The history of the Mongolian Empire is the history of Genghis Khan (also spelled Ching-gis Khan, Chinggiss Khan, Chingis Khan, Jenghiz Khan, or Jinghis Khan). Genghis, named Temüjin, was born near Lake Baikal in Mongolia in 1162. When the rival tribe Tarters killed his father, the chief of their tribe, Temüjin’s own tribe rejected him, throwing him and his family into absolute poverty.[1]

At some point, Temüjin killed his half-brother and confirmed his position as head of the family. At sixteen, Temüjin used his status as head of a former royal family to marry his father’s widowed step-mother and cement an alliance between the Konkirat Tribe and his own. Around age twenty, he was kidnapped by the Taichi'ut Tribe but managed to escape. Determined to become the undisputed ruler of all Mongols, he formed a core fighting force of about twenty thousand men and set about to either recruit or annihilate all other Mongolian tribes. He started with the Tarters, crushing them through brilliant, strategic military maneuvering. He ordered the death of every Tarter male taller than three feet. He continued with the Taichi'ut and boiled each chief alive.[2] In 1206, he destroyed the Naiman Tribe, the last tribe to oppose him, and was named Genghis Khan—Khan was a title meaning ruler.[3] Having defeated his rivals and united his people, Genghis reorganized them for war.[4]

It was a common practice for the Mongols to put the bones of their enemies in pyramids to send a message to their potential or current enemies. [5]

The Mongols were nomadic and cultivated fierce independence. Each soldier was required to maintain their own equipment and be able to operate independently of supply lines and a higher command structure. Genghis organized the army into units of ten thousand under a general called a Tumen. Each unit was further subdivided into units of one hundred and finally squads of ten.[6] Not only did this afford the army enormous flexibility and adaptability, but the soldiers were unusually disciplined, well-trained, and well-equipped. Mongol soldiers began their training at age three, when their mothers tied them into a horse’s saddle until they could ride by themselves. At age five, they were taught how to shoot and practiced until they turned sixteen when they would be considered a fully-realized warrior.[7] During their training, they learned how to ride for days without stopping, sleeping in the saddle and hunting in the dead of winter when temperatures routinely dip below -22ºF (30ºC).[8] The nomadic lifestyle not only made ferociously tough warriors, but it also made the entire population fast and mobile, able to exist off the land and eliminating the need for large, vulnerable supply lines.

Genghis Khan and his forces exploded out of the Mongolian Steppe and swarmed into China, subduing the northern state of Xi Xia in northern China by correctly guessing that their neighbors, the Jin Empire, would not come to their aid.[9] After decimating the Chinese armies, the Mongols ran into their first major challenge: walled cities. Genghis ordered Chinese architects and engineers to be captured and succeeded in recruiting them to his army, gaining the knowledge and experience to build siege equipment. They catapulted large stones, flaming morters, and diseased bodies over the walls and isolated cities by cutting off resupply and damming rivers to cut off their water supply. In a very short time, the Mongols became terrifyingly proficient at siege warfare.[10] After subjugating Xi Xia, the Mongols advanced and captured the neighboring Jin Empire. In 1214, Genghis accepted a huge bribe to not attack China; then in 1215, he attacked China anyway and seized modern-day Beijing. He recruited loyal Chinese administrators and bureaucrats, some of the best in the world, to manage the occupation of China.[11]

At the height of their power, the Mongols established a standard code of law that was strictly enforced and brought order to their empire. Additionally, they were extraordinarily tolerant of other religions, and religious expression flourished under their rule. Finally, safe roads with strict laws protecting travelers across most of central Asia, resulting in the re-establishment of trade routes between China and the rest of the world, most notably Europe.[12] In 1275, the European explorer Marco Polo was presented to the court of Kublai Khan as a gift from his father, Niccolo Polo. In 1295, Polo returned to his home in Venice and wrote of his accounts, providing Europe with one of its most popular exposures to China.[13] Genghis Khan died in 1227 after naming his son Ögödei as his successor and dividing the land between him and his three other sons.

Over the next several decades, the Mongols would expand into the Middle East to the borders of Egypt, north to pillage Moscow and Vladimir in the dead of winter, and plunge into Europe all the way to modern Poland. The last great Khan Kublai came to power in 1259 and finally achieved the Mongol dream of subjugating all of China. Kublai established the Yuan Dynasty which would remain unchallenged for nearly one hundred years. The Mongol Empire was the largest continuous land empire in history and remains a testament to military brilliance and the devastating potential of discipline and effective tactics.

