Genghis Khan ‘escaped’ and left wife reveals documentary
Genghis Khan, or Temujin as he was known in his time, is one of history’s most notorious warlords, known for his military and political cunning, yet brutal tyranny towards his subjects. He led the Mongolian Empire to become the world’s largest and most continuous land conquest, spanning the Sea of Japan to Central Europe. No small feat; to do this, Temujin and his army killed as many as 40 million people.
And while the Mongol leader was feared throughout his 21-year reign, there were moments when he appeared to slip-up.
Aged 16, Temujin married the 17-year-old Börte, who would remain an integral part of his life and Empire.
A few years after their marriage, Börte was kidnapped during a raid by the neighbouring and feared tribe, the Merkits.
The event was described in ‘The Secret History of the Mongols’, the 13th century book regarded as the single most significant native Mongolian account of Genghis Khan.
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Bridenapping, the practice of stealing an enemy tribe’s women for marriage of concubinage, was prevalent across the Mongolian Steppe and still occurs in many parts of the world today.
Rather than doing everything in his strength to save Börte, however, what Temujin did next during the attack on his village shocked many: “He escaped.”
The BBC’s documentary, ‘Rise of Mongol Empire’ revisited an extract from the text, attributed in the book to Temujin himself.
It said: “They had taken my wife, I knew what I had to do.
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“Only a fool fights a battle he knows he cannot win.”
Temujin returned to his village the following day with what remained of his tribe and found it burned to the ground.
Despite having left in the midst of the battle, Temujin made it his mission to rescue Börte and bring to justice those who had killed his tribesmen.
In the ‘Secret History’, he is said to have turned to his childhood friend and fellow military leader, Jamukha.
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According to the book, the pair had “sworn the vow of anda” as children – they were blood brothers, a “sacred bond that joined (lives) as one” in Mongolian culture.
He then sought the support of the region’s Khan, Toghrul, who headed a shaky alliance of several tribes.
Toghrul, who had fought alongside Temujin’s father when they were young men, pledged his support to Temujin and Jamukha, and so a mega-tribe was formed, a formidable force of hundreds of tribesmen.
The ‘Secret History’ said: “With the friendship of Toghrul and my sworn brother Jamukha, my power had been increased by Heaven and Earth.”
The alliance attacked the Merkit camp in the northern hills of Mongolia late at night.
While the tribesmen went to battle, Temujin searched for Börte.
In the book, Temujin said: “We made the Merkits pay for their deed.
“We destroyed their families, and emptied their breasts.”
Temujin, not yet the great Genghis Khan, was barely 20 when he saved Börte.
In doing this he eliminated the Merkits, one of his biggest enemies and Mongolia’s most feared tribes, and thus his path to power had begun.
Temujin would roam the Mongolian Steppe and what felt like the rest of the world for decades.
In early 1227, shortly after he had returned from his Central Asia campaign, a horse threw Temujin to the ground, causing internal injuries.
The accident would prove fatal, his physical condition becoming progressively worse.
He died on August 18, 1227.
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