The last great nomadic challenges: from changgis khan to timur



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CHAPTER 14

THE LAST GREAT NOMADIC CHALLENGES:

FROM CHANGGIS KHAN TO TIMUR

  1. The Mongol Empire of Changgis Khan

  1. The basic unit of Mongol society was the tribe, which was divided into kin-related clans whose members camped and herded together on a regular basis.

  1. At all organizational levels, leaders were elected by the free men of the group.

  2. Although women exercised influence within the family and had the right to be heard in tribal councils, men dominated leadership positions.

  3. Courage in battle, usually evidenced by bravery in the hunt, and the ability to forge alliances and attract dependants were vital leadership skills.

  1. The making of a Great Warrior: The Early Career of Changgis Khan

  1. Temujin (Changgis Khan) was born in the 1170’s; upon his father’s death he was taken prisoner by a rival tribe in 1182.

  2. After his escape from captivity he built-up a following and a reputation as a warrior and military commander.

  3. Within a decade, the youthful Temujin had defeated his Mongol rivals and routed the forces sent to crush him by other nomadic peoples.

  4. In 1206 Temujin is renamed Changgis Khan and was elected the Khagan or supreme ruler, of the Mongol tribes.

  1. Building the Mongol War Machine

    1. Mongols wielded a variety of weapons, including lances, hatchets, and iron maces.

    2. None of their weapons was as devastating as their powerful short bows.

      1. Range 400 yards.

    3. The old quarrels and vendettas between clans and tribes were overridden by loyalty to the Khagan.

      1. Energies once devoted to infighting were now directed toward conquering and forcible exaction of tribute.

    4. Mongol forces were divided into armies made-up of basic fighting units called tumens, each consisting of 10,000 warriors.

      1. Each tumen was further divided into units of 1000, 100 and 10 warriors.

      2. Commanders at each level were responsible for training, arming, and disciplining the cavalrymen under their charge.

      3. The tumens were also divided into heavy cavalry, which carried lances and wore some metal armor, and light cavalry, which relied primarily on the bow and arrow and leather helmets and body covering.

      4. Even more lightly armed men were the scouting parties that rode ahead of Mongol armies and, using flags and special signal fires, kept the main force informed of the enemy’s movements.

      5. Mongol values, made courage in battle a prerequisite for male self-esteem, was buttressed by a formal code that dictated the immediate execution of a warrior who deserted his unit.

      6. A special unit supplied Mongol armies with excellent maps of the areas they were to invade.

      7. New weapons, including a variety of flaming and exploding arrows, gunpowder projectiles, and later bronze cannons, were also devised for the Mongol forces.

  2. Conquest: The Mongol Empire under Changgis Khan

    1. Temujin’s first campaign humbled the Tangut Kingdom of Xi Xia in northwest China.

    2. His next campaign defeated the more powerful Qin Empire, which the Manchu related Jurchens had established a century earlier in north China.

    3. When they met resistance, the Mongols adopted a policy of terrifying retribution.

  3. First assault on the Islamic World: Conquest in China

    1. Once they had established their empire in the steppes, the Mongol armies moved westward against the Kara Khitai Empire, which had been established by a Mongolian speaking people a century earlier.

    2. Changgis Khan next destroyed the Khwarazm Empire of Muhammad Shah II after he killed Changgis Khan’s envoy and sent the rest back with shaved heads.

    3. By 1227, the year of his death, the Mongols ruled an empire that stretched from eastern Persia to the North China Sea.

  4. Life Under the Mongol Imperium

    1. Changgis Khan established a new capital at Karakorum on the steppes and summoned the wise and clever from all parts of the Empire to the lavish palace of tents with gilded pillars where he lived with his wives and closest advisors.

    2. At Karakorum, Changgis Khan consulted with Confucian scholars about how to rule China, with Muslim engineers about how to build siege weapons and improve trade with the lands farther west, and with Daoist holy men, whom he hoped could give him the elixir that would make him immortal.

    3. All religions were tolerated in his Empire.

    4. An administrative framework that drew on the advice and talents of both Muslim and Chinese bureaucrats was created.

    5. A script was devised for the Mongolian language to facilitate record keeping and the standardization of laws.

    6. Pax Mongolia

    7. In the towns of the Empire, handicraft production and scholarship flourished and artistic creativity was allowed free expression.

