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Mongols. “The Mongols made no technological breakthroughs, founded no new religions, wrote few books or dramas” Why historically significant? a conduit [not a creator] of civilization. To compare….

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“The Mongols made no technological breakthroughs, founded no new religions, wrote few books or dramas”

Why historically significant?

a conduit [not a creator] of civilization

To compare
To compare…

Imagine if… “the U.S., instead of being created by a group of educated merchants & wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by the sheer force of personality, charisma, & determination, liberated America from foreign rule, united the people,… invented a new system of warfare, marched an army from Canada to Brazil, and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across the continents.” – Jack Weatherford in Genghis Khan

A quick background
A Quick Background…

  • Nomads

  • Genghis Khan chosen leader

  • Need for water leads to conquest - Central Asia lacked rain for agriculture

  • Greatest Opportunity was trade – horses!


  • Declared themselves to be descendents of Huns who founded the 1st steppe empire in late Classical era.

  • Called “Tartars” especially by Westerners (“people from hell”), though a misnomer: Mongols conquered steppe tribe Tartars, but because so many Tartars rose to prominence in the Mongol Empire, the name became synonymous with Mongols.

What were the key factors that allowed fewer than 125,000 nomadic warriors to build the largest empire in world history?

  • Military prowess

  • Adaptation of local societies / talents

  • Timing: fragmentation of postclassical states

Impact of the mongols
Impact of the Mongols nomadic warriors to build the largest empire in world history?

  • “The Mongols created a single economic, cultural, and epidemiological world system”

    • Mongol Exchange

    • New methods of warfare

    • Trade from Venice to Beijing and beyond

    • Demographic change via the plague and major population shifts

    • Altered the political histories of Russia, China, Europe

    • Unparalleled cultural diffusion

Chronology of the mongol empire
Chronology of the Mongol Empire nomadic warriors to build the largest empire in world history?

  • 1206-1227 Reign of Chinggis Khan

  • 1211-1234 Conquest of northern China

  • 1219-1221 Conquest of Persia

  • 1237-1241 Conquest of Russia

  • 1258 Capture of Baghdad

  • 1264-1279 Conquest of southern China

Strong equestrians and archers
Strong Equestrians and Archers nomadic warriors to build the largest empire in world history?

  • The Mongols were oriented around extreme mobility. They carried their houses with them, drank their own horse's blood to stay alive, and could travel up to 62 miles per day.

  • They had an elaborate priority-mail-system which allowed orders to be transmitted rapidly across Eurasia.

  • Mongol archers were very deadly and accurate

    • Their arrows could kill enemies at 200 meters (656 feet)

Mongol war equipment

The warrior carried a protective shield made of light leather armor

which was impregnated with a lacquer-like substance in order to make it more impervious to penetration by arrows, swords and knives, and also to protect it against humid weather

The Mongol warrior used to wear Chinese silk underwear, if it could be obtained, because it was a very tough substance

If arrows are shot from a long distance, it would not penetrate the silk

It would also prevent poison from entering the bloodstream

During winter they wore several layers of wool as well as heavy leather boots with felt socks on their feet.

The legs were often protected by overlapping iron plates resembling fish scales, which were sewn into the boots.

Each warrior carried a battle axe, a curved sword known as scimitar; a lance, and two versions of their most famous weapon: the Mongol re-curved bow.

One of the bows was light and could be fired rapidly from horseback, the other one was heavier and designed for long-range use from a ground position

Mongol War Equipment

Psychological warfare
Psychological Warfare leather armor

  • Genghis Khan used combined fake retreats with accurate Horse Archers to pick off his European enemies.

  • Genghis Khan slaughtered a few cities, in an attempt to scare all other cities to surrender without a fight. He, being a practical leader, also valued smarts more than bravery

  • If enemies surrendered without resistance, the Mongols usually spared their lives, and they provided generous treatment for artisans, craft workers, and those with military skills

  • In the event of resistance, the Mongols ruthlessly slaughtered whole populations, sparing only a few, whom they sometimes drove ahead of their armies as human shields during future conflicts

Genghis khan
Genghis Khan leather armor

  • In 25 years, subjugated more land & people than the Romans did in 400 years.

