great Khan also had a personal interest in spirituality. He was known to pray in his tent for multiple days before important campaigns, and he often met with different religious leaders to discuss the details of their faiths. In his old age, he even summoned the Taoist leader Qiu Chuji to his camp, and the pair supposedly had long conversations on immortality and philosophy.
8. He installed 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.
9. No one knows how he died or where he is buried.
Of all the enigmas surrounding Khan’s life, perhaps the most famous concerns how it ended. The traditional narrative says he died in 1227 from injuries sustained in a fall from a horse, but other sources list everything from malaria to an arrow wound in the knee. One of the more questionable accounts even claims he was murdered while trying to force himself on a Chinese princess. However he died, the Khan took great pains to keep his final resting place a secret. According to legend, his funeral procession slaughtered everyone they came in contact with during their journey and then repeatedly rode horses over his grave to help conceal it. The tomb is most likely on or around a Mongolian mountain called Burkhan Khaldun, but to this day its precise location is unknown.
10. 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.
HISTORY Vault: Genghis Khan: Terror and Conquest
Trace the life of the ruthless Mongol conqueror of the late 12th and early 13th centuries, whose military successes from northern China through Russia and Eastern Europe reshaped the world.
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Early Life of Genghis Khan: Birthplace, Background and Biography
Genghis Khan (1162–1227) was the founder and Khagan (Emperor) of the Mongol Empire. After his death, the Mongol Empire became the largest in human history covering a territory from Moscow and Eastern Europe to Beijing and Korea. Today about 8% of Mongolian population is descendant of Genghis Khan.
Genghis Khan (also known as Chinggis Khaan or Chingis Khan) was born in the Mongolian Prairie where people were “on the back of a horse” and ate grilled barbeque. But today his birthplace and where he died are still mysteries even to his descendants.
Birthplace of Genghis Khan: Where is Burkhan Khaldun?
According to a brochure published by the Mongolian government in 2006, Chinggis Khan’s birthplace is located in Dadal Sum (Dadal County), Hentii province, Mongolia. But this hasty conclusion was drawn by Russian and Mongolian experts in 1962 for the ceremony of 800 birth anniversary of Genghis Khan.
According to the Secret History of the Mongols, Genghis Khan was born in Burkhan Khaldun Mountain by the Onon River. But Mongolian people call spleen-shape mountains Burkhan Khaldun, and there are three Burkhan Khaldun Mountains by the Onon River, including one in Dadal Sum.
According to Meng Songlin, a Chinese historian who spent more than five years researching the battlefields of Genghis Khan in Mongolia and China, the real birth place should be located in the Burkhan Khaldun in Binger Sum. His conclusion has been supported by a few renowned Mongolian historians.
Early Life of Chinggis Khan: Kidnapping, Murder and Betray
Genghis Khan (born Temüjin)’s early life began with the kidnapping of his mother Hoelun by his father Yesügei. About 1180 his father Yesügei was murdered and Temüjin had to hide in the mountains with his mother, brothers and sisters. After his marriage his wife was kidnapped, and he had to ask for help from his best friend Jumuka. Then Jumuka betrayed him and tried to kill him. But Temüjin finally defeated Jumuka and killed him. Before he was 40, Temüjin had gone through almost everything in a Mongolian man’s life.
Temüjin rose from the early tough life. In 1206, he united most of the Mongolian tribes and gained the title of Genghis Khan.
The Rise of Chinggis Khaan and Empire: Mongolian Horses and Grill Barbeque
The rise of the Mongol Empire depended on its most important weapons – horses. “It is easy to conquer the world from the back of a horse,” said a Genghis Khan famous quotation. Mongolian horses have small sizes range from 120 to 135 centimeters high. But they are frugal, arduous and very reliable war horses. With them Genghis Khan and his descendants conquered most of the human civilization just in a few decades.
Stable food supply was also an important factor for Genghis Khan’s victory. It’s said that Genghis Khan invented the Mongolian grilling barbeque, which helped Mongolian soldiers overcome the cold winter in Siberia and conquer Russia in 1237.
- Unknown author, the Secret History of the Mongols (about 1240)
- The Mongolian government, the Birthplace of Temüjin Chinggis Khaan (2006)
- Song Lian, the History of Yuan (1370)
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Genghis Khan: the infamous 13th century Emperor of the Mongol Empire was one the most ferocious and ruthless people to have ever lived on planet Earth. If you read a Genghis Khan biography, it won’t take you long to see that his reign of fear and rivers of blood shadow the atrocities of Napoleon, Hitler, or Stalin - and not even women were beyond his ghastly reach.
The Mongol Empire conquered all of Asia and no enemy could withstand Genghis Khan and his bloodthirsty armies. His soldiers were said to be so strong that one Mongolian man could defeat ten enemy warriors. Genghis was responsible for over 40 million deaths, which at that time was equal to 11 percent of the world's population. In comparison, World War II is estimated to have killed around 60-80 million people, which was three percent of the world's population.
Genghis Khan proclaimed Khagan of all Mongols. Illustration from a 15th-century Jami' al-tawarikh manuscript. ( Public Domain )
The Devil Had A Violent Upbringing
Viennese doctor Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) believed that the way parents dealt with children's basic sexual and aggressive desires determined how their personalities developed and whether or not they would end up well-adjusted as adults. With this in mind, note that when Genghis Khan was only 9 years old his father was killed by an enemy tribe and Genghis’ tribe expelled his mother, so she raised Genghis and his six brothers and sisters on her own.
