Genghis Khan (1162 – 1227) is the man that led the notorious Mongol, and the man that later became the “Great Khan” of the largest empire in the world. The Mongolian Empire in its prime conquered a large chunk of Asian and eastern Europen territory (four times bigger than the size of Alexander The Great’s territory). The Mongol tribes in the medieval period were considered savages (like any other tribe in the medieval period). The Arab chronicler Ibn Al-Athir wrote: “In the countries that have not yet been overrun by them, everyone spends the night afraid that they may appear there too.”
There was no such thing as a civilian population in Mongolia. War was a full time job where either you were a soldier or somehow supported a soldier. Members of rival tribes were separated and spread among different divisions. Discipline was established by the merciless enforcement of Mongol customs.
The Mongols were so proficient at plundering cities, terrorizing populations, killing soldiers and civilians, and seizing territory that they made Attila the Hun seem like a petty warlord. They massacred hundreds of thousands if not millions, and if the accounts of some historians are to be believed then they might as well created pyramids of skulls of their victims. The Mongol cry “feed the horses” was a signal to rape, murder and plunder the defenseless population.
By comparison with the terrifying acts of civilized armies of the era, the Mongols did not inspire fear by ferocity or cruelty of their acts so much as by the speed and efficiency with which they conquered and their seemingly total disdain for the lives of the rich and powerful. The Mongols unleashed terror as they rode east, but their campaign was more noteworthy for its unprecedented military success against powerful armies and seemingly impregnable cities than for its bloodlust or ostentatious use of public cruelty.
Although the Mongols were unequaled in their brutality, rumors, and stories of their atrocities often seemed much more worse than that of reality. One 13th-century illustrated English manuscript showed a pair of Mongols roasting a skewered victim. The Mongols sometimes ate the livers and hearts of their slain soldiers in hopes of obtaining their spirit and strength.
Historian Morris Rossabi said, “There’s no question that there was a great deal of destruction. Not all the cities were butchered, but some became examples of sowing terror in others. It was psychological warfare. Cities that offered resistance were often spared, escaping violence by offering tributes and letting Mongol soldiers loot unimpeded.”
Even though they were brutal, Genghis Khan’s principle was that every man who submits to his rule will be spared, but anyone who should refuse and oppose him by force of arms or dissension will be annihilated. In the same manner, he has all cities that resisted him transformed into a pile of rubble. Rich provinces were turned into deserts when strong possibilities of rebellion were detected. All these cruelties had a purpose: military necessity, retaliation, terrorization.
It is estimated that in Genghis Khan’s campaigns his army butchered around 40 – 60 million people (around 10% of the world population at the time ). A new study says that Genghis Khan killed so many people, that it was actually good for the environment…