Mongol Civilization in World History (1000 – 1500)
The Mongolian Empire had a land of over 33 million square kilometers and a human population which exceeded 100 million individuals. This vast empire had its territories running from the Sea of Japan all the way to the Carpathian Mountains. The development of Mongolian Empire was an unhurried but constant process that started with bringing together the Turkic and Mongol tribes who had their homes in the steppes of Mongolia. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Mongolia had a significant impact in the Eurasia and at different times this vast empire was made up of Korea, China, Mongolia, the modern day Iran, Armenia, Turkestan and parts of Russia, Burma, Vietnam, and Thailand. The Mongolian Empire grew because contacts between people of different cultures were increased which facilitated the growth of trade and roads. This vast empire was established by Temujin who was later called Genghis Khan which is the corrupted version of Chingis Khan. Chingis was a great leader of the Mongolians, and he brought about unity and growth of the Mongolian Empire.
One great person who brought together the tribes of Mongolia is Temujin, who was later referred to as Genghis Khan. He was the son of Yesguei, the leader of one Mongol sub-clan called the Kiyad, Yesguei was poisoned by chiefs of the Tartar tribes when his son was nine years of age, and, therefore, this great leader was abandoned by his clansmen because he was too young to be a leader. Temujin and seven other members of his family moved to the steppes where they fought against enemies and horse thieves. The Merkid tribe captured Temujin’s wife; Temujin went to Toghrul Khan for help, and he recovered his wife. It is at this moment that Temujin met Jamugha, and together they formed an alliance that controlled most of the Mongol tribes in the steppes. However, Temujin was forced to go into exile for ten years when he started a rivalry with Jamugha, and he was defeated; however, he did not quit because after the decade exile he returned and reestablished his position as an active man in 1203.
Temujin did an excellent job and in the year 1206 he had brought together the Mongolian tribes into one great tribe called the Khamag Mongol Ulus. The unification of the tribes involved changing the social structure by breaking the existing tribal lines and putting them into armies that had individuals in decimals. Temujin had defeated his rivals by the year 1204, but his supporters came to acknowledge him as the only leader in Mongolia in the year 1206 where he was called the Chingis Khan which implied he was a firm and strong leader. Being the only recognized leader, Chingis Khan established a military that integrated all people in his empire. Temujin became the leader of all the people who had their homes in tents and he ensured that every man from the Mongol tribe was a soldier who could use a bow and arrow skillfully and also ride well (Khan, 2003).
Chingis Khan, who is also called Genghis Khan, wanted to rule over the world in whatever way that seemed fit for him. Xi Xia Empire, found in the western parts of China was the first empire the Mongolians raided in the year 1207. The Mongols were not after cities but rather they were interested in plunder. The empires in China stopped to pay tribute to the Mongolians, therefore; raids turned into conquests. In the year 1211, Chingis Khan took over sixty thousand warriors to invade the Jin Empire, which was found in Northern China. The Mongolians used the help of the Ongguts who bordered the Jin people on the north as an entry point into the territory. Chingis Khan split his army when the he met the Jin army of over one hundred and fifty warriors, but he defeated this large army by conducting multiple attacks on the Jin (Weatherford, 2005). The Juyoung pass was captured during this attack that was a strategic point for military activity. Chingis was unfortunately wounded during these attacks, and he drew to Mongolia. The Jin saw an opportunity after the Chingis was wounded and they started reclaiming their territories from the Mongolians. In the year 1213, Chingis divided his army into three parts commanded by two of his sons and himself, it is these armies that destroyed the Jin Empire and by the year 1214 most of the land that borders the Huang He River in the north was in the control of the Mongols. Chingis faced a challenge in capturing Chungdu the capital of Jin Empire because it was a fortified city. Chingis managed to capture Jin’s capital in the year 1215 but when he did so, the capital of the Jin Empire had been changed to Kaifeng. Chingis lost his interest in conquering China and started targeting other territories.