Genghis' family suffered from extreme hunger and cold - it would appear those hardships made Genghis a hardened fighter. When Genghis was just ten years old, he fell into a dispute with his brother over a piece of food. This is where we see the first signs of his inner demons - he killed his brother for the food. Genghis was later enslaved by a rival clan, which further fueled his hate. When he escaped slavery all hell broke loose.
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Genghis Gains Power
By his early 20s, he had established himself as a formidable warrior and as the leader of a small army of supporters he forged alliances with the heads of important tribes. By 1206 AD he had successfully consolidated the steppe confederations under his banner and turned his attention to conquest. His army of nomadic tribesmen traveled in a juggernaut with scaling ladders, battering rams, four-wheeled mobile shields, and bombhurlers. Gathering prisoners as it progressed, Genghis used them as soldiers or in his slave-labor working force who built roads and traveled ahead of Genghis as suicide troops, filling up the moats and taking the full force of the enemy defenses.
Mural of siege warfare, Genghis Khan Exhibit, Tech Museum San Jose, 2010. (Bill Taroli/ CC BY 2.0 )
Genghis Khan was a man of reason within his own empire, where he let the people live happy lives so long as they followed his rules. If you were silly enough to break one of those rules, Genghis Khan would cruelly punish you. For example, when the governor of one of the cities in the Khwarazmian Empire killed Genghis’ caravan traders he sent 100,000 Mongols to the Khwarazmian Empire and killed tens of thousands of people, including the governor. Renowned for his horrendous torturing techniques, he poured boiling hot molten silver down people’s throats and into their ears and noses. Genghis was also keen on watching enemy's backs being bent until the backbone snapped.
In the Persian city of Merv, regarded as the pearl of Asia, Genghis “ordered that, apart from 400 artisans, the whole population, including the women and children, should be killed, and no one, whether woman or man, be spared. To each Mongol soldier was allotted the execution of 300 or 400 Persians. So many had been killed by nightfall that the mountains became hillocks, and the plain was soaked with the blood of the mighty." (C. Hudson)
Historians today estimate that more than a million people were killed in less than a week. In one particularly brutal incident of Genghis Khan’s biography, he rounded up hundreds of Russian survivors and stacked them on top of one another on the ground before lowering a vast wooden gate on top of them. Then Genghis and the entire Mongol army had a huge banquet on the gate and as they ate and drank, Russians died beneath them from suffocation and pressure wounds.
Mongol horse archers. ( Public Domain )
Captured Women “Beauty Pageants”
When Genghis occupied a new area he first enslaved all the strong young men and killed those he deemed too young or old to fight for his army. He was quoted as having said "The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.” Genghis Khan took pleasure in sleeping with the wives and daughters of the enemy chiefs and his army commanders believed him to have extraordinary sexual powers, witnessing him sleeping with many women every night.
Harold Lamb's 1927 book Genghis Khan: Emperor Of All Men , which 80 years after its publication remains the best-selling history book on the Mongolian warlord, lays claim to him being the most prolific fornicator the world has ever seen. Conquered women were raped, tortured, and murdered by his soldiers. But on fear of death the most “beautiful” women would be kept aside, untouched, to be presented to Khan in beauty pageants.
As his commanders tore huge lumps of nearly raw horsemeat, the women would be presented one by one and the “winner”, the most beautiful woman, would become his new wife. Having hundreds of wives from different nations, his Mongolian blood line was spread across all of Asia - which ensured a state of peace over the entire conquered Mongol Empire. It is hard to tell how many children Genghis had, but historians estimate that around eight percent of modern Asian men are his direct descendants.
The Mongol invasion of Hungary. The dismounted Mongols, with captured women are shown on the left and the Hungarians, with one saved woman, are depicted on the right. ( Public Domain )
Because Genghis could have anything in the world he wanted, he chose women of the highest rank and those that filled his definition of beauty: “small noses, rounded hips, long silky hair, red lips and melodious voices” according to an article in the Daily Mail. It is known he measured women’s beauty in “carats” and if he rated them below a certain number they were sent to the tents of his officers to be raped then ‘discarded’.
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The Final Chapter in the Genghis Khan Biography: Death And Disappearance Of The Devil
In just 20 years, Genghis ruled an empire twice the size of Rome's and changed the world forever. His Mongol Empire ended up ruling, or briefly conquering, large parts of modern day China, Mongolia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Moldova, South Korea, North Korea, and Kuwait.
The extent of the Mongol Empire c. 1207. (Khiruge/ CC BY SA 4.0 )
At the age of 65 years old, Genghis Khan died in 1227 AD. Mystery surrounds his death and scholars are still unable to determine what caused Genghis’ death or where his grave or tomb is situated . Some people believe that he fell from his horse while hunting; others say an enemy shot an arrow through his knee. Notwithstanding, the most told version of his death is that he was assassinated by a captured Chinese princess - which knowing what we know about Genghis, sounds the most fitting end.
