September 13, 2023

Ghengis Khan (Part 1)


Genghis Khan Episode 1

Scene 1: Abduction and ConceptionThe Point: Genghis Khan was born into an incredibly violent world filled with challenges

In 1162 AD in Mongolia, a young man named Chiledu went to go look for a wife. He found her among the, ol-ko-NUDE, a tribe known for the beauty of their women. The young woman he found was a beautiful girl named Holun. They did not know each other long, but in that short time they fell deeply in love, in the way that only teenagers can, likely neither of them were older than 16.After the wedding, Chiledu put Holun in an ox cart, and commenced the journey home to the lands of his own people.As they neared the end of their journey, they drove their cart near a mountain.A mountain, as fate would have it, where three brothers were hunting. The men spotted the cart, and saw an opportunity.They were from the Borijin clan, one of the poorest clans on the Mongol steppe. But the cart looked nice, it probably carried goods of value, and even more importantly, even from a distance they could see that the girl looked pretty.The brothers drove their horses off the mountain and down toward the young couple. Chiledu’s heart raced as he saw the dust from the horses hooves get closer and heard the men’s cries.Chiledu prepared to face them, but his wife Holun objected.‘Did you see the look on the faces of those men? They wishto kill you. As long as you remain alive, there will be girlson the front seats of carts. If you live, you will perhaps find a girl or awoman for yourself. If she has another name, you can callher Hölün. Save yourself.Chiledu fled, and as he did so, turned back to see his young wife so many times that it was the braids beating on his back sounded like the beating of a drum. As Chiledu disappeared over the horizon and the men neared to take her, Holun let out a scream so violent that according to legend it stirred up the river and shook the woods and valley. The two lovers would never see each other again.The middle of the three brothers was named Yesugei, and he claimed her for his own. His rightful property by the law of the jungle. He took her back to his camp and made her his captive wife. His second wife. The first was there in camp, and she was already pregnant.Put yourself in her shoes. Holun had started on this journey with a husband whom she loved. She had expected to live a good life with him and his tribe who had ample herds and a good reputation.Now she found herself in the impoverished camp of a roguish hunter and warrior, a man who she did not know.It was not long before she was pregnant.This new husband, Yesugei, was away at war when the child was born.Other women must have been present to help at certain times during the labor, but given her recent arrival and her status as an outsider, I imagine she must have done much of it alone.When the child struggled into the world, she first noticed that he was a boy. A large, healthy boy with reddish hair and gray eyes. Then she noticed his right hand clenched in a fist. She peeled back his fingers to reveal a large blood clot, the size of a knuckle bone.Her husband returned some days later. While he had been away - fighting a neighboring tribe - he had killed a man named Temujin. So he named the boy Temujin, after his fallen foe.As Holun held the boy, she must have contemplated his future. She didn’t know exactly how his life would go, but she knew he would likely suffer poverty, hunger, and violence.And she must have been disturbed by the blood clot he had brought with him into the world. Mongls were prone to see signs in nature. And this was a powerful one. But what did it mean? Was it a prophecy? A curse? Did it portend good or bad fortune? What did it say about the child in her arms?Holun contemplated these things in her heart as she held her baby boy and stared out at the vast rolling hills and the endless sky. In this rundown camp, she could not have imagined that the life that fate held for this baby boy that the world would come to know as genghis khan.

IMMA SHOW YOU HOW GREAT I AMScene 2: IntroductionThe Point: Convince the reader they will learn somethingIntroductionHello and welcome to How to Take Over the World. This is Ben Wilson. This is part one in my series on Genghis Khan.And why study Genghis Khan? Obviously he is one of the most famous people to have ever lived and accomplished a ton, but really, what can you learn from a man who had scores of wives, killed millions of people, and put dozens of cities to the sword.Life lessons from Genghis Khan does seem a little ridiculous, right? If Genghis Khan wrote a book about, you know, Genghis Khan life coach, ten steps to a better you, you’d think it would be a pretty weird book, right? Would he include a chapter on the best way to lop off a head? Or maybe in the relationship section he would have a couple pages about how to treat a new wife who you have just kidnapped. And the advice might vary depending on whether you had killed her husband or not.But I think he’s worth studying for a couple reasons. The first is that I was shocked at how many similarities there are between the leadership style, the strategies and tactics of Genghis Khan and other great leaders, even more modern ones like a Disney or Steve Jobs.The other thing I would say is that the story of Genghis Khan can stretch your imagination of what is possible. Which isn’t to say that you are going to be anything like Genghis Khan, the way of the steppe warrior is closed. It’s not an option anymore. But if he go from being nobody, an outsider born in one of the poorest areas on the Mongol steppe, to building the largest contiguous land empire in human history, at its zenith the empire was larger than the entire continent of Africa, then maybe you can accomplish a little more than you had thought. Maybe someone listening can have a global impact even if it looks very different than Genghis Khan’s. I hope.I find that very ambitious people make me raise the level of my ambition, even if they are ambitious in radically different ways which Genghis Khan obviously was.The other reason to study his life is it’s just a great story.In terms of sources, I read Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford, which is the best biography. If you're looking for a Genghis Khan biography, I really recommend it. I also reference a copy of the Secret History of the Mongols. And I read Empires of the Steppes by Kenneth Harl. If you want to buy any of those three books, use the link in the show notes and you’ll be supporting the show.Last thing I’ll mention is the pronunciation of his name. First of all, throughout his early life he was known as Temujin. That was his name. Genghis Khan was a title that was given later. It was probably originally pronounced Chingis Khan. But I prefer to use standard American pronunciations where possible. It’s the same reason I don’t refer to Caesar as Kaiser as the Romans would have or Napoleon as NapoleON hon hon hon as the French would have. I usually just stick with standard American pronunciation, it makes it simpler and I think easier to listen to and understand.Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s get into it, let’s hear about the life of Genghis Khan, after this quick break.Insert Indeed ad.

