Genghis: The Ultimate Conquerer (Compared To Alex The Great) Essay, Research Paper
The Ultimate Conqueror
Mr. Keenan Civilizations in History
Period 10 Wednesday, April 24, 1996
Thesis . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Alexander the Great:
– History . . . . . . . . . . 4
– Assessment . . . . . . . . . 5
– History . . . . . . . . . . 6
Final Assessment and Conclusion . . . . . . 12
Map of Empires . . . . . . . . . 14
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . 15
Alexander the Great is by many considered to be the greatest conqueror of all time given that he put together such a large army and conquered so much land in such a short time. However in the same amount of time, the campaign of Genghis Khan and the land that he acquired was so much more vast than that of Alexander+s. And given that Genghis Khan started with no power and no army, the conquests of Alexander pale in comparison.
Alexander the Great
In 354 B.C., fifteen hundred years before the birth of Genghis Khan, Philip the Great of Macedonia had a son, Alexander. Before Alex was twenty years old, Philip, despite being taken prisoner at Thebes for three years, united the largest professional army that Macedonia had ever seen, improved his cavalry, and created a new type of military unit known as a phalanx. During this same period, the corrupt city states of Greece were in a state of decline and Philip took advantage of their weakness by waging wars. Finally, at the battle of Chaeronaea in 338 B.C., Philip conquered the Greek army and Greece was joined to Macedonia under the rule of Philip. Shortly after, Philip was assassinated by one of his officers during a wedding.
Alexander was the heir to his father+s empire and at 20 years of age found himself respected by Greeks and Macedonians alike. In 334 B.C., with an army of 35 000, Alexander set out to conquer Persia, the only major threat to the Balkan peninsula. Even though the Persian army outnumbered the Greek army five to one, it had inferior weapons and outdated methods of fighting. The Greek army, under the rule of Alexander the Great, was able to defeat the Persian empire with a loss of only 500 men.
At this time Greece was the only substantial power in the known world and Alexander had no trouble making further conquests. To reduce the risk of conflicts within his acquired territories, Alexander did not forbid the personal beliefs of the people he conquered. Instead he allowed their beliefs to coexist along side those fo the Greek. This approach helped to keep the peace in all of the lands he conquered and the Greek Empire became the largest empire ever seen. And it was all ruled by one person, Alexander the Great.
At this point in history it is virtually undisputed that Alexander was the greatest ruler ever. But the world was still young, it had not witnessed the likes of Genghis Khan.
But how extraordinary had Alexander+s conquests really been? I dispute that he was the greatest ruler for in the forth century B.C. the Persian Empire, Egypt and the city states of Greece were in a state of decline. In other words it was not very difficult for a well organized force to defeat these weakening civilizations. And since Alexander+s father did all the work of organizing an army, conquering Greece and planning to invade Persia while Alexander was a child, Alex had little more to do than follow the plans of his father.
GENGHIS KHAN (a.k.a. Temuchin; Chingiz Khan)
Before the reign of Genghis Khan, the Steppe people were constantly at war with one another. They lived in seperate clans and tribes in the steppe grassland in the area of today+s Mongolian Republic. These tribes were isolated with virtually every other civilization. To the north was the impenetrable Siberian forest, to the south, desert, and beyond that the land of settled civilization, China.
Because the land was primarily grassland, the Steppe people relied on sheep for skins, wool, and felt tents. Horses which were used for transportation, trading, hunting, and military activity. Camels and oxen which were used to pull carts. On account of the several uses that horses had for the Mongolian tribes, these people became very skilled and experienced with the activity of horses.
Many Steppe tribes occupied the land along the River Orkhon in central Mongolia. These nomads constantly moved from one pasture to another trying to find good grazing and hunting grounds. In a single year a tribe might travel 100 miles. This pattern was sometimes disrupted as local wars would break out over the use of a pasture.
