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Mongol leader Genghis Khan (1162-1227) rose from humble beginnings to establish the largest land empire in history. After uniting the nomadic tribes of the Mongolian plateau, he conquered huge chunks of central Asia and China. His descendants expanded the empire even further, advancing to such far-off places as Poland, Vietnam, Syria and Korea. At their peak, the Mongols controlled between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of Africa. Many people were slaughtered in the course of Genghis Khan’s invasions, but he also granted religious freedom to his subjects, abolished torture, encouraged trade and created the first international postal system. Genghis Khan died in 1227 during a military campaign against the Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia. His final resting place remains unknown.
Genghis Khan: The Early Years
Temujin, later Genghis Khan, was born around 1162 near the border between modern Mongolia and Siberia. Legend holds that he came into the world clutching a blood clot in his right hand. His mother had been kidnapped by his father and forced into marriage. At that time, dozens of nomadic tribes on the central Asian steppe were constantly fighting and stealing from each other, and life for Temujin was violent and unpredictable. Before he turned 10, his father was poisoned to death by an enemy clan. Temujin’s own clan then deserted him, his mother and his six siblings in order to avoid having to feed them.
Shortly thereafter, Temujin killed his older half-brother and took over as head of the poverty-stricken household. At one point, he was captured and enslaved by the clan that had abandoned him, but he was eventually able to escape. In 1178 Temujin married Borte, with whom he would have four sons and an unknown number of daughters. He launched a daring rescue of Borte after she too was kidnapped, and he soon began making alliances, building a reputation as a warrior and attracting a growing number of followers. Most of what we know about Genghis Khan’s childhood comes from “The Secret History of the Mongols,” the oldest known work of Mongolian history and literature, which was written soon after his death.
Genghis Khan Unites the Mongols
Going against custom, Temujin put competent allies rather than relatives in key positions and executed the leaders of enemy tribes while incorporating the remaining members into his clan. He ordered that all looting wait until after a complete victory had been won, and he organized his warriors into units of 10 without regard to kin. Though Temujin was an animist, his followers included Christians, Muslims and Buddhists. By 1205 he had vanquished all rivals, including his former best friend Jamuka. The following year, he called a meeting of representatives from every part of the territory and established a nation similar in size to modern Mongolia. He was also proclaimed Chinggis Khan, which roughly translates to “Universal Ruler,” a name that became known in the West as Genghis Khan.
Genghis Khan Establishes an Empire
Having united the steppe tribes, Genghis Khan ruled over some 1 million people. In order to suppress the traditional causes of tribal warfare, he abolished inherited aristocratic titles. He also forbade the selling and kidnapping of women, banned the enslavement of any Mongol and made livestock theft punishable by death. Moreover, Genghis Khan ordered the adoption of a writing system, conducted a regular census, granted diplomatic immunity to foreign ambassadors and allowed freedom of religion well before that idea caught on elsewhere.
Genghis Khan’s first campaign outside of Mongolia took place against the Xi Xia kingdom of northwestern China. After a series of raids, the Mongols launched a major initiative in 1209 that brought them to the doorstep of Yinchuan, the Xi Xia capital. Unlike other armies, the Mongols traveled with no supply train other than a large reserve of horses. The army consisted almost entirely of cavalrymen, who were expert riders and deadly with a bow and arrows. At Yinchuan, the Mongols deployed a false withdrawal—one of their signature tactics—and then initiated a siege. Though their attempt to flood the city failed, the Xi Xia ruler submitted and presented tribute.
The Mongols next attacked the Jin Dynasty of northern China, whose ruler had made the mistake of demanding Genghis Khan’s submission. From 1211 to 1214, the outnumbered Mongols ravaged the countryside and sent refugees pouring into the cities. Food shortages became a problem, and the Jin army ended up killing tens of thousands of its own peasants. In 1214 the Mongols besieged the capital of Zhongdu (now Beijing), and the Jin ruler agreed to hand over large amounts of silk, silver, gold and horses. When the Jin ruler subsequently moved his court south to the city of Kaifeng, Genghis Khan took this as a breach of their agreement and, with the help of Jin deserters, sacked Zhongdu to the ground.
In 1219 Genghis Khan went to war against the Khwarezm Empire in present-day Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran. The sultan there had agreed to a trade treaty, but when the first caravan arrived its goods were stolen and its merchants were killed. The sultan then murdered some of Genghis Khan’s ambassadors. Despite once again being outnumbered, the Mongol horde swept through one Khwarezm city after another, including Bukhara, Samarkand and Urgench. Skilled workers such as carpenters and jewelers were usually saved, while aristocrats and resisting soldiers were killed. Unskilled workers, meanwhile, were often used as human shields during the next assault. No one knows with any certainty how many people died during Genghis Khan’s wars, in part because the Mongols propagated their vicious image as a way of spreading terror.
