Over the span of a year, from 1212-1213, the Mongols razed some ninety-odd cities to the ground during a massive conquest across northern China. By the end of their expansion the Mongol Empire extended from Korea to modern-day Poland and from Vietnam all the way to Siberia. The empire covered an impressive twenty-two percent of the earth's landmass, or nearly thirteen million miles of land. It may be a surprise to learn that before their expansion across Eurasia, the Mongols were individual tribes, neither numerous nor particularly innovative.
These nomadic tribes were generally related through the male line, consisting of uncles, brothers, nephews, and their families. Due to their excessive traveling, a Mongol would only have as many possessions as he or she could carry, and they lived in what were called yurts. Yurts were lightweight tents made of wood and wool that were constructed in a manner that they could be easily and quickly dismantled. Also due to their nomadic lifestyle, the Mongols' diets mostly consisted of animal products, such as mutton or wild game, cheese and fermented milk, though occasionally they could supplement their meals with grain or vegetables acquired through trade.
Because resources could be scarce, conflict was very much a part of a Mongol's daily life. Each encampment had to be wary of oncoming attacks and were prepared to retaliate against rivals. To prepare for this, children were taught to ride at a young age, starting with goats and progressing to ponies as they grew older. Boys were also taught how to wield battle-axes, small compound bows and lances. By the time they were teenagers, the young men would participate in hunting as well as battles, and were trained to ride for several days without stopping to prepare food or rest. In order to accomplish this they would eat dried meat and milk curd, which they would supplement with blood let from their horses' neck. It was their superb horsemanship, weaponry skills and war tactics that would later aid them in conquering much of the known world.
Courage was essential to the Mongol mans self-esteem, and amongst the most courageous of all the Mongols was an individual named Temujin, Temujin, who was born in 1162 and died in 1227, succeeded in an area that others at the time could not; he united the individual Mongol and Turkish tribes into one political unit.
Temujin, who would later be called Chinggis, subjugated various Turkish and Mongol tribes, among them the Tartars, Merkids, Naimans, and Kereyids. Through courageous displays in battle and by being a benevolent leader, Chinggis built up a loyal army from those he subdued. However, as generous as he could be to his followers, he could be just as remorseless to those who opposed him. Upon sacking a city he would dispatch envoys to surrounding cities and demand that they surrender or be killed. If they allowed him and his men into the city they would be allowed to keep their customs, religion, and local...