Top Image: Detail of a Genghis Khan statue (Johnathon Shaw/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 ) in front of a blood red sky. ( CC0 )
By Ashley Cowie
Andrews, E. (2014) “10 Things You May Not Know About Genghis Khan.” History. Available at: https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-genghis-khan
Hudson, C. (2007) “Genghis Khan: The daddy of all lovers.” Daily Mail. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-456789/Genghis-Khan-The-daddy-lovers.html
Khan, R. (2010) “1 in 200 men direct descendants of Genghis Khan.” Discover . Available at: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/08/1-in-200-men-direct-descendants-of-genghis-khan/
Mandal, D. (2016) “10 surprising things you should know about the Mongol soldier.” Realm of History. Available at: https://www.realmofhistory.com/2016/02/10/10-facts-you-should-know-about-the-mongol-soldier/
Sartore, M. (n.d.) “In Terms of Sheer Influence, Genghis Khan Had The Most Successful Love Life In Human History.” Weird History. Available at: https://www.ranker.com/list/private-life-of-genghis-khan/melissa-sartore
Szczepanski, K. (2018) “Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire.” ThoughtCo . Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-mongol-empire-195041
Some day I would love to read an article on the actuall psycological profile of the Great Khan. I mean was he a Sociopath with some Psycopathic tendencies? Some day.
Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.
He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More
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Genghis Kahn Biography: His Life, Legacy and Legend
Genghis Khan – a name that is synonymous with barbaric cruelty and conquest. 800 years ago he created the greatest army the world has ever known, wielding it with tactical brilliance to lay claim to the largest empire in world history. No other man, not Alexander, Napoleon or Hitler, ever came close to the level of success in conquest of the Mongolian man of steel. How did he do it? In this week’s Biographics, we discover how a simple peasant rose from one of the harshest environments on the planet to take the world by storm.
What we know about the early life of this man who would rise to rule the world comes from an account called The Secret History of the Mongols, written soon after he died. It tells us that Genghis was born somewhere in the Steppes of Central Asia around the year 1165. It is said that he was born with a clot of blood in his hand, which was seen as a portent of great things to come.
Genghis was born into a harsh, unforgiving world. The Mongols, who lacked a common chief, were broken into a number of clans who were constantly warring with each other. The landscape was vast and rugged. Situated between Europe and China, it consisted of an inhospitable series of rolling hills, rocky outcrops and freezing temperatures. The Chinese referred to the region as the Barbarian Wilderness and built a great wall to keep its inhabitants from raiding their border regions.
For the Mongols, strength was found in numbers. Large families were encouraged, with polygamy an accepted custom custom. Ghengis’ father had two wives. The boy’s mother had been abducted from her previous husband in another tribe. As a boy, Genghis grew up with three brothers, a sister and two half brothers. His earliest years were spent in hunting, riding, and roaming the plains. As part a nomadic society, his clan were constantly on the move, seeking new pastures whenever the grazing for their sheep was exhausted.
Genghis is reported to have grown up as a brave and defiant young man – his only fear being dogs. Yet he was an introvert who preferred to spend the bulk of his time alone with his thoughts. He was fiercely independent, seeing no value in the consultation of others. As he emerged into his teens, it was apparent to all that he had a sense of his own destiny – and that destiny lay far beyond the clan that was then his world.
As was the custom, at around nine years old, Ghengis’ parents arranged a marriage for their son. His wife to be was named Birta who was from a neighboring tribe and Genghis was to be transferred to that camp so that he could grow up alongside his bride. On the return trip after delivering his son, Genghis’ father met a party of Tartars on a hunting expedition. They seemed hospitable, offering him food and drink. However, the offerings were laced with poison. Three days later he died.
Genghis quickly returned to the fatherless family, who were abandoned by the rest of the clan. His mother, Herlein, now assumed the mantle of headship. Within the household there was constant friction between the three sons of Herlein and their two step-brothers. One day, when he was thirteen years of age, Genghis was holding a fish he had just caught when one of his step brothers came and snatched it from his hand. Without hesitation, Genghis drew his bow and killed the boy. This was the first clear demonstration of the absolute ruthlessness that would come to characterize the boy who would become the great Khan.
By the age of fifteen, Genghis was stronger, bigger and more skillful in hunting and horsemanship than his brothers, who bowed to him as their natural leader. His reputation as a strong warrior spread. Soon, the clan who deserted his family when his father had died got to hear of this upstart. Fearing that he might lead his brothers against them, they decided to take the initiative by invading the family’s encampment and taking Genghis captive. But Genghis was able to escape. The invaders fanned out into the wilderness and, nine days later, they found him. Genghis was taken prisoner and a heavy wooden yoke was placed around his neck.
A couple of days later, while Genghis was languishing inside a guarded tent with the yoke still around his neck, his captors threw a celebratory party. Despite the inconvenience of the yoke, Genghis managed to overpower his guard. He got down to the river before his absence was discovered. Unable to traverse the river while wearing the yoke, he then returned to the tent from which he had come. There he found the guard who he had recently overpowered. Genghis then displayed the shrewdness of thinking which was to set him apart – he told the guard that unless he got him out of the yoke and gave him a horse, he would tell the others that the guard had helped him escape. The blackmail worked and he was soon galloping away from his captors.
