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Updated on February 16, 2012

The Mongols were a nomadic people of Mongolia, emerged from obscurity in the 13th century, when Genghis Khan (1162-1227), at the head of hordes of mounted tribesmen, conquered a vast empire. He captured Peking in 1215 and then turn ed west to sweep across Afghanistan and Persia into Russia.

At his death the empire was divided between his three sons, Ogotai, Jagatai and Tuli, who, with a grand son named Batu, extended the conquests to Hungary, Baghdad, Syria and further into China.

Another grandson of Genghis, the great Kublai Khan (died 1294), established the Mongol or Yuan Dynasty in China, which lasted until 1368.

In Europe the dreaded Mongol cavalry were known as the Golden Horde, and the Pope appealed to all kings and princes to unite against this terrible foe, who devastated whole countries like a scourge.

One of the most celebrated Mongol chieftains was Timur or Tamerlane, who ruled from Samarkand.

At the height of their power the Mongols (who are also known as Tatars or Tartars) dominated territories st retching from China to Austria, from India to the Baltic, but after 1260 the empire was no longer directed by one leader; rulers became supreme in their own states, quarrels broke out and the unity or the empire was destroyed.

After their campaigns the Mongol warriors liked to return to the grasslands of Mongolia, where their sacred capital was called Karakorum, leaving groups behind to rule the conquered lands. While it lasted, the empire was held together by the military strength of the invincible cavalry, by a system of posts that provided swift communication and by loyalty amounting to reverence towards Genghis Khan and his family.


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