How did Genghis Khan treat people

Historical background

III. Historical background for the didactic focus

III.1. Genghis Khan and the rise of the Mongol Empire until 1206

a) Submission or unification of the various Altai-Mongolian tribes, including the Tatars, under Temüdschin. At a Reichstag (Kuriltai) he is chosen as the "impetuous ruler of the world" Genghis Khan.

After the people with the felt tent walls (ie all nomadic steppe peoples) had been brought to followers, gathered at the source of the Onan in the year of the tiger (1206) and the white standard with the new tails had been set up there, they gave the Genghis Khan the title of Khan

Secret history of the Mongols (written around 1230), quoted from Michael Weiers, Die Mongolen, p. 55

Background: Life in the steppe: “barbaric nomads”?

The nomadic tribes of Central Asia hardly differed in language or ethnicity, their culture was characterized by the coexistence of different religions, shamanism was predominant, but Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism were also widespread.

The hunt (nerge) occupied a central place in Mongolian society. It was a process with different meanings: it served the acquisition of food, but was always also military training in the association, strengthened the cohesion of the tribe, staged the tribal order as it were. Loyalty and allegiance came through personal ties.

The inheritance law with ultimogeniture was exceptional: ordu and land were given to the youngest son, subjugated countries to the oldest.

b) The first steps were taken to centralize and hierarchize power: The tribal structures were dissolved by Genghis Khan, men from conquered tribes were incorporated into the Mongolian army and promoted if they were successful and successful. (Principle of loyalty for care)

Background: Genghis Khan's army reform

  • - Army order in the decimal system
  • - 10,000 strong bodyguards (elite)
  • - strict discipline
  • - 95 thousands
  • - Repeal of the principle of allegiance in favor of the principle of achievement.

The booty, which Mongolian referred to as "lost property", belonged to the ruler alone, who distributed it according to loyalty. The loyalty of the tribes was thus directly linked to the success and expansion of the Mongolian armies.
Newly subjugated tribes were treated unscrupulously and functionally: small men who were useful for cavalry were integrated into the army, larger ones (measured by the axle pin of a wagon) were executed, women and children were sometimes spared, sometimes sold into slavery.

c) Genghis Khan began to create uniform legal relationships with the proclamation of several yasas (legal pronouncements).

Religiously motivated sense of mission can be ascertained during conquests (banner of Tengri, the god of heaven), successes were increasingly explained with divine will.

III.2.Expansion and "Mongol Storm"

a) Northern China (Chin Dynasty)
from 1207

Beginning of the war campaigns of around 70,000 Mongolian horsemen, especially against the peasant societies in northern China and against Uighur-Turkish petty empires in Central Asia.

1215 With the help of captured Chinese engineers, the great wall near what is now Beijing could be broken through, the northern Chin dynasty fell. Large parts of the Khitan-Chinese army were integrated into the Mongol army. The "internationalization of the Mongol Empire" began, which was "cosmopolitan, rich in prospects for all who joined it without resistance". (Michael Weiers)

b) Middle East

1219 - 21 Conquest of the eastern Iranian Khorezmia (Muslim empire characterized by the textile trade and textile industry) after its Shah had bloody refused an economic and political alliance (execution of two Muslim embassies of Genghis Khan). Conquest of fortified cities like Bukara or Samarkand with 200,000 horsemen and 10,000 siege technicians.

Mass executions during the conquest of the city of Merv, only 400 craftsmen were spared.

1225 Yasa to the world domination of the Mongols

1227 Genghis Khan dies of fever during uprisings in northern China, the second-born Ögödei becomes successor as Great Khan: Use of "foreign Mongols", i.e. Persians, Nestorian Christians and Chinese in the military and civil administration (chancellery, civil servants).

c) Eastern Europe
from 1237 Western campaign of Batu, grandson of Genghis Khan, canceled after the death of Ögödei, return of the generals to the court day (Kuriltai) in Karakoram.

Background: The Mongol storm over Eastern Europe

In 1237 the Mongols first conquered the Volga Bulgarian Empire and Moscow with two army wings (cruel action against the civilian population); from 1238 they attacked the principalities of the Kievan Rus and in 1240 destroyed Kiev, among others. On two consecutive days in the summer of 1241 they first defeated a German-Polish army in the (first) battle of Liegnitz and the contingent of the Hungarian king Béla IV in the battle of Muhi. This was followed by a targeted depopulation of Hungary by Mongolian troops. (Destruction of cities and corridors, mass executions). Their incursion into Eastern Europe spread fear and horror throughout Europe. Mongol advance divisions reached parts of Brandenburg, Moravia, Lower Austria, the Croatian Adriatic and Thrace.

