Without Temujin, the man who became Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire would not have occurred. Genghis Khan was a strong, charismatic, disciplined military genius who gathered all the Mongol and Turkic tribes of Mongolia under his command through political alliances and conquest. He made every man a warrior through constant military training, then he lead this army in an unending war of conquest across the entire land mass of Eurasia from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Genghis Khan built the largest empire in the history of the world and did most of that during his lifetime. He had one wife, Borte, but innumerable secondary wives.
Women in Genghis’ Life
Hoelun, Genghis’ mother, Borte, his wife and Sorkhaqtani, wife of Tolui, Genghis’ fourth son, were all strong, intelligent women who grew to have a powerful influence and impact on the Mongol Empire. Hoelun raised the young Temujin to be a strong, successful warrior, teaching him the skills of survival, political alliance and loyalty. Both Hoelun and Borte became two of Genghis’ most trusted advisors. When Ogedai became Great Khan after Genghis’ death, Sorkhaqtani became his most trusted advisor, ruling the Mongol Empire in his stead when Ogedai was at war.
The first son, Jochi, was born soon after Genghis rescued Borte from being kidnapped and probably raped at the hands of the Merkit tribe. Because Jochi’s parentage was uncertain, Genghis did not make him his successor. Jochi became Khan of the Golden Horde.
Chagatai Khan, second son, had an intense sibling rivalry with Jochi and refused to accept Jochi as Genghis’ successor. Chagatai inherited the Chagatai Khangate, which incorporated most of Central Asia.
Ogedai became Great Khan after Genghis died. He warred and ruled following the Yassa, Genghis’ written law. His closest advisor was Sorkhaqtani. Under Ogedai’s rule, the Mongol Empire grew to its greatest extent with the invasions of Europe and Asia.
Tolui, Genghis’ fourth son, inherited the Mongolian homeland. He had had four sons, Mongke, Kublai, Hulegu and Ariq Boke. Most of the Mongol and Ilkhanate emperors were descended from Tolui.
Generals and Advisors
Subutai and Jebe were Genghis Khan’s greatest generals. Both were military geniuses, agile and adept commanders who brought the Mongols many of their most startling conquests. While Subutai was the son of the blacksmith and rose to power because of his brilliance, Jebe started out as Genghis’ enemy. He shot Genghis in 1201 at the Battle of the Thirteen Sides. Jebe came to Genghis as he was recovering from the wound and confessed. Jebe said if Genghis allowed him to live, he’d serve loyally, which he did, becoming the second of Genghis’ best generals.
Another that deserves mention is Yelu Chucai, a Confucian scholar who became a chief advisor to Genghis Khan. Yelu Chucai probably saved millions of lives because he convinced the Mongols to tax conquered peoples rather than slaughter them, thus saving their brains and talents for future Mongol use. He is known for telling the Mongol monarch that empires can be won on horseback, but not ruled on horseback.
This article is part of our larger selection of posts about the Mongol Empire. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to the Mongol Empire.
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