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Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 6, by Edward Gibbon, [1788], at

Chapter LXIV: Moguls, Ottoman Turks. Part I.

Conquests Of Zingis Khan And The Moguls From China To Poland. - Escape Of Constantinople And The Greeks. - Origin Of The Ottoman Turks In Bithynia. - Reigns And Victories Of Othman, Orchan, Amurath The First, And Bajazet The First. - Foundation And Progress Of The Turkish Monarchy In Asia And Europe. - Danger Of Constantinople And The Greek Empire.

From the petty quarrels of a city and her suburbs, from the cowardice and discord of the falling Greeks, I shall now ascend to the victorious Turks; whose domestic slavery was ennobled by martial discipline, religious enthusiasm, and the energy of the national character. The rise and progress of the Ottomans, the present sovereigns of Constantinople, are connected with the most important scenes of modern history; but they are founded on a previous knowledge of the great eruption of the Moguls  *_0028 and Tartars; whose rapid conquests may be compared with the primitive convulsions of nature, which have agitated and altered the surface of the globe. I have long since asserted my claim to introduce the nations, the immediate or remote authors of the fall of the Roman empire; nor can I refuse myself to those events, which, from their uncommon magnitude, will interest a philosophic mind in the history of blood.  1

From the spacious highlands between China, Siberia, and the Caspian Sea, the tide of emigration and war has repeatedly been poured. These ancient seats of the Huns and Turks were occupied in the twelfth century by many pastoral tribes, of the same descent and similar manners, which were united and led to conquest by the formidable Zingis.  *_0029 In his ascent to greatness, that Barbarian (whose private appellation was Temugin) had trampled on the necks of his equals. His birth was noble; but it was the pride of victory, that the prince or people deduced his seventh ancestor from the immaculate conception of a virgin. His father had reigned over thirteen hordes, which composed about thirty or forty thousand families: above two thirds refused to pay tithes or obedience to his infant son; and at the age of thirteen, Temugin fought a battle against his rebellious subjects. The future conqueror of Asia was reduced to fly and to obey; but he rose superior to his fortune, and in his fortieth year he had established his fame and dominion over the circumjacent tribes. In a state of society, in which policy is rude and valor is universal, the ascendant of one man must be founded on his power and resolution to punish his enemies and recompense his friends. His first military league was ratified by the simple rites of sacrificing a horse and tasting of a running stream: Temugin pledged himself to divide with his followers the sweets and the bitters of life; and when he had shared among them his horses and apparel, he was rich in their gratitude and his own hopes. After his first victory, he placed seventy caldrons on the fire, and seventy of the most guilty rebels were cast headlong into the boiling water. The sphere of his attraction was continually enlarged by the ruin of the proud and the submission of the prudent; and the boldest chieftains might tremble, when they beheld, enchased in silver, the skull of the khan of Keraites;  2 who, under the name of Prester John, had corresponded with the Roman pontiff and the princes of Europe. The ambition of Temugin condescended to employ the arts of superstition; and it was from a naked prophet, who could ascend to heaven on a white horse, that he accepted the title of Zingis,  3 the most great; and a divine right to the conquest and dominion of the earth. In a general couroultai, or diet, he was seated on a felt, which was long afterwards revered as a relic, and solemnly proclaimed great khan, or emperor of the Moguls  4 and Tartars.  5 Of these kindred, though rival, names, the former had given birth to the imperial race; and the latter has been extended by accident or error over the spacious wilderness of the north.

