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Genghis Khan is one of the greatest leaders and conquerors in the history of the world. He grew to power with determination and brilliance, no matter how outmatched he was. After he took power, he went on to take over much of the known world, in order to create the largest land empire.
Genghis Khan’s birth name was Temujin, which meant iron in his native language. Temujin was born around the year 1162 in Mongolia to a powerful father. However, his father was killed while Temujin was a teenager. Before his father died, he introduced Temujin to his future wife Borte, with whom he would grow up. Growing up with Borte and her family was hard for Temujin because he struggled to find food, water and other necessities to live. Following the death of his father, Temujin killed one of his half-brothers to cement his role as the head of his family. When he decided to marry Borte, their marriage confirmed an alliance between Temujin’s family and Borte’s family, the Konkirat tribe. This alliance was the first step Temujin took in order to unite all the tribes of Mongolia.
Soon after Borte married Temujin, she was captured by the Merkit Tribe and Temujin immediately knew he needed to get Borte back. However, his clan at the time was not powerful enough to do so, so he went out to enlist the help of other tribes. The first chieftain that he went to was Toghrul Khan. Toghrul was an old, peaceful, and powerful man. Toghrul Khan and Temujin’s father were close friends, and Temujin even referred to Toghrul as his godfather. Because of this past relationship, Toghrul agreed to help get back Borte without second thought. Temujin was granted full authority over all of Toghrul forces as they set off to get Borte back. Temujin led his forces into the Merkit camp and decimated it. Afterward, he took his wife back home.
After Temujin became allies with Toghrul, many tribes thought that he was becoming too powerful. Two of these clans, the Taijutsu and the Tartars, decided to attack Genghis when he was far away from his allies, the Keratis tribe. One day while traveling through the prairies, Temujin received word from his scouts that there were enemies attacking. In this moment of despair, it looked as if Temujin’s rise to power would be over, but he came up with a genius plan to save them all. He set up his army in the middle of a valley. His army was armed with enough bows to repel the enemy while they charged. During the charge of the Tartars and the Taijutsu, Temujin led select parts of his cavalry ride around the enemy’s army. He did this to be able to attack the rear of the enemy. The cavalry’s charge massacred the enemy, and they retreated from the battlefield. This defeat helped word spread around the steppes that Temujin was a brilliant tactical leader.
Temujin had become known as one of the best military leaders in the steppes, so many other tribes came to him in need of aid. The eastern clans of Mongolia eventually came to form one giant clan, led by Temujin, in order to defeat the Keratis who were former allies of Temujin. Quickly, he led the giant army across Mongolia to launch a surprise attack against his enemy. When he attacked the Keratis, his plan went perfectly, and he was able to defeat them. Instead of following his tradition and killing his enemies, he asked them to join his tribe to bolster his army. This idea followed Temujin through his conquests and one of the most important factors in him being able to unite Mongolia and acquire such vast territories. For the following years, Temujin and his army traveled around the steppes unifying the last of the Mongolian tribes to form a united nation. After he finished such this great feat, he called the most powerful men in his Mongolia to form a council. This council was created to elect a ruler, because Temujin thought that the only way the tribes could hold together would require one leader. As expected, Temujin was elected as the Khan of these tribes. They decided to name him Genghis Khan, which means the Great Khan.
Genghis Khan, formerly known as Temujin, and his army began to venture outside of his native lands in order to gain more supplies. During this time, he sent his generals out among the fields around Mongolia to gain many important items. These items included herds, spoil, oxen, weapons, and they even brought back orphaned children who were to be raised by the Mongolian women. In addition, Genghis followed his former ideal of allowing men to join his army before killing them. Because of this ideal, he was able to gain supplies by these conquests and was able to greatly increase the amount of men in his army. At this point, he had amassed enough supplies in order to be able to live with some amount of comfort, which was contrary to his predecessors. The people whom he ruled trusted him because of the pleasant and joyous life they were now able to live. Then, Genghis Khan decided that he and his men would ride up to the Great Wall in order to start their attack on the rest of the world. However, Genghis knew that he would not be able to break through the wall easily. He had his men ride up and down the wall for months to make the Mongols seem as if they were not going to attack. Except, the Mongols where planning to attack the entire time. When they did attack, the guards on the Great Wall of China were caught off guard. The Mongols were able to break the Great Wall and barge into Western China, which was ruled by the Western Xia dynasty.
