The Psychological Profile of Genghis Khan
What Drives Certain Men to Achieve The Impossible?
In 1162 - it is said that the ''earth shook and the skied trembled.'' As part of adding the command of ALL things divine into the day Genghis Khan was born, the events are made to foretell the future. As with most great men of history, his birth is steeped in mystery all unto itself. His life was to become a legend. Many believe that his story is straight forward - a serial murderer and ruler of many lands. But the real character of Genghis Khan is far more intriguing. How did an illiterate son of a small clan ruler rise to lead the largest armies of the world? And why on his death bed did he believe his destiny was unfulfilled?
This thesis is about what drives men to such heights and such greatness. A deeply intensive look at his psychological profile directly from a book recently discovered about his own life. If you love history, you will love this short story. If you love psychology, you will love this story. If you love military tactics and strategies, you will love this story. But in the end, you will get to make your own decisions on the facts. While I may present them with my own conclusions. there is always the chance someone else will see something different, perhaps to add, to subtract, or even to change. But one thing is certain -- you will pick up something about Genghis Khan you didn't know before.
For nearly three hundred years they ruled the largest land empire in history. They are the Mongols - The Fury that rolls like a storm out of the steppes. In the early thirteenth century they pioneer a manner of warfare that shatters the old world order and carved a new course and new roads into history.
In the 12th century, the Church saw the Mongol invasion as the invasion of Satan himself. Their fears would soon be realized and they faced warriors the likes of which they had never seen before. Fearless in battle and moving at lightning speed, with tiny bows that were greatly underestimated by the best knights in Europe. Now,at the gates of Vienna, the Mongols have left a sea of blood and hundreds beheaded.
History has interesting parallels. The story of Braveheart William Wallace begins with his birth in or around the same time-frame, 1250. The entire saga that made for one of Hollywood’s true epic movies takes place between a relatively short time frame from 1215-to-1329. In that final year, Robert the Bruce passes away, leaving Scotland fiercely independent from England and helping to create the Scots identity. War across the globe was being waged in a manner heretofore unseen.
Half-way across the world, another saga that is equally compelling is developing into one of the greatest empires ever seen. Genghis Khan unites the clans in 1182 and the Mongol Empire extends for fourteen million square miles under Kublai Khan in 1294. Both European and Asian civilizations were expanding exponentially due to a variety of reasons.
Historical climatologists have found evidence that suggests that there was a vast warming period on part of the planet from 950-1300 AD. Permafrost quickly melted and gave way to fresh water streams and warmer temperatures. Migrations of peoples and population growth made this period one of vast intellectual trade and exchange of technologies across vast geographies. But while this was true for Europe and Western Asia, the Mongolian Terrain remain cold and unchanged.
There were other factors for exploration. While a rise in temperatures made travel easier, it was the internal political structure and foreign policies of growing nations in Europe which would create the motivation for such expansion. The Church was rewriting its own history and city-states far away from the base of the Papacy were investing many of their own bishops. While new roads of trade were built through present day Turkey onto the Asian steppes, the Muslim hordes were cutting off commerce.
New means of transportation had to be developed, new roads had to be built. It was along one of these roads that Marco Polo travelled to sit at the court of Kublai Khan, and thus for the first time, the connection between Medieval Europe and Medieval Asia was complete. Beijing is one of the world's great cities and was made capital of China by Kublai Khan. His main interest was in China where he founded the Yuan Dynasty. He was the first foreign emperor of China and is significant to understanding the history of the worlds most populated country.
The Secret Histories of the Mongols
We knew very little about Genghis Khan until the discovery of ''The Secret Histories'' in the late 1800s. Under the Mongol Stalinistic rule, the works were kept from public view until the middle 1990s. It still has not been completely interpreted, but our knowledge of Genghis Khan no longer is written in the perspective of the Europeans.
It was written for the Mongol royal family some time after Genghis Khan's death in AD 1227, by an anonymous author (presumed to be one of his sons) and probably originally in the Uyghur script, though the surviving texts all derive
from transcriptions or translations into Chinese characters dating from the end of the 14th century, compiled by the Ming dynasty under the name The Secret History of the Yuan Dynasty.
