Genghis Khan: Biography, Family, Reign, and Quotes

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan, from a very humble beginning and a life of poverty, became the founder of the biggest empire in history – the Mongol Empire. He was known to be very intelligent in plotting against his enemies and used smart techniques in outwitting them.  His reign was based on him bringing tribes from Asia together.

Birth and early life of Genghis Khan

Most of the information about his birth is inconclusive due to lack of records.  It is said that he was born around 1162 at a place between Mongolia of today and Siberia.

He was born near the Burkhan Kladun Mountains in Deluun Boldog.  He was the son of Yesugei, who was the head of the Borjigin tribe.  When he was born, he was named Genghis Temujin Khan.

It is said that his name Temujin meant “Iron”.  His father had forcibly married his mother after abducting her. It is said that, when he was born, he was holding on to some blood clot. According to their traditions, this meant that he was to become an affluent leader. His father was poisoned by the tribe of the Tatars that had issues with his clan.

Genghis Khan is believed to have had five brothers and a sister. They were six in number, namely Hachiun, Hasar, Temüge, Temülen – who was his sister – Begter and Belgütei were his half brothers.

In their tradition, one was allowed to get married by the age of twelve; so at the age of nine, his father handed him over to the family of the woman he was to be married to. Her name was Börte. He was to as a servant to the head of the girl’s family Dai Setsen until their eventual marriage.

It was this trip that his father was returning from when we got poisoned by the Tatars tribe. When Genghis found out, he went back home to assume the chieftaincy position that had once belonged to his father but was rejected by the clan.  His family was ignored since they had become a burden in the absence of his father.

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The life of Genghis Khan

Times were very difficult for him and his family as they were very poor and hardly had anything to eat.  They barely had enough to eat and usually survived on wild fruits and game that Temujin and his brothers killed.

During one of their hunting trips, Temujin killed his elder brother, Begter, after an argument had ensued between them.

During 1177, Temujin was taken into custody by the Tayichi ‘ud tribe and turned into a slave. However, he was able to escape after receiving support from a guard.

His escape made him a bit known and got some people to join him. He paid attention to all that went on between the tribes around him. His mother trained him well on how to make Mongolia stable.

Genghis Khan’s Wives and Children

As initially prearranged by his father, Khan eventually married Borte in 1178, strengthening the alliance between his tribe and that of Borte’s – the Khongirad tribe. Shortly after their marriage, Borte was kidnapped by the Merkit tribe, but she was later rescued by Khan, who received significant assistance from his friend, Jamukha.

Not long after Borte returned from her captivity, she gave birth to her first child, named Jochi. This caused the paternity of Jochi to be hugely questioned. However, Khan still considered him as his son. Khan and Borte gave birth to three more sons, namely Chagatai, Ögedei, and Tolui.

Khan had lots of other children with his numerous other wives. However, due to the Mongolian traditions, none of his other offspring could succeed him except the children he had with Borte.

It is believed that in addition to his four sons with Borte, Khan also had at least six daughters with his other wives.

Did you know…?

Historians have claimed that Genghis Khan took more than 500 wives, who bore him over 1000 children in total. Some scholars maintain that up to one in 200 people in the world today are Genghis Khan’s descendants.

Rise to Power

He rose to power by aligning himself to different tribes. Temujin made friends he could trust and put them in important places of power whilst he killed the heads of the clans he was against and made the rest of the member’s part of his tribe.

He had followers from different religions. His friend Jamukha made himself king of Jadaran, the same clan he was from.

In 1186, Genghis was made the Mongols King.  His friend was so scared by how fast he was rising that he launched an attack on him.  Though he beat Genghis, he lost some of the people willing to follow him when they watched him boil seventy (70) boys he had captured.

Genghis challenged the Khwarezm clan. Their sultan accepted to trade with Genghis but during the first delivery, they were robbed and some of the Khwarezm people were killed.

In retaliation, the sultan killed some of Genghis’ ambassadors.  He attacked the clan and killed a lot of people whiles keeping good workers.

