Mongolian Empire Leaders: Genghis Khan
, Kublai Khan Starting technologies: Hunting The Wheel Unique unit: Keshik Unique building: Ger
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First colony: Chinese Empire
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The Mongol tribes entered into history with the birth of Temujin, born in c.1167 AD in the wild steppe-land of Mongolia, which is bordered by modern China and Russia. When Temujin was nine years old, tribal rivals poisoned and murdered his father Yesugei, creating a power vacuum in the tribe that resulted in the exile of young Temujin and his family as fugitives. In time Temujin would return to claim his inheritance, forge political alliances, and vanquish old rivals. In 1204 AD he summoned a kuriltai war council and proceeded to unite all local nomad tribes by force, becoming the first man ever to unite the Mongols. It was at this time he received the title `Genghis Khan`, meaning `Great Ruler`.
China, at the time, was divided into three parts: the Ch`in, who were the most powerful, reigned in the north at Beijing the Sung occupied the South and the Hsi-Hsia, the weakest of the 3, inhabited the western flank of the Great Wall. The Mongol conquest against China began in 1211 when the consolidated tribes of the Great Khan struck at the Hsi-Hsia, with tremendous success. Not impressed with the defeat of his weaker neighbor, the new Emperor of Ch`in insisted on a public display of servitude from Temujin. Temujin reacted by ordering a general advance against the Ch`in Empire. The resulting war lasted for approximately 23 years, and ended in the complete destruction of the Ch`in. Although the Mongols began the war as nomadic horsemen, by the time they defeated the Ch`in they had learned how to use advanced siege weaponry to capture cities. During this campaign Temujin ensured that the epic war upon the Ch`in did not occupy all of his resources and time there were older enemies to address.
Amid the war against the Ch`in the Mongols also rallied against the Kara-Khitay, one of the original Kuchlug tribes that had fled from defeat during Temujin`s war of unification. Victory over the Kara-Khitay provided the Mongols a common frontier with the Shah of Khwarizm, who ruled a large Muslim state that stretched from modern day Iran to southern Russia as far as the Caspian and Aral Seas. Temujin initially attempted to establish friendly relations with the Shah Ala-al-Din, but he was contemptuously rebuffed, and the Mongol emissary killed. That was a mistake. In 1219 a Mongol horde estimated at 100,000 horsemen invaded Khwarizm and the other cities that lay along the rich Silk Way. Due to their stubborn resistance, the cities of Khwarizm were destroyed, their populations slaughtered or enslaved, and the area almost completely depopulated. Ala-al-Din fled in exile and died shortly thereafter. In many respects, this area today still has not recovered from the Mongol invasion.
After destroying Khwarizm, the Mongols had access to Russia. Not content with remaining a peaceful neighbor, Temujin`s successor Ogodai permitted his generals to lead an extraordinary campaign into southern Russia, which would be staged largely in the winter months. In a series of campaigns between 1237-40, the Mongols completely subjected the various principalities of Russia, destroying anyone who opposed them. From Russia, the Mongols continued their western advance by invading Poland, Silesia, and Hungary. They easily defeated the armies of Poland, Germany, and Hungary, and appeared poised to erupt into Western Europe. But the death of Ogodai, the great khan, caused the armies to retreat in order to seek new orders, thus sparing most of Europe from destruction. Less fortunate was the Muslim world, as Baghdad was sacked in 1258 by yet another Mongol army and the Caliph executed by being trampeled to death beneath Mongol horses. The destruction of Baghdad and slaughtering of its population was a blow that the Arab Empire of the Caliphs never fully recovered from. The Mongols were finally turned back for the first time by the Mameluks of Egypt in 1260.
Mongol children were taught to ride on horseback from the age of three, and were given bow and arrows to use for hunting at the age of five. Horseback riding became a natural way for the Mongols to conduct war. When speed was essential, a Mongol rider could even sleep while in the saddle and by using a system that consisted of approximately four remounts, Temujin`s army was capable of traversing 130 miles in two days, with no breaks for food. Another defining characteristic of a Mongolian army was the speed and voracity with which it was able to accept and prepare for battle. The Mongols` harsh, nomadic lifestyle had prepared them well for the rigors of war and they often thrived in conditions that would be considered intolerable by any other military of its time. When the need arose they could last up to ten days at a time without cooking food, during which they would sustain themselves by drinking the blood of their horses. Their primary weapon consisted of horse archers called Keshiks, who could fire with great speed and incredible accuracy from the back of a saddle. The mobility of the Mongol forces gave them a great tactical advantage within battles that Mongol generals would exploit over and over again.
Every victory wrought by the Mongols was followed by slaughters of incredible scale. No citizens, with the exception of those who were useful to the Mongol war effort, were spared in these attacks. In 1221, the Islamic city of Merv was captured 700,000 were murdered (this number is almost certainly exaggerated but still amazing), and a rearguard was assembled to dispatch any citizens who were fortunate enough to have escaped the original slaughter - this was routine work for the Mongol army. It is said that Temujin planned to depopulate northern China for use as a pasture for his livestock, until being told that subjects would pay more in taxes than cattle.
By the end of the 13th century Mongol armies had been involved in action in countries including: Poland, Japan, Korea, Hungary, Russia, Palestine, Egypt, Persia, India, China, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, and Indonesia. After Temujin`s death in 1227 five more Khans would follow, including Kublai Khan, whose triumph was the union of all of China under his rule. However, the death of Kublai Khan in 1294 AD marked the end of an era for Mongol conquests, and the march of Mongol armies began to decline. While many of the khanates founded by the Mongols lasted for several more centuries, the age of the great nomadic forces was over. Although their era was brief in duration, the Mongols conquered the largest empire the world has ever seen and terrorized virtually the entire Eurasian continent.