From what I understand, the mongols had engineers from China and Persia to handle the siege machinery. I'm mostly curious as if the machinery made by the Chinese engineers was unique and/or superior than the ones seen on the Muslim and Western armies and if their fortifications were ready for them.
The sieges I'm particularly interested in:
- sieges of Subotai's 2nd Western campaign
- against the Isma'ili fortress of Alamut (1256)
- against the 'Abbasid caliph in Baghdad (1258)
One way to evaluate if the siege warfare of the Mongols were better is to look beyond the equipment engines. Ideally, it should include a detailed discussion of the following (and then do a comparison against the Western/Muslim armies):
- military technology system (e.g. recruitment, training & building by artillerists, engineer, etc)
- the missiles (i.e. what was used & how it impacted the fortifications)
- siege tactics (i.e. the tactics used in actual sieges)
However, for a variety of reasons, not least the amount of information that is required and whether such concerns are really the focus of the question -- I will restrict this answer to focus mainly on the siege engines and brief mentions of the indicated campaigns.
(Main sources provided at the end of the answer, see also links in answer)
Siege Engines - Catapults (Trebuchets) & the Ox-Bow
There were mainly 3 types of siege engines: older human-powered and newer 'counterweighted' trebuchets. The difference is in the details, of operations and effectiveness.
And the third is an ox-bow which, according to some, was the state-of-art in 13th century siege equipment. This is probably what everyone refers to as superior because it was an improved version of Chinese over-sized crossbows, and therefore unique to the Mongols
- (older) human-powered trebuchet -- 250 men, 90 pound stone, to hit target at 33 yards.
- (newer) traction/counterweight trebuchet -- 10-15 men, 250 pound missile, and the new range was 167 yards (152 meters, a significant improvement over the 33 yards / 30 meters)
- ox-bow (kaman-i-gaw) -- no manpower info, but it could propel over-sized arrows and javelins to 833 yards (760 metres!). The explosive force appears to be low-grade gunpowder (copied from the Chinese & improved by the Mongols).
Copying & Improving on the Siege Engines: All the numbers are estimates of course and starting from the Chinese (which used gun-powder bombs during Song-Jin wars of 12th and 13th century), the Mongols had copied and learnt to improve on them - not just by themselves, but also from their defeated foes. The catapult was a widely used siege engine by all and each opponent had a different name for trebuchet: called trebuchet or mangonel in Europe, manjaniq by the Muslims, pao in China, and orbu'ur by the Mongols.
The Campaigns: Against the Assasins (1256) and 'Abbasid Caliph (1258)
Unlike the previous campaign of 1219-1221 AD, nominally led by Genghis but, in fact, commanded by Subotai (Bahadur, the brave) -- this campaign by Hulagu was well-planned, hence well-stocked for a full siege.
Hulagu had 8,000 men at the mountain stronghold of the Assasins, Maymun Diz, the siege was highly effective -- started on 13th November 1256, their leader surrendered on 19th November. An elaborate description of the siege at pp. 129-130 from Beyond the Legacy of Genghis Khan (Brill, 2006) - Hülegü Moves West: High Living And Heartbreak On The Road To Baghdad by John Masson Smith, Jr.:
After the Mongol troops “formed seven coils around” the castle, a circuit “nearly six leagues around,” Hülegü surveyed its defenses.94 Some commanders suggested postponing the siege because of the daunting prospect (on which the Assassins were banking) of again becoming snowbound. It was already late fall, fodder could not be found, and grazing was apparently inadequate, as the animals were losing weight; preparations were being made to requisition flour for the troops and fodder for the animals, and to seize all animals for transportation and as rations from all over northern Iran. But Maymun Diz, although well-fortified and difficult of access, appeared vulnerable.
The Mongols' catapults could be placed within range of the defenses, probably within about two hundred yards; if the shots could reach the defenses, they could break them. Hülegü, supported by several of his generals, decided to persist, and the following day fighting began. On the second day of combat, 13 November, the 'ox's bows' went into action, picking off the defending Assassins as they exposed themselves. The catapults needed more time, as they were built (at least in part) from local trees, but with one thousand Chinese artillery specialists on the job, work went quickly; the weapons went into action only six days after the start of construction (12-17 November). Once the parts were ready, teams of haulers stationed at about 300-yard intervals moved them “to the top of the hill.” From there, the catapults began to smash the Assassins' artillery and walls. Two days later, on 19 November 1256, the Assassin Master surrendered.
As for the Abbasid Caliph, the siege of Baghdad is well-documented, so I'll just end with a short quote, from same source (above), page 131:
They reached Baghdad on 22 January 1258. The attack began on the 29th, the artillery broke down the walls and towers of the city, and the caliph surrendered on 7 February 1258. A massacre followed.
1213 - Start of Mongol Siege Warfare
Sieges were not traditional Mongol warfare strategy since the Mongolian steppe did not have fortifications but it was something they learnt (very effectively), starting from their first siege of 1213 against the Jurchen Jin (North China):
In their early campaign against the XIA DYNASTY in 1205 and 1209 and against the Jin in 1211-12, Mongol generals had to rely on surprise to capture walled cities, but by 1213 the Mongols were successfully besieging prepared citadels in North China. Chinggis Khan appointed a BARGA (Barghu) Mongol, Ambaghai, the chief of the Mongols' engineer corps, and he began to train a multi-ethnic force of 500.
Source: Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire (Facts on File, 2004), page 352.
Basic idea of earlier Chinese siege-bow, which Mongols adapted to ox-bow.
Mongol siege tactics, not merely siege engines, were among the best in the world for their time.
First, the Mongols employed captured Chinese and Persian engineers to design and manage their siege weapons. These cultures had the best siege weapons in the world in the 13th century. These included early cannon and primitive mortars.
Second, the Mongols would build their siege engines on site, maximizing their effectiveness, instead of "carrying" them from one locale to another, wearing out both the engines and the men.
Third, the Mongols conducted siege warfare as total war. They not only surrounded cities, but stripped the countryside of all supplies so that none of it would ever reach the enemy. This included young men, which were pressed into Mongol service, rather than the defenders' service. They also diverted streams and chopped down forests, etc. Finally, while they had a tendency to slaughter defenders, they made a point of sparing engineers, enabling them to easily capture engineers.
They also employed a system of spies, which gave them insights into weaknesses in the enemy high command, political structure, or physical fortification structures.
In the case of the Assassins, who had a system of about 100 fortresses,the Mongols captured the strongest one, Alamut, and offered (temporary) clemency to the enemy "grand master" if he would surrender and help them get others to do the same. At the siege of Baghdad, the Mongols breached the enemy walls in five days, and then refused to accept the surrender of the city.
Very little is known about Mongol siege equipment, and how it was different from the equipment of other peoples. I tend to agree with Tom Au that the main difference was in tactics, rather then the equipment.
But to answer the question directly: yes it was very effective. In fact I know only ONE fortress that the Mongols (Under Batu and Subutai) besieged and failed to take during their invasion of Europe. This is the fortress of Kremenets in modern Ukraine (the fact that they failed to take it is mentioned in Wikipedia, under "Kremenets").
What stopped the Mongols from conquering all of Europe?
Pretty much title. Did Europe have something that the rest of the world lacked in terms of military defenses? Were castles an effective way of combating horse archers? Weren't the mongols famous for their siege abilities? Did the conquests mostly just stop after ghengis died?
The Mongols were capable at siege warfare, but the Batu's Hungarian expedition was extremely speedy and light. They didn't bring the best siege engineers, and they didn't stop very long at any point in the campaign.
The basic gist of it is that the Mongols would liked to have captured Bela IV and secured the loyalty of Hungary like they did with Rus. However, they were frustrated by strong fortifications that Bela IV kept running away to. They stormed wooden fortifications quite easily, but stone castles were costly or impossible to storm.
The Mongols didn't stop conquering when Genghis Khan died, he actually died before China was conquered, the Mongols kept going. Mongke Khan actually died assaulting a Chinese mountain fortress, and the Mongols kept going just the same. Monkge's son Khublai is the one who established the Yuan dynasty.
People often overlook this, but the Mongol conquest of China took like 50 years, and they spent a lot of effort on it. Batu's Hungarian expedition lasted only a single year, and it took place at the tail end of a much longer campaign in Rus lands. They were far away from their base of power and couldn't sustain the same level of strategic operations.
During one of the lectures I had on this topic, the professor pointed out that by 1242 the Mongol army also was facing an overgrazing of the Pannonian Plain, which would have sent them walking home had they not evacuated. People often overlook that Mongol ponies needed pasture.
I suggest reading Dr. Stephen Pow's work on this topic. He's one of foremost experts on this subject and one of the few still contributing original research. The general gist of the situation is that the Mongols struggled with castle warfare, and the cost to benefit ratio of taking the relatively poor kingdoms of Eastern Europe was not favorable.
For instance the first Hungary campaign cost them many soldiers and highlighted their inability to efficiently take stone castles. While the second was a complete disaster because the Hungarians had spent decades building castles in anticipation of their return. The Hungarians hoarded all available food in their castles while simultaneously launching many small scale raids against the invaders. This lead to many Mongols starving and their army being nearly annihilated.
The general gist of the situation is that the Mongols struggled with castle warfare, and the cost to benefit ratio of taking the relatively poor kingdoms of Eastern Europe was not favorable. For instance the first Hungary campaign cost them many soldiers and highlighted their inability to efficiently take stone castles. While the second was a complete disaster because the Hungarians had spent decades building castles in anticipation of their return.
Iɽ like to add that we shouldn't paint the different Mongol states during different time periods with a broad brush. The Mongols in 1240 were different from the ones in 1250, the ones in 1260, etc. Just as defending Eastern Europe kingdoms become stronger and more prepared in the later invasions, the invader of the later invasions, the Golden Horde faction of the Mongols, were also weaker and less prepared. The Golden Horde occupied a relative poor region that was also far from the traditional Mongol homelands - while the other Mongol factions such as the Yuan and Ilkhante became the most powerful Mongol factions and controlled the wealthiest & largest regions with the traditional homelands.
The Mongols who invaded the first time were quite different from the ones who invaded later on. In the first invasion, the more united Mongol Empire was invading Eastern Europe (and hadn't conquered the empires of southern China or fully conquered Persia yet). In the subsequent invasions, the Mongols had split into 4-5 different empires, and one of the smaller Mongol kingdoms - the Golden Horde, was the one invading Eastern Europe. The Golden Horde did not remotely have the same level of resources, manpower, or quality of soldiers & commanders as the united Mongol Empire had in 1240 and certainly not at its height. Nor did the Golden Horden compare to the Ilkhanate or Yuan Empire in power and wealth. The Golden Horde also probably wouldn't have had access to the Persian engineers who were capable of building large counterweight trebuchets that could attack stone and brick fortifications (the Mongols later used extensive resources and siege equipment to take the stone and brick fortresses of nations such as the Assassins and the Song Empire). The Golden Horde was also embroiled in civil wars with the other Mongol factions (the battle of Ain Jalut was the result of the Golden Horde undermining the Ilkhanate - which then became open warfare and prevented the Ilkhanate from expanding further in the Middle East). So in the subsequent Golden Horde Mongol invasions of Eastern Europe, the defending Eastern Europeans were stronger than before while the invading Mongols were weaker than before. The Golden Horde probably wouldn't have made it that far into Europe in the subsequent invasions even if the situation in Europe resembled the first invasion where the Eastern Europeans were less prepared and hadn't built hundreds of new fortifications.
Even during the first invasion around 1240, the united Mongol Empire's expedition into Europe was rather far from their base of power and they couldn't bring many siege engineers from the Jin Empire in Northern China or the Turko-Persian Khwarezmian Empire. The Mongols also hadn't conquered the rest of Persia yet and had only just begun to engage in the brutal 45+ year war of attrition against the fortresses of the Song Dynasty in southern China.
So the Mongols after 1240, and the larger of Mongol States after their split, became much more proficient at siege warfare and later had access to Persian built counterweight trebuchets that could more easily destroy stone and brick fortifications.
I recommend an additional work by Dr. Stephen Pow for this issue, called: "Deep Ditches and Well-built Walls: A Reappraisal of the Mongol Withdrawal from Europe in 1242" by Lindsey Stephen Pow. In this one, he talks about how the Mongols initially struggled in the beginning to take stone castles, but later the larger Mongol states such as the Ilkhanate and the Yuan Empire had a much easier time destroying stone and brick fortifications after they had better access to the siege technology and siege engineers of the settled civilizations.
Edit: I just noticed you already had a different link to the "Deep Ditches and Well Built Walls" paper. Cheers.
Engines of Destruction, The Evolution of Siege Warfare: Alexander the Great
In the first part of this series, we noted the siege equipment of the Assyrians consisted of complex battering rams, earthen ramps and a dedicated corps of engineers and sappers. Alexander the Great and the Greeks would take the next steps in the evolution of siege warfare. The Greeks had invented the catapult circa 399 B.C. Alexander innovated by fastening catapults and ballistas on the decks of ships to breach the walls of Tyre.
In January 332 B.C., Alexander began the Siege of Tyre. While the rest of the cities on the coast of modern Lebanon had surrendered to Alexander, he could not leave Tyre in the hands of the Persian fleet in his rear as he took his army to Egypt. Capturing Tyre was a strategic necessity for Alexander’s war plans.