''In the seventh moon of the year of the rat, they all gathered together. The nobles of the right wing and the princes of the left wing and the leaders of the thousands.'' The Secret History of the Mongols
The original has never been found, but over 500 years after it was written, a copy was found in 1856 in Chinese Archives. It is beyond a military history and is deeply personal in nature. Although part propaganda and myth, some things stand out.
''As he comes out into the lands, he is not fond of dogs, believing that they would harm him and effect his heavenly ordained destiny in some manner.'' The Secret History of the Mongols
Temujin is born in 1162 to Hoelun and Yesugei. Heoelun would leave an incredible mark of strength and lessons of survival on the young Temujin. His name comes from several Ugar words which essentially mean ''Iron Fist.'' Other translations say it is the word ''Blacksmith.'' Either way, legend says he was born clutching a blood-clot. The shaman interpreted it as meaning he will rule by blood and conquest.
Genghis Khan would be the greatest conqueror in all of history. He was a storm from the east. Unlike Alexander, he had no teacher like Aristotle. When Alexander the Great died, his empire died with him. Alexander was born into royalty, a Prince. Genghis was born into poverty, an unknown, and abandoned by his clan. Genghis had no written language like the Cyrus the Great. He had no support form any other entities like William the Conqueror did. He had no codified laws like Julius Caesar had. Napoleon had the framework of an army that already existed and almost 80% literacy. Genghis had none of these things. He conquered other empires with armies larger than the population of the Mongol's largest cities. In his day, he had NEVER even seen a building before, let-alone a city. He was a phenomenon all unto himself. The day Genghis Khan died, his empire endured for one-hundred years afterwards. The fear however, endured for many centuries later.
Early events begin to shape Temujin. In understanding history, it is important to understand the person himself. Long before Temujin was a great leader, he was just a young kid. His father was the clan leader and highly revered amongst his people. One late afternoon, Temujin is at play with his blood-brother Jemukhar. Earlier in the week, a band of Tartars came through with spices and food. The meeting looked innocent enough and soon they left. But the destruction they would leave and the pain that would follow was anything but innocent.
One surviving story tells of friendship then betrayal and then murder. The Tartars had long been bitter enemies of the Mongols. But legend has told us that they presented a gift to the Khan of a specially prepared Yak meat as an offering. Yesugei, took it in exchange for several furs. Soon after eating, he became ill. It was apparent that he had been poisoned.
Mongolian Stamps Tell A Great Story of How They See Themselves
Temujin makes it back in time to see his father, ashen and barely breathing, die. He had great reverence for his father and his death was a deep wound for the young man. Because he was the eldest son of the leader, it was he who was now commanding the tribe. No one in the clan wanted to be ruled by a nine year old and so they simply left. All that remained were Temujin's family. In all, there are two brothers and three half-brothers, a sister, and two widows, one of them being Temujin's mother. The clan left and took all of their provisions from their animal hides and resources, leaving Temujins family to die in the forbidding Gobi steppes.
His mother had been taken hostage and forcibly married to Temujin's father. She did not come into this marriage willingly and in fact never stopped professing her affection for her actual husband, Yehe Chile-Du. He was the clan leader of the Merkit people, a confederation of three tribes with a common language and emerging shamanistic belief system that helped to unite them.
After the attack however, Temujin's clan was devastated and broke. Without a clan leader, his family is left to fend for themselves. His mother, grandmother, and several young brothers were left to die. Determined to somehow survive an upcoming harsh winter, the resolve of Temujin's mother revealed itself. Defiant that the last of the clan was galloping off into the unknown, she ran out with a staff and threatened to exact revenge for being left behind. To the young future ruler, this was the price people often paid when others are disloyal --- and, it would have a profound effect on the way he looked at the world.
One can clearly see that Temujin faced hardships greater than most. His upbringing was one of day-to-day survival and constantly having the things he loves taken from him by others. The four tribes, Mongols, Tartars, and other nomadic tribes manage a grim existence. Even today, some of the coldest temperatures on the planet are found in the Mongol steppes. Plunging as much as -50 in the winter, it was a fight against the elements too.