Genghis Khan’s Death and the Continuation of the Empire
When Genghis Khan returned to Mongolia in 1225, he controlled a huge swath of territory from the Sea of Japan to the Caspian Sea. Nevertheless, he didn’t rest for long before turning his attention back to the Xi Xia kingdom, which had refused to contribute troops to the Khwarezm invasion. In early 1227 a horse threw Genghis Khan to the ground, causing internal injuries. He pressed on with the campaign, but his health never recovered. He died on August 18, 1227, just before the Xi Xia were crushed.
Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much land as any other person in history, bringing Eastern and Western civilizations into contact in the process. His descendants, including Ogodei and Khubilai, were also prolific conquerors, taking control of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the rest of China, among other places. The Mongols even invaded Japan and Java before their empire broke apart in the 14th century. Genghis Khan’s last ruling descendant was finally deposed in 1920.
3. By 1206 Temujin had become the sole ruler of the Mongolian Plains
After many years of fighting Temujin managed to unite the various steppe tribes that inhabited the Plains. The union became known as the Mongols and it was then that Temujin was bestowed with the title “Genghis Khan”, meaning ‘universal ruler’.
With his horde, that consisted mostly of light cavalry archers, Genghis now targeted kingdoms outside Mongolia.
A Mongol melee in the 13th century.
Genghis Khan - Descendants, Empire and Facts - HISTORY
In 2004, a groundbreaking scientific study claimed that the infamous emperor Genghis Khan was the direct ancestor of one in 200 men in the world. Further, the study said, a simple DNA test could prove whether you (or your males relatives) were one of the his descendants. This discovery brought about a surge in interest in ancestral DNA testing, which continues even today. So how did it all get started?
Who was Genghis Khan?
Genghis Khan, born in 1162, established and led the legendary Mongol empire. He died in 1227 at the age of 65 during a battle with the Chinese kingdom Xi Xia. His empire was led by his direct descendants for hundreds of years more, though it gradually broke off into smaller entities over time.
Genghis Khan grew up in an area dominated by constantly warring clans on the border of modern-day Siberia and Mongolia. “Temujin,” as he was named at birth, was born to a mother who had been kidnapped and forced into marriage by his father, a practice in which Genghis Khan himself would later engage. Genghis had six siblings, all of whom grew up around instability and violence over land and livestock, the essentials for survival. After their father was killed by poisoning by an opposing clan, Genghis Khan got his first taste for blood when he killed his older half-brother to become the dominant male of the family.
As he got older, Genghis Khan develop a unique strategy for acquiring power. Instead of appointing family or clan members to powerful positions, which was the typical political strategy, he chose allies from other clans to assist him in his conquests. He and his men would kill the heads of other clans then force the survivors to join their united “super-clan.” In this way, Genghis Khan united the previously warring communities.
Genghis Khan was able to repeat this strategy until he had conquered half the known world and ruled over 1 million people. He ruled the areas of modern-day China, Iran, Pakistan, Korea and South Russia. At the height of his conquest, he controlled a land area the size of the continent of Africa.
Each time he conquered a new clan or people, Genghis Khan would force marriage upon the women, either to himself or to his head chiefs. This is how he acquired enough wives to father the number of sons necessary to provide the DNA lineage which we know today.
Why do we care about Genghis Khan’s DNA?
In 2003, an evolutionary geneticist named Chris Tyler-Smith discovered that 8 percent of men across 16 different ethnic populations in Asia shared a common Y-chromosome pattern. This pattern was eventually traced back to a common origin who must have existed about 1,000 years ago. However, to create so many descendants, this common origin would have had to have an abnormally large number of sons. (He may also have had many daughters, of course, but they would not carry the Y-chromosome necessary to indicate they were directly linked to the paternal origin. Women have two X-chromosomes while men have an X and a Y).
Since Genghis Khan was known in contemporary writings for fathering hundreds of children in this area of Asia, historians and geneticists together presumed this common origin was most likely the first Mongolian emperor himself.
Together with a genetics research team, Tyler-Smith was able to further show that 1 in 200 men in the world are direct descendants of Genghis Khan. In modern-day Mongolia alone, as many 35% of men shared the “Khan” Y-chromosome pattern. The team’s study was published in 2003 under the title “The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols” in the journal European Journal of Human Genetics.