1246 Letter from the Great Khan Güyük to the Pope begins with: “In the power of the Eternal Heaven. The mighty and great empire and ruler of the world. Our command. "

1247 Edict of the Great Khan Güyük: "There is only one God who rules over heaven, and there is only one ruler on earth, namely the Great Khan of the Mongols"

1251 Freestyle of the Great Khan Möngke (son of Tolui)

d) Middle East

1253 Victory over the Rum Seljuks, occupation of Anatolia and the Middle East

1258 Conquest of Baghdad, fall of the Abbasid Empire (murder of around 90,000 city residents, execution of the caliph)

1260 Defeat of the Mongols against the Egyptian Mamelukes, then partial cooperation of the Crusader states with the Mongols against the Mamelukes, individual joint battles.

e) Southern China: Song Dynasty

1271-1279 Conquest of the Song Empire, relocation of the Mongolian focus to China; before the conquest, Kublai Khan proclaimed himself the Chinese emperor of the Yuan dynasty to legitimize his conquest.

1274 and 1281 Failed invasion of Japan

1278 – 1300 Campaigns in the areas of what is now Vietnam and Cambodia

1260 Self-proclamation of the Kublai Khan in Shang-du as Great Khan, recognized in 1264

1264 Relocation of the capital from Karakorum to Tschungtu, the Dadu (today Beijing), newly created in 1267, later residential building in Beijing (Sinization of the Mongols, the Mongolian heartland becomes meaningless).

Under Kublai Khan the Mongolian empire reached its zenith, but already under his rule the individual parts of the empire began to split off. The empire crossed its "Augustan threshold" (Münkler) from expansion to consolidation while largely adapting the cultural advances of the sedentary population:

  • Chinese technology, inventions and architecture
  • Knowledge of trade, geography and textile production by Arabs and Persians

III.3. Comparison of the Roman and Mongolian empires


Mongol Empire

Roman Empire


25 million square kilometers

4 million square kilometers


> 140 million, including 1 million Mongols

Max. 60 million

Troop strength

max. 1 million, of which 100,000 are Hungarian riders

approx. 400,000 (legions and auxiliary troops) in the 2nd century.


about 150 years

about 400 years

Cultural impact

Adaptation to culture of sedentary civilizations in Persia and China

Spread of the Roman model as Romanization


Only agnatic succession within the lines of the sons of Genghis Khan

Several family dynasties and adoptive emperors

III.4. Trade relations and pax mongolica - economic prosperity and disintegration of imperial unity

After the death of Möngke or Kublai Khan, the empire began to disintegrate into four independent khanates: Golden Horde (Volga), Chagatai (Central Asia), Ilkhanat (Middle East), Yuan Dynasty (China). The khans now always stamped their own image on the coins, but the paper money remains recognized throughout the empire.

Although the pax mongolica is not to be understood as a lasting peace, as there have been conflicts and inheritance disputes between and within the sub-kingdoms for more than 100 years, trade and economy flourished again during this time.

a) Pax Mongolica and the West:

The port cities of Venice, Genoa and Pisa provided permanent contacts with the trading centers in Asia. Goods, information, people and diseases were imported and exported to and from Europe from their bases in Kaffa (Crimea), Constantinople, Antioch, Akkon and Alexandria. All three port cities had a pre-capitalist economic system of banks, trading houses and bases across Europe.

b) The Silk Road: Three trade routes and their goods

These hubs provide a connection to the three most important trade routes to the east:

  • Northern route: from Constantinople via the Crimea and Central Asia and the Northern Silk Road.
  • the middle route (Sindbahd route): from the Levant via Baghdad, Basra and the Indian Ocean or the southern Silk Road.
  • the southern route from Alexandria to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Background: trade and traffic on the silk roads

As a result of the Crusades, the Mongol Storm, and the Mamluk conquests, all three trade routes worked in the 13th century, for the first time since the fall of Rome. However, after the fall of Acre, the middle route lost significant weight in favor of the other two routes.
European traders mainly used the northern route, especially Venetians and Genoese not only reach the cities of the Ilkhanate, but also China. After the middle route was discontinued, trading took place via the bases Tana (Don Estuary) and from there north of the Caspian Sea, as well as across Laias on the Gulf of Alexandretta and Trebizond, where goods from Tabriz or Hormuz, and thus especially India, arrived.

In Tana the following were available via the northern route and also the sea route: pepper, spices, ginger, saffron, nutmeg and silk, cotton and pearls. In addition to the silk, which was mainly transported by land, the pepper was important, of which Marco Polo saw huge quantities in Zaiton, which came from Java and were loaded onto ships to India.

