Never before and never since has the world witnessed anything like the avalanche of conquests that followed Jenghiz Khan's election as supreme ruler of the Mongol nation. There has never been anyone to equal him. Someone said he was like a desert storm that tore up cities in its path. The Mongol assault was the last and greatest of all predatory incursions of nomadism on the civilized world, both East and West. From the thirteenth century to the fifteenth century nomadism from Central Asia dominated the known world. Some authorities have called these three centuries the Age of the Mongols.
From the beginning of history there has been conflict between nomad and civilized or sedentary people. It could be called a clash between the "haves" and the "have-nots". Civilization bred complacency, an open invitation to predatory men. Again and again the aggressive nomad brought fresh blood and leadership to a static, civilized people. The Chinese civilization was a prime example of people ripe for invasion.
The conquests of Jenghiz Khan and his immediate successors surprised the civilized world and no doubt the Mongol khans themselves, with the probable exception of Jenghiz. From relative obscurity in the twelfth century, he welded the Mongols into an awesome military machine which was feared and hated by most of the known world.
In the Year of the Tiger, 1206, all the clans of the steppes, the people who lived in felt tents, met at a Great Kuriltai at the source of the Onon River. Under the nine-tailed white banner, the clansmen swore allegiance to the 39 year old Jenghiz Khan and proclaimed him Emperor of the Steppes. Under his strong leadership, for the first time, the Mongols achieved national unity. To strengthen his position, he sent armies to intimidate any tribes around his borders who did not submit to his authority.
His was a new power, based on tribal unity, centered on one person who had already shown his ability to conquer and provide security and stability. His election to supreme ruler of all the people who would henceforth be known as Mongols, should have caused the rest of the world to sit up and take notice. For the first time the united tribes had a common name, Mongol, which soon attracted many other warriors who sought adventure and wealth. It was under Jenghiz Khan's leadership that the Mongols began their conquest of countries with a more advanced civilization than their own. The Mongol people and their ruler had the same objective and now they did not stop with booty but began to build a huge, powerful state which ultimately was to reach from the Pacific Ocean to Hungary and from Russia to northern India. It was the largest contiguous land empire in the history of man. Not even Alexander the Great, the Romans, or Napoleon conquered and ruled such a large empire.
To conquer territory and mold it into an empire, required a well-trained, well-equipped army, which took time, skill and patience to build. Jenghiz Khan laid the foundations for his army before he was elected Khan, as one by one he conquered the tribes of the steppes and incorporated them into his army, the best of the thirteenth century world. Twentieth century soldiers would recognize in their own military experience the tactics and training principles, the structure of command, and the organization of the Mongol army. Armies of today still use the military tactic of softening up the enemy by artillery fire, pioneered by the Mongols, the difference being, the Mongols used arrows, and stones and other missiles fired from siege engines, instead of heavy artillery cannon.
His old night and day guards were increased to 1,000 men each. Later they were strengthened to 10,000 and became the Imperial Guard, keshik, which was under the control of the commander-in- chief. 1,000 of these were the emperor's personal guard, and only fought when Jenghiz Khan went to war. During times of peace, they acted as part of the court guard: supervising the palace staff, tents, ox and camel herds, had charge of the palace wagons, the Yak's tail banners, lances, kettledrums, dishes and drinking bowls. They also handled the storage and issue of quivers, bows, armor and all other weapons. They saw to the horses, loading and unloading the palace tents, and the issuing of raw silk. They assisted Shigikutuku who carried out the law.
The Mongols now formed one united army, organized on a decimal system, which was not new, as armies before Jenghiz Khan's time had been so organized. It was a simple but effective system. A troop of 10, called an arban, was the smallest unit. A squadron of 100, made up of 10 arbans, was called a jagun. A regiment of 1,000, made up of 10 jaguns, was called a minghan. A division of 10,000, made up of 10 minghans, was called a tumen. Generally there would be two to three tumens in a Mongol army. All able-bodied men between 14 and 60 years of age were liable for military service.
The army was divided into three parts. The Jun-gar was the Army of the Left Wing or East, the Baran-gar was the Army of the Right Wing or West, and the Khol was the Army of the Center.
The decimal system facilitated giving orders. No officer had to give orders to more than 10 men and everyone was responsible only to the officer above him. Order and discipline could be effectively maintained. Not only in organization but in discipline the Mongol Army was superior to other armies of its time and for some time to come.