Before the birth of Temuchin, the Chinese had been able to suppress any uprisings in Mongolia by spying on the Mongolian tribes. If one tribe or chief was thought to be gaining too much power, the Chinese would support a rival tribe by supplying them with goods, honours and subsidies. Soon the upstart tribe would be overwhelmed. This strategy proved to work well until the time of Chingiz Khan.
Most clans in the Steppes had their leader determined by a hereditary kingship. Some, however, were democratic. The most powerful of these tribes were the Tatars of eastern Mongolia, the Keraits in the centre, the Merkits to the north and the Naimans to the west (other dominant tribes were the Qonggirats, Ongguts, and the Kirghiz).
Temuchin was son of the Tatar+s chief, Yesugei. At Temuchin+s (Genghis Khan) birth in 1167, the Tatars were supported by the Chin (Chinese) and were therefore the current enemy of other Mongolian tribes. During a battle between the Tatars and the Tayichi+uts (tribe), Temuchin, at the age of nine, was captured. He was not killed promptly however and he, in time, managed to escape.
Temuchin travelled secretly with a number of families for many years before returning to the Tatars. When he finally did return to the Tatars he was not only accepted as the rightful leader but was also a hero to the Tatars as they had heard of his successes in raiding those more powerful than himself during his period away from the Tatars. As well, it was Temuchin+s personal magnetism that attracted warriors and commoners alike. Among his followers was a noble blooded Mongol, Jamuqa. This man, as well as others, joined the Tatars in order to become nokers (partners) with Temuchin. This elite following provided excellent generals in his later conquests.
Temuchin married Bortei of the Qonggirat tribe and formed an alliance with the former enemy of the Tatar+s, Toghril, Khan of the Keraits. The Chinese now saw their proteges, the Tatars, too powerful and were able to convince the Keraits to double cross the Tatars and to go to war against them. With the aid of the Chin government, the Keraits partially defeated the Tatars. This defeat however did not discourage others from joining the forces of Temuchin. Eventually the Tatars were too strong for the Keraits and they were conquered. The Keraits were now under Tatar rule. At this point, for reasons currently unknown, Jamuqa, the former anda+ (associate) to Temuchin, turned against him. He was quickly caught and executed.
The last of the major tribes to be delt with was the Naimans who were more or less defeated by Temuchin+s massive army. Kuchlug, son of the Naiman khan, however, was not caught and he escaped and fled to the Qara-Khitai. He overthrew his benefactor and made himself ruler of the Qara-Khitai empire. As ruler, Kuchlug, a Buddhist, vigorously persecuted many of the Qura-Khitai who were Muslim. As a result, he was not much of a threat to the Tatars. The Tatars from here steadily brought the remaining tribes under Mongolian (Tatar) rule through ruthless attacks. Once a tribe was defeated, the men were brought into the military. With this tactic, it meant that with every tribe they defeated, they gained practically the entire strength of the army of the defeated tribe.
By 1206 Temuchin had united practically all the tribes of Mongolia. He was appointed Chingiz Khan (meaning universal or Great Khan) at a quritai+. This is basically an election with only one candidate. The Mongol Empire had now been formed.
Now that they had this massive military machine, Mongolia was restless. It risked internal conflicts. Chingiz Khan decided to further expand his territories in an effort to prevent a civil war (the tribes were not used to working together). Because the Chin located in northern China had kept the Mongol tribes weak for so long, Chingiz Khan decided to take revenge. In 1207 civil disorder (of conquered tribes) of Mongolia was attended to while preparations were made to attack the Chin.
For the next nine years there was war with Chin and other smaller countries (Hsi-Hsia in particular) surrounding northern China. The battles on the field where the cavalry could be used effectively were won with great ease. However, in 1211, Chingiz Khan was faced with a well fortified, walled city. The cavalry was not equipped to attack such a city. The following is an account of how Chingiz Khan besieged the city:
|Chingiz Khan offered to raise the siege if he were given
1000 cats and 10 000 swallows. These were duly handed over.
Material was tied to their tails, and this was set on fire. The
animals were released and fled home, setting the city ablaze,
and in the ensuing confusion the city was stormed.X 1
Using ingenious tactics such as the one mentioned above, Mongolia had little trouble winning their battles against the most powerful known force of the time, China.
