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BiographyofGenghisKhan

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Genghis Khan

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BookReview|
GenghisKhanand
theMakingof

GenghisKhan's
GeneticLegacy

GenghisKhanandtheMongols

ByKallieSzczepanski
UpdatedMarch31,2015.

GenghisKhan.

OfficialcourtportraitofGenghisKhan.BridgemanArtLibraryvia
GettyImages

Thenameechoesthroughthe
historyofEuropeandAsia
withadrumbeatofhorse
hooves,accompaniedbythe
screamsofdoomed
townspeople.Incredibly,ina
spanofjust25years,Genghis
Khan'shorsemenconquereda
largerareaandgreater
populationthantheRomans
didinfourcenturies.

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Tothemillionsofpeoplehishordesconquered,GenghisKhanwasevil
incarnate.InMongoliaandacrossCentralAsiatoday,though,theGreat
Khan'snameisrevered.SomeCentralAsiansstillnametheirsons
"Chinguz,"inhopesthatthesenamesakeswillgrowuptoconquerthe
world,astheirthirteenthcenturyherodid.

GenghisKhan'sEarlyLife:
RecordsoftheGreatKhan'searlylifearesparseandcontradictory.Hewas
likelybornin1162,thoughsomesourcesgiveitas1155or1165.
WeknowthattheboywasgiventhenameTemujin.HisfatherYesukheiwas
thechiefoftheminorBorijinclanofnomadicMongols,wholivedbyhunting
ratherthanherding.
YesukheihadkidnappedTemujin'syoungmother,Hoelun,assheandher
firsthusbandrodehomefromtheirwedding.ShebecameYesukhei's
secondwifeTemujinwashissecondsonbyjustafewmonths.Mongol
legendsaysthatthebabywasbornwithabloodclotinhisfist,asignthat
hewouldbeagreatwarrior.

HardshipandCaptivity:
WhenTemujinwasnine,hisfathertookhimtoaneighboringtribetowork
forseveralyearsandearnabride.Hisintendedwasaslightlyoldergirl
namedBorje.
Onthewayhome,Yesukheiwaspoisonedbyrivals,anddied.Temujin
returnedtohismother,buttheclanexpelledYesukhei'stwowidowsand
sevenchildren,leavingthemtodie.
Thefamilyscrapedalivingbyeatingroots,rodents,andfish.YoungTemujin
andhisfullbrotherKhasargrewtoresenttheireldesthalfbrother,Begter.
Theykilledhimaspunishmentforthecrime,Temujinwasseizedasa
slave.Hiscaptivitymayhavelastedmorethanfiveyears.

TemujinasaYoungMan:
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Freeatsixteen,TemujinwenttofindBorjeagain.Shewasstillwaiting,and
theysoonmarried.Thecoupleusedherdowry,afinesablefurcoat,to
makeanalliancewithOngKhanofthepowerfulKereyidclan.OngKhan
acceptedTemujinasafosterson.
Thisallianceprovedkey,asHoelun'sMerkidclandecidedtoavengeher
longagokidnappingbystealingBorje.WiththeKereyidarmy,Temujin
raidedtheMerkids,lootingtheircampandreclaimingBorje.Temujinalso
hadhelpintheraidfromhischildhoodbloodbrother("anda"),Jamuka,who
wouldlaterbecomearival.
Borje'sfirstson,Jochi,wasbornninemonthslater.

ConsolidationofPower:
AfterrescuingBorje,Temujin'ssmallbandstayedwithJamuka'sgroupfor
severalyears.Jamukasoonassertedhisauthority,ratherthantreating
Temujinasananda,andatwodecadelongfeuddevelopedbetweenthe
nineteenyearolds.Temujinthenleftthecamp,alongwithmanyof
Jamuka'sfollowersandlivestock.
Attheageof27,TemujinheldakuriltaiamongtheMongols,whoelected
himkhan.TheMongolswereonlyaKereyidsubclan,however,andOng
KhanplayedJamukaandTemujinoffoneanother.
Askhan,Temujinawardedhighofficenotjusttohisrelatives,buttothose
followerswhoweremostloyaltohim.

UnitingtheMongols:
In1190,JamukaraidedTemujin'scamp,cruellyhorsedraggingandeven
boilingalivehiscaptives,whichturnedmanyofhisfollowersagainsthim.
TheunitedMongolssoondefeatedtheneighboringTatarsandJurchens,
andTemujinKhanassimilatedtheirpeopleratherthanfollowingsteppe
customoflootingthemandleaving.
JamukaattackedOngKhanandTemujinin1201.Despiteanarrowtothe
neck,TemujindefeatedandassimilatedJamuka'sremainingwarriors.Ong
KhanthentreacherouslytriedtoambushTemujinataweddingceremony
forOng'sdaughterandJochi,buttheMongolsescapedandreturnedto
conquertheKereyids.

EarlyConquests:
UnificationofMongoliaendedin1204,whenTemujindefeatedthepowerful
Naimanclan.Twoyearslater,anotherkuriltaiconfirmedhimasChingis
Khan("GenghisKhan"),orOceanicLeaderofallMongolia.Withinfive
years,theMongolshadannexedmuchofSiberiaandmodernChinese
Xinjiang.
TheJurchedDynasty,rulingnorthernChinafromZhongdu(Beijing),noticed
theupstartMongolkhananddemandedthathekowtowtotheirGolden
Khan.Inreply,GenghisKhanspatontheground.Hethendefeatedtheir
tributaries,theTangut,andin1214conqueredtheJurchensandtheir50
millioncitizens.TheMongolarmynumberedjust100,000.