A year later, at age 16, Genghis returned to the village of Birta, the girl he had been pledged to at the time of his father’s death. It was time to get married. As a wedding gift, the girl’s father gave him a spectacular sable coat. The next day, Genghis took his wife back to his encampment and left her in the care of his mother. He then rode off to a neighboring clan, where he presented his new coat as a gift to a chieftain by the name of Toghrul. In doing so, Genghis was purchasing the allegiance of this powerful clan leader. He asked Toghrul to help him to win back the loyalty of the tribesmen who deserted his family after his father’s death. Toghrul was sympathetic and a pact was formed between them.
News of the alliance soon spread. Other clans offered their support and before long, Genghis was able to call upon a formidable force of warriors. Before he could put them to action, however, disaster struck. Invading Merket horsemen came thundering across the plains, intent on kidnapping the women of Genghis’ camp. The majority of the clan managed to escape, but Genghis’ young wife, Birta, was taken captive by the Merkets.
Genghis desperately rode for the camp of Toghrul for help. Toghrul announced that he would ride upon the Merkets and destroy them, returning Birta to her husband. Over the next few months, the alliance managed to bring together more than 5000 warriors from surrounding clans to ride with them.
The attack was swift and decisive. The Mongol hordes decimated the Merket camp, killing, looting and pillaging without mercy. In the midst of the camp they found Birta. She had been raped repeatedly and was pregnant. Shortly after returning to camp, she gave birth to a son. It was never known if the father was Genghis or one of her Merket rapists.
In the wake of the overthrow of the Merkets, Genghis went from strength to strength. He united with the clan of his boyhood friend, Jamuka. The two men became inseparable, declaring themselves blood brothers. They lived together, ate together and slept together. This roused the jealousy of Genghis’s wife and mother, who began to spread rumors about Jamuka in an attempt to drive the two men apart.
Whether it was the influence of the women in his life or his own lust for absolute power, something caused Genghis to sever the bond with Jamuka. In 1185, the two clans were moving to more fertile grazing ground when Jamuka decided turn off and camp in a valley. He called to Genghis to join him, but Genghis ignored him and kept on riding. Carrying on a mile or so he turned in his saddle to see that, not only his own clansmen, but many from Jamuka’s clan had followed him.
Genghis was now developing the largest following of any of the Mongol clans. This was achieved partly through the desire for security in numbers and partly by coercion. Those who did not agree to give Genghis their allegiance were forced to do so. The combination of his desire for power and wealth and his need to feed his ever expanding following led to repeated raids on other clans, the capture of their women and the plundering of their belongings. The Secret History of the Mongols attributes a quote to Genghis which may be familiar to fans of the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian, in which the words were given to Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘s character . . .
“The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.”
Still in his early twenties, Genghis proved himself to be brilliant at psychological warfare. He would attack a tribe with horrific, devastating force in order to intimidate the surrounding camps to give up without a fight. As a result, many thousands of his enemies simply surrendered in order to avoid the carnage that would result if they resisted.
Having subjugated and melded into one the disparate Mongol clans, Genghis now set his sights on the furthest reaches of the Barbarian wilderness. Among those who had not yet joined his alliance was his former best friend Jamuka, now his mortal enemy. The people of the two camps had been able to maintain an uneasy peace. However, one day a disagreement over grazing lands erupted into violence, with one of Genghis’ men killing a warrior from Jamuka’s camp. An outraged Jamuka reacted by attacking the much larger camp of Genghis. The unexpectedness and lightning speed of the raid results in the killing of many and the capture of 70 of Genghis’ chieftains who were taken back to Jamuka’s camp where they were tortured and boiled alive.
Genghis was shocked to the core at this humiliating defeat. He came to the realization that his army was not yet ready to engage in the large scale conquests that he envisioned. Consequently he set out to mold them into a war machine; a breed of warrior the likes of which the world had never before seen.
The army that resulted was incredibly mobile, able to travel an average of 70 miles per day. The men were subjected to the most severe discipline in order to forge their minds and bodies into warrior-like steel. Before long the reputation of the barbarian super army spread beyond the boundaries of Mongolia. When the rulers of the Chin Empire in China heard about them, they invited Genghis to come and help them to fight off marauding bands, the Tartars, who were constantly harassing them.
The Tartars were also long time enemies of the Mongols, and Genghis saw this as an opportunity to exact vengeance while expanding his reach internationally. In short order the overpowering force of the Mongols crushed the Tartars. Returning in triumph to their home country, Genghis’ army was immediately attacked by Jamuka’s forces. This time, however, Genghis was ready. Over a series of three bloody encounters, Jamuka’s followers were finally subjugated. Jamuka, however, managed to escape, fleeing to the sanctity of the Naimans, a powerful tribe dwelling in the north westerly region of the Steppes.
When news reaches Genghis that Jamuka had joined the Naiman, he sets his sights on destroying them. He unleashed his 80,000 strong cavalry against them, totally overpowering them in a frenzy of blood-letting. Amazingly, however, Jamuka, managed to escape. He hid with a small clan of mountain dwellers, but they, fearing the wrath of the invaders , betrayed Jamuka and handed him over to the camp of Genghis.
Genghis was shocked at the lack of loyalty of these people to Jamuka and had them all slaughtered. Then, he extended mercy to Jamuka with an offer of pardon. But Jamuka refused and begged to be put to death. Acceding to this wish, Genghis allowed his old friend to be suffocated to death inside a carpet. Despite his reputation as an unfeeling executioner, Genghis turned away, unable to watch the scene.
