The Mongol Empire | The Centaurs of World History

Empire. Who dares to even dream of ’empire’ in this day and age? We are as much in awe of empire as we are disgusted by it. We celebrate their achievements and are astounded by their cruelty. The irony hasn’t been lost on me.

The Mongol Empire was one of the largest empires ever to have been erected on human soil. It is second only to the British Empire. In its heyday, the Mongol Empire extended from countries in Central Europe all the way to the Pacific Ocean, into India as well as Siberia.

Genghis Khan and his men did not have sharp bullets, powerful cannons or even huge battleships. But they had the horse. With the assistance of their horses, the Mongols conquered half the world. Neither humans nor their weaponry could stop either them or the frenzied pace of their powerful companions.

Whichever land they arrived upon, the Mongols stormed across like a force of nature that could neither be tamed nor repressed. Their original home was the steppes. It is from there that they set out and temporarily re-created the world in their image.

When they reached the shore, however, they were forced to stop. It was the ocean that obstructed their path and reminded them, “Stop, this is as far as you are going to go.”

The lands that they captured on horseback may have been theirs, but the seafarers of the world would be born elsewhere. The truth is that Mongols arrived at the ocean, their greatest strength turned into their greatest weakness. The irony hasn’t been lost on me.

The Mongols had no other strategy beyond subjugating other nations via storming in on horseback. Theirs was a life of nomadism on the land, not out at sea. They didn’t build ships, sail or swim. Without the horse, the Mongol Empire would have been an ordinary one.

Has the Mongol Empire faded into obscurity? I highly doubt it. It is said that Mongol children still sit on the back of a horse from a young age. The horse is still an extension of them and a symbol of their culture. Perhaps, they must be the mythical centaurs that we created in our imaginative terrains.

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