The code of laws which Zingis dictated to his subjects was adapted to the preservation of a domestic peace, and the exercise of foreign hostility. The punishment of death was inflicted on the crimes of adultery, murder, perjury, and the capital thefts of a horse or ox; and the fiercest of men were mild and just in their intercourse with each other. The future election of the great khan was vested in the princes of his family and the heads of the tribes; and the regulations of the chase were essential to the pleasures and plenty of a Tartar camp. The victorious nation was held sacred from all servile labors, which were abandoned to slaves and strangers; and every labor was servile except the profession of arms. The service and discipline of the troops, who were armed with bows, cimeters, and iron maces, and divided by hundreds, thousands, and ten thousands, were the institutions of a veteran commander. Each officer and soldier was made responsible, under pain of death, for the safety and honor of his companions; and the spirit of conquest breathed in the law, that peace should never be granted unless to a vanquished and suppliant enemy. But it is the religion of Zingis that best deserves our wonder and applause.  *_0030 The Catholic inquisitors of Europe, who defended nonsense by cruelty, might have been confounded by the example of a Barbarian, who anticipated the lessons of philosophy,  6 and established by his laws a system of pure theism and perfect toleration. His first and only article of faith was the existence of one God, the Author of all good; who fills by his presence the heavens and earth, which he has created by his power. The Tartars and Moguls were addicted to the idols of their peculiar tribes; and many of them had been converted by the foreign missionaries to the religions of Moses, of Mahomet, and of Christ. These various systems in freedom and concord were taught and practised within the precincts of the same camp; and the Bonze, the Imam, the Rabbi, the Nestorian, and the Latin priest, enjoyed the same honorable exemption from service and tribute: in the mosque of Bochara, the insolent victor might trample the Koran under his horse's feet, but the calm legislator respected the prophets and pontiffs of the most hostile sects. The reason of Zingis was not informed by books: the khan could neither read nor write; and, except the tribe of the Igours, the greatest part of the Moguls and Tartars were as illiterate as their sovereign.  **_0030 The memory of their exploits was preserved by tradition: sixty- eight years after the death of Zingis, these traditions were collected and transcribed;  7 the brevity of their domestic annals may be supplied by the Chinese,  8 Persians,  9 Armenians,  10 Syrians,  11 Arabians,  12 Greeks,  13 Russians,  14 Poles,  15 Hungarians,  16 and Latins;  17 and each nation will deserve credit in the relation of their own disasters and defeats.  18


*_0028 Mongol seems to approach the nearest to the proper name of this race. The Chinese call them Mong-kou; the Mondchoux, their neighbors, Monggo or Monggou. They called themselves also Beda. This fact seems to have been proved by M. Schmidt against the French Orientalists. See De Brosset. Note on Le Beau, tom. xxii p. 402.

1 The reader is invited to review chapters xxii. to xxvi., and xxiii. to xxxviii., the manners of pastoral nations, the conquests of Attila and the Huns, which were composed at a time when I entertained the wish, rather than the hope, of concluding my history.

*_0029 On the traditions of the early life of Zingis, see D'Ohson, Hist des Mongols; Histoire des Mongols, Paris, 1824. Schmidt, Geschichte des Ost- Mongolen, p. 66, &c., and Notes. - M.

2 The khans of the Keraites were most probably incapable of reading the pompous epistles composed in their name by the Nestorian missionaries, who endowed them with the fabulous wonders of an Indian kingdom. Perhaps these Tartars (the Presbyter or Priest John) had submitted to the rites of baptism and ordination, (Asseman, Bibliot Orient tom. iii. p. ii. p. 487 - 503.)

3 Since the history and tragedy of Voltaire, Gengis, at least in French, seems to be the more fashionable spelling; but Abulghazi Khan must have known the true name of his ancestor. His etymology appears just: Zin, in the Mogul tongue, signifies great, and gis is the superlative termination, (Hist. Genealogique des Tatars, part iii. p. 194, 195.) From the same idea of magnitude, the appellation of Zingis is bestowed on the ocean.

4 The name of Moguls has prevailed among the Orientals, and still adheres to the titular sovereign, the Great Mogul of Hindastan. Note: M. Remusat (sur les Langues Tartares, p. 233) justly observes, that Timour was a Turk, not a Mogul, and, p. 242, that probably there was not Mogul in the army of Baber, who established the Indian throne of the "Great Mogul." - M.

5 The Tartars (more properly Tatars) were descended from Tatar Khan, the brother of Mogul Khan, (see Abulghazi, part i. and ii.,) and once formed a horde of 70,000 families on the borders of Kitay, (p. 103 - 112.) In the great invasion of Europe (A.D. 1238) they seem to have led the vanguard; and the similitude of the name of Tartarei, recommended that of Tartars to the Latins, (Matt. Paris, p. 398, &c.)