What is the fate of a person whose life begins in this manner? What happens when you are just nine years old and there isn't anyone left to hunt game or otherwise provide food and shelter? What goes on in the inside when you are left to survive on a barren land? Feeling that his father was within the heavens, Temujin seemed to always feel that he was there, looking down on him, protecting him, and guiding him, perhaps even admonishing him. In the Mongol society, the matriarchs pay an important role and Temujin would learn a great deal from his mother. She never let him down.
Then, for ten years, from around the age of 18-28, Genghis Khan disappears to us. Nothing is written of this era and there is a great amount of speculation. But some believe he was at the Court in China, attempting to open diplomatic relations with the Chin Dynasty.
The main threat in the area were the Tayichi'ud people. This particular tribe was among the larger ones in the area. Although they shared a common lineage, they were bitter and fierce enemies of the Mongols. Raids between the two were deadly and often. In one of these raids, Temujin himself is abducted and held as a slave. At the age of eleven, he is tied to a huge yoke. Humiliated and pushed into forced labor to a neighboring tribe, Temujin finally escaped with the help of a sympathetic guard. He would never forget the assistance he received from the guard and would ultimately be made into a General in the great Khan's army.
He finally makes it back to his family. History doesn't tell us how he tracked a nomadic clan that was capable of moving miles a day, but nonetheless he did. He was soon with his mother again. So what characteristics did he learn from her? His mother had survived being kidnapped and in ''The Secret Histories'' he tells the story of how his mother would pull her skirt up and use a staff to pull roots up to feed the children.
There was a surprising antagonist amongst the few remaining members of the clan. Temujin's half brother, Begter, was an older son through a concubine. Helen was not his birth-mother. Hoelun was not of blood relation to the boy but raised him as her own nonetheless. But, as the oldest son, Begter could legally claim Hoelun as his wife and strip leadership away from Temujin.
Although he was just fourteen, the younger Temujin and another brother, Khasar, ambushed Begter and killed him. The Secret Histories say that he stabbed him through the heart. It was the first time Genghis physically killed anyone, and it would not be the last.
At the age of sixteen, he found Borte, a beautiful eighteen year old. He loved her very much and in traditional Mongol custom, a marriage ceremony was arranged. This was not a forced or kidnapped relationship that had happened to his mother. This was love, Mongolian style. Finally, at sixteen, Temujin is happy.
Not long after, while asleep in the Yurt, (the communal house still used today by nomadic Mongols) the grandmother Kocwachkin hears horses in the dead of the night. She rushes up to Temujin's mother, who was still the head of the tribe. After all, she was the one who had taken the spear and vowed revenge. The boys were still young and in their struggle to survive, hadn't had proper military training.
Genghis Khan the Machine: Fact-vs-Fiction
Genghis Khan is rumored to have fathered countless children. His family tree is quite extensive. The idea that women made the first move on the men is deeply rooted in Mongolian culture and this would seem to negate the rumor propagated by western authors. Clearly, Genghis Khan couldn't have conquered more square miles than anyone else in history if he was conquering countless number of women. He surely had no problem when a village was raided. He sought out the most beautiful of women for his entertainment or concubine. But this is a far cry from taking them against their will ''by the hundreds'' as European and Muslim chroniclers indicate.
Still, ''The Genome Project, 2014'' sought to investigate the claim of lineage made by Two-in-Three Mongolians today. Spencer Wells, a geneticist with National Geographic did a study, tracing the DNA of six men, all from various parts of Mongolia. His study found that all but one of them shared a single ancestor - all coming together around 1300!
Verdict: Probably TRUE!
They had eight geldings and one left over. There were two women left and the grandmother. The grandmother didn't have a horse of her own. The mother ordered the boys to go and ordered the bride to stay with them. There was some debate as to why she wouldn't let Borte leave with Temujin. After all, they had an extra gelding. Some sources say that she was deeply interfering of her son's marriage to an ''outsider'' and did not approve of the marriage. Consider the relationships mothers and sons have and whether she felt she was 'good-enough' for Temujin.