On a campaign 200 men were sent two days' ride ahead to act as scouts, 200 more to the rear, and 200 on each flank so that the army could not be attacked by surprise. They carried no baggage with them on long campaigns. Each man carried two leather flasks to hold milk and a pignate, a small earthen pot for cooking meat. If they killed an animal and had no pot, they took out the stomach, emptied it, filled it with water, and cooked it over a fire. When it was done, they ate flesh, pot and all. Shelter from rain was provided by a small, felt tent. They could ride ten days without food or fire, living on blood from their horses. They slit open a vein, drank the blood and then carefully bound up the wound for horses were too important to sacrifice . Sometimes they carried dried blood with them, which they dissolved in water before drinking. They carried dried milk in a leather flask, to which they added water, before drinking. While they rode ,the milk dissolved in the water and provided them with a nourishing drink. In addition to dried milk, they carried qumiz, millet and dried meat. The dried milk (iron rations) and the small tents (one-man `dog-tents') were centuries ahead of their time.
The Mongols' chief weapons were speed and surprise. No army equaled theirs in mobility, horsemanship or archery. Training provided discipline and organization, factors which for some time to come, made their army invincible. Early on Jenghiz Khan found that sound military decisions could only be made when he was well- informed. He employed a network of spies, to obtain information from travellers, merchants, dissidents, scouts, and anyone else who might have an iota of useful information. He learned about mountain passes, river fords, roads, fortified places, towns, cities and military forces they might encounter on a campaign. His battle plans would be drawn up based on this information. At a kuriltai plans for a campaign would be discussed, how many men and horses would be needed, (at least two to three for each man), what supplies and livestock on the hoof would be necessary and what would be a suitable season to campaign. The Russian campaign was timed so the Mongols would be crossing frozen rivers and moving through Russia on terrain similar to their homeland. When everything had been discussed down to the minutest detail, and preparations completed, the commander would review the army to see if it was up to strength. A general inspection would be made of the horses and equipment, and orders given for the troops to march. Mongols usually entered a country in widely spaced columns but in the face of a large enemy they were able to unite with unbelievable speed. They used a system of messengers, out of which grew the imperial postal service, yam, which could transmit information over vast distances in an incredibly short time. It operated somewhat like the Pony Express of the American West.
Unquestioned obedience to his commander, ability to endure unspeakable hardships, unbelievable mastery of the bow, excellent horsemanship, with horses obedient to their riders, made the Mongol warrior superior to his enemy. The horse archer could ride in, fire a deadly volley of arrows, turn and disappear, and reappear just as suddenly, to harrass and demoralize the enemy until he finally gave up. Only after the enemy and his horses were worn down by charges did the Mongols fight at close quarters. The Mongols were the first armies in military history to use "fire power", arrows and siege engines to precede an assault. Each warrior carried a file for sharpening arrowheads, a small axe, a lasso, rope for pulling siege engines, needle and thread, and an awl. Some troopers carried lances with hooks on the end, used to drag a man from his saddle. The Mongol horsemen carried a composite bow, their favorite, and a long bow. The long bow was used when they were fighting at long range and the composite bow was used in a charge and in fighting from the saddle at close quarters. The composite bow had a pull of 166 pounds and was deadly accurate at a range of 200 to 300 yards. The horse archers carried three quivers each containing different types of arrows for different ranges and uses. One type could penetrate armor, another was used against unprotected troops, and still a third type was used for arrow grenades and flaming naptha. In addition to mounted archers, the army had both light and heavy cavalry. The light cavalry carried bows and javelins, and the heavy cavalry carried lances with hooks on the ends, and sometimes maces. They both carried sabers for hand to hand fighting. Shields were generally used when on guard duty. Eventually their light artillery used various missile-throwing machines, mangonels, catapults, ballista and trebuchets. Smaller siege engines could be taken apart, packed on animals or in carts and go anywhere. Their fire was accurate and rapid. In 1220 when Jenghiz Khan invaded the west, he took with him a corps of Chinese artillerymen and machines they called ho pao, or fire projectors. In the fall of 1225 he fielded the greatest war machine the world had ever seen. His armies gained experience in campaigns from the Yellow Sea to the Crimea, and they possessed every siege engine known to man at that time. It looked as if the army was invincible.
