Name: Genghis Khan

Alive: c.1162-1227

Bio: Born Temujin near the Olon and Kherlen rivers in northern Mongolia, not far from the current capital Ulaanbaatar. There is little documentary evidence concerning Temujin’s early life, other than his father was the chieftain of the Borjigin tribe, making Temujin of noble background. This allowed him to united the tribes of Mongolia by 1206, united against a common enemy of the Chin in northern China who had subjugated the tribes, pitting them against one another for centuries. Temujin assumed the name Genghis, meaning ‘ocean’, which supposedly described the vast lands, the sea of grass over which he ruled. Through numerous military campaigns, known as the Mongol Invasion, Genghis Khan established the largest contiguous land empire the world has ever known, stretching from the Sea of Japan to Eastern Europe, south into India and north into Siberia. As a consequence of this vast empire, it is predicted that one in every 200 men alive today are related to Genghis. Accounts of his death vary. The Secret History states that he fell from his horse while hunting, whereas Marco Polo wrote that he died from an infected arrow wound. Genghis was buried somewhere near the Onon river, close to his birthplace. According to legend, the funeral escort killed anything in their path so that Genghis’ final resting place would remain protected. Hindsight may portray Genghis as a tyrant, and undoubtedly his rule was ruthless and his military campaigns devastating. However, his role in world history should not be disregarded as a violent frenzy across Eurasia but should be studied as a key social and cultural event in human history.

Quotes:

“Be of one mind and one faith, that you may conquer your enemies and lead long and happy lives.”

“Possessed of great energy, discernment, genius and understanding” (Persian historian Juzjani, a contemporary of Genghis Khan)

Popular Culture:

“Mongol” – film, 2007

“Conqueror”, - novel series by Conn Iggulden, 2010-2011

Carved unto a hillside in Ulaanbaatar

Further Reading:

  • David Chapin, Long Lines: Ten of the World’s Longest Family Lineages (2012)
  • Hugh Kennedy, Mongols, Huns & Vikings (2002)
  • R.P. Lister, Genghis Khan (2000)