The Mongols: How Barbaric Were the “Barbarians”?
The Mongols were a militaristic, nomadic group that conquered many lands and forged the Mongolian Empire. They were known for their brutality and laws, but they also had positive impacts on the territories which they conquered. The Mongols had some very barbaric practices but like other conquerors, it was likely to show dominance over the conquered. More importantly, they were strong leaders who aided in the growth of the economy as well as diffusion across the empire.
The Mongols had many barbaric practices (doc 3, 4, 5, 10). Carpini describes show them as barbaric when he says that during battle, sometimes, ”they take the fat of the people they kill and, melting it… wherever the fire falls on this fat it is almost inextinguishable”. Also, the Mongols are shown as barbaric as Carpini tells of them killing all of the inhabitants with an axe and only leaving the artisans (doc 3). Juvaini tells of how they slaughtered many lives across the regions, severing the heads of men, women, and children and putting them in piles. He describes how the Mongols destroyed a town in a way that no living thing survived (doc 4). His point of view is one of the conquered as he is Persian, writing this after the Mongols invaded a city of Persia. Another Persian manuscript show the gruesome ways in which the Mongols executed their prisoners, showing many being buried alive upside down (doc 5).
In addition, even though the Mongolian code of behavior forbids adultery, it is okay to kill a woman’s husband first then have a relation with her. Also, they treated women like property as they bought the women for high prices from their parents and are allowed to have as many women as they like (doc 10). Even so, many of the writings are in the point of view of the conquered, therefore making it biased so an additional document coming from the Mongols justifying their actions during battle can give us a broader sense of their motives for their techniques. Despite their barbaric ways, the Mongols showed strong leadership as well as military techniques (documents 1, 2, 3, 8). Genghis Khan swept across much of Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, covering more land than any other single leader before him or after (doc 1).
He organized his army in a way that had everyone responsible for others and the military was united as one unit, therefore strengthening his army (doc 2). The Mongols also used the technique of making themselves seem larger in number during battles by having women and children there as well (doc 3). The power of the leader is also shown through the writing of Marco Polo as he describes how if the Khan needed a message quickly, the messengers could ride 200 – 250 miles per day (doc 8). This point of view is from a foreigner, Marco Polo, who is very fascinated with the Mongols and serves Kublai Khan in many jobs including being an ambassador. An additional document from the Mongolians in the army would help expand the readers’ knowledge on whether or not the techniques from document 2 were effective in unifying the Mongols therefore making the stronger.
The Mongols also oversaw a period of time that was peaceful known as the Pax Mongolica (doc 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). In China and Persia, the Mongols blended with the locals to an extent and promoted economic development (doc 6). Modes of communication and transportation such as canals and roads were also built (doc 6, 8). The laws enforced also promoted peace as theft and robbery were reduced (doc 7). Codes for how to behave also promoted social stability as people were told what can and cannot be done (doc 10). Mongol leaders also gave religious tolerance to its people and allowed them to practice whatever they wished (doc 9). They also usually converted to the region’s most dominant religions. This is shown from the leader’s point of view as he is trying to create peace by allowing religious tolerance and converting.
An additional document with the point of view of the regular people instead of just the scholars of the conquered people can show us how the average of the population was affected by the Mongols, if they were affected, or if life went on as usual. Documents showing a merchant’s perspective would also help readers’ understand the extent of impact of the trade routes and peace through them. The Mongols are brutal and showing barbaric ways. However, their impact on the world far exceeds just slaughtering people as they also helped create diversity with diffusion of ideas and trade across its vast empire.