Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Anna. Anna Wonders, “who is genghis khan” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Anna!

Can you name any powerful leaders in history? Maybe you think of Alexander the Great. How about Amanirenas or Cleopatra? Perhaps your mind jumps to Sitting Bull or Napoleon Bonaparte. Today’s Wonder of the Day is about another very powerful historical figure—Genghis Khan.

Genghis Khan’s name at birth was Temüjin. Experts think he was born in 1162, but the lack of historical records makes it difficult to be sure. It could have been as early as 1155 or as late as 1167. Still, we know one fact about Temüjin’s life for certain. He became a fearsome warrior and built the Mongol Empire.

When Khan was born, Mongolia was made of several nomadic clans. His father was the leader of one of these groups until he died. The clan then abandoned Khan’s family. They were left to scour the land for food as they struggled to survive.

Of course, that wasn’t the end for Genghis Khan. He was still rich in talent and ambition. When he reached adulthood, Khan made several powerful allies. They helped him build an army of his own. He also married a woman named Börte. She became one of his closest advisors.

With an army at his side, Khan went about conquering other Mongolian clans. He quickly proved his military skills. Once most clans were defeated, the others recognized Khan as their leader in 1206. For the first time in history, Mongolia was unified under one ruler.

But Genghis Khan didn’t stop there. In 1215, he captured the capital of China before expanding his empire westward. Khan’s army reached modern-day Iran in 1219. Soon, people as far west as Europe lived in fear that Khan’s army would reach their doorsteps.

They certainly had reason to be afraid. Genghis Khan and his soldiers were widely known for their brutality. Today, experts agree that Khan was a military genius who left a huge mark on the world. However, he often used violent and cruel tactics to build his empire

When Khan died in 1227, he had certainly earned the name that was given to him. In English, Genghis Khan means “universal ruler.” The Mongol Empire continued to grow under the leadership of his sons.

By 1240, the Mongol Empire covered nine million square miles. It included much of present-day Eurasia, including Mongolia, China, and Russia. At its height, it reached as far as Hungary. Eventually, though, fighting broke out and the empire broke into many states.

What was Genghis Khan’s legacy? Historians name many effects of the Mongol Empire, both positive and negative. For example, the invasions are blamed for helping spread the bubonic plague. Khan’s army also destroyed entire towns when they met resistance. At the same time, the empire led to increased trade and cultural exchange. It also enabled the spread of knowledge and technology. If not for Genghis Khan, today’s world might look very different.

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, C3.D2.His.3, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.W.8, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, C3.D2.Geo.2, C3.D2.Geo.3,

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