Scene 3: Early ChildhoodThe Point: He was poor and born into difficult circumstancesTemujin was born in 1162 AD in what is current day Mongolia to a poor family.The great steppe is one of the world’s most significant land features, stretching from western Ukraine, eastern europe and central Asia, and into China, almost to the Pacific Ocean. The steppe is basically one big connected rolling grassland.And on the steppe, herding is how one acquires wealth.Mongols kept horses, sheep, goats, cows, and camels.These animals provided milk and meat for eating, hides for use in clothing, furniture, and tents, and bones for use as tools, weapons, and decorations.Of course, having everything you own tied up in easily moveable livestock meant that raiding and violence was incredibly common. Fighting and killing was not an optional part of life for young Mongol men.The Mongol steppe was a violent and unpredictable place. You can think of it like the movie Mad Max but with horses instead of cars, and grass instead of gas.Mongols didn’t like to fight up close, they preferred to use the bow and arrow, and were expert bowmen.Temujin’s father had to fight more than most, and that was because he didn’t have vast herds.He belonged to the Borijin clan. These were some of the poorest people on the steppe, because they didn’t possess vast grasslands on which they could feed large herds. They were hunters who lived in the forested areas around Mount Burkhan Khaldun, a sacred mountain that was the spiritual heart of Mongolia.Hunting provided a meager existence, and any time game was scarce, Temujin’s father, Yesugei, and others like him, would need to raid the herds of wealthier clans in order to feed themselves.The other thing that made the area poor is that it was so far from settled civilization. On the periphery of the steppe, herders traded with cities in modern day Russia, India, and China for silks, metals, and other refined goods.Far from these cities, it was rare for such goods to make their way to the Borijin clan.Growing up in traditional Mongol fashion, Temujin would have learned to ride a horse before he learned to walk, and would have learned to use a bow as soon as he was strong enough to draw it.He participated in some herding of what flocks they had, and very early on he would have learned to hunt.Sometimes individuals hunted by tracking down prey, you know, how most people think of hunting nowadays. But there was another common way for the Mongols to hunt.A group of men would mount up and ride in circles around an area with known game in it. As they tightened the circle closer and closer, they would slowly drive them to a central slaughtering point.I mention that because Temujin would take many of his later tactics and strategies from these group hunting techniquesTemujin was a sensitive young man. He cried easily, was scared of dogs, and his brother was the better archer and wrestler.So to summarize his childhood: Temujin was in a difficult situation in a poor family at the end of the world. And things were about to get worse.

