One of the greatest achievements in history is the amalgamation of the nomadic Mongol tribes in the Eurasian steppe.
These seemingly irrelevant peoples from the vast and open grasslands of Mongolia managed to take the world by storm, and form the largest contiguous empire the
world has seen.
Throughout the Mongol’s history, they had been a rather irrelevant, nomadic peoples who lived on the fringes of the most advanced nation at the time, China. The Chinese, at the time boasting walled cities with some reaching populations of 1 million, categorized these tribes as barbarians and would continuously crush their raiding attempts. It wasn’t until 1162 that the greatest emperor would be born in the harsh environments of the Mongolian steppe and nurture his skills to take over most of the known world.
Genghis Khan is arguably the greatest military strategist and leader, leading his people from the destitute deserts of Asia and hurling them halfway across the world to the doorsteps of Europe. Most of Genghis Khan’s early life is unknown due to the lack of contemporary records, but what we do know is that he was the son of Yesugei, a leader of the Borjigin clan, and bore the name Temujin, meaning “blacksmith” in the Mongol language.
Shortly after reaching his teenage years, his father would be poisoned by the Tatars; long-established enemies of the Mongols, and Temujin would claim his father’s position as chief without success. The tribe refused this and abandoned his family, ostracizing them and leaving them without tribal protection, an act which would ensure death at the time. Despite this, Temujin and his family would survive in poverty off of him and his brother’s hunting and foraging.
During this time, the various tribes were divided into several prominent confederations that were hostile to each other. Temujin became convinced that he would be the one to unite the various tribes and leave his mark on history. He would, through his cunning and inquisitive nature, climb through the ranks of the Keraites, another Mongol tribe ruled by his father’s brother.
Temujin would continue his climb up the ladder until he managed to unite the Mongol tribes in 1206. How did a boy from the Mongolian desert manage to survive under those
circumstances and rise to become the leader of the Mongol ‘Horde’? Genghis Khan was known to be a tolerant man with limitless curiosity. His ability to unite the ‘barbaric’ tribes is a testament to his insights into human behaviour.
Mongol’s are known to be the greatest horsemen in the world, so much so that the saying goes “A Mongol without his horse like a bird without its wings.” This relationship with wild animals, especially horses, allowed the Mongol’s insight into crowd behaviour, an insight they would later utilize to terrorize the rest of Asia and Europe.
During his reign as Khan, he would invite various religious leaders, scholars, and theologians to have debates in his lands to further foster a greater understanding of the world’s religions.
Despite being a Tengirst, an ancient religion originating in Central Asia and centred on the sky god Tengri, he was very keen to learn the philosophical and moral teachings of others.
The great Khan believed that “A leader can never be happy until his people are happy” and bent over backwards to provide his nation with the best. His conquering of Asia and the Silk Road allowed immense amounts of trade to occur, linking the great Asian markets with those of Europe.
Despite his brutality, Genghis Khan was a genius at military strategy and used his
understanding of human behaviour to create the most terrifying army that had graced the known world at the time. His soldiers were trained from a young age in the arts of archery and horseback riding, arts which have historically become heavily associated with the success of the Mongolian army.
Genghis instilled an immense sense of loyalty and family into his army. A unit composed of 10 men was taught to be so loyal to each other that if one soldier
ran from danger in battle, he and his nine comrades would face the death penalty together.
Additionally, the leaders were given significant license to execute their orders in the way they considered best as long as it fell in line with the Khan’s bigger vision.
So what can we learn from Genghis Khan?
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Author of Genghis Khan: and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford, stated that “At no single, crucial moment in his life did he suddenly acquire his genius at warfare, his ability to inspire the loyalty of his followers, or his unprecedented skill on a global scale. These derived not from epiphanic enlightenment or formal schooling but from a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation and constant revision driven by his uniquely disciplined mind and focused will.” Temujin lived up to his name by nurturing his curiosity like a blacksmith forging a great sword.
Through an iron will and a curious mind, nothing is impossible.
THE BLOCK BARD
Blogger | Writer
“When it is wet, we bore the wet together, when it was cold, we bore the cold together.” – Genghis Khan Genghis Khan: and Making of the Modern World
“At no single, crucial moment in his life did he suddenly acquire his genius at warfare, his ability to inspire the loyalty of his followers, or his unprecedented skill on a global scale, These derived not from epiphanic enlightenment or formal schooling but from a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation and constant revision driven bu his uniquely disciplined mind and focused will.” – Weatherford Genghis Khan: and Making of the Modern World
- Advocated for religious freedom and tolernace throughout his empire, going as far as inviting various religious leaders, scholars, and theologians to debate in his courts to foster a greater understanding of each religion.
- His insight into human behaviour allowed him to unite the disparate tribes of the
mongolian steppe, a feat never before accomplished and which resulted in one of the greatest empires to exist.
- Believed immensely in the benefits of meritocracy and built his empire according to
the belief. He would have people from all over the known world assist him in his
dream to conquer the world. For example, Genghis Khan and his successors would
employ Chinese engineers to help them take down the much more advanced Chinese and their walled cities, at the time some of the most populated cities in the world.
- Growing in the harsh Eurasian steppe molded the Mongloians to be resilient, tough,
and malleable peoples. Their nomadic origins allowed them to master their
environment and live off the land, and in extreme cases off their animals (mare’s
milk especially), made them a menace to hold back.
- The Khans military strategies were impeccable. Soldiers were trained from a young
age in the arts of archery and horseback riding, arts which have historically become
heavily associated with the success of the Mongolian army. Genghis instilled an
immense sense of loyalty and family into his army. A unit composed of 10 men was
taught to be so loyal to each other that if one soldier ran from danger in battle, he and his nine comrades would face the death penalty together. Additionally, the leaders were given significant license to execute their orders in the way they considered best as long as it fell in line with the Khan’s bigger vision.