Note: This relationship, according to M. Klaproth, is fabulous, and invented by the Mahometan writers, who, from religious zeal, endeavored to connect the traditions of the nomads of Central Asia with those of the Old Testament, as preserved in the Koran. There is no trace of it in the Chinese writers de l'Asie, p. 156. - M.

*_0030 Before his armies entered Thibet, he sent an embassy to Bogdosottnam Dsimmo, a Lama high priest, with a letter to this effect: "I have chosen thee as high priest for myself and my empire. Repair then to me, and promote the present and future happiness of man: I will be thy supporter and protector: let us establish a system of religion, and unite it with the monarchy," &c. The high priest accepted the invitation; and the Mongol history literally terms this step the period of the first respect for religion; because the monarch, by his public profession, made it the religion of the state. Klaproth. "Travels in Caucasus," ch. 7, Eng. Trans. p. 92. Neither Dshingis nor his son and successor Oegodah had, on account of their continual wars, much leisure for the propagation of the religion of the Lama. By religion they understand a distinct, independent, sacred moral code, which has but one origin, one source, and one object. This notion they universally propagate, and even believe that the brutes, and all created beings, have a religion adapted to their sphere of action. The different forms of the various religions they ascribe to the difference of individuals, nations, and legislators. Never do you hear of their inveighing against any creed, even against the obviously absurd Schaman paganism, or of their persecuting others on that account. They themselves, on the other hand, endure every hardship, and even persecutions, with perfect resignation, and indulgently excuse the follies of others, nay, consider them as a motive for increased arder in prayer, ch. ix. p. 109. - M.

6 A singular conformity may be found between the religious laws of Zingis Khan and of Mr. Locke, (Constitutions of Carolina, in his works, vol. iv. p. 535, 4to. edition, 1777.)

**_0030 See the notice on Tha-tha-toung-o, the Ouogour minister of Tchingis, in Abel Remusat's 2d series of Recherch. Asiat. vol. ii. p. 61. He taught the son of Tchingis to write: "He was the instructor of the Moguls in writing, of which they were before ignorant;" and hence the application of the Ouigour characters to the Mogul language cannot be placed earlier than the year 1204 or 1205, nor so late as the time of Pa-sse-pa, who lived under Khubilai. A new alphabet, approaching to that of Thibet, was introduced under Khubilai. - M.

7 In the year 1294, by the command of Cazan, khan of Persia, the fourth in descent from Zingis. From these traditions, his vizier Fadlallah composed a Mogul history in the Persian language, which has been used by Petit de la Croix, (Hist. de Genghizcan, p. 537 - 539.) The Histoire Genealogique des Tatars (a Leyde, 1726, in 12mo., 2 tomes) was translated by the Swedish prisoners in Siberia from the Mogul MS. of Abulgasi Bahadur Khan, a descendant of Zingis, who reigned over the Usbeks of Charasm, or Carizme, (A.D. 1644 - 1663.) He is of most value and credit for the names, pedigrees, and manners of his nation. Of his nine parts, the ist descends from Adam to Mogul Khan; the iid, from Mogul to Zingis; the iiid is the life of Zingis; the ivth, vth, vith, and viith, the general history of his four sons and their posterity; the viiith and ixth, the particular history of the descendants of Sheibani Khan, who reigned in Maurenahar and Charasm.

8 Histoire de Gentchiscan, et de toute la Dinastie des Mongous ses Successeurs, Conquerans de la Chine; tiree de l'Histoire de la Chine par le R. P. Gaubil, de la Societe de Jesus, Missionaire a Peking; a Paris, 1739, in 4to. This translation is stamped with the Chinese character of domestic accuracy and foreign ignorance.

9 See the Histoire du Grand Genghizcan, premier Empereur des Moguls et Tartares, par M. Petit de la Croix, a Paris, 1710, in 12mo.; a work of ten years' labor, chiefly drawn from the Persian writers, among whom Nisavi, the secretary of Sultan Gelaleddin, has the merit and prejudices of a contemporary. A slight air of romance is the fault of the originals, or the compiler. See likewise the articles of Genghizcan, Mohammed, Gelaleddin, &c., in the Bibliotheque Orientale of D'Herbelot.