Tyre, however, was seemingly impregnable. The massively fortified city was built on an island a half mile off the coast across from the old city on shore. The island had two natural harbors, one on each side. The landward walls towered 150 high. The Tryians knew Alexander was coming: they had evacuated the women and children and brought in food to sustain a siege. For the next seven months, a siege is what they got.
Alexander began the siege by directing his engineers to build a causeway (or mole) out to the fortified city. Rocks and stones taken from the old city, timbers, reeds and rubble provided the raw materials for the causeway. Water around the causeway was shallow until a certain point where it deepened to 18 feet. Meanwhile, the Tyrians were busy firing missiles at the workers, slowing the work.
Out towards the end of the causeway, which hadn’t yet reached the island, Alexander had two siege towers built. Each was 160 feet tall with catapults at the top to return fire at Tyre’s defenders and ballistas at the bottom to hurl rocks and pummel the walls. The catapult and ballistas could be covered with a metal plate to protect them. The engineers covered the wooden siege towers with animal hides to guard against fire.
The Tyrians found the causeway and artillery getting too close for comfort. In defence, the Tyrians took an old ship and filled it with combustible materials: pitch, chaff, torches and sulphur. They put cauldrons on the ship filled with inflammable oil. The defenders weighted the stern of the ship to tip the bow out of the water. Two galleys towed the fire ship, releasing it to drive it and themselves aground on the causeway. There, they fired the ship, which turned the end of the causeway into an inferno. Although besiegers frantically tried to put out the fire, the towers burned down.
Undaunted, Alexander ordered the causeway repaired and more siege towers constructed. These siege towers were mobile and were likely the tallest ever built. With catapults above and ballistas below, these artillery platforms could be moved right up to a city’s walls. At the same time, Alexander knew that only naval superiority would conquer the city. He then traveled to Sidon to fetch his fleet of 80 ships. The king of Cyprus, who wished to join Alexander’s conquests, sent another 120 galleys, while Ionia sent 23. Now Alexander’s fleet greatly outnumbered the Tyrian’s fleet.
On-Ship Battery Rams and Artillery Platforms
On his slower ships, Alexander mounted battery rams and modified siege towers with artillery. When he moved these ships close to the city walls, however, he discovered the defenders had thrown huge boulders into the sea, blocking close access to the walls. Alexander ordered those boulders chained and towed away and began circling the walls, searching for the weakest part of the walls.
The siege now entered its final, brutal stages. There were a number of attacks and counterattacks. Each side armored their leading ships. Tyre’s defenders continued to fire missiles at the besiegers, but now Alexander’s towers on the causeway and on the ships themselves were close enough to return death-dealing fire. Meanwhile, the besiegers discovered a small breach in the southern wall, facing the old city across the channel.
When Alexander could get his ships up to the walls, he set them to pounding the walls with battering rams and artillery from on-ship siege towers. While he sent some ships to create a diversion, Alexander took two ships with bridging equipment to the breached south wall. There the Macedonians swarmed over the bridge to the walls and forced a way into the city. Hundreds more soldiers followed and Tyre fell to Alexander in July 332 B.C.
While the massive siege towers on the causeway were only partially effective at Tyre, Alexander would use them again in the siege of Gaza, where they breached that city’s walls. In the case of Tyre, mounting battering rams and artillery siege towers on the decks of ships provided the means to breach the walls. This may be the first instance of on-ship artillery.
The speed of the Mongol army wasn’t repeated again until the 20th century. Mongol warriors could ride 60 to 100 miles a day, an unheard of speed in those times. Each man had four or five horses that traveled with the army so he could switch to a fresh horse often. Mongol ponies were small but fast, and could live off even the sparsest grasses. Mongol horses had great endurance and could run for miles without tiring.
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8 Heat Rays
When the Romans attempted to capture the Greek city of Syracuse, they faced not only the strong-willed resistance of the inhabitants but also the genius of Archimedes. The mathematician and inventor is said to have created weapons that could lift the Roman ships attacking the harbor clean out of the water before dropping and sinking them. But he is also supposed to have created a method of burning the ships before they even got close.
Using mirrors, or polished shields according to some historians, Archimedes directed the light of the Sun onto the ships. The heat is supposed to have ignited the tarred wood of the vessels&rsquo hulls and destroyed them. Some dismiss the idea out of hand, but several attempts to recreate versions of the heat ray have shown that it is possible to set fire to ships in this way.  Even if they did not burn the Roman fleet like this, then all those dazzling mirrors would have certainly distracted and blinded the sailors on board.
How effective were the Mongol siege equipment? - History
In the 21 st century it is easy to look at the world and not be impressed by globalization. To fly from Atlanta to Mongolia takes only 24 hours, a trip that most people consider very long not only in distance but primarily in terms of time and yet compared to a hundred years ago it is merely an inconvenience. Goods made in China stock the shelves of America and German style beer is produced in Mongolia and Korean pop songs are played around the world. Through the internet people are connected in ways that were unimagined just thirty years ago. Where once knowledge from a distant location came as a trickle now arrives in an inconceivable torrent. Yet, 850 years ago, the world was an entirely different place until the rise of Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire. While we cannot and should not make a direct comparison between the globalization of the thirteenth century and that of the twenty-first century, it is worth exploring how the world changed due to the global impact of Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire.
I refer to the Mongol-created globalization as the Chinggis Exchange in partial homage to the exchange of goods, animals, diseases, and culture that was caused by Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World and the resulting Columbian Exchange as coined by Alfred Crosby. 2 The Chinggis Exchange is the result of the "perceivable shift in technology, ideas, culture, religion, warfare, and many other areas" caused by the Mongol expansion and resulting empire. 3 Decades and even centuries after his death, the shadow of Chinggis Khan looms large over his former empire and the wider world as well. His actions and those he inspired directly and indirectly in his followers and others set in motion a sequence of events that could not be reversed and certainly altered the world in a matter that not even Chinggis Khan could have foreseen. It does not matter whether the actors in these events were Mongols as some were, or non-Mongols who served them or travelled through the empire, change built upon change as these individuals exchanged ideas, information, and material leaving us with an astounding new and more interconnected world introduced by the Chinggis Exchange. While it is impossible to discuss all of the facets of the Chinggis Exchange considering the importance of warfare and the Mongol military to creation of the Mongol Empire, it is appropriate to explore how the Chinggis Exchange changed warfare through direct means such as imposed change, technological and information exchanges, as well as more subtle ways .
Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire
Chinggis Khan's establishment of the Mongol Empire revolutionized steppe warfare with the introduction of strict discipline, new tactics, the creation of a military academy, and the expansion of decimal organization. Although decimal organization and many of the tactics he used had existed for centuries, Chinggis Khan refined them particularly in the area of tactics. These refinements allowed the Mongols to operate on wide-ranging fronts with consistent success at the tactical, strategic, and operational levels. While these permitted him and his successors to establish the largest contiguous empire in history, the Mongol military revolution also yielded the unexpected result of impacting the development of warfare for centuries.
The horse-archer comprised the basic element of the Mongol art of war. His double recurve composite bow possessed a range well over 300 meters, although in battle it was typically used at shorter ranges to maximize its penetrating power so that chain mail and other armor posed a minor obstacle to Mongol arrows. 4 Changing horses when they tired, the disciplined Mongol warriors unleashed a hail of death while outmaneuvering their enemies. Preferring to fight a distance battle rather than engage in close quartered melee, the Mongols' lamellar armor, made from overlapping plates of leather or metal, provided them better protection against arrows than chain mail. While nomadic horse-archers had been a threat since the Scythian era, they reached their pinnacle in the thirteenth century as the armies of Chinggis Khan became the most proficient at combining the mobility of horses with firepower. With refined and honed traditional tactics such as encirclements and feigned retreats, the Mongols remained out of range from their opponents' weapons until they determined a decisive moment when the enemy's formation broke or weakened. In doing so, the Mongols' tactics placed a reliance on mobility, firepower, and subterfuge to gain victory rather than overwhelming numbers.
To achieve a disruption of the enemy's formations, the Mongols commonly used a tactic known as the arrow storm or shower in which they enveloped their enemy while shooting arrows. Rather than targeting individuals, the Mongols loosed their arrows at a high trajectory, aiming at a predetermined "kill zone" or area target, emphasizing concentrated fire power. While the practice of concentrating fire-power existed prior to the Mongols, they used it to its maximum effect in all aspects of war, including siege warfare.
Another tactic combined the arrow-storm with hit and run tactics. Known as the as the shi'uchi, or chisel attack, it was similar to the caracole tactic of fifteenth and sixteenth century European warfare. In the shi'uchi, the Mongol units sent well-ordered waves of men against enemy formations. As each wave charged, they shot several arrows and then circled back to the Mongols' lines before making contact. They shot their final arrow roughly 40 to 50 meters from the enemy lines before wheeling around and returning to their lines. At this range, their arrows could pierce armor, but also allowed them to remain distant enough from the enemy to evade a counter-charge. By changing their horses, the Mongols could use this maneuver for hours. The shi'uchi tactic possessed enough flexibility that it could be used in combination with other maneuvers.
Whenever possible, the Mongols preferred to surround their enemies by using the nerge. The nerge, a hunting technique, honed the Mongols' skill in executing double envelopment tactics. During the nerge, warriors formed a circle which constricted around their prey, driving them towards the center and creating a confused mass, making it difficult to escape. Large numbers of troops were not necessary to perform the nerge. Archery skills and mobility acted as a force multiplier and allowed the Mongols to encircle an enemy force even when they were outnumbered. Once scouts made contact with the enemy, the main Mongol force extended its lines so as to overlap the flanks of the hostile force. At times, the envelopment extended for kilometers until the encirclement was complete. As Mongols contracted the circle, the Mongols herded the enemy towards the center as they did with livestock or game. As this action could take place on a wide scale, scouts relayed intelligence to the Mongol commanders, updating them on skirmishes and points of resistance.
Two of the best examples of the nerge in warfare occurred in the Western Campaign in 1237-1241, also known as the Invasion of Europe. The nerge served as primary feature of the Mongols' invasion strategy against the Rus' principalities. After the fall of the city of Vladimir in 1237, several tümens, or units of ten thousand, fanned out in nerge fashion, reducing every town and fortress they encountered while gradually constricting their circle, which extended for hundreds of kilometers. Gaps in the lines were occasionally allowed, permitting the enemy a means of escape. In reality, the gap served as a trap. In their panic and desire to flee, the enemy often discarded their weapons to flee faster and rarely maintained their discipline. In as similar way, but on a smaller scale, the flawed nerge destroyed the Hungarians at Mohi in 1241. After realizing that the fortified camp of the Hungarians was too strong, the Mongols encircled the camp but left a strategic gap in their lines. Seeing an escape route the Hungarians took the bait and attempted to break out. After allowing the Hungarians to leave their camp, the Mongols then pursued the fleeing army and destroyed it with ease.
Although siege warfare has not always been recognized as a strong suite for the Mongols, it quickly became their forte as the Mongols learned quickly and incorporated engineers into their armies. Although most were either conscripted or came to the Mongols voluntarily, Mongolian engineers did exist. Still, the Mongols were largely dependent on Muslim and Chinese engineers who manned and manufactured artillery and other siege equipment. Yet the creative minds of the Mongols also devised ways of using siege engines in field battle, such as at Mohi in 1241 where catapults assisted the Mongols in seizing a bridge at the Sajo River.
The Mongols also employed psychological warfare with great success. After realizing it was more efficient to convince a city or fortress to surrender without resistance rather than to be drawn into a siege, the Mongols negotiations came down to the essential choices of surrender or die. If the city submitted, it was spared and comparatively little pillaging occurred although tribute and supplies were expected. If the city resisted, the population was massacred although the Mongols often permitted sufficient survivors to escape and spread the news. As a result, the Mongols gained a notorious reputation for massacres. The use of massacre must not be seen as wanton blood lust. Instead it should be viewed as a calculated tactic which served several purposes. It discouraged revolts behind Mongol lines, but also as the Mongols helped spread propaganda and misinformation about the size of their armies. Furthermore, the Mongols used rumors of their ferocity to maximal effect through spies and survivors, causing other populations to become intimidated and choosing to surrender to the Mongols. For every massacre, several others submitted with no resistance.
The Mongols frequently employed subterfuge to confuse and intimidate their enemies. In order to mask their numbers, the Mongols lit numerous camp fires and tied branches to the tails of their horses to stir up dust. Another technique was to mount dummies on their spare horses disguise their numbers at a distance. Less common, but still used, was to stampede oxen, horses, or even enemy troops into enemy lines to disrupt them as they did at the Battle of the Kalka River in 1224. In the resulting confusion, the Mongols attacked. Whenever they could, the Mongols weakened their opponents by promoting rebellion or discord among rivals and by courting the support of oppressed minorities (or majorities). While the Mongols made good use of their reputation for extreme brutality, they took pains to portray themselves as liberators when circumstances warranted.
While their tactics made the Mongols an efficient and deadly army, Mongol actions at the strategic and operational level left them without peer until the modern era. Mobility remained their strategic imperative. Grain-fed horses from sedentary societies could surpass Mongolian horses in terms of strength and speed, but the Mongolian pasture-fed horses were without equal in endurance. Furthermore, the Mongols had access to virtually limitless amounts of horses. As the average Mongol trooper possessed three to five mounts, he could remain mobile even if a single mount was lost or exhausted. This mobility permitted the Mongols to embark on a style of warfare which was not copied again until the twentieth century with the use of mechanized units.