To put these figures another way, Tyler-Smith’s findings mean that up to 0.5% of the world’s population (or around 17 million people), primarily located in Asia, can trace their lineage to Genghis Khan directly along their paternal bloodlines. The data also indicates that 8% of men who live in the area of the “former Mongol empire” carry nearly identical Y-chromosomes. According to Tyler-Smith and other experts, this is statistically improbable to occur in any way except from one common paternal origin.
To further prove Tyler-Smith’s theory, historians have pointed to the attested lineage of Genghis Khan’s sons. In documents from the time period, one of Khan’s sons was written to have had 40 sons who would have carried on that unique Y-chromosome pattern. Similarly, one of Genghis Khan’s grandsons was said to have had 22 acknowledged sons however, he likely had many more “illegitimate” sons because he added 30 women to his personal harem each year.
A follow-up study from a team of Russian scientists analyzed further ethnic groups including Kurds, Persians, Russians and other central Asian ethnic groups. They were surprised to find that despite Genghis Khan’s empire controlling eastern Russia for two and a half centuries, they were unable to find any evidence of his direct descendants being present in modern-day Russia. As they put it, “…[M]en from the Genghis Khan clan left no genetic trace in Russia.”
The fascination with claiming Genghis Khan ancestry is not new
Since this study came out in 2003, there has been a rush for ancestry DNA test kits. People around the world, particularly those with known roots in Asia, wanted to know if they, too, were descendants of the infamous Mongolian emperor. Although DNA is now able to prove it more definitively, humans have boasted of this lineage for centuries.
In fact, even in early Islamic societies where the most respected lineage was directly through the prophet Mohammad, men still found prestige in Genghis Khan lineage. The Muslim founder of the Timurid Empire, who lived from 1370 to 1405, claimed he was directly descended from Genghis Khan. He even used this pedigree to support his political goals of “restoring” the Mongol empire. To this day, many of the Timurid people (now found in modern-day India) have pride in their heritage from one of the greatest emperors known to man.
Similarly, the Tartars of Russia and the Uzbeks of central Asia, both Muslim populations, revered men who claimed they were the blood of Genghis Khan. These men were often promoted as effective military men and rulers just like their ancestor.
Is there a DNA test I can take to see if I’m a descendant of Genghis Khan?
The answer is yes and no. The science behind this particular lineage DNA is still heavily debated.
If you’re a man, you can submit your DNA sample to a lab for analysis of your paternal haplotypes and haplogroup. The patterns the Tyler-Smith researchers have linked with Genghis Khan are only located on the Y chromosome, which women do not carry. A woman who is interested in learning whether she is a descendant of Genghis Khan can use a male relative’s DNA, including a father, uncle, grandfather, brother or nephew.
Most companies will not explicitly tell you which famous (or infamous) historical figures you are related to. However, they will tell you your Y-DNA STR marker, which you can then compare to the results from the Tyler-Smith study.
The test you will want to have performed is an analysis of your Y-DNA STR marker, i.e., a “paternal ancestry test.” Once you know this marker, you can compare it to many historical figures whose ancestral DNA is well-documented, including Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jesse James, Luke the Evangelist and other well-known figures.
The following table from Family Tree DNA lists the 25 Y-DNA STR markers associated with the C3c-M48 haplogroup which the Tyler-Smith researchers have linked with Genghis Khan.
However, the science behind these tests cannot say with 100% certainty that you are a descendant of Genghis Khan.
“It is almost impossible to say for definite that you are a descendant of Genghis Khan as we are talking about very, very ancient paternal ancestry and a time frame of at least seven centuries,” said David Ashworth, chief executive of Oxford Ancestors in an interview with BBC. “But there is scientific evidence that if you do have this Y-chromosome then there is a very strong probability that you are descended from Genghis Khan.”
The main reason for this uncertainty is that the DNA of Genghis Khan is unknown. His body and the bodies of his closest relatives have never been located for DNA testing. The researchers are still assuming that the common DNA origin of this Y-chromosome pattern is Genghis Khan based on historical evidence and convenient timeline alignment.
Recently, an opposing theory has challenged everything we believed for the past decade. In September 2016, a new study entitled “Molecular Genealogy of a Mongol Queen’s Family and Her Possible Kinship with Genghis Khan” was published in the academic journal PloS ONE. This scientific study suggests that the previous Tyler-Smith conclusions had Genghis Khan pegged as the incorrect haplogroup. Instead of being one of the 25 Y-DNA STR markers listed above, this new team of researchers believe he is of the R1b-M343 haplogroup, which is prevalent in western Eurasia.
