Genghis Khan remains one of the most feared and respected conquerors of all time. His biography is shrouded in mystery and contradiction, but the facts about Genghis Khan are that he rose up from almost certain death on the Mongolian Steppe, united his people, and began a series of gruesome conquests that killed millions, and changed the entire course of human destiny.
For a figure so polarizing (many see him as an engine of positive change, while others see him as a bloodthirsty monster), much of what we know about him is from outdated history books or Hollywood legend. The real Genghis (which wasn't actually his name) was a contradiction - a religious man who prized loyalty, yet slaughtered millions, including his own family members. Great details are known about how his army operated, but almost nothing is known about his death or burial. And his brilliance is as underestimated as his lust for killing is.Here is all kinds of Genghis Khan trivia and other interesting things you probably didn't know about this emperor, mass murder, and changer of the world.
You're Probably Pronouncing His Name Wrong
While most Westerners pronounce "Genghis" with a hard "G," that's actually incorrect. In Mongolia, the "G" is soft. So if you want to be accurate, you should pronounce it "Chin-gis."
Genghis Wasn't His Birth Name
The man who would unite the Mongol tribes was actually born "Temujin," meaning "of iron." His name was said to have come from a Tatar tribesman who had been captured and brought home by the boy's father. The name "Genghis Khan" wasn't bestowed on him until 1206, when he was 44 years old, as part of his coronation as the Khan of all Mongols.
Temujin Was Born Destined for Greatness
Most of what we know about Temujin/Genghis comes from The Secret History of the Mongols, an anonymous record of the early days of the united Khanate. According to that book, written for the Khan's successors, Temujin was born sometime in 1162, on the banks of the Onon River. His father, Yesugei, was the chieftain of the Borjigin clan, the ruling class of the Mongol tribes. And the boy came out clutching a blood clot - an omen that he was destined to be a great leader. Whether this is actually true is anyone's guess.
Temujin Had a Rough Childhood (and Murdered His Half-Brother)
Despite being born destined to be a leader, The Secret History of the Mongols makes it clear that Temujin's early life was brutal. His father, Yesugei, was murdered by steppe rivals when he was only nine, and his own tribe expelled his family when Temulin tried to claim his rightful place as leader of their clan. This left his mother, Hoelun, to raise seven children alone on the steppe. As an adolescent, it's likely Temujin murdered his own half-brother in a dispute over food. A few years later, rival clans abducted him and his young wife, holding them as slaves until Temujin escaped.