The Great Khan
Having defeated the Naimans, Genghis was now the supreme ruler of in excess of two million people. Having had a taste of supreme power, he now wanted more. There were still parts of Mongolia that were not part of his empire, those along the eastern and southern regions of the land. Over a period of months he systematically beat into submission those who had not yet come under his yoke.
Genghis rode at the very front of his ferocious hordes, personally overseeing every detail of the attack. But his greatest skill lay in his ability to hand pick brilliant generals. In doing so, he managed to unite a people who had for centuries been at war with one another. In 1206, the people made Genghis their supreme ruler, bestowing upon him the title of Khan – the great leader. As recorded in the Secret History of the Mongols the people proclaimed . . .
We will make you our leader, our great Khan. We will fling ourselves like lightning upon your foes. We shall give you the fairest girls from the enemy. If we disobey you, take our flocks and our wives and our children and throw our worthless heads upon the sand.
Between military conquests, Genghis enjoyed the rewards of success. He gathered more wives and fathered more children. By his first wife, Birta, he had four sons, who would each be given rulership over a part of his empire.
In 1206 Genghis called together a great summit of his generals and tribal leaders to discuss his planned invasion of China. Between Mongolia and China, lay the Kingdom of Hsia, the land of the Tanguts. This was a key trade route between central Asia and the West. Genghis undertook a campaign of conquest that, within two years, brought the entire Kingdom of Hsia under his domain. The way was now open to invade China.
In an effort to capitalize on his previous dealings with the Chin Empire, Khan sends a peace envoy over the wall. Chin authorities, however, were suspicious of the visitors and put them to death. On hearing of this outcome, Genghis took to his tent and fasted for three days. He emerged to declare that the heavens had pronounced victory upon him. The time was at hand for his army to wreak vengeance upon the Chin.
With 40,000 cavalrymen riding behind him, Genghis crossed the border, smashing over the wall and into China. They then swept down upon the Chin Empire. They approached with unrivaled speed and quiet until almost upon the enemy, when the thundering of their horses hooves shook the ground. The attacks that followed were overwhelming, crushing their enemies and destroying their encampments.
It was during the Chin Campaign that the ruthlessness of Genghis Khan became legendary. He would use captured women and children as human shields in battle, forcing them to march ahead of his army as they approached an enemy village.
Within two years of first invading China, Genghis had reached the capital of the Chin Empire, Jon-Do (modern day Beijing). The great city was encircled by a wall and strongly fortified. Kahn’s army laid siege for almost a year. Finally, with the aid of siege towers and catapults, the Mongols managed to breach the wall. After a fierce battle and at the cost of thousands of Chinese lives, the city fell.
After subjugating the Chin Empire, Genghis rode back to the Steppe country of his birth. But it wasn’t long before the spirit of conquest once more fired his ambition. He now looked to the world beyond China – the fringe of Europe.
Between China and Europe lay the vast Islamic empire known as Quarasan. It was ruled over by a Shah, who had power that equalled that of Genghis himself. But Khan did not wish to subjugate the lands of the Shah. He sought only peace, sending a caravan of envoys to Quarasan. Yet just after they crossed the border, all of his men were captured and slaughtered.
An enraged Genghis sent another group of envoys, this time instructing them to go directly to the Shah. They too were murdered by Islamic soldiers. For Genghis who believed in the absolute inviolability of envoys, this was too much. The time for vengeance was at hand. He set out at the head of his largest army to date, more than 200,000 men.
Years of savage butchery were unleashed upon the Muslim people. By the time the bloodletting subsided, Genghis Khan had wrested absolute power away from the Shah. His vast empire now spans from the Yellow Sea in the east all the way to Caspian in the west.
Before returning to the Steppes, Genghis appointed his son Ugaday as his heir. He now faced the problem of controlling his vast empire. In the summer of 1226 he rode at the head of 180,000 warriors to crush an uprising among the Tangut people. Before he got to them, however, he fell from his horse and suffered serious injuries and internal bleeding. Over the coming months he only got worse. On August 18th, 1226, aged 62, and at the height of his power, he died.
Genghis Khan’s legacy would be cemented by his grandson Kublai Khan who extended the Mongolian Empire to encompass two continents and become the largest empire in history. Perhaps Khan’s most enduring contribution, however, was that, though forged through unspeakable violence, his conquests brought about a peace and stability that enabled the first ever flow of trade and ideas between the Eastern and Western worlds.
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GENGHIS KHAN A Short Biography
Mongol leader Genghis Khan (1162-1227) rose from humble beginnings to establish the largest land empire in history. After uniting the nomadic tribes of the Mongolian plateau, he conquered huge chunks of central Asia and China . His descendants expanded the empire even further, advancing to such far-off places as Poland , Vietnam, Syria and Korea . At their peak, the Mongols controlled between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of Africa. Many people were slaughtered in the course of Genghis Khan’s invasions, but he also granted religious freedom to his subjects, abolished torture, encouraged trade and created the first international postal system. Genghis Khan died in 1227 during a military campaign against the Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia. His final resting place remains unknown.
