The Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan’s (1167-1227) audacity and ingenuity fueled the vast expansion of the Mongol Empire during the 12th and 13th centuries, securing him a place of note in world history. His empire eventually extended over most of Asia, including portions of Russia.
Genghis Khan (born Temujin) remains among the most influential people of all time, having revolutionized the conduct of war and establishment of laws in addition to instilling fear and awe in those he led and those he encountered on the battlefield. As for military convention, Genghis Khan implemented tactics that helped the Mongol forces attain one of the largest empires in history. Dependent on well-trained cavalry, Genghis Khan’s forces used hit-and-run tactics to disrupt and slowly carve away at enemy forces, beginning with enemy commanders. Genghis Khan’s strategies made it possible to attack and disperse larger forces, reflecting the daring and brilliance of the Mongol leader so many came to fear. Arguably, it is these cunning tactics, along with his methodology of concealing his army’s size and whereabouts, that ultimately won Genghis Khan land and reputation.
Though Genghis Khan’s military tactics instilled fear in his enemies, it is his compilation of laws (Yassa) that reflects his understanding of people and adds considerable depth to his legacy. Genghis Khan incorporated longstanding traditions and his own decrees to formulate one canon of laws. This combining of the traditional and the contemporary ensured legitimacy for the Yassa and, consequently, for Genghis Khan’s reign.
Chinggis, or Genghis, Khan is the title bestowed on Temujin on his attaining the Mongol throne. The year of Chinggis Khan’s birth and the exact location of his tomb remain unknown, though several dates and locations have been postulated. Further, a complete copy of Chinggis Khan’s Yassa has yet to be found, making it difficult to ascertain the extent of his transformation of traditions to generate his laws. What is known is that he created one of the greatest empires in history, employing both harsh and ingenious methods to do so. Chinggis Khan’s death in 1227 is documented as to the day and his final actions as ruler, yet even with documentation from a number of texts, questions remain.
Neil Patrick O’Donnell
See also Attila the Hun; Nevsky, Saint Alexander
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