More famous than Madonna

T.H. Barrett

  • Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy by Paul Ratchnevsky, translated by Thomas Haining
    Blackwell, 313 pp, £25.00, November 1991, ISBN 0 631 16785 4

What does it take to make a Medieval non-European of no particular personal charm as much a household name as Madonna? Could it be the teenage murder of a half-brother, the abandonment of his young wife to his enemies to save his skin, the execution of his closest friend, a blood-brother since childhood, by dismemberment, and (in all probability) the poisoning of his eldest son as well? This all sounds much more like Renaissance Italy than the everyday life of ordinary steppe-dwelling folk, whose humdrum existence has not generally been highly regarded by European civilisation. But is it enough to explain the success of Genghis Khan in founding the largest land-based empire in history?

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