Genghis Khan and the
Largest Empire in the World
~~ Paul V. Hartman ~~
(Proper pronunciation: Chen-Geese Con. Same emphasis on all syllables.)
accurately, it was the direct descendents of Genghis which brought the
Mongol Empire to its greatest extent, but he who initiated it. It included
China, Korea, Iran, India, Turkey, Armenia, Burma, Vietnam, Thailand,
Russia, and parts of Europe.
They were the most skilled war machine per pound of body weight (including
their small horses) the world has ever seen. As archers on horseback, they
could fill the air like machine guns, shooting rapidly from the saddle while
turning their bodies in any direction. The mere suggestion that they were
coming was enough to encourage whole countries to evacuate. They were
masters of seige warfare.
Beginning as nomads in Mongolia, Siberia, and Manchuria, they were nobody's
problem until the various tribes were united by a warrior named Temujin
("iron smith") in the 1190's, who became known as Genghis Khan. After conquering China, he
headed west, destroying all resistance, cities in their entirety. His
ambition was nothing less than to conquer the entire world, and he knew the
size of it.
Genghis died in 1227 and his son Ogotai took up the effort, laying waste to
Hungary and Poland, stopping at the door of Vienna when, on Ogotai's death, custom required military leaders to return to Mongolia to elect a new Khan. They would not return to Europe.
The grandson of Genghis was Kublai Khan (KOO-blah), and he extended the
empire into SouthEast Asia but could not occupy Japan. He established his
capital at what is now Bejing (Peking). The story of his people carried to
Europe by Marco Polo would inspire Columbus to head off in the opposite
direction searching for the Khan's kingdom of "Cathay". Another mongol emperor, Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal in India.
All empires die internally before they are conquered from without, and the
mighty Golden Hoard was not immune, thus by the early 1300's all the
conquered territory was lost. But many Mongolians remained in those
territories, assuming the culture of their place of occupation; they can be
identifed today in the Balkans, the Arabic world, and in many parts of
In the land of their origin, "modern" Mongolians live as their ancestors
did, moving their felt tents and oxen thither and yon across their rugged
land. They practice with their ponies and think of the future day when they
will ride forth again under the banner of a glorious leader.
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