40 Awe-Inspiring Facts About Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
40 Awe-Inspiring Facts About Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire

40 Awe-Inspiring Facts About Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire

Khalid Elhassan - February 3, 2019

40 Awe-Inspiring Facts About Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
Turko-Mongol warrior. Pintrest

4. Final Steppe Spasms

By historical standards, Genghis Khan’s empire did not last long. Within two generations of his death, his descendants had fallen amongst themselves, and fragmented the great conqueror’s realm into rival khanates. By 1368, the greatest of those khanates, the Yuan Dynasty of China, had fallen, and Genghis’ empire had largely vanished. However, the world was due to experience a final great violent spasm from the Steppe, when Tamerlane (1336 – 1405), claiming descent from Genghis, sought to revive his empire. His rampage was, if anything, even bloodier than the Great Khan’s.

40 Awe-Inspiring Facts About Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
Tamerlane, based on a forensic facial reconstruction of his exhumed skull. Facts and Legend

3. Tamerlane’s Rise

Tamerlane, a Muslim Turko-Mongol, was born in today’s Uzbekistan. His rise began in 1360, when he led Turkic tribesmen on behalf of the region’s ruling Khan. However, the Khan was murdered, triggering a power struggle. It ended with Tamerlane as the power behind a throne occupied by a figurehead puppet, through whom Tamerlane ruled. While his claimed descent from Genghis is dubious, Tamerlane justified his conquests as a restoration of the Mongol Empire and re-imposition of legitimate Mongol rule over lands seized by usurpers.

40 Awe-Inspiring Facts About Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
‘Tamerlane the Terrible’, by C. L. Doughty. Pixels

2. Tamerlane’s Rampage

Tamerlane then spent 35 years earning a reputation for savagery, while bringing fire and sword to the lands between the Indus and the Volga, the Himalayas and the Mediterranean. Among the cities he left depopulated and in ruins were Damascus and Aleppo in Syria; Baghdad in Iraq; Sarai, capital of the Golden Horde, and Ryazan, both in Russia; India’s Delhi, outside whose walls he massacred over 100,000 captives; and Isfahan in Iran, where he massacred 200,000. Tamerlane was also in the habit of piling up pyramids of severed heads, cementing live prisoners into the walls of captured cities, and erecting towers of his victims’ skulls as object lessons and to terrorize and edify.

40 Awe-Inspiring Facts About Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire
Tamerlane liked building towers with the skulls of his victims. Pintrest

1. Tamerlane’s Body Count

Tamerlane is estimated to have killed about 17 million people, amounting to 5 percent of the world’s population at the time. Extrapolated to current global population of 7.7 billion, Tamerlane’s rampage would be the equivalent of killing 385 million people today. His decades-long warpath finally came to an end in 1405 as he was preparing to invade China, but he took ill while encamped, and died before launching the campaign. He would prove to be history’s last major Steppe conqueror.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Burgan, Michael – Empire of the Mongols (2005)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Genghis Khan

Hildinger, Erik – Warriors of the Steppe: Military History of Central Asia, 500 BC to 1700 AD (1997)

Morgan, David – The Mongols (2007)

Saunders, John Joseph – The History of the Mongol Conquests (2001)

Weatherford, Jack – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004)

Wikipedia – Mongol Military Tactics and Organization

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