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  » Silk Road

Silk Road

The Mongol Empire

"My greatest good fortune was to pursue and defeat my enemies, to conquer their lands and their people, and to divide the plunder of their riches."

Ghenghis Khan Coat de' ArmsThe greatest land empire the world has ever seen was created by one man, Genghis Khan (1162 /7 – 1227AD). At the time of his Grandson’s death the empire reached from the Korean peninsular to Hungary and even South to the Indus in today’s India. After uniting the Mongol tribes in 1206, Temujin was proclaimed Genghis Khan or “Universal ruler”. There doesn’t seem to be much uniformity about the Khan’s past but when he was 10 he was made heir to his tribe. Due to his young years, his tribe abandoned him and his family forced him to survive on the harsh Mongolian steppe for three years. These years were the most formative in the Great Khan’s life as he learnt the skills of survival, adaptability and government that were to make him the greatest emperor of all time.

He took the wife is desired and united the Mongol tribes into a military machine which systematically eliminated the Mongol’s enemies. Genghis was an intelligent but ruthless man. His early raids into china turned into a full-scale expansion to the West and South. As his armies approached the Muslim world, Genghis decided to launch a full scale invasion. Between 1219 and 1223 Genghis conquered the Khwarazm Shah’s empire with a force of 200,000 men, until he controlled all the land from Yanjing (Beijing) to the Caspian Sea and South to the Persian Gulf.

Map of Ghenghis Khan's Mongol EmpireGenghis Khan quickly learnt new military techniques. He besieged great cities using these, to bring them to their knees. His armies were iron-disciplined soldiers capable of savaging enemies and luring their enemies into traps. He took new technology and strategy from the Chinese and made troops into deadly horseback-archers who were already toughened from life on the steppe. He introduced a system of law (Yasa), a financial system and gave the Mongol empire a unifying language based on the Uighur script. He stated that the Mongol right to rule was a ‘mandate from heaven.’

After his death in 1227 AD, Genghis was succeeded by his son Ogodei who continued to rapidly expand the empire. He eliminated the Jin Empire in Northern China and began invading the Song in the South. He completed absolute victories over the Russians and Eastern Europeans as far West as Buda and Pest in Hungary.

In 1260, the Mongol empire gradually separated into separate Khanates. Genghis’ fourth son formed the ‘Golden horde’, which ruled over the far West of the empire. To the South the Ilkhanate evolved through Genghis Khan’s grandson Helegu who conquered Baghdad and whose empire gradually converted to Islam. In China Kubilai khan established the Yuan dynasty in China and subjugated the remaining parts in 1279. He moved the Mongol capital to the site of modern day Beijing, but many Mongols became disaffected with the different environment and the empire collapsed in 1360.

The Mongols were ruthless in their conquest. They decimated whole cities and murdered enemies. However, their rule influenced much of central Asia. By unifying Asia they enabled the transfer of trade, ideas and science. The Silk Road flourished and they gave Asia a common system of law and a financial system for people to prosper under. He directly affected the individual cultures that had until then existed. An effect still felt in the region today.