Genghis Khan: Facts, Quotes & Biography

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

Warrior and conqueror Genghis Khan led Mongol armies to control the largest swath of land ever controlled in the world, from Asia into the Middle East. The Mongol Empire spanned 1206 - 1368. Even after Khan's death in 1227, his family reign remained.

Who was Temujin?

The man known as Genghis Khan was born Temujin, a Mongol. Comprised of various nomadic tribes, the Mongols lived throughout Eurasia with no central leader before the reign of Genghis Khan. The early of life of Temujin was beset with violent tragedy. At the age of nine, Temujin's father was killed by a rival Mongol tribe as an act of honor. Temujin's family was then exiled; Temujin killed his half-brother and became the head of his family. At the age of 16, Temujin was married, and shortly afterward, his wife Borte was kidnapped and given to a rival tribe's chief as a gift. The young Temujin rescued his wife, who shortly afterward gave birth to a son named Jochi. While it was unclear if Jochi was Temujin's blood relation, he raised the child as his own.

Court Painting of Genghis Khan

Becoming Genghis Khan

At the age of 20, Temujin was betrayed by a tribal ally and sold into slavery. After escaping, Temujin began to form an army with the goal of uniting Mongols and ending the violence between tribes. Temujin had both a brilliant strategic mind and unrelentingly brutal tactics. Once amassing an army of 20,000 men, he set out to avenge his father's death, killing all the males over three feet tall from the tribe responsible for his father's death.

Temujin employed a series of spies against his rivals. He worked to understand their motivations and steal their technological advances. Smoke signals would be employed by Temujin to ensure his growing army could function effectively with strong communication skills. Temujin's soldiers were also all well equipped with standardized weapons and equipment. These tactics, combined with brutal executions of his rivals, allowed Temujin to take control of Mongolia. Once he did, he changed his name to Genghis Khan as a symbolic unifier. The name means 'Universal Ruler'; the leading Mongol religious figure proclaimed Khan to be the Supreme God of all Mongols.

Expanding the Mongol Empire

In 1207, Genghis Khan began a two-year war to defeat the the Xi Xia kingdom in China. The Xi Xia kingdom was a Tibetan-speaking Chinese tribute state that controlled a trade route connecting Europe and Asia. After conquering the Xi Xia kingdom, Khan's forces moved on to Northern China, attacking the Jin Dynasty. While the Jin Dynasty was known for scientific and artistic marvels, most historians believe Khan's main motivation was the abundance of rice the land provided. Food resources in Mongolia were beginning to dwindle as Khan took control of the Mongols. During this 20-year war with the Jin Dynasty, Genghis Khan sent his forces West into Muslim-dominated regions. Initially a diplomatic trading relationship was established with the Khwarizm Dynasty. Ruled by Shah Muhammad, the Khwarizm Dynasty was based out of Turkey and controlled land from Turkestan, Persia (modern Iran), and Afghanistan. The Khwarizm Dynasty was founded in 1077 by Anustegin Gharachai, who was born a slave.

Genghis Khan's peaceful relationship with the Khwarizm Dynasty would not last. After a diplomatic mission was attacked and killed within the Khwarizm Dynasty's controlled land, Khan demanded that those who attacked his people be brought to him for punishment. In response, Shah Muhammad sent the head of Khan's messenger back to him.

Genghis Khan moves West

In vengeful rage against Shah Muhammad, Genghis Khan took his armies westward until his forces moved into Eastern Europe. Genghis Khan personally planned his attack against the Khwarizm Dynasty. A Mongol army of 200,000 soldiers moved through Khwarizm territory with the intent of killing every living thing they came across. Those not initially killed by the invading forces were forced to march in front of the Mongol army as human shields, ensuring they would be killed by soldiers of the Khwarizm Dynasty. Mongol armies stacked human skulls into pyramid formations before they left a city. Three years after it began, Genghis Khan captured and executed Shah Muhammad and his son, ending the war.

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