CHINGGIS KHAN (Circa 1162 – August 18, 1227)
One of the most famous conquerors in history who united the steppes under the banner of his reign. He was a brutal general who was willing to engage with any foe who stood in his way.
- Established an empire that covered approximately 12,000,000 square miles.
- United all nomadic tribes under Mongol rule.
- Some estimates suggest he is an ancestor of about 0.5% of the world’s population.
Founder of the Mongol Empire and one of the most feared conquerors of all time, Chinggis Khan created the largest empire in the world by destroying individual tribes in Northeast Asia.
Chinggis Khan (or as popularly known, Genghis Khan) was born circa 1162, near Lake Baikal, Mongolia. He received his name, Temuchin, after a ruler his father defeated in battle. Legends claim he exited the womb holding a blood clot in his hand. This image of the young Chinggis certainly proved to be prescient for his future life.
When Temuchin was nine-years-old, a rival nomadic band called the Tartars poisoned his father, Yesügei. Following his father’s death, Temuchin’s tribe quickly fell into chaos and abandoned him and his siblings. Subject to frequent hunger, the young Temuchin’s diet consisted of roots and the rare fish he could gather.
From his youth, Chinggis Khan was brutal. During his suffering, he sought justice for any wrongful action taken against him or his family. In one horrific instance, his half-brother had scavenged food and hoarded it, refusing to share it with his family. Temuchin took justice into his own hands and killed him for his selfish deed.
In another instance of vengeance, a rival family, called the Taychiut, held him captive in their camp. They kept him bound by a wooden collar around his neck. One night, Temuchin sought to escape the camp. Utilizing the collar, he struck the guard who was assigned to him, knocking him to the ground. He quickly ran away but was spotted by a member of the tribe. Upon seeing Temuchin’s expression of intensity, the Taychiut member assisted him in his daring escape.
YEARS AS EMPEROR
His wife, Borte, was captured by the Merkit people. Since Temuchin’s father had taken his wife from this tribe, they subsequently sought revenge for his actions. Temuchin asked the khan of the Kereit tribe, Toghril, for assistance in retrieving his lost wife.
Temuchin could not offer much to Toghril except a sable skin he received as a wedding gift. In return, Toghril promised Temuchin that he would reunite his tribe. This lofty promise came with tens of thousands of soldiers fighting on Temuchin’s behalf. Temuchin then attacked the Merkit tribe and slaughtered them.
He also defeated the Jürkin clan before attempting to overtake the Tartar clan, who murdered his father. He won the battle against the Tartars and killed every adult member of the tribe. He assumed that the children were still impressionable; therefore, he could train them into Mongol soldiers in the future.
The future khan was creating an empire of his own. The final clan he needed to defeat to rule the steppe was his ally, the Kereit people. Upon the collapse of the alliance between Temuchin and Toghril, the Mongols attacked and defeated the Kereit army. Temuchin had his soldiers kill the remaining aristocracies to stamp out any potential rebellion. Temuchin then dispersed the remaining Kereit tribesmen as servants and soldiers among his people.
Now with the final clan dissolved, Temuchin reigned with authority and no external rivals. He established his plan to rid the steppes of their clan-based fragmentation and unite all tribes under Mongol rule.
The members called an assembly by the River Onan in 1206 to name Temuchin the sole ruler of the steppes. It was here where they granted him the famous title, Chinggis Khan. With a united nation and more soldiers than before, he was ready for world conquest.
Chinggis continued conquering, expanding westward from the steppes. He overtook the remaining tribes and formed alliances with a few. His system of government, although somewhat primal at its outset, developed with time. With the help of the minister to the khan of Naiman, Chinggis learned the importance of writing. The minister assisted the Mongols in transforming their verbal language into a written one.
With the advent of Mongol writing, culture quickly evolved within the empire. Chinggis allowed his subjects to have religious freedom and exempted select places of worship from taxes. Men soon took jobs as craftsmen as opposed to being a soldier. Mongol villages became Mongol towns.
Circa 1211, Chinggis and his army set out to conquer China. They dominated the Chinese empire in battle by means of their developed warfare tactics. As opposed to charging at the opposing army with melee weapons, the Mongols often diverted rivers, launched projectiles with catapults, and flanked their enemies to catch them by surprise. After conquering a Chinese city, the Mongols would destroy buildings, records, irrigation systems, and other property.
After defeating much of his opposition in China, Chinggis withdrew in 1223.
END OF LIFE
After three years, Chinggis Khan led his army into China once again. They fought against the northwestern Xixia from 1126 to 1227. On August 18, 1227, during their campaign against Xixia, Chinggis Khan died. Many myths surround his death. People proposed he died from an arrow to the knee, while others said it was a wound during sex or a fall from his horse.
Chinggis’ burial location is unknown to this day. Legends say that something or someone slaughtered all who attended his funeral and diverted a river to cover the Great Khan’s grave.