  • Destroyed LOTS of ‘less important’ cities – often along less accessible trade routes – to funnel commerce into routes that his army could more easily supervise and control.

Genghis khan1
Genghis Khan leather armor

  • Valued individual merit & loyalty

  • Fighting wasn’t honorable; winning was. So, used any means necessary to win (trickery, etc.)

  • Conscripted peasants: Mongols just didn’t understand peasants who seemed like grazing animals rather than real humans who ate meat. “They used same terms, precision, & emotion in rounding up yaks as peasants.”

  • Refugees preceded Mongol attack as people from outlying areas fled to cities for protection but overwhelmed the cities & spread fear

  • LOVED negative PR: allowed & encouraged true or false stories to be circulated in order instill fear.

  • Fought on the move: didn’t care if chased or fled (unlike sedentary soldier-farmer), just wanted to kill the enemy.

Genghis khan innovations
Genghis Khan – innovations leather armor

  • Relied on speed & surprise and perfected siege warfare (not relied on defensive fortifications)

  • Used resources of land instead of relying on supply train

  • Allocated fallen soldiers’ share of loot to widow/children (ensured support)

  • Reorganized army so each unit had a mix of tribal/ethnic peoples and they had to live & fight together ---transcend kinship, ethnicity, & religion.

  • Religious tolerance 

  • Instituted postal system for communication

  • Ordered writing system created

  • Abolished torture & insisted on rule of law (to which even the khan was accountable)

Rule in conquered territories
Rule in conquered territories leather armor

  • Ruthless annihilation of resistance (terror tactics).

  • General benevolence when no resistance.

  • Cities generally left under native governors.

  • Religious tolerance important in consolidating rule, gain support of minorities oppressed by Muslims.

  • Administration commonly more benign, less corrupt than pre-Mongol government.


Overland Trade and Plague leather armor

  • 1. Mongol conquests opened overland trade routes and brought commercial integration of Eurasia.

  • 2. Disease including the bubonic plague spread among the world.

Pax mongolica
“Pax Mongolica?” leather armor

Under the Mongols, there was unprecedented long-distance trade

Mongols encouraged the exchange of people, technology, and information across their empire

Weatherford: the Mongols were “civilization’s unrivaled cultural carriers…”

Marco Polo en route to China

Pax mongolica1

Mongol Passport leather armor

Pax Mongolica

  • By the mid 13th c, the family of Genghis Khan controls Asia from China to the Black Sea creating a period of stability during which trade flourishes to new heights along the Silk Routes. Before lots of fighting in East Asia and fighting between Muslims & Christians in the SW Asia, but now stability brings trade in more volume & people who now travel the entire distance.

  • Encouraged great commercial, religious, intellectual exchange between the East & West.

    “The Mongols made culture portable: it was not enough to merely exchange goods, because whole systems of knowledge had to also be transported in order to use many of the new products” (e.g. drugs weren’t profitable trade items unless one possessed medical knowledge for their use, so moved Arab doctors to China & vice versa)

Marco Polo traveling the Silk Roads

War with persia 1218 1222
War with Persia 1218-1222 leather armor

  • War started after Persians put Mongol emissaries to death.

  • War of annihilation on both sides.

  • Mongol detachment sent to pursue Shah across his own empire.

  • Following conquest of Persia, Mongol troop circled Caspian.


Mongols vs. Islam = leather armor

 End of Abbasid control and world dominance.

 Opened path for political division within Islam between the Ottomans and the Mamluks.

Mongols in the middle east
Mongols in the Middle East leather armor

  • Hulegu, another of Chinggis grandsons, led expeditions into Islamic kingdoms…led to the complete end of Abbasid caliphate (1258)

  • The honeymoon was short-lived, as the Mamluks of Egypt, with Christian help (wow, really?), rose in rebellion against Hulegu’s forces in 1260

  • These events, however, would leave the door open for the cousins of the Mongols, the Turks of central Asia, to come and invade the Middle East over the next 2 centuries

Regional effects sw asia
Regional Effects: SW Asia leather armor

  • Muslim societies had highest levels of commerce & had renowned civilization -- likewise, Mongol invasion did most damage here.