In the Western Xia dynasty, there was a great civil war going on, and the government was not very strong. The Mongols advanced rapidly against the Xia dynasty until they arrived at their capital city of Yinchuan. The attempted siege against their capital city stalled for two months. The Mongols did not have the siege equipment necessary to break down the strong walls of the city. Genghis Khan then directed a slow retreat from the city appearing to have given up on his conquest. The people of Yinchuan were thrilled and opened the gates to their city.
After two days of riding away, the Mongols finally decided to take action. In the middle of the night, they turned their horses around and rode at full gallop toward Yinchuan. The Mongols managed to make up the ground in one night, and caught the city totally off guard. Even though they were unable to completely destroy the much larger army of the Western Xia Dynasty, they were able to kill many people inside the city. In addition, they were able to take out some of the crops in the city. After another month of sieging, the Emperor of the Western Xia dynasty finally submitted to the Mongols and Genghis Khan.
This conquest was the first of his rule, but it led to a much bigger invasion against the Jin dynasty in Cathay, northern China. When the Mongols entered Cathay, Genghis Khan sent a letter to the Golden Emperor, who ruled northern China. It stated, “My dominion now so well arranged, that I can go to Cathay. Is the Golden Emperor ready to receive us? We will come with an army that is like a roaring ocean, and we will stay until we are victorious or defeated.” Even though Genghis Khan had many less men than the Golden Emperor, he still sent this letter in order to scare him. The emperor was horrified when he received the letter, and he started to panic before the Mongols had even entered his city.
Once the Mongols finally arrived, they entered with four different armies. These four armies were spread out around Cathay, and they ravaged the countryside killing many cattle and forcing hordes of captives to flee into the cities. Also, each of the armies would encircle certain portions of the enemies’ army in order to appear bigger than they really were. The people living in Northern China soon became scared of the Mongol invasion. In addition, they were experiencing a famine caused by the raids of Genghis Khan and his army. The nobles in Cathay became very scared and killed the emperor, and then they proceeded to place a different emperor in charge. This new emperor, Hsuan Tsung fled away from his capital city, and the people were horrified. The people eventually submitted to Genghis Khan, he gained control of Zhongdu.
During the long lasting war with the Cathays, Genghis started to build up his democratic wealth. He had started trading with the Muslims in the west, and he began dealing with them frequently. One day, a Mongol trade caravan was taken and robbed by Muslims. Then, Genghis decided to send two diplomats in order to settle the situation in a peaceful manner. However, the Sultan, Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad, the leader of the Khwarezmian dynasty, did not appreciate this act. Instead of reacting peacefully, he decided to send back the heads of the diplomats that Genghis had sent. This infuriated the bellignant leader of the Mongols, and he gathered up the largest force he could amass. Genghis Khan arranged his army into Tumens. These tumens consisted of 10,000 men each, and each of the tumens were led by a specific general. Some of the more famous generals are Chepe Noyon and Subotai. These two men were trusted people by Genghis Khan and were often sent out with their own armies to conquer land. Chepe Noyon and Subotai were part of an army that consisted of many Lumens, which amounted to hundreds of thousands of men.
Genghis took this massive army and rose rapidly toward Central Asia. Shah Ala ad-Din became very worried from this attack on the eastern front. When his scouts returned to tell him that Genghis Khan and his army were only days out, he ran from the city in which he was staying to ride away. The first city that the Mongol army arrived in was Otrar. Otrar was the city in which the Mongol trade caravan was taken and robbed by the governor. When Genghis Khan arrived at this city he immediately took it, because it was not heavily fortified. When he found the governor, he burned him alive and killed many of the population in the city. The next stop for this army was the Khwarezmian city of Bukhara. Once they arrived they rode in and caused horror to spread. In the city, Genghis Khan defeated the forces with ease and killed all the remaining soldiers by cutting their heads off. After defeating the enemy forces, the great khan killed every living being that was inside the city of Bukhara. He ordered his soldiers to cut off the head of animals, women, men, and children.