Before an invasion, the Mongols made extensive preparations in a quriltai or meeting where they planned the upcoming war as well as appointed generals to lead the invasion. Prior to the decision, the Mongols accumulated intelligence by using merchants who benefited from the Mongols' protection of the trade routes in addition to other spies. During the quriltai, mobilization of the army began and they established rendez-vous points along with a time schedule.
Although the planning of the campaign was a major component, the Mongol generals still maintained a high degree of independence allowing them to complete their objectives on their terms while still abiding by the timetable. In doing so, the Mongols could operate on a wide front by coordinating their movements yet still concentrate their forces at prearranged sites.
The invasion began by attacking in several columns. A screen of scouts covered the invading forces and constantly relayed information back to the columns. Through the adherence to their pre-planned schedule and use of scouts, the Mongols marched divided but could quickly aid another and unite their forces. Furthermore, because their forces marched in smaller concentrations, columns stretching for miles did not impede the Mongols. They used their mobility to spread terror. With several columns attacking, their opponents could rarely deal with all of them. This permitted the Mongols to then form a nerge.
The use of a multi-pronged invasion also fit into their favored method of engaging the enemy. The Mongols preferred to deal with all field armies before moving deep into enemy territory. Reaching this goal was rarely difficult, as the enemy usually sought to meet the Mongols before they destroyed an entire province. Furthermore, the use of columns screened by scouts enabled the gathering of intelligence allowing the Mongols to locate enemy armies more rapidly than a single army could.
By concentrating on the dispersion and movement of enemy field armies, the assault on strongholds was delayed. Of course, smaller fortresses or ones they could surprise easily were taken as they came along. Among the best examples of this was in the Khwarazmian campaign (1219-1223). While the Khwarazmians eschewed a field battle, the Mongols captured the smaller cities and fortresses before the Mongols eventually captured Samarqand. This had two results. First, it cut off the principal city from communicating with other cities. Secondly, refugees from these smaller cities fled to the last stronghold bringing reports from the defeated and destroyed cities, thus reducing the morale of the inhabitants and garrison forces of the principal city while also straining its resources. Food and water reserves were taxed by the sudden influx of refugees. The Mongols were then free to lay siege without the interference of a field army, as it had been destroyed. Finally, the capture of the outer strongholds and towns provided the Mongols more raw materials in the form of labor, to either man the siege machines or to act as human shields for the Mongols.
The Mongols attempted to destroy the enemy's command structure. This was carried out by harrying the enemy leaders until they dropped. Chinggis Khan first carried out this policy in the wars of unification in Mongolia. In his first few encounters he failed to do this and defeated enemies regrouped and began conflict anew. Afterwards, it became a standard operating procedure. By being constantly on the move, the enemy leader was unable to serve as a rallying point for his armies. In addition, the enemy's armies also had to keep moving to find him. In many reports, perhaps exaggerated, the enemy leaders were often only a few steps ahead of the Mongols. The Mongols also acquired new intelligence on other lands as it was only sensible for the fleeing king to run in the opposite direction of the Mongol armies. The Mongols always dispatched a special force to pursue the fleeing kings. In addition, other forces were also sent to the outlying regions. In some cases, these regions were areas independent of the kingdom invaded by the Mongols, yet it did not exclude them and other provinces from Mongol attention.
For many, the Mongols were not another army—they were a force of nature, a punishment sent by god, the forerunners of the apocalypse. In the face of such overwhelming death and destruction their enemies struggled to find ways of fending off the Mongols. Some succeeded, most did not. In the medieval period the Mongols, with few exceptions, dominated the battlefield, yet they also affected warfare in other ways. Through the Chinggis Exchange the Mongols transformed and influenced the means of waging war throughout the world for centuries with many of the initial results derived from attempts to counter their attacks.
Impact on Crusades and the Middle East
The Crusades were a period in which a great deal of cross-cultural exchange occurred, both consciously and unconsciously. The fact that it overlapped the period of the Mongols only intensified the exchange through the additional of another variable. As with all exchanges, rarely was it mono-directional. Islamic and Christian societies did not only receive ideas or an impetus for change from the Mongols, but also stimulated change as well. Indeed, the Mongol Empire also received new military knowledge, among other things, from the Levant.
One such exchange was the counterweight trebuchet. For the Mongol Empire, the standard traction trebuchet had been man-powered and of simple design. Essentially it consisted of a fulcrum and lever design of varying complexity. A stone or pot of flammable material was loaded on one end while men pulled ropes attached to the other end of the lever. To improve range or use a heavier missile, more men were added. The counterweight trebuchet, however, was of a much more complex design and came in variations. The basic design included a box on one end (the counterweight) filled with rocks. When released, it dropped and pulled the arm upward which in turn pulled a long sling from underneath the trebuchet with it missile. At the apex of the arm's arc the sling opened, flinging its missile. With the counterweight and the velocity caused by the sling's arc, missiles flew with greater force thus causing more damage. The use of a counter weight also permitted the use of heavier missiles as well as increasing the range of the weapon kilogram projectiles could be flung almost 300 meters compared to a traction trebuchet's range of 150 meters with a fifty kilogram missile. 5
Although in use in Europe and the Middle East since the late twelfth century, perhaps invented by the Byzantines in 1165, it did not arrive in East Asia until the 1270s. 6 Marco Polo attempted to take credit for its arrival in China, but it is quite certain that Muslim engineers in Mongol employ brought the weapon as the city of Xiangyang fell in 1273, a few years prior to the arrival of the Polo family. 7 Its arrival most likely hastened Khubilai Khan's conquest of the Song Dynasty.
The Mongol impact on warfare during the Crusades manifested in more apparent ways as well. The first was by the Mongol invasions of the Middle East and Europe with Sübedei's reconnaissance en force occurred during the Fifth Crusade. Rumors of the army of the mysterious Prester John or rather his grandson King David, ruler of the East reached the Crusader army laying siege to Damietta. Furthermore, he was only a few days march from Antioch. This played a factor in some strategic decisions at Damietta and ultimately factored in the failure of the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221). 8 The Mongol appearance in the Middle East during this time impacted the Fifth Crusade in another way. This Crusade, unlike some of its brethren, had an operational strategy. While the main crusading army struck Egypt, allies were to attack northern Syria to prevent Ayyubid armies from coming to the aid of Egypt. The Georgians were to play a major role in this however, Sübedei's army devastated the Georgian army—perhaps playing on their emotions by using the King David identity. It is said that the Mongols approached bearing crosses. While it is plausible, it seems unlikely the Mongols knew the Prester John legends and the Georgians simply mistook one variety of Mongol tuq or standard as a form of Crucifix. 9 In any case, the Georgians were crushed and afterwards unable to participate in the Crusade. Indeed, the Mongol appearance began a downward spiral for the Georgians as for two decades after establishing itself as a potentially powerful state in the region. Furthermore, because of Georgia's inability to attack Northern Syria, Ayyubid forces could attack the Crusader states on the Levant, thus worrying King John Brienne of Jerusalem and his barons and driving a wedge between the European Crusaders and those from the Levant.
Although the Mongols then disappeared across the mountains, by no means were they finished with the Crusades. The primary objective in the Mongols' invasion of Central Asia in 1219, which led to Sübedei's invasion of Georgia, was the destruction of the Khwārazmian Empire. In this endeavor they succeeded. Although Sultan Muḥammad died on an island in the Caspian Sea, his son Jalal al-Din escaped to India only to return after the Mongols vacated the region. However, his appearance attracted their attention again and led to an invasion by the Mongol general Chormaqan in 1230. The Mongols destroyed Jalal al-Din's army again in 1231 but Khwarazmian forces survived. They eventually became a potent regional mercenary force used by the Seljuks, Ayyubids, and others in the vicinity. They were hired by Egypt to augment Sultan al-Salih (1240-1249) in the internecine wars of the Ayyubids, particularly when the Franks of the Kingdom of Jerusalem allied with the Ayyubid princes of Damascus, Kerak, and Homs. Khwārazmian eagerness to join the Egyptians may have also had something to do with Mongol expansion in the region. Indeed, with the Mongol conquest of the Seljuk Sultanate and intimidation of the cities of the Jazira region, leaving the region probably seemed wise. En route to Egypt they sacked Jerusalem which had been returned to Christian hands in 1229 through the mediation of Frederick II, and then lost to the Crusader states forever. 10 The Khwarazmians then joined Sultan and defeated a combined army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Damascus and Kerak at the battle of La Forbie or al-Harbiyya in 1244. For the Crusaders, it was their most devastating defeat, second only to Hittin in 1189.
Although al-Salih conspired with the Prince of Homs to destroy the Khwarazmian mercenaries (which he did) as the Sultan viewed them as too much of a menace to everyone (which they were), the Mongols continued to affect the Middle East indirectly. Their conquest of the Kipchak Steppe flooded the slave markets of the Middle East with Kipchak Turks who were then purchased as Mamluks, or military slaves, in Egypt. Although it was King Louis IX's Seventh Crusade that led to the Mamluk coup in Egypt in 1250, it was the Mongol conquest of Syria in 1258 that transformed them in a major power. Prior to this the Mamluks kept an Ayyubid prince (albeit a minor) on the throne to provide legitimacy for their rule, as they otherwise had no claim to the throne. With the arrival of the Mongols, however, the child was quickly removed from the throne and the Mamluks dropped all pretense of the masquerade. Their claim to the throne was then cemented with their victory at 'Ayn Jalut in 1260. Afterwards they were then seen as the Protectors of the Faith—an image they promoted through the patronage of religious leaders and scholars as well as a building program. Furthermore, recognizing the threat should the Crusaders ever ally with the Mongols, the Mamluks made a concerted effort to eliminate the Crusader states once and for all—a policy that had not been followed since the death of Salah al-Din in 1193. The Mamluk Sultanate proved to be a constant irritant to the Mongols of the Il-Khanate and they succeeded in removing the Crusader states with the destruction of Acre in 1291. By razing coastal fortifications as well as using a scorched earth policy along the Mongol frontier, the Mamluks prevented any possible conquest from the West or East. Furthermore, by taking advantage of the Il-Khanate's preoccupation with the Jochid (Golden Horde) and Chaghatayid Khanates to the north, the Mamluks were able to eliminate the Crusaders as well as clients of the Il-Khans such as the kingdom of Cilicia one by one, eliminating Mongol influence in the region. This forced the Il-Khanid Mongols to attempt alliances with European powers. Unfortunately, the kings of Europe tended to be too engaged in European affairs to launch a new Crusade or, in the Papacy's case more concerned with the salvation of the Mongols' souls rather than military affairs.
Part of the problem undoubtedly rested with the Mongol invasion of Europe in 1240 in which the Catholic kingdoms of Hungary and Poland were devastated. Mongol scouts were encountered as far as Vienna and most correspondence with Mongol officials inevitably included ominous phrases about what would happen if European rulers did not submit. The invasion of the Mongols resulted with numerous calls for Crusade. Nothing actually materialized, but would-be Crusaders, particularly those who lived in central and eastern Europe, were allowed to commute their vows to man the frontiers or muster whenever a rumor circulated that the Mongols were approaching. Pope Innocent IV also sought to build an anti-Mongol coalition to protect Europe from further encroachment. More often than not, however, those who would have fought the Mongols actually ended up in the Baltic as part of the reysens or seasonal and almost package-tour raids of the Teutonic Knights against the Prussians. 11 Nevertheless, the menacing presence of the Mongols to the east, particularly the Jochid Khanate which invaded Eastern Europe on several occasions, kept fear alive in the breast of many Europeans. Although the Il-Khanate and Jochid Khanate were separate entities and the European crowned heads realized it, it is questionable as to how the average person viewed the Mongols—separate or were they all the same? Thus, if nothing else, the Mongol presence from 1240 onward contributed to the continued lack of manpower for the Latin States in the Levant. Although it is not possible to get a precise number of the men who went east or stayed at home out of fear of a Mongol attack (or at least used that excuse to secure an indulgence), it is evident that after the thirteenth century German and Hungarian participation in crusades to the Levant dwindled. Other factors, to be sure, played a role in this, but nonetheless the lurking fear of a massive pagan and almost incomprehensibly fearsome army just beyond the frontier distracted many would be Crusaders from journeying elsewhere.
In addition to affecting the events of the Crusades, the Mongols also altered warfare in the Middle East in terms of equipment as well as execution of tactics. First and foremost was the spread of the curved sabre. With the arrival of the Mongols, the sabre became the preferred cavalry weapon throughout the Middle East and indeed the world largely due to Mongol success. This trend started in the thirteenth century, and by the sixteenth century the sabre is ubiquitous. 12 Although the sabre first arrived from the east with the arrival of the Turks, non-Central Asian societies did not switch to it and preferred to keep their straight bladed swords. With the arrival of the Mongols and for centuries afterward, however, the sabre became the almost exclusive weapon of the mounted warrior. The curved blade made it perfect for a mounted attack as it allowed the rider to slash and follow through as he rode by. A straight blade was less effective in a slashing attack and better suited for a downward hacking attack. In an attack in which the rider slashed and kept on riding, the straight sword was likely to hit the target, becoming either embedded or jar the attacker so he became unbalanced or lost the weapon. Although Western European armies clung to the straight sword longer than most, the change occurred not only in the Middle East but also in Eastern Europe.