  • They sacked Baghdad --the heart of the Muslim world -- using pontoon boats along rivers, more powerful gunpowder, & exploiting religious differences among people.

  • No other non-Muslim troops would conquer Baghdad until 2003 & not since the birth of Islam had so much of the Muslim world been ruled by non-believers. While the Crusaders had only managed to seize a few ports, the Mongols had then conquered every Muslim kingdom & city from the Indus River to the Mediterranean. -- Only the Arabian Peninsula & North Africa were outside their control.

  • Under the Ilkhanate of Persia, Persian culture reemerged from centuries of Arab domination.

The mongols and islam 1260 1500
The Mongols and Islam, 1260-1500 leather armor

A. Mongol Rivalry

  • In the 1260s the Il-Khan Mongols murdered the Abbasid Caliph because of religious differences.

  • However, Batu - the khan of the Golden Horde in Russia, had converted to Islam and vowed to attack the Il-Khan region.

  • Europeans attempted to pit the Mongols against one another, but the Il-Khan ruler Ghazan became a Muslim in 1295.


  • Islam and the State leather armor

    • The goal of the Il Khan state was to collect as much tax revenue as possible.

    • In the short term the tax farming system was able to deliver large taxes, but over-taxation led to the rise of the price of grain and a severe economic crisis

    • 1349  the Golden Horde destroyed the Il-Khan empire

    • As the Golden Horde and the Il-Khan empires declined in the 14th century, Timur built the Jagadai Khanate and his descendents - the Timurids - ruled the Middle East for several generations.


  • Culture and Science in Islamic Eurasia leather armor

    • Juvaini wrote the first comprehensive work of the rise of the Mongols under Genghis Khan

    • Rashid al-Din published a history of the world

    • Muslims under Mongol leadership made great strides in astronomy, calendar making, and the predication of eclipses

    • Devised decimal fractions, calculated the value of pi, and had a significant effect on the development of European science and mathematics.

The mongol drive to the west
The Mongol Drive to the West leather armor

  • Russia and Europe were added to the Mongols’ agenda for world conquest, and subjugating these regions became the project of the armies of the Golden Horde, which drove westward .

  • Kiev was in decline by the 13th century, and Russia was unable to unite before the Mongols (called Tatars by Russians)

  • Chinggis Khan’s grandson, Batu, defeated the Russian armies one by one, resisting armies were razed

  • Kiev was taken by 1240 …very few towns survived (only Novgorod and Moscow because they submitted)

Russia in bondage
Russia in Bondage leather armor

  • The Russians became vassals of the khan of the Golden Horde, a domination which lasted for 250 years

  • Peasants had to meet the demands from both their own princes and the Mongols, and many sought protection by becoming serfs, changing the Russian social structure until the 19th century

  • Some cities like Moscow benefited from Mongol rule by increased trade, but when the Golden Horde’s power weakened, it led the resistance

  • Although Mongols remained active in the region through much of the 15th century, Moscow became the center of political power in Russia

  • The Mongols influenced Russian military and political organization, but most significantly isolated them from developments in Western Europe  did not experience the Renaissance or Reformation

Regional effects russia under the golden horde
Regional Effects: Russia under the “Golden Horde” leather armor

  • In Russia…Mongol forces successfully attacked Russia in 1224 by defeating Kiev Rus.

  • Destroyed most cities & demanded high tribute.

  • However, the Mongols left Russia largely to its own devices & few Mongol officials were there (INDIRECT rule). Russia had lots of independent principalities, each required to send tribute …or else.

  • New places --like Moscow (Muscovy) to the north --began to grow with the Mongols’ implementation of a postal system, financial structures, & census. Moscow became a cultural & economic center.

  • Armenians, Georgians, & Russians thought Mongols were a punishment from God who “fetched the Tartars against us for our sins.”