After Kublai's death in 1294, the internal rivalries and infighting caused the empire to fracture. Warriors who lived far from the Steppes lost their edge and effectiveness, while others gave up the nomadic lifestyle and Mongolian culture for agriculture and sedentary life.[14] By 1368, Mongol rule was thoroughly expunged from China and the empire was reduced to its modern borders.[15]

File:Mongol Empire map.gif
This map shows how Mongol territory changed over the course of their rule. [16]

This video provides a concise history of Mongol conquest and the impact it had on trade and cultural exchange.[17]


Fall of Zhongdu

In 1211, Genghis Khan stormed out of the Steppe and assaulted the Jin Empire in China. At first, the walled cities stopped his forces in their tracks, but the Mongols interrogated and converted several key Chinese engineers and soldiers to help them build siege equipment and give them vital intelligence about the region, defenses, and the current political state of the empire. In 1214, barely a year after he first assaulted China, Genghis Khan won a string of victories that allowed him to besiege Zhongdu, modern-day Beijing. After the Mongols destroyed a supply relief, the defenders had little hope of prevailing, but they held out for another year of constant assault. The city finally fell in May 1215, marking a major milestone in the Mongol assault on the Jin.[18]

Genghis Khan entering Zhongdu (modern day Beijing). [19]

Conquest of the Khwarizm Dynasty

During the war for China, Genghis opened diplomatic relationships with the Khwarizm Dynasty, a Turkish-dominated empire that included Turkestan, Persia, and Afghanistan. Negotiations broke down when the governor of Otrar attacked a Mongol diplomatic mission. Genghis was lenient and sent a secondary diplomatic party to demand the governor be sent to him for justice; the man had wronged the Khan and needed to be punished. Not only did Shah Muhammad, the leader of the Khwarizm Dynasty, refuse to extradite his governor but he also sent the second diplomatic party back to the Khan in pieces. Enraged, Genghis mounted a full assault on the Khwarizm Dynasty and earned the Mongols’ fearsome reputation. He sacked every city he found and slaughtered any living thing, from killing animals to burning crops. Any captives were run in front of the army to soak up the arrows of the defenders.[20] The Mongols utterly annihilated the entire Khwarizm Dynasty, capturing the capital and killing Shah Muhammad and his son in 1221 and expanding the Mongol empire all the way to the Caspian Sea.

Battle of Kalka River

In 1223 after his conquest of China and the Khwarizm Dynasty, Genghis Khan sent one of his best generals Subutai and around twenty thousand Mongols to scout the lands west of him. Subutai encountered the Georgians, and his soldiers’ discipline and tactics allowed them to utterly annihilate the numerically superior forces. After they crossed the Caucasus Mountains, the Mongols encountered the Turkish Cuman people who allied with feudal Russian princes. The Mongols sent emissaries to negotiate with the coalition, but the Europeans chose to execute the diplomats and push back the Mongols. Subutai left herders, livestock, and small pockets of soldiers behind his force as the Russian Cuman coalition pursued them deeper into the steppe. The Europeans happily captured the livestock and made prisoners of the soldiers, which gradually slowed their continued pursuit. Eighty thousand strong and spread across fifty miles on exhausted horses, the European force came to the Kalka River where the Mongols were waiting in formation. The Mongols lit a smoke screen to obscure their movements as they charged the confused and disorganized forces. The Mongols smashed into the front line, which turned and ran into their allies in the tight quarters, starting a chain reaction and triggering a confused route.[21] The Mongols chased them over one hundred and fifty miles and killed every soldier who had raised arms against them. The Europeans, like the Muslims before them, were so shocked and demoralized they could not comprehend what sins they had committed to bring such punishment down upon them.[22]

Siege of Kaifeng

Aided by their traditional southern enemies (the Song), the Mongols began the final defeat of the Jin Empire in 1231. They launched a ferocious assault on Kaifeng, capital of the Jin Empire, in 1232. While the Jin were descended from nomadic Steppe tribes, the two forces fought a traditional siege war in the style of settled peoples. The Mongols used large siege engines and dug trenches to undermine the walls, while the Jin employed gunpowder, which was still an experimental technology during this time. The most potent Jin weapon was a primitive cannon whose shot could be heard up to thirty miles away and created craters three hundred feet wide. Yet despite its fearsome cannons, the city fell to Mongol determination after a year of fighting, formally ending the Jin Empire.[23]

Invasion of Rus

After Subutai had returned from his expeditions bearing treasures, information, and maps bought from Venetian merchants on the Black Sea, Genghis Khan’s grandson Batu launched a full-scale invasion of Russia in 1237.[24] The Mongols rode in mid-winter; their horses had adapted to the frozen Steppes and the soldiers’ training preparing them to endure the cold; they crossed frozen rivers that might have otherwise stopped them. The Russians attempted to bunker down in their castles and walled cities, but the 150,000-soldier horde was undeterred in taking first Moscow, then Ryazzan, and finally Vladimir. The Mongols burned all three cities and decimating the Russian army, led by Yuri III, before returning south to their homeland.[25]

This video provides insights into how the Mongol conquest in and around Russia led to the development of the modern state.[26]

