The Rise & Fall:
When Did the Mongol
Empire Really Begin?

The Mongol empire starts technically in 1206, when the simple Nomad Temujin Borjigin became the great Chinggis Khaan. Is there a lot more to it?

The Mongol empire starts technically in 1206 when the simple Nomad Temujin Borjigin became the great Chinggis Khaan.

In the west, we are often taught that Temujin's rise to power was to occur through a series of personal hardships, but perhaps there is a lot more to it. 

There is no doubt that Temujin was a unique character famed amongst Mongolians today for breaking the old ways at that time. He was to respect a man's strength, honour and loyalty above the old tribal solidarity.

As the Mongolians of old kept no written records, it is challenging to know all of the facts from this period. Many of the sources from this time have come from the conquered and defeated, meaning the history we have is none too favourable. 

The Secret History of the Mongols is the oldest surviving written Mongolian literature it document's the life of Chengis Khan written shortly after his death. 

Young Temujin was to have a tough start in life his father poisoned by the Tatars after which his tribe was to expel him and his immediate family.  Temujin and his family lived in poverty for several years looked after by his mother as they survived off the land. 

All of these hardships were to help teach Temujin important values for use later in his life. These lessons would become even more critical at a time when tribal unity across the steppe had all but collapsed, and corruption and revenge seemed to rule. 

Temujin's roots did help, however, as he not only came from a powerful tribe but could claim noble origins, this, of course, would help with future tribal alliances.

Birth of the Mongol Empire

In 1206 Temujin was to become Chinggis Khaan, the great Khan of the Mongols, succeeding where many before had failed.

He had destroyed whole tribes his enemies defeated, the Tatars, the Kereit, Tai-chiut and the Nalman all gone. The secret histories of the Mongols describe it best "And their entire race was scattered like ashes".

Chinggis had now rallied to his side all the dispersed Mongol and Turkish tribes unifying the Mongol peoples under one banner.

His next aim was to conquer all known lands under the sky.

From his coronation in 1206 the Mongol empire was to begin its expansion. A serious of bloody invasions sweeping out over northern  China, laying siege to and eventually taking Beijing. Following this bold move, the Mongol empire was to sweep into Central Asia swallowing  Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and most of Iran. 

The Mongolians were to follow up their victories across central Asia by crossing into the Caucasus defeating the Russians and then Turks in the Crimea.

The seemingly invincible march onwards was all to pause in around 1227 as the mighty Chinggis Khaan was to pass away.

Contra to popular belief, it didn't mean that all Mongolians returned home and the advantage lost. For many historians, this merely marked the end of the first phase of the Mongolian Empire. 

Consolidation of the Mongol Empire

Ogodei was not only the third son of Chinggis Khan but his favourite and named successor, which made the transition to Khan relatively easy. After much pomp and ceremony, it wasn't long before Ogodei was to continue the family plan of world empire building. The unfinished conquest of North China (1229-1234) completed with the destruction of the Jin dynasty.

The conquest of western Iran and occupied Armenia and Georgia (1230-1231) was also closed. Ogodei was also to launch a series of campaigns into Russia (1237-1240), subjecting the numerous Russian principalities. He was to destroy the Turkish kingdom of Greater Bulgaria and quell possible unrest in Korea eventually conquering the country in 1241. It was then Ogodei who ordered his unstoppable armies into Poland and Hungary. Through advanced tactics, the Mongolians were to dispose of Duke Silesia and 25,000 polish soldiers at Liegnitz.

At around the same time, Ogodei's Army was also to put an end to Hungarian resistance at Mohi with the loss of around 65,000 men.  The actual plans of the Mongolian Army can never be known, Vienna may have beckoned, but all bets were off as late in 1241 due to alcoholic excesses Ogodei Khan died. 

The Death of Ogodei was to cause upheaval amongst Mongolians as no strong successor was supported. The armies were pulled back from battlefronts, and Europe was to experience its Pax Mongolica. All wasn't as tumultuous as history books may have us believe as still during this period, even with two khans in short succession Mongolia was to grow. 

Tibet was to submit to the mightly Mongol Empire as in turn. The Mongolian Army Sacked Baghdad, pushed through China reaching the borders of Vietnam as if that weren't enough further campaigns in Lithuania and Poland followed.

Marco Polo was to call the next great Khan "the most powerful possessor of people, treasures and lands that have ever been". 

Kubilai Khan, the Grandson of Chinggis Khaan, was heir to an already astounding empire reaching from the Yellow River to the Danube, from Siberia to the Persian Gulf. Kubilai was to centralize his capital to Beijing in China, thus founding the Mongol Yuan dynasty.  Kubilai Khan not only conquered China but moved on Vietnam, Sakhalin, Burma and Champa.

As he began to lose the respect of Mongolians in his homeland, the Mongolian war machine faltered. Mongol invasions of Japan, Vietnam and Java all failed.

It wasn't all bad news though as many people look at this period as the golden age of the Mongol empire, the commercial trade and intellectual exchange between East and West were as its peak.

The silk road was running with little trouble sharing riches between east and west. 

The Decline of the Mongol Empire

With the death of Kubilai in 1294 and continuing civil war across the Mongol Empire, Mongolian dominance was to decline.

The leaders of the Yuan dynasty were to still to be known as Khan's of the Mongol empire although it was now only a nominal title as the Mongol Empire was to splinter with the Yuan empire falling in 1368.

Many Mongolians slowly melted back to their old territory living as they always had done by Ger and herd. 

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