Dividing a Dynasty
- Ögödei, the third son, had been selected by Genghis as his successor and was assigned the largest part of his empire, the Great Khanate.
- Chagatai, the second son, received the Near and Middle East as his domain.
- Jochi, the oldest son, had died before Genghis, so Jochi’s son Batu was given Russia and Eastern Europe to rule.
- Tolui, the youngest son, received the ancestral Mongol homeland as his territory.
Ögödei Khan reigned for twelve years, but his death sparked a 10-year struggle for power. The throne passed from his widow, to his grandson, to his grand-daughter-in-law, but eventually Tolui’s son Mongke seized control. Mongke ruled for seven years, and upon his death, his brother Kublai usurped the Great Khanate.
Mongol Cavalry Saber
© OK Photography
Iron, with scabbard fittings
Shonkh Tavan Tolgoi, Sukhbaatar Province, Eastern Mongolia
Dornod Province Museum
The sons and grandsons of Genghis Khan continued to expand their regions, or Khanates, but also fought each other for control of the larger empire.
Although the Mongols were primarily archers, the saber was still important when it came to close combat. Mongol warriors valued it especially because they could cut and slash with one hand, a definite advantage over larger, cumbersome swords.
Kublai Khan then managed to succeed where his grandfather Genghis had failed: he united China after four centuries of separation and founded the first foreign dynasty (the Yuan Dynasty) to govern all of China.
Next, Kublai set his sights even higher by attempting to conquer Japan and Southeast Asia. However, these costly disasters and other wasteful spending contributed to the collapse of the Mongol Empire.