GENGHIS KHAN: THE EARLY YEARS Temujin, later Genghis Khan, was born around 1162 near the border between modern Mongolia and Siberia. Legend holds that he came into the world clutching a blood clot in his right hand. His mother had been kidnapped by his father and forced into marriage . At that time, dozens of nomadic tribes on the central Asian steppe were constantly fighting and stealing from each other, and life for Temujin was violent and unpredictable. Before he turned 10, his father was poisoned to death by an enemy clan. Temujin’s own clan then deserted him, his mother and his six siblings in order to avoid having to feed them.
Shortly thereafter, Temujin killed his older half-brother and took over as head of the poverty-stricken household. At one point, he was captured and enslaved by the clan that had abandoned him, but he was eventually able to escape. In 1178 Temujin married Borte, with whom he would have four sons and an unknown number of daughters. He launched a daring rescue of Borte after she too was kidnapped, and he soon began making alliances, building a reputation as a warrior and attracting a growing number of followers. Most of what we know about Genghis Khan’s childhood comes from “The Secret History of the Mongols,” the oldest known work of Mongolian history and literature, which was written soon after his death.
GENGHIS KHAN UNITES THE MONGOLS Going against custom, Temujin put competent allies rather than relatives in key positions and executed the leaders of enemy tribes while incorporating the remaining members into his clan. He ordered that all looting wait until after a complete victory had been won, and he organized his warriors into units of 10 without regard to kin. Though Temujin was an animist, his followers included Christians, Muslims and Buddhists. By 1205 he had vanquished all rivals, including his former best friend Jamuka. The following year, he called a meeting of representatives from every part of the territory and established a nation similar in size to modern Mongolia. He was also proclaimed Chinggis Khan, which roughly translates to “Universal Ruler,” a name that became known in the West as Genghis Khan.
GENGHIS KHAN ESTABLISHES AN EMPIRE Having united the steppe tribes, Genghis Khan ruled over some 1 million people. In order to suppress the traditional causes of tribal warfare, he abolished inherited aristocratic titles. He also forbade the selling and kidnapping of women, banned the enslavement of any Mongol and made livestock theft punishable by death. Moreover, Genghis Khan ordered the adoption of a writing system, conducted a regular census , granted diplomatic immunity to foreign ambassadors and allowed freedom of religion well before that idea caught on elsewhere.
GENGHIS KHAN’S DEATH AND THE CONTINUATION OF THE EMPIRE Before his death in 1227, Genghis Khan controlled a huge swath of territory from the Sea of Japan to the Caspian Sea . In early 1227 a horse threw Genghis Khan to the ground, causing internal injuries. He pressed on with military campaigns, but his health never recovered. He died on August 18, 1227.
Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much land as any other person in history, bringing Eastern and Western civilizations into contact in the process. His descendants, including Ogodei and Khubilai, were also prolific conquerors, taking control of Eastern Europe , the Middle East and the rest of China, among other places. The Mongols even invaded Japan and Java before their empire broke apart in the 14th century. Genghis Khan’s last ruling descendant was finally deposed in 1920.
Did you know? Genghis Khan never allowed anyone to paint his portrait, sculpt his image or engrave his likeness on a coin. The first images of him appeared after his death.
“If you’re afraid – don’t do it, – if you’re doing it – don’t be afraid!” “It is not sufficient that I succeed — all others must fail.” -Genghis Khan-
Genghis Khan Biography, Conquests, World History , & Facts
Genghis Khan Biography was a 13th-century Mongol military leader who conquered Central Asian, Caucasian and Eastern European lands. Founder and ruler of the first continental power in history.
Table of Contents
Genghis Khan (real name Temujin) is the founder and ruler of the largest continental empire in history. A military leader who carried out many conquests into the territory of Central Asia, China, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe.
Name : Genghis Khan Biography _
Who is he: founder , empire , khan
Birthday: 1162 (age 65)
Date of death: 25 August 1227
Place of birth: Delyun-Boldok, Mongolia
Family status: was married
Genghis Khan Biography
A military leader and commander, a unifier of many lands, the founder of an empire and a just ruler – this is how the conqueror Genghis Khan is called. According to researchers, he was several steps ahead of his era, creating a society based on merit. In his homeland he is revered as a great ancestor and founder of the nation, and by some he is revered as a deity. The famous warrior forever changed the fate of his country and the world, playing a special role in the history of mankind.
Childhood and youth Early Life
The commander known as Genghis Khan was born in Mongolia, according to various sources, in 1155 or 1162. This man’s real name was Temujin, which meant “blacksmith.” He was born in the Delyun-Boldok tract, his father was Yesugei-bagatura, and his mother was Hoelun. It is noteworthy that Hoelun was engaged to another man, but Yesugei-Bagatura recaptured his beloved from his rival.
Temujin received his name in honor of the Tatar Temujin-Uge. Yesugei defeated this leader shortly before his son made his first cry.
Temujin lost his father early. At the age of 9, he was betrothed to 10-year-old Borte from a different family. Yesugei decided to leave his son in the bride’s house until they both reached adulthood. On the way back, Genghis Khan’s father stopped at a Tatar camp, where he was poisoned. 3 days later Yesugei died.
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After this, dark times came for Temujin, his mother, Yesugei’s second wife, as well as the brothers of the future great commander. The leader of the clan uprooted the family from their customary dwelling and stole all of the family’s cattle as punishment for their disobedience. For several years, widows and their sons had to live in poverty and wander the steppes.
