AP World History Per. 4
December 3rd, 2018
How the Mongol Empire became an expansive and powerful empire
The Mongols were a nomadic group who roamed Eurasia. They were reminiscent of many hunter-gatherer societies of the Paleolithic era as they were usually hunting on horseback using bows and arrows. This group would later evolve into a powerful empire which managed to encapsulate a large amount of empires and cover a wide amount of territory, including all of China, the Korean Peninsula, Iran, the Indian subcontinent, and Some of Eastern Europe including Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary. And this was all done under the leaderships of Genghis Khan, and his successors, Ogedei Khan, Guyuk Khan, Mongke Khan, and Kublai Khan. Genghis Khan’s success in the battlefield and the continued success of his successors is how the Mongol Empire managed to become a massive and powerful empire.
Genghis Khan, Born Temujin, was the founder of the Mongol Empire but before the Mongol Empire there were nomadic Mongolian tribes dating back to the Stone Age. Temujin was the son of Mongolian chieftain who worked his way up into power by working together with the khan of Kerait, a nomadic tribe, named Toghrul Khan. Temujin went to war with the most powerful Mongol leader named Wang Khan and successfully beat Wang. After this expanded the Mongol state under his rule. During his early expansions he teamed with his childhood friend Jamukha and continued working with Toghrul Khan to defeat the Merkit, Naiman, and Tatar tribes. His relation with Jamukha however, wouldn’t last for long, as they each gained power which resulted in a growing rivalry. They clashed in how the Mongol empire should be ruled, as Temujin wanted it to be a meritocracy but Jamukha wanted the empire to be a Mongolian aristocracy. Temujin’s meritocratic way however, appealed to the lower class of the Mongols. The appeal of Khan’s meritocratic way lead to him being elected the Military Leader of the Mongols in 1886. Jamukha on the other hand wasn’t pleased by this decision so a year later he decided to gather up an army of around 30,000 troops and attacked Temujin in the Battle of Dalan Balzhut. Temujin used his followers to make a defense force but was overwhelmed by the attack and lost the Battle of Dalan Balzhut. History never tracked the exploits of Genghis until 1197, where the Mongols commanded by Toghrul and Temujin, along with the Keraite tribe and the Jin Dynasty of China, attacked the Tatar tribe. The Jin Dynasty, which led the attack, rewarded Toghrul and Temujin with the titles of Ong Khan and J’aut Quri. Temujin wanted to further expand the Mongols and he wanted to do it by conquering his rival tribes, the Naimans, the Merkits, and the Tanguts. During his conquests he broke Mongol tradition by implementing his preferred system of Meritocracy as he gave power to those he trusted as opposed to any sort of direct family. Temujin promised his civilians and soldiers the wealth gained from war efforts, and when he conquered the rival tribes, he always took the tribe and made said tribe a part of his own tribe. This made the conquered people loyal to him which greatly helped in expanding his strength for his tribe. Temujin in his conquest for more power would eventually battle Toghrul as Toghrul refused to give his daughter up to marry Genghis’s first son, this resulted in a war, where Jamukha fought alongside Toghrul against Temujin. Temujin however would be victorious in this battle as Toghrul died in the battle and Jamukha escaped, marking the end of the Keraite Tribe. The Naiman tribe would be next to perish as Jamukha escaped to that tribe, and said tribe named Jamukha as the universal ruler, only to be later turned in to Genghis in 1206 by his own people. Temujin still offered friendship to Jamukha but Jamukha insisted wanted to die. The Secret History of the Mongols, which is the oldest surviving Mongolian piece of literature, states “If you want to show favor to me, let me die swiftly and your heart will be at rest. And if you condescend to have me put to death, let them kill me without shedding blood. When I lie dead, my bones buried in a high place, for ever and ever I shall protect you and be a blessing to the offspring of your offspring (Stated by Jamukha)… He (He referring to Temujin) ordered that Jamukha be put to death without his blood being shed and that his body should not be abandoned in the open, but be given a fitting burial. He had Jamukha executed there and then, and had his body buried as arranged.” After the defeat of the Naimans, Temujin will become the only ruler of the Mongols due to his conquering of the other tribes. All tribes in the area by 1206 will now become a part of a larger Mongol union. A Mongol council called the Kurultai gave Temujin the name Genghis Khan.
Throughout the majority of the 13th century the Mongols managed to conquer a massive amount of land, starting first with the kingdom of Western Xia. During the invasion, the Mongol forces were ruthless and while they didn’t kill the ruler of the Xia, the ruler surrendered to the Mongols due to destroyed crops and the lack support from the neighboring Jin Dynasty of China to aid in combat. Genghis Khan set his sights next on the Jin Dynasty next and in 1211 Genghis Khan declared war on the Jin Dynasty. During this time, Western Xia also attacked Jin Dynasty China as revenge for not cooperating with them when the Mongols attacked Western Xia. The Mongols gave help to the Xia as they too were conquering the Jin dynasty, but when the Mongols asked the Xia for help in conquering another dynasty, the Khawazmian Dynasty, the Xia refused. This caused a split between the Mongols and the Xia and another invasion followed suit. During this second invasion however, Genghis Khan died in August 1227, a month later the remaining Mongol troops completely annihilated Western Xia as they killed the people in the city and raided the tombs of the city. Genghis Khan’s death however, didn’t mark the end of the Mongol empire, as another Great Khan will take Genghis’s role, his third son Ogedei Khan.