The researchers used DNA evidence from a burial ground discovered in 2004. The five bodies were found in Mongolia and estimated to have lived around 1130 to 1250 A.D. They are believed to be related to the “Golden Family” of Genghis Khan, yet they carry a completely different haplogroup from the one suggested in the 2004 study.
So it is clear that there is still much we do not know definitively about the DNA evidence linking present-day men to Genghis Khan. Still, many people are interested in learning about their heritage using DNA labs like 23andme.com, Ancestry.com and Family Tree DNA, among others.
How accurate are Genghis Khan ancestry DNA tests?
Remember that your heritage DNA results are just for fun. Sometimes the results are given to you with only a 50% confidence rating, which means they can often be wrong.
This happened in a notable way to a University of Miami professor named Thomas R. Robinson. He had submitted a DNA sample in 2003 to determine his English heritage. Several years later, the DNA testing company, Oxford Ancestors, notified him that a recent scan of its database had shown he was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan.
The news was picked up by the New York Times for its unusual nature. Experts were astounded that this man of British heritage was also related to Genghis Khan, and soon a movie company was asking Thomas to come film his story in Mongolia. But Robinson was skeptical of his results and submitted a second sample to a different DNA testing facility, Family Tree DNA, which proved he was not related to Genghis Khan.
Chris Tyler-Smith, the man behind the original 2004 study that brought the Genghis Khan Y-DNA to fame, confirmed the results of the second test, saying it “conclusively rules out a link to the Genghis Khan haplotype.”
In a similar story, a March 2017 report by Inside Edition proved the inaccuracy of some ancestry DNA tests by carrying out a simple experiment. They found three sets of identical triplets and a set of identical quadruplets and encouraged them to submit their DNA to various testing companies. Most of the sibling groups had varying results when they should have been identical, suggesting the accuracy is still not 100%.
This video shows the surprising results. One set of triplets had a range from 59% to 70% British Isle origin. In that same sibling group, one triplet showed 6% Scandinavian ancestry while her identical sisters showed 0%.
Clearly, the science of ancestral DNA testing is not exact…yet. We are learning more and correcting our past findings every day. Yet when it comes to the DNA of Genghis Khan and his descendants, we are fascinated at the possibilities and still seek the “bragging rights” of being a part of his incredible family legacy. This says a lot about the kind of impact the first Emperor of Mongolia had on the world not just 800 years ago but straight through to the modern day.
Genghis Khan&aposs Death
Genghis Khan died in 1227, soon after the submission of the Xi Xia. The exact cause of his death is unknown. Some historians maintain that he fell off a horse while on a hunt, and died of fatigue and injuries. Others contend that he died of respiratory disease. Genghis Khan was buried without markings, according to the customs of his tribe, somewhere near his birthplace𠅌lose to the Onon River and the Khentii Mountains in northern Mongolia. According to legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything they encountered to conceal the location of the burial site, and a river was diverted over Genghis Khan&aposs grave to make it impossible to find.
Before his death, Genghis Khan bestowed supreme leadership to his son Ogedei, who controlled most of eastern Asia, including China. The rest of the empire was divided among his other sons: Chagatai took over central Asia and northern Iran Tolui, being the youngest, received a small territory near the Mongol homeland and Jochi (who was killed before Genghis Khan&aposs death). Jochi and his son, Batu, took control of modern Russia and formed the Golden Horde. The empire&aposs expansion continued and reached its peak under Ogedei Khan&aposs leadership. Mongol armies eventually invaded Persia, the Song Dynasty in southern China, and the Balkans. Just when the Mongol armies had reached the gates of Vienna, Austria, leading commander Batu got word of the Great Khan Ogedei&aposs death and was called back to Mongolia. Subsequently, the campaign lost momentum, marking the Mongol&aposs farthest invasion into Europe.
Top 10 Facts about Genghis Khan
At the mention of the name Genghis Khan we picture the ‘universal Ruler’ who at one point in history conquered almost half the world, an empire stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the east to Eastern Europe in the West. He was a formidable warlord who’s unbeaten and unstoppable Mongol hordes raided and pillaged across Central Asia.
Born of humble beginnings in the steppes of Mongolia he grew up to command one of the fiercest armies known in the history of man. Despite his name being synonymous with barbarity, he was a great leader who unified warring tribes of Mongolia and advanced the economy of Central Asia. Here are top 10 facts about Genghis Khan.