After some time, the Taichiut leader, who drove out Temujin’s family and proclaimed himself the owner of all the lands conquered by Yesugei, began to fear revenge from Yesugei’s grown-up son. He sent an armed detachment against the family’s camp. The guy escaped, but was soon caught up, captured and placed in a wooden block. The cleverness of Genghis Khan, together with the intervention of numerous members of a different tribe, was what ultimately resulted in his survival.
Rise to power Mongols
Temujin, as the son of a leader, aspired to power. At first he needed support, and he turned to the Kereit khan Tooril. He was Yesugei’s brother-in-arms and agreed to unite with him. This was the beginning of the journey that would eventually earn Temujin the title of Genghis Khan. He raided neighboring settlements, increasing his possessions and, oddly enough, his army. Other Mongols during battles sought to kill as many opponents as possible. Temujin, on the contrary, sought to leave as many warriors alive as possible in order to lure them to himself.
The young commander’s first significant engagement was fought against the Merkit tribe, who were associated with the Taichiuts. They even kidnapped Temujin’s wife, but he, together with Tooril and another ally from another tribe – Jamukha – defeated their opponents and regained his wife. Later, his comrades defeated the Tatars, and Genghis Khan received not only booty, but also the honorary title of military commissar – Jauthuri.
On the eve of the decisive battle with the joint troops of Jamukha and Van Khan in 1202, the commander independently carried out another raid on the Tatars. At the same time, he again decided to act differently from what was customary in those days. Temujin stated that during the battle his Mongols should not capture booty, since all of it would be divided between them only after the battle was over. The future great ruler won in this battle, after which he ordered the execution of the Tatars as retribution for the Mongols whom they killed. Only small children were left alive.
There were also feuds between the commanders. So, in 1203, Temujin and Jamukha with Wang Khan met face to face. The outcome of the battle was to determine the fate of the winner, who would become the ruler of the steppes of Mongolia. At first, the ulus of the future Genghis Khan suffered losses, but due to the injury of Wang Khan’s son, the opponents retreated. Raids and regroupings of opponents continued for a year. As a result, Temujin’s army won the battle, which took place already in 1204.
In 1206, Temujin received the title of Great Khan over all the Mongol tribes and took the name Genghis, which translates as “Lord of the Endless in the Sea.” It was obvious that his role in the history of the Mongolian steppes was enormous, as was his army, and no one else dared to challenge him. This benefited Mongolia: if previously local tribes constantly fought with each other and raided neighboring settlements, now they became like a full-fledged state, divided into uluses. And if before this Mongolian nationality was invariably associated with strife and blood loss, now – with unity and power.
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Genghis Khan wanted to leave behind a legacy not only as a conqueror, but also as a wise ruler. He proposed a legislation of his own, which included provisions prohibiting dishonesty towards someone in whose confidence one has placed their faith and requiring cooperative efforts during political campaigns. These moral principles were required to be strictly observed, otherwise the violator could face execution.
The commander mixed tribes and peoples, and no matter what tribe the family belonged to before, its adult men were considered warriors of Genghis Khan’s detachment. As a result, the army consisted of 150 thousand infantry and 80 thousand horsemen. They had excellent physical fitness. Thus, army archers were able to shoot while galloping in different directions, turning 180 degrees.
Conquests of Genghis Khan Unite
In the period from 1207 to 1211, the army of the great ruler subjugated the peoples of Siberia and forced them to pay tribute to Genghis Khan. But the commander was not going to stop there: he wanted to conquer China.
In 1213, he invaded the Chinese state of Jin, establishing rule over the local province of Liaodong. All along the route of Genghis Khan and his army, Chinese troops surrendered to him without a fight, and some even went over to his side. By the fall of 1213, the Mongol ruler had strengthened his position along the Great Wall of China. Then he sent 3 powerful armies, led by his sons and brothers, to different regions of the Jin Empire. Some settlements surrendered to him almost immediately, others fought until 1235. However, as a result, the Tatar-Mongol yoke spread throughout China at that time.
But even the conquest of China could not force Genghis Khan to stop the invasion. Having achieved success in battles with his closest neighbors, he became interested in Central Asia and the fertile Semirechye. In the year 1213, the fugitive Naiman Khan Kuchluk became the ruler of this province. Naiman Khan Kuchluk made a political mistake by beginning the persecutio of Muslims and other adherents of Islam. As a direct consequence of this development, the chieftains of a number of established tribes in Semirechye publicly declared their assent to become Genghis Khan’s subjects. Subsequently, Mongol troops conquered other regions of Semirechye, allowing Muslims to perform religious services and thereby arousing sympathy among the local population.
Genghis Khan hated betrayal, so after the Persians brutally murdered the Mongol ambassador, he dealt with the people inhabiting what is now Iran. Up to 90% of the country’s population was destroyed, and the size of the state never reached its previous level until the 20th century.
The Mongol Empire is considered the largest unified state in history. If you look at the map, it stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Eastern Europe. The area of its territory was 20 million square meters. km.
In Genghis Khan’s personal life there were 3 women: the previously mentioned Borte, as well as his second wife Khulan-Khatun and his third Tatar wife Yesugen, who bore him 16 children. Among other things, according to legend, the commander owned a harem of many thousands: Genghis Khan believed that a large number of descendants testified to the importance of a man. It is not surprising that, according to a study conducted in 2003, at that time there were 8% of men (or 16 million) living in the country with identical Y chromosomes. They all belonged to an ancient family. And in 2006, a direct descendant of Genghis Khan was found – he turned out to be accounting teacher Tom Robinson.