Whereas before it was mainly Muslim middlemen who traded the goods, numerous Europeans now penetrated as far as China and settled there. Around 1320, the journey from the Black Sea to China as a merchant was probably no longer an adventure, but a certain routine. In return, the Europeans delivered valuable clothing from European markets, silver and gold to the east, and in some cases tin.

c) Genoa and Venice as central nodes of the Eurasian network

Genoese and Venetians first settled in the Persian Tabriz, where from 1304 a consul is attested who concluded several trade agreements between the city of Genoa and the Ilkhan. In the 1340s there was its own Italian community in Tabriz and its own department store.

Above all, fabric embroidered with gold and silver, precious stones, incense, leather, corals, amber, mercury, tin, cinnabar, furs and of course raw silk from the Ilkhanate came from Tabriz.

Genoa, even more than Venice, was the conductor of “world trade” in the Mediterranean because it banished the textile centers in Flanders, the Champagne fairs, the nodes of the Silk Road on the Black Sea, the coastal cities on the Levant, the Mediterranean islands and the coastal cities of North Africa . It can be seen as a modern proto-capitalist trading metropolis. Genoa networked via a system of colonies (e.g. Caffa), port colonies (Tana), contract ports with concessions and factories as far as the outermost part of China. When Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut 200 years later after circumnavigating Africa, he was received there by Genoese.

In the Genoese trading companies, it was not only the rich merchants who owned them, but also the middle-class and common people who, as it were, invested their money in the commercial banks.

Genoa maintained regular lines in the Mediterranean, where several galleys, guarded by war galleys, commuted from Genoa across the Black Sea, the Levant, Egypt, and again Genoa.

Background: Genoa's economic and demographic prosperity through trade in Asia

Around 1330, Genoa, with 100,000 inhabitants, was larger than Paris or London, and Caffa and Tana may also have had more than 100,000 inhabitants.

In 1293 the tax revenue from maritime trade in Genoa was 4 million Genoese pounds, = 10 times as much as the tax revenue in France!

Genoa was able to mobilize 165 war galleys.

Genoa operated according to commercial interests, not Christian or occidental ones:

  • - it concludes alliances against Pope and Venice, e.g. with the Emperor of Byzantium
  • - In 1290, shortly before the fall of Acre, it concludes alliances with the Mamelukes, against the instructions of the Pope.

d) The silk roads and the pax mongolica

The northern route was protected and equipped by the Mongols in such a way that it was worthwhile for Genoese and Venetians to use this route, which from Strachan on the Caspian Sea to Beijing took about 250 days by car to Beijing and through several unpopulated and desert landscapes led. (about 5000 miles). Due to the troop movements and the expansion of the post office system, the roads are likely to have been in a passable condition, including for barrows and trampling caravans. In addition, longer routes were repeatedly interrupted by regional central cities that were located at important intersections, such as the famous Samarkand, where the traders could then exchange further goods and take up provisions. These cities were multiethnic, there were Arab traders as well as Chinese craftsmen and Persian textile weavers.

The middle and south routes were more of a disadvantage for European Christians: after the fall of Baghdad, the land route passed through the Persian Tabriz, which was controlled by the now Muslim Mongols of the Ilkhanate. The Mamelukes in Egypt also closed the Red Sea to European merchants, so that the spice trade ran mainly through Arab middlemen.

e) Europe meets Asia: first contact, trade trips and trade relations

1245-48 John of Piano Carpini and Simon of Saint Quentin as papal ambassadors

1253-55 Wilhelm von Rubruk as the messenger of the French king

1260-69 or 1271-95 Niccolo and Maffeo Polo with Marco Polo as commercial travelers

Marco Polo reports on flourishing trading cities from Baghdad and Tabriz to Taidu (Beijing), where silk and fabrics are made and refined with gold, where ivory, pearls and metals or armor are also produced and traded. So far, European traders have only come to Damascus and are basically excluded from further trade, which is entirely in Muslim hands.

Background: Christianity also comes to Asia

In 1289 John was sent as a missionary to the Great Khan Kubilai (Kublai Khan) in Beijing by the first Franciscan in the Holy See, Pope Nicholas IV (1288-1292), with the task of converting the Mongols and the Nestorian Christians in Central Asia and To call on China to reunite with the Catholic Church. By 1306 he succeeded in baptizing 6,400 people. In 1299 he built the first church in Beijing near the palace and in 1305 the second with 200 seats, where mass was read in Mongolian with papal permission. He also built a school that taught reading, writing and Gregorian chant. He also translated the New Testament and the Psalms. He reported on his work in 1305 and 1306 in two letters to Pope Clement V.

