Episode 112: Genghis Khan: Brutal or Brilliant?

On this Sofa King Podcast, we dig into the history books and talk about the life and empire of Genghis Khan. Born the son of a slave girl, this boy (named Temujin…but we might just call him Timmy for the whole episode) grew up in harsh conditions. His father was killed by an enemy tribe’s poison, he had to kill his own step-brother for food, and he was banished from his tribe. However, that only added to his fuel. He and his blood-brother Jamuka used their hard upbringing to become excellent warriors and tacticians, and eventually the two of them had united and conquered all of the warring tribes in their area for the first time ever. (Spoiler alert—it didn’t work out so well for Jamuka…)

From there, Tamujin’s power and legend grew. He set his sights on China, and despite being blocked by the Great Wall, he sacked the city of Zhongdu (now Beijing) and burned it to ground until the streets were slick with the grease of the slain. This was with an army of 90,000 against an army of a million! Then he spread his empire to make it twice as large as any other conqueror in the history of humanity and earned the title of Genghis Khan by his followers.

From Europe to Japan, China to Russia, and all the way down to the Middle east, the Mongol Hoard conquered it. What made him so efficient? Well, he was a genius at battle tactics and also a genius at recruitment. He would sack a town and slay the weak but keep any soldiers who proved they would be loyal. More importantly, he let craftsmen, blacksmiths, scholars, and engineers live. This way, he had the best steel, the best horses, the best bows, and even gunpowder, when his enemies had none of this.

His men were ruthless and effective, and he had better war technology than anyone on the continent. More than that, he was also a unifier (his title Genghis Kahn means “Universal Leader), bringing a postal route, written language, math, arts, religious freedom, and less oppression for women to every place he conquered.

He also killed people in brutal ways. You wouldn’t think you could kill someone with silver, a rug, or a wooden door, but he did, and we talk about it! What were his kids like? How did he die? How reliable is our historical evidence of this brutal and brilliant man? Listen, laugh, learn.

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