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Genghis Khan: Military Hero

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Genghis Khan: Military HeroAlthough some people believe Genghis Khan was a ruthless butcher, he deserves credit as a military genius because he conquered massive amounts of territory thanks to his quick thinking and battle tactics. To the Mongolian’s he is a much honored figure, a king and hero rather than a savage, a force of unity, strength and order. He was the man who ruled Mongolia in its greatest days of glory, and although he led an army that slaughtered masses of people in a genocide not seen again until the 20th century, he was known for being just and generous to his own people, and magnanimous in victory. Undeniably, he was one of histories greatest rulers and military leaders. Genghis Khan established the Mongol nation, conquered most of the known world, and rightfully earned the reputation as one of the great military leaders of all time. Although often called the “barbarian,” Khan achieved his victories through brilliant organization and tactics rather than barbaric behavior.

Genghis Khan put an immense force of dedication in military formation and the loyalty of his soldiers which helped him conquer vast amounts of territory. Genghis Khan had “organized his military on a system of ten- ten men to a squad, ten quads to a company, ten companies to a regiment, and so on, up to Tumens ten thousand men.” With this type of formation, the Mongols were well organized. The Mongols could attack effectively and together as a whole unit which helped out a lot in battles. He was able to conquer massive amounts of territory with is tactic. This command structure proved to be highly flexible and allowed the Mongol army to attack in a group, divide into somewhat smaller groups to encircle and lead enemies into an ambush, or divide into small groups of 10 to mop up a fleeing and broken army.

In addition to the military formation, Genghis Khan added the one necessary ingredient, which was “strict discipline, to his armies which in turn, gave him an edge over other armies.” With strict discipline, the armies had strict loyalty to Genghis Khan. That way Genghis Khan had no one betray him and helped him conquer lots of land. Each battle the Mongols entered, they’d fight with all their dedication because of the strict discipline Genghis Khan had placed within them. Furthermore, the discipline was severe: “if one member of an arban (group of soldiers) deserted, all the arban were executed; if the whole arban deserted, the entire jaghun (larger group of soldiers) would be executed.” This put fear into the soldiers on not to betray Genghis Khan so many of his soldiers were loyal to him. This allowed him to keep many soldiers and conquer more area.

Genghis Khan’s army consisted mostly of cavalry and many spies which played a role in the feinted retreat which enabled him to conquer territories. Mongol cavalry soldiers, called Keshik, were “extremely light troops compared to contemporary standards, allowing them to practice tactics and false retreats that would be impractical for a heavier enemy (such as European knights).” This produced an extremely mobile army far superior to any other of its time. The enemy would tire easily and slow the Mongol cavalry to kill them off. The Mongols’ army was also consisted of spies. To support his operations, “Khan employed an extensive network of spies to report on the strengths of the enemy and the location.”

This showed how much Khan wanted to be prepared before he wanted to go into battle. He didn’t want to lose which was one of the true ambitions of every true conqueror. Besides the army makeup, another common tactic used by the Mongol soldiers was the feinted retreat. In the middle of battle, “a Mongol unit or whole army would retreat suddenly, giving the opposition false confidence. After that, the opposition would find itself surrounded by Mongol soldiers that would eventually shower them with arrows.” The Mongols were able to conquer massive amounts of territory with this tactic. This also allowed them to have fewer casualties.

One was the most brilliant things Genghis Khan had done during his heroic military career, was using and adopting the enemies’ technology. He seemed to be a quick student, “adopting new technologies and ideas that he encountered, such as siege warfare from the Chinese.” This was brainy because with strong and different types of technology, the more advanced they are going to be over the enemy and the more easy it will be to conquer territory which Genghis did. Originally consisting of purely cavalry units, the “Mongols learned and absorbed the war technology and strategies of the empires and kingdoms they invaded and conquered.”

Most notable contribution in their military campaigns was the absorption of Chinese siege warfare and engineers; prior to this the Mongols lacked skills to take walled cities. The Mongol cavalry was more used to the open-space steppe warfare. With the introduction of siege warfare and fighting ships from both China and Korea, the Mongol capability was enhanced greatly. The Mongol army, however, “didn’t remain static but it rather evolved as the situation demanded.” Genghis Khan used catapults against he Great Walls of China. He used archers for ranged attacks. He kidnapped enemies and forced hem to build weapons. This is one of his smart battle tactics.

Cruelty was a physiological tactic used by Genghis Khan that helped him conquer more land. Genghis Khan would “often offer an opportunity for the enemy to surrender and pay tribute. If the offer was refused, he would invade and destroy the cities and towns, but allow a few civilians to flee to spread words of their loss to other areas.” With the word spreading, the other kingdoms would surrender without a fight. This enabled him to save more men and more equipment for future battles. To add to this tactic, Genghis Khan “ordered many of the conquered regions to pay a tribute to him and his army.” The tribute helped Genghis Khan feed, clothe and supply the battle weapons for his men. This made them happy and more loyal to him. This also made things much easier.

Genghis Khan played around with the number of men in his army, trying to make an illusion if there were more men. Genghis Khan also “employed tactics that made his numbers seem greater than they actually were by dressing dummies up in soldier outfits.” By this the enemy was fooled and didn’t attack Genghis Khan. This was another smart tactic that added to his military genius. During night operations “he ordered each soldier to light three torches at dusk in order to deceive and intimidate enemy scouts.” This would make the enemy think there was more soldiers and the enemy would retreat. Smart tactic that helped him conquer more territory.

To bring things to a point, Genghis Khan is an amazing man. Within Mongolia, Khan remains a national hero. His accomplishments were vast and lasting, and his military skills were superior in every manner. Khan achieved his victories through brilliant organization and tactics which allowed him to unite the largest empire in world history. He easily ranks as one of the all-time most influential military leaders in history.


Richard Breitman, “Hitler and Genghis Khan,” Journal of Contemporary History 25, no. 2/3 (1900): 337.

. De Rachewiltz, To the Secret History of the Mongols (New York City: Indiana University, 1972), 2.

Royal Alberto Museum, “Genghis Khan: Treasure if Inner Mongolia,” Royal Alberto Museum: Virtual Exhibits-Genghis Khan, Royal Alberto Museum, http://www.royalalbertomuseum.ca//vaxhibit/genghis/intr o.htm.

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