The Mongols transitioned much of the Middle East into steppe warfare. Although horse-archers had played a vital role in Middle Eastern warfare since the Parthians defeated Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BCE, the primary cavalry force was not horse-archers but lance wielding riders who might be classified as medium cavalry. This transition occurred under the Sassanids as well as during the time of the Arab conquests and continued under the Abbasid state. The arrival of the Seljuks altered the situation with the infusion of nomadic horse-archers. The core of the Seljuk army, however, came from iqta and timar based armored cavalry. 13 The bow remained an important weapon, but it was not always the primary weapon. The situation remained the case most of the Middle East and Central Asia such as the Ghaznavid, Khwarazmians, and Ayyubids. Only in areas of a large Turkic nomadic populations, such as in Anatolia, did the horse-archer become the dominate element on the battlefield, although contingents were found in all armies (including those of the Crusader states in the form of the Turcopoles). The horse-archer, however did not become the primary element in warfare until the late thirteenth century.
The initial Mongol armies in the Middle East were light horse-archers. While some may have worn armor, the Mongol trend was lamellar armor. Even the metal varieties of lamellar tended to be fairly light-weight and allowed for the mobility the Mongols preferred. The Mongols did use medium and heavy cavalry tactics at times, but these were provided by auxiliaries such as Armenians and Georgians. When the Mongols themselves charged, it tended to be for a killing blow after the enemy's ranks had been decimated by archery. Some historians have speculated the Mongols transitioned to a more traditional medium cavalry in the face of their defeats by the Mamluks. Martinez and others concluded that the light horse-archer could not compete against the Mamluks due to the latter's heavier armor which allowed them to engage in close combat and shock tactics, yet were also proficient at archery. 14 Indeed, the Mamluk soldier was designed to be able to engage heavy shock troops like the Knights Templar and Hospitaller as well as the horse-archers of the Mongols and thus had to counter two styles of fighting. The scholars who espoused this transformation from light cavalry did so based on the idea of Ghazan Khan's military reforms and repeated references to assigning iqtas and timars to finance the soldiers. Reuven Amitai, however, has convincingly demonstrated that this is not accurate. 15 As explained earlier, timars were assigned, but primarily as a way to fund his army and prevent them from plundering the peasantry and townspeople of the Il-Khanate. At no time did an actual transition to sedentary life occur for the Mongol military. Indeed, this is borne out in the latter armies. The successors to the Il-Khanate, such as the Jalayirs, Kara Qoyunlu, and Aq Qoyunlu, were horse-archer armies as were the armies of the Chaghatayids. Even the Ottomans had large numbers of horse-archers until the janissary infantry became the mainstay of the army. The Safavids, who challenged the Ottomans, used horse-archers to carve their empire. Only with the advent of effective field cannon, as demonstrated at the battle of Chaldiran in 1514, did the nomadic horse-archer cease to dominate the battlefield.
Yet, did the Mongols not learn from their defeats by the Mamluks? One must remember that while the Il-Khanate Mongols were enemies of the Mamluks, their primary enemy was always another Mongol state—the Jochid or Chaghatayid Khanates who fielded nomadic armies. As demonstrated in their conquests, non-horse-archer armies rarely defeated the Mongols. In the case of the Mamluks, several factors played a role in the Mamluk success. Man for man, they were better warriors—their whole life revolved around military training. This declined after the Mongol threat receded, but even during Napoleon's invasion in 1798-99 they still proved a challenge. Secondly, having rebuffed the Mongols on numerous occasions, the Mamluks knew their fate should the Mongols ever conquer them. As mentioned earlier, the Mamluks sought to deprive the Mongols of pasture and practiced a scorched earth policy. Also in the instances of a number of Sultans, the Mamluks enjoyed superior leadership and at times luck, which should never be discounted on the battlefield. Indeed, the fact that so many battles were close testifies to the fact that the Mongols never viewed their style of warfare as inferior to that of the Mamluks, nor did successor states, as the horse-archer remained the dominant warrior east of the Euphrates.
The Mongol presence in India transformed the Sultanate of Delhi as well. Indeed, while the antipathy between the Mongols and Delhi was not like that of the Il-Khanate and the Mamluks, it still existed. The presence of the Mongols on the borders of Delhi existed since the 1220s when Chinggis Khan conquered the Khwarazmian Empire and until the rise of Timur (Tamerlane). Nonetheless, the Mongols never invaded the Sultanate until 1241. Prior to this they had conquered Lahore and Multan, but these cities recognized Khwarazmian authority. Chinggis Khan saw little reason to attack Delhi as it remained neutral in the war with Khwarazm. 16 Furthermore, after Jalal al-Din fled to India after his defeat by Chinggis Khan, the Mongol ruler requested permission to pursue Jalal al-Din through the Sultanate of Delhi. Although the Mongols sent an embassy to Delhi, we do not know what happened to it. 17 Considering that the Mongols did not attack Delhi, it is probably safe to assume the embassy returned to Chinggis Khan safely. Indeed, Peter Jackson postulates that Delhi may have made a token submission to Chinggis Khan and Ögödei. 18 Nonetheless, during the reign of Ögödei, Mönggetü did raid Sind in 1236-37, only to withdraw in face of arrival of Delhi's army. 19 Other raids continued for the next two decades.
After the Mongols withdrew from the Indus Plain, Delhi did benefit and extended their borders to the mountains. Although the Mongols captured some cities and even raided across the Indus River a few times, they never truly conquered and held anything south of the Peshawar. 20 Nonetheless, the Mongol presence transformed the military of the Sultanate of Delhi. Although of Turkic origin with an emphasis on cavalry, the Sultanate of Delhi possessed a large infantry force as much of India was not suitable for horse breeding. The threat of the Mongols and their mobility forced the Sultanate to find a counter to them. In the view of Simon Digby, "The survival of the Delhi Sultanate in the face of Mongol attacks depended upon an adequate supply of battle horses to mount the army when the export of horses from Mongol controlled central Asia was cut off and possibly to some degree upon war elephants, used in the line of battle and inspiring great awe, which the Mongols did not possess". 21 Indeed, the Mongol threat also limited the sultanate's other military actions against neighboring Hindu states. Some scholars believe that Delhi's domination of India stalled in the shadow of the Mongol menace to the northwest, thus forcing the Sultans to keep their armies close to Delhi and the frontier. 22 It is clear that due to the Mongol threat the military of the Sultanate became formidable. According to Juzjani, the Sultanate even waged a jihad to drive the Mongols out of the region west of the Indus. On 6 Muharram 656 H./ 13 January 1256, an army gathered outside of Delhi to liberate Multan in modern Pakistan, which it successfully did. 23
Not until 1329 did the Mongol threat subside when the Chaghatayid Khan, Tarmashirin threatened the environs of Delhi. Sultan Muhammad Tughluq (r. 1325-1351) forced him back across the Indus. With the collapse of the Il-Khanate and the general chaos in the Chaghatayid Khanate after Tarmashirin's death, Delhi became relatively secure and only dealt with the occasional raiding band, not full-scale invasion. Unfortunately, this lull seems to have given the Sultanate of Delhi a false-sense of security as in 1399 the Central Asian conqueror and Chinggisid-wannabe, Emir Timur or Timur-i Leng sacked Delhi and carried incalculable wealth back to Samarqand. The Sultanate never fully recovered and eventually set the stage for the arrival of the Mughals (Persian for Mongols) led by Babur, a descendent of Timur and Chinggis Khan. Thus the Mongols, in a sense would rule much of India until 1857 when the British officially ended the Mughal royal line after the Great Sepoy Rebellion.
Eastern Europe, particularly what is now Russia and Ukraine, endured Mongol rule longer than any other region except perhaps Central Asia. Furthermore, centuries of contact with other steppe powers prior to and after the collapse of Mongol hegemony over the region gave it a familiarity with steppe warfare. This influence continued well after the rise of Muscovy and the formation of a definitive Russian identity. Testament to the influence of the Mongol military system is found in the fact that the Slavic principalities of Eastern Europe had frequent contact with steppe nomads and used them as allies and auxiliaries, but the Slavic polities did not readily adopt the steppe warfare technique prior to the Mongol arrival. Indeed, the Kipchaks and other nomads often had to worry about Rus' encroachment into the steppe. 24 Not until the Mongol period did steppe warfare begin to change military thought in the region. Previously, there was no need to fight like the nomads while the Kipchaks and Pechenegs were worthy adversaries, they could be countered. The Mongol style of warfare, however, was unlike anything the Rus' had encountered, and for which they had no answer. In short, in the face of such an adversary, not to adapt meant no chance of defeating the Mongols. Prince Danilo of Galicia and Volynia began re-fitting and reorganizing his military forces with the intent of rebelling against the Mongols—observing that if the Mongols defeated their old martial methods easily, then in order to defeat the Mongols, one had to fight as them. 25 Indeed, in 1254-1255 he campaigned with some success against the Mongols. What is notable is that he followed the Mongol example of campaigning in winter. 26
Many, if not all, of the Rus' principalities emulated the Mongols. As the Rus' warriors were incorporated into the Mongol military, the transition was assisted by increased familiarization with Mongol warfare. Initially, however, the Rus' fought in their own formations and traditional style. Over time however, the Rus' began to organize their armies along similar lines and used steppe nomad tactics and weapons. 27 This included not only adopting the composite bow, but Mongol style sabres and lamellar armor for both men and mounts. 28 There are occurrences where Mongol forces, although just how many is a matter of conjecture, appear to be fighting under the command of a Rus' prince such as Prince Alexander (Nevskii) of Novgorod on different occasions. 29 Muscovy was perhaps the most successful in this transformation. Indeed, Moscow also adopted aspects of Mongol administration. Under Prince Ivan III (the Great) (1462-1505), Moscow instituted the yam or postal system and applied it in much the same way as the Mongols. Its use continued well into the nineteenth century.
The advent of gunpowder weapons did not make an immediate change for Eastern Europe. Poland, Hungary, and Muscovy still had primary threats in the form of the various offshoots of the Golden Horde and the Lithuanians who also fought in a similar manner to the Mongols—masses of horse-archers. Even after Poland and Lithuania merged in a marriage alliance, it did not fundamentally alter their method of fighting. The Polish-Lithuanian cavalry remained a scourge of the battlefield. For the Russians, the nobility fought as horse-archers, rather than shock cavalry as their pre-Mongol ancestors did. Although Ivan IV created the streltsy or musketeers in the sixteenth century, their primary role was to defend the string of forts on the southern frontier against nomadic incursions, not to engage them in open warfare. The streltsy's battlefield success was noted more in engagements in siege warfare and in the Baltics. Indeed, the growing importance of the Cossacks as well as the use of Tatar light cavalry by Muscovy emphasized the need for troops experienced in steppe warfare. It is not until Peter the Great that Russia's military focus truly shifted from the steppe to Europe as its primary concern.
Even though Russian political and military focus shifted to the west in the seventeenth century, Mongols still played a role the Russian military. Kalmyks or western Mongols who migrated to the Volga River in the early 1600s played a key role in the defense of Russia's southern frontier. With the decline of the Ottoman threat to the south and the defeat of the Crimean Tatars in 1789, it appeared that the horse-archers of the steppe had finally demised as a military unit however, the Russian conquest of Central Asia during the nineteenth century renewed their interest. Mikhail Ivanin (1801-1874), a Russian officer who gained an appreciation of steppe warfare when he served against the Khanate of Khiva, saw some benefit in steppe tactics even if it was no longer a dominant form of fighting. In 1846 he published The Art of War of the Mongols and the Central Asian Peoples. 30 He placed an emphasis on mobility and the use of cavalry tactics by the Cossacks. The imperial military academies soon incorporated it into their curriculum and it remained in use not only in the Russian Empire, but in the military academies of the Red Army until World War II. Ivanin's efforts, combined with other reforms, proved quite effective and only diminished as Russia's failure to industrialize undermined its logistics, as demonstrated in the Russo-Japanese war, 1904-1905.
East Asia and Gunpowder
Warfare in East Asia noticeably changed with the arrival of the counterweight trebuchet. Yet this was not the only change. The Mongol invasion of Japan caused a substantial change in the method in which samurai engaged in warfare. Prior to the Mongol invasions, the samurai primarily engaged a single enemy in combat in which to test their martial prowess. The Mongols, however, did not engage in single combat. Rather they operated in large units and used concentrated firepower to eliminate enemy formations. Rather than a single opponent, a samurai faced a unit. Even the best of swordsmen ultimately would be defeated by sheer weight of numbers providing the warrior made it through an arrow storm which targeted a kill zone. It was only after the samurai switched to unit tactics that they leveled the playing field. The period between the first Mongol invasion and the second invasion contained not only a frenzy of building coastal walls, but also training to fight as units rather than individuals.
The most significant change however was the advent of gunpowder weapons. It is well established that gunpowder was discovered in China and indeed the Mongols first encountered it during their invasions of the Jin Empire. While a daunting weapon in both its incendiary form as well as the explosive form, the Mongols found ways of countering and using it to their advantage.
