Genghis Khan

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Possibly the most excellent leader the world has ever seen, Genghis (or Temujin which was his birth name) started life as a nomad and shepherd, second son of his parents, with three brothers. His father was murdered by skirmishers from a tribe of Tatars, who fed him a poisoned meal. As his mother and her five children (four boys and one girl) became a liability to the tribe, they were abandoned without any way of surviving. Against all the odds they survived, and Genghis started to feel that he was the born leader of his family, so he killed his older brother and took over as head of his family.

Genghis was a visionary and wanted to unite the Mongol people and as a young man started bringing in other nomadic families to join him in his quest. He negotiated with weaker tribes and subdued any that opposed him. When he had united the Mongols, he started looking to expand his lands and started a war to the east and the west. His methods were ruthless – if a city resisted him, they were demolished, men, women and children. Those that did not resist would accept his leadership and survive.

The Army

The success of the Mongols was primarily due to their horses and their horsemanship. Each soldier had a string of three or four horses enabling them to ride for days on end, changing horses whenever their mount became tired. The horses also provided sustenance for the riders – a mixture of the mare’s milk and blood tapped from the horse’s jugular. Using these methods, they could cover 100 miles in a day – unheard of and unmatched by any other army.


The soldiers carried lances and bows and arrows. Their ability to shoot from the horses back in quick succession, sometimes having more than one indicator in the air at a time, decimated the enemy from a distance – the range was up to 300 meters. By the time the fighting was hand to hand, many of the enemies were already out of the fight. They could then pick off the survivors with their lances.

For every ten soldiers, six were considered “light” cavalry who relied on their bows for fighting. The others carried lances and bows, and all brought a sword, scimitar-shaped, a helmet and body armour. The body armour was platelets of metal or leather linked together covering the upper body and also included their horses. Archers were very well trained and their ability to release their arrows in time with the horse’s stride, firing when all four of the horse’s hooves were off the ground, giving them a momentary stable platform, made them the most superior archers known to man.

The small horses used by Genghis and his men were hardy, fit and could survive on grass and foliage, giving them a considerable advantage over the enemy with their bigger horses. They could also tolerate the frigid winters on the Steppes, enabling Genghis to wage war on his winter-bound foes.