1. One in 200 men today are direct descendants of Genghis Khan.
Known to be a conqueror he was also able to make an immortal legacy for himself by passing his genes across centuries. A recent finding by DNA researches estimates that there are 16 million men in Central Asia alone who are his descendants.
He was able to have numerous descendants as he is described as being a great lover who had many wives and courted many more women. He was also given the first pick of the most beautiful women of the towns the Mongol armies had conquered.
Some ruling dynasties of Asia and Russia were also his descendants like the Mughal royal family from Timur through Babur, Yuan Dynasty of China, Ilkhanids of Persia, the Jochids of the Golden Horde, the Shaybanids of Siberia, and the Astrakhanids of Central Asia, Girays of Crimea.
2. His grave site is unknown and unmarked.
Burkhan Khaldun – Wikipedia
One of the greatest mysteries surrounding Genghis Khan is the location of his gravesite. It is estimated that he was buried around a Mongolian mountain called Burkhan Khaldun but this has never been proven. Maury Kravitz, an archeologist, spent 40 years searching for the gravesite in vain until his death in 2012.
Before his death, Khan had instructed that his gravesite be unmarked and no one is told about its location. Upon his death during the battle of Western Xia in 1277, he was only 65 years, his soldiers carried out his last wishes to the letter.
According to the legend on their journey to the gravesite the funeral procession killed everyone that they came in contact with. Soldiers killed all the slaves who built his tomb and those soldiers were silenced by other soldiers. After burying him the funeral procession soldiers started killing everyone and eventually killed themselves.
3. “Genghis” wasn’t his real name.
Genghis Khan’s enthronement in 1206 – Wikipedia
Genghis was born sometime around 1162 along the banks of the Onon River as Temujin meaning ‘iron’ or ‘blacksmith’. He was named after a rival chief who his father had recently captured.
It was in 1206 that he got the famous name Genghis Khan when he was proclaimed leader of the Mongols at a tribal meeting known as a “Kurultai.” “Khan” is a traditional title meaning “ruler” or “leader” but historians are unsure of the meaning or origin of the name “Genghis.”
4. There is no definitive record of what he looked like.
In spite of being considered a national hero and founding father of Mongolia very little is known about Genghis’s personal life or even his physical appearance. There is no accurate portraits or sculptures of him that have survived. This can be attributed to the Soviets rule in the region who banned anything and everything related to Genghis.
Their various versions of how Genghis Khan might have looked from being tall and strong with a flowing mane of hair and a long, bushy beard to the 14 th description by the 14th-century Persian chronicler Rashid al-Din. He claims that Genghis had red hair and green eyes. All these accounts have been considered unreliable by historians.
5. He was responsible for the deaths of around 40 million people.
Mongol warrior of Genghis Khan – Wikipedia
For Genghis Khan to have conquered almost half the world he would have had to massacre many towns. His rampages left such a path of destruction that many historians put the number of deaths he caused somewhere around 40 million and estimate that the Mongol’s attacks may have reduced the entire world population by 11 per cent.
Census from the Middle Ages shows that the population of China reduced by tens of millions during Khan’s reign. He is also responsible for the death of a three-fourth of modern-day Iran’s population during the Khwarezmid Empire. It is said that he enjoyed advertising his brutality as a way to keep people afraid and submissive.
6. He created one of the first international postal systems.
Khan’s earliest decree was the formation of a mounted courier service known as the “Yam.” The “Yam” was used to refer to the post houses and way stations, which were approximately 24 kilometers apart that could be found across the whole of the Mongolian Empire. Thanks to the “Yam” system Khan could keep up to date with the military and political developments throughout his vast empire.
This remarkable medieval postal system improved the economy, simplified the transportation of goods along the Silk Road and improved the efficiency and effectiveness of information sharing. The postal system also helped to protect foreign dignitaries and merchants during their travels. A good example of foreigners who used the system is Marco Polo and John of Plano Carpini.
7. Some of his most trusted generals were former enemies.
Genghis Khan & Jebe – Wikimedia Commons
Unlike most medieval rulers who promoted officers because of their social class or status, Khan was known to focus primarily on an officer’s capabilities and experience. He had a keen eye for talent and this can explain why he even allowed women to be part of his army.
