The story

Genghis Khan

Emperor of the Mongols (1162-1227). As a warrior and conqueror, he gathered one of the greatest empires in the history of the planet.

Born on the banks of the Orhon River, the son of a chieftain who ruled Mongolia from the Amur region to the Great Wall of China, Temujin succeeded his father when he was thirteen years old. But he had gained no military victory until he defeated the Keraites in 1203. With this, his people declared him Genghis Khan, meaning "universal emperor." The new title was accepted without hesitation, and to do justice to such a tribute, he decided to go on an eonquist campaign that would last no less than 25 years. Genghis first turned his attention to the Tartars. After defeating them, he headed south towards China, where the Sung Dynasty was on the brink of ruin and thus an easy target for the Mongol looters. Genghis captured Beijing in 1214 and soon occupied most of Ghina. For centuries, the Mongols had been a nomadic people living on the vast plains of central Asia. They spread across the steppes and lived fighting each other and pillaging villages on the fringes of the Chinese Empire. Beyond their homeland, few people had ever heard of the Mongols. The Great Wall of China, whose construction began around AD 200, had kept them at a distance, and most of Europe was thousands of miles from the high, cold deserts inhabited by the Mongols.

But after Genghis took power, distance or wall were no longer obstacles to his ambitions. In 1219, the "universal emperor" headed west for lands they had never heard of his conquests. The Mongol Horde, as the vast waves of heavily armed knights came to be known, swept Russia, detonated the Persian Empire, swallowed Poland and Hungary, and threatened Europe as a whole.

The warlord of the Mongols, who had little affinity for the fine products of the Chinese and European civilizations, slept in a tent and used to ride a fast and robust Mongol stallion. It is very likely that he was the most successful military leader in the history of the world. Genghis Khan saw no limits to the expansion of the Mongol Empire. For the next eight years, he assembled the longest continuous empire the world had ever seen. The success of their destroying Horde, however, depended entirely on Genghis Khan's skill and leadership and the unification of the Mongols. For some time after his death, when he was succeeded by his third son, Ogodei Khan (1185-1241), the conquests continued. But then the empire began to crumble and the Mongol Hordes headed home. In China, the Mongol or Yuan dynasty had a long life: it endured until 1368.

The great importance of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire in history was that they made people on opposite sides of the world, such as China and Europe, aware of each other. The Crusades had reopened the old dialogue between Europe and the Middle East, but before the Mongols, Europeans mostly ignored the existence of the Far East.