Genghis Khan is one of the names that are forever imprinted in world history. He rose from a very humble start to establish one of the most prominent land empires. How did an ordinary man create something so enormous?
Here is Genghis Khan’s story:
Genghis Khan was born Temujin approximately in 1162. His name was derived from the words temur, which means “of iron,” and jin, which represents agency. Basically, his name means “blacksmith.”
Through his father’s side, he was related to the people who headed the Khamag Mongol confederation: Hotula Khan, Khabul Khan, and Ambaghai. His father, Yesugei, was the head of the leading Mongol clan.
He was born near the border between Siberia and modern Mongolia. Rumors say that he was clutching a blood clot on his tiny hand when he was born. This was said to be a traditional sign that he was destined to be a leader.
His childhood was not an easy one. When he was nine, his father arranged his marriage and delivered him to the home of his future wife, Borte. He was supposed to live there and serve the head of the household until he reached the marriageable age of twelve.
However, while traveling back to their tribe, his father encountered enemies who gave him poisonous food. When Temujin learned about his father’s death, he went back to his tribe to claim his position. The tribe refused his request and left his family without protection.
For a few years, his family lived a poverty-stricken life. They had to live off berries and animal carcasses. His half-brother Begter began to exercise his first-born rights. Temujin disliked this, and with the help of his brother Khasar, he killed Begter during a hunting trip.
In around 1177, Temujin was captured by his father’s allies, and was enslaved with a cangue. He sought help from a kind-hearted guard and hid in a river crevice to escape. This escape earned him a reputation, and soon after, his other siblings began to join forces with him.
During this time, the different Mongolian tribes were not in good terms. Arranged marriages were popular to create temporary alliances. Temujin grew up in this harsh environment where politics were turbulent, and tribal warfare, raids, corruption, and thievery were common. Temujin’s mother taught him a lot of things, including the need for strong alliances.
Like his father desired, Temujin married Borte when he was sixteen. However, Borte was captured by the Merkits and was given away as a wife. Temujin rescued her with the help of his friends. Nine months later, she gave birth to a son named Jochi. There is still some debate as to whether Jochi was truly Temujin’s son. Nevertheless, she bore him three more sons.
Eventually, Temujin followed tradition and took secondary wives. However, Borte remained to be his favorite companion, and only her sons were considered his successors.
His Rise and Fall
Temujin knew that he needed a good, strong alliance. He began his rise to power by letting people, particularly his father’s sworn brother, know that he could be a good ally. This blood brother was Toghrul, who was the Keraites’ khan. Their friendship was forged when Temujin needed help to rescue his wife. Toghrul responded by sending his men and Temujin’s childhood friend, Jamukha, with him.
Unfortunately, this event led to Temujin and Jamukha drifting apart. Each of them was gaining allies, becoming two different strong leaders. Jamukha chose tradition, supporting Mongolian aristocracy, while Temujin chose a meritocratic method. In 1186, Temujin became the Khan of the Mongols.
Feeling threatened by Temujin’s rise to power, Jamukha attacked him with a huge army. Temujin tried to defend his people from this fierce attack, but they were beaten in the historical Battle of Dalan Balzhut. For the next ten years, the story of Temujin becomes unclear, due to the lack of records.
In around 1197, the Jin formulated an attack against their vassal, and Temujin was one of the leaders. After this attack’s victory, Temujin rose back into power. In his position, he broke tradition in peculiar ways. For example, he delegated tasks according to a person’s merits, not family ties. He offered future spoils of war to civilians, as a form of incentive. When he defeated a tribe, he took its people under his protection and merged them into his own tribe.
In 1206, a council of Moghul officials appointed him as Genghis Khan, which means “oceanic ruler of the universe.” This honor was bestowed upon him because of his influence and power.
Genghis Khan unified different Mongolian tribes under his rule. This was a very astonishing feat. Even after his death in August 1227, he was considered a brilliant commander who was able to set up an empire. His success is very inspiring.