Mongol Empire and religious tolerance


Genghis Khan’s Death

Genghis Khan statue

Genghis Khan is best known for being the founder of the Mongol Empire, which went on to be the largest contiguous land empire in history. Image: A statue of Genghis Khan, located at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Image source:

Genghis Khan died on the 18th of August 1227. Based on his request and also his tribe’s customs, his body was buried close to his hometown near the Onon River in modern-day Mongolia. As he had requested several years prior to his death, his grave (burial site) was unmarked,

The actual cause of Genghis Khan’s death still remains a mystery, with several sources giving varying accounts of how he died. For instance, an account from The Secret History of the Mongols suggests that Khan died as a result of the injuries he sustained after falling off a horse during a hunting exercise.

There’s another side of the story that states that he wasn’t killed by a horse injury but in battle with the Xi Xia tribe.

The legendary explorer and writer, Marco polo claimed that Khan’s death was a result of an infected arrow that injured him during his last battle.

Another account states that a princess from the Xi Xia tribe stabbed him with a small knife she had hidden, but this version is said to be false by some Mongol writers.

Size of the Mongol Empire

Size of the Mongol Empire

RELATED: Most Famous Rulers from the Mongol Empire

How large did the Mongol Empire grow to become?

At its peak, the Mongol Empire became the largest contiguous land empire in history. It’s estimated that the empire, which began as a small group of nomadic tribes in present-day Mongolia, reached a size of 24,000,000 km2 (9,300,000 sq. mi.).

To put into perspective the sheer size of the Mongol Empire: the empire was bigger than the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire (i.e. the Eastern Roman Empire) combined.

The Rise and Fall of the Mongol Empire

Genghis Khan and Timur the Conqueror

Timur was a descendant of Genghis Khan. He famously founded the Timurid Empire in Central Asia. He was known for his brutal conquests. It’s said that the Timurid ruler was so brutal that he built pyramid of human skulls. This was to serve as a warning to would-be opponents of him.

Other interesting about Genghis Khan

In some accounts, it’s been stated that his birth name “Temujin” translates to “blacksmith”. He did not received the title “Genghis Khan” until 1206 when he successfully brought the various tribes under his rule and was then proclaimed leader of the Mongols.

Below are a few more interesting facts about the greatest Mongol ruler and his legacy:

Genghis Khan’s reason for allowing the tribes he conquered to keep their religious belief was simple: The Mongol conqueror did not want religious restrictions to be a source of rebellion against his rule. In the spirit of this, Genghis Khan selected his generals and governors from the population of conquered territories. He made sure that he picked the best of the best from the camp of defeated enemies. This was a strategic move as it helped to reduce the tendency of the conquered territories starting a rebellion.

Genghis Khan’s army was infamous for unleashing hell upon territories that refused to peacefully surrender to the Mongol ruler. The Khwarezmid Empire had a taste of Genghis Khan’s brutality after their ruler reneged on a peace treaty. The Mongol ruler set out to annihilate the Khwarezmid Empire. Genghis Khan’s army slaughtered thousands, devastating the Khwarezmid Empire permanently.

It’s been estimated that Genghis Khan’s Mongol forces were responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 35 and 40 million people, with many of those casualties coming during the Mongol invasion of the Khwarezmid Empire. In other words, Genghis Khan’s conquests and attacks resulted in the death of about 10% of the world’s population at the time.

One of the things that allowed him to pull of an almost close to perfect conquest was his vast network of spies. The Mongol ruler had trained spies that were scattered all around the region. Their task was to report any potential threat to the Mongol Empire.

Desiring to be fair to his descendants, Genghis Khan divided his territories among his children before his death. For example, his third son Ögedei Khan received title of khagan-emperor, while his second son Chagatai Khan inherited territories in Central Asia.

Prior to Mongolia severing the chains that held it as a satellite state of the Soviet Union, painstaking efforts were made by the leadership of the Soviet Union to erase Genghis Khan’s legacy from the history books. Fearing that reverence of the Mongol ruler could steer up nationalistic tendencies among Mongolians, the Communist Party banned the use of textbooks that had the Mongol conqueror’s name. Once Mongolia gained independence, all of those policies were removed. And today, Genghis Khan is an absolutely revered figure in the country.

Famous Genghis Khan’s Quotes


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