Scene 4: Things Fall ApartThe Point: Things go from bad to worse for Temujin

When he’s still only eight years old, Temujin’s father takes him to find a wife. Eight is obviously young to get married, and this might have been because Yesugei could see that there was tension brewing between Temujin and his older half-brother who was born only a few months before Temujin, to his first wife. When Mongol men were engaged, they typically worked for the bride's family for a few months or years to work off a bride price. So it would be a few years before Temujin and his wife were actually married.And the idea was to go back to Temujin’s mother’s tribe and find a wife there.But along the way, they stay with a family whose daughter, Borte, is about the same age as Temujin. And the two apparently hit it off, Borte and Temujin fall very deeply in love with each other, and her family is charmed by Temujin, so it’s decided that they will be married.That’s one of the things you see throughout Temujin’s life. He had this sort of golden boy phenomenon. He was incredibly charismatic. So people just give him stuff for no reason and do what he wants. People are just constantly charmed by him.So Yesugei leaves Temujin with his new in-laws and heads home.And one thing I should point out, they are always staying with people, and that was how it worked on the steppe, there were virtually no permanent buildings, no inns or taverns, and so you expected to stay with others on your journeys. And hospitality customs were very important to these peoples, you were expected to treat guests well.Yesugei comes upon a party, a feast. And he realizes that it’s the tribe of the original Temujin. The guy he had killed and named his son after.But he decides to try to join the feast anyway. He just figures he can keep a low profile, disguise himself, and hopefully not be recognized as the guy who killed Temujin.Well they do recognize him, and they poison him, and by the time he makes it back home, he is on death’s doorstep.Holun sends for Temujin but by the time he makes it back home, Yesugei is already dead.This is disastrous for the family. He left behind two wives and seven children under the age of 10.To give you an idea of how important a man was to a Mongol family, when a Mongol tribe was raided, the men would grab the fastest horses and head for the hills, leaving the women and children behind. And everyone was okay with this because they knew, okay we can’t survive without the skills and labor and protection of the men in our tribe.According to The Secret History of the Mongols, the family that Yesugei leaves behind makes permanent camp along the river and Temujin’s mother, Holun, makes heroic efforts to provide for the family.She was far from her homeland, with no familial ties to fall back on, and too many mouths to feed to make her an attractive prospect to a new husband.You know, I just mentioned how crucial men were to a Mongol family. Well it’s not like women’s role was expendable either. Being a woman in a mongol tribe was a very full-time job even when you didn’t have to take over the responsibilities of your dead husband.So according to the Secret History of the Mongols, Holun is running around night and day just trying to scrape by a meager living.The Secret History tells us that the family had clothing “of the skins of dogs and mice, and their food was the flesh of those animals and other dead things.”Of course Temujin and the other children are expected to help out as much as they can as well. And as a young boy, he is thrust into a role where he has to help provide for the family.Musical cueThe one bright spot for Temujin in this bleak situation is a friendship he strikes up with a boy named Jamuka.One day they play together, and make plans to meet up the next to play again. They recognize in each other kindred spirits. They ride together, practice shooting arrows and targets, and play a Mongol game of dice that is played with the knuckle bones of sheep.They were technically very distant cousins through their fathers, but they became such good friends that they carried out a very rare and very serious ritual to make them something called Andas. An Anda was like a brother of your own choosing.The ritual to become Andas involved swearing loyalty to each other, exchanging gifts, sleeping in the same bed, and drinking “the food that could not be digested” in other words, drinking each other’s blood.Temujin and Jamuka were eleven when they first became Andas. And they renewed their vow the next year.Again, this was a very serious commitment, and a very serious relationship. Jamuka was the only Anda that Temujin would have in his life. The relationship was intense, and as we shall see, it was one of the most important relationships of his life.In contrast to his relationship with Jamuka, he was beginning to chafe under the authority of his older half-brother, Behter.Under Mongol tradition, Behter was now the man of the house - well they didn’t have a house - but the man of the family, the patriarch. Never mind that he was only a pre-teen. But this gave him authority to do things like take Temujin’s hunting kills and divide it up amongst the family.And this really starts to bother Temujin. And this is something that we will see repeatedly throughout his life. He can’t stand to be the junior partner. He can’t stand to be the second fiddle. Caesar wrote of himself “For him, dignitas had always been foremost, and more compelling than life” and the same could be said for Temujin. He chafed under the thumb of anyone else, he was willing to risk anything for his desire for independence and control, even his own life.Things come to a head one day when Temujin catches a fish. And Behter take it from him, which was his right to do as the oldest man in the clan. You know “Thank you comrade, I am seizing this fish for the good of the people.” So Temujin storms off, steaming mad, to go complain to his mom.And to his surprise, she takes Behter’s side. She says “you shouldn’t provoke him. He’s the leader now.” And the subtext of this little speech is that she’s making it clear that she plans to marry Behter when he comes of age. That was his prerogative, as the new leader of their group, and it might seem weird to marry your polygamous step-mom but that was technically the expectation.So Temujin’s mom, Holun, is saying don’t provoke him, this is the way things work, he’s going to lead the clan and be my husband some day. And this is too much for Temujin. And he leaves the tent with murder on his mind. *** Musical cue ***He gets his younger brother, his full brother, Khasar, and they go out to find Behter. They find him sitting on a little grassy knoll. Temujin sends Khasar to approach from the front, since he was the better shot, while he sneaks up from behind.When they get close enough, Temujin and Khasar pop out of the tall grass with bows drawn and pointed at Behter. He doesn’t flinch or try to defend himself. He refused to dignify the situation as a legitimate battle. He was the older brother, with authority over them.He says to them calmly “I am not the lash in your eye, the impediment in your mouth. Without me, you have no companion but your own shadow.”But Temujin and Khasar will not be deterred. Finally, seeing that he is going to die, Behter calmly makes one final wish. That they spare his full younger brother, Belgutei.Temujin and Khasar agree to this wish, and then they both shoot him, and leave his body there on the hill.When they go back to camp, Holun can see what they have done, and she is furious.She says to Temujin “Destroyer! Destroyer! You came from my hot womb clutching a clot of blood in your hand. Like an attacking panther, like a lion without control, like a monster swallowing its prey alive. Now you have no companion other than your shadow.”It’s not surprising that Holun would be mad. Imagine that for years you are struggling to provide for your family, basically alone. There is one other widow to help. Your children are young and they contribute in some ways, but they can’t do much. And now the oldest boy is twelve, he’s just about to become as strong as an adult woman, you’re about to have someone who can pull almost as much weight as you can, at least physically. And then he gets killed by your son.But even more pressing was the fact that Temujin was now an outlaw. And had just sown the seeds of his own destruction.We’ll hear how after this quick break.

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Scene 5: RiseThe Point: Temujin Starts to Make Moves

The various tribes and groups on the Mongol steppe frequently came into contact with one another. So it’s not long until the Tayuchuid, the tribe that sort of ruled the area, find out that Temujin has killed his older brother. And this is a big no-no, a big violation of Mongol custom and Mongol law.They come looking for him. Temujin tries to hide, but they quickly find him and put im in the Mongol equivalent of jail.He’s put in a cross bar with his hands tied to it. And he’s passed to a new family every day to watch after him while he’s in this circumstance of imprisoned slavery.So now he is at his lowest moment. His father is dead, his older brother is dead, he’s imprisoned, he’s poor, he’s got no connections. He’s got nothing. The future must have looked very bleak for Temujin.And it’s the moment where he starts to rise.*** Musical cue ***

