steppes before Genghis Khan
rise of Genghis Khan
Early Childhood of Temujin
of 1206 - Building the Empire
of Genghis Khan
of His Successors
Kubiliai Khan and the Pax Mongolia
2. Military History
About the author, Links
Brith of Temujin (Genghis/Chingis Khan)
Temujin is engaged to Borte, daughter of Dei of
the Okhunugud. Death of Temujin's father (Yesugei).
Collapse of Yesugei's Kiyad clan. Temujin is exiled
to the most desolate areas of the steppes.
Temjin murders his half brother, Bekhter for stealing
his fish. Temujin is later captured by the Tayichigud.
Temujin marries Borte, his first wife
Borte is captured during a raid by Merkids. Temujin
combine with Toghrul and Jamugha to defeat Merkids
and rescues Borte. Rise to power of Temujin and Jamugha
among the Mongol clans.
Separation from Jamugha, proclaimed Genghis/Chingis
Khan (at least according to the Secret History). Defeated
by Jamugha at Dalan Bajut. The following years are
a long gap of scarcely recorded events. Genghis is
exiled but later returns to power.
Toghrul is exiled to the Kara Khitai. Restored to
power by Genghis Khan in 1198.
Genghis and Toghrul defeat the Tartars. Toghrul given
the title Ong/Wang ("King") Khan by the Jin.
Jamugha proclaimed Gur Khan. Indecisive battle at
Koyitan. The tayichigud clan under Jamugha is destroyed.
Toghrul and Genghis campaign against Buiruk Khan of
Toghrul turns against Genghis Khan. Battle at Kalakalzhit.
Withdrawal to the Kalka River.
Genghis Khan defeats Toghrul at Mount Jeje'er. Toghrul's
tribe, the Kereyids is incorporated into Genghis men.
Genghis Khan defeats Jamugha and Tayang Khan of
the Naimans at Mount Khangkharkhan. Final defeat of
Honorable execution of Jamugha. Genghis becomes
undisputed ruler of the steppes.
The great Khuriltai (assembly) of 1206. Submission
of the Uighurs.
The rise of Genghis Khan was one of the most dramatic in history,
and has hardly, if ever, been paralleled in history. No other has
risen from such a low position: as part of a family eating roots
and rodents for survival;
and yet end up achieving so much in the end
Much of what we know about Genghis' early life comes from the famous
Mongol script, The Secret History of the Mongols, which is a record
of Mongol history written in 1240. The bulk of the Secret History
describes Genghis Khan's early life and is written with numerous
dialogues between characters. When the Persian historian Rashid
ad-Din wrote The History of the Tribes, he made numerous contradictions
with the Secret History, which he had access to when he wrote his
script. However, the contradictions are centered on details, and
there is a good agreement between the two sources on the general
flow of the story.
Early Childhood of Temujin
Temujin, the one who would become Genghis Khan, was born in 1167.
His father was Yesugei, the head of the Kiyad sub-clan and leader
of a small coalition of other Mongol clans. When Temujin was nine,
his father brought him to visit the Okhunugud tribe. During the
visit, Yesugei met Borte, the daughter of the Okhunugud leader (Dei
the wise), and found her to be quite intriguing. Yesugei proposed
marriage between her and Temujin, which Dei gladly accepted. As
a steppe tradition, Temujin would be left with his future wife's
family for a period of time.
Leaving Temujin behind, Yesugei proudly rode back to his camp.
However, misfortune struct. On the way, he met a group of men and
stopped for a feast. Little did he know that they were Tartars,
archenemies of the Mongols. While they feasted together, the Tartars
secretly poisoned Yesugei's food. When Yesugei finally returned
to his camp, hewas already near death. Temujin was summoned back
to assume leadership of the coalition, but the other clan leaders
were not impressed by his young age. The other clan leaders of the
coalition abandoned Temujin's camp, and soon, almost all of his
Kiyad clansmen left as well. In the end, all that was left of Temujin's
camp was his mother, his four siblings, his two stepbrothers, and
a family servant.
A Mongol Ger/Yurt (Felt tent), Scenes like this were common all
throughout the steppes.
Temujin and his ragtag clan took a life of hardship, living off
of plant roots and what little there could be found. One day, when
Temujin and his brother Kasar caught a figh, his half brothers snatched
it out of his hand and ate it for themselves. In such desperate
situation, a single fish was valuable, and could mean the difference
between survival and starvation. Temujin was outraged. He got his
bow and shot his half brother, Bekter, at close range. At an early
age, Temujin had developed the personality that would mark his personality
when he would become Genghis Khan. Although we often think of him
being exceedingly brutal against his enemies, he was also exceedingly
kind to those loyal to him. Temujin pardoned his other half brother,
and the two would become good friends.