Note: The preface to the Hist. des Mongols, (Paris, 1824) gives a catalogue of the Arabic and Persian authorities. - M.

10 Haithonus, or Aithonus, an Armenian prince, and afterwards a monk of Premontre, (Fabric, Bibliot. Lat. Medii Aevi, tom. i. p. 34,) dictated in the French language, his book de Tartaris, his old fellow-soldiers. It was immediately translated into Latin, and is inserted in the Novus Orbis of Simon Grynaeus, (Basil, 1555, in folio.)

Note: A precis at the end of the new edition of Le Beau, Hist. des Empereurs, vol. xvii., by M. Brosset, gives large extracts from the accounts of the Armenian historians relating to the Mogul conquests. - M.

11 Zingis Khan, and his first successors, occupy the conclusion of the ixth Dynasty of Abulpharagius, (vers. Pocock, Oxon. 1663, in 4to.;) and his xth Dynasty is that of the Moguls of Persia. Assemannus (Bibliot. Orient. tom. ii.) has extracted some facts from his Syriac writings, and the lives of the Jacobite maphrians, or primates of the East.

12 Among the Arabians, in language and religion, we may distinguish Abulfeda, sultan of Hamah in Syria, who fought in person, under the Mamaluke standard, against the Moguls.

13 Nicephorus Gregoras (l. ii. c. 5, 6) has felt the necessity of connecting the Scythian and Byzantine histories. He describes with truth and elegance the settlement and manners of the Moguls of Persia, but he is ignorant of their origin, and corrupts the names of Zingis and his sons.

14 M. Levesque (Histoire de Russie, tom. ii.) has described the conquest of Russia by the Tartars, from the patriarch Nicon, and the old chronicles.

15 For Poland, I am content with the Sarmatia Asiatica et Europaea of Matthew a Michou, or De Michovia, a canon and physician of Cracow, (A.D. 1506,) inserted in the Novus Orbis of Grynaeus. Fabric Bibliot. Latin. Mediae et Infimae Aetatis, tom. v. p. 56.

16 I should quote Thuroczius, the oldest general historian (pars ii. c. 74, p. 150) in the 1st volume of the Scriptores Rerum Hungaricarum, did not the same volume contain the original narrative of a contemporary, an eye-witness, and a sufferer, (M. Rogerii, Hungari, Varadiensis Capituli Canonici, Carmen miserabile, seu Historia super Destructione Regni Hungariae Temporibus Belae IV. Regis per Tartaros facta, p. 292 - 321;) the best picture that I have ever seen of all the circumstances of a Barbaric invasion.

17 Matthew Paris has represented, from authentic documents, the danger and distress of Europe, (consult the word Tartari in his copious Index.) From motives of zeal and curiosity, the court of the great khan in the xiiith century was visited by two friars, John de Plano Carpini, and William Rubruquis, and by Marco Polo, a Venetian gentleman. The Latin relations of the two former are inserted in the 1st volume of Hackluyt; the Italian original or version of the third (Fabric. Bibliot. Latin. Medii Aevi, tom. ii. p. 198, tom. v. p. 25) may be found in the second tome of Ramusio.

18 In his great History of the Huns, M. de Guignes has most amply treated of Zingis Khan and his successors. See tom. iii. l. xv. - xix., and in the collateral articles of the Seljukians of Roum, tom. ii. l. xi., the Carizmians, l. xiv., and the Mamalukes, tom. iv. l. xxi.; consult likewise the tables of the 1st volume. He is ever learned and accurate; yet I am only indebted to him for a general view, and some passages of Abulfeda, which are still latent in the Arabic text.

Note: To this catalogue of the historians of the Moguls may be added D'Ohson, Histoire des Mongols; Histoire des Mongols, (from Arabic and Persian authorities,) Paris, 1824. Schmidt, Geschichte der Ost Mongolen, St. Petersburgh, 1829. This curious work, by Ssanang Ssetsen Chungtaidschi, published in the original Mongol, was written after the conversion of the nation to Buddhism: it is enriched with very valuable notes by the editor and translator; but, unfortunately, is very barren of information about the European and even the western Asiatic conquests of the Mongols. - M.

Next: Chapter LXIV: Moguls, Ottoman Turks. Part II.