    8. Secure trade routes made for prosperous merchants and wealthy, cosmopolitan cities.

  5. The Death Of Chinggis Khan And The Division Of The Empire

    1. After overrunning the kingdom of Xi Xia and capturing the Tangut capital, Chinggis Khan fell ill from an injury he had received in a previous skirmish and died in August of 1227.

    2. Ogedei (Chinggis Khans third son) was elected grand khan or his successor.

      1. He was a crafty diplomat and deft manipulator but not as capable a military leader.

  1. The Mongol Drive To The West

  1. Russia and Europe were added to the Mongol’s agenda for world conquest.

  1. Subjugating these regions became the project of the armies of the Golden Horde, named after the golden tent of the early Khans of the western sector of the Mongol Empire.

  2. The Golden Horde was under the control of Chinggis Khan’s grandson, Batu.

  3. The invasion of Russia began in 1236.

  4. Real prize was Western Europe.

  5. Russians called Mongols, Tartars (meaning people from hell).

  6. Mongols used the winter to their advantage-sure footing for their horses.

  1. Russia in Bondage

  1. The crushing victories of Batu’s armies initiated nearly two and a half centuries of Mongol dominance in Russia.

  2. Russian princes were forced to submit as vassals of the Khan of the Golden Horde and to pay tribute.

  3. Mongol demands fell particularly heavily on the Russian peasantry, who had to give their crops and labor to both their own princes and the Mongol overlords.

  4. The peasants fled to remote areas or became, in effect serfs of Russian ruling class in return for protection.

  5. Some Russian towns made profits on the increased trade made possible by the Mongol links.

  1. No town benefitted from the Mongol presence more than Moscow.

  2. After 1328, Moscow also profited from its status as the tribute collector for the Mongol Khans.

  3. As Moscow grew in strength, the power of the Golden Horde declined.

  1. In alliance with other Russian vassals, Moscow raised an army that defeated the Golden Horde at the Battle of Kulilova in 1380.

  2. The Mongol example may have influenced the desire of Russian princes to centralize their control and reduce the limitations placed on their power by the landed nobility, clergy, and wealthy merchants.

  3. By far the greatest effects of Mongol rule were those resulting from Russia’s isolation from Christian lands farther west.

  1. Mongol Incursions and the Retreat from Europe

  1. The rulers of Europe were slow to realize the magnitude of the threat the Mongols posed to western Christendom.

  2. The death of Khagan Ogedei, in the distant Mongol capital at Karakorum, forced Batu to withdraw in preparation for the struggle for succession.

      1. The campaign for the conquest of Europe was never resumed.

  1. The Mongol Assault on the Islamic Heartland

  1. After the Mongol conquest of the Khwarazan Empire it was only a matter of time before they struck westward against the far wealthier Muslim empires of Mesopotamia and North Africa.

        1. The conquest of these areas became the main project of Hulegu, another grandson of Chinggis Khan and the ruler of the Ilkhan portions of the Mongol Empire.

    1. Hulegu destroys Baghdad in 1258.

    2. Mongols would be defeated in 1260 by Baibars, the commander of a Mamluk (slave) army from Egypt.

      1. Hulegu was not present.

    3. Hulegu stayed in his kingdom he had already settled after this defeat due to internal challenges with his cousin Berke.

  1. The Mongol Interlude In Chinese History

    1. Soon after Ogedei was elected as the great Khan, the Mongol advance into China was resumed.

    2. In 1260 Kublai assumed the title of the great khan.

      1. He changed the name of his Mongol regime in China to the Yuan.

      2. He forbade Chinese scholars to learn the Mongol script, which was used for records and correspondence at the upper levels of the Imperial government.

      3. Mongols were forbidden to marry ethnic Chinese and only women from Nomadic families were selected for the Imperial harem.

      4. Mongol religious ceremonies and customs were retained, and a tent encampment in the traditional Mongol style was set-up in the Imperial city even though Kublai usually lived in a Chinese-style palace.

      5. In the Yuan era, a new social structure was established in China, with the Mongols on top and their central Asian nomadic and Muslim allies’ right below them in the hierarchy.

