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Genghis Khan was a ruthless yet brilliant military leader, uniter of the Mongols and their "universal leader." Through strategic military campaigns and brute force, he and his army conquered empires, expanded his own, and ended many tribal feuds.

Genghis Khan Make Your Own

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was born around 1162 in Mongolia. Little is known for sure about his early life, and the few sources that we have are often contradictory. There are reports that he was born with a blood clot in his hand - a sign that he was destined to be a leader. Genghis Khan was a descendant of Khabul Khan, who united the Mongols in the early 1100's against the Chin Dynasty of Northern China.

At the age of 9, Khan's father took him to live with his future bride, Borte, and her family. On his trip home, his father was poisoned. Genghis Khan returned home with the intention of claiming his role as clan chief. The clan ostracized him and his younger brothers. Later Genghis Khan killed his half-brother, confirming his position as head of the family. Khan married Borte at 16, but had many children with other wives, as was Mongolian custom.

Genghis Khan was captured by former family allies and enslaved. After escaping, he rejoined his brothers, formed an army, and began his mission to end traditional tribe divisions and unite the Mongols. He avenged his father's death, used his large cavalry to defeat those who had enslaved him, and gained control of central and eastern Mongolia.

Tribal leaders gave him the title "Genghis Khan," meaning "universal leader." Spiritually, he was declared the supreme god of the Mongols. Khan tried to use diplomacy to establish trade relations with other empires in the west and the Muslim world. When the Khwarizm Dynasty mistook his caravan for a spy mission, Khan unleashed a brutal attack. This was followed by a period of peace, during which Khan connected major trade centers between China and Europe, and his practical laws ruled the empire. Genghis Khan died in 1227. The cause of death is unknown and he was buried according to his tribal customs without markings. He appointed one son supreme leader and divided the rest of the empire among his other sons.

Overall, Genghis Khan was ruthless but brilliant in his use of military tactics. He had established an extensive spy network and tended to adopt new technology faster than his opponents. He coordinated his army's movements through a smoke and torch signaling system. He also employed drums and flags to give commands on the battlefield.

Genghis Khan’s Significant Accomplishments

  • Escaped enslavement and resumed control of his empire
  • United many Mongol tribes under one empire
  • Was bestowed with the title Genghis Khan, meaning “universal leader,” which also had spiritual power
  • Defeated empires and ended dynasties
  • Established and connected trade routes and expanded cultural horizons and communications
  • Organized his empire under a set of practical laws
  • Regarded as the founding father of Mongolia

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.”

“An action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure.”

“There is no value in anything until it is finished.”

Learn more about people who have influenced history in our Picture Encyclopedia!
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