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A Two-Sided Coin - Exploring the Extent of the Mongols’ Barbarity

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A Two-Sided Coin: Exploring the Extent of the Mongols’ Barbarity

In the early years of the Mongol Empire, its main focus was gaining land and power. They did this by ruthlessly pillaging innocent villages and towns, and also by destroying their opponents in battle. However, once the empire became larger and larger, its government decided to initiate some peaceful reforms. While the Mongols achieved many peaceful developments during the Pax Mongolica, one should not disregard the absolute ruthlessness and dominance that they showed in battle or the cruelty shown towards their prisoners of war.

Despite their trademark violent behavior, the Mongols made socio-political advancements like the Pax Mongolica that helped them develop into the great power that conquered and controlled 4,860,000 miles of land throughout Asia (Document 1). The Pax Mongolica was a period of time spanning 100 years that was filled with stability and peace throughout the Mongol Empire. Religious tolerance was quite prevalent during this time, and as Mongke Khan, brother of Kublai Khan, stated, “just as God have different fingers to the hand so has He given different ways to men” (Document 9), which means that he and the rest of the Mongol Empire accepted other religions and cultures and allowed them to flourish under Mongol rule instead of coercing the  to practice the same religion as most Mongolians. There were also new sets of laws and systems that were applied. Through these new rules, Genghis Khan almost completely “rooted out adultery and theft” (Document 7). Under Kublai Khan, news systems were put into practice. There were over 10,000 posts throughout the empire and 200,000 horses at these posts to ensure efficiency when news needs to be delivered (Document 8). On another note, once they conquered almost all of Asia, the Mongols “[took] up residence among their new subjects, [garrisoned] cities, and gradually [blended] to a degree with the local societies” (Document 6), which led to significant economic growth. The Mongols and their subjects wanted to accomplish similar feats economically, so they worked together to “[promote] diversified economic development” (Document 6). The Mongols were not as barbaric as they are usually depicted as, which is evident by these pieces of proof.

While the previously mentioned developments played a huge role in the making of an immense empire, there is no denying the ruthlessness that they showed in battle. One way that Genghis Khan ensured that his soldiers would try their hardest was that he executed his own soldiers if they made a mistake. For example, “if one or two or three or even more out of a group of ten [ran] away, all [were] put to death; and if a whole group of ten flees, the rest of the group of a hundred [were] all put to death” (Document 2), which showed the extent to which Genghis Khan would make his army fight to the best of their abilities. This attitude during wartime added to battle tactics like drawing the battle lines just as they are about to fight (Document 3) made them a force to be reckoned with. The Mongols used these tactics in Nishapur, Persia, which they stormed and took over. They were ordered to kill everyone, to the point where not even cats and dogs [were] left alive” (Document 4). In the process, 1,747,000 Persians were killed, and the Mongols showcased their expertise and dominance in battle (Document 4). At some points in their history, the Mongols had peaceful times, but they were merciless in war.    



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