      1. These two groups occupied most offices at the highest levels of the bureaucracy.

    1. Gender Roles and the Convergence of Mongol and Chinese Culture

      1. Mongol women remained aloof from Chinese culture-at least Chinese culture in the Confucian guise.

            1. They refused to adopt foot binding.

            2. They retained their rights to property and control within the household as well as the freedom to move about the town and countryside.

  1. Kublai Khan’s wife Chabi was a Buddhist and his most important confidant on political and diplomatic matters.

  1. Mongol Tolerance and Foreign Cultural Influence

      1. Muslims were included in the second highest social grouping, just beneath the Mongols themselves.

      2. Muslims designed and supervised the building of the Chinese-style Imperial city and proposed new systems for more efficient tax collection.

      3. Persian astronomers imported more advanced Middle Eastern instruments for celestial observations corrected the Chinese calendar and made some of the most accurate maps the Chinese had ever seen.

      4. Muslim doctors ran the Imperial hospitals and added translations of 36 volumes on Muslim medicine to the Imperial library.

      5. Kublai practiced religious toleration.

  1. Social Policies and Scholar-Gentry Resistance

          1. Kublai’s efforts to promote Mongol adaption to Chinese culture were overshadowed in the long run by measures to preserve Mongol separateness.

          2. Most of the scholar-gentry saw the Mongol overlord and his successors as uncouth barbarians whose policies endangered Chinese traditions.

            1. As it was intended to do, Kublai’s refusal to reinstate the examination route to administrative office prevented Confucian scholars from dominating politics.

            2. The favoritism he showed Mongol and other foreign officials further alienated the scholar-gentry.

            3. He bolstered the position of the artisan classes, who had never enjoyed high standing, and the merchants, whom the Confucian thinkers had long dismissed as parasites.

  1. During the Yuan period in China, merchants also prospered and commerce boomed, partly because of Mongol efforts to improve transportation and expand the supply of paper money.

  2. The Mongol elite soon became addicted to the diversions of urban life.

            1. Perhaps the most famous Chinese dramatic work, The Romance of the West Chamber, was written in the Yuan period.

  3. Kublai sought to reduce peasant tax and forced labor burdens, partly by redirecting peasant payments from local nonofficial tax farmers directly to government officials.

  4. He and his advisors also developed a revolutionary plan to establish elementary education in the villages.

  1. The Fall of the House of Yuan

      1. By the end of Kublai Khan’s reign the dynasty was showing signs of weakening.

            1. Song loyalist revolted in the south.

            2. Two failed attempts to invade Japan (1274 & 1280).

            3. Defeats in Vietnam & Java.

      2. Kublai Khan’s wife Chabi died and five years later his favorite son died, this led to a general softening of the Mongol ruling class as a whole.

      3. Secret religious sects, such as the White Lotus Society were dedicated to overthrow the dynasty.

      4. A man from a poor peasant family, Ju Yuanzhang emerged to found the Ming dynasty, which ruled China for most of the next three centuries.

  1. Aftershock: The Brief Ride of Timur

          1. A second nomadic outburst from central Asia plunged them again into fear and despair.

            1. This time the nomads in question were Turks, not Mongols, and their leader, Timur-I Lang or Timur the Lame was from a noble land owning clan not a tribal, herding background.

            2. Beginning in 1360s, his armies moved out from his base at Samarkand to conquests in Persia, the Fertile Crescent, India, and Southern Russia.

          2. Timur is remembered for little more than barbaric destruction.

          3. Unlike that of the Mongols, his rule brought neither increased trade and cross-cultural exchanges nor internal peace.

          4. He dies in 1405, with his passing, the last great challenge of the steppe nomads to the civilizations of Eurasia came to an end.

  1. Global Connections: The Mongol Linkages

        1. Mongols taught new ways of making war and impressed on their Turkic and European enemies the effectiveness of gunpowder.

  1. Mongol conquest facilitated trade between the civilizations at each end of Eurasia, making possible the exchange of foods, tools, and ideas on an unprecedented scale.

  2. The revived routes brought great wealth to traders, such as those from north Italy, who set-up outposts in eastern Med., along the Black Sea coast, and as far east as the Caspian Sea.

  3. Perhaps the greatest long-term impact of the Mongol drive to the west was indirect and untended-Bubonic Plague.


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