Other sources say it is simply because she understood the clans and what they often wanted. She knew what the tribal men wanted and she considered the young girl's beauty would buy the boys time while on the run. What she did not know yet, is that these were the men who were avenging the kidnapping of HER from her ex-husband many years earlier.
This was the last moment that anyone made a decision for Temujin. Alone and on the run again, he left that mountain determined to get Borte back. In order to do this he had to swear allegiance to another Khan and make alliances while building an army. For Temujin, life was not worth living if he couldn't get her back. He formed an alliance with the help of his lifelong friend and future rival, Jemukhar, and his guard, Torgul Khan of the Keraite tribe.
Using advance scouts and spies, he found her with the Merkit people. He rode in under the moonlight screaming her name. She and the other women in the carts did not want to be kidnapped again so they fled. The Secret Histories record that she ran toward him in the middle of battle, nearly getting trampled in the process. Like a good Hollywood script, the two of them ride off together with the men he led.
Shortly afterward, she announces she is pregnant. There were rumors the baby was not his. But it mattered not with him, the son would be raised as his. He named the son the equivalent of the word ''Guest,'' and his ultimate role in Genghis's later years could have greatly affected the empire had he not died a year before Genghis.
This is not to say that he was in any way monogamous. Genghis Khan was said to have an insatiable appetite for women. According to the ''Secret History of the Mongols,'' women would 'throw themselves off of cliffs to avoid being a concubine for Genghis Khan.'' Since the history account is probably written by his eldest son, we have to take such a claim into account. The author, after all, is seeking a propaganda victory too.
History and it's Accidental Discoveries
In 2012, a genetic study of the Asiatic people yielded a shocking discovery. The study was commissioned by two universities - The School of Anthropology at Cambridge, and the University of Mongolia. The intent of the study was to determine when the first peoples arrived in Asia roughly 140,000 years earlier. But researchers soon uncovered a fascinating observation. The sequencing of DNA amongst the 20,000 people who were tested showed that 1/200 had a common ancestor, and furthermore, that common ancestor derives in the lifetime of Genghis Khan. The findings were unintended but incredible. Genghis Khan's children were so numerous that a huge amount of Asia's population - from Mongolia to Laos, from Korea to The Caspian Sea, are ALL related to him!
It should be noted that there was a great deal of in-breeding happening through these times. It is where we get the rumors of ''Downs Syndrome'' or ''Mongoloidism.'' There is no genetic evidence for this theory and it is being studied extensively now.
Psychologically, Loyalty is considered a virtue. Is loyalty actually healthy, wise and good? Subconsciously, most people probably equate loyalty with integrity. Integrity refers to consistency between your ideas/principles (assuming you have any), and your actions.
Here’s where it gets complicated for many: Most of us choose friends and romantic partners based on vague or unidentified feelings alone. Genghis couldn't have deeply known many of the conquered farmers and peasants with whom he bestowed generalships and land to.
When it comes time to be loyal — or disloyal — to friends or associates, we’re unclear on what we’re actually being loyal to. Some will be disloyal to the government without feeling as if they betrayed their leader directly. (Condor Eric Snowden) Others will be disloyal to a leader without feeling as if they are being disloyal to the government. (Consider Benedict Arnold's betrayal of George Washington) And still others will be disloyal to an idea propagated by either the government or by the individual without feeling as if they have betrayed either. (Consider Napoleon)
Genghis Khan believed that the sin of disloyalty was the worst of them all. In fact, this is made evident when the subjects of Jemukhar turned him over to Genghis. Believing that these men would be saving themselves in turning over Jemukhar, they excitedly took a knee before the great one. Genghis Khan ordered them beheaded at once. ''What kind of subject turns his master over to the enemy?'' he asked. ''What kind of men are so disloyal to their leader?'' Even if it meant killing future allies, Genghis had been so betrayed throughout his entire life, that he could not accept disloyalty in any shape or any fashion. It allows us to sneak inside his brain and see one of the most driving factors of his brilliance.
When others betrayed him, he rejected or back away from them with lightning speed. For no apparent reasons, he would blow a gasket. Time-and-time again when he was betrayed, he was lost without a set of conscious convictions to guide him. Likewise, without conviction, it became easy to treat those who has been disloyal to him with the utmost of vengeance.