In the 34 years of his service he was able to win over 30,000 Chinese and Mongols for Christianity. In 1318 the Franciscan Odorico came from Pordenone to Beijing, where he stayed until 1321, in 1342 John of Marignolli. However, when the Chinese got rid of Mongolian rule in 1368, the mood towards the Christians also changed.

f) Contacts become trading networks

1303 The first trilingual encyclopedia for travelers in Latin-Persian-Comani is created.

Between 1330 and 1345 the direct trade of Genoese merchants, i.e. not only through middlemen, with China assumed enormous proportions.We know of numerous Genoese that they were in China and made a fortune there with the silk trade to Europe. In some Chinese cities they are likely to have had their own trading house (fondaco) only for Catholic Italians. It is known that the Genoese in Persia who traded with the Ilkhans gave their children Italianized names of the Ilkhans. The last Italian merchant with the name Nikolas was probably banned from China in 1371 by the new Ming emperor, at least as the Chinese annals record, with a letter to the Doge of Venice. Direct contact with China was only possible again through the Portuguese in the 16th century. occupied.

Volume of trade: A single trader exported Chinese silk worth 27,000 pounds from the Black Sea to Genoa in 1288 for sale to European courts. It is assumed that silk in China made up 30% of the sales price in Europe, plus around 20% costs for the almost 2-year journey (customs, protection, food), so that still a profit margin of 100% for the merchant remained.

From 1257 onwards, Chinese silk, which is cheaper than Persian, is being sold in the European markets of Champagne by Genoese people.

As a rule, a 3% tax is payable to the Khan.

Drappi Tartari or panni tartarici are used in 14th century literature. As a topos for magnificent, unheard-of wealth, (e.g. Dante Inf. XVII, 17), especially on festive occasions, such as a coronation, the rich patricians appear in Tartar silk.

Trade with China and Persia was likely to have been maintained until around 1370, when the Ming rejected the merchants or the situation in the Ilkhanate became too uncertain.

The medieval worldview, especially the representation on maps, changed: Jerusalem remains in the center, but India, which has since formed the extreme eastern edge, is shifting to the west and Catai / China is given its own land mass.

III. 5. The Empire of the Mongols - an Empire?

a) Civil administration and paper money

As early as 1230 under Khan Ögödei the expansion of a civil administration of the great empire took place:

(Tax lists and tax estimates, multilingual court chancellery, 1236 printing of paper money, expansion of a comprehensive relay and postal system for trade and information)

In 1260 Kublai Khan initiated a currency reform with the aim of a single currency in all khanates, not only in China (in Persia with Persian inscription, but with a Chinese seal), imperial mint in Beijing; Prohibition of the use of metal coins, compulsory exchange of gold and silver for paper money. From 1311-1368 re-admission of gold and silver in trade.

The China of the Mongolian yuan dynasty was the most populous, scientifically and economically most advanced country in the world at that time with about 100 million inhabitants, mature iron processing, coal mining, paper money, book printing, compass.

b) The coexistence of peoples and religions

The predominant form of religion of the Mongols before and during the formation of the empire was shamanism. The shaman performed traditional rites and established the connection between people and spirits and gods.

The Mongols were foreign to the dogmatics and the absolute claim of the monotheistic religions, which is why they do not proselytize, which is noted by Carpini or Rubruk, for example, as extremely strange.

As a rule, the khans tolerated representatives of all religions at court, staged religious talks and debates; the larger cities of the empire had temples, churches and mosques of various religions, but the ethnic-religious groups seem to have lived more segregated.

III.6. The plague

The previously accepted thesis of William McNeill states that the plague bacillus endemic to the Himmalaya reached the Central Asian grasslands via the Mongolian conquests. The infected fleas could easily attach themselves to the horses and humans and thus probably infected rat colonies along the trading centers and post stations, first in the direction of China from 1331, but then also along the caravanserais to 1346 the northern route to the west, where the plague in 1346 off Kaffa showed up.

The plague reached Italy via the Kaffa junction and had devastating consequences in the densely populated cities of northern Italy. Venice had grown from 80,000 inhabitants by 1200 to around 160,000 by 1300, as did Genoa from 50,000 to 100,000. About 3/5 of the inhabitants of Venice died of the plague, that is just under 100,000, or exactly 40,000.

The fact that the plague was already in Kaffa in 1346, but not in Damascus until 1347, proves that the caravans were faster than the ship routes through the Ind.

"The rapid pace of the transcontinental spread of the plague as soon as China was left is not only conclusive evidence of this early form of globalization, it also says a lot about the density and rate of turnover in trade relations in the mid-14th century."

Ulrich Menzel, The order of the world. Empire or hegemony in the hierarchy of the world of states, Berlin 2015, p. 140

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