Episode #2 of the course “Biggest wars in history”
Date: 13th Century
Location: Asia, Eastern Europe, Middle East
Estimated casualties: 30,000,000 – 60,000,000
Wars were, of course, not nearly as advanced in the early years of civilization; that did not, however, make them any less organized. The Mongol Conquests (13th century) were a series of wars and campaigns organized by Mongol feudal lords attempting to pillage and enslave the people of Asia and Eastern Europe. They were a powerful army that was well-disciplined, large in number, centralized, and well-armed. The small armies in neighboring countries didn’t have a fighting chance.
Genghis Khan formed the Mongol state, and he ruled from 1206 to 1227. By the late 1200s, the Mongol Empire covered most of Asia and Eastern Europe. Although the soldiers were not as advanced as in the World Wars, they were just as destructive. They were a force that struck terror into the hearts and minds of virtually everyone across Asia and Europe. In fact, they brought the bubonic plague with them as they traveled, deliberately spreading it to cause casualties. They also used horses in warfare, which was somewhat unique at the time. One of their tactics was to pretend like they were retreating, causing their enemy to follow them, only to trap the enemy by coming up behind them. They also absorbed the troops that they conquered, using them in future battles. They were clearly a military force to be reckoned with.
After Genghis Khan’s death, his third son Ogodei, the Great Khan, took the throne. He continued his father’s mission of spreading the empire. By 1241, they had reached all the way to Hungary, but they had to withdraw because the Great Khan passed without naming a successor. By 1260, internal conflict, particularly regarding leadership, caused the empire to break down. The empire broke back into tribes (as they were when the forces were first organized). Four sectors emerged, including the Mongols in China, those in Central Asia, the Ilkhanids (West Asia), and the Golden Horde (Russia).
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