He makes a plan. Step one: escape.Luckily for him, he was always put with the poorer families of the Taiyuchid clan to watch after. And since he comes from a rough background himself, he gets along well with them.Of course he’s using his trademark charm as well to get them on his side.He convinces a family to help him with no immediate benefit to themselves and tons of risk if they are caught.They allow Temujin to escape in the night.But he knows he’s not going to be able to make it far on foot, so he runs away some distance, and then retraces his steps back to this family’s tent and hides under a pile of wool.So while the Taiyuchid warriors are out looking for him, he’s hiding right under their noses. Once they have given up looking for him after a few days, only then does he make his escape.This family is so charmed by him that they even agree to slaughter a goat and give him the meat for the road.So it’s 1178, and he is 16 years old at this point. When he gets his freedom, the first thing he does is go look for his old bride, Borte. Remember, he was supposed to get engaged to her eight years ago, but his father had died and he had been recalled to be with his family.Well he finds her, and she was a little older than him, she’s 17 by now, which is almost past marriage age for a Mongol woman at this time. They married very young. But she had been so in love with Temujin that she had waited all these years.Her parents agree to the marriage, which is by the way crazy. I just want to emphasize again what a hypnotic influence he is able to put on these people. Borte has waited for years for a boy she met briefly when they were both pre-pubescent. Her father agrees to the marriage even though Temujin is an escaped slave, still on the run from the law, and can provide no connections or material wealth to his new bride.Now he’s got a wife, which is good, but he’s got a problem. How is he going to support her. He has just escaped. He’s a runaway.He can go back to his mother and siblings down by the river, but it’s only a matter of time before the Taiyuchids come for him again. And besides, scratching out an existence hunting rats by the river is not how you want to provide for your new wife. But that is where he is at. He has no herds, no goods, no connections, nothing.Well Temujin does have ONE thing. Or rather, She has something.When a couple got married, it was customary for the bride to present her father-in-law with a gift. Well Temujin doesn’t have a father. So his wife Borte has brought him this beautiful black sable fur coat. It’s the most prized type of fur on the steppe.And Temujin has the bright idea to take the coat and offer it to a man named Torghil. Torghil was a khan, a tribal chieftain, he was often known as Ong Khan. And Temujin’s father had served under him as a warrior and had actually helped him take his throne. He was a relatively powerful khan in the area.By offering this bride gift to Ong Khan, Temujin is basically offering to be his surrogate son. Ong Khan is charmed, as is everyone else, accepts the gift, and thereby basically agrees to be his surrogate father.He actually says to him “In earlier days you and my father agreed to swear brotherhood, so you are almost as a father to me.”Ong Khan invites him to stay at the court and serve as his vassal, but Temujin, true to form, doesn’t want to be under anyone’s sway. So he chooses at this point to go back to his mother and siblings, but now with the implied protection of Ong Khan to keep anyone from messing with him.According to the secret history, Temujin would have preferred this life, living a quiet existence with his new wife and family, making a meager but comfortable living.But he was soon to be revisited by ghosts from the past, which we will hear about after this brief word from our sponsors.

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Temujin had finally risen up to be in a stable, if not very prestigious, position.His camp included his wife, his younger siblings, and a few older women who had become attached to the camp as servants.Then one day, in the very early hours of the morning, The Secret History of the Mongols tells us “The old woman who worked in the yurt of Mother Höelün, rose up and said, ‘Mother! Mother! Rise quickly! The earth is shaking! I can hear the sound of swift horses’ hooves. Mother, rise quickly!”With this many riders this early in the morning, it was clear that they were being raided. Theirs was an odd camp to raid.Everyone who can, catches hold of a horse and rides off. In the chaos, Temujin’s wife, Borte, is left behind. She is hidden in an ox-cart but the attacking soldiers find her and abduct her.With few cattle and no valuable goods, there wasn’t much to steal.The raiders had come from the Merkid, the tribe from which Temujin's mother had been abducted 18 years previously. Memories were long on the Mongolian steppe, and perhaps Temujin’s star had risen enough that people were beginning to hear his name. So the Merkid had come to take their revenge on the boy for the sins of his father.Temujin and his brothers escaped to Burkan Kaldun, the sacred mountain.Three times the Merkids circled the mountains, but Temujin hid in mud and in thickets and they were unable to track him down.Temujin considered it divine intervention from the mountain itself that he was not discovered. After the Merkids had gone, the secret history of the Mongols reports him say:“Every morning I shall sacrifice toBurqan-qaldun, and every day I will pray to it. The seed ofmy seed shall know this,’ he said. Facing the sun, hedraped his sash round his neck and hung his hat from his arm. He beat his chest with his hand.Kneeling nine times towards the sun, he gave offerings andprayers.”Though grateful for his own life, he was also distraught. The Merkids had come with one goal in mind, to steal Borte. In their minds they had dealt justice. A wife for a wife.And Temujin wanted her back.So he rushes down off the mountain and goes to Ong Khan, the man to whom he had given the black sable jacket, tells him the situation, and asks if he will help.Will I help? He says, quote “When you placed the coat onme, I spoke these words:In return for the black sable jacketI will bring togetherthe people who abandoned you.In return for the sable jacket,I will unite your scattered people”Did I not say those words? Now I will stand by them.In return for the sable jacket,I will crush the Merkidsand rescue Lady Börte for you.In return for the black sable jacket,I will break all the Merkids into piecesand bring back your wife Börte.

