The 4 Scariest Parts of the Mongol War Machine Essay
The Mongols were horrifyingly awesome, conquering in as much land in 25 years as the Roman’s conquered in 400. Here are 4 the scariest parts of the Mongol war machine:
1. Their Speed Beats Your Power
Each Mongol warrior had four horses, and since they could live off the land they traveled with no supplies. This meant that Mongol armies could cover over 200 miles in a day, an enormous amount of distance even today. They traveled light, their infamous bows were their primary weapon, and they only wore thick silk and horsehide as armor.
When they attacked you, there was often no warning. “But I have full plate armor and even an armored war horse!” you protest. Yes, you do, and that’s why you’ll die. The Mongols were faster than you, and they had dozens of well-rehearsed maneuvers designed to take advantage of their speed. Most famously, they would feign an attack, and retreat. Over and over and over again.
Being a brave knight, you of course chased them. Sometimes for weeks. When you were just the right mix of exhausted and angry, they would turn and feather you with so many arrows you looked like a bird. They destroyed entire armies this way.
2. If You Upset Them, There Was No Forgiveness
The Mongols actually tried diplomacy most times, and if you just surrendered you could live happily ever after, just paying some taxes. But if you were dishonest, broke your word, or put up a fight, there would be no mercy. They would fight you. They would beat you. And then they would kill every. Single. Person.
Just ask the Khwarizm Empire. After hearing of the Mongol’s savage destruction of the Chinese Jurchen, they warmly greeted a trade caravan sent by Genghis Khan. Just kidding. They stole all the goods and killed all the merchants. Playing it surprisingly cool, Genghis sent ambassadors to demand an apology. The Khwarizm sent them back, without their heads.
So what happened next? Over three years the Khwarizm Empire was reduced to ashes. Entire cities disappeared. After the Mongols got done with the city of Merv, a Muslim holy man walked through the rubble for days and counted 1.3 million dead. The governor of Utrar, who had stolen the Mongol trade goods, had molten silver poured into his eyes.
“But wait!” you say, “surely they didn’t kill everyone, after all that Muslim holy man was still walking around to count the dead.” Yes, you are right. The Mongols would often let a few lucky ones live, so they could go tell the world the price of defying the Mongols.
3. Your City Walls Can’t Save You (Because your own people are knocking them down)
The Khwarizm weren’t too worried about the Mongols because they had strongly fortified cities, and everyone knows nomads aren’t good at siege warfare! It’s true, the Mongols didn’t know how to build catapults or siege engines to attack a city. Heck, they didn’t even know how to read or write. But they did know how to use smart people.
Unless they were really mad, they spared the lives of scientists, scholars and engineers and forced them to build war machines, often to attack their own people. The Mongols employed your classic tools like battering rams and catapults, but also giant ballista that launched arrows 20 feet long, gunpowder and naphtha. It was so terrifying that when the Mongols attacked eastern Europe some actually thought they had dragons.
4. Your People Love Them More Than You
After all that horror, at least your people will remember you fondly, right? Wrong. Life under Mongol rule was undoubtedly better than life under you, if your people managed to survive. The Mongols earned the loyalty of other peoples by killing their royalty and taking care of the lower class. Since the Mongols promoted based on ability, instead of class status, stable boys and sheep herders rose to become great generals.
On top of the chance of social mobility, the poor paid little or no taxes, and the Mongols entirely exempted teachers, artisans and priests from the tax rolls. You could practice any religion you wanted, and in Mongol China they even encouraged you to learn to read. And remember all those scholars and smart people they captured? They spread them all throughout the Mongol Empire bring good governance everywhere. Horrifying.