For thousands of years, brave warriors on horseback rode the lands of central Asia, taking over nearby towns and cities. The horsemen came from the steppes, which was a flat, grassy area that runs from Asia right into central Europe. These riders lived a nomadic life, moving from one area to another looking for grazing spots for their animals – sheep, cattle, camels and goats. These warriors were fierce and battled other people such as the Persians, ancient Greeks Arabs and the Chinese.
The traditional homeland of these people lies on the eastern and central Asian steppes. The area is bordered to the west by the Altai and the Tian Shan Mountains, while the north has the Siberia Forests. The Gobi desert is on the south, while the Greater Kuinggan Range is on the east. Mongolia boasts of a few rivers that aren’t significant enough.
Before the Mongols came to the forefront, the steppe was controlled by different empires. The sixth and seventh century saw the Turks controlling a large part of the steppe. The ruler of the Turks was called the Kaghan, later called the Khan. The Turks were regarded the first barbarian nomads to have a unified empire in this region. The Turks boast of being the first people to create an empire that stretched across the four civilizations: India, China, Byzantium and Persia.
After this empire collapsed in the mid eighth century, a Turkic tribe called the Uighurs emerged as the major power. This tribe is the one that shaped the Mongol culture later on. The alphabet of this tribe was adopted by the Mongols. The Uighurs also developed a political structure that Mongols copied to the latter.
The Turkic Connection
Before Chinggis Khan took over the mantle, his people were just one of the numerous nomadic tribes that lived on the steppes. At this time, there were different people that ruled the steppes at this time. With time, the Mongols mingled with these people, one of the major tribes they interacted with being the Turks and the Huns. This created what was referred to as the Turko-Mongol culture. This led to different tribes coming up, including the Kereyids, Tatars, Mongols, Merkits and Naimans.
These tribes lived on a stretch called Eurasia, which as the name suggests included most of Asia and Europe. The other half was dominated by the Roman Empire. At the same time, the Han Dynasty of China represented the major power of the east. However, by the end of the 12th century, both of the empires were long gone, leaving a small number of empires that competed for influence.
The Mongolian Empire
Of all these horsemen, the fiercest were the Mongols. The 13th century saw these horsemen spread their roots from Mongolia; located North of China out to the west and the south. Under the leadership of their able leader Temujin, the Mongols soon built an immense empire that stretched all the way from Korea to Southern Europe. The empire came to be called the Mongolian Empire and represents the biggest continuous area of land occupied by one kingdom and ruled by on family.
The empire soon split into four. These smaller empires soon faded off, the last dynasty being the Mughals of Northern India. This dynasty traced its roots to Chinggis Khan and Timur, the Turkic-Mongol Ruler, commonly known as Tamerlane.
The split also led to the disappearance of the Mongolian culture in most areas of the land. The Mongols, in their quest to move further, got adopted into the societies they came across and were blended into their cultures. The culture remained only in the Mongolian homeland and a few other parts of the steppes.
The ability of the Mongols to learn easily from others made them borrow the best features from other cultures. They were also fearless warriors who had great skills on horseback and were much disciplined in the field. As the Mongols conquered more areas, they assimilated existing soldiers from other empires.
After Chinggis Khaan
Chinggis returned to Mongolia in 1223, and died shortly after in 1227. Before his death, the ruler had wished that the control of the empire passes to his third son Ogedei, a wish that was granted. According to the tradition, the empire was divided into four and then each of his sons was gives an area to rule. However, the overall king was Ogedei.
Ogedei set up his headquarters in Karakorum, which is north of current Arvayheer in Mongolia. He focused his military attention on a part of Northern China. In 1234, the Mongols took over half of East Asia. Several years later, the Mongols took over Tibet and Korea, adding it to the empire.
The new leader then turned his attention to the west where he conquered Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. He then forced the rulers of current day turkey and Iraq to pay in order to prevent invasion of their empires. Eventually, Ogedei managed to grab the whole of the western steppes that stretched into Hungary. The plan was for the Mongols to set up base in Hungary with the aim of expanding into Europe. Unfortunately, the death of Ogedei in 1241 changed these plans. The death of their leader made the Mongols to retreat, although a large number stayed in Russia, forming the mini-empire called the Golden Horde.
The remaining sons of Chinggis continued to rule with their sons taking over the now fading mini-empires.
What Impact Did the Mongol Empire Have?
The Mongol empire formed one of the most extensive and formidable empires ever. It formed the last clash between sedentary and nomadic cultures. The Mongols progressed rapidly, winning battles quickly and taking over other tribes effortlessly. However, with time the knowledge of these nomads couldn’t match the knowledge of the sedentary communities. Battles were lost and territories were taken over by other communities. In some of the communities, the sedentary people managed to get the knowledge to grab their territories back from the Mongolian people.
Even with these issues, the Mongols managed to build an empire that was one of a kind. They built the empire faster than any other dynasty before or after them. They helped to unite the tribes of Euroasia and came up with a trading and communication system. They helped to extend the value of religious tolerance in such times where there was a lot of hostility between religious groups. Another impact that the Mongols had was bringing new culture to their land. As they conquered new lands, they gained new knowledge and culture that they introduced to a larger part of the world.
The death of the Mongol empire started in 1294 after the death of Kublai Khan, who ruled the Yuan Dynasty. After this death, family members argued over who would rule the empire, with four different khans taking charge in a short span of 8 years. Rebellions broke out in major parts of china from 1300. The rebellions came by because the Chinese had long resented the Mongol rulers. The Mongols were finally overthrown in 1368, with the Chinese coming up with the Ming dynasty. Of the Mongol empires, only the Golden Horde remained in power after the disintegration for 250 years.