In the year 1218, Chingis sent general Chepe, who dominated the Kara-Kitai Empire. Chingis was interested in the Kwarazmian Empire of Persia (modern day Iran) which had an army that outnumbered the Mongolian army by about three times. One of the strategies that Chingis used is using the Kizil Kum desert as a route to get to his enemies. Chingis first attacked Bokhara and later Samarkand, which was the capital of the Kwarazmian Empire in the year 1220. Defeating the Kwarazmian Empire created another opportunity for the Mongolians because they defeated the Russian and Cuman armies as they pursued the Kwarazmian Shah, who was killed. Subedei lead the invasion against the Kwarazmian, and he later attacked Volga Bulgars making his expedition one of the greatest in Mongolian history (Weatherford, 2005).
In the year 1226, Chingis Khan once again led his army against the Xi Xia Empire, this is because the Tanguts had taken advantage while the Chingis was away and they did not comply with the terms set. The last campaign of Genghis Khan who had advanced in age was on the Xi Xia Empire. Chingis Khan was sixty years when he died in the year 1227. The Mongol Empire had such a large area that did extend from the Caspian Sea to the Yellow Sea. Chingis was not after causing mass deaths of people in the empires he conquered because there was no bloodshed when there was surrender. He had great respect for his supporters and could not befriend anyone who had been his enemy.
The Mongolian Empire was divided into four after the death of the Chingis in the year 1227. The divided empire was headed by four of the Chingis sons. Ogedei, the Great Khan, was proclaimed the official leader of the Mongolians in the year 1229. Ogedei conquered the Russians and finally conquered the Xi Xia Empire in 1234. The Mongols were successful in capturing Russia because Kiev had fallen, but most of the subjects fled into Hungary, which caused Batu Khan and Subedei to attack Hungary. In just one month, Poland and Hungary were defeated by the Mongols who then extended their territories to the Carpathian Mountains.
Ogedei also called Guyuk succeeded Khakhan in the year 1246. Guyuk died in 1248, but his death was a blessing for the Mongols because it prevented civil war. Guyuk’s reign did not achieve much for the Mongolians, but it contributed to the disunity of the empire. Khakhan Mongke succeeded Guyuk in the year 1251; the new leader had dreams of expanding the Mongolian Empire. The Sung Empire, which had not been under the Mongolian control, was first to be captured by Mongke. Helegu, Mongke’s brother, was entrusted with the Mongolian crusade. Christians supported Helegu’s campaign to attack Persia. Helegu’s was slow, and it took him three years to reach Persia and he had left Mongolia in the year 1253. Helegu and his men captured Baghdad in the year 1258 and over a half million men were killed which is thought to be an exaggeration. The fall of Baghdad was a great blow to the Islamic religion. Mongke Khan died in the year 1259, and this was the beginning of the changes in the Mongolian Empire. Two brothers, Kublai and Ariq Boke started a war that lasted until the year 1264 to see who would be the next Khakhan. These wars meant the unity of the Mongolians had come to an end, and the death of Mongke can be regarded as the end of the Mongolian Empire. Kublai took leadership of the Mongol Empire, and he captured the Sung Empire, and the Mongolian Empire stretched from the Danube to Persia and from China all the way to Mesopotamia. Kublai only reigned over Mongolia, but he did not worry about the empire outside his dominion. He died in 1294, and the Mongol Empire did not have any more undisputed leader or Khakhan (Weatherford, 2005).
The death of Kublai saw the Mongol Empire divided into the Golden Horde of the steppes of Russia and Balkans, the Mongolian and Chinese Yuan Empire and lastly the Ilkhans in Asia. The Yuan dynasty was removed in the 1300’s and power restored to China under the Ming Dynasty. The Mongolian Empire was united, and it brought about economic and cultural changes in almost all of Asia under one ruler. The collapse of this empire was contributed to by disunity of the tribes. Genghis Khan was one great leader who brought success in the Mongolian Empire and saw the growth and expansion of his territories. It is important to remember this great empire, its people and more so its leaders to make the world a better place to live.
Khan, K. (2003). The Mongol Empire. Yapp, Malcolm.
Weatherford, J. M. (2005). Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world. Three Rivers Press.
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