Despite the hardships and the murder of his half brother, Temujin
and his family lived on. Temujin had many adventures, including
capture by the Tayichigud clan, and dealing with raiding horse thieves.
However, Temujin did not seem to be weakened by any of these events.
In fact, he kept getting stronger. At age 15, he was old enough
to return to Dei's camp and claim his wife, Borte. Without doubt,
Temujin had great personal strength, but he still had no political
power, and a private army numbering only five men. Shortly though,
this would change.
to Power - War on the Steppes
One day, the Merkids Tribe attacked Temujin's camp. Temujin and
his family fled safely into the forests but Borte was captured.
However, the Merkids were a strong tribe and he was in no position
of taking them on. But Temujin realized long ago that his father
had an anda (Blood sworn brothers), Toghrul Khan of the Keyerids.
Temujin traveled to Toghrul and asked for his help. Since Toghrul
had such great memories with Yesugei, he agreed to aid the youngster.
He raised an army of 1500 men and enlisted his ally, Jamugha, who
brought an additional 1500 men. Meanwhile, Temujin sent messages
to the former clansmen that used to serve under his father and was
able assemble a force of about 500 men. Temujin' army was by far
the smallest, but it was the first one ever in his command. The
three men marched together in front of their armies and dealt a
crushing blow against the Merkids. During the battle, Temujin recovered
Through alliances and friendships, Temujin was able to hold military
power for the first. Coincidentally, one of leader in trio alliance,
Jamugha, was also a Mongol, and had been anda with Temujin during
childhood. Jamugha and Temujin became reunited friends and together
they gained control over a good amount of Mongol clans. They became
a force to be feared, and to an extent it seemed as if though the
fallen Mongol kingdom was in the stage of resurrection.
One day, while Temujin and Jamugha were riding together in front
of their men (in the steppes, whole nomadic tribes often traveled
together as a single unit), Jamugha suggested to Temujin to stop
and pitch tent. Temujin, however, "did not understand" Jamugha's
words, and after "asking his mother what Jamugha mean",
he decided to keep marching while Jamugha stopped. As the two leaders
separated, the Mongols were dumbstruck, but it was clear that they
had to choose which leader to follow. Some went with Temujin and
some went with Jamugha. The Mongol that went with Temujin swore
loyalty and in return, Temujin swore to lead them to glory. Shortly
later, in a huge assembly, Temujin was proclaimed Genghis Khan (1187).
Obviously, Temujin had used Jamugha and Toghrul first as a protector
and then as took advantage the situation and used them as a source
from which to "steal" power.
Almost immediately after Temujin was proclaimed Khan, one of Jamugha's
tribesman stole horses from tribesmen under Genghis Khan. This simple
event escalated into war. Fighting broke out and Genghis Khan was
defeated. What happened next is a confusing timeframe of ten years
unmentioned in the Secret History. According to Rashid ad-Din, Genghis
khan was deserted by his followers, and was later captured by his
enemies. Possibly, he was exiled to China. He returned several years
later, defeated Jamugha and re-secured power. Some time around Genghis'
return, Toghrul Khan lost the throne to his tribe and was exiled
to Kara-Khitai. He was then restored to power by Genghis Khan.
The Secret history does not describe these events, but instead,
skips ahead a decade later to 1198 to, in which Genghis and Toghrul
victoriously campaigned against the Tartars. Meanwhile, Jamugha
created powerful alliances with the Merkids, Naimans and the Oyirads.
Similar to how Temujin was proclaimed Genghis Khan, Jamugha was
named Gur Khan.
Tension between Jamugha and Genghis grew again. Finally, Jamugha
gathered his allies and marched against Genghis for a decisive battle
at Koyitan. Upon hearing the threat, Genghis called Toghrul Khan
to join him again his anda. Toghrul agreed, despite the fact that
he and Jamugha once allies. The two armies met at Koyiten for a
great battle but weather became disfavorable and suddenly the two
armies were caught in a snowstorm. The battle was call off and both
armies decided to withdraw. However, during the withdrawal, luck
was with Genghis and he was able to catch the Tayichigud, an old
rival clan to Genghis now serving under Jamugha. After a fierce
battle, the Tayichigud were destroyed.
The long awaited clash between Genghis and Jamugha was broken up,
and the two sides cease fired. But Genghis did not waste time enjoying
peace. He attacked the already weakened Tartars, and in 1202, the
long time enemy tribe were finally defeated and put to the sword.
Meanwhile, Toghrul Khan was becoming old and weary. Convinced by
his son, the tired and confused old khan decided that it was no
longer wise to remain as Genghis' ally. Toghrul plotted to assassinate
Genghis at an assembly, but unfortunately for him, his plans were
overheard and reported it to Genghis.
