over five times the size of the Roman Empire

over five times the size of the Roman Empire

One of the best benefits of my trip to Mongolia was reading three books about the country and the 13th Century expansion of the Mongol Empire. I had only known about how barbaric the Mongol hordes were. In fact they supposedly killed 40 million people during their conquests. Their empire ended up encompassing five times the area of the Roman Empire and just slightly less than the British Empire, which was the largest of all the world’s empires. The Mongols ruled one-fourth of the the world’s population at that time, from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. This is larger than North America, including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Central America and the islands of the Caribbean…about the size of the African continent! Not bad for an illiterate outcast who was left to die on the steppes.

But Genghis, his sons and especially grandson Kublai Khan created an amazing civilization in the 13th Century with numerous positive achievements: expanded trade (which aristocrats in other cultures thought historically was undignified, immoral and beneath them), cross fertilized Europe, Middle East, India and China with new ideas (helped lead to the Renaissance), technologies, the first international postal system (pony express), best of medicines and healing from all cultures, paper money, one new calendar (each culture formerly had its own), abolished torture and accepted religious freedom (Mongols were shamanists), when Europe was increasing torture and killing the non-believing heretics during the Inquisitions. Genghis also established laws that EVERYONE (including leaders and nobles) had to obey, created a meritocracy, so that any peasant with talent could rise to be a general or top administrator (not the case in other civilizations), pushed printing and paper over scribes and vellum, not imposing their language, religion or culture on the conquered, etc, etc. Who’d of thought it!

Fabulous military strategists though they were, they made no technological breakthroughs, wrote few books, gave the world no new crops or methods of agriculture. Their own craftsmen could not weave cloth, cast metal, make pottery or even bake bread. They manufactured neither porcelain nor pottery, painted no pictures, and built no buildings—they did build bridges for their army. And they collected and passed on all the skills from one civilization they conquered to the next.

They had two secret “weapons.” They practically lived on their horses…each warrior had 3-5 each. This meant they did not need long supply lines and also could move faster than their opponents who relied mostly on plodding infantry or larger, elegant but much slower armored horses with knights in heavy armor.

The second advantage is their diet. The subject of my next post…