The raid would, of course, also provide an opportunity for Ong Khan to take plunder from the Merkids. But before he would journey out, he had one request for Temujin. He should ride out and seek assistance from a young ally of his. An enterprising young man who was quickly coming up in the world. A young man named Jamuka. Temujin was to be united with his blood brother once again. The young friend who he had sworn oaths with. Now after six years, reunited.Ong Khan and Temujin bring half of the forces, and Jamuka brings the other half. This is a large invasion force of thousands of horsemen.This united force marches into Merkid territory, and they are much too large to oppose. The Merkid hear about their approach and flee in the night.Temujin’s force attacks their fleeing camp, and while most men are taking plunder, Temujin rides through the camp shouting Borte’s name. Not knowing who was attacking, Borte had been hiding. But hearing Temujin’s voice, she recognizes him and runs out to greet him. They embraced. And Temujin soon rode off with her.Awkwardly, Borte was soon discovered to be pregnant, and it was difficult to say whether the child was Temujin’s or whether he was the offspring of the Merkid who had taken her as a wife during her brief stay. The child was raised like a son by Temujin, but the ambiguity would hurt his chances of inheriting his father’s throne.The Secret History reports that Temujin then reported to Jamuka and Ong Khan“Appointed by mighty Heavenand escorted by Mother Earthwe made the Merkitd,empty their breastsand tore their livers in half.We emptied their bedsand destroyed [their] kinsmen.Did we not also capture the survivors?

In other words, our work here is done.

Scene 6: Rapid Ascent and FallThe Point: Temujin displays a remarkable aptitude for leadership, before losing it all