ConquestofCentralAsia,theMiddleEastandtheCaucasus:
TribesasfarawayasKazakhstanandKyrgyzstanheardabouttheGreat
Khan,andoverthrewtheirBuddhistrulersinordertojoinhisgrowing
empire.By1219,GenghisKhanruledfromnorthernChinatotheAfghan
border,andSiberiatotheborderofTibet.
HesoughtatradealliancewiththepowerfulKhwarizmEmpire,which
controlledCentralAsiafromAfghanistantotheBlackSea.Sultan
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MuhammadIIagreed,butthenmurderedthefirstMongoltradeconvoyof
450merchants,stealingtheirgoods.
Beforetheendofthatyear,thewrathfulKhanhadcapturedeveryKhwarizm
city,addinglandsfromTurkeytoRussiatohisrealm.

DeathandSuccession:
In1222,the61yearoldKhancalledafamilykuriltaitodiscussthe
succession.HisfoursonsdisagreedoverwhichshouldbeGreatKhan.
Jochi,theeldest,wasbornsoonafterBorje'skidnappingandmightnotbe
GenghisKhan'sson,sosecondsonChagataichallengedhisrighttothe
title.
Asacompromise,thethirdson,Ogodei,becamesuccessor.Jochidiedin
February1227,sixmonthsbeforehisfather,whopassedawaythatautumn.
OgodeitookEastAsia,whichwouldbecomeYuanChina.Chagataigot
CentralAsia.Tolui,theyoungest,tookMongoliaproper.Jochi'ssonsgot
RussiaandEasternEurope.

TheLegacyofGenghisKhan:
ImperialLegacy:
AfterGenghisKhan'ssecretburialonthesteppesofMongolia,hissonsand
grandsonscontinuedtoexpandtheMongolEmpire.
Ogodei'ssonKublaiKhandefeatedtheSongrulersofChinain1279,and
establishedtheMongolYuanDynasty.TheYuanwouldruleallofChina
until1368.Meanwhile,ChagataipushedsouthfromhisCentralAsian
holdings,conqueringPersia.
LegacyinLawandRulesofWar:
WithinMongolia,GenghisKhanrevolutionizedthesocialstructureand
reformedtraditionallaw.
Hiswasanegalitariansociety,inwhichthehumblestslavecouldrisetobe
anarmycommanderifheshowedskillorbravery.Warbootywasdivided
evenlyamongallwarriors,regardlessofsocialstatus.Unlikemostrulersof
thetime,GenghisKhantrustedloyalfollowersabovehisownfamily
members(whichcontributedtothedifficultsuccessionasheaged).
TheGreatKhanforbadethekidnappingofwomen,probablydueinpartto
hiswife'sexperience,butalsobecauseitledtowarfareamongdifferent
Mongolgroups.Heoutlawedlivestockrustlingforthesamereason,and
establishedawinteronlyhuntingseasontopreservegameforthehardest
times.
Contrarytohisruthlessandbarbaricreputationinthewest,GenghisKhan
promulgatedseveralenlightenedpoliciesthatwouldnotbecomecommon
practiceinEuropeforcenturiesmore.
Heguaranteedfreedomofreligion,protectingtherightsofBuddhists,
Muslims,Christians,andHindusalike.GenghisKhanhimselfworshipedthe
sky,butheforbadethekillingofpriests,monks,nuns,mullahs,andother
holypeople.
TheGreatKhanalsoprotectedenemyenvoysandambassadors,nomatter
whatmessagetheybrought.Unlikemostoftheconqueredpeoples,the
Mongolseschewedtortureandmutilationofprisoners.
Finally,thekhanhimselfwasboundbytheselawsaswellasthecommon
people.
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GeneticLegacy:
A2003DNAstudyrevealedthatabout16millionmenintheformerMongol
Empire,abouteightpercentofthemalepopulation,carryageneticmarker
thatdevelopedinonefamilyinMongoliaabout1,000yearsago.Theonly
likelyexplanationisthatallofthemaredescendedfromGenghisKhanor
hisbrothers.
GenghisKhan'sReputation:
Heisrememberedbysomeasabloodthirstytyrant,butGenghisKhanwas
apracticalconqueror,moreinterestedingoodsthaninkilling.Herosefrom
povertyandslaverytoruletheworld.

Sources:
JackWeatherford.GenghisKhanandtheMakingoftheModernWorld,
ThreeRiversPress,2004.
ThomasCraughwell.TheRiseandFalloftheSecondLargestEmpirein
History:HowGenghisKhan'sMongolsAlmostConqueredtheWorld,Fair
WindsPress,2010.
SamDjang.GenghisKhan:WorldConqueror,Vols.IandII,NewHorizon
Books,2011.

Related
HowGenghisKhanCreatedHistory'sLargestEmpire
WhatSetOffGenghisKhan'sConquests?
HowDidtheMongolsImpactEurope?
BookReview|GenghisKhanandtheMakingoftheModernWorld

http://asianhistory.about.com/od/profilesofasianleaders/p/GenghisKhanProf.htm

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