  • Limited Russia’s interaction with Western Europe (e.g. Russia was isolated from the cultural effects of the Renaissance) --a period of cultural decay except in northern Russia.

  • Lasted the longest of the all the khanates (until 1480)

Another description
Another description: leather armor

The Mongols were “terrible to look at and indescribable, with large heads like buffaloes’, narrow eyes like a fledgling’s, a snub nose like a cat’s, projecting snouts like a dog’s, narrow loins like an ant’s, short legs like a hog’s, and by nature with no beards at all…” An Armenian observer

Mongols in russia

Mongols in Russia leather armor


Centralization politically

Protected Russia from attacks (Teutonic Knights)


Russia cut off from political, economic, and intellectual development

Mongol incursions and the retreat from europe
Mongol Incursions and the Retreat from Europe leather armor

  • Christians in western Europe were initially pleased with Mongol success against Islam many thinking the Mongol khan was Prester John, a mythical Christian monarch.

  • As Mongols continued moving westward, they became more concerned

  • With the death of Ogedei and the resulting struggle for power, Batu was forced to withdraw

  • The Mongols did not return to Europe, satisfied with their rich conquests in Asia and the Middle East

Regional effects europe
Regional Effects: Europe leather armor

  • Mongols defeated Germans, Poles, Bulgars, & Hungarians (whose land was most desired because of grassy plains).

  • Eastern Europe was poor compared to Chinese & Muslim areas, so the Mongols turned away from several areas leaving Europe to suffer the least from the Mongol attacks

  • Europe gained SO much from the advantages of the contact through merchants & exchange of diplomatic & religious envoys.

Regional effects europe1
Regional Effects: Europe leather armor

  • Clerics looked to Bible for answer & thought the Mongols were a missing Hebrew tribe that was acting in collusion with European Jews.

  • Unable to defeat the Mongols, the Europeans could defeat the Jews (their imagined enemies at home) and began attacking Jewish quarters in cities throughout Europe: setting fire to homes, massacring residents, forcing Jews to flee as refugees throughout Europe …

  • prompting the Catholic Church to order Jews to wear distinctive clothes & emblems in order to identify newly arrived Jews in communities.

More effects on europe
More Effects on Europe leather armor

  • Disappointed with loot from European invasions, Mongols allowed Italian merchants in Crimea to take many of their European prisoners to sell as slaves (esp. to Egypt) in exchange for large amounts of trade goods.

  • This began a long & profitable relationship between Mongols & merchants of Venice & Genoa who set up trading posts in Black Sea: Italians supplied Mongols with manufactured goods in return for the right to sell the Slavs as slaves in the Mediterranean market …slaves who would ultimately defeat the Mongols as the Mamluks in Egypt.

  • Silk routes opened … & then spread PLAGUE to Europe.


New States in Eastern Europe and Anatolia leather armor

  • Mongol armies drove to the outskirts of Vienna, but withdrew in 1241 because they needed to elect a successor to the deceased Great Khan Ogodei.

  • Europeans then initiated a variety of diplomatic and trade overtures toward the Mongols.

  • Mongol invasions and the bubonic plague caused Europeans to question their religious beliefs.

  • After Mongol power began to wane in the 13th and 14th centuries, strong centralized states such as Lithuania and the Balkan Kingdoms began to assert their control over their neighbors.

  • Anatolia functioned as a route by which Islamic culture spread to Europe

The mongol interlude in chinese history
The Mongol Interlude in Chinese History leather armor

  • Kubilai Khan, another grandson, moved against the Song in China and by 1271 his dynasty became the Yuan.

  • Kubilai forbid the Chinese from learning Mongol script, intermarriage was forbidden, and he refused to reestablish exams for civil service.

  • Despite restrictions, Kubilai was fascinated with Chinese civilization and adopted much of their culture into his court. He built his capital at Tatu in the north, a site occupied by previous dynasties, put the empire on the Chinese calendar, and introduced Chinese rituals and music into his own court.