On his return, Temujin does not return to his small river site. He has learned his lesson, he’s in the great game now. And so he decides to team up with Jamuka. He leaves behind the life of a simple hunter, and takes up the life of a herder with Jamuka’s clan. They renew their vows as blood brothers, saying “let us love one another. And making two lives into one, never forsake each other.”For a year and a half, Jamuka and Temujin work together. The strength of their tribe grows, and Temujin learns the ropes of being a serious herder and living on the open steppe.But over time, something changes. The Secret History of the Mongols doesn’t say exactly what, but reading between the lines, it seems that Temujin is very naturally talented at leadership.Maybe too talented. Because he grows in popularity, to the point that Jamuka begins to consider him a rival.He begins to put him down, and to make sure to show his authority over him. It’s very much the same situation as it was with Temujin’s older half-brother Behter.Temujin and Jamuka would always ride together at the front of the tribe when they moved from pasture to pasture, and then one day Jamuka tells him I’ll take the main camp to the mountain, and you take the sheeps and goats down to the river.Heading up the sheeps and goats was less prestigious than working with the horses, cattle, and oxen. And so he’s officially saying, we’re no longer equals, I’m #1, and you’re my #2.So seeing that Jamuka is distancing himself, Temujin decides to pre-empt any conflict and leave the tribe in the middle of the night.He takes his followers with him, and undoubtedly some people who had originally been follower’s of Jamuka decide to throw in their lot with Temujin and leave when he does.Jamuka, perhaps in honor of the friendship that they had once shared, doesn’t chase him, and allows him to leave with his followers.They were both about 19 years old when this split happens.Temujin moves his followers to some grasslands not too far away, and over the years, Temujin would go from brothers to rivals, to the bitterest of enemies.It began with your basic cattle raiding and skirmishing. Stealing animals and women, maybe killing a couple of each other’s followers. But over time the scale of the skirmishes is starting to grow into outright battles.Temujin realizes that he has a problem. Jamuka is trying to be a khan, or chieftain, whereas at this point Temujin is only trying to resist Jamuka.So Jamuka is growing in strength over time as more people are attracted to following this khan.And so eight years after their initial split, Temujin declares himself khan in order to try to attract more followers.Now at this time, he is still a vassal to Ong Khan, so he sends him a note explaining that he is only trying to unite the Mongol tribes under the leadership of Ong Khan and his tribe, called the Kereits. And Ong Khan agreed to this. He was friendly with both Temujin and Jamuka so he tried not to take sides in the whole thing. He says, okay yeah, you can both call yourself khan of the mongols, I just don’t want to pick sides.Soon this has a sort of gravitational pull. Everyone needs to side with either Jamuka or Temujin, because they are getting so powerful that if you are unaffiliated you’re in real danger. So all the smaller tribes are joining Temujin or Jamuka, and Jamuka tends to get the more aristocratic tribes, those with a more refined and noble lineage, whereas Temujin is picking up more followers from the lower classes.And the two are locked into a stalemate for years, Finally in 1187, things come to a head. Temujin gathers his forces and Jamuka gathers his, and they meet at the battle of Dalan Baljut.*** Sound Effects ***The forces are relatively evenly matched. They clash again and again, riding toward each other, firing arrows, and retreating and reloading.For much of the day the armies are locked in a stalemate, but things begin to turn against Temujin. By the end of the day, it becomes clear that he has suffered a major defeat.Temujin flees, and his army suffers torture and humiliations from Jamuka. Jamuka takes one of Temujin’s commanders and cuts off his head and ties it to his horses tail and drags it around. It’s also reported that he has 70 men boiled alive, which was especially bad in Mongol culture because this would not only kill the man in a very tortuous manner but damaging their body so severely would destroy their soul.With Jamuka ascendant, Temujin must flee from Mongolia altogether. He teams up with Ong Khan, He embarks on some other fights, he teams up with Ong Khan to invade the Tatars. This part of his life is a little mysterious, he might have been in captivity to the Chinese Jin dynasty, hard to know what is happening.What is clear is that he is essentially a mercenary and he’s improving his skills as a warrior and a tactician.In takes about a decade before he has secured enough wealth and experience for him to re-enter the ring.When he returns to the steppe in 1196, things progress quickly. Many of the people who had been with him before, return to his side. And he gains some new converts as well, Jamuka’s brutal killings after their battle a decade earlier had weakened support for him. Many of the people who were turned off by this brutality now supported Temujin.Having said that, Temujin doesn’t immediately try to attack Jamuka. First he defeats the Jurkin tribe, then the Merkits, and then raids two very powerful tribes: the Naimans, and the Tatars.As Temujin grows in power, a number of tribes throw their lot in with Jamuka to try to stop him. And inevitably, this culminates in another large battle.Both sides gather their forces and camp them nearby one another.The leadup to a large Mongol battle was a dramatic affair. The warriors would post their spirit banners, which were said to carry the spirits of their ancestors. They would make sacrifices, and shamans would foretell their good fortunes in the coming battle. Well Temujin went all-out in recruiting the best and most famous shamans and creating a big spectacle on his side. The night before the battle, when a thunderstorm arose, everyone on both asides assumed it was because the gods were with Temujin, and Jamuka’s forces fled.When they finally do catch up and give battle, Jamuka’s forces give a better showing than expected. Temujin himself is wounded with an arrow to the neck. That night, one of his most loyal followers, Jelme, spends all night drinking blood from the wound to stop it from falling on the ground.The Mongols had a weird thing with blood, they didn’t like to see it or come into contact with it. My kind of people. We have that in common, I love the Mongols for that.But this follower drinks the blood from Temujin’s neck until he is literally so full he can’t drink anymore. Then and only then, Jelme, begins to spit out the blood on the ground.Then Temujin rouses from his sleep enough to ask for a certain type of food which they don’t have, so  Jlme sneaks into the enemy camp and steals some food and brings it back.And then my favorite part is... In the morning, Temujin fully wakes up. And he asks what happened and Jelme tells him the story. And he looks around, looks down and sees the blood on the ground, and says, and this is a quote from the Secret History “Would it [not] have been [better] to spit it further [away]?Real Rodney Dangerfield moment for poor Jelme. No respect.Well more or less fully recovered from his neck wound, Temujin is able to lead his forces to victory the next day but Jamuka escapes.Temujin carries out a policy that he had been developing for a while. He kills the leaders of the opposition, but absorbs the rest of their people into his burgeoning khanate.In his next campaign he defeats an even larger and more powerful clan, the Tatars. And so he’s forced to be a little more brutal with them. He has all the men walk past a wagon wheel, and anyone taller than the wheel, which was the symbolic height of adulthood, is executed whereas everyone else is allowed to live and incorporated into Temujin’s growing clan.And it’s around this time when he starts incorporating a number of important reforms that would strengthen his rule.First of all, tribes were typically arranged by kinship. You would have a khan, and the main leaders under him would be his closest relations, his brothers and direct cousins and so on.Well Temujin arranges a court with a dozen top lieutenants who are assigned completely based on skill and loyalty without reference to their familial ties to Temujin. This provides a very capable officer core that he could rely on, which no one else had.And Temujin was able to do this, in part, because he came from such a poor and neglected background, he didn’t have dozens of cousins who were expecting prominent placement in his court.Secondly, as mentioned he begins to completely incorporate new tribes into his burgeoning kingdom. Normally, you came, you raided, you killed some people, you took some stuff, and you left.Well Temujin comes in, he executes the top leaders, and the rest of the people he resettles among the rest of his tribes. This means that they don’t have the cohesiveness to group up and rebel, because their previous friends and relations are scattered far away in different parts of the territory, but at the same time every conquest adds to his numbers and his power.He will typically even have his mother adopt a boy from the new tribe. And this boy wouldn’t be raised as a slave or a servant but as a full-fledged member of the family to show that hey, you guys are family now. One of your own is my little brother now. You’re not a Tayuichid or a Merkid or whatever, you’re a Mongol now. You’re a part of the tribe.By the way this is a classic tactic of great conquerors, most famously utilized by Alexander the Great and his father Philip. Philip in particular was famous for this, it was said that he moved peoples the way a shepherd moves his sheep. And if you look at someone like Napoleon, his failure to do this is part of what doomed him. If he had resettled the elites of societies everywhere he conquered and formed a new pan-European elite class, then things might have turned out very different for him.The third thing Temujin does is reform the way they conduct war. So normally you invade, the men flee, you take the stuff, the men go summon their allies, and then they would chase you down and attack you as you were leaving with their stuff. Or not, if you attacked in large enough numbers, you just got the stuff. But there was this big rush to take spoils, and that is part of what made it so easy for the conquered to flee and form up to attack later.Well, Temujin says no, all spoils come to me, and I will distribute them. And a big part of that distribution was