Although the spread of gunpowder is directly related to the rise of the Mongols and the Pax Mongolica, it is unclear whether the Mongols themselves contributed to the spread or whether other actors did it. Some historians have claimed the Mongols used gunpowder weapons, essentially bombs hurled by catapults in the Middle East and perhaps Eastern Europe and perhaps even rocket assisted missiles unfortunately there is no definite documentary or archaeological evidence to confirm it. Considering the Mongols rarely met a weapon they did not like, we can be certain if they found a way to transport it safely it would have been incorporated into their arsenal outside of China. Nonetheless, it remains speculation. Weatherford mentions the Mongols use of gunpowder as a matter of fact, but provides no evidence to support the ubiquitous use he claims. Iqtidar Khan is confident that the Mongols used gunpowder on their western campaigns and cites several passages in the Persian sources which could be translated as gunpowder weapons, however, as he admits, these terms can also be translated as more conventional weapons, including naptha. Khan also proposes that the Mongols are responsible for the spread of gunpowder into India as the Sultanate of Delhi adopts its use by 1290. This is plausible as there is evidence that gunpowder, at least in the form of fireworks if nothing else, was in use in Central Asia in the later part of the thirteenth century. 31
Much of the speculation arises from the fact that one thousand Chinese engineers accompanied Hülegü to the Middle East in the 1250s. This is simply not sufficient to claim that the Mongols used gunpowder missiles in their conquests of Alamut or Baghdad. Several serious issues prevent us from accepting that the Mongols used it. None of the sources mention the use of gunpowder weapons at the sieges. Nor do witnesses mention gunpowder or describe it. Juvaini, who was present at the siege of Alamut, does not mention any reference to gunpowder or explosions. As a member of Hülegü's administrative staff and later governor of Baghdad, he was in a position to know these things. One passage comes to mind that excites the imagination,
From the towers bows sent up swift-feathered shafts, and a kaman-i-gav, which had been constructed by Khitayan craftsmen and had a range of 2,500 paces, was brought to bear on those fools, when no other remedy remained and of the devil-like Heretics many soldiers were burnt by those meteoric shafts. From the castle also stones poured down like leaves, but no more than one person was hurt thereby. 32
Two things come to mind here. First that we have the Chinese (Khitayan) craftsmen building the so-called ox-bow (kaman-i-gav). Then there are the 'soldiers burnt by those meteoric shafts'. At face value it could definitely mean gunpowder weapons, particularly incendiary ones. Unfortunately, when taken in context with the rest of Juvaini, it means little more than the Mongols had a very powerful ballista. Juvaini's book is resplendent with flowery phrases. It is a masterpiece of imagery and allusions. Could their opponents be burnt? Quite certainly, but good old-fashion naphtha would also do the trick. Simply because Chinese siege crews are present does not mean that they used gunpowder weapons.
Arguing that the chroniclers of the Mongol Empire omit reference to it, as gunpowder might be a state secret, fails as both Juvaini and Rashid al-Din do not appear to be shy about gossip or discussing other military matters. Rashid al-Din, who also had a scientific bent, should have shown a keen interest. As another highly placed person in the Ilkhanid administration, Rashid Al-Din was also in a position to know about secret weapons or, as one might expect after an explosion, not-so-secret weapons. Certainly, if it had been in use, by 1300 it was no longer a secret weapon and thus could have been described in a book written for the Mongol court. The more damning evidence is the omission of gunpowder weapons in sources hostile to the Mongols on these campaigns. They simply do not mention it. This is most surprising for if the Mongols had used it at Baghdad, Alamut, or anywhere outside of China, this would have been the first recorded use of gunpowder weapons. Furthermore, the resulting explosion would have been memorable even if it had been a single missile hurled from a trebuchet. However, the sources do not record any use of gunpowder-like weapon. In the words of the great military theoretician and nemesis of Bugs Bunny, Marvin the Martian, "Where's the earth-shattering ka-boom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering ka-boom!". The omission of gunpowder weapons in the Persian texts is the litmus test for this topic. Furthermore, in the Ilkhanate period, there does not seem to be any use of gunpowder weaponry either, although there is a substantial increase in the use of counterweight trebuchets. Kate Raphael has also come to this conclusion through a similar but different path. 33
Nonetheless, the Mongols used gunpowder in their wars against the Jin, the Song, and in their invasions of Japan. All of the sources hostile to the Mongols refer to it in the Eastern theater of operations. As for the Jin and the Song, its use should not be surprising. In Japan there is pictorial evidence as well, and more importantly, archaeological evidence. 34 So why did they not use it outside of East Asia? Logistics may be the simple answer. Ceramic bombs have to be transported. Even packed with care to prevent breaking, these would have been difficult to carry. The Mongols usually built their siege weapons on site—either from local materials or reassembling one carried via camel back. While the Mongol ger or yurt might have been conveyed on a large cart, there is no indication that other equipment was. As the gers on carts were domestic residences of the nobility, it is unlikely that war materials were stowed in them. Troops rode on horseback. There is only one clear instance that troops were hidden in carts—during Shiremün's ill-fated coup against Möngke. 35 Otherwise, everything was hauled via camel back. Considering the need for other supplies and the relative delicacy and weight of the ceramic bombs, the Mongols may have decided they did not merit hauling them hundreds, if not thousands, of miles across Asia. There is no indication that they transported catapult or trebuchet missiles. Indeed, the Ismailis effort to denude the land around their castles of anything that the Mongols could use as a missile indicates that the Mongols depended on local materials. Use of ceramic bombs in China was easier as they could be transported via ship whether to Japan or along the coast to Korea or southern China. Furthermore, as they were in the arsenal of the Song, the Mongols could always use captured stores.
Another consideration is the production of gunpowder weapons. In China, the materials were known as well as their locations. Thus, the material was at hand or procurable. Once the Mongols moved outside of China those who would make the gunpowder entered an unknown world. For instance, how does one say 'Where can I procure xiaoshi 消石 or 硝石(saltpeter)?" while in Armenia? 36 The language barrier and conceptual barriers would have been immense as the Armenians (or anyone else) probably would not have any idea of what the engineer needed as gunpowder technology was unknown in that region.
Finally, was there a need for gunpowder weapons outside of China (or even in China)? In China it was a simple matter of availability. Were they effective? Perhaps. Thunder-crash bombs were certainly more effective against earthen fortifications than stones hurled from a traction trebuchet. Yet as discussed earlier, when counter-weight trebuchets appeared in China, formerly impregnable cities fell—which did not happen even with gunpowder weapons. Outside of China, traction trebuchets gave way to counter-weight trebuchets, allowing heavier missiles to crush walls much more rapidly. Aleppo's defenses were destroyed after five days of concentrated trebuchet bombardment. It should be noted, however, that in China incendiary gunpowder weapons also played a role in warfare. Yet once in the Middle East, the Mongols had access to naphtha. Indeed their control of the Mughan plain in modern Azerbaijan situated them near petroleum deposits that bubbled to the surface since the ancient period. Of course, flammable weapons were easily made, but naphtha was the most effective weapon other than Greek Fire, the recipe for which vanished centuries before. Considering all of this, it is unlikely the Mongols even needed gunpowder weapons to take the fortifications. Indeed, they used local materials for missiles and siege engines, and even efforts to remove all of stone within the vicinity did not prevent them from being resourceful. 37
It is known, however, the Mongol Empire was the primary transmitter of the knowledge of gunpowder whether directly, through its use in war, or simply as most of the major trade routes ran through it. While it is unlikely that Europe gained its knowledge of gunpowder directly from the Mongols, we do know that it appeared there only after the Mongol invasion. Most likely merchants, perhaps even the Polo family, and spies traveling through the Mongol Empire carried the recipe back. Of course this eventually led to European dominance over much of the world after the year 1500. Indeed, Roger Bacon (1220-1292) recorded a version of a gunpowder recipe in his ­­­­­­­­­­­­Opus Maius in 1267. It is known that he knew his fellow Franciscan monk, William of Rubruck who did travel to Mongolia. Although William's account does not mention gunpowder, is it possible that he found "the secret" or another member of his party carried it back? It is tempting to speculate that John de Plano Carpini was the industrial spy as part of his mission contained an espionage component. Yet he must be dismissed as gunpowder does not enter his account of the Mongol military and considering that his work contains suggestions on how to fight the Mongols, it is clear that he was willing to do anything to stem the Mongol threat, including advising that the Europeans fight more like the Mongols. 38 Thus, if he had it undoubtedly he would have given the recipe to someone who may have used it. It seems unlikely that Roger Bacon, a Franciscan, would be that recipient. William, on the other hand, was primarily there to proselytize. Perhaps where he failed in one area, he succeeded in another.
Although knowledge of gunpowder reached Europe and India in the thirteenth century, albeit at different times, it remained more of a curiosity until cannons were developed. Indeed, neither Roger Bacon nor Marcus Graecus' Liber ignum ad comburendos hostes, published c. 1300, refer to a weapon that used gunpowder. 39 The first cannons appear in the Yuan Empire in the late thirteenth century. The technology quickly spread and cannons of similar design appeared in Europe as early as 1326. 40 While independent discovery is always a possibility, the similarities in design leave this unlikely. A more plausible scenario is that the information traveled across Eurasia via merchants, envoys, or other travelers.
In his study of the spread of firearms, Kenneth Chase demonstrated that the Mongols are tied to the rise of European hegemony by more than spreading gunpowder via trade routes. 41 The Mongols impacted neighboring areas based on their own tactics and weapons. As the composite bow of the nomads out competed muskets and other early firearms in terms range and accuracy, not to mention rate of fire, nomadic armies decimated firearm wielding infantry. In addition, the nomads were too mobile for early cannons not until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries did cannon-manufacturing techniques advance to producing easily maneuverable artillery pieces. Prior cannons were simply too heavy or, in some cases, not sufficiently durable enough to transport across the steppe. Thus if you bordered a steppe power in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, firearms simply were not efficient weapons.
In Western Europe, however, warfare was less focused on mobility and more on shock tactics or siege warfare and rarely engaged steppe nomads. A concern of the European cavalry was to protect themselves against increasingly powerful crossbows, the English (or Welsh) longbow, and eventually early firearms. As a result the knight became less mobile and the rest of the army consisted of masses of infantry. Early cannons and firearms, however, could be effective against the knights and infantry in a way they could not be against the steppe nomads. Of course, eventually the knight disappeared while light and medium cavalry appeared to counter the artillery. Cannons, however, were not field weapons even in late medieval Europe for the same reasons they were not effective against nomads at the time. Furthermore, kings were virtually the only nobility that could afford the expense of making cannons. As European castles continually improved against traditional siege weapons, rulers became dependent on cannons to smash fortifications to bring recalcitrant vassals into line or defeat their enemies.
Similar events occurred in China. The cannon first appeared in the Yuan Empire and gunpowder weapons became a regular, although not common, part of warfare as the Red Turbans drove the Mongols out and the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) replaced them. Cannons, however, played only a small role in the defeat of the Mongols. Indeed, the Red Turbans and then Ming's use of cannons was primarily limited to siege warfare and battles in South China. For the reasons described above, the Ming did not use cannons extensively on their northern frontier with the Mongolian tribes. Cannons remained an ineffectual weapon against mobile units.
Nonetheless, gunpowder based weaponry became increasingly ubiquitous in some areas, but the ramifications of bordering a steppe zone were great. Countries sharing borders with steppe nomads had less development in gunpowder weaponry until their prime military focus shifted against sedentary states. Only then did the technology improve. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, field artillery pieces became more mobile, thus providing support for musket-wielding infantry. The cannons easily disrupted steppe cavalry formations and possessed a greater range than the composite bow. Only then did steppe warfare decline as the dominant form of warfare, but that is not to say the nomads did not attempt to field their own artillery. Indeed, in the wars between Kangxi (r. 1662-1722), the Qing Emperor and Galdan Khan (1678-1697) of the Zhungar one sees the curious instance where the Qing used cannons made by Jesuit monks pitted against cannons made by Luthern Swedes and used by an Zhunggar Mongol in a battle that would dictate who was the most powerful Buddhist ruler. It should be further noted that these cannons were not carried on carriages—bouncing across the steppe they would have broken down. Instead they were carried on camels wearing protective felt armor to defend against arrows and small arms fire. Ultimately, the better logistics of the Qing state carried the day in 1696.
Yet it should be noted that only one gunpowder state formed a truly effective method of dealing with horse-archers prior to the 1600s: the Ottomans. This may have been because of their need to not only deal with the strongly fortified cities of the Habsburg in Europe, but also the horse-archers of the various powers on their eastern border, ranging from the Aq Qoyunlu and the Safavids (defeated at Chaldiran in1514) to the Mamluk Sultanate (conquered in 1516 in Syria and Egypt in 1517). Gradually, other Eurasian states like Muscovite Russia, the Safavids, and Mughals learned from the Ottoman example, while the Qing were in a unique situation of being a semi-nomadic society that conquered both the sedentary as well as the nomadic and melded different military systems into one that could fight both nomadic and sedentary opponents. Thus until archaeology proves otherwise, I will remain a skeptic. Philology is not sufficient to prove the presence of gunpowder weapons outside of China in the pre-dissolution Mongol Empire.
After the carnage resulting from the static trench warfare on the western front of World War I and new developments in mechanized warfare, the inter-war period saw a re-evaluation of a re-evaluation of Mongol warfare. The advent of tanks and aircraft allowed a mobility that could possibly replicate the Mongol style of fast-moving and deep-striking tactics. Captain B. H. Liddell Hart, a British officer, conceptualized combined formations of tanks and mechanized infantry that could operate independently and in advance of the main army. By doing so, this mobile strike force could cut enemy communications and supply lines, thus paralyzing the enemy's army. 42 As with the Mongols, by doing so the adversary would then be only able to react and be incapable of offensive action. Liddell Hart interpreted Mongol tactics correctly, but overlooked a key objective in Mongol strategy, which was the annihilation of the enemy's field armies. Liddell Hart, however, may have witnessed enough death through the senseless actions of trench warfare in World War I and hoped to avoid the large death tolls of that war.
