Book report - The Mongols

no link for this old book, The Mongols by E. D. Phillips, 1969, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York

after reading about Ivan the Terrible, i had to learn more about the Tatars, or Tatars, he was constantly worried about, remnants of the Golden Horde, the Mongol army that could have made it to the Atlantic Ocean if not for the inconveniently timed death of Ogedei, Genghis Khan's son and successor, which required the generals to return and accept the next Khan.
discipline was strict in Genghis's armies. death was the usual punishment for infractions. technology played a large role in Genghis's sieges. fear and fairness were also helpful. cities that surrendered were only subjected to heavy taxation. cities that didn't were exterminated. the Mongol army perhaps killed as many people as all of WW2, but over a hundred years, anywhere between 30 and 60 million deaths. The army was guilty of some horrific devastations though.

Consider the Seige of Baghdad.

The Caliph's army under Fath--ad-Din ibn Kerr, which had been on the east bank of the Tigris, crossed it to meet Baiju and Boge Timur. The Mongols destroyed a dam and flooded the plain behind their enemy. They then attacked the Caliph's troops and routed them, leaving a hundred and twenty thousand killed and more drowned in the mud. While the 'litle dewatdar' with a few men escaped to Baghdad, Baiju's men reached the western suburbs and Hulegu and Ketboge completed the encirclement from the east by the beginning of 1258.
Within a trenched and walled ring the Mongols besieged Baghdad without respite until the breached the eastern wall by the Persian Tower. The Caliph's envoys were turned back and for six days the attack was pressed with stones from the mountains and sawn-off palm-trunks as missiles. Arrows were shot over the wall with messages offering to spare all who had not taken up arms. When the Persian Tower collapsed, the Mongols carried the rampart by storm, occupied the whole of the eastern city, and caught those who tried to escape by boat. Seeing the Mongols on top of the walls, the Caliph surrendered. His officers and soldiers were killed, and eight hundred thousand of the people, who came out to be counted, were massacred. The Caliph was forced to reveal the wealth accumulated in five centuries, which was piled round Hulegu's tent, and was finally trampled to death under the hoofs of horses. (p. 90)


But this isn't an isolated example. Genghis himself put down an uprising in a silk road oasis city in modern day Turkmenistan called Merv. After it surrendered to a siege 1.5 million were killed. the year before, another rich trading city, Urgench, was sacked and each soldier was ordered to kill 24 citizens. Hopefully, not all 50,000 soldiers were involved as this would make 1.2 million killed. This action was partly taken as a result of infighting among Genghis's general sons, not a military necessity. Genghis also destroyed the wealth silk road Afghanistan city of Balkh.
A large and prosperous city of mud brick some three square miles in area, it held perhaps 200,000 persons. It was surrounded by mud-brick walls pierced by seven gates. A splendid Friday Mosque occupied the center, and many more mosques were scattered among the dwellings. The fire temple in the suburbs, which Xuanzang had admired when it was a Buddhist monastery, was still noteworthy. The city was home, not only to Persians and Turks but also to communities of Jews and Indian traders. It nourished poets and scholars, lawyers and even geographers and astronomers. But peace was a sometime thing; even when Balkh came under Seljuk rule for over a century, the nomads were never far away. Catastrophe struck in 1220, when Ghengis Khan chose to make an example of Balkh, perhaps as punishment for an uprising. One hundred thousand Mongol horsemen embarked on an orgy of slaughter and destruction that left nothing standing; a few weeks later they returned to pick off the survivors of the carnage. Balkh remained in ruins for a century, and ws so described by Marco Polo (1275)...

Genghis's empire is the largest land based in human history. He conquered China to Poland and Hungary. His heir, Guyuk, lectured Christian missionaries sent from the worried Pope, that he was on a mission from God and only God could stop him. He told the Pope's emissary
Furthermore, you have written to me these words "You have atacked all the territories of the Magyars and Christians, at which I am astonished. Tell me, what was their crime?" These your words we likewise cannot understand. Chingis [Genghis] Khan and Ogodei Khan both sent the Command of Heaven to make it known. But those whom you name would not believed the Command of Heaven. Those of whom you speak formed a great plan: they shoed themselves presumptuous and slew our envoys. Therefore in these territories it is the everlasting Heaven which has slain and annihilated these men. If not by the Command of Heaven, how can anyone conquer of slay out of his own strength?
And when you say: "I am a Christian, I pray to God. I arraign and despise others," how do you know whom God absolves and to whom He allows His grace? How can you know it, that you speak such words?
Thanks be to the power of the Everlasting Heaven, all lands have been given to us from sunrise to sunset. How could anyone act otherwise than according to the Command of Heaven? Now you must say with upright heart: We will be your subjects and will place our powers at your disposal. You in person at the head of the monarchs, all of you without exception, must come to tender us service and pay us homage: then only will we recognize your submission. But if you do not obey the Command of Heaven and run counter to our orders, we shall know that you are our foe. That is what we have to tell you. If you fail to act in accordance with it, how can we foresee what will happen to you? Heaven alone knows.


The Pope approached the Khan with demands instead of humble greetings. The Mongol empire had given wide latitude to the Nestorian Christians, believers who had been anathematized by Rome 800 years previously. Ironically, Nestorian missionaries, who had brought the gospel all the way to Korea, China, and Mongolia, had a greater worldwide influence in the world wide Mongol empire than the Catholic and Orthodox churches who couldn't resist it. Without a political empire to protect, the Nestorians had been through many regime changes and were able to continue under the Khans, whereas the Catholic church had alot more at risk and could not remain under the Khans' radar.

Comments

Popular Posts