based on performance in the battle.But what this meant was that the men would not get distracted by booty, by loot. They were now all focused on defeating the enemy. So that meant bigger victories with more lasting results. None of these victories where the enemy just ran away and got a chance to regroup.The last thing he does is something that he would become very famous for. And that is instituting a policy of, if you willingly come to our side, you’ll receive very lenient treatment. Things are going to go well for you. But if you resist, and we beat you, we’re going to be very cruel. Executions, torture, you name it. And that creates a strong incentive to capitulate. So victories beget more victories, ones that don’t even require fighting.The central theme of these reforms is first, centralization. That is a theme of all great leaders, from Alexander the Great to Steve Jobs. They break down competing power structures and centralize everything on themselves. For Alexander that meant doing the same thing as Temujin: Breaking up clans and resettling the people. Breaking down traditional tribal power structures. For Steve Jobs that meant breaking down these really strong product groups and creating cross-product functional departments that all reported to him. And look, you see this with Caesar, with Brigham Young, with Hearst, with a bunch of people we have talked about on this show.And the second thing you see in these reforms is that they really focus on the first two missions of a CEO, as outlined by Steve Jobs. The first is hiring the right people. So Temujin is saying I’m going to hire based on merit, rather than familial connection. The second is setting the course, setting the vision. And Temujin is saying hey, we are all going to get on the same page with building up this united Mongol khanate. And to that end, we are all going to get on the same page with winning these battles and not taking loot.So I think it’s a little goofy to take management lessons from Genghis Khan, but it’s actually interesting to see the same leadership lessons play out in such an alien context. I feel like it really does reinforce how timeless some of these lessons are.So with Jamuka out of power and fleeing to a border kingdom, there were only three powers left on the steppe. There was Temujin and his people, there was Ong Khan and his tribe called the Kereit, and the Naiman to the west.So he first tries to take out one of the tribes, the Kereit, through diplomacy.He proposes to Ong Khan, hey, let me marry my oldest son to your daughter. And that is essentially a proposal to peacefully acquire his kingdom. Well, Ong Khan is at this point becoming quite wary of Temujin’s rise, and so he tries to lure him into a trap.He says, sure, come marry your son to my daughter, we’ll do the wedding here in my territory. But it’s a trap and he’s actually planning to kill Temujin. Luckily, Temujin is tipped off by a couple local herders who see what is happening. He quickly tries to gather some troops but they don’t have enough time and are badly beaten by Ong Khan’s much larger force, and Temujin is forced to beat a hasty retreat.Temujin had gained so much, but now at this moment, he was on the verge of losing it all. Once he had escaped the pursuit of Ong Khan’s men, Temujin had a moment to pray and to think about his situation. He was on the run, and his forces were scattered. There were still enough of them to oppose Ong Khan, but in this moment of confusion and doubt, the question was: would they remain loyal?He had a few companions with him. They came from nine different tribes, from different lands, and belonged to different religions, including Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. He asked them what they thought. And they expressed their unwavering support.In this crucial moment, a wild horse stumbled into their camp. And Temujin and his supporters took this as a sign of divine favor. The hungry men butchered the horse and ate it.“After the meal, Temujin a cup of the muddy river water as a toast. He thanked his men for their loyalty, and swore never to forget it. The men shared in drinking the muddy waters, and swore eternal allegiance to him.”These are supposedly the actual words of the covenant, according to the secret history of the mongols. It shows what an inspirational leader he was (I’m quoting again) “[Temüjin] raised his hands and looking up at Heaven swore, saying "If I am able to achieve my "Great Work", I shall [always] share with you men the sweet and the bitter. If I break this word, may I be like the water of this River, drunk up by others." Among officers and men there was none who was not moved to tears.”When Temujin and these men go riding through the territory, they find that almost everyone is still behind him. So Temujin is able to consolidate his rule and rally men back to his cause. At the same time, Ong Khan is pretty confident that he has just won this thing. Temujin just lost and his army scattered, surely his khanate, his kingdom, was on the verge of collapse. So Ong Khan holds a feast.Temujin advances on the feast at a breakneck speed in what he calls a lightning advance, literally a blitzkrieg. He’s on Ong Khan and his men before they know what is coming, and before they have a chance to prepare.Even so, Temujin had rushed to battle with a skeleton army, and the forces are relativelly evenly matched.There are three days of fighting, through which Ong Khan slowly bleeds men to Temujin. Not so much through killing but through defection. They knew that Temujin was harsh to the defeated, but clement to those who surrendered, so there is this incentive to give yourself up.In the end, Weatherford writes in Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world, “Ong Khan’s army was not so much defeated as swallowed by Temujin’s forces.”Ong Khan himself escapes for a while but dies shortly thereafter and Jamuka escapes with any remaining loyal men to the one remaining independent tribe, the Naiman. They were a powerful confederation, and very wealthy, and they looked down on the Mongols as poor and backwards.Temujin uses this disdain to fire up his men and motivate them for the war to come.The final battle for control of all Mongolia occurs in 1204. The Battle of Chakirmaut.It is Temujin and his forces against the Naiman, and with them Jamuka and his few remaining forces. And really anyone who was still around and could muster the courage to oppose Temujin joins the Naiman.This would be the largest and most important steppe battle in living history.First Temujin attacks with something called the Tumbleweed formation. Groups of ten attack the enemy seemingly at random, and disperse before they can be chased. Then he forms his men into something called lake formation. He stretches his forces out into a long line, a few rows deep. One row rides up, shoots their arrows, then rides off to the sides to make way for the next line and then they form up again in the back to cycle through, endless waves of men attacking like waves on the shore of a lake.This has the effect of spreading out the Naiman forces, who lengthen their line to meet him. So then he forms his men into what he calls chisel formation, where they now concentrate in a narrow, deep formation and fire at a single point on the enemy’s now stretched line until they break through.They don’t completely destroy the Naiman forces, but they are so demoralized by this defeat that many attempt to flee in the night. This battle takes place near a mountain, and many of the Naiman fall off cliffs and die as they attempt to flee in the night.Jamuka escapes once again, and tries to live a life as a bandit, but in the coming months is betrayed by his men and brought before Temujin.Temujin is outraged by the traitors, and has them killed. According to the Secret History, Jamuka met a prosaic end, some might say too prosaic to be believed. Supposedly he and Temujin reconciled, and Temujin invited him to be a brother to him once again. “We are joined together once again. We should remind each other of things we have forgotten - wake each other from our sleep. Even when you went away and were apart from me.You were still my lucky Blessed sworn brother, surely in the days of killing your heart pained for me. Surely in the days of slaying and being slain, your breast and your heart pained for me.”But it is Jamuka that declines. While affirming that they were indeed brothers, he goes on “Now when the world is ready for you, What use is there in my becoming a companion to you? On the contrary, sworn brother, In the black night, I would haunt your dreams. In the bright day, I would trouble your heart. I would be the louse in your collar. I would become the splinter in your door panel.”He asks for one favor only, and that is that he be killed in the aristocratic way, strangled, rather than his blood being spilled, which Temujin grants.“He vowed that if Temujin would place his body in a high place, he would watch over Temujin and all of his descendants. Kill me and lay down my dead bones in the high ground. Then, eternally, and forever, I will protect the seed of your seed and become a blessing for them. Legend says that Temujin buried Jamukha in the golden belt that he had given to Jamukha when they swore the oath of andas.”With all the Mongol tribes now subdued and Jamuka dead, Temujin truly was the master of all of Mongolia.In 1206, at the age of 44, he called a great Kuriltai, a great counsel. It was probably the largest gathering ever held in the history of the steppe, and certainly the most important.Hundreds of thousands came to unite their voice in support for Temujin. Mongol tents, known as gers, stretched for miles.“Days of great solemnity and massive ceremony alternated with days of celebration, sports, and music.The court shamans pounded their drums and sang by day. The musicians performed at dusk.The night air filled with mesmerizing drones of the distinctive type of Mongol throat singing or overtone singing, in which men make sounds so deep inside their bodies, they can follow two musical lines simultaneously. Young people competed in wrestling, horse racing, and archery.He controlled a territory. Roughly the size of modern Western Europe, but with a population of about a million people and probably some 15 to 20 million animals.The motion was put forward, would they accept Temujin as their leader, and unanimously they raised their voice in support.He took on the title of the ruler of all people of the felt walls, in other words anyone who lived on the steppe, anyone who lived in a tent.And they chose a new name for him, one that had already been circulating. From that day, he would be known as the strong chief. The Chingis Khan.*** SOUND EFFECT ***

