Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Shah and Persian Gold


Genghis Khan’s external victories were mounting. He had invaded and defeated the armies of Western Xia, the Jin Dynasty, Korea and the Khanate of Kara-Khitan. He held sway over a very large population in a huge geographic area. He chose not to use his resources to govern and administer these lands but rather extract enormous wealth. He had allowed many of the local leaders of each area that submitted to him to rule, collect taxes and deliver huge annual tribute to him. This was an offer that they could not refuse if they wished to avoid certain death.

Genghis Khan now sought to increase trade with other empires as yet another source of income. Consequently he sent a caravan of approximately 500 men loaded with trade items to the Persian Empire. Ancient custom was that caravans and ambassadors were given safe passage by foreign countries. However, the governor of the Persian border area (now Uzbekistan) suspected them of being spies. Instead, he seized the caravan and slaughtered the Mongols.

Genghis Khan received word of the caravan’s fate and was enraged. Relatively unknown outside Asia, Genghis Khan sent ambassadors directly to the Shah of Persia demanding that the Shah turn over the official responsible for the massacre to him. Not realizing what the repercussions would be, the Shah chose to execute the Mongol ambassadors.

Genghis Khan had always understood the value of good spies and indeed had some in Persia. When they reported the Shah’s killing of his ambassadors, Genghis Khan went to war and attacked.

At that time the Persian Empire occupied around one million square miles. The Mongols initially took several rich towns and cities without really penetrating very far. Then an audacious Genghis Khan directed his generals to go after the Shah himself in Persia. There was no stopping the path of destruction their armies laid down on the way to their goal. Soon the Shah fled his country, dying in exile and poverty. The immense wealth of Persia was now the property of the Mongol ruler.

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