How did Genghis Khan and the Mongols change the world? Throughout Genghis Khan’s time, and even after, the Mongol Empire reigned supreme. Thoughtco.com says that the historic empire is considered one of, if not the largest, to ever appear on the face of the Earth, with an estimated range of twenty-four million square kilometers across Eurasia (“Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire”).
To put that huge number in comparison, the current size of the United States is a little less than ten million square kilometers. How does one empire become so strong, so large, and how did Genghis Khan start this historic empire?
The first ruler of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan, rose to power in a rather unorthodox way. History.com tells how before Khan was even ten-years-old, his father was poisoned and killed. The death of his father resulted in him, his mother, and six siblings being thrown out of the clan to fend for themselves.
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The clans reasoning for this was because of the vital element known as food. With an entire family gone, the clan could feed more of its people for a longer period of time (“Genghis Khan”). Later, Khan killed one of his brothers to become the head of the house, but was later captured by the clan that had once called him their own. Once Khan finally managed to escape, he married a woman named Borte. The two of them had four sons and an unknown number of daughters. Eventually, their sons would have to deal with the problem of dividing up their fathers land
With Genghis Khan being one of the most powerful people on the planet at the time, his wife was most likely valued just as much as he was. This seemed to be true as she was eventually captured by another clan. Luckily Khan was able to save his wife. Because of the success of this assault, his popularity grew tremendously. This led to Khan receiving a great number of followers, and even allowing him to forge new alliances among other clans. Khan would later be known to his people, and others around the world, as the “Great Khan.”
By the time Khan had united the Mongols after rising in military power, he had amassed around one million followers. Two of the main things that Khan had done to help gain followers, and create an astonishing army of great strength, was that he brought in peasants from villages he had conquered and promoted military personnel based on their merit rather than what bloodline they were from. While capturing villages, Khan would welcome the peasants into his empire after killing the leaders of said villages.
This would help bring more people into the empire as they had no other leader to tell them no to or to stop them. John Green reveals how some villages even went to lengths as to surrender as soon as the Mongols arrived. This was done simply so that there would be no slaughter or bloodshed from the innocent people as the Mongols had done before to other villages (Green 00:06:43-00:06:54).
After joining the Mongol Empire, the people were allowed or given rights such as religious freedom, something that had not been introduced or been in effect anywhere else in the world at the time. As a result, people of all religions could coexist together because Khan and the Mongols had allowed them to have this now cherished freedom.
Among other things, the Mongols also abolished torture, created trade routes similar to the silk road (which had been used long before the empire), and made a pony express type communication relay system known as the Yam System. They forbid the selling and kidnapping of women since this had been a common thing among the Mongols even when Khan was young, and banned the enslavement of any persons in the Mongol Empire. Finally, livestock theft was made punishable by death, as many of the people in the empire were farmers or dealt with livestock in their respective professions.
The Mongols decided that to help their empire thrive, they should relocate specialists such as artists, musicians, merchants, and administrative people to where they would be needed the most. Because of this, culture was spread all around the country as different people were sent to different locations. Now the question is how did these couple of things have such a massive impact on the world at the time and maybe even today? Well, with the trade routes stretched across the Mongolian Empire, people in the far east were buying items or foods that might have only been native to the areas on the western side of the empire.
People from the northern areas were trading to the southern areas and sharing everything to everyone across the lands available. This resulted in the expansion and growth of knowledge and culture. Maybe a new way of thinking, eating, dressing, living, or any other thing that could be traded along these routes. The communication system had news traveling much faster and farther than before with new checkpoints along the way with food, water, and other supplies so that the messenger and their horse could stay in the best shape to deliver things at a much faster rate than before.
There are many other ways the Mongols had an impact on the world. John Green again talks about the fact that it is estimated that Khan had around 1,000 - 2,000 children during his years as the Mongols leader and is estimated that he now has around sixteen million direct descendants worldwide (Green 00:04:47-00:05:29).
There is another large-scale impact that left a stain on the Mongols and on humanity itself. This stain being that the Mongols may be credited with setting the plague known as the “Black Death” in motion. With intercontinental trading, there is a risk of unwanted pest and the diseases that come along with it. It is believed that with the massive amounts of trading happening, the fleas that were feeding on the onboard rats could have possibly been brought by the Mongolian empire to other nations during trade, which is not a good thing to have in your legacy.
The Mongols also revolutionized how wars were fought. Instead of using foot soldiers with spears, swords, and armor, they had warriors atop horses with bows and arrows ready to fire at their commanders will. With the combination of their horses being much faster than the average human, the Mongols being fantastic archers, and brilliant leadership, it is no wonder the Mongols were a dominant force. Green talks about how even when attacking and sieging a castle or fort, the Mongols seemed to easily learn how to quickly infiltrate and destroy the building or the army inside (Green 00:05:59-00:06:42).
One tactic that was used by the Mongols was sending the corpses of fallen soldiers, and possibly citizens as well, that had been plague-ridden over the walls. Once the infected bodies were launched over, disease and panic soon spread inside. Because of this early use of biological warfare, it is theorized that this helped set in motion the spread of the black plague.
All these tactics continued to be used throughout the years to come as they had been shown to work. It should also be noted that at the time the Mongols were thought to have killed around 5% of the world’s population. This was a major problem, as areas such as Iraq and Iran were believed to only have recently recovered from these major decreases in population in the early 20th century.
The Mongol Empire covered a vast area in its time. It covered the modern countries such as Russia, China, Mongolia, Korea, India, Hungary, Persia (Iran), Armenia and many more countries in the European and Asian continents. Even after Khan’s death, his sons and grandsons continued to rule and grow the vast empire for over one-hundred years, but all things must come to an end, and the Mongol empire did in 1368 when the Chinese dynasty, known as the Ming Dynasty, overthrew the Mongol empire, only to itself be put out years later.
This once great empire redefined warfare. They brought back intercontinental trading, created a message relay system, started religious freedom, and will forever be known as one of the greatest Empires to ever rule on the face of this Earth. The Mongol legacy will forever be solidified as one of the greatest and most influential of all time.
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