So briefly before we end, what can be learned from this story?Well there are the lessons we already discussed. Centralization. Make it very good to ally with you and very bad to defy you. This is actually something that Mark Zuckerberg does really well. People know that if Mark offers to acquire you, you’re going to get pretty good terms. But if you turn down the acquisition, he’s going to turn the eye of sauron on you and copy your product and try to drive you out of business.There is surrounding yourself with the best and most capable people possible.There is also the power of mystique. Remember on the even of battle how he gets the best and most respected shamans on his side so that when a thunderstorm strikes, everyone believes that it must be a sign that the gods are on his side.I think developing that sense of mystique is really powerful. And people might not believe in the gods of thunder anymore, but they still believe in the favor of the gods, in being touched by teh finger of god, by another name. Call it inertia, call it momentum, call it a sense of destiny or good juju. This was probably best encapsulated in current times by Steve Jobs, who had such a run from 1998 through 2011 that he seemed unstoppable.Well, tune in next time to hear the real action, how Genghis Khan turns the Mongol people outward, and conquers an empire the likes of which the world had never seen.Until then, thanks for listening to how to take over the world.

End Notes:‘I leave my sonas a son-in-law, but he is afraid of dogs. Quda, do notallow my boy to be frightened by dogs.Built the largest and arguably the greatest empire ever built“At its zenith, the empire covered between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles. An area about the size of the African continent and considerably larger than North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean combined. It stretched from the snowy tundra of Siberia to the hot plains of India.”Comes to power in the 1200s, his last descendant to hold power is overthrown. Actually, guess first. When do you think it was? Well it was in Uzbekistan Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara, and he was overthrown in 1920.For exactly 700 years. From 1220 to 1920.

This is an absolute miracle. It’s the kind of thing that makes you think that you should start praying to the great sky god Tengri.They were smack dab in the middle of the world. They were poor. They were not physical gods in size or strength. They possessed no secret technology. In fact they were technologically backward.Why is Wikipedia more different from my sources than any other episode I’ve done?

Speaking of his global impact, I’ll just address the question of atrocities. Because there are some who have suggested that he killed so many people that it lowered the carbon output and therefore affected global temperatures. That’s disputed but it is true that he killed a lot of people. And rape was a big part of mongol conquests as well, just like any conquest.Dan Carlin has a series on Hardcore History called the Wrath of the Khans where he makes the case that Genghis Khan is just Hitler. We’ve had 900 years to forget his atrocities so it doesn’t seem so bad to us now, but basically Genghis Khan was Hitler.And then you say well yeah, but every other conqueror killed lots of people too and Dan’s response is well they’re all Hitler too. Alexander the Great? Hitler. Cyrus the great? Hitler. Julius Caesar? Double Hitler!And I am not a fan of the historical analysis that says that everyone was Hitler until we discovered human rights in 1967 or whatever.I’m not going to make an impassioned plea to exculpate Genghis Khan of his crimes either. I just find it childish to look at every historical figure and say was this a bad guy or a good guy. It’s complicated and why does it matter? Do you want me to dig up Genghis Khan’s grave and shake my finger at him?I also find it ridiculous to try to assign the same emotional resonance to a man who lived 900 years ago as to Hitler, who was literally alive at the same time as people living today. My grandma is in her 90s and she was a teen when Hitler died.So you’re not going to hear much from me about the morality of Genghis Khan. I’m just going to tell the story and what we can learn.

About Episode

Part 1 covers the awe-inspiring ascent of Genghis Khan, the legendary conqueror. Discover how he overcame adversity to become a unifying force among fragmented tribes. Our episode delves into his military brilliance and innovative strategies, offering timeless insights into leadership, adaptability, and strategic thinking.

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