He was also known to appoint his enemies as generals and a good example is his field commander Jebe. The story goes that Jebe shot an arrow and killed the horse Khan was riding during a battle against the Taijut in 1201. Despite winning this battle this incident almost killed khan. Once the Taijut were captured Khan inquired on who had shot the arrow and one archer bravely stood up and confessed it was him. Impressed by the soldier’s braveness Khan appointed him an officer in his army and nicknamed him Jebe meaning “arrow.”
8. He killed his half-brother as a child.
Genghis was known to be a cold-blooded killer in his adult life, but he also depicted his thirst for blood as a youth. From a young age, khan knew he had to fight and kill for what he needed and wanted. His family was at odds with their clan members and a result they lived on their own.
This solitary life caused a food shortage in their household. In an effort to help feed his family Khan would go hunting, but he did not always agree with how the food was divided. One day Khan had a serious argument with his half-brother over the food he had captured. Khan took the dispute to his mother, who sided with his step-brother. This enraged Khan.
In his anger, Khan enrolled the help of his younger brother and killed his unsuspecting half-brother. It is said that Khan never had any remorse whatsoever.
9. He strategically killed his sons-in-law.
Tumanba Khan, His Wife, and His Nine Sons – Wikipedia
Khan was a genius in his own right. He understood that he could not rule such a large empire by himself and would need help from local people. Who is more loyal than your own flesh and blood? Khan enlisted the aid of his sons and daughters in the ruling.
It is said that Khan would marry off one of his daughters to the king of an allied nation and dismiss the other wives of the allied king. Khan would then assign his new son-in-law to military duty in his army. Most of his sons-in-law died in combat thus leaving Khan’s daughters to rule in their place.
10. Khan was a strategic warlord.
Mongol Cavalrymen – Wikipedia
In most of his battles, Khan was mostly outnumbered, but he still managed to defeat his enemies because of the various military strategies he applied. He was able to devise many of his enemies into thinking that his army was larger than it actually was and setting cunning traps for them.
He was also successful in his raids because he provided his soldiers with the resource they needed. Each Mongol had at least five to six horses per soldier and the soldiers were allowed to shield themselves with dummies or prisoners of war. Khan took good care of his army thus busting their loyalty and drive to serve him.
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The life of Genghis Khan is full of superlatives.
His armies killed ten percent of the world’s population in the 13th century (around forty million). His Mongol Empire was the largest land empire in history (almost a quarter of the Earth’s surface). He has sixteen million male descendants.
We could continue the list of superlatives further, but the fundamental question is: Do we need to assess his feats? If we share our opinions, will this encourage or discourage others from trying to repeat his deeds?
Administrative Reform in the Mongol Empire
Möngke was generally a popular ruler of the Mongol Empire he met debts, controlled spending, conducted a census, and protected civilians.
Choose the best summary of Möngke’s achievements
- After Ögedei’s death, Genghis Khan ‘s descendants Güyük and Batu Khan fought about who would rule until Batu Khan’s death, at which point Genghis’ grandson Möngke took control.
- Möngke was generally a popular ruler. He generously met all Güyük’s outstanding debts, an unprecedented move.
- Möngke also forbade extravagant spending, imposed taxes (which incited some rebellions), and punished the unauthorized plundering of civilians. He established the Department of Monetary Affairs and standardized a system of measurement.
- Möngke conducted a census of the Mongol Empire and its land.
- ingot: A block of steel, gold, or other metal oblong in shape and used for currency.
- Department of Monetary Affairs: Möngke established this body to control the issuance of paper money in order to eliminate the overissue of currency that had been a problem since Ögedei’s reign.
From Ögedei’s death in 1241 CE until 1246 CE the Mongol Empire was ruled under the regency of Ögedei’s widow, Töregene Khatun. She set the stage for the ascension of her son, Güyük, as Great Khan, and he would take control in 1246. He and Ögedei’s nephew Batu Khan (both grandsons of Genghis Khan) fought bitterly for power Güyük died in 1248 on the way to confront Batu.
Another nephew of Ögedei’s (and so a third grandson of Genghis Khan’s), Möngke, then took the throne in 1251 with Batu’s approval. In 1255, well into Möngke’s reign, Batu had repaired his relationship with the Great Khan and so finally felt secure enough to prepare invasions westward into Europe. Fortunately for the Europeans, however, he died before his plans could be implemented.
The Mongol Empire Under Möngke
Möngke’s rule established some of the most consistent monetary and administrative policies since Genghis Khan. In the mercantile department he:
- Forbade extravagant spending and limited gifts to the princes.
- Made merchants subject to taxes.
- Prohibited the demanding of goods and services from civilian populations by merchants.
