Mongol Territory Expansion: The Rise and Fall by Year

The Mongol Empire was one of the most fearsome and largest empires in the history of the world. In the span of roughly 100 years it amassed a land empire of nearly 24 million sq km. No contiguous land based empire was larger, and only the British colonial empire surpassed it in total size. This is the history of the Mongol territory expansion.

A man named Temujin was the first to unite Mongolia in 1206. History knows him as Genghis Khan (or Chinggis Khan). This was a ceremonial title, and he was referred to as “The Great Khan” or Emperor of the Mongols.

Once united Genghis Khan sent his armies in all directions to conquer neighboring lands. The Mongols were highly skilled horse riders and their speed and ferocity shocked their enemies. Genghis Khan was considered a military genius and relied upon a system of meritocracy in his army. This allowed the best commanders to rise up the ranks and lead his armies in battle. Two of his greatest generals, Subutai and Jebe, were mere commoners at birth.

Mongol Territory Expansion: The Rise and Fall by Year

Mongol Territorial Expansion by Year chart

The Mongol conquests began in the south and east, conquering the fractured Chinese states. Next his armies spread west terrorizing and subjugating the Khwarazmian Empire in Central Asia and Iran. The Mongols employed brutal tactics, in some cases massacring entire civilian populations and enslaving others. Stories of their brutality spread, and would later help future Mongol invasions as entire cities surrendered in order to avoid the same fate.

After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, his successors continued to add to the empire. Mesopotamia, Russia, Tibet and South China were all conquered and absorbed into the empire at various times. The Mongols made it as far west as Poland and Hungary before returning home due to the death of Genghis Khan’s son. Had he not died at that time, it is likely that Western Europe would have been conquered as well.

Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis) was also a legendary ruler who founded his own dynasty in China called the Yuan Dynasty. After Kublai’s death, the empire began to fracture. The empire was beset with internal strife and each regional ruler (khanate) had their own agenda and plans.

By the 14th century the Mongols were far from their roots. Generations of assimilation into the conquered cultures had left them prone to rebellion. Their brutal tactics also did not fade easily from the memories of their subjects, many of whom wanted retribution.

Despite their eventual collapse, the legacy of the Mongol Empire is one that lives on today. The empire was notable in its tolerance of all religions and reestablished the renowned Silk Road to spur trade throughout the empire.

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Source: UC Irvine

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