Loyalty is an extension of this principle. It applies to upholding of his ideals, but — more specifically and concretely — loyalty concerns the people in your life who are important to you.
The lessons of loyalty were deeply rooted in his leadership style. His generals were not born of aristocrats or leaders. The poor never turned against him. Family members however, often betrayed him. Alliances were meant to be broken. But he believed loyalty doesn't come by birth but through relationships. Loyalty would be a very large part of his leadership style and would begin to mark the Mongol traditions.
Military Inventions of the Mongols
For nearly three hundred years they pioneered a type of warfare that is still studied by military specialists today. In 1175, the Tartars renewed an old feud with the Mongols. The Chin wisely perceive that if the trouble on the steppes are happening amongst one another, they aren’t attacking them. During this time, the Mongols developed and improved upon military weapons. The Europeans best weapon was the long-bow followed by the emergence of the cross-bow. (More about that below.) But Genghis developed a composite long-bow with birch-wood that angled back at the ends by 30-degrees. The result was a weapon that was three times more powerful and accurate than the Europeans best weapons.
In 1196, Genghis figures out how the turn the horse and man into one fighting machine. The simple addition of the stirrup allows the Mongols to operate in small tactical teams and fire arrows while riding horseback. It also strategically changed the manner in which battles were fought. Genghis Khan could feign a retreat and its archers could ride backward, confusing enemies.
The knights of Medieval Europe and the Samurai of Japan were skilled with the sword. But the Mongols had managed to take a large weapon in the long-bow, modify it and then use it exclusively on horseback. There was simply no answer for this technique.
Another innovation was in the manner in which Mongol warriors protected themselves. As far back as 564 AD, Pope Gregory sent missionaries to smuggle silkworms back to Europe. For the Europeans, fine silks were an adornment; for the Mongols, it was for survival. The bows and arrows of the day could easily pierce through the light leather protection worn by the Mongol warriors. However, when they put silk under the leather, the arrows were caught by it, and the result was a much lesser wound - if any at all. It was the first, and perhaps the most beautiful, bullet-proof vest.
These horse warriors were a long line of hardened men that came from this geography. Attila the Hun (434 AD) was from the Mongol steppes. They are 3000 miles wide and 500 miles from north-to-south. Since nothing actually grows in this region, the tribes are forced into nomadic existence, exhausting one set of pastures after another. The stirrup that Genghis Khan perfected was an adaptation of the one Attila had used almost a thousand years earlier. It turned horse and man into one fighting machine - An Organic and Biological Tank.
European Longbow Mongol Reflex Longbow
Another innovation that helped to repel the Mongols was the invention of the Crossbow. It is easy to use and inexpensive to produce. Now, the Europeans needn't have a trained army of knights to fight successfully. Although reviled by the Chivalric code of the Knights, it was both the cross-bow and archers which began to change the way Europeans fended off invasions. With the plague taking one-in-three people in Europe, these innovations not only were instrumental in defending the home-front, but necessary.
Besieging towns was one of Genghis Khan's least favorite things to do. He debated often about heading into the far west because he knew that the Medieval World was full of forts and castles, and that was fine for men who weren't on horseback.
In an effort to speed up the downfall of these towns and villages, he created a trebuchet. These are huge catapults which hurl stones as heavy as 60-100 lbs as far as 80 feet. The effect was devastating and city walls and forts soon began to crumble - allowing for a quick and violent invasion.
The distance it was able to fire onto the fortresses made it impossible to strike them back with any reliable force, thus tipping the balance of power decisively. It was as if the Mongols had invented an Atom Bomb.
Genghis Khan was perhaps one of the most brutal and violent men who ever lived. The Mongols at their height, were over fourteen-million square miles of land through barbarism and blood. They were a nomadic people, living off of the land. His campaigns were legendary. And - any resistance to Genghis Khan would result in decapitation.
But there was also arbitrary terrorism. In Khazikstan, one uprising resulted in Khan ordering the ears of every man and woman cut off. The gruesomely disfigured survivors were then paraded ahead of the Mongol arrival in an effort to induce surrender. It often worked.