- Punished the unauthorized plundering of civilians by generals and princes (including his own son).
In 1253, Möngke established the Department of Monetary Affairs to control the issuance of paper money. This new department contributed to better econimic stability including:
- Limiting the overissue of currency, which had been a problem since Ögedei’s reign.
- Standardizing a system of measurement based on the silver ingot.
- Paying out all debts drawn by high-rank Mongol elites to important foreign and local merchants.
Möngke recognized that if he did not meet his predecessor’s, Güyük’s, financial obligations, it would make merchants reluctant to continue business with the Mongols. Like many other rules around the world at this time, his hope was to take advantage of the budding commercial revolution in Europe and the Middle East. Ata-Malik Juvaini, a 13th-century Persian historian, commented on the virtue of this move, saying, “And from what book of history has it been read or heard…that a king paid the debt of another king? ”
The Mongol Empire’s administration followed a trend that was occurring in the Western Europe, in which kings and emperors were finding efficient ways to manage their administrative and legals systems and fund crusades, conquests, and wars. From 1252–1259, Möngke conducted a census of the Mongol Empire including Iran, Afghanistan, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Central Asia and North China. The new census counted not only households but also the number of men aged 15–60 and the number of fields, livestock, vineyards, and orchards.
Möngke also tried to create a fixed poll tax collected by imperial agents, which could be forwarded to the needy units. He taxed the wealthiest people most severely. But the census and taxation sparked popular riots and resistance in the western districts and in the more independent regions under the Mongol umbrella. These rebellions were ultimately put down, and Möngke would continue to rule.
Expansion and Khanates
At the death of Genghis Khan in 1226, the empire was already large enough that one ruler could not oversee the administrative aspects of each region. Genghis realized this and created appanages, or khanates, for his sons, daughters, and grandsons to rule over in order to keep a consistent rule of law. Möngke’s administrative policies extended to these regions during his reign, often causing local unrest due to Mongol occupation and taxation. Some khanates were more closely linked to centralized Mongol policies than others, depending on their location, who oversaw them, and the amount of resistance in each region.
Painting of the Battle of Mohi in 1241: Möngke might have been present at this battle, which took place in the kingdom of Hungary, during one of the many Mongol invasions and attacks that expanded the Mongol Empire.
It should also be noted that the vast religious and cultural traditions of these khanates, including Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Orthodoxy, and Buddhism, were often at odds with the khanate rulers and their demands. Some of the most essential khanates to exist under Möngke’s administrative years included:
- The Golden Horde, which contained the Rus’ principalities and large chunks of modern-day Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, Belarus, and Romania. Many Russian princes capitulated with Mongol rule and a relatively stable alliance existed in the 1250s in some principalities.
- Chagatai Khanate was a Turkic region which was ruled over by Chagatai, Odegei’s second son, until 1242 at his death. This region was clearly Islamic and functioned as an outlying region of the central Mongol government until 1259, when Möngke died.
- Ilkhanate was the major southwestern khanate of the Mongol Empire and encompassed parts of modern-day Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey and the heartland of Persian culture. Möngke’s brother, Hulagu, ruled over this region and his descendants continued to oversee this khanate into the 14th century.
Möngke died while conducting war in China on August 11, 1259. He was possibly a victim of cholera or dysentery, however there is no confirmed record of the cause of his death. His son Asutai conducted him back to Mongolia to be buried. The ruler’s death sparked the four-year Toluid Civil War between his two younger brothers, Kublai and Ariq Böke, and also spurred on the division of the Mongol Empire.
Are you a descendant of Genghis Khan? – Don’t be so sure…
Actually, there is a decent chance you are. The notorious warlord is infamous for raping at the very least thousands of women in every place he conquered. In fact, he violated so many poor women that at present 0.5% of all humanity are direct descendants of Genghis Khan. That’s 1 in 200 men and women, which, in turn, translates into 37 million living descendants.
Bonus fact 1: Khan was totally obsessed with immortality and was on a permanent quest for eternal life. As such, in 1222, he summoned the Daoist master Qiu Chuji and asked him if he could prepare an immortality potion for him. Qiu Chuji replied that there is no such thing, but that life can be extended through abstinence. Apparently, Khan did not follow his advice…
Bonus Fact 2: Researchers at Genghis Khan University in Mongolia suggest that towards the end of his life, Khan legislated laws ensuring equal rights to all citizens, and especially to women.
