The Mongolian Empire started out as central Asian nomadic tribes that were constantly at odds with one another. It wasn’t until one man, Temujin, convinced these tribes that if they could stop fighting and just join forces that they could not only grow rich, but they would be able to conquer the known world. Temujin was born around 1162 in the Kenti mountains, but by 1206 at the age of 40 he was given the title Genghis Khan, meaning great leader or great warrior. It was because of Genghis Khan’s ideas and military structure, along with the belief that he was truly meant to conquer the world that the Mongols became so successful. By this time he has built four great field armies, totaling 120,000 men. It is with these four field armies that Genghis Khan created a legacy twice the size of Rome, establishing an Empire that would dominate from 1206 to 1368.
Genghis Khan’s military was much like a modern military with the central ideas being speed, rooting out the enemies weak points, and shock. Speed was essential to the Mongols. Their strength, born from their nomadic lives of hunting and herding, lie in riding and archery.The Mongols traveled very light and demonstrated extraordinary endurance, living off the land and often spending several days at a time in the saddle. Living off the land freed Mongol soldiers from supply trains, considerably adding to their speed. Such endurance and speed enabled them to cover greater distances than was ever achieved before by any other army. The revolutionary organization of leadership gave this army an advantage over its opponents. Leadership was not inherited as was common at the time. Instead it was earned, and depended upon ability and merit, making it possible for anyone to rise to the top of the ranks. Leaders also had the ability to make real time decisions to compensate for changing circumstances. No longer were commanders forced to go down with a sinking ship because of standing orders.
Superior communication resulted in a remarkable ability to coordinate over great distances. The Mongols were excellent spies. They sent people ahead of their armies, often up to a year at a time in order to learn about their enemies, about the disposition of the enemy. The Mongols also developed a very sophisticated signaling system to convey weaknesses in the enemy’s front line, often over a ten mile front. It was the use of these signaling systems that allowed them to pinpoint weak point to apply all of their force, breaking through the enemy’s line and spilling through to the back areas. If successful this would result in the panic and cause the enemy to retreat.
Another tactic of the Mongols was to attack during the winter. This not only allowed for their horses to graze all summer so they wouldn’t have to worry about feeding while on the move. But there was another reason for attacking during the winter, and it is simply that no one wanted to fight. This is a psychological fact that the Mongols understood, no one wanted to die in the cold so they didn’t put up the same level of resistance that they would have during the warm summer months.
In addition to their speed, superior communication, and revolutionary distribution of authority, the Mongols were ruthless. This ruthlessness generated fear in their enemies aiding to the ease