Around 1200, a Mongol clan leader named Temujin sought to unify the Mongols under his leadership. He fought and defeated his rivals one by one.
In 1206, Temujin accepted the title Genghis Khan, or “universal ruler” of the Mongol clans.
By 1225, Central Asia was under Mongol control. First, he was a brilliant organizer. He assembled his Mongol warriors into a mighty fighting force. Second, Genghis was a gifted strategist. He used various tricks to confuse his enemy. Finally, Genghis Khan used cruelty as a weapon. He believed in terrifying his enemies into surrender.
Genghis Khan died in 1227—not from violence, but from illness. His successors continued to expand his empire. In less than 50 years, the Mongols conquered ter- ritory from China to Poland. In so doing, they created the largest unified land empire in history.
By 1260, the Mongols had divided their huge empire into four regions, or khanates. These were the Khanate of the Great Khan (Mongolia and China), the Khanate of Chagatai (Central Asia), the Ilkhanate (Persia), and the Khanate of the Golden Horde (Russia). A descendant of Genghis ruled each khanate.
The most famous European to visit China in these years was a young Venetian trader, Marco Polo. He traveled by caravan on the Silk Roads with his father and uncle, arriving at Kublai Khan’s court around 1275.
In 1274 and again in 1281, the Great Khan sent huge fleets against Japan. The Mongols forced Koreans to build, sail, and provide provisions for the boats, a costly task that almost ruined Korea. Both times the Japanese turned back the Mongol fleets.
Kublai Khan died in 1294. After his death, the Yuan Dynasty began to fade. Family members continually argued over who would rule. In one eight-year period, four different khans took the throne.
Chandra Gupta II also strengthened his empire through peaceful means by negotiating diplomatic and marriage alliances. He ruled from A. D. 375 to A. D. 415.
Chandragupta gathered an army, killed the unpopular Nanda king, and in about 321 B.C. claimed the throne. This began the Mauryan Empire.
After his marriage, Chandra Gupta I took the title “Great King of Kings” in A.D. 320. His empire included Magadha and the area north of it, with his power base along the
After several years of fighting, however, Chandragupta defeated Seleucus. By 303 B.C., the Mauryan Empire stretched more than 2,000
In 301 B.C., Chandragupta’s son assumed the throne. He ruled for 32 years. Then Chandragupta’s grandson, Asoka
Noble as his policies of toleration and nonviolence were, they failed to hold the empire together after Asoka died in 232 B.C.
At the same time, northern India had
to absorb a flood of new people fleeing
political instability in other parts of
Asia. For 500 years, beginning about
185 B.C., wave after wave of Greeks,
Persians, and Central Asians poured into
His son, Samudra Gupta, became king in 335 AD. Although a lover of the arts, Samudra had a warlike side. He expanded the empire through 40 years of conquest.
Chandra Gupta II also strengthened his empire through peaceful means by negotiating diplomatic and marriage alliances. He ruled from A. D. 375 to 415.
These fierce fighters, called the Hunas, were related to the Huns who invaded the Roman Empire. Over the next 100 years, the Gupta Empire broke into small king- doms. Many were overrun by the Hunas or other Central Asian nomads. The Empire ended about 535.
n 1398, Timur the Lame destroyed Delhi. The city was so completely devastated that according to one witness,
“for months, not a bird moved in the city.”
Delhi eventually was rebuilt. But it was not until the 16th century that a leader arose who would unify the empire
In 1494, an 11-year-old boy named Babur inherited a kingdom in the area that is now Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It was only a tiny kingdom, and his elders soon took it away and drove him south. But Babur built up an army. In the years that followed, he swept down into India and laid the foundation for the vast Mughal Empire.
In 1526, for example, he led 12,000 troops to victory against an army of 100,000 commanded by a sultan of Delhi. A year later, Babur also defeated a massive rajput army.
Akbar’s Golden Age Babur’s grandson was called Akbar, which means
Akbar cer tainly lived up to his name, ruling India with wisdom and tolerance from 1556 to 1605.
In 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died at age 39 while giving birth to her 14th child. To enshrine his wife’s memory, he ordered that a tomb be built
“as beautiful as she was beautiful.
When Shah Jahan became ill in 1657, his four sons scrambled for the throne. The third son, Aurangzeb moved first and most decisively. In a bitter civil war, he exe-cuted his older brother, who was his most serious rival.
A master at military strategy and an aggressive empire builder, Aurangzeb ruled from 1658 to 1707. He expanded the Mughal holdings to their greatest size. However, the power of the empire weakened during his reign.
They were about a mysterious woman named Laura, who was his ideal. (Little is known of Laura except that she died of the plague in 1348.) In classical Latin, he wrote letters to many important friends.
Cosimo de Medici was the wealthiest European of his time. In 1434, he won control of Florence’s government. He did not seek political office for himself, but influenced members of the ruling council by giving them loans. For 30 years, he was dictator of Florence.
Cosimo de Medici died in 1464, but his family continued to control Florence.
Around 1440 Johann Gutenberg, a craftsman from Mainz, Germany, devel- oped a printing press that incorporated a number of technologies in a new way. The process made it possible to produce books quickly and cheaply.
Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks—and life—are mysterious. Some 3,500 pages closely covered with writings and drawings survive. His-writing is clear and easy to read, but only if you look at it in a mirror. No one-knows why he wrote backwards.
When the destructive Hundred Years’ War between France and England ended in