In 1219, the elder sons of Genghis Khan, Jochi and Chagati decided that Ogedei Khan would become the Supreme Khan. Ogedei picked up where Genghis left on and conquered Kwarezmia, marking the beginning of the conquering of the Islamic world. The Jin Dynasty is restless and continuously provokes the Mongols with warfare but is met with the power of the Mongols. Later on in, 1231, Ogedei started invading the Korean Peninsula, which was known at the time as the Kingdom of Goryeo. By 1270 Goryeo went from being a kingdom to being a vassal state for the Mongols. Many events happened between that timeframe however. In between that time the Mongols also were conquering of other areas around China. Then, in 1236, Ogedei set his sights on conquering Europe with the first attack being on Volga Bulgaria, which is now situated in Eastern Russia. This was followed up by an invasion on the Kingdom of Georgia, in which many of the monarchs and other noble men either fled, submitted to the Mongols, or resisted and later died due to the raw strength of the Mongol Empire. This resulted in Georgia becoming a tributary state for the Mongols in 1242. However, on December 11th of 1241, before Georgia surrendered to the Mongols, Ogedei Khan dies due to an accident that occurred on a drunken hunting trip.
The next in line for Supreme Khan of the Mongol Empire was Guyuk Khan, oldest son of his predecessor Ogedei Khan and grandson of Genghis Khan, as he was elected the Supreme Khan of the Mongol Empire in 1246. However his reign wouldn’t last long as the rule lasted for two whole years due to health complications killing off Guyuk. In those two years he never really accomplished anything as he never invaded any land and just continued the struggle against the Goryeo Kingdom. The next in line to be the Supreme Khan would be Mongke Khan, another grandson of Genghis Khan. His rule when compared to Genghis’s rule and Ogedei’s rule was short as he was only in power for 8 years but he still accomplished. He continued the offensive on the Kingdom of Goryeo which was started by Ogedei Khan and re-invaded China. One major accomplishment of the Mongol empire under Mongke’s rule was the Siege of Baghdad in 1258. Iraq historian Fattah Hala claims “Besieging Baghdad in 1258 with a huge army, composed chiefly of Mongols but also of Christians from Georgia and Armenia, Hulegu (One of Genghis’s grandsons and brother of Mongke) pressured the last Abbasid caliph to negotiate or surrender altogether. When close to 3,000 of Baghdad’s notables finally met with the khan to discuss ways of ending the conflict, they were murdered. Baghdad was now open to the conquering armies. Hulegu Khan’s onslaught on Baghdad brought about the end of the 500-year Abbasid caliphate, the last ruler of which was savagely trampled to death under the hooves of Mongol horses.”
Mongke Khan however, would die a year later in 1259, a year after that, his brother Kublai Khan takes over his spot as the Supreme Khan. Under Kublai Khan the Mongol Empire manages to do the one thing it strived to do ever since its inception, have full control of China. While the Mongols at the time of Kublai’s crowning had control of northern China due to past conquests done by the previous Khan’s, Kublai would have control of southern China, which was under control of the Song dynasty. The invasion of the Song was started by Mongke Khan but continued by Kublai Khan. By 1276 Kublai managed to capture the Song capital city of Hangzhou. By 1279, the Mongols killed the Song emperor in the battle of Yamen by drowning, ending off the Song dynasty and starting off the Yuan dynasty. Yuan dynasty china went through a decline as there was discrimination towards the native Chinese people that was promoted by the government, widespread inflation in already overtaxed areas, and a flooding of the Yellow river due to a failure to continue irrigation problems. Many people weren’t satisfied with the rule and in 1356, a rebel group named the Red Turbans captured the Nanjing city, starting a group of rebel attacks towards the Yuan until 1368, where the rebels chased the last Yuan emperor out of the palaces of Dadu, where the Ming dynasty was declared.
The Mongol Empire lasted from 1206 to 1368 and in that time, the Mongols conquered up to 24,000,000 Kilometers Squared. This makes the Mongol empire the 2nd largest empire, only losing to the British Empire with it 35,500,000 Kilometers Squared. The amount of conquering was only really possible due to the amount of power that the Mongol empire had, and this was all due to the leadership of the Khan’s, starting with Genghis Khan, and ending with Kublai Khan, and while some Khan’s were more instrumental with ruling the empire than others, they all had importance in history and will be remembered in history as one of the world’s most efficient conquerors.
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