Society in the yuan dynasty
Society in the Yuan Dynasty leather armor

  • A new social structure emerged:

    • Mongols at the top

    • nomadic and Islamic allies were next

    • then north Chinese

    • finally ethnic Chinese and peoples of the south

Gender roles and the convergence of mongol and chinese culture
Gender Roles and the Convergence of Mongol and Chinese Culture

  • Mongol women remained aloof from Confucian Chinese culture, refusing to accept foot-binding and retaining property rights and control of the household, as well as freedom of movement.

  • Some Mongol women hunted and went to war.

  • Chabi, wife of Kubilai, was especially influential; convincing him that harsh treatment of survivors was counter-productive and promoting Buddhists’ interest in government.

  • The Mongol period in China was too brief and their numbers too small to change Confucian patterns and freedom of women declined after Kubilai

Mongol tolerance and foreign cultural influence
Mongol Tolerance and Foreign Cultural Influence Culture

  • The Mongol rulers were open to outside ideas and drew scholars, artists, and office seekers from many regions

  • Muslims were among the most favored, and they brought much new knowledge into the Chinese world

  • Kubilai welcomed foreign visitors  most famous was the Venetian Marco Polo

  • He was interested in all religions  Buddhists, Nestorian and Latin Christians, Daoists and Muslims were all present at court

Social policies and scholar gentry resistance
Social Policies and Scholar-Gentry Resistance Culture

  • The scholar-gentry resented the Mongols refusal to reinstate the examination system, and regarded them as uncouth barbarians

  • Artisans and merchants prospered under Mongol rule, and their patronage stimulated urban life including popular entertainment, especially musical dramas.

    • Actors and actresses, who had long been relegated to the despised status of “mean people” by the scholar-gentry, achieved celebrity and social esteem.

  • Peasantry land was protected and their tax and labor burdens lessened, and plans for establishing elementary education at the village level were formulated

And according to one chinese observer
And according to one CultureChinese observer:

“They smell so heavily that one cannot approach them. They wash themselves in urine…”

The fall of the house of yuan
The Fall of the House of Yuan Culture

  • The Yuan dynasty was weakening by the time of Kubilai’s death, as Song loyalists revolted in the south + Mongol forces were defeated in Vietnam and Java

  • Kubilai’s successors were weak and their administration was corrupt.

  • Secret religious sects, claiming to have magical powers, such as the White Lotus Society, were dedicated to overthrowing the dynasty.

  • The scholar-gentry called on the peasants, suffering from famines, to drive out the barbarians and the dynasty was too weak to control (1350)

  • Many Mongols returned to central Asia as a peasant leader, Ju Yuanzhang, triumphed and founded the Ming dynasty

How did japan resist mongol invasion
How did Japan resist Mongol invasion? Culture

One series of events that severely weakened the Mongols in China were the expeditions to Japan

The Mongols attempted to invade Japan twice [1274 and 1281]

Twice they were repelled by typhoons

“Kamikaze” or “divine wind”

Inspiration for ww ii kamikaze
Inspiration for WW II “ Culturekamikaze”

The mongols

The Mongols Culture

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The good accomplishments contributions
THE GOOD Culture (accomplishments & contributions)

  • Military Strategy & Innovation – Cavalry, Horse Archers, surprise attacks, sieges - Genghis first needed to disband tribal loyalties

  • Religious Tolerance (converted to all faiths in region except Hinduism)

  • Common Legal Code

  • Utilized skills of conquered peoples – artisans, soldiers

The good accomplishments contributions1
THE GOOD Culture (accomplishments & contributions)

  • Discipline, obedience to own laws

  • Sense of honor and loyalty, respect for these qualities in others, even opponents

  • High status of women

  • These qualities attested to even by European observers who generally detested the Mongols

The good cont
THE GOOD Culture, cont…

  • Golden Horde was the only group to successfully conquer Russia

  • Created largest continental empire in history

  • TRADE – source of diffusion – goods, ideas & people - under Mongol rule it was less risky Pax Mongolica

The bad failures struggles
THE BAD Culture – (failures & struggles)

  • Constant in-fighting for power – “Khan”

  • Genghis never setup centralized rule, Kublai struggled with it (Yuan Dynasty)

  • Kublai failed to conquer Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia & Japan

  • Inability to control China without considerable force

  • Over-spending

The bad cont
THE BAD Culture, cont…


  • Over-extension – loss of control in Persia

  • Struggle between nomadic lifestyle and need to settle (centralized government)

The ugly what those mongols were crazy
THE UGLY Culture – (What!?! Those Mongols were CRAZY!!)

