"Civilized-Barbarian Interaction: Mongols"

Sharif Hegazi

Lightning Talk Presented: March 10, 2014
Published: March 15, 2014

Barbarian: the word with very many different meanings. Some may say barbarians were specific people. Others may claim that barbarians were just primitive people in a developing society. After digging through endless encyclopedias and dictionaries, the most common definitions would be summed as "a primitive, uneducated and uncivilized person."

When you have a booming country of new and rich heritage working its way to becoming a more civilized nation but at the same time you have a civilization living in the past fighting change and urbanization, you will have much drama. This sort of thing has happened throughout the Earth's civilizations. Some may even compare it to today with a civilization like the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. Fraying away from any sort of Westernization and staying true to its roots, outsiders seeing this as keeping the country from further developing, but I'm sure they themselves do not see it the same way.

I'm sure that in 13th century Asia, the Mongols (a well known Empire of Asia) didn't see their takeover of China as a slowing in the development of their beloved country. If we were to go back that far in time, I'm sure that the people that were over powered by this barbaric tribe would see them how modern day individuals see countries like Saudi Arabia in the sense that they are preventing a more civilized culture from growing. Perspective is everything when it comes to this.

Some may call The Mongols a primitive organization for being uneducated. They may also see the rest of the nations under the rule of the Mongol Empire as a much more civilized people. "But were they really primitive?" I thought. I then looked to see what a civilized society has and one of the first things that came to mind was an army. Maybe they were much more civilized then we give them credit for. After all, they managed to take over a great portion of the globe and that could not have just been a fluke.

Not a fluke at all. This small tribe started out in central Asia, but it did not take long to grow. Once under rule of the Supreme Khan, Genghis Khan, expanding was almost certain. He managed to unite tribes across the Mongolian land. They began pillaging and invading the countryside. Next thing you know, they have spread all over the map from modern day middle East to as far east as Japan. This gave the tribe a very bad reputation and scarring them with the barbaric description by doing things much like what took place throughout the crusades; although the Christians were not given the barbarian label.

The Mongols were far less educated than many societies which did not help their reputation one bit. Or maybe they were referred to as barbarians based on their brutal and unorthodox acts and rituals such as drinking horse blood or death ceremonies. They did not let that take away from their brilliance and intelligence. They were such a success because of their leadership, tactics and weaponry.

Once the Mongol Empire was under Genghis Khan's rule, he was very articulate with his training and how he disciplined his soldiers. Preparing for war was just as important to war itself with him. He made his men practice horsemanship, archery, and unit tactics until they had it perfect. Once he went to battle, he liked to approach his enemies from a distance dealing damage before sending his troops in for a raid. The Mongols used your common bows and arrows, but they were also very advanced using things like rams and catapults to break down walls. The amount of land that they ravished may have never been possible without their horses which could bring them to moving at speeds up to 22 kilometers per hour.

The Mongols were smart on survival outside of the war. They knew that having a consistent food source was very important rather than struggling and possibly putting many lives at risk of starvation. They raised and bred domestic animals like sheep and goats to eat. They relied on horses, cattle, and camels for things such as travel and also milk. When riding on a horse with food and water scarce, they would often cut the horse's neck and drink its blood for sustenance. They also found a way to use the milk of a horse to make into alcohol.

These strides showing later societies the ways of living and thriving did not end there. The Mongols helped in advances of trade as well. Genghis Khan was a supporter of merchants and buying and selling because of how the system helped him with his takeover. A lot of the information he gathered on neighboring cultures were gathered from diplomats and traders. The Mongols were on the move a lot and couldn't always put too much time into producing crops. Therefore, they created partnerships with merchants making deals to supply them with proper food. The Silk Road was used by Genghis and also his two successors, Ögedei and Güyük, for trading of clothing food and other things. The Mongols had currency they bought things with, but would often d give tax exemptions instead. This became a model for business and trading for centuries to come.

The Mongol Empire existed from1206-1370. For over 150 years it thrived and took over many parts of the world. Through advances in tactics, weaponry, trade they became one of the most dominant empires in history. Known to this day by many as a barbarian civilization, when looked at through different perspectives, the Mongols can be seen as the complete opposite and, in turn, probably helped the civilization process speed up.

Works Consulted

    Dunn, Marilyn. 2013. Belief and Religion in Barbarian Europe C. 350-700. Book. 2 Feb. 2014

    Gill, N.S. "Hun-Driven Barbarian Invasions and Migrations into the Roman Empire." Retrieved 2 Feb. 2014.

      A very interesting piece describing the Hun and their leader Attila predating Genghis Khan. Talks about their Journey into Europe and some of the Huns Encounters with the people in the West.

    Johnson, Jean. "The Mongol Dynasty When Kublai Khan Ruled China." 2 Feb. 2014.

      Genghis Khan's grandson Kublai Khan although not too popular made many advancements for the Mongols. In 1279 he and his army defeated the Chinese Southern Song, thus putting China under foreign rule for the first time.

    Moore, Malcolm. 2009. "Mongolians Destroy the Great Wall of China." 2 Feb. 2014.

      The discussion takes place of how interaction of the Mongols and a more civil society take place and violence soon thereafter. Also describing how the Mongolians went about achieving what they have done.

    Watkins, James A. 2012. "Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire." 2 Feb. 2014.

      Discusses Genghis Khan and how he took leadership over his people and his ruling and conquering he has committed.

    Van Roon, Hans. 2014. "Mongols China and The Silk Road." 2 Feb. 2014.

      This blog discusses these Barbarians involvement with and against the silk roads and what went on in China during this period.

Watercolor of Mongol Warriors, 14th century