Initially, Liddell Hart's idea of using the Mongol emphasis of mobility and firepower came to fruition with the Britain's first experimental tank brigade. Its successful performance in exercises along with Liddell Hart's chapter on Chinggis Khan and Sübedei in Great Captains Unveiled then influenced General Douglas MacArthur, U. S. Army Chief of Staff, to propose a similar development in the American army in a 1935 report. Although MacArthur recommended the study of the Mongol campaigns for future use, his advice went unheeded until World War II. Unfortunately, his suggestion came at the end of his term. The more conservative nature of his successors lacked his vision but also lacked the means to carry out the plan within the U. S. Army at the time. 43 After World War II, Liddell Hart continued his call for applying Mongol warfare with tank, calling for a combination of swifter light tanks and the firepower of heavier tanks to allow for speed and flexibility in attack. 44
Another British military theoretician, Major-General J. F. C. Fuller also viewed the tank as being a modern "Mongol" and encouraged the use of self-propelled artillery. He, unlike Liddell-Hart, also emphasized the role of airplanes in ground attacks. Despite advocating the adoption of Mongol tactics, Liddell Hart's and Fuller's ideas did not come to fruition among western militaries initially. Farther east, however, others made practical use of similar yet distinctively different ideas before British, French and American militaries began to incorporate these ideas beyond a few experimental units.
The German Wehrmacht's blitzkrieg strategy of World War II bears remarkable similarities with the Mongol art of war and not by accident. Part of the development of the blitzkrieg originated from information gained from the Soviets as a result of the Rapallo Pact of 1922. Some of the concepts of blitzkrieg warfare emerged from the operational doctrine of the Soviet General Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (1893-1937), who emphasized 'employment of forward aviation in concert with rapidly moving tank columns'. 45 Under this idea, Soviet concern with warfare was the 'seizure and maintenance of the offensive over a long period of time' 46 also known as the Deep Battle. These ideas stemmed from the long military influence of steppe warfare in the Russian and Soviet academies. While Liddell-Hart and Fuller unsuccessfully reconceptualized warfare in the west, Tukhachevsky developed his own system independently. Nonetheless, their strategies are virtually identical and have their origins in the Mongol system.
Like the Mongol art of war, the Soviet Deep Battle system shared the Mongols' goals of hampering the enemy's ability to concentrate their armies, forcing them to react and incapacitating offensive actions. Thus by 1937 the Soviets possessed a Mongol army in doctrine and tactical sense due to the work of Marshal Tukhachevsky' and Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze (1885-1925) in developing the "Deep Battle" strategy. 47 Stalin, however, purged the officer corps of the Red Army the same year, culminating with the execution of Tukhachevsky, thus leaving the army in disarray. Tukhachevsky's tank armies, the centerpiece of the Deep Battle strategy, became infantry support, much as they had been used in World War I. Stalin's strategy to defend every inch of Soviet territory resembled that of Muhammad Khwarazmshah II's, but with the Wehrmacht playing the role of the Mongols. And it remained that way until the Germans over-extended themselves and Marshal Georgii K. Zhukov took over command of the Red Army, having successfully used Deep Battle strategies and other Mongol tactics at Khalkin Gol in Mongolia (also known as Nomonhan) in 1939 against the Japanese. Zhukov's success was no accident and a perfect execution of Mongol strategy and tactics using modern weapons. 48 A former subordinate of Tukhachevsky, Zhukov also attended the War Academy in Berlin during the exchanges brought on by 1922 Rapello Pact where he was exposed to the ideas of Guderian. 49
Until then, the Wehrmacht's devastating blitzkrieg strategy dominated the early warfare of the European theater. While influenced by Soviet developments in the 1920s, independent German advances occurred as well. Two German officers, General Hans von Seeckt and General Heinz Guderian, played the most significant roles in creating a force designed specifically for blitzkrieg. Seeckt organized the Reichswehr (the German army between WWI and the establishment of the Wehrmacht). Recognizing the deficiencies of his smaller army, he focused on flexibility. To this end, subordinate officers were trained to quickly assume command positions and replace their superiors in case of death or incapacitation of a commanding officer, or if the officer was removed from his command. Thus a major was expected to effectively command a division should his general die. This practice was then extended to non-commissioned officers so that they could assume the leadership of their unit. 50 Although this idea was probably based on Napoleon's practice that every soldier carried a marshal's baton, meaning that anyone in his army could advance to the highest rank, it had antecedents in the Mongols' own leadership practices.
The Mongol influence, albeit indirect, is more apparent in Seeckt's operational strategy. His writings from 1921, before the Rapallo Act, state 'that what would matter in future warfare was the use of relatively small, but highly skilled mobile armies in co-operation with aircraft'. 51 Seeckt's conclusion came from his experience in World War I as well as listening to his subordinates in the Reichswehr. The reduction of the German army after World War I, Polish hostility, and the looming threat of the Red Army also convinced him that a static, defensive-minded military would fail if Germany was invaded. 52 As with other theoreticians, he desired was to avoid the static warfare of World War I, and much like the Soviets, focused on mobility that allowed for operations that overwhelmed the enemy, forcing them to react to his whims. Furthermore, the purpose of the attack was to annihilate the enemy before they could counter the attack. This was particularly suitable for the terrain of Germany's eastern borders. In essence, he had to substitute mobility for mass with the reduction of troops in the interwar period. Interestingly, General Seeckt also included traditional cavalry, albeit armed with light machine guns and carbines, in his military plans for hit and run tactics and other maneuvers. 53
General Heinz Guderian, a subordinate of Seeckt, studied the works of Fuller, Liddell Hart, and Martel, all of whom emphasized the tank as an offensive weapons that were supported by other units (whether artillery, infantry, or air power), and not vice versa. 54 As with all who appreciated the development of the tank, Guderian believed tanks would restore mobility to warfare. As has been discussed, Fuller and Liddell Hart were greatly influenced by the Mongols, and thus Guderian, at least indirectly, carried these ideas into the German blitzkrieg although the foundations laid by Seeckt and exchanges with the Soviets were of more importance
Guderian's idea of warfare greatly resembles a Mongol operation. Guderian believed that tanks were best used in mass, rather than as support units, and striking quickly so that they hit the enemy's defenses before the enemy could intervene or deploy effectively. Much like the Mongol practice of using auxiliaries to finish off isolated fortresses, Guderian indicated that once the defenses had been penetrated by the panzers, then other units could carry out the mop up duties, particularly of any static defenses. 55
Mongol influence in modern warfare remains very apparent, albeit indirect. Indeed, many commanders of the more recent 2003 Iraq War may have realized that their actions mirrored the theories of these theoreticians, but probably not their ultimate root in the Mongols. Yet other Mongol influence remains by fueling the popular imagination in warfare. According to Col. (retired) Keith Antonia of the United States Army and inductee into the Ranger Hall of Fame, the Commander of the 75 th Ranger Regiment, Colonel David L. Grange, Jr. (now retired Brigadier General), developed an exercise based on Mongol training.
During Antonia's days as a Ranger, Col. Grange evaluated all of the captains in the regiment by having them go through a program designed to test the 'the mettle, endurance, will, ability to operate under physical and mental stress, and potential of every captain in the Regiment. He modeled the program after the training regimen that [Chinggis] Khan's most elite warriors endured to prepare for combat. He called it "Mangoday" (sic) '. 56 Antonia indicated that they took part in a seventy-two hour live and simulated fire exercise. After arriving at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Rangers were assembled into teams and given an objective. They practiced and then were flown to their destination in the swamps of Florida. With heavy load, they then moved to an ambush site, conducted the drill, and returned to the swamp camp. Their meal on the first day consisted of a bouillon cube and hot water.
They then received the next phase of the operation. This was to rescue a downed fighter pilot in the mountains. After a rehearsal they flew to the Appalachian Mountains in north Georgia, located the pilot (who was injured), recovered a cache of weapons, and ate a meal of a ball of rice and a sardine. Then they carried their heavy loads (approximately 80 to 100 pounds), recovered weapons, and the pilot with a broken leg to their extraction point. After returning to another base they received their third mission which involved another plane flight and an intensive march near Fort Benning. All of this was accomplished in 72 hours.
During the mission review, Col. Grange explained the rationale for the exercise. According to Col. Antonia, this was based on elite units in the Mongol army and Colonel Grange's emulation was to train men who could overcome mental and physical exhaustion as well as to march for days with little food while also carrying out complicated attacks under difficult tasks. These would then be the elite troops. He also wanted the Ranger officers to remember what it was like for their men to carry heavy loads of gear so that they would take it into account for their planning. Finally, Colonel Grange wanted to see how the Rangers under his command reacted to a fluid environment while fighting an elusive enemy with changes in missions and dealing with unknown factors. 57
Grange's 'Mangoday' training and the legend may have been based on an Israeli Palmach exercise. Antonia later saw an Israeli pamphlet relating similar information. The existence of such pamphlets have been confirmed to the author by others who underwent Israeli military training. Unfortunately, the sources do not indicate any training similar to this legend. In the popular media concerning the Mongols, there has been mention of the 'Manggudai', Mönggedei, or Mangoday troops. Unfortunately, it is not known where this term originates. Perhaps it is derived from möngke-de (eternally), or manglai (vanguard). As the Mongols were renowned for their stoic endurance and achieving tasks thought impossible for their contemporary sedentary opponents 58 , perhaps the term originates from corruption of Monggol-tai. That is to say, being like a Mongol. The most like etymology is Manghut-tai—to be like a Manghut. The Manghut were among Chinggis Khan's best troops during the wars in Mongolia. They were usually positioned against his opponents' elite troops. 59 Ultimately, the origins of the term or even the existence of such a group in the Mongol military is irrelevant. It is the fact that the Mongols' success continues to inspire military planners to ask, 'What would Chinggis do?'.
The Chinggis Exchange and the classroom
In the classroom, whether one is teaching the first half or the second half the Chinggis Exchange is a finishing and starting point. In the first half of world history (ending roughly at 1500), the Chinggis Exchange can serve as an easy transition from the medieval to the early modern period in a true sense of world history. Whether one uses the examples of warfare or other factors (science and technology, demographics, arts, etc.) one can easily demonstrate how the world changed and became more aware of itself if not more integrated. Furthermore, it sets the stage for the more famous Columbian Exchange as Columbus sailed with hopes of reaching the court of the Mongol Khan (not realizing the Mongols were no longer in China. In the second half of a world history class, I have always contended that the modern period starts with the Mongol period as the world drastically changed. The Chinggis Exchange vividly demonstrates this but one can also simply look at a map of the world before the Mongols and then after. The world was much different in all facets. Furthermore, as one progresses in the course, the Chinggis Exchange can be referenced again whether in dealing Muscovy, the rise of the Islamic Gunpowder Empires, or the Ming and even the Qing Empires. While the Mongols certainly did not create the Renaissance in Europe, it would have looked much different without new influences introduced through the Chinggis Exchange. The same could be said about art and other matters in the east.
The main idea, however, is to demonstrate that the flow of ideas and information came from numerous directions and sources. The Mongol Empire enabled and encouraged it. The Mongols were not passive observers but participants. Furthermore, as the Mongols encouraged and fostered trade in an inclusive empire, individuals like Marco Polo were not an anomaly. Muslims from North Africa, such as Ibn Battuta, could also reach China, just as Turks from Xinjiang could travel to Rome in the instance of Rabban Sauma. While it is easy to get lost in the lives of these exceptional men, what should not be lost is that all who traveled through the Mongol Empire and beyond its borders had the opportunity to see new things and compare it with their homelands. The casual informational exchange was just as important as official delegations and merchants selling exotic goods. While independent invention can never be ruled out, one might wonder if Guttenberg heard of printing presses in Korea and China from travelers who participated in the Chinggis Exchange.
Finally, the Chinggis Exchange is a useful way of showing how an event in the past (the rise of the Mongols) continues to ripple into the present. It is akin to throwing a stone into a pond and watching the water ripple. Of course some events tend towards cataclysmic tidal waves with unceasing ramifications (the Chinggis Exchange, the Columbian Exchange, World War I, etc), one could use virtually any episode in history and follow the ripples through time and demonstrate how the past continues to influence the present.
Timothy May is Professor of Eurasian History and Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at the University of North Georgia. He is the author of The Mongol Conquests in World History (2012) and The Mongol Art of War (2007). Currently, he is finishing a book on the Mongol Empire for Edinburgh University Press and an encyclopedia of the Mongol Empire for ABC-CLIO. When not writing or practicing the dark art of administration, he also teaches graduate colloquiums on world history and undergraduate courses on the Mongols, the Crusades, and other things that involve plundering and pillaging.
1 A previous version of this paper was given as the plenary session for the Mongolian Academy of Sciences' conference on Chinggis Khan and Globalization held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on November 14-15, 2012. Portions of this paper and the general organization also appeared in Timothy May, The Mongol Conquests in World History (London: Reaktion Books, 2012). My thanks go to Michael Leaman and Reaktion Books for permission to republish these portions. My thanks also extends to Scott Jacobs for his generous support of my research.