In other cities, it wasn't an uncommon practice to break the backs of unrepentant warriors and bury them alive. The manner in which the Mongols brought death upon their enemies was beyond the imagination of almost everyone. This was exactly how the Persians underestimated the Mongols, and they would pay dearly.
Everyday Life Inside a Yurt
The Yurt was the communal home of the Mongol people. You can still see them today. They are designed to be put up and taken down with the greatest of ease and several families may live in one of them. Similar to a TeePee, the yurt is simply much larger in circumference. There was a hole in the top and inside the Yurt it would be terribly smokey and difficult to breathe. The entrance way would always face to the south, because the Mongols felt that only good news came form the south. Without wood to burn, the Mongols used animal dung, making for an acrid and even putrid smell inside the yurt.
Inside the Yurt however, it was warm. The Mongols survived temperatures that were unimaginable to everyone else.
Communication was a strong-point for Genghis Khan even though there was no written language at the time. He developed a 'Pony-Express of his day. It was called ''The Yan'' and it allowed the Mongols to stay in touch with the locations of family members and increased the lurid trade of the Silk Road.
The Invasion of China
In 1215, the same year that King John issued the Magna Carta in England, Khan's armies sweep to the west. The drums of impending invasion were so loud that towns and villages simply surrendered to Mongol emissaries. One reason why the Mongols moved so quickly is because they HAD to. Siege warfare does not favor the army with a lot of horses. This is due to the fact that horses consume food and resources. Prolonging a siege was good strategy for the Europeans when the Mongols attacked.
The Chin Dynasty of Northern China considered the Mongols as just another of the tribes. Within hours of the first volley of arrows brought a slaughter of the city of Xi Xha. In 1215, the same year that King John issued the Magna Carta in England, Genghis Khan laid waste to the capital Chong-Du - modern day Beijing. One by one, the greatest cities in the Asian world capitulated to the Mongols.
There seemed to be a strange joy in the bloodshed.
One curious observation about the mind of Genghis is that he conquered to win, not to occupy. Occupation of a place caused complacency. It also cost the Mongols badly needed resources in order to feed peoples who have not yet learned to farm. His troops were always on the move and his character was shaped by conquest - of both battles and of women.
Consider the other factors facing Genghis as he grew into maturity. There was a smallpox epidemic that wiped out a third of his army. Close friends were not spared. The Persians understood biological warfare and sent emissaries with Typhus and Influenza to ''make peace.'' The reality of life for the Mongols was brutal and even in battle, it was a bloody hand-to-hand conflict.
The Persians Underestimate Genghis Khan
It wasn't long before Genghis realized that his greatest fortunes lie along the silk route. He could vastly improve the fates of his people and their level of living by taking full advantage of trade. He decided to send a caravan of 1200 camels into Persia. The first camel caravan that the Mongols sent was to his neighbor Sultan Mohammad, ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire. The caravan was so lavishly rich that it appealed to Sultan Muhammad's greed. He simply seized it, killing the Mongol traders.
Undeterred, Genghis sends three of his closer emissaries (two Mongols and a Muslim) to negotiate a trade agreement. He gave Sultan Mohammad a way out, explaining that an apology was all that was needed and that Sultan Mohammad punish those men responsible for the earlier attack. But Sultan Mohammad believed his own hubris and refused. Instead, they shaved and beheaded the Muslim man and sent the others back to carry his head. In a further act of humiliation the two Mongols are seized their beards were cut off.
This was the ultimate insult and now Genghis was ready to turn his anger and wrath onto to Sultan Mohammad. A third emissary is sent with a note. ''You have chosen - War.''
The breaking of the customs of exchanging of ambassadors flipped a switch in Genghis. In 1219, his soldiers prepare for war. He prepared and trained for five straight years. But while he wasn't certain of the outcome, he was absolutely certain of how he was going to carry out his mission. In almost every battle, the Mongols were out-manned and it tested the genius of The Mongol Warrior King. The ruler of the Khorazan Empire of Central Asia - Sultan Mohammad - is about to taste Genghis's steel.