11 Cultural Breakthroughs Genghis Khan Achieved During His Reign
Sure, he was a ruthless warlord who decimated armies and wiped out entire civilizations. But it turns out Genghis Khan (real name: Temujin) was anything but barbaric when it came to ruling. His cultural and political policies helped unify a previously disjointed collection of tribes and fiefdoms, creating a Mongol Empire that ruled a vast swath of Asia and Europe for more than a century. Here are a few of Genghis’s practices that were most definitely ahead of their time.
1. HE ESTABLISHED FREEDOM OF RELIGION.
The great Khan, who was born a Tengrist, passed laws allowing subjects freedom of religion, and even gave tax exemptions to places of worship. This was a strategic move, since Genghis Khan knew subjects would be less likely to rebel. It was also practical, as the Mongol people observed so many different religions that unifying them under a single one would have been impossible. Tolerance aside, Genghis did establish one religious decree: That his was the word of God.
2. HE BANNED TORTURE.
In contrast to many civilized armies at the time, the Mongols did not maim or torture their prisoners. Instead, Genghis Khan believed the surest way to inspire terror was through speed and efficiency in battle. Many of the stories about building pyramids out of enemy skulls and boiling people alive, scholars believe, are fear-inspired myths.
3. HE INCORPORATED ENEMIES INTO HIS ARMY.
Rather than execute rival soldiers, Genghis Khan often absorbed them into his army. In 1201, when he was nearly killed in battle after his horse was shot out from under him, Genghis asked enemy prisoners who had fired the arrow. A man bravely stepped forward to take the blame, and said he would accept punishment of death or swear undying loyalty if spared. Genghis immediately made him an officer in his army. “Jebe,” or “arrow,” as Khan called him, would go on to become one of the great Mongol field commanders.
4. HE LEFT CONQUERED CITIES ALONE.
After capturing a city, Genghis Khan would leave behind a few officials to oversee municipal matters and essentially let people carry on with their lives (provided they were loyal to the Great Empire, of course). Most citizens knew better than to revolt against their minders, but a few did and ended up facing the wrath of the full army all over again. Nishapur, located in what’s today northeast Iran, tried its luck in 1221 and saw every last citizen killed.
5. HE PROMOTED PEOPLE BASED ON INDIVIDUAL MERIT.
The feudal system that existed throughout Asia before Genghis Khan’s time primarily rewarded aristocratic privilege and birth. Despite being the son of a chief, Genghis despised this system, and as he swept across the continent he implemented a new one that rewarded loyalty and individual achievement on the battlefield.
6. HE OUTLAWED SLAVERY.
Genghis Khan understood the bitterness and economic strain that slavery created. He’d also been a slave himself during his teenage years, when he and his wife Börte were captured by a rival clan. So when Genghis Khan began unifying the Mongol tribes, he outlawed the taking of Mongols as servants or slaves.
7. HE ESTABLISHED UNIVERSAL LAW.
Adopted from Mongol common law, Genghis Khan’s system of law, known as the Yassa, prohibited theft, adultery, blood feuds, and bearing false witness. Some versions also incorporated the Mongol’s respect for the environment by outlawing bathing in rivers or streams and requiring soldiers to pick up anything that had been dropped on the ground.
8. AND A UNIVERSAL WRITING SYSTEM.
To enforce his law, Genghis ordered the creation of a writing system based on the Uyghur alphabet. It wasn’t the first writing system in Asia, but it was the first one to be widely adopted and taught to the people.
9. HE ESTABLISHED FREE TRADE ALONG THE SILK ROAD.
Genghis Khan believed in the unifying power of foreign trade as well as using it to gain valuable knowledge (many of his spies posed as merchants). As he swept across Asia, Genghis turned the towns and cities he conquered into waypoints for trade. In time, his conquests into Europe established key trade routes between East and West.
10. HE CREATED ONE OF THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL POSTAL SYSTEMS.
Knowledge was power in Genghis Khan’s empire, and that’s why one of his first orders as ruler was the creation of a Pony Express-like courier system known as the Yam. Riders carried messages across a network of huts, and could cover as much as 200 miles a day by constantly changing mounts. In addition to delivering messages, riders also acted as scouts who could monitor enemy forces and keep tabs on assimilated towns and cities.
11. HE REDISTRIBUTED THE WEALTH HE GAINED.
Genghis Khan is frequently listed as one of the richest people in history—but only in terms of the land he conquered. Rather than hoard the money and goods he gained through conquering, Genghis gave it to his soldiers and commanders (who were otherwise prohibited from looting without permission), injecting it back into the economy.