27 Genghis Khan Facts That Capture His Larger-Than-Life Legacy

Published March 12, 2018
Updated April 16, 2024

From his 500 wives to his historic wars, these Genghis Khan facts reveal why he makes the rest of history's great conquerors look like chumps.

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27 Genghis Khan Facts That Capture His Larger-Than-Life Legacy
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Genghis Khan accomplished what no other human before him had ever done and what none have done since. Through brutal military force, he amassed one of history's greatest armies and built the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen.

Second only to the British Empire in terms of overall size, Khan's Mongol Empire controlled much of Asia and laid claim to a quarter of the world's population during the 13th century. His conquests not only changed the ancient world but the ripple effect can still be seen today.

For example, some fairly recent research has suggested that 0.5 percent of men worldwide (about 16 million people at the time of the study) can most likely trace their genetic lineage back to male-line descendants of Genghis Khan.

A conqueror of such great power and influence, Genghis Khan was destined to be a leader from birth according to Mongolian folklore. Local tradition holds that the blood clot found in his hand upon his birth — in the mountains of northeast Mongolia circa 1162 — meant that he would become a ruler.

Born with the name Temüjin and part of the Borjigin tribe, Khan had a difficult childhood. His father, the tribe's leader, was poisoned when he was just a young boy and the family spent much of his childhood living a nomadic and meager lifestyle without the protection of a tribe.

However, this only fueled Khan's quest for power. He soon aligned himself with his father's sworn ally Toghrul, leader of the Keraite tribe confederation. The alliance proved fruitful and the young warrior was able to gather 20,000 fighters and defeat the rival confederacy of Merkit.

These early military campaigns allowed Khan to slowly unite the various Mongolian tribes and launch larger campaigns that eventually allowed him to conquer nearly all of Eurasia.

Like other conquerors of the ancient world, Genghis Khan (a name he didn't adopt until middle age) was known for his fearsome military tactics and ruthless bloodshed. Entire cities were burned and those left alive were incorporated into the Mongol's growing population.

This gave Khan's empire an incredibly diverse population for the time and one that was made up of multiple faiths and skilled artisans of various trades. Without his seemingly unquenchable thirst for expansion of the Mongol Empire, the Silk Road likely would not have been as expansive as it became.

Despite his extraordinary influence, the number of verifiable Genghis Khan facts that we know today is still quite small. Depictions of his appearance vary and the uncertain location of his tomb has remained both a point of frustration and intrigue for archaeologists.

However, the fact that we only know about small parts of Genghis Khan's life and death is probably what he would have wanted. His soldiers actually went to great lengths to keep his tomb a secret.

As these interesting facts about Genghis Khan above show, however, what we do know about him proves that his life was one of monumental impact that the world still feels today.

After this look at the most astounding Genghis Khan facts, check out the most interesting facts about Ancient Egypt. Then, read up on Khutulun, Genghis Khan's great-great-granddaughter, and one of history's fiercest warrior princesses.

Joel Stice
Joel Stice holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with more than 10 years of experience in writing and editing, during which time his work has appeared on Heavy, Uproxx, and Buzzworthy.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Stice, Joel. "27 Genghis Khan Facts That Capture His Larger-Than-Life Legacy." AllThatsInteresting.com, March 12, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/genghis-khan-facts. Accessed May 23, 2024.