The world doesn’t know much about the Mongols, except that at one point in history, they have had the biggest empire the world has ever seen. Today, the Mongol Empire is only second to the Great British Colonialism of the 19th century.
But we all know the name Genghis Khan — born Temüjin Borjigin, the ruler of the Middle Ages. Most of our knowledge is based on outside accounts from the conquered kingdoms and tribes and a fair amount of rumor. The 13th century Mongols are not literate people, but they are fierce conquers.
The rumor has it that 1/200 men carry Mongol genes, because of Genghis’ social policies, which are in many ways more progressive than ones in the 20th century United States.
The Secret History of the Mongols hides stories about creating modern civilization. The document has been lost and found again throughout history. The soul of Genghis Khan lives in these chronicles, as the document provides a detailed account of his life.
To put Genghis Khan in perspective, you have to understand that he is an equivalent to a Black Alabama Slave winning Democratic Presidential elections during the Civil War. Temüjin Borjigin has been a slave for the better part of his early years. But the boy finds the way to freedom and wins the hearts across the old world.
“Fate did not hand Genghis Khan his destiny; he made it for himself.”
The quote comes from Genghis Khan: Making of a modern world. This book accounts for the Mongol conquests and rule throughout the 12th and 13th centuries.
Local raiders kidnap Temüjin’s mother Holeun. And the raider chief is soon to become Temüjin’s father. Genghis Khan is a child of rape and violence. His father dies soon after, and his older step-brother takes over the family per local tradition and customs. Temüjin is not happy with new developments, and he kills the older brother.
The former family allies Taichi’uts take offense in the crimes committed on their territory and send raiders to capture and enslave Temüjin. The boy becomes a slave, and through luck and wits manages to escape to the safety of his Christian friend Toghrul.
Unlike Julius Ceasar, who seizes the Roman empire, or Alexander the Great, who inherits the Greek War machine, or the British Monarchs who are born in the right linage, Temujin is an illiterate bastard child of the steppe. But he never lets the harsh reality determine his destiny. The boy builds his empire without divine rights and royal linage.
Love is always worth fighting for.
Soon after marriage, Merkit raiders kidnap his wife Borte. And while Temujin can take another wife, he decides to rally the men and rescue Borte. The rescue is not an easy operation, and it takes months before he’s reunited with Borte.
His first son Jochi is born soon after the rescue, which casts doubt on the linage of the boy. Temujin never finds out if Jochi is truly his son, but he loves and holds him in the same light as his other children.
Your race or your kin don’t matter as long as you’re the right person
Temujin disbands the belief in aristocracy and royal kin, which angers pretty much every ruler in Mongol’s steppe. He values a man by his honor and not his birthplace. The fundamental factors that people can’t choose are not utterly defining, like in European Monarchies or 20th century America.
Temujin conquers Tatars in one of his conquests, kills the older men, and mixes families, so every Tatar is taken care of by the Mongol family. Many Tatars climb ranks and become prominent generals, lawyers, and centers of power in the empire. The same happens to other conquering nations.
Temujin brings his people together to create more understanding and less animosity. Mongols are not bothered by different races, ethnicities, or religions. The Empire is Christian, Muslim, Taoist, and worships the Eternal Blue Sky.
You don’t have to be the biggest fool in the room.
Temujin becomes the first great Khan around the age of 40. By historical accounts, he is still illiterate, as many of his generals. People of the Mongolian steppe are not familiar with the written word.
His generals and armies are having difficulties communicating and sending orders. With every conquest, Genghis Khan asks for the skills and literacy of his new prospects. Scholars, priests, and people that have formal education are assimilated among the Mongol ranks.
Genghis Khan realizes his shortcomings and the weak spots of his army. He is not threatened by the fact that other people know more than he does. He builds councils of skilled and educated people to help him make the Mongol empire.
The fact that the empire is so versatile allows him to control the Silk Road and trade with other nations.
Fight with your head, and let your body follow.
Mongols don’t have the numbers nor the great technology on their side. Nevertheless, Genghis Khan conquers great walls and destroys forted cities.
When Genghis first arrives in middle-age China, he is confronted by tall city walls. Mongols live in Nomadic settlements called Gers, which are portable, round tents. The siege of cities is unknown to Mongols at the time. But the Mongol army develops a system to divert the river stream by building a dam and flood the forted cities.
The first attempt is catastrophic, and Genghis Khan wipes out his settlement, but in the following years, the Mongols perfect such a strategy and conquer the known world.
Honor and pride make a true Mongol warrior.
Mongols are proud people and hate to be double-crossed when approaching in good faith. Nobody likes backstabbers, but the Mongols have conquered the whole Arabic peninsula to avenge the murder of Mongol diplomats and peace seekers. Later, Genghis Khan’s son does the same with many European kingdoms.
Genghis Khan sends a caravan seeking friendship and trade by offering silk and gold to Alaad-Din Muhammad, the ruler of the Khwarezmid Empire. The Khan is approaching his 60th birthday and probably has grown tired of the constant war.
However, the Governor of Otrar Inalchuq decides to loot the caravan and murder its members. Genghis Khan, in another act of peace, sends a group of ambassadors to speak directly to Shah Alaad-Din, but the Sah mutilates the group and sends their remains back to Genghis.
With no other option, Genghis Khan invades the empire resulting in almost 2 million dead Persians. The historic numbers from Mongol conquests seem a bit off. Mongol Empire has never had massive armies, and to state that 100,000 or so soldiers have defeated millions is suspicious. One solder killing 20 others, while sporting inferior technology is a stretch. But the Mongols have won and conquered kingdoms all the way to the Meditteranean.
The Final Words
Genghis Khan is an unexpected refugee who escapes slavery to become a war leader who unites the Mongol tribes and conquers the world. The Mongol empire is only second to the British Colonial Empire.
He builds an empire through military conquest and social policies that hold the world together for generations to come.
The Secret History of the Mongols hides personal accounts from that time. You can read about Genghis’ childhood and his ascent to power from the Mongol perspective.
The soul of Genghis Khan lives to this day in every disenfranchised person who exceeds the odds and builds his world. Genghis is more than a ruler; he is also an idea. The idea that you can be whatever you choose to be in this life.