Gateway to the Classics: Genghis Khan by Jacob Abbott
Genghis Khan by  Jacob Abbott


A FTER the grand convocation described in the last chapter, Genghis Khan lived only three years. During this time he went on extending his conquests with the same triumphant success that had attended his previous operations. Having at length established his dominion in Western Asia on a permanent basis, he returned to the original seat of his empire in the East, after seven years' absence, where he was received with great honor by the Mongul nation. He began again to extend his conquests in China. He was very successful. Indeed, with the exception of one great calamity which befell him, his career was one of continued and unexampled prosperity.

This calamity was the death of his son Jughi, his oldest, most distinguished, and best-beloved son. The news of this event threw the khan into a deep melancholy, so that for a time he lost all his interest in public affairs, and even the news of victories obtained in distant countries by his armies ceased to awaken any joyful emotions in his mind.

The khan was now, too, becoming quite advanced in life, being about sixty-four years old, which is an age at which the mind is slow to recover its lost elasticity. He did, however, slowly recover from the effects of his grief, and he then went on with his warlike preparations. He had conquered all the northern portion of China, and was now making arrangements for a grand invasion of the southern part, when at length, in the spring of the year 1227, he fell sick. He struggled against the disease during the summer, but at length, in August, he found himself growing worse, and felt that his end was drawing nigh.

His mind was occupied mainly, during all this interval, by arranging the details of the coming campaign, and making known to the officers around him all the particulars of his plans, in order that they might carry them out successfully after his decease. He was chiefly concerned, as well he might be, lest the generals should quarrel among each other after he should be gone, and he continually exhorted them to be united, and on no account to allow discord or dissensions to creep in and divide them.

His oldest son, next to Jughi, was Jagatay, but he was of a mild and amiable temper, and not so well qualified to govern so widely-extended an empire as the next son, whose name was Oktay. The next son to Oktay, whose name was Toley, was with his father at the time when his sickness at last assumed an immediately alarming character.

This change for the worse, which convinced the emperor that his death was drawing nigh, took place one day when he was traveling with a portion of his army, being borne on a litter on account of his infirm and feeble condition. A halt was ordered, a camp was formed, and the great conqueror was borne to a tent which was pitched for him on the spot near the borders of the forest. The physicians and the astrologers came around him, and tried to comfort him with encouraging predictions, but he knew by the pains that he felt, and by other inward sensations, that his hour had come.

He accordingly ordered that all of his sons who were in the camp, and all the princes of his family, should be called in to his bedside. When they had all assembled, he caused himself to be raised up in his bed, and then made a short but very solemn address to them.

"I leave you," said he, "the greatest empire in the world, but your preserving it depends upon your remaining always united. If discord steals in among you all will most assuredly be lost."

Then, turning to the great chieftains and khans who were standing by—the great nobles of his court—he appealed to them, as well as to the princes of his family, whether it was not just and reasonable that he, who had established the empire, and built it up wholly from the very foundations, should have the right to name a successor to inherit it after he was gone.

They all expressed a full assent to this proposition. His sons and the other princes of his family fell on their knees and said, "You are our father and our emperor, and we are your slaves. It is for us to bow in submission to all the commands with which you honor us, and to render the most implicit obedience to them."

The khan then proceeded to announce to the assembly that he had made choice of his son Oktay as his successor, and he declared him the khan of khans, which was the imperial title, according to the constitution.

The whole assembly then kneeled again, and solemnly declared that they accepted the choice which the emperor had made, and promised allegiance and fidelity to the new sovereign as soon as he should be invested with power.

The aged emperor then gave to his second son, Jagatay, a large country for his kingdom, which, however, he was, of course, to hold under the general sovereignty of his brother. He also appointed his son Toley, who was then present, to act as regent until Oktay should return.

The assembly was then dismissed, and very soon afterward the great conqueror died.

Toley, of course, immediately entered upon his office as regent, and under his direction the body of his father was interred, with great magnificence, under a venerable tree, where the khan had rested himself with great satisfaction a few days before he was taken sick.

The spot was a very beautiful one, and in due time a magnificent monument was erected over the grave. Trees were afterward planted around the spot, and other improvements were made in the grounds, by which it became, at length, it was said, one of the finest sepulchres in the world.

As soon as Oktay, whom the emperor had designated as his successor, returned home, he was at once proclaimed emperor, and established himself at his father's court. The news of the old emperor's death rapidly spread throughout Asia, and a succession of embassadors were sent from all the provinces, principalities, and kingdoms throughout the empire, and also from such contiguous states as desired to maintain friendly relations with the new monarch, to bring addresses and messages of condolence from their respective rulers. And so great was the extent of country from which these embassadors came that a period of six months was consumed before these melancholy ceremonies were ended.

The fate of the grand empire which Genghis Khan established was the same with that of all others that have arisen in the world, from time to time, by the extension of the power of great military commanders over widely-separated and heterogeneous nations. The sons and successors to whom the vast possessions descended soon quarreled among themselves, and the immense fabric fell to pieces in less time than it had taken to construct it.

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