A special fate is designed for the greedy governor. He is held down while molten silver is poured into his ears and eyes. At Samarkand, Khan divided an inferior army into the two. It was the first time in recorded history that a smaller army divided itself while on the offensive. It was a superb ploy. At Otrah in 1219, a five month seize ended when the Mongols stormed through the walls. No one would live. As was written in the ''Secrets History of the Mongols'' it is said that ''when it is finished, there was not to be a single eye with which to weep.'' They laid waste to everyone and everything in their path. There was a special cruelty reserved for those who remained.
In February 1220, he planned a three-pronged attack that was unrivaled in cunning and malice. Planned retreat was a skill that Genghis used in order to disorient the enemy. Sultan Mohammad streamed out his forces to chase the ''retreating'' Mongols. But to the north, Genghis Khan will attack through the back door. Like demons from his worst nightmare, in one of the greatest rear-attacks in the history of warfare, Samarkand fell in just ten days. Genghis reduced the cities so that there was no recovery. At Harat, he attacked and destroyed the plumbing, the roads, and the infrastructure. It was as if there was no tomorrow.
With the fall of the Khorazon, guides lead him through three-hundred miles of desert sands. In one of the greatest rear-attacks in history, both Karakoram and Samarkand fell. The monstrous rampage destroyed entire cities - to the point that they still stand today, ghost towns and useless reminders of the potential we could have become.
Other cities like Baghdad fell with brutal efficiency. He used human shields and diverted rivers. He attacked the weakest links and used speed to surprise. But when his men hit the outer walls of Baghdad, there was a moat in the way. Genghis Khan used the bodies of captured subjects to make a bridge for his troops. Gruesome - yes. Efficient - Definitely.
Another factor that differentiated Genghis from all others is that he had no use for aristocracy of towns when they were defeated. What use would aristocrats be if they could not protect the very people he conquered?
But soon, his hunger for power becomes increasingly violent and leads him to experience overwhelming paranoia and a growing mistrust of old friends and allies. He had a high number of POWs which were now in his army. One wonders what he felt when he looked out at the battlefields and saw so many faces of foreigners. You can imagine his thinking --- a Coup could happen at any time. The trumped up charges and executions began to steadily increase as Genghis Khan grew older and more fearful. It was a dark moment within the years of his rule.
Meanwhile, the Sung Dynasty of Southern China was fifty million strong and not able to be conquered under Genghis Khan. Could he turn these foreign forces against the Sung? With ready resources and a systematic army, the Sung were perhaps the largest and most stable empire at the time. It would take someone extraordinary to subdue the Sung.
After Genghis Khan died in 1236, Ogidai Khan granted Kublai Khan his own lands. At first he ruled from a distance as other rulers did. But he soon became aware of the taxation repression that was happening to the farmers. By leaving day-to-day affairs to local officials, there was widespread corruption.
The empire of Genghis would soon be in shambles as the members as the empire grew far too large to govern. He was a great leader and a law-giver. But his principles of loyalty, communication and speed were deeply rooted in the consciousness of those around him. There was no pretensions around him. He was born in a felt-tent, a yurt. He also died in one.
He accumulated far more wealth than anyone else in World History. Yet he did not keep it. He gave it away to the war-widows and the wounded. He believed that it was essential to take care of the war widows and war orphans. When he conquered a town, he adopted one child from every place and raised them as his own.
At some point, Genghis Khan had an idea that he had a mission given to him by God. He wanted to rule the world. But in the early years, he had allegiances to other feudal warlords. Consistently, he found himself at war with the same tribes. At some point, he figured that his solution to not having to do this was to kill everyone he could. It was a surprisingly pragmatic world-view.
At the end of his life, he began to waiver on some of his principles. He loved all four of his sons but they did not grow up the way he did. They were sheltered and never knew what it was like to be hungry. They consumed alcohol and they did not cooperate with one another. Growing frustrated, he called in his own aristocrats that he conquered in order to teach them the laws of kinship. It didn't work. These too, were middle-aged men who hadn't know hunger and desire themselves.