Numerous descendants of Genghis Khan, his brothers, children and grandchildren became statesmen and tried to preserve their conquests. The ruler’s son prepared a campaign against Europe, but the army was unable to pass through the territory of modern Hungary – wet weather prevented it, which made the area very swampy. This campaign was led by his grandson, Batu Khan . The descendants of the dynasty through the four sons of the ruler from his first wife Borte ruled until 1920. The first prime minister of the state also belonged to an ancient family.
In the last year of his life, the commander undertook a campaign to conquer the Tangut kingdom, whose army he managed to defeat. The military leader died shortly before the capitulation of Zhongxing, the capital of the region. The causes of Genghis Khan’s death are various: a fall from a horse, a sudden illness, the inability to adapt to the difficult climate of another country. This happened in 1227, on August 18 or 25.
It is still not known exactly where the grave of the great conqueror is located. There are a number of legends about how and where the burial took place. According to one version, 40 virgins and 40 horses were buried with the great Mongol so that his afterlife would be happy.
According to the chronicler of the 17th century, the burial site was Burkhan-Khaldun, according to other researchers – the northern slope of Altai Khan or the southern slope of Kentei Khan. The name of the area Yekhe-Utek also sounded. In addition, there is a legend according to which Genghis Khan himself ordered the flooding of his tomb. In any case, there is a belief that after the grave is found and opened, a difficult war will begin in the world.
The Great Khan’s inheritance amounted to 500 tons of gold and 3 thousand tons of silver. But it disappeared after the son of Genghis Khan came to power. The treasure with ingots of precious metals was never found. According to legend, it was hidden in 7 wells.
Genghis Khan remains the main hero of Mongolia today; he is also revered in neighboring states. In his homeland, his image can be seen everywhere – on banknotes, coins, monuments, and even food labels. The airport in Ulaanbaatar bears his name. Statues are installed in London, Kalmykia, and Tuva.
Literary works are dedicated to the commander, including the story “The White Cloud of Genghis Khan” – part of the novel “And the Day Lasts Longer than a Century” by Chingiz Aitmatov . The films “Genghis Khan”, “The Conqueror”, and “The Golden Horde” were dedicated to the era of the reign of the great Mongol .
The German group, created in 1979, took the name Dschinghis Khan in honor of the great commander. They recorded a song and album of the same name.
- According to legend, Genghis Khan was born with a blood clot in his palm, which was considered a good sign.
- According to researchers, the commander is responsible for the death of 40 million people.
- As a child, the future ruler killed Bekter’s half-brother, with whom he had a conflict over the division of spoils.
- During the heyday of the empire, an alphabet appeared in the country. The Mongols borrowed it from the Uyghurs, who were captured after the conquest of the Naimans, where the former were engaged in written records.
- The commander’s family tree today covers the period starting from the 5th century. It presents famous ancestors from the ruler’s family.
- Another khan, Tamerlane, who lived in the 14th centur y in Central Asia and had a similar biography, was considered equal to the great Mongol in terms of ambitions and conquests. Tamerlane was not Genghisid, so he could only bear the title of emir. But he created the Timurid Empire with its capital in Samarkand.
1. Who was Genghis Khan?
Genghis Khan, also known as Temujin, was a legendary Mongol leader who founded the Mongol Empire in the 13th century.
2. What is the significance of Genghis Khan in world history?
Genghis Khan is known for uniting nomadic Mongol tribes and creating one of the largest empires in history.
3. How did Genghis Khan die?
Genghis Khan died in 1227, though the exact cause of his death remains a subject of historical debate.
4. What were Genghis Khan’s early life and upbringing like?
Genghis Khan’s early life was marked by challenges and hardships after the death of his father when he was just a child.
5. How did Genghis Khan conquer such vast territories?
Genghis Khan’s military strategies, innovative tactics, and ability to unite diverse tribes played a crucial role in his conquests.
6. What were Genghis Khan’s contributions to Mongolian culture and tradition?
Genghis Khan’s legacy includes not only his military conquests but also the establishment of a code of law and religious tolerance in his empire.
7. How did Genghis Khan’s successors continue his legacy?
Genghis Khan’s sons, particularly Ogedei and Kublai Khan, expanded and ruled over the empire after his death.
8. What impact did Genghis Khan have on Central Asia and neighboring regions?
Genghis Khan’s conquests reshaped the political and cultural landscape of Central Asia, China, and parts of Europe.
9. How did Genghis Khan’s empire eventually decline?
After Genghis Khan’s death, internal conflicts and external pressures led to the eventual fragmentation of the Mongol Empire.
10. What is the “Secret History of the Mongols,” and how does it contribute to our understanding of Genghis Khan?
The “Secret History of the Mongols” is an important historical text that provides insights into the life and times of Genghis Khan, as well as the early Mongol tribes.
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I am a dedicated full-time author, researcher, historian, and editor. These areas of expertise encompass art, architecture, and the exploration of common threads across diverse civilizations. I hold a Master's degree in Political Philosophy and serve as the Publishing Editor at Evidence News.
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