Hello and welcome to another episode update. Episode 3.10 of the Rise of Temujin, titled ‘Arise Chingis Khan’, sees us hit a major milestone in the retelling of the history of the Mongol Empire. Now in his 40s, Temujin will finally conquer everyone who has previously stood against him to become the only Khan on the Mongolian Steppe. You can listen to the events, which cover the years 1204 to 1206, on all the usual podcast hosts.
In this update I want to focus on the battle between Tayang Khan and Temujin in the Orkhon River Valley. As I state in the episode, I was fortunate to discover the resources found on silkroadfoundation.org, which hosts information relating to the Arkhangai Excavations of 2005 carried out by the Silk Road Foundation and the Mongolian National University. The focus of the excavations were the Xiongnu Burial Grounds found near the confluence of the Tamir and Orkhon rivers, which date from the 3rd century BCE to 1st century CE (fig 1).
fig 1. Showing important sites in the Tamir and Orkhon river valleys. Arkhangai Excavations listed as ‘Tamir Excavation’
The other sites shown on the map are Kharabalgasun, or Ordu Baliq, the capital of the Uighur Empire until its destruction by the Kirghiz in 840; the Kultegin Monuments are a complex which contained a 3-metre-tall stele inscribed with the history of the Turkic leader Kultegin, who was one of the most important leaders of the second Turkic Khaganate. I can’t even pretend to know too much more about this subject other than what I have read on TÜRIK BITIG, a site that contains a transcription and translation of the stele. The Cambridge History of Inner Asia (1990) suggests that the Second Turkic Khaganate was a predecessor to the Uighur Empire, and that not long after Kultegin’s death in 731 the Turkic Khaganate (empire?) collapsed.
The final site is the location of the Mongol capital of Karakorum, founded by Ogedei Khan in the 1230s. I’m not going to add much more about this site at the moment as we shall undoubtedly return to it in a future podcast.
Excluding the Mongol capital, this was the setting for the battle between Tayang and Temujin.
The details of the battle can be heard on the episode; however, I just want to provide a brief visual guide, using Google Maps and MS Paint (for the ‘professional’ look!).
Fig. 2. Proposed positioning of the Mongol army and manoeuvres carried out by the Naiman
Figure 2 shows my thinking behind the positioning of Temujin’s army and the approach of the Naiman’s. When the two sides finally come together, the battle takes place at an unknown location in the Orkhon valley and the Naiman are then pushed back across the river into the foothills of the Khangai (Hangain) Mountains (fig. 3), where Tayang Khan dies.
Fig. 3 Progress of the battle
In addition to Temujin’s election to Chingis Khan, 3.10 does mark the end of the Rise of Temujin series. This means that we are moving on to a new phase of the Mongol Empire, one I’m giving the un-catchy working title of ‘Preparation’ (this will change). The episodes in this series will cover the events between 1206 to the start of the invasion of Jin in 1211. This is the period when the Chingis Khan looks to expand his influence well beyond the traditional frontiers of the steppe, and the first settled societies are conquered. This series will offer a little more focus on the people encountered by the Mongols; there will be the long-awaited (?) episode on the Tangut Empire of Xi Xia, we will try to look at the forest people of Siberia; and of course catch up on the history of the Jin Empire, which we last looked at in any detail back in episode 2. Also in the works are episodes on marriage customs and the imperial family, and the administration of the early empire.
There is a lot to be getting on with so I will catch up with you again next month. Until then, take care and, as always, thanks for listening!
Attwood, C.P. 2004. Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire. New York: Facts on File.