Here are a few quotes from Genghis Khan that will fire you up:
Genghis Khan Quotes
“I am the punishment of God…If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.” – Genghis Khan
“If you’re afraid – don’t do it, – if you’re doing it – don’t be afraid!” – Genghis Khan
“An action comitted in anger is an action doomed to failure.” – Genghis Khan
“Who can’t stop drinking may get drunken three times a month. If he does it more often, he is guilty.” – Genghis Khan
“To get drunken twice a month is better; once, still more praiseworthy. But not to drink at all – what could be better than this?” – Genghis Khan
“I am the flail of god.” – Genghis Khan
“There is no value in anything until it is finished.” – Genghis Khan
“Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.” – Genghis Khan
“The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.” – Genghis Khan
“Make up your camps far apart and each of you rule your own kingdom.” – Genghis Khan
“A man’s greatest joy is crushing his enemies.” – Genghis Khan
“Mother Earth is broad and her rivers and waters are numerous.” – Genghis Khan
“I leave you the greatest empire in the world, but your preserving it depends upon your remaining always united. If discord steals in among you all will most assuredly be lost.” – Genghis Khan
“Every man has his use, even if only to gather dried cow dung in the Gobi for fuel.” – Genghis Khan
“How can one withdraw? Even if we die, let us challenge their boasts. Eternal Heaven, you be the judge!” – Genghis Khan
“[A leader] can never be happy until his people are happy.” – Genghis Khan
“If you insult the mother who gave you your life from her heart, if you cause her love for you to freeze up, even if you apologize to her later, the damage is done.” – Genghis Khan
“Without the vision of a goal, a man cannot manage his own life, much less the lives of others.” – Genghis Khan
“People conquered on different sides of the lake should be ruled on different sides of the lake.” – Genghis Khan
“It is not sufficient that I succeed – all others must fail.” – Genghis Khan
“I am from the Barbaric North. I wear the same clothing and eat the same food as the cowherds and horse-herders. We make the same sacrifices and we share our riches.” – Genghis Khan
“In the space of seven years I have succeeded in accomplishing a great work and uniting the whole world in one Empire.” – Genghis Khan
“Even when a friend does something you do not like, he continues to be your friend.” – Genghis Khan
“Come and sip from the cup of destruction.” – Genghis Khan
“I wish to die at home. Let not my end disarm you, and on no account weep for me, lest the enemy be warned of my death.” – Genghis Khan
“Despite all expectations, the time of my last campaign and of my passing is near.” – Genghis Khan
“The strength of a wall is neither greater nor less than the courage of the men who defend it.” – Genghis Khan
“The merit in action lies in finishing it to the end.” – Genghis Khan
“Those who were adept and brave fellows I have made military commanders. Those who were quick and nimble I have made herders of horses. Those who were not adept I have given a small whip and sent to be shepherds.” – Genghis Khan
“If lies can show the truth, they can be the truth, they can cause the truth, so I may build an empire on lies, but they are the truth.” – Genghis Khan
“Find your chill.” – Genghis Khan
“If my body dies, let my body die, but do not let my country die.” – Genghis Khan
“One arrow alone can be easily broken but many arrows are indestructible.” – Genghis Khan
“Remember, you have no companions but your shadow.” – Genghis Khan
“Perhaps my children will live in stone houses and walled towns – Not I.” – Genghis Khan
“One of the joys of travel is visiting new towns and meeting new people.” – Genghis Khan
“Let there be between us a firm treaty of friendship, amity, and peace, and let traders and caravans on both sides come and go.” – Genghis Khan
“All who surrender will be spared; whoever does not surrender but opposes with struggle and dissension, shall be annihilated.” – Genghis Khan
“As my calling is high, the obligations incumbent upon me are also heavy; and I fear that in my ruling there may be something wanting.” – Genghis Khan
“Be of one mind and one faith, that you may conquer your enemies and lead long and happy lives.” – Genghis Khan
“As long as you brothers support one another and render assistance to one another, your enemies can never gain the victory over you.” – Genghis Khan
“Not even a mighty warrior can break a frail arrow when it is multiplied and supported by its fellows.” – Genghis Khan
“The pleasure and joy of man lies in treading down the rebel and conquering the enemy, in tearing him up by the root, in taking from him all that he has.” – Genghis Khan
“Just as God gave different fingers to the hand so has He given different ways to men.” – Genghis Khan
“When it was wet, we bore the wet together, when it was cold, we bore the cold together.” – Genghis Khan
“Violence never settles anything.” – Genghis Khan
“It will be easy to forget your vision and purpose one you have fine clothes, fast horses and beautiful women.” – Genghis Khan
“But my life was too short to achieve the conquest of the world. That task is left for you.” – Genghis Khan
“With Heaven’s aid I have conquered for you a huge empire.” – Genghis Khan
“As for the clothes I wear and the food I eat, I shall have the same as cowherds and grooms and I shall treat my soldiers as brothers.” – Genghis Khan