Conquering China was not Genghis Khan+s original objective however. He had originally set out to pillage and loot other countries since he had this enormous army on hand. But once he occupied new territory, he realised the power he had gained. In 1215, astonishing the unprepared Chinese, Chingiz Khan had broken through the Great Wall of China and sieged the former capital city (the capital was moved shortly before the Mongol invasion) located near present Bejing. The Mongols now ruled all of North China.
At this point the Mongol army seemed invincible. Through Chingiz+s brilliant campaign, the Mongol army continued its expansion west towards Khwarazmian, Khwarazm-shah and Persia, all formidable foes. The following is a typical example of how Genghis would declare war on a nation:
|In 1218 a caravan of 450 Muslim merchants from
Mongol territory arrived at the Khwarazm-shah+s frontier city
of Utrar. The governor of the city, asserting, no doubt
correctly, that these so-called merchants were in fact spies,
had them all killed and thier property confiscated.X
Mongolian ambassadors were then sent to the city and they
were also killed…. |No reply was possible but war.X2
At the time of Chingiz+s death in 1227 Chingiz ruled more land than any one had ever ruled in the history of the world. His empire stretched from the deserted forests of Siberia to the border of the diminished Chinese nation, from North Korea to the Caspian Sea. Genghis Khan gained all this power despite starting out as a fugitive from a small nomadic tribe.
FINAL ASSESSMENT AND CONCLUSION
At this point in world history, Chingiz Khan had the largest, most efficient and most powerful army on earth. But unlike Alexander, or any other great conqueror before him, he had started out with nothing but a few primitive nomads using outdated weapons. With this seemingly unyielding resource, he was able to train these men, trade for new weapons, learn and create ingenious new ways of fighting, and organize the largest army the world would ever see until the American Civil War.
Geographically, Temuchin was positioned in an isolated, cold, continental grassland where the ground was covered with snow for eight months of the year. And with the dense forest to the north and a desert to the south, it meant collosal organization to provide food, water, and proper clothing for such an immense army. Yet Genghis Khan was able to do this spectacularly.
In southeast Europe the climate was much warmer and there were many more sources of fresh water. These conditions allowed the army of Alexander to travel with great ease as they could get supplies while travelling and not have to carry everything with them. It is therefore a much larger proposal to invade central Asia than it is to invade the land east of the Mediterranean Sea. I doubt whether Alexander would have had
so much success if he had attempted to invade the same land that Genghis did (See map).
When Temuchin was a child, any Chinese would have laughed at the prospect of Mongolia ruling China as China was the dominant force in this part of the world. Yet by the time Genghis Khan was thirty, this had been accomplished. This shows just how much power Genghis was able to wield in a relatively short time. When you compare this situation to Alexander+s, who already had a prosperous empire and a well trained and equipped army, it doesn+t seem nearly as difficult to make the same conquests that Chinggiz did.
Coblence, Jean-Michel and Veronique Ageorges. Asian Civilizations. New
Jersey: Silver Burdett Press. 1988.
I+m using this book as a brief account of the achievements of the Mongol civilization.
De Geer, Christine and Garfield Newman. Odyssey through the Ages.
Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited. 1992.
Gurney, Gene. Kingdoms of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. New York:
Crown Publishers, Inc.. 1986.
This book is being used as a source of information of Genghis Khan and other major rulers of Mongolia.
Macintosh. Grolier Multimedia Encyclopaedia. Mindscape Inc.. 1995.
This was my first source of information and it provided a general overview of the history of Mongolia.
Morgan, David. The Mongols. Oxford: Butler & Tanner Ltd.. 1987.
The title says it all. It+s simply a source of information concerning the history of the Mongols.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Grey
Wolf Instruction Booklet. Japan: Koei Corporation. 1991.
My friend had once done a project on the conquests of Genghis Khan and he said there is information in this book that he could find nowhere else.