Battle of Liegnitz

Having proved himself with his great cavalry raid in 1222, Subutai was entrusted with a campaign to strike at the very heart of Europe. In 1241, one of Subutai’s generals Kaidu advanced into Poland with twenty thousand warriors. He found a unified European coalition of forty thousand Germans, Poles, and Teutonic knights—elite battle-hardened shock troops designed to protect pilgrims during the crusades. Kaidu advanced at once before reinforcements could bolster the already significant European force. His riders and their armor-piercing arrows ran rings around the slow and heavily-armored European forces. The Teutonic Knights made an aggressive charge and their superior armor, weapons, training, and faster horses pushed back the Mongols. Kaidu quickly countered by outdistancing the knights to separate them from the main body until their horses tired, then encircling and crushing the defenders. The European forces broke, and only news of Ögödei’s death and the subsequent retreat of the Mongols prevented a full-scale Mongol invasion of Europe.[27] Europe had fought with everything they had, and it had barely slowed the Mongols, resulting in thirty thousand European deaths.[28] This Mongol withdrawal is considered to be one of the great turning points in history: had the invasion proceeded as planned, the Catholic church might have been defeated, and the Mongol Empire might have stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

A European tapestry of the battle of Liegnitz. [29]

Fall of Baghdad

In 1256, Hulegu the Persian Khan (under the authority of Mongke the Great Khan) set his sights on conquering Baghdad the Capital of the Islamic ʿAbbāsid caliphate. While the political and military power of the Islamic Empire had moved to Cairo in Egypt, Baghdad remained an important religious and symbolic site to Muslims. After the Caliphate scornfully rejected Mongol diplomacy, Hulegu rallied his forces numbering 150,000 and set out to raze Baghdad. The Arab army rode out to meet the Mongols about thirty miles outside Baghdad. Hulegu lured the defenders out onto marshy ground, then send his engineers to open the dykes of the Euphrates River behind them. Trapped, the Arabs either drowned or were cut down by Mongol bows. After advancing on the great city, Hulegu ordered his men to surround it on land and had his engineers build boats to block any escape by water. With the city secured, he brought up his siege equipment: massive catapults and battering rams that reduced the city’s walls to rubble within a week. The Mongols poured into the city and began slaughtering its inhabitants, even those who were unarmed or fleeing. The massacre continued for over a month until the stink of decaying corpses persuaded the Mongols to move on.[30]

The fall of Baghdad, note the presence of siege equipment and a pontoon bridge. Also note the refugee fleeing in the right panel, possibly the Caliph himself. [31]

Battle of ʿAyn Jālūt

Fresh from the destruction of Baghdad, the Mongols rode for Cairo, determined to break the power of the Islamic Empire. After capturing Aleppo and Damascus, Hulego arrived at Cairo in 1260. He demanded that the Egyptian sultan Saif ad-Din Qutuz accept Mongol rule and pledge his allegiance to Mongke the Great Khan. After Qutuz executed Mongolian diplomats, Hulegu prepared his offensive; but just before he could commit to an attack, Mongke the Great Khan died and Hulegu was recalled to Mongolia to discuss succession, leaving behind a small garrison of twenty thousand. Sensing his opportunity, the Sultan of Egypt ordered an immediate attack. The Egyptians turned the Mongols own tactics against them by hiding most of their cavalry in the forest of a valley and luring the Mongols into attacking the Egyptians, who gradually led them into an ambush. Even though the Egyptians outnumbered the Mongolians by ten thousand, a small Mongolian force managed to fight its way out of the trap and escape. This opened the way for Egypt to retake Damascus and Aleppo, firmly containing the Mongols in modern day Iran.[32]

Battle of Xingyang

After their defeat in Egypt, the Mongols consolidated in China and focused on defeating the Song, who had helped them to wipe out the Jin. The southern Empire had superior resources, manpower, and infrastructure. The Song foothills were inappropriate for fast-moving mounted warfare, and the land was hot and lacked any sustenance for the horses. The Mongols were undeterred, and Kublai Khan mounted the assault in 1259. Finally, after nearly a decade of fighting, he arrived at the fortified cities of Fancheng and Xiangyang in 1268. Kublai's troops were under the command of Bayan (descendant of Subutai) while the Chinese soldiers answered to the veteran Lu Wenhuan. A series of brutal skirmishes broke out around the two cities, but the Mongols drew upon the population and resources of their empire. In 1272, they conscripted Islamic engineers from the Western Empire and commanded them to build them new siege engines. The engineers built a fleet of ships, equipped with catapults, to attack from the sea while also designing cannons and other siege weapons so powerful that the walls of the great Chinese cities crumbled before their might. Handheld firearms were likely used on both sides, representing the first use of firearms in battle. The Mongols poured into the breach and took the cities. Lu Wenhuan surrendered and Kublai went on to conquer the Song capital of Hangzhou. With the fall of the capital, the last of the Song retreated by ship only to be pursued by the Mongol navy and destroyed in the South China sea in 1276. With the fall of the Song, the Mongols had finally achieved complete dominance over all of China and they erected the Yuan Dynasty.[33]

