We were recently discussing a series of novels by Conn Iggulden, based in the life and times of Genghis Khan. For most of us he is a name that we have heard. We know that he swept large parts of the world as his Mongol hordes swept all those in front of them aside on large fast running horses. He used numbers, archery, and ruthlessness to carve a large empire and destroy all those that stood in his way. Or did he?
As we often find when we did beyond the headline the truth is often stranger than the fiction – and if you take the time to study the facts, they are both more interesting and insightful.
For instance we think of the Mongols as outnumbering and ‘out gunning’ their opponents. That is not quite the truth.
The truth is that the Mongols use speed to move large distances.
Their horses were picked and bred for durability and stamina – they could ride over 80 miles in a day. The horses were trained so that a rider could fire his bow and fight while the horse was directed by training and knee pressure.
The training was not only for the horses, as the children were trained to ride, by strapping them onto sheep even before they could sit on a horse. As they grew, they trained trained and trained some more. The training was primarily on riding and archery which were the reading and writing of their times.
The Mongols not only trained their horses, they prized them. Horses were wealth and life. Each warrior would ride with spare mounts. This kept the horses fresh and ready for battle – it also created the illusion that 10,000 warriors were also 30 or 40 thousand as the spare mounts created the appearance of numbers.
The Mongols used their riding skills for two crucial components in battle and life: scouting territory and areas – but before battle and when moving their ‘Nation’ and for communicating. These advantages allowed the Mongols to understand their enemy – who were often superior in number, and to beat them with planning, tactics and mobility.
The Mongols valued their lives – they did not want to die needlessly, so they used guile and deception to confuse the enemy and give themselves tactical advantages.
The Mongols developed a simple but brutally effective command and control structure. It was based on units of ten men. Each unit would elect a leader. These leaders would then elect a group leader for ten units of 10 (a hundred). This early type of democracy is interesting, especially as your life could depend on the decision of your commander, whether at the 10, 100 or 1000 level. Genghis and his generals would then select leaders for 1000 or 10000. While favoritism for Genghis brothers and sons did exist – it existed because they expected and delivered more from themselves.
The Mongols used their speed, communication, training and tactics to take advantage of their strengths and of their opponent’s weaknesses. They also showed mercy and allowed people to join their nation – even if they were not of the Mongol blood. Smart guys those Mongols.
The above information is extracted from reading and discussions based on a series of books by Conn Iggulden know as the Conqueror Series which comprise WOLF OF THE PLAINS, LORDS OF THE BOW, BONES OF THE HILL, EMPIRE OF SILVER, CONQUERO. This is a superb series which shares the beginnings of Genghis to the building of a vast empire by himself and his heirs. Great reading and full of interesting insights – could make a wonderful present. With thanks for research and discussion to https://www.facebook.com/LINOsNotebook
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