2 Alfred Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (New York: Praeger, 2003), passim.
3 Timothy May, The Mongol Conquests in World History (London: Reaktion Books, 2012), 22.
4 John of Plano Carpini, 'History of the Mongols', in The Mission to Asia, ed. Christopher Dawson, trans., A Nun from Stanbrook Abbey (Toronto: University Press of Toronto, 1980), 46. Hence forth Dawson/Carpini.
5 Kelly De Vries and Robert Douglas Smith, Medieval Military Technology, 2 nd edition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012), 123, 126.
6 De Vries and Smith, Medieval Military Technology, 127.
7 Marco Polo, The Travels, trans. Ronald Lathem (New York: Penguin, 1958), p 206-208 Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo, trans. Henry Yule (New York: Dover, 1992), 158-160.
8 Oliver of Paderborn, 'The Capture of Damietta', trans. Joseph J. Gavigan, Christian Society and the Crusades, 1198-1229, ed. Edward Peters (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971), 90, 123-124.
10 Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, vol 4, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p 337-44 Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate, Letters from the East: Crusaders, Pilgrims and Settlers in the 12 th -13 th Centuries, Crusade Texts in Translation 18 (Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2010), 143-146.
11 Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the West, The Medieval World (Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2005), 95-97, 103-105.
12 A. Rahman Zaky, 'Introduction to the Study of Islamic Arms and Armour," Gladius 1 (1961), 17.
13 Iqtas and timars were grants given to soldiers and bureaucrats. Unlike fiefs in Europe, the owner did not actually rule the timar, but received income from them rather than the central treasury. They could be villages, markets, orchards, or virtually any other revenue producing area.
14 For discussions on this see John Masson Smith, Jr., '"Mongol Society and Military in the Middle East: Antecedents and Adaptations', in War and Society in the Eastern Mediterranean, 7 th and 15 th Centuries, ed. Yaacov Lev, The Medieval Mediterranean Peoples, Economies, and Cultures, 400-1453, Vol. 9, edited by Michael Whitby, Paul Magalino, Hugh Kennedy, et al, (Leiden: Brill, 1996) Smith, "'Ayn Jalut: Mamluk Success or Mongol Failure?" Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 44 (1984, 307-345 and A. Martinez, "Some notes on the Il-Xanid Army." Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 6 (1986), 129-242.
15 Reuven Amitai, 'Continuity and Change in the Mongol Army of the Il-Khanate', paper presented at the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies, Barcelona, July 23, 2010.
16 Peter Jackson, The Delhi Sultanate, A Political and Military History, Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 104.
17 Jackson, The Delhi Sultanate, 39.
18 Jackson, The Delhi Sultanate, 104.
19 Minhaj Siraj Juzjani, Tabakat-i-Nasiri, trans. Major H. G. Raverty (New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation), p 809-813. Henceforth Juzjani/Raverty.
20 Jackson, The Delhi Sulatanate, 105. In 1241, Dayir and Mönggetu captured Lahore.
21 Simon Digby, War-horse and Elephant in the Delhi Sultanate: A Study of Military Supplies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 22.
22 Digby, Warhorse and elephant, 21.
24 Peter Golden, 'War and Warfare in the Pre-Cinggisid Western Steppes of Eurasia,' in Warfare in Inner Asian History, 500-1800, edited by Nicola Di Cosmo (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 106.
25 George Perfecky, trans and ed., The Hypatian Codex II: The Galician-Volynian Chronicle (Munchen: W. Fink, 1973), p 61-62 George Vernadsky, The Mongols and Russia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), 145.
26 Perfecky, The Hypatian Codex, p 73-74 Francis Dvornik, Origins of Intelligence Services: The Ancient Near East, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Arab Muslim Empires, the Mongol Empire, China, Muscovy (New Brunswick, NJ,: Rutgers University Press, 1974), 302-304.
27 For a very good analysis of what Muscovy adopted see Donald Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols: Cross Cultural Influences on the Steppe Frontier, 1304-1589 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Ostrowski gives the Mongols credit where it is due, but also dispels some myths about other less favorable "gifts" that the Mongols allegedly gave the Russians.
28 Vernadsky, Mongols and Russia, 145.
29 A. E. Tsepkov, trans., Ermolinskaia Letopis', (Riazan: NAUKA, 2000), 110-111 Robert Michell and Nevill Forbes, trans., The Chronicle of Novgorod, 1016-1471 (London: Offices of the Society, 1914), 95
30 Francis Gabriel, Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan's Greatest General, (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), 128-129
31 Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (New York: Crown, 2004), 182 Iqtidar Alam Khan, Gunpowder and Firearms: Warfare in Medieval India, Aligarh Historians Society Series, ed. Irfan Habib (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004), passim Stephen G. Haw, "Cathayan Arrows and Meteors: The Origins of Chinese Rocketry", Journal of Chinese Military History 2 (2013), 28-42.
32 Ata Malik Juvaini, The History of the World Conqueror, trans. J. A. Boyle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 630-631 Ata Malik Juvaini, Tarikh-i-Jahan Gusha, vol. 3, ed. Mirza Muhammad Qazvini (Leiden: Brill, 1937), 128. Henceforth Juvaini/Boyle and Juvaini/Qazvini respectively.
33 Kate Raphael, Muslim Fortresses in the Levant: Between Crusaders and Mongols (London: Routledge, 2011), 61, 69.
34 Takezaki Suenaga, 'Takezaki Suenaga's Scrolls of the Mongol Invasions of Japan', http://www.bowdoin.edu/mongol-scrolls/ (accessed November 22, 2010) Also see James Delgado, Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). Delgado summarizes the marine archaeological finds, include recovered bombs that are depicted in the scrolls.
35 Juvaini/Qazvini, 39-42 Juvaini/Boyle, 574-576.
36 Paul Buell, personal communication, November 11, 2010. I also owe a debt of thanks to Dr. Ulrike Unschuld for the characters and to Paul for his intelligence network that procured the information
37 Juvaini/Qazvini, 126 Juvaini/Boyle, 629. Against the Ismailis, the Mongols used local pine trees and constructed siege weapons on the spot, including the much feared, Kaman-i-gav, a ballista that had a range of 2500 paces (more than a mile).
39 De Vries and Smith, Medieval Military Technology, 138.
40 De Vries and Smith, Medieval Military Technology, 138.
41 Kenneth Chase, Firearms: A Global History to 1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), passim.
42 B. H. Liddell Hart, Deterrence or Defense A Fresh Look at the West's Military Position ( New York: Praeger, 1960), 190.
43 B. H. Liddell Hart, The Liddell Hart Memoirs, vol. 1 (New York: Putnam, 1965), 75, 272.
44 B. H. Liddell Hart, Great Captains Unveiled (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1967), 11 Liddell Hart, Deterrent or Defense, 187.
45 Francis Gabriel, Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan's Greatest General, 131.
46 Gabriel, Subotai the Valiant, 131.
47 Gabriel, Subotai the Valiant, 132.
48 For a summary see Otto Preston Chaney, Jr. Zhukov (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), p 49-59. For a very detailed account see Alvin D. Coox, Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939, 2 vols. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990).
49 Chaney, Jr. Zhukov, 14.
50 John Strawson, Hitler as Military Commander, (London: Batsford, 1971), 37.
51 Strawson, Hitler as Military Commander, 38.
52 Robert M. Citino, The Evolution of Blitzkrieg Tactics: Germany Defends Itself Against Poland, 1918-1933 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), 41.
53 Citino, The Evolution of Blitzkrieg Tactics, p 71-72.
54 B. H. Liddell Hart, The German Generals Talk, (New York: Harper Collins, 1979), 91.
55 Strawson, Hitler as Military Commander, 31.
56 Colonel (retired) Keith Antonia, personal communication, 2009.
57 Antonia, Personal Communication.
58 Marco Polo, Yule translation, 260.
59 I owe a debt of thanks and a bottle of wine to Paul D. Buell for bringing this etymology to my attention.
Why did the Mughals adopted technology and tactics like the Mongols and the other hordes didn't?
this is a subject that i think is very interesting because, when you think of the Mongols you think of hordes of horse men followed by Chinese siege equipment and lead by Genghis Khan, but other hordes like the Illkhanate, Yuan or the Oirat horde they are just there, fighting with each other until someone else takes their place, i find it very weird an even amusing how the Mughals managed to be so successful like the original Mongols, so as i'm not very good at researching on my own i thought maybe you guys could help me with this. Thanks.
To compare the Mughals to the original Mongol hordes means comparing apples and oranges.
By the time they conquered India and established their own realm, they had been thoroughly influenced by Islam and Persian culture.
To the point were they adopted Persian as the official language of their court and state.
I suggest you have a look at the Wikipedia article on the Mughal Empire and its founder, Babur.
I'm mostly familiar with the Mongols, so let's talk about them. The Mongols started poor. Really poor. As in, sewing clothes together from mouse hides poor. Chinggis Khan unified them into the greatest military force ever, arguably. THey had a tremendous initial difficulty with siege warfare, but they learned quickly. They adopted siege weapon designs from everyone they fought against, from the human powered Chinese designs to later advanced trebuchets. By the time the Mongols reached the Middle East they were siege masters. Theyɽ previously knocked out the cities of Russian princes in weeks. The order of assassins/hashashin were situated in an impregnable mountain fortress that even Saladin wouldn't try to attack. The Mongols roled straight in and destroyed them. They learned the art sieging the largest and best defended cities in the world in China.
So why didn't they use gunpowder more? They certainly had good access to it. The short answer is that no one did. Metallurgy wasn't advanced enough to create great cannons yet, and no one in the eastern theaters of war had heavy plate armor that might necessitate shot. Then it turned out that when the Mongols fought European knights they still slaughtered them with recurve bows. If gunpowder weaponry had offered them any significant advantage it's almost certain they would have adopted it.
As to the successor hordes, there's a great many reasons you could give. The cultural changes, mainly concurrent with the large scale adoption of Islam, are probably a part of it. The geographic locations are part of it, as the Mongol dynasty in China certainly did use gunpowder. Peter Turchin would argue that the loss of asabiya was their downfall.
Finally, why change what works. Even your examples of less succesful hordes were wildly succesful. The Russians didn't finish off the "Tatar" threat until the 1800s, six centuries after Chinggis's original conquest. Again this is tied to geography, as the wide steppes of Russia allowed them great success compared to the denser terrain of India, where a different approach was needed.
When steppe warriors were true to their roots, they ruled any open ground for over a thousand years. The fact that they weren't better than everyone on every type of ground at once is hardly a huge strike against them. Despite our common perceptions they had advanced technology, at least as it related to warfare.
The Secret History ofthe Mongols
The following passages from The Secret History of the Mongols, composed in the years immediately following his death, detail Chingiz Khan&rsquos rules regarding combat and leadership.
[In the early years of Chingiz Khan&rsquos career, he set rules for his soldiers regarding combat.]
At the end of that winter in the autumn of the Year of the Dog, Chingiz Khan assembled his army at Seventy Felt Cloaks to go to war with the four Tatar clans. Before the battle began Chingiz Khan spoke with his soldiers and set down these rules: &ldquoIf we overcome their soldiers no one will stop to gather their spoils. When they&rsquore beaten and the fighting is over then there&rsquoll be time for that. We&rsquoll divide their possessions equally among us. If we&rsquore forced to retreat by their charge every man will ride back to the place where we started our attack. Any man who doesn&rsquot return to his place for a counterattack will be killed.&rdquo
[In Chingiz Khan&rsquos last years, he decided to announce his heir. He had delayed this decision until finally one of his favorite wives broached the subject.]
&ldquoWhen your body falls like an old tree who will rule your people, these fields of tangled grasses? When your body crumbles like an old pillar who will rule your people . . . ? Which of your four heroic sons will you name? What I&rsquove said everyone knows is true, your sons, your commanders, all the common people, even someone as low as myself. You should decide now who it will be.&rdquo Chingiz Khan replied: . . . I&rsquove been forgetting it as if I won&rsquot follow my ancestors someday. I&rsquove been sleeping like I won&rsquot someday be taken by death. Jochi, you are my eldest son. What do you say?&rdquo But before Jochi could speak, Chagadai spoke up: &ldquoWhen you tell Jochi to speak do you offer him the succession? How could we allow ourselves to be ruled by this bastard son of a Merkit?&rdquo
[This was in reference to the fact that Jochi had been born while his mother was a prisoner of the Merkits. There was always suspicion that his father was not Chingiz Khan, but Chingiz treated him as his son nonetheless.]
Jochi rose up and grabbed Chagadai by the collar saying: &ldquoI&rsquove never been set apart from my brothers by my father the Khan. What gives you the right to say that I&rsquom different? What makes you any better than I am . . . ? If you can shoot an arrow farther than I can, I&rsquoll cut off my thumb and throw it away. If you can beat me at wrestling, I&rsquoll lay still on the ground where I fall. Let the word of our father the Khan decide.&rdquo
[The two brothers began to fight but were interrupted when others pointed out that they shared the same mother and should not treat each other this way.]
