Mongols: The Last True Humans Part II
The middle of the 14th century saw the Mongols besiege Caffa, a seaport in the Crimean area which was an outpost for traders from Genoa. This was the time that the bubonic plague started to spread quickly throughout the entire empire of the Mongols. The plague has always slumbered here and there around the world. About six years earlier, it had flared up in Central Asia near Lake Issyk Kul, to the east of Tashkent. Its ravages in Asia and India are uncounted.
The Mongols by this time had begun to become accommodated to their conquered lands. They were settling down to the tasks of administering their vast empire. The original motivation had been lost. The unbridled spirit of the wild nomadic horseman was becoming the meticulous boredom of the imperial administrator. They had set out to defeat a world on the field of battle and had virtually succeeded. But it turned out that they could not defeat a more insidious enemy. The decadent comfort of the city, the alluring luxury of soft beds and jeweled robes, succeeded where the combined armies of Europe failed. They had opened up the Mongol warrior to the adoption of civilization.
Thus did the Mongol betray his essence and his responsibility to nature. Therefore it was inevitable that nature should swiftly strike back against him. The plague that began with the Mongols nearly devastated two continents.
In the words of Gabriel de Mussis, a contemporary chronicler, “The Mongol Tatars, fatigued by such a plague and pestiferous disease, stupefied and amazed, observing themselves dying without hope of health, ordered cadavers placed on their catapults and thrown into the city of Caffa, so that by means of these intolerable passengers the defenders died widely.”
After this bacteriological attack, the survivors abandoned the city and returned to Genoa as best they could. By 1348, the Black Death had devastated Europe.
It is quite likely that the plague would undoubtedly have reached Europe by trade routes, regardless of this incident. Nevertheless, what is known of the spread of the Black Death, starting from the Italian seaports, is consistent with attaching it to the return of the Genoese ships from Caffa with a heavy cargo of infected rats and fleas.
The Black Death raged across Europe for the next two years. As the epidemic became more intense, an increasing proportion of the cases were of the so-called pneumonic form, being spread directly from the infected lungs of one victim via airborne droplets inhaled by the next-essentially like the common cold or the more usual forms of tuberculosis.
The plague burned itself out only after killing at least a third of the population. But we do not have accurate statistics, and other estimates vary from 20 to 60 per cent, which seems a reasonable range for the plague’s impact on different communities. The survivors were beset by repeated but much milder outbreaks for the next sixty years.
It is interesting to note that some evidence currently exists that the descendants of these survivors of the Black Death may have a form of innate resistance against HIV infection. It seems that the antibodies which allowed their ancestors to fight off the plague were carried along the genetic path and may have a somewhat similar effect against the HIV retrovirus.
In time the Mongol Tatars and the Golden Horde began to be assimilated into the populations they had conquered. The final ruling descendant of Genghis, Shahin Girai, Crimean Khan, was eliminated by the Russians in the year 1783. Thus an invasion which began almost two centuries before the Renaissance ended while the United States of America was already six years old.
The adventure of the Mongols is a fascinating one: But by far the most interesting point is the motivation of the Mongols to conquer virtually the entire known world.
It was not, as one might surmise, the greed for riches, the desire for power, or just mad expansionism. The Mongols had no use for these incentives. At the base of the Mongol conquests, at the heart of the original inducement to create the largest contiguous empire the world has ever known was only one factor.
They wanted to free up land for pasture.
That’s all there was to it! They saw cities and civilization as a creeping cancer, which covered the fertile earth with useless buildings and roads. A nomadic society was the perfect ecologically-maintainable organization in their eyes. They were not tied to any particular plot of land. They were not slaves to the plough, seeding, harvesting, storing. They lived on the backs of their horses and rode wherever they wanted, wherever the wind and the seasons took them. They had virtually no possessions, they had virtually no permanence. To the Mongols that was the ultimate in a sustainable lifestyle. The agrarian existence and the urban complexes that it spawned were aberrations against nature, therefore they had to be destroyed.
The Mongols understood that permanence and urbanism were not natural human lifestyles. In keeping with the direct human descendance from mammalian stock they wanted to maintain the primal human/mammalian lifestyle. A lifestyle which could be sustained throughout whatever crises and devastations the future might hold. A lifestyle which would ensure the continued existence of the human race; a motivation which lies at the heart of all human existence.