10 Surprising Things You Don’t Know About Genghis Khan

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The name Genghis Khan is known the world over. His Mongol horde conquered half the world. His empire encompassed everywhere between the Caspian Sea and the Pacific Ocean and covered an astonishing 23 million square kilometers (9 million mi2), making it the largest contiguous empire ever. Genghis Khan managed to conquer more land in his 25 years of pillaging than the entire Roman Empire captured in 400 years.

His army was certainly ferocious. Soldiers of the defeated armies were not destined for a happy end. They were often beheaded, disemboweled, or occasionally even forced to swallow molten metal. Whole cities were razed, and prisoners were slain or made to march in front of the army to act as a shield.

However, though his name is now synonymous with barbarity, Genghis Khan was a leader with some surprising qualities.

10. He Was Modest

Genghis Khan was a personally modest man. He did not build monuments to his achievements. Even in death, he wanted to remain humble. Other men in his position might have built themselves elaborate memorials as the pharaohs did in Egypt. Genghis, however, decreed that he should be buried in a secret place in an unmarked grave.

After his death, his faithful army honored his wishes. They carried his body home, killing anyone they met along the way so that those individuals could not disclose the location. Genghis’s men dug the grave somewhere in the remote mountains of Mongolia or perhaps in the wide plains, depending on whom you believe. Then they rode a thousand horses over and over the grave to tamp down the earth and disguise the location.

After Genghis’s burial, the slaves who dug the grave were said to have been slaughtered and his soldiers planted a grove of trees over the burial site. When the army returned home, they were killed by their comrades to prevent them from revealing the site of Genghis’s remains.

Today, archaeologists and treasure hunters still seek the grave, hoping to find the final resting place of the great Mongol leader and, just possibly, the hoard of treasure that was rumored to be buried with him.[1]

9. He Instituted A Writing System In Mongolia

In 1204, Genghis Khan instituted a writing system in Mongolia known as Uighur Script, which has been in continuous use up to the present day. The script was adopted from the Uighur tribes who had been conquered by the Mongol Army.

Genghis showed great foresight in this and demonstrated one of his greatest strengths. When he conquered another tribe, he absorbed their customs and practices into his own, particularly if their systems were superior to his own. In this, he showed much more wisdom than most conquering nations who merely wiped out the previous culture without consideration.

Genghis Khan attached great importance to the ability to read and write. He instructed that all children of the Mongol Empire be taught to read and that all the laws of the empire be written down.[2]

However, it is likely that Khan himself was not able to read and he delegated this task to his trusted commanders.

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