His first-born son, Berke, was called in to inherit the kingdom. His other sons stood up and asked Genghis, ''How can you let the bastard son of the Merkit people take over?'' The question and behavior was a shock to those in the royal court. No one had ever thought to challenge Genghis Khan in such a manner. He attempted to answer the charge when another son interrupted and said, ''A deer shot with words cannot be loaded onto the cart.'' The meaning of this was simple. Genghis Khan could claim Berke as his son but it was a claim without basis, and there was no way they were going to honor their father's wishes once he passed. It must have made Genghis feel resigned to whatever fate dealt to him.
He gave his favorite son the land furthest away in order to keep him safe. The best lands went to the third son, who was the most friendly. He was also an alcoholic. Simply put, it was a short-sighted way to run an empire that he had put so much energy into.
The Tanguts and the Russians - Brutal Genocide
Genghis Khan could be impatient and petulant at times. He let his thirst for revenge overtake his strategic idea of conquest. Psychologically speaking, the lack of resolution to his father's murder and he suffering he endured as a youth seemed to be what fueled this incessant desire for vengeance. There were many missed connections when he was a young and it is one of the factors that leads to repetitive and poor behavior.
After unifying the northern grasslands of Mongolia, Genghis set forth to take on The Tanguts, in Tibet. In 1226, he burned the capital city to the ground and massacred tens of thousands of its people. It was a decisive genocide that seemed at odds with the strategic manner in which Genghis normally prosecuted a war.
At the same time, he sent two generals to the Caspian Sea and into Russia. These two generals, Batu-Khan and Subatai, brought 35,000 additional archers in addition to the huge 100,000 calvary. Europe had never seen an invading army so large and many towns simply submitted before they arrived. They arrived at the gates of Vienna before news from home shook the Mongol World.
Genghis Khan was now in his sixties and while warring in Tibet, he fell off of his horse and suffered fatal injuries. The troops returned to Mongolia, although they needn't have. They believed that they needed to arrive back home in order to elect a new Khan. But Genghis Khan had made provisions - such as they were - as to what to do when he died. The invasions of the Mongols lost a lot of steam when the armies returned to the field, only to find out that they would indeed have to return when Ogedai Khan died in 1256. That would be a huge swath of land to cover over thirty years.
So you have read this far and you are wondering, how did his life events shape him? Genghis Khan spent almost his entire adult life fighting. It is doubtful that he ever knew peace nor knew what he would do with it when he found it. His mother filled the space of an absent father and did so admirably. The fact that his father passed when he was just nine is what I think drove him to seek his own greatness. He was forever trying to fill the void of grandeur and respect that he held for his father, which never got to be returned to him in-kind.
His need for conquest was certainly an effort to ''prove'' himself over and over again and it affected his spiritual nature. He liked listening to how others viewed the world around him despite the fact he had only one documented meeting with a Christian. (A monk only known to us as Geoffrey)
Consider all of the contrasting views of Genghis Khan and draw your own conclusions. Open to religious tolerance, he murdered millions. On the one hand, he created a culture of diversity and meritocracy, but on the other hand, he treated women poorly. He believed in a society that was the run by laws, yet he ran an oligarchy.
He strongly sponsored the trade routes, and yet, that trade included slave labor and child trafficking. He continued to build roads and produced the first true postal system, and yet he also burned down entire villages and towns, pouring salt into the soil to ensure it won't grow crops and dispersed hundreds of thousands into the hot and arid desert where their bodies are still being found today.
So as you can see, there are many complexities here.
A lingering question is whether the millions who died under Genghis Khan's murderous rampage was worth it. With brilliance in psychological warfare and an incredible knack for being in the right place at the right time, Khan set the pace for hundreds of military figures ahead. He was his own product, self-created, self-made, self-sustained, and finally, self-immortalized. With a destiny he called only his own, Genghis Khan is a much steeped in legend as he is myth. But several things are clear - (1) He quickly realized a 'destiny' for himself and (2) He got others to believe it. There are doubtful few people in all of history who got more out of the deeds he intended than those he did not. Whether that makes for one of the world's great leaders or just another despotic tyrant is left up to you to decide. ###