Genghis decided to move eastward to a safer location. As Genghis
rode eastward, an army appeared on the horizon with Toghrul and
Jamugha riding at its front. Genghis was forced to fight. He was
heavily outnumbered but was able to hold off the onslaught until
nightfall, where he was able to escape to the Khalka River. Genghis'
army was heavily damaged, but along the river, he met various friendly
tribes who decided to join his ranks, including the Okhunuguds (the
clan of his wife).
While Genghis was rebuilding his army, he suddenly discovered
that Toghrul's had followed his path and was closing in. This time,
Genghis decided it was time to eliminate Toghrul. He quickly assembled
his men at night and surrounded Toghrul's camp in a surprise attack.
The battle lasted three days but in the end Toghrul was finally
defeated. Toghrul's Kereyids tribesmen were slaughtered and the
survivors were assimilated into Genghis' tribe. Toghrul himself
escaped but only to be killed later by a patrolling Naiman warrior.
With Toghrul defeated, the only ones left to seriously challenge
Genghis were Jamugha and his ally, Tayang Khan of Naimans. In 1204,
Genghis assembled his men and marched though the Keluren Valley
into Naiman territories. Genghis continued advancing until he reached
Mount Khangkharkhan, where the army of Tayang Khan, later joined
by Jamugha, awaited him. Genghis and his brothers, with his hounds
of war (his generals) led a ferocious attack and Tayang and Jamugha
were driven up the mountain. Tayang and Jamugha held out into the
night but in the end Genghis was victorious. The Naimans and Jamugha's
seven Mongol Clans surrendered and were assimilated into Genghis'
"Empire." Jamugha escaped from the battle, but was completely deprived
of power and was forced into a life of banditry.
With the Naimans defeated and Jamugha's Mongol clans surrendered,
Genghis had nearly gained complete mastery of the steppes. There
were only two minor groups left to conquer. There were the Merkids,
who had regrouped after suffering several defeated including when
Genghis first allied with Toghrul. Finally there were the Oriats,
in the extreme north of Mongolia. The Merkids were annihilated shortly
after the victory over the Naimans, and the latter, the Oriats,
would eventually be defeated later on.
Jamugha, defeated as a Khan, was soon defeated as a bandit leader.
His gang of bandits betrayed him and turned him in to Genghis Khan.
Although the two had been strong political enemies, Genghis remembered
that they were still andas, that "when two men becomes anda, their
lives become one." The relationship between Jamugha and Genghis
is somewhat interesting. Although they were political rivals, they
never considered themselves to be personal enemies. They fought
each other only for conquest and control over other people. Now
that Jamugha was no longer a political power, Genghis was ready
to fully accept Jamugha into his service, but Jamugha declined.
He stated that his anda had surpassed him in every way and thus
there is no longer a place for him. Jamugha requested an execution
and Genghis honored his request. According to the Secret History
of the Mongols, he had Jamugha executed without shedding his blood
and buried his bones with honor.
Khuriltai of 1206 - Building the Empire
In the year
of the Tiger, 1206, the whole steppes stood watching as the great
Khuriltai (assembly) was being held and the implied enthronement of
Genghis Khan as emperor of the steppes. As emperor of the steppes,
Genghis wanted to ensure the longevity of his empire. It is somewhat
of a daunting task, as not so long ago his empire had been a chaotic
battleground of many nomadic powers. To do this, Genghis created a
system that would stress the unity of the empire, and would wipe out
tendencies towards local tribal authorities. The entire population
was divided into 95 military units, each responsible for maintaining
1000 warriors. Each of these units had a commander personally assigned
by Genghis Khan. During times of war, each commander was expected
to effectively assemble a thousand men. Failure to do so would mean
removal from office and a new commander from the thousand would be
elected. To ensure availability of warriors, every male at the age
of fifteen were required for military duty.
Genghis also created various offices of power within his empire,
including imperial administrators and the chief justice. Furthermore,
he decreed a number of specific laws, including the toleration of
religion, exemption of priests in taxation, the prohibition of contaminating
running water, and death penalty for crimes such as robbery, adultery,
military desertion, and continual bankruptcy of merchants. All of
these laws and decrees made by Genghis Khan were compiled into one
piece, the Great Yasa. While Genghis is often thought to be a vicious
barbarian, there is no doubt that he was also a brilliant statesman.
The new military superstructure ensured a stable and militaristic
society, but was not enough to conquer the world. Genghis went on
to make several military reforms, including a decimal organization
of the army (from units of 10 to 10,000 men), standardization of
equipment, a strict system of regularly performed military drill,
and a strict system of military laws. All of these regulations installed
a sense of unity and maximum discipline to men who already had a
lifetime of experience in horsemanship and archery. Every man in
the Mongol army was both a lifetime warriors and a soldiers fighting
as part of a group -something rarely achieved before contemporary
militaries. The Mongol army soon became the most disciplined, experienced,
and feared force the world had yet to see.
Next: The Conquests of Genghis