Thread: Life This Day in History
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Old 03-22-2009, 09:24 PM   #255
Amnorix Amnorix is offline
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March 22.

Nothing very exciting for today, so I'll go with one I've had planned for some time now.


On a day lost to history in the spring of the year 1206, the People of the Felt Walls (as they called themselves) gathered for a kurultai -- a political meeting -- at which they would acknowledge the overlordship of a new leader. Approaching nearly 40 years of age, the person to whom the People of the Felt Walls came to pay homage had completely transformed their society during the short years of his life.

For generations uncounted the nomadic peoples had been bound together in loose confederations of tribal organization. The tribes were constantly at each other's throats. They fought over the same things such tribes have always fought across history -- food, land and -- somewhat unusually -- women. In this particular culture, the kidnapping of women was a common occurrence for gaining a wife, and often spawned lengthy, bitter rivalries.

Temujin's ascension, however, had changed absolutely everything. Whereas in the past the tribes had formed, broken and reformed loose alliances and competed with each other, Temujin had risen from almost nowhere to gain control of a tribe, and then gain and KEEP allies in other tribes by treating them fairly, rewarding merit over blood or tribal ties, and repeatedly establishing his tactical and strategic brilliance on the field of battle.

For the field of battle was where the People of the Felt Walls lived from the time they could first ride their shaggy horses. Men were constantly at war, with each other and with their immediate neighbors. The entire society knew nothing but grinding harship and harsh conditions.

Temujin himself was the son of a woman who had been kidnapped. His own wife, Borte, had been kidnapped and later recovered. The timing of the birth of his eldest son, however, would forever leave in doubt his true parentage. As a result, in addition to the many other changes he wrought, one of the most significant was to raise the status of women and forbid their kidnapping among the tribes under his control.

By 1206, Temujin had effectively united the tribes under his control. They gathered to pay him homage and acknowledge his lordship. Until now, none except their immediate neighbors had ever paid any attention to this nomadic group of insignificant and poverty-stricken horsemen. Usually they only paid attention when they were raided, or when they wanted to hire them to raid someone else.

Temujin's ascension, however, would change everything, for instead of being at each other's throats, these men of war would operate under one standard and bring their brand of war, their brilliance, their cunning, their sheer ruthlesness, across known civilization.

And Temujin -- the leader of a people of whom nobody had ever heard before, would bring both his people and himself to the attention of the entire world, and put abject fear into their hearts. Temujin would go down in history and become a legend, though he was not known for his name, but rather his title. King of Kings, Khan of Khans, the Genghis Khan.

And the world would never be the same.

Originally Posted by Edward Gibbon, in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
By the arms of Zingis and his descendants the globe was shaken: the sultans were overthrown, the caliphs fell, and the Caesars trembled on their thrones
It is quite literally impossible to overstate the stunning successes, and their impact on history, of Genghis Khan.

"In 25 years the Mongol army subjugated more lands and more people than the Romans had conquered in 400 years. Genghis Khan, together with his sons and grandsons, conquered the most densely populated civilizations of the thirteenth century. Whether measured by the total number of of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed or by the total area occupied, Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history. . . . At its zenith, the Mongol empire covered between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of the African continent, and considerably larger than North America, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America and the islands of the Caribbean combined. . . The majority of people today live in countries conquered by teh Mongols; on the modern map, Genghis Khan's conquests include more than 30 countries with well over 3 billion people. The most astonishing aspect of this achievement is that the entire Mongol tribe under him numbered around a million."

The impact of the three generations of Mongol rampage across Asia and into Europe was tremendous. Prior to his conquests, "No one in China had heard of Europe, and no one in Europe had heard of China, and, so far as is known, no person had made the journey from one to the other." By the time of his death, and thereafter, the trade and diplomatic connections fostered by the Mongols in the territories under their control would never be broken.

The Mongols' achievements were both incredible and unspeakable. They destroyed the Hasashins of Islam, who had held tremendous control over Muslims and were feared by all. The modern word "assassin" comes from this fanatical sect. Whereas repeated Crusades by all of Christian Europe struggled to do much more than carve out small islands in the Holy Lands, the Mongols swept through Islam like a flaming scythe through dry wheat, including -- under Genghis Khan's grandson-- capturing and razing to the ground its capital, Baghdad. In doing so, they accomplished in a mere two years what European Crusaders and the Seljuk Turks had failed to do in 200 years of sustained effort.

The tactics by which the Mongols achieved their success was not -- as commonly and mistakenly believed -- by dint of overwhelming numbers. The "Mongol hordes" is by and large a fantasy. Often they were outnumbered. Rather, their troops were tremendously mobile and hardy, and they understood and applied the concepts of what would, seven centures later, be referred to as blitzkrieg warfare. On their sturdy horses, they were fantastically mobile, and employed many strategems to outwit, demoralize and destroy their enemies.

They were also extremely well organized, into groups of 10, 100, 1,000 and armies of 10,000 -- called Tumen. Their troops were never paid except by the bounty and spoils of war, and would subsist on very little food.

Genghis' heirs would carry the war into Europe, nearly 4,000 miles away from their Mongolian steppe homelands. After conquering Russia, the Mongols went on to crush several Polish/Slavish efforts to thwart their advance, and were knocking on teh doors of Vienna, Austria, when fate intervened to save Europe. The then great Khan, an heir to Genghis, had died. The Mongol leaders must return to their homeland for a new Kurultai to elect a new Great Khan. "Had Ogedey [the recently deceased Khan] lived a little longer, the Mongol empire almost certainly would have reached the shores of the Atlantic."

"At a distance of more than seven centuries", wrote historian John Joseph Saunders, "the historian is still struck with wonder at this extraordinary campaign. Whether one considers the geographical scope of teh fighting, which embraced the greater part of eastern Europe, the planning and coordination of movement of so many army corps, the clockwork precision whereby the enemy was surrounded, defeated and pursued, the brilliant manner in which problems of supply were solved, or the skill with which the Asian armies were handled in unfamiliar European terrain, one cannot fail to admit that the Mongol leaders were masters of the art of war such as the world scarely saw before or have seen since."

And yet, the Mongols were more than just nomadic archers. They brilliantly incorporated Chinese engineers and other skills artisans to assist in their military campaigns, adn became masters of siege warfare.

Last, but not least, their sheer brutality cannot go unmentioned. While numbers across the great span of history are often exaggerated and unreliable, and while in this case it was teh losers, and not the victors, who wrote the history books, there is absolutely no doubt that the Mongols were vicious and unforgiving. Cities that submitted were often spared and indeed, treated very leniently. Cities that did not were, however, put to the sword. Artisans set to one side and the rest of the population killed, and the city often razed. To war with the Mongols was to suffer the worst of all possible fates.

And yet, for those subjugated subsequent to the conquest, Mongol administration had a light touch. Perhaps first in the world, Genghis commanded by law freedom of religion throughout his domain and granted diplomatic immunity to all, even enemies, who sought to negotiate. The elimination of petty territories and barriers to trade helped spawn a new era of increased global trade. The lands of the Mongols were also extremely safe. Whereas before highwaymen and bandits were rampant, the Mongols severely suppressed these activities, and travel in Mongol territory was considered to be quite safe.

And all of this came about as the result of the anointment of a new man to lead them one day in the spring of 1206 on the grassy, windswept rolling steppes of Mongolia. A man who started the Mongols on a path of nothing but victory and success for three generations. Genghis Khan.

Last edited by Amnorix; 03-23-2009 at 07:05 AM..
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