His next stop was the capital city of Samarkand. In this city, he executed the same cruel punishment except he gave these people an even worse death. After easily conquering the city, he ordered every citizen inside Samarkand to stand in a field. Once they were in the field, he beheaded all of them. Eventually, Genghis Khan caught up to the forever fleeing the Shah. However, the Mongols were never able to kill the Shah, because he retreated to an island, where he died from illness. Genghis Khan employed these violent tactics in order to spread fear into all of his enemies. In addition, this cruel tactic had the effect that the khan wished for, and he went of to finish the destruction of Central Asia, in which he decimated the Silk Roads, in modern day countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and others.
After this journey and conquest, Temujin was able to return to his home lands and live a peaceful life for the few years to come. While ruling his people, he implemented a code of law. This code of law was called the Yassa, and it stayed in Mongolia for many years after Genghis died. The yassa was a general code of law, but it focused on three main things. First, it focused on devotion to the great khan, which Genghis Khan had been given while he was rising to power. Second, the binding of Mongol tribes together. During Temujin’s rise to power, he once said to fellow tribe leaders, “From the beginning I told you these lands must have on master. You would not understand. I will keep these lands of our ancestors safe for you.” Genghis Khan had been discussing this idea for his entire life, and he finally achieved. When he achieved it, he did not exploit his power. Instead, he stayed to the same ideals he had when he was leading one of the smallest tribes in Mongolia. Lastly, the Yassa preached violent and ruthless punishment for people who committed wrong actions. This idea was another thing that Genghis had been for his entire life, and it helped him inspire fear into his enemies. This fear helped him conquer all the land he was able to control. The Yassa also states that there is only one god, the army and their soldiers must be kept organized, and every man must serve in the army or work for free. This law kept the empire prosperous and happy. In addition, it kept the people and citizens in line. Also, they would not dare do wrong, because of the extremely harsh penalties for crimes. Most crimes ended up in the death penalty, which was quite common in Genghis Khan’s time as emperor.
In the year 1226, a revolt occurred in Cathay which Genghis Khan immediately attacked. The Western Xia and Jin dynasties of China allied with each other and tried to take on the Mongol army. However, this was not the case for these allied forces as Genghis Khan’s army annihilated them. The Mongols marched through Cathay destroying every city in their way until they reached the capital city. Once in the capital city, Genghis Khan decided to follow one of his main ideals. He ordered the execution of the entire royal family to ensure they would never rise to power again.
1227 was a said year for the Mongol empire, because Genghis Khan died. The way of his death is different from every source you find. One source claims that Genghis Khan was thrown off of his horse while hunting. Then, he died of injuries inflicted in the coming days. Another source claims that Genghis Khan died in the arms of his son Tului. This story states that he died from a sickness he received, and the sickness slowly drained away his life, until he ultimately died. Other sources state he died from injuries sustained in battle against the Xia dynasty. After dying, Genghis Khan’s tomb was never found again, because the Mongol thumbs were not labeled with the names of the fallen.
After the death of Genghis Khan, his sons and grandsons ruled the empire. The empire expanded after Genghis’s death. The land of the empire lasted from Eastern Europe in the west to the sea of Japan in the east. The lands that his grandson, Kublai Khan, ruled included Kiev and Russia in the North to the southernmost point of Central Asia.
Genghis Khan created a legacy that has lasted over 900 years. He was raised in a struggling family, but he continued to work hard. Once he commanded his own army, he was able to unite Mongolia and take over China and Central Asia. By completing this task, he became one of the greatest leaders, emperors, and conquerors the world will ever have.
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