Mongol conqueror, ruler of all Mongol peoples from 1206. He conquered the empires of northern China 1211–15 and Khwarazm 1219–21, and invaded northern India in 1221, while his lieutenants advanced as far as the Crimea. When he died, his empire ranged from the Yellow Sea to the Black Sea; it continued to expand after his death to extend from Hungary to Korea. Genghis Khan controlled probably a larger area than any other individual in history. He was not only a great military leader, but the creator of a stable political system.
The ruins of his capital Karakorum are southwest of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia; his alleged remains are preserved at Ejin Horo, Inner Mongolia.
Temujin, as he was originally called, was the son of a Mongol chieftain. At his birth the Mongols were a scattered nomad people living in family groups, feuding among themselves, and raiding Tatar settlements and the Juchen Jin or Chin Empire which occupied northern China; his own tribe ranged along the Kerulin River in Mongolia. Temujin became chief at the age of 13 after his father, Yesugei, was killed. Demonstrating early political acumen and military flair, he ruthlessly disposed of rivals through the making and breaking of alliances and gradually welded together a force capable of subjugating the neighbouring Naiman and Kereit tribes. His leadership of the Mongols was confirmed in 1206 when he was acclaimed Chingis (perfect warrior) or Genghis Khan by an assembly of Kuriltai (chieftains). He organized the tribes into semi-feudal clans bound together by unquestioning allegiance to the khan; a sophisticated military organization based on the decimal system; and the Great Yasa or jasagh (1206), an imperial code of laws to which he himself was subject. For his personal protection, Genghis Khan created a 10,000-strong imperial guard.
Masters of cavalry tactics and merciless in war, the Mongols were invincible under Genghis's command; according to the Yasa the Mongols under their khan were divinely appointed to rule the world and any attempt to resist them was a blasphemy justifying any atrocity. He campaigned against the empire of the Jin dynasty from 1211 to 1214, reaching the walls of Peking (now Beijing) before turning to the west. Between 1219 and 1225 he defeated the Khitans and overcame the Turkish empire of the Khwarizm shah (now encompassing Iran, Iraq, and a portion of Turkestan). His armies penetrated as far west as the Caucasus, and almost to the Arctic Ocean to the north. At his death, during a campaign against the Tanguts in northern China, he was ruler of the whole of Central Asia.
Mongol Empire: Expansion
Empires Beyond the Great Wall: The Heritage of Genghis Khan
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