Summary of "Genghis Khan" by James Chambers (Part VI)
Chapter VI: The Road to Samarkand
Before taking over Asia, Genghis needed to ensure his flanks were secure. To his west, the Kara-Khitai clan was overwhelmed by another Empire, and Genghis wanted to resolve this.
When he returned to the steppes, he learned that this conflict was caused by his only enemy still alive from previous battles, Kuchlug. Kuchlug usurped his throne and was a greedy leader who was unpopular with his people. He imposed crippling taxes on the citizens and forbade public services. He also crucified people who didn't convert to Buddhism, which went against Mongol beliefs. For the Mongols, all religions should be allowed to prosper.
In 1218 Genghis led a march of 20,000 men to invade Kuchlug's camp. It was an effortless victory for the Mongols after learning how to siege and breach city walls in China. When they arrived at Kuchlug's camp, the citizens opened the gates from the inside because most of the population was Muslim, and Kuchlug was making them convert to Buddhism. Kuchlug tried to escape but was caught and killed.
Now Ghengis could march South to take over China with all his flanks secured. Their first opponents heavily outnumbered them. It was an army of Persian soldiers. They went long unopposed due to their strength in numbers, so they were wealthy and had the best weapons and jewels money could buy. However, they were never battle-tested against an opponent like the Mongols. But the borders were protected with rivers, and they operated well-protected and maintained trade routes. In 1218 Genghis established a peace treaty with Sultan's army. But then, one year, the Sultan accused Genghis of spying on them. Truthfully, at the time, all merchants were somewhat spies, but everyone knew this. They sold things for money and information too. To call them spies was foolish, but the Sultan did anyway and seized all the silk, gold, sable, and 500 camels they brought to him to trade.
When Genghis sent the Sultan ambassadors calling for a trial, the Sultan returned them back after burning their hair and beards off. Genghis treated this as a declaration of war and prepared a full-scale invasion. When the Sultan found out, he conjured up 500,000 men. Their camps were luxurious, their armour glittered, and their swords were bejewelled. But they were not battle tested. They camped out and waited for the Mongols to come to them because they weren't confident enough to charge forward.
At the same time, the efficient messenger system of the Mongols was in full force, and the word was spreading fast. Genghis was also sending some troops to terrorize Sultan's right flank until the rest of his army was ready. The Sultan kept thinking he was making small victories, but he was just being distracted. Genghis was prepared to proceed now and had 200,000 men at his disposal. He was significantly outnumbered, but it wouldn't matter.
They reached Sultan's army in late 1219 and laid siege. Once they did this, Genghis turned north and vanished with thousands of men. The central siege was victorious in 5 months, and in 2 months, most citizens were slaughtered or captured. The governor climbed to the top of his roof with his wife and threw tiles. The Mongol army dug under the foundation of the building until it collapsed, then removed him from the rubble.
The other cities fell easier except one. It was led by an ingenious governor named Timur, who had an escape system planned out that the Mongols were defenceless against. He had a rafting system to transport all men in a defensive format away on the water. The Mongols would try to build or swim their way to them, but they'd be shot instantly with arrows and killed. The Mongols experienced many casualties and then let them escape. When they got to where the rafts were headed, they found an entire garrison system with more guards and fresh horses waiting for the people who escaped the Mongols. When the Mongols tried to invade the camp, it was too late, and everyone fled. Finally, the Mongols found a worthy adversary in the steppes. They saluted him and allowed him to live. They had immense respect for him now, and if they saw him would want to learn from him, not execute him.
Eventually, the 500,000-strong army was reduced to 50,000 men on reserves after more battles. When the final battle was to begin, Genghis finally reappeared with another army 400 miles behind their lines. Genghis had someone with him guiding them in Sultan's territory across the rolling sands in specific formations so they could go unseen. This was to be remembered forever as "The Khan's Road." The final city was expected to be taken in one year but was seized in just ten days. Everyone was massacred except 300 craftsmen who paid for their lives with 200,000 dinars each. However, the Sultan escaped, and Genghis had to send 20,000 men to track him down. It took one year, but when found, the Sultan died from starvation alone after distrusting what was left of his army.
Genghis Khan now controlled what we know as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In 1222, Genghis spent the summer in a lush landscape where he entertained philosophers and artists who travelled over 2,000 miles to see him. However, Genghis had destroyed some of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it was noted he really only loved the beauty in Arab horses and wines the most.
After this luxurious break, Genghis marched south again, and what was to be followed would only be equalled again in the 20th Century.