Then Chingiz Khan spoke: &ldquoHow can you say this about Jochi? Jochi is my eldest son, isn&rsquot he? Don&rsquot ever say that again.&rdquo
Hearing this, Chagadai smiled and said: &ldquoI won&rsquot say anything about whether Jochi is stronger than I am, nor answer this boast that his ability is greater than mine. I&rsquoll only say that the meat you kill with words can&rsquot be carried home for your dinner. . . . Brother Ogedei is honest. Let&rsquos agree on Ogodei. If Ogodei stays at the side of our father, if our father instructs him in how to wear the hat of the Great Khan, that will be fine.&rdquo Hearing this, Chingiz Khan spoke: &ldquoJochi, what do you say? Speak up!&rdquo And Jochi said: &ldquoChagadai speaks for me.&rdquo
So Chingiz Khan made a decree: &ldquoDon&rsquot forget what you&rsquove pledged today, Jochi and Chagadai. Don&rsquot do anything that will give men cause to insult you. Don&rsquot give men cause to laugh at your promises. In the past Altan and Khuchar gave their word like this and didn&rsquot keep it. [They deserted Chingiz Khan and were later executed.] You know what happened to them.&rdquo
source : Paul Kahn, trans., The Secret History ofthe Mongols: The Origin of Chingis Khan (Boston: Cheng & Tsui, 1998).
‘Storm from the East’: The Mongol Art of War
As Islam was embroiled with its counter-crusade against the Christian infidel in the Holy Land, a new, more ominous threat was emerging from the east. Mongol and Turkish tribesmen, under the charismatic leadership of the Mongol warlord Temuchin (1167–1227), were massing for the greatest conquests in human history. Genghis Khan (the title Temuchin took in 1206) and his powerful nomadic confederation swept out of Mongolia and conquered northern China and Korea by 1216, then spread westward across central Asia to invade Persia. By the end of 1221 Genghis Khan had crushed the Islamic Khwarizmian Empire in Transoxiana and invaded the Ukrainian steppes. There, in 1223, a combined army of Kievan and allied Asian nomads turned back the Mongol invaders at the battle of Kalka River. Genghis Khan died in 1227 before he could avenge this defeat, but he had already created the largest contiguous land empire yet seen in human history.
The secret of the Mongols’ military success was a combination of strategic mobility, effective tactics and the quality of the Mongol warrior and mount. Consisting entirely of light and heavy cavalry (with the exception of some auxiliary units), the Mongol army was organized on the decimal system. The largest manoeuvre unit was the tuman, consisting of 10,000 men. Three tumans (30,000 men) normally constituted a Mongol army. The tuman itself was composed of ten regiments or minghans of 1,000 men each. Each minghan contained ten jaguns or squadrons of 100 men. The jagun was further subdivided into ten troops of ten men called arbans. This novel tactical flexibility allowed the Mongol army to strike with the speed and force of a hurricane, confusing and then destroying its enemies, then disappearing back into the grasslands like its Scythian, Magyar and Seljuk forebears. Though often described as a ‘horde’ of warriors by their civilized adversaries, the Mongol army was usually much smaller than that of its opponents. In fact, the largest force Genghis Khan ever assembled was less than 240,000 men, sufficient for his conquest of Transoxiana and north-west India. The Mongol armies which later conquered Russia and eastern Europe never exceeded 150,000 men.
The typical Mongol army was a pure cavalry force consisting of about 60 per cent light cavalry and 40 per cent heavy cavalry. These two weapon systems co-operated in an unprecedented manner to bring to bear the strengths of missile and shock combat against the enemy. Mongol light cavalry were required to reconnoitre for the army, act as a screen for their heavier counterparts in battle, and provide missile fire support in attacks, and follow-up pursuit once a battle was won. These light horsemen were armed in characteristic Asiatic fashion with two composite bows (one for long distance and one for short), two quivers containing at least sixty arrows, two or three javelins and a lasso.
The Mongol composite bow was larger than most of its central Asian cousins, with a hefty pull of up to 165 pounds and an effective range of 350 yards. Quivers carried arrows for many purposes: light arrows with small, sharp points for use at long ranges, heavier shafts with large, broad heads for use at close quarters, armour-piercing arrows, arrows equipped with whistling heads for signalling and incendiary arrows for setting things on fire. The Mongol warriors were so adept at mounted archery that they could bend and string the bow in the saddle and then loose the arrow in any direction at full gallop.
The Mongol light trooper usually did not wear hard body armour, though he did often wear a padded gambeson and employ a wicker shield covered in thick leather. In combat, he replaced his thick woollen cap with a simple hardened leather or iron helmet if available. Mongol heavy cavalry were better protected, with warriors wearing leather, mail or lamellar cuirass and metal helmet, and their mounts wearing leather barding. The primary weapon of the heavy cavalryman was a 12 foot lance, though curved and straight sabres and small battleaxes and maces were also present among the elite. All warriors were required to wear a long, loose raw silk undershirt next to their skin for added warmth and protection. If an enemy arrow penetrated the steppe warrior’s body, it would usually fail to pierce the silk, instead carrying the resilient fibre with it into the wound. By simply pulling on the silk, a field surgeon could easily extract the arrow.
Military service was compulsory for all Mongol adult males under the age of sixty, and like all steppe societies, there was no such thing as a civilian. Nearly born in the saddle and raised to be effective mounted hunters and herders, these Mongol warriors were inured to the hardships of the Eurasian steppes, facing extremes in weather and lacking the luxuries, rich food and soft mattresses of sedentary living. This harsh lifestyle forged warriors with strong minds and bodies, capable of almost superhuman endurance in the saddle. On the march, each tuman had its own herd of remounts following behind, with each steppe warrior having at least three remounts. This allowed him to ride at speed for days, slowing only to tap a vein in the weakest horse for nourishment. Mongol troopers were responsible for their own food and equipment, cutting down the size of the supply train and virtually abolishing the need to maintain a base camp.
The horses themselves were also very highly trained, with Mongol warriors preferring mares over stallions as warhorses. The Mongols’ original mounts were what are known today as Przewalski’s horses, thick and strong beasts with broad foreheads, short, powerful legs, and a reputation throughout the steppes for their courage and stamina. Broken and ridden hard for their first two years, these horses were then put out to pasture for the next three years to develop a herd mentality. Afterwards, they were trained for warfare. After the fall of Khwarizm, these horses were crossbred with the larger, hot-blooded Arabian breeds, creating a larger mount of between 14 and 15 hands, with some as large as 16 hands. These warhorses were treated as comrades-in-arms. Horses ridden in battle were never killed for food, and when old or lame, were put out to pasture to live out their last days. When a warrior died, his mount was sacrificed and buried with him so that he would have a companion for the afterlife.
Mongol commanders understood the importance of the principles of surprise, offence and manoeuvre in military operations, of seizing and maintaining the initiative in battle, even if the strategic mission was defensive. When a Mongol army was on campaign, each tuman usually advanced quickly on a broad front, maintaining only courier contact in between the 10,000-horse divisions. To facilitate good communication between field armies and headquarters, permanent staging posts or yams were established behind advancing armies at approximately 25 mile increments. These yam stations acted as a kind of pony express for the Mongols, giving commanders the ability to send messages back and forth at the rate of 120 miles per day. When the enemy was located, information concerning his strength, complement, position and direction of movement was relayed back to headquarters, and in turn disseminated back to local commanders. Once intelligence had been gathered and the plan co-ordinated, the main force converged and surrounded the adversary, while other elements continued to advance and occupy the country behind the enemy’s flank and rear, threatening their lines of communication. If the enemy force was small, it was simply destroyed, but if it proved formidable, then Mongol generals used manoeuvre, terrain and their enemy’s predilections to best advantage.
If the enemy army was stationary, the Mongol general might command his main force to strike it in the rear, or turn its flank, or engage and then feign a retreat, only to pull the enemy into a pre-planned ambush using an elite light cavalry corps called the mangudai or ‘suicide troops’ (an honourable title more than a job description). The function of the mangudai was to charge the enemy position alone, and then break ranks and flee in the hope that the enemy would give chase. If the enemy pursued, the Mongols would lead them into terrain suitable for ambush.
If the enemy’s position was not precisely known, the main Mongol army advanced along a broad front in several roughly parallel columns behind a screen of light cavalry. The main force galloped along in five ranks, the first two of which were heavy cavalry and the last three light cavalry. Riding way out in front and on either flank were three separate light cavalry detachments. When the enemy was encountered, the Mongol army reacted quickly. The contacted outriders automatically shifted to protect the main force as it wheeled to meet the threat. Once the vanguard was engaged, the light cavalry in the main force galloped through the ranks of the heavy cavalry and joined the other horse archers. What took place next was a classical employment of missile and shock combat reminiscent of the battles of Carrhae and Dorylaeum centuries earlier.
Co-ordinating the attack in an unnerving silence without battle cries or trumpets (signals were given by flags), the Mongols began their assault with light cavalry riding up and down the enemy’s front lines, showering his ranks with well-aimed javelins and arrows. Once light cavalry missile-fire had thinned the enemy’s ranks, the horse archers broke away to either flank, leaving the heavy cavalry to drive in the final blow. Mongol lancers usually advanced at a trot and in silence. It was only at the last possible moment that the charge was ordered by striking the great naccara, a large kettledrum carried by a camel. With a single blood-curling scream, the Mongol heavy horse attacked.
In combat, the Mongols would close in from many directions if possible, taking advantage of any disorder or confusion their swarming tactics created. The famous thirteenth-century Italian merchant and Eurasian traveller Marco Polo gives us a description of Mongol tactics, though he called the Mongols by the generic name of Tartars.
When these Tartars come to engage in battle, they never mix with the enemy, but keep hovering about him, discharging their arrows first from one side and then from the other, occasionally pretending to fly, and during their flight shooting arrows backwards at their pursuers, killing men and horses, as if they were combating face to face. In this sort of warfare the adversary imagines he has gained a victory, when in fact he has lost the battle for the Tartars, observing the mischief they have done him, wheel about, and make them prisoners in spite of their utmost exertions. Their horses are so well broken-in to quick changes of movement, that upon the signal given they instantly turn in every direction and by these rapid maneuvers many victories have been obtained.
Sometimes, Mongols would even send out small detachments to start large prairie fires or set fire to settlements to deceive the enemy or mask movements.
Another area of success for the Mongol war machine was its ability to reduce walled cities, thereby leaving no enemy strongholds in the wake of their conquests. After initially developing a train using Chinese siege weapons, equipment, techniques and operators, the Mongols soon made their own improvements and developed their own techniques. The Mongols were also quick to include in their siege train weapons encountered in their conquests. From the Chinese, the Mongols adopted the torsion-operated light and heavy catapult, and from the Khwarizm, they adopted the tension-operated ballista and a central Asian version of the trebuchet, a powerful engine operated by counterpoise.
Like all cavalry-based armies, the Mongols preferred an open field engagement over siege warfare. But if an enemy city refused to open its gates, Mongol generals had numerous ways to gain access. Siege weapons, towers and battering rams were brought to bear, but if these techniques proved ineffective, the Mongols would often attempt to set the city on fire, compelling the inhabitants either be burned alive, or to open their gates. If the wall was breached, a favourite but ruthless Mongol tactic was to herd captives in front of their own dismounted troopers, forcing the defenders to kill their own countrymen in order to bring fire on the attackers.
Once the Mongols took the city, it was pillaged and its garrison and inhabitants were often put to the sword. Genghis Khan routinely eradicated entire populations in his campaigns against the Khwarizmian Empire, depopulating and destroying Balkh, Merv and Nishapur along the way. Men, women and children were separated, distributed like cattle among the tumans, and decapitated. Their heads were then stacked in pyramids to serve as monuments to Mongol cruelty and warnings to the steppe warriors’ enemies. Even the dogs and cats were killed. The Mongols spared prisoners, artisans, engineers and men of military age so that they could assist in the next siege, digging trenches, building ramparts or acting as fodder for the assault.
The Mongols used their catapults, ballistae and trebuchets not only against city walls, but also against enemy field positions. These artillery pieces shot containers filled with burning tar to create smoke screens, or firebombs and grenades to create tears in the enemy’s lines. The Mongols also perfected a medieval version of a ‘rolling barrage’, with cavalry units advancing under catapult and ballista fire. The Mongols even made use of rudimentary rockets made from bamboo wrapped in leather, though these weapons were very inaccurate and unreliable.
Europe and the history of firearms
There are multiple theories on how gunpowder came to Europe, one is about the Silk Road that traveled through the Middle East while the other is about the Mongols and their invasion in the 13th century.
There are also sources about the kingdom of England using some types of cannons in the 1340s. Other sources show up in Russia about firearms being used against the Mongols in Moscow 1382. Muscovites used firearms called “tyufyaki” which is translated to “gun”.
In the 14th century, Italy developed hand-held cannons or as they are called Schioppo. The Ottomans started using firearms in their army in the same time.
The modern age where many discoveries were made had a huge impact on firearms. During the early modern age, the “gun” was reformed, it was evolved into the famous flintlock rifle that could be seen here:
Then it evolved again Breech-loading weapon were discovered and showed a huge effect on the battlefield, here is an image of how it looks:
As a final evolution of the gun – the automation.
It all started in 1500 with the Spanish empire that equipped their units with guns called aquebusiers. They were accurate handguns that were light and portable.
People with low equipment could carry and use them and no armor was needed. They started dominating on the battlefield against the other armies that were mainly knights. The first battle that was ever won with firearms was in 1530 by the Spanish army in the battle of Cerignola.
But the weapons weren’t fast at all, they take very long in order to be reloaded and also took a lot of time to be fired.
The bayonet as a gadget was also invented and started to appear on the battlefield.
A lot changed with the Springfield rifle. They were one of the best breech-loading rifles that were produced in the 1860s in the US. As time passed by firearms became more accurate, effective, fast, and deadly.
This was the quick history of how the gun was invented and it’s fast evolution.