Temüjin, later Genghis Khan (c. 1162 – August 18, 1227)

The famous emperor was probably born in Delüün Boldog, which is in a district of modern Mongolia (a large country sandwiched between Russia and China). Tribal warfare dominated his early life; his father, who was a clan chief, died when Temüjin was young. He clashed with other tribes, was denied position as chief, and he was even imprisoned for a while (but escaped). By the time he was 16, he was married. By the time he was 23-24, he was already rising to power...

Becoming khan of the Mongols but facing oblivion

Temüjin had been busy in his early years, making powerful friends (and enemies). He attracted lower-class supporters who appreciated his move away from aristocratic rule. His power gradually rose until he was made khan (ruler) of the Mongols in 1186. However, there were other khans living on the plains who felt threatened by this young man's elevation; it seemed confrontation was inevitable. Temüjin and his followers were soundly beaten at the Battle of Dalan Balzhut in 1187 by his rival, Jamukha. It must have been a crushing blow because little was recorded about the man in the following decade. But he had not turned his back on power just yet...

Genghis Khan - Wikipedia

Like other notable conquerors, Genghis Khan is portrayed differently by conquered peoples than those who conquered with him. Negative views persist in histories written by many cultures from different geographical regions. They often cite the systematic slaughter of civilians in conquered regions, cruelties and destruction by Mongol armies. Other authors also cite positive aspects of Genghis Khan's conquests.

Consolidating power and looking beyond the Mongol steppes

Temüjin managed to claw his way back to a position of power by defeating local adversaries. He was a popular leader because of his advocacy of meritocracy, rewarding his warriors based on merit rather than familial links. He battled against Jamukha, who was eventually betrayed by his own generals, leaving Temüjin as the stand-out leader of the now uniting Mongol tribes. By 1206, these tribes that had constantly fought each other were coming together under the powerful influence of Temüjin and he took on the title that he is more famously known as today - Genghis Khan. Now the various tribes were united, it was time for Genghis to expand his new empire...

Setting the foundations for the largest contiguous land empire

In 1206, Genghis Khan already held power over a considerable area of land. He attacked the Tangut Empire (Western Xia) and then the Chinese Jin Dynasty (which took 23 years for the Mongols to conquer, after Genghis had already died). The central Asian empire of Qara Khitai was conquered in 1218, and Khwarezmia (covering Iran and other parts of central Asia) was invaded in 1219 and conquered by 1221. Genghis returned to Mongolia while some of his men raided as far as Georgia and Armenia. Europe was now definitely aware of the Mongol army...

Dan the Info-man
This map shows the growth of the Mongol Empire from 1206 (foundation by Genghis Khan) to 1294 (death of Kublai Khan - Genghis Khan's grandson).

Death and a brutal legacy

Genghis Khan had turned his attention back to Western Xia. His empire was huge and he wanted to strengthen its borders. In August 1227, at the age of around 65, the Great Khan died. It is unclear what killed him: he may have been injured in battle, wounded after falling off his horse or hurt while hunting. He was buried in Mongolia and his son, Ögedei Khan, became the Great Khan. Genghis united the tribes and brought the important Silk Road trade route under control, but he was ruthless and his warriors were destructive; millions died because of their actions. Unsurprisingly though, in his homeland of Mongolia he is revered as a great man and there are many monuments to his memory.

Dan the Info-man
The Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue in Mongolia is 130 ft high! In Mongol his name reads as Chinggis Khaan.
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