For protection the Mongols wore armor, of leather or iron, with a raw silk coat under their armor for additional protection. An arrow, when it hit its target, would carry the unpierced silk into the flesh and the arrow could be removed by pulling gently at the coat; the Mongols did not abandon their wounded. Their lamellar armor consisted of four pieces of overlapping plates. These were lacquered to provide protection against humidity. The helmet was of iron or steel and the drop or neck protection was leather. Some Mongols made horse armor in five sections; one on each side from head to tail, fastened to the saddle and behind the saddle on its back and also on the neck, a third section stretched over the hindquarters and was tied to the side parts, with a hole through which the tail emerged, a fourth piece covered the breast and a fifth piece, an iron plate for the forehead, was fastened on each side of the neck.
The tulughma, a typical Mongol battle formation, was made up of five ranks spaced at wide intervals. The heavy cavalry in the two front ranks wore complete armor, carried swords, lances, and maces; and their horses were armored. The three rear ranks were light cavalry, wore no armor and carried bows and javelins. When the battle began part of the light cavalry swept around the ends to harry the enemy as he advanced. As the enemy drew near, the rest of the light cavalry moved forward through the spaces in the front lines and overwhelmed the enemy with arrows and javelins. When the enemy ranks were thrown into disorder, the rear ranks retired back through the intervals and the front lines charged in for the kill.
Mongol battle movements were controlled by signals with the black and white flags of the squadrons during the daylight and by lanterns at night. Thus the troops could be deployed speedily in comparative silence further demoralizing the enemy. At the start of a charge the Mongols were accompanied by the naccara, war drums carried on camel's backs. Once the drums pierced the silence, the Mongols rushed forward, screaming ferociously.
Other tactics included a feigned retreat to lure the enemy into a prepared ambush. There they would pour down on the enemy and annihilate them. When they met a superior force they often sent out riders to stir up the dust behind their horses by using branches tied to their horse's tails. The enemy would think large reinforcements were coming up and would retreat.
The Mongols had no equal in field warfare. At first they had no experience in siege warfare, and did not know how to effectively break into a walled city, nor did they know what to do with the city once they did break in. Realizing their lack of training in siege warfare, they used captured foreign siege experts and soon the Mongols were attacking cities, with newly acquired catapults, mangonels, ladders and burning oil; and battalions of Chinese engineers and artillerymen. It is true that atrocities were committed under the leadership of Jenghiz Khan, but in the Mongol milieu of his time, they knew no other way of warfare; only the nomad's way. Much of the barbarity of the Mongols came from ignorance; they perceived the settled areas useful only for raids to capture slaves, women and booty. Because they had had no experience with conquered cities, they killed the inhabitants and burned the cities. When they realized they could use cities to consolidate and expand their power, and be a source of future wealth, they were spared. Because they lacked the time and knowledge, the Mongols employed many foreigners to help with the administration of their captured cities.
Many historians believed that Mongol victories were due to an overwhelming superiority of numbers. Further research disproves this excuse of medieval historians and shows that often the Mongols were outnumbered. Their superior fire power and military tactics led their opponents to believe the Mongols outnumbered them. The basis of Mongol power was their undeniable prowess on the battlefield. In addition they wasted nothing, adopted anything useful: Greek and Persian physicians, naptha incendiary missiles, western-style weight-and-counterpoise siege catapults (trebuchet, ballista, and Mangonel). The Emperor was supreme commander, but once a battle plan was decided upon, the generals carried out the operations without interference from the Emperor. Command of the armies was held by the royal princes in name only. The actual control went to the experienced generals, the most famous of whom were Jebe Noyan and Subodai Bahadur in the Western campaigns and Mukhali in China. Promotions were by merit, not seniority, and both Jebe and Subodai were made generals before they were twenty five. Through the years students of military tactics have studied the campaign strategies of Subodai; among the most well-known were Napoleon, Gustavus Adolphus, Rommel and Patton.
Discipline was harsh, but Mongol warriors were treated fairly, and by and large were better off than the soldiers of most armies up until recent times. They received no pay but were given a fair share of the booty. Officers usually came from the Mongol aristocracy and a class of freemen, darkhat. The Mongols were convinced they were invincible and had been sent by The Everlasting Blue Sky to conquer the world, and this could not help but have a positive effect on their fighting.
They believed the Sulde or guardian spirit of the Altan Uruk, Golden Family resided in the great white standard that led the Army to near world conquest. Many Mongols, to this day, preserve and revere the White Banner of the Sulde believing it is the same one that led the armies of Jenghiz Khan to victory. They believe that the soul of the emperor entered the banner and he became the guardian of his clan. There is a Messianic belief among large numbers of Mongols that he will rise again and lead them to new power and glory.
Jenghiz Khan died in 1227 at the height of his power. He was master of the largest empire ever created in the lifetime of one person. Under the khanships of Ogodai, Guyuk, Mongke, and Qublai, the rest of the Mongol Empire was forged. It reached from the Pacific Ocean to Hungary and from Russia to northern India, being not only conquered but governed by the Mongols. Other territories, such as Mien and Novgorod, paid them tribute.
Jenghiz Khan had not only created a huge, well-organized empire, but had also built an experienced, victorious army, the command of which he entrusted to his brilliant generals. He had laid the ground-work for an administrative structure and had given them a rigid code of laws. However, he could not have risen to a position of such power and glory without the aid of his trusted companions, andas, who had worked just as hard as he had to build up his empire. He was not surrounded by flattering, servile followers but devoted, reliable men who could carry out any assignment he gave them. His greatest gifts to his sons were the Mongol Army and this body of loyal, talented servants, whom he counted upon to maintain the integrity of the empire. According to his will, Ogodai, Jagadai and Tolui divided up the main horde, his personal army. The system of mobilizing, training and maneuvering continued as before. The veteran generals were there to carry on the extension of the empire.
Jenghiz, a man of iron will, foresight, political and military genius, held the empire together during his lifetime. At one point in his earlier years he voiced a fear that his descendants would dress in fine silks, eat rich food, drink sweet wines and surround themselves with luxury, forgetting their nomad roots. He always kept a square of gray felt under his throne as a reminder of his nomad heritage. Just prior to his death, however, it was evident that he planned for his descendants and the Mongol aristocracy to continue to follow the nomad ways, which he believed to be superior to the lifestyle of sedentary people. The nomads had an independent, less complicated way of life compared to sedentary people. Jenghiz saw sedentary people as forever being slaves either to material possessions, conquerors or both. He believed nomads were destined to rule over sedentary people.
Late in 1226, word came to Jenghiz Khan that his oldest son, Jochi, planned to revolt and was assembling an army for that purpose. Details are scanty as to an open revolt but it was known that Jochi wanted his own kingdom. He had been openly critical of his father's and brothers' policy during the Khwarezm campaign. After the war he retired to his appanaged territory in what is now part of Russia and thereafter made many excuses not to go to Karakorum when summoned by his father. He died in February of 1227 just six months before the Conqueror, but his successors were to follow his policy and remain aloof from the Khan. Looking back it would seem that this was the first sign of dissension from within. In anticipation of his death, he divided up his empire. To the sons of his deceased eldest son, Jochi, he gave the still-to- be-conquered western Eurasian steppe, the land to the north and west to the Altai, as far as Mongol arms could conquer. To his second son, Jagadai, went the old Khwareizmian Empire and the land east of it to the Altai Mountains. Ogodai, his third son, was made ruler of China and to his youngest son, Tolui, went the Mongolian homeland, a nomad custom. Each had his own territory and armies, each was to cooperate with and obey the new emperor, who would be the first to assume the title of Khaghan (Great Khan) to further expand the empire's frontiers.
Jenghiz chose his third son, Ogodai, as his successor. According to custom, Jenghiz was elected as Khan of the Mongols because he was the strongest chief. Ogodai wasn't selected because he was the strongest, but because he was generous and forgiving, had enough willpower not to get involved in irresponsible actions and he could act severly when it was necessary. Because of their nature, neither Jagadai nor Tolui could obey each other, if one were chosen khan; but both could give their allegiance to Ogodai. Jenghiz Khan's decision to choose one of his sons as his successor led the aristocracy and the princes to believe that future khans should be chosen from the line of Ogodai. This departure from custom was to cause trouble within the Empire.
The Conqueror believed that if enough Mongols were educated, they could eliminate the employment of foreigners in civil administration, although while he needed them, he never hesitated to use them. He regarded the kind of education that was needed to keep the empire together as compatible with a nomadic life. He thought that an educated pastoral society could be organized like his army but that proved impossible.
Jenghiz Khan's empire survived for some thirty or so years after his death, but by 1260 the vigor of conquest had passed its zenith and their story became one of division and decay, as they began to abandon the policies and ideas of the Conqueror. Ogodai was a decent enough ruler but he was no Jenghiz. The events that followed chipped away at the central authority and cohesiveness of the empire, weakening it, causing it to fall apart from within.
The absence of an orderly system of succession led to conflicts and inevitably to the destruction of the empire. When Ogodai died, his widow, Toregene, served the empire as regent for five years before his son Guyuk was elected Great Khan. During these five years, political scheming and intrigue tore away at the inner strength of the empire; a strength which had grown out of unity. Batu, leader of the line of Jochi, refused to attend Guyuk's enthronement ceremonies. There was `bad blood' between them, stemming from a petty argument over who should take the first drink, a point of honor among the Mongols, at a feast held to celebrate the army's victories in the Russian campaign. During Guyuk's brief reign, the authority of the central government fell to a new low, in part because of the khan's addiction to alcohol and in part because of Batu's lack of support. Dynastic troubles continued to plague the Mongol empire. Each of the following successions brought its own schemes and intrigues further dissipating the strength of the empire. After the death of Guyuk, Batu wasn't about to allow a descendant of Ogodai to mount the throne. He condescended to allow Guyuk's widow, Oghul Gaimish, to act as regent. With the support of Tolui's widow, Sorghaghtani, he convened a kuriltai south of Lake Balkash in 1250; and Mongke, Tolui's oldest son, was proclaimed khaghan. The lines of Jagadai and Ogodai refused to attend, saying it wasn't official unless the kuriltai was held in the capital, Karakorum. Eventually Mongke bowed to tradition and a second coronation was held in Mongolia in 1251. An election which was stamped by intrigue, was followed by a ruthless purge of his opponents. He was a strong leader but the process of disruption of the Mongol Empire had already begun. Under Mongke's khanship, Batu and the Golden Horde became independent of the rest of the empire.
Mongke, like Ogodai before him, did not set forth a clear line of succession and in 1260 civil war broke out between Qublai and Arygh Boke, son of Tolui,each seeing himself Mongke's successor. Arygh Boke led the conservative Mongols who wanted the old way of life, taking wealth from the empire without mingling with the conquered people or getting involved in their government. Qublai knew an empire won on horseback could not be governed on horseback, something Jenghiz Khan had come to realize many years before. He intended to establish a permanent, sophisticated government in China.
Qublai succeeded in establishing himself as Great Khan, but not without a price. Mongol fighting Mongol continued to undermine the unity of the empire.
Alliances between appanages of the Mongol empire caused further fragmentation. Hulagu, Ilkhan of Persia, Mesopotamia and Syria, joined forces with Qublai while he was pressing his claim to the throne of the empire. Arygh Boke, at the same time, reached an agreement with Berke, Khan of the Golden Horde, the Mongol kingdom in south Russia. After Qublai moved the capital from Karakorum to Peking, the empire of the Ilkhan severed ties with Peking, followed by the smaller Mongol groups in Turkestan. When Qublai died, the supremacy of the Great Khan died too. Civil war broke out between Arygh Boke and Hulagu in 1260. Berke ordered his troops who had been fighting in the service of Hulagu to leave his service and go to Egypt. For the first time a Mongol agreement with a foreign power took precedence over an agreement with another Mongol kingdom. Still later there was friction between the Golden Horde and Persia. The Ilkhan Ghazan refused to restore the Caucasus to the Golden Horde. Political intrigue and conspiracy continued to weaken the empire, resulting in the loss of many of their external possessions, among them Georgia and Lesser Armenia. Persia was ravaged and plundered by the Golden Horde, decimated by the Black Plague, torn apart by ruthless internecine wars, and by 1359, the Mongol Empire in Persia ceased to exist.
The boundary between the Jagadai Khanate and the kingdom of Ogodai had never been defined by Jenghiz when he was dividing his empire among his sons. Over the years this led to occasional clashes. Prince Alghu of the House of Jagadai took possession of Khorazm and Otrar, which belonged to the Golden Horde; civil war followed. Qaidu Khan, Ogodai's grandson, allied himself with Berke of the Golden Horde against the Il-khan of Persia. Fragmentation continued; the Jagadai state was divided into two parts and the Golden Horde broke away from the Mongol Empire.
The power of the Golden Horde declined as fighting with Persia continued; the bone of contention still being the Caucasus. Parts of the Golden Horde were drifting away, namely Bulgaria and Byzantium. Discord between various Russian princes forced the Mongols to pay more attention to what was happening within their kingdom. As in Persia, due to increasing Turkish influence, the Yassa was gradually replaced with the Muslim canon law, the shari'a. In 1354 the Ottoman Turks captured the Dardanelles, cutting off trade between the Horde and Egypt. The status of the Golden Horde was finally reduced to a state of Eastern Europe. Internal upheaval, plots and assassinations followed in quick succession and the state disintegrated just as Persia had done a few years earlier.
Religion played an important part in the breakup of the empire. Jenghiz had always practiced an extraordinary religious tolerance. For a number of years his successors appeared to sway this way and that. In 1295, the Ilkhan Empire restored Islam as the official state religion. With religion no longer a barrier between Turk and Mongol, they blended into a new nation, with Turkish becoming the common language. The Mongol language disappeared, the Empire of the Il-khans was completely dominated by Turkish influence; and a true Mongol state no longer existed in Persia. At the beginning of the 14th century, the Jagadai Khanate and the Golden Horde restored Islam as the state religion. The fusion of Turk and Mongol produced a mixed race, and led to the replacement of the Mongol language with an eastern form of the Turkish language. Qublai installed Buddhism as the state religion, alienating the Chinese Confucian gentry, a loss which played a major role in the decline of Mongol power in China. Palace intrigues, plots and plans against the Mongol aristocracy produced its share of disruption to the empire. Inflation, stemming from the use of paper money, and exorbitant taxes levied on the peasants, to support the Mongol aristocracy, sparked a Chinese nationalist movement which brought about the rapid collapse of the Yuan Dynasty. The last khaghan of the Mongol Empire fled Peking in 1368, just ahead of the Chinese rebel armies, and he took refuge in Mongolia.
The Mongols adapted themselves to the sedentary societies they ruled. Eventually this affected their mobility which led to the decline of their military supremacy. While conservative Mongol opposition to Qublai produced splits in the political structure, the process of cultural assimilation was more dangerous. The Mongols in China had become Sinicized, and after 1260, Chinese histories refer to Qublai as a Chinese monarch, founder of the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368). The Mongols of the Golden Horde came under Russian influence and the Ilkhanate in Persia fell under the cultural influence of Islam and Iran. The only pure Mongols remaining, Conservatives, were those in the homeland, Mongolia. In addition to political disunity, cultural differences played a part in the separation of the eastern parts of the empire from the western parts.
In the Pamirs, Eastern and Western Turkestan and to the north, the Mongols fell back to the tribal conditions of pre-Jenghiz time. The Mongols of the Golden Horde reverted to a similar nomad life. In China, the Mongols who were left behind when the last Mongol emperor returned to Mongolia, found work with the new regime, the Ming Dynasty. In the homeland, the Mongols slipped back into the old system of intertribal warfare; fighting over grazing lands. Six hundred years after the birth of Jenghiz Khan, the last of his decendants handed over his territories; in Hindustan the British conquered the Moghuls (a corruption of Mongol), and the Mongols in the east yielded to Chinese armies. The Tatar khans of the Crimea became subjects of Catherine the Great and at the same time, the Kalmuk Horde left the Volga region and by a long and terrible march eastward, returned to their homeland.
The final refuge of Jenghiz Khan's decendants was the land
between Lake Baikul and the Aral Sea. Here in the steppe of mid-
Asia, they wandered from summer to winter pasture, living in their
felt tents, following their herds, true nomads once more. Did they
talk around the fire at night? Did they know that through these
same valleys the fierce Mongol warriors, who followed the yak-tail
standard of Jenghiz Khan, surged forth to terrify the world?
And so the Mongol Empire passed, fragmenting into nomad tribes
from which it had come. The brief and terrible parade of the
Mongol horse archers, conquerors of half the world, passed by
leaving almost no traces of their conquests. Karakorum, their
capital, is buried in the desert sand and even the site of the
grave of their mightly leader is unknown.