  • Surrender or Die

  • Looting & Destruction of Cities

  • Massacres (1.6 Million in 1 Afghan city, as many as 18.4 Million total killed)

  • Use of organized tactical terror

  • All exemplified by the Ilkhanate’s conquering of Middle East (Persia)

The ugly cont
THE UGLY Culture, cont…

  • Lots of Babies - as many as .5% of the Earth’s current male population can trace genetic lineage back to Genghis (500 wives & concubines)

  • Plague catapults – biological warfare?

  • Strange diet, hairstyles and odor

  • Cannibalism?

  • Genghis’ funeral parade of death?


Question Culture

How did the Mongol conquests bring an end to the post-classical civilizations in Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and Islam?


Answer Culture

Russia – end of Kievan dominance  power shifts to Moscow

Byzantium – Ottoman dominance and fall of Constantinople (1453).

Western Europe – limited direct impact but Black Death has later effect. Trade increases with East.

After shock timur i lang timur the lame tamerlane
After-Shock: Timur-i Lang (Timur the Lame) (Tamerlane) Culture

  • Just as the world was recovering from the Mongols, another group of invaders, the Turks of Central Asia, under the leadership of Timur, began raids on the Middle East, India and southern Russia

  • Unlike the Mongols, Timur’s invasions represented ABSOLUTE BARBARISM…little tolerance for anything in his path

    • Pyramids of skulls, wanton slaughter of innocent people…he did spare artisans and scientists from Muslim lands though and took them back to his capital at Samarkand

  • For a brief period there was no increase in commercial trade…a halt to cultural exchange…internal peace subsided

  • His death in 1405 signified the end of the great nomadic challenges to Eurasian civilizations as the Turks under future leaders (Mehmed II) sought a sedentary empire

The impact of the mongols
The Impact of the Mongols Culture


  • Mongol conquest left Russia more divided culturally & less developed than Western European nations

  • Descendants of Genghis Khan & Timur established the Mughal Empire in India

  • Introduced new military techniques & organization to Turks & Europeans – such as small organized units, the use of cavalry & the effective use of gunpowder

  • Mongol defeat of the Seljuk Turks in 1243 CE allowed for the later rise of the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East

The impact of the mongols1
The Impact of the Mongols Culture


  • Global trade expanded dramatically under Mongol control – Italians were the primary beneficiaries in Europe; security, use of paper currency, control & management of Silk Road all increased trade in the Eastern Hemisphere

  • Europeans were exposed to a much greater number of Chinese goods on a large scale – gunpowder & printing being among the most influential

  • The global trade network became more intertwined

  • Mongol decline made land travel more dangerous & a shift to seafaring occurred in Europe & China after 1400 CE

  • Mongol conquest likely spread the Black Plague to the Europe which would have devastating economic effects

The impact of the mongols2
The Impact of the Mongols Culture


  • Mongols practiced religious toleration in the Middle East & Europe and often converted to local religions – allowed Islam & Orthodox Christianity to continue to thrive

  • Russia became isolated from European trends like the Renaissance – continued the split between Eastern & Western Europe started w/ the Byzantine Empire

  • The Black Plague devastated Europe in the 14th C

  • Mongol expansion & control of the Silk Road allowed for cultural diffusion & exploration on an unprecedented scale – including the journey of Marco Polo


  • Global Connections – The Mongol Linkages Culture

  • Mongols brought the Muslim and European worlds new military knowledge, especially the use of gunpowder

  • Trade and cultural contact between different civilizations throughout Eurasia became much easier

  • Trading empires established in their dominions by Venetians and Genoese provided experiences for later European expansion

  • An unintended consequence was the transmitting of the fleas carrying the bubonic plague (black death) from China to central Asia to the Middle East to Europe