To the champ belongs the spoils


I came across the following article many many years ago and rediscovered the clipping in a box in the garage recently.  It seemed a good accompaniment to some pictures I took, also many years ago.  The picture above in in far western China in 1987. I was taking a bus from Pakistan to Kashgar. The place is Uighyr country, a Turkic group, similar to the Mongols who have always lived in this region of the world.


Why is it that when historians talk of world conquerors, you almost never hear Genghiz Khan’s name mentioned?  Alexander, Napoleon, even Caesar—who build a lucrative political career by rounding up a few thousand near-savages in Gaul, camping out for the weekend in Britain, and then writing his own press release—all get the historical nod over a man whose empire was almost the size of theirs combined.

You didn’t know that did you?  I did some kicking around in the library and came up with information to compile this chart:

Conqueror Years Active Battles*




Sq. Miles Conquered Invincibility


Napoleon 14 17-3** 9 1,263 68.7
Alexander 9 22-0 11 3,437 82.1
Genghiz Khan 8 46-0 36+ 12,807 99.4

*Using the von Clausewitz definition as any conflict featuring at least 5000 participants

**Counts Egyptian expedition of 1798 as a defeat

+ Includes 4 empires

That, ladies and gentlemen, is first class conquering. And then consider that Alexander inherited a terrific military machine from his dad—in fact, consider that his Anticipated Career Invincibility Factor is only four point higher than we would have expected from the Macedonian army after Philip died no matter who took command. Makes you wonder if he ever really surpassed his father.

But what are the odds of an illiterate goat herder riding out of the most godforsaken wasteland on earth, challenging the might of four empires—two of them world-class—and establishing a kingdom from the Pacific to the Mediterranean? I don’t know but its damn sure time we stopped taking the word of some highly biased Muslim historians on this guy’s record.



Buzkashi is a Mongol version of polo played in the wilds of Central Asia. The Mongols did all their conquering in large part because they were so adept and innovative at the use of horses, like these Afghan refugees in Pakistan.   Note the goat carcass in the rider’s hand (far right). The idea is to get the goat across the field to the ‘goal’ at the other end. All the while the other team is whipping you and trying to push you off your mount.






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