Red Turban Revolt

The Chinese never truly accepted the Mongol rule and poor administration coupled with a fracturing empire led to widespread revolt across China, with a faction known as the Red Turbans emerging as the dominant Chinese force. The leader Zhu Yuanzhang was born a peasant and raised in a Buddhist monastery. He assumed command of his cell of Red Turbans and led them to take Nanjing. Using the momentum of victory to subdue rival rebel factions, Zhu assumed command of most of Southern China. Consolidating his forces, he aimed to unseat the Yuan Emperor Che Liang in Beijing. A pivotal moment came in 1363 when Zhu engaged the Yuan navy on the Yangtze river and won, capturing many ships and using their combined might to sail up the Chinese coast and subdue cities as he went. The last Yuan Emperor fled in 1368, and Zhu founded the Ming Dynasty. The Chinese fought the Mongols for another twenty years before finally expelling the last force in 1388.[34]

File:Zhu Yuanzhang.gif
A portrait of Zhu Yuanzhang. [35]


The Mongols were a swift, mobile force and they used this to their full advantage to counter the fact they were almost always outnumbered. Their most effective strategy was the feigned retreat, where the Mongols would retreat and lull their enemies into pursuing the apparently fleeing force. Once they passed the ambush site, the rest of the army would emerge and destroy the disorganized pursuers.[36] This tactic could also be used on a larger scale over the course of days, or even weeks, as the Mongols changed mounts and always kept just ahead of their pursuers. This speed, coupled with their non-reliance on traditional supply lines, meant that they could ride vast distances at lightning speeds and that it was nearly impossible to predict their movements.[37]

Speed and maneuverability were at the heart of an early form of blitzkrieg or overwhelming an enemy with speed and ferocity. This was exemplified both in the conquests of China and the invasion of the Khwarizm Dynasty. Mongol soldiers kept multiple horses which allowed them to travel considerable distances in a short period; this also made possible a vast, decentralized command and control system. They used this system to organize and execute simultaneous strikes on multiple military targets, giving the impression that they were everywhere and making it difficult to mount an effective defense.[38] During their invasion of the Khwarizm Dynasty the Mongols went to great trouble to discover then exacerbate fractures in the Shah’s forces, using a combination of intelligence and sabotage. Once the army was at its breaking point, the Mongols launched several independent attacks simultaneously that utterly shattered the Shah’s ability to respond, leaving the Mongols free to plunder and pillage the Shah’s lands with impunity.[39]

Mongol archers featured in Compendium of Chronicles of Rashiduldin Hamadani, 1305. [40]

Ghengis Khan also possessed one of the most extensive and effective intelligence networks in the world. He and his forces conducted extensive research before committing to an attack, so that the Khan had an intimate understanding of the social, economic, and military realities of his enemies. As Richard A Gabriel claimed: “The Khan was always looking for division in his enemies.”

The final brilliant aspect of Mongolian warfare was their adaptability. When they encountered walled cities, they interrogated Chinese architects and recruited prisoners to build siege engines and became masters of siege warfare in a matter of months.[41] When the empire started to become bigger than the Mongols could control through traditional means, they scouted for people in China who were very good at administration and record keeping, and then set them to work.[42] They even contracted Chinese sailors to build boats so they could sail to Japan and invade. (The effort might have worked except that a hurricane, called a kamikaze or Divine Wind by the Japanese, prevented a successful invasion.)[43] Soldiers and administrators were advanced based on merit which resulted in an army where only the most skilled were in charge, and a fighting force that prioritized skill and practice over political maneuvering.[44] The Mongols were remarkable for their ability, and willingness, to adapt to new strategies and new ways of thinking. This flexibility and adaptability—combined with the raw genius of Genghis Khan, the training, and toughness of his soldiers and the speed of their maneuvering—led them to establish the largest contiguous land empire in human history.


Mongolians were expert riders who specialized in mounted combat, with weapons that reflected this. While the bow was the primary weapon, repeated military contact with China led to the integration of several effective Chinese weapons.[45]

The dao is a single-edged Chinese sword specialized for cutting, and homologous to the European saber. Its thick spine and distil taper lend sturdy construction, and it is an effective cutting weapon on foot or horseback.[46] The Jian is a double-edged, straight, one-handed sword which is a dedicated cut-and-thrust weapon. It is also one of the four primary weapons in Chinese Kung Fu along with the staff, dao, and spear.[47] The Mongols also developed their own saber; lightweight and curved, it had a distinct advantage over heavier swords.[48] On foot, warriors wielded swords, axes, maces, and a small round shield.[49]

A modern reproduction of a traditional Chinese Jian. [50]

The primary Mongolian weapon was the bow. The Mongols were the greatest mounted archers in human history and were famous for being able to fire arrows in any direction while riding at full speed. For greatest accuracy, the warrior would release the bowstring in the second when all four of his horse's legs were off the ground. Archers had different arrows for different occasions. Needle-thin, hardened arrowheads were used to punch through armor, while wide, barbed arrows were used to bring down horses. Other specialized heads were designed specifically for hunting birds or ensuring that the arrow would stay embedded in the target even if the entry hole was widened by riding or movement.[51] An innovative invention of the Mongols was the whistling arrow, a specialized arrow with a carefully bored hole in the head that produced a specific sound when fired. Different arrows made different sounds, and those sounds were used to communicate with troops. One whistle might mean advance, while another one meant retreat. This allowed for effective control over large numbers of troops in the heat of battle.

Mounted Mongolian archers in armor pursue a routed enemy. [52]

Mongolian archers differed in their draw technique from the European counterparts. While European archers drew with three fingers, Mongols drew with the thumb—a technique called a thumb draw. Not only do some experts argue that this method is faster, but the added reinforcement of the fingers in conjunction with a thumb ring allows higher weights to be drawn before the fingers fail.[53] Additionally, Mongol horsemen usually carried two bows—one for long range and one for short range—into battle and used quivers mounted on their belts or saddle. Skilled archers often held two or three arrows in their shooting hand for faster shooting.[54]

File:Bow, arrows, bowcase and quiver. central asia.jpg
An ornate example of a saddle mounted bow case and quiver. [55]

Training began as soon as the child could hold a bow and continued until they died. Both men and women were required to learn how to ride and to shoot. Mongolian archery feats were unmatched. It was said that a warrior would commonly shoot an arrow very high so that it would fall straight down on its target for maximum penetration. At the same time, he would fire an arrow horizontally so that the two arrows would hit at the exact same time, nearly touching each other in the target.[56]

In addition to being phenomenally skilled on horseback, archers also had a variety of shooting positions. One of the most innovative was the Jarmakee, which allowed the shooter to fire straight down without exposing their head. This proved useful both in fending off wildlife from horseback and shooting directly down a castle wall during a siege.[57]

This video shows how the next arrows are held in the shooting hand, as well as the whistling arrows for communication and the Jarmakee position.[58]

While European longbows had an average draw weight of seventy to eight pounds and a maximum range of about 250 yards, Mongolian composite bows had draw weights anywhere from 100-160 pounds and could shoot in excess of 350 yards or further.[59] Dr Gongor Lhagvasuren of the Mongolian National Institute of Physical Education analyzed a stone stele dedicated to Chinggis Khan around 1226. “One interpretation of this inscription could be as follows: ‘While Chinggis Khan was holding an assembly of Mongolian dignitaries, after his conquest of Sartaul (East Turkestan), Esungge shot a target at 335 alds’ (536m).” Dr. Lhagvasuren goes on to state that, “This case illustrates the strength, accuracy, sharpness, and physical prowess of the Mongolians who lived more than seven hundred years ago. We must even consider this inscription as a historic proof of the high archery skills as well as its training methods and techniques in Mongolia in this time.”

The secret to these incredible feats was the construction of the Mongolian composite bow. The bow was made of a birch core, reinforced by horn on the inner side, while sinew was stretched across the outer side to increase the bow’s flexibility. The bow was a recurve; drawn against its natural curve, enormous stress was put on the bow—hence the horn reinforcement—that resulted in spectacular draw weights in lightweight, compact bows. Each bow took time to make as the wood had to be steamed, then bent and held in place. The glue was derived from boiled fish bladders, preferable because it is highly moisture resistant and unlikely to degrade in rain or snow. Additionally, a thin layer of birch bark was sealed into the top layer of the bow to protect it from moisture. The string was made from horsehide, which remained sturdy even in the subzero temperatures. The Mongol bow was constructed in such a way that it could be reliably used in any weather or temperature. The arrows were made of the sturdy birch as well and had an average length of eighty to one hundred centimeters, with a shaft diameter around ten millimeters. Bird tailfeathers were used for fletching; these arrows flew straighter than those with feathers taken from the wings.

File:The bow of a Mongolian army.JPG
An example on an unstrung composite bow with aged birch wrapping the bow. [60]

The following awe inspiring video shows how a traditional Mongolian bow is made in the traditional way from start to finish.[61]

This video demonstrates the incredible skill that professional historical archers must have possessed[62]

This video shows the skill required for accurate shooting from horseback.[63]


The Mongols made their in the Steppes, a land of extremes, where summer temperatures routinely reached over 100ºF (37º C) with winter temperatures plummeting to -22ºF (30ºC).[64] As a result, Mongolian armor had to be lightweight and unrestrictive, but also able to adjust to a wide range of temperatures. It drew on models from Chinese and Arabic soldiers and was usually made of leather or iron in a laminar or scale pattern. Typical Mongolian armor consisted of a helmet, breastplate, and shield. Some wealthy and important individuals even rode armored horses.

Mongolian riders in full armor. [65]

Mongolian helmets bore a resemblance to Chinese and Arabic helmets, with the characteristic cone shape and iron construction. However, they differed in the fact that they were often lined with fur and had additional protection around the front of the neck. The tops of the helmets were often ornamented with horse hair or other significant symbols. Alternatively, light cavalry could wear a hat with ear flaps for additional comfort and warmth.[66]

A traditional example of a Mongolian helmet. [67]

The Mongolian breastplate was comprised of overlapping plates of leather or iron that were sewn together and then secured to a fabric coat to make an effective protective layer. Additionally, the armor could be worn over a heavy coat for further protection.[68] A silk undershirt would be worn as a base layer; in addition to regulating temperature in hot and cold climates, the silk helped protect warriors from barbed arrows. If an arrow were slowed by the armor but still pierced the skin, the barbs would tangle in the tough fabric as the arrow entered the body. When the arrow was removed, the entangled barbs would not lacerate the body.[69]

Shields were used to protect the rider during a battle either on horseback or on foot. They were made of dried wound wicker and covered by leather. The construction was lightweight and sturdy, able to withstand direct blows from arrows, swords, and knives.[70] There is some speculation that the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongols disincentivized them from setting up the kind of permanent forges and quarries needed to make more labor intensive and industrial weapons and armor like their European and Arabic counterparts.[71]

Mongolian horses were central to their culture. While they are diminutive and often mistaken for ponies, the Mongolian horses are some of the toughest in the world. Mongolian ranchers rarely interfered with breeding and feeding, leaving the herd to its own devices and allowing nature to cull the weakest from the herd. The result was horses that could run up to twenty miles a day and work until the age of eighteen.[72]

Horse Race, Finish Line, Winter, Horseback, Equine
True-bred Mongolian horses, born and raised on the planes, can continue to run in heat and cold that would kill any other horse. [73]

Horses were central to Mongolian nomadic life and as such, some warriors (particularly heavy cavalry) outfitted their horses with armor. The armor was made in the same style as the breastplate with interwoven scales of armor divided into five parts to cover all parts of the horse.[74] The horse's endurance, hardiness and their ability to survive off only grass and water freed the Mongols from traditional supply lines. Their durability and stamina enabled them to attack Russia in winter and cross huge swaths of terrain that their enemies had assumed was impassable, arriving days or weeks ahead of schedule.[75]

Specialty: Terror

The Mongols cultivated a terrifying reputation for brutality. In 1215, Shah Muhammad, the leader of the Khwarizm Dynasty, launched a diplomatic force to open relationships with China and assess if it was worth invading. The dignitaries traveled through lands that the Mongols had conquered and saw the results first-hand. According to the Tarikh-i Jahangushay, a history of Genghis Khan written by Persian Chronicler Ata-Malik Juvayni, what the party had assumed as a snow-covered mountain was actually a massive field of bones. The road had become swampy and impassible, the ground saturated by spilled blood and the grease of decaying bodies. The stench was so bad that a few members of the party sickened and died.[76]

It is vital to note that the Mongols did not cause such violence and destruction senselessly or because they enjoyed it. The Mongolian leadership was very strategic with its terror, using it to inspire enemies to surrender before even entering combat. Additionally, this reputation for sterilizing a city of every living thing, down to the dogs and the livestock, helped them to maintain control long after the main force had moved on. Their reputation cultivated the perception that the Mongols were an unstoppable juggernaut that could only be survived by surrendering. This mentality was essential in rapidly capturing vast amounts of territory and allowed the bulk of the army to be concentrated at critical and resisting targets.[77]

It is important to note that the Mongols did diverge from other contemporary powers in a very significant way: they did not torture, mutilate, or maim their enemies. Other rulers like Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa, a hero of German Culture and civilization, beheaded his enemies and ordered his men to play with them like balls outside the walls of his city. He also gathered captured children and loaded them into catapults, then flung them into city walls with lethal force. In 1014, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, Basil the Bulgar Slayer, mutilated his Bulger prisoners by blinding fifteen thousand of them, leaving every hundredth man with one eye to lead the rest back home.[78] By contrast, the Mongols generated terror via the speed and effectiveness through which they defeated numerically superior armies and conquered seemingly impregnable cites. They were feared for their aura of invincibility and competence, not their ability for unrestrained cruelty.

While stories of Mongolian cruelty have been exaggerated by hysterical chronicles at the time or downplayed by revisionist historians today, a classic example of the thoroughness of Mongolian discipline occurred during Subutai’s exploration of the west. He came to a city named Hamadan and demanded everything the city had; the ruler of the city wisely agreed and wished the Mongols safe travels. A year later after a battle with the Georgians, the Mongols returned and demanded more supplies. When the impoverished city refused Subutai, his forces killed everything in the city and burned it to the ground. According to the chroniclers, the plume of smoke was visible for hundreds of miles in all directions. A few days after the slaughter, a detachment of soldiers was sent back to the city to kill any stragglers who may have been hiding or out of town. Only once they guaranteed that nothing living remained did they rejoin the Horde.[79]

File:Sacking of Suzdal by Batu Khan.jpg
The sacking of Suzdal by Batu Khan in February 1238 during the Russian campaign. [80]

One of the most famous examples of Mongol ferocity was the war of extermination that Genghis Khan conducted on Xi Xia when they failed to provide him with troops for his conquest against the Khwarizm Shah. At the Battle of the Yellow River when the Chinese forces turned to counter-attack, the Mongols smashed into them, resulting in over 300,000 Chinese deaths in a single battle.[81] Some historians estimate that over the course of their reign, the Mongols killed between 10 million and 70 million people by hand.[82]

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“Climate and Weather in Mongolia - By Mongolia Travel and Tours.” Accessed June 20, 2018. http://www.mongolia-travel-and-tours.com/climate-mongolia.html.

CrashCourse. Russia, the Kievan Rus, and the Mongols: Crash Course World History #20. Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etmRI2_9Q_A&t=2s.

Wait For It...The Mongols!: Crash Course World History #17. Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szxPar0BcMo&t=613s.

Din, Rashid al-. Mongol Archers Featured in Compendium of Chronicles of Rashiduldin Hamadani, Year 1305. 1306 1305. “History of the World” by Rashid al-Din. Photograph by German image bank AKG-Images, published in “The Mongols and the West”, Peter Jackson, 2005. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mongol_soldiers_by_Rashid_al-Din_1305.JPG.

Diplomat, Jonathan DeHart, The. “The Mongol Horse: Supreme on the Steppe.” The Diplomat. Accessed June 20, 2018. https://thediplomat.com/2013/08/the-mongol-horse-supreme-on-the-steppe/.

DK Books. Weapon A Visual History of Arms and Armor. Edited by Paula Regan. DK publishing, n.d.

engine, Difference. English: Chinese Jian Designed by Scott M. Rodell. Made by Hanwei. February 25, 2015. Own work. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scott_Rodell_cutting_jian.jpg.

English: Sacking of Suzdal by Batu Khan in February, 1238. Mongol Invasion of Russia. A Miniature from the Sixteenth Century Chronicle. [object HTMLTableCellElement]. http://rutenica.narod.ru/SUZDAL.JPG. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sacking_of_Suzdal_by_Batu_Khan.jpg.

“File:Zhu Yuanzhang.Gif - Wikimedia Commons.” Accessed June 23, 2018. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zhu_Yuanzhang.gif.

“Four Major Weapons - Plum Blossom International Federation.” Accessed June 17, 2018. http://plumblossom.net/Articles/Inside_Kung-Fu/Nov2007/index.html.

“Free Image on Pixabay - Horse Race, Finish Line, Winter.” Accessed June 23, 2018. /en/horse-race-finish-line-winter-1230638/.

“Genghis Khan -- Britannica Academic.” Accessed June 22, 2018. https://academic-eb-com.proxy.library.vcu.edu/levels/collegiate/article/Genghis-Khan/109425.

“Genghis Khan - Military Leader, Warrior - Biography.” Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/genghis-khan-9308634.

Great Big Story. A Modern Day Warrior: Mastering Mounted Archery. Accessed June 17, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gumuNn2PAQo.

“Hardcore History 43-47 – Wrath of the Khans Series.” Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.dancarlin.com/product/hardcore-history-wrath-of-the-khans-series/.

Lane, George. Genghis Khan and Mongol Rule. Hackett Publishing, 2009.

larsandersen23. Lars Andersen: A New Level of Archery. Accessed June 17, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEG-ly9tQGk.

M, British Museum Dept of British and Mediaeval Antiquities and Ethnography Joyce, Thomas Athol, 1878-1942 Dalton, O. English: Fig. 46.—Bow, Arrows, and Bow Case and Quiver of Hide. Central Asia. of a Kaftan (a Long Loose Garment of Fur, Felt, or Linen), under Avhich in Winter Are Worn a Shirt and Trousers with the Ends Stuck into High Soft Boots Reaching to the Knees ; on the Head a Cap of Sheepskin or Felt Is Usually Worn. The Men’s Hair Is Simply Cut, l)Ut That of the Women Often Very Elaborately Dressed and Loaded with Ornaments. The Principal Food of the Asiatic Nomads Is Derived from His Herds ; It Is Largely Composed of the Milk of Mares and Camels and of a Coarse Kind of Butter. Their Utensils Are Chiefly of Wood, for, like Most Nomadic Peoples, They Do Not Manufacture Pottery. Society Is Patriarchal, the Head 1 It Is Convenient to Draw a Distinction between the Words Mongolian and Mongol. The Former Is the Wider Term, Including Great Ethnical Families as Far Apart as the Chinese and the Turks; the Latter Is Specific, and Denotes the Comparatively Small Population of Mongolia Proper. circa 1910. https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14596589400/. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bow,_arrows,_bowcase_and_quiver._central_asia.jpg.

“Marco Polo.” Khan Academy. Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project/expansion-interconnection/exploration-interconnection/a/marco-polo.

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“Mongol Military Organization Administration and Logistics - Khans and Conquest: The Mongols, 1150-1400 - THE AGE OF TRADITIONS IN CONFLICT, 1100-1500.” Accessed June 22, 2018. https://erenow.com/books/Warinworldhistory/78.html.

Monograph, A, and LtCol Darrel C Benfield. “The Mongols: Early Practitioners of Maneuver Warfare,” n.d., 47.

Muller, Marcelo. “Chapter V: On Methods of Drawing and Loosing the Arrow. The Badminton Library: Archery by C.J. Longman and Col. H. Walrond, 1894.,” April 14, 2008. https://www.archerylibrary.com/books/badminton/docs/chapter05/chapter5_2.html.

“Osprey-Mongol-Warrior-1200-1350.Pdf.” Accessed June 20, 2018. https://jigjids.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/osprey-mongol-warrior-1200-1350.pdf.

R. G. Grant. Battle A Visual Journey Through 5,000 Years Of Comat. Edited by David John. DK publishing, n.d.

Sandra Alvarez. “The Art of War under Chinggis Qahan (Genghis Khan) » De Re Militari.” Accessed June 22, 2018. http://deremilitari.org/2014/06/the-art-of-war-under-chinggis-qahan-genghis-khan/.

Scam Stuff. Signalling Arrows and Jarmakee. Accessed June 17, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PF8UkHzEq2c.

scholagladiatoria. An Antique Chinese Dao Sword (AKA Chinese Broadsword). Accessed June 17, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5Op4vRsXJw.

“The Definition of Khan.” www.dictionary.com. Accessed June 22, 2018. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/khan.

“The Mongolian Bow.” Accessed June 17, 2018. http://www.coldsiberia.org/monbow.htm.

Tucker, Spencer C. A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East [6 Volumes]: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO, 2009.

Unknown. Battle of Legnica (Legnitz) 1241. From Legend of Saint Hedwig. 1353. Medieval illuminated manuscript , collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Legnica.JPG.

unknown. Conquest of Baghdad by the Mongols 1258. Double-Page Illustration of Rashid-Ad-Din’s Gami’ at-Tawarih. Tabriz (?), 1st Quarter of 14th Century. Water Colours and Gold on Paper. Original Size: 37.4 Cm x 29.3 Cm (Right), 37.2 Cm x 29 Cm (Left). Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Orientabteilung, Diez A Fol. 70, p. 4 (Right) and 7 (Left). Note the Ponton Bridges, Siege Engines, and the Refugee on the Boat, Maybe a High Dignitary or Even the Calif Himself. For Only the Left or Only the Right Part of the Illustration, See Image:DiezAlbumsFallOfBaghdad_b.Jpg and Image:DiezAlbumsFallOfBaghdad_a.Jpg. 14th century. Dschingis Khan und seine Erben (exhibition catalogue), München 2005, p. 252/253. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DiezAlbumsFallOfBaghdad.jpg.

———. Mounted Warriors Pursue Enemies. Illustration of Rashid-Ad-Din’s Gami’ at-Tawarih. Tabriz (?), 1st Quarter of 14th Century. Water Colours on Paper. Original Size: 21.2 Cm x 26.2 Cm. Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Orientabteilung, Diez A Fol. 70, p. 58. Probably a Conflict between Mongols. See Also Image:DiezAlbumsArmedRiders_II.Jpg. 14th century. Dschingis Khan und seine Erben (exhibition catalogue), München 2005, p. 255. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DiezAlbumsArmedRiders_I.jpg.

User:Astrokey44. Map Showing Changes in Borders of the Mongol Empire from Founding by Genghis Khan in 1206, Genghis Khan’s Death in 1227 to the Rule of Kublai Khan (1260–1294). (Uses Modern Day Borders). June 2006. Based on the freely licenced Image:Genghis khan empire at his death.png using information from maps of the Mongol Empire in atlases and on the web such as [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. Made in Photoshop and Painter. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mongol_Empire_map.gif.

Vereshchagin, Vasily. English: Apotheosis of War. 1871. Oil on canvas Q296955/Q4259259, Height: 127 cm (50 in); Width: 197 cm (77.5 in). Tretyakov Gallery. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1871_Vereshchagin_Apotheose_des_Krieges_anagoria.JPG.

“Weapons | Genghis Khan.” Accessed June 17, 2018. http://genghiskhan.fieldmuseum.org/explore/photo-gallery/weapons.

Weatherford, Jack. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Crown/Archetype, 2005.

江戸東京博物館、熊本県立美術館. The Helmet of a Mongolian Army. September 8, 2013. 『北条時宗とその時代展』、『蒙古襲来絵詞展』. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_helmet_of_a_Mongolian_army_(8).JPG.

震天動地. The Bow of a Mongolian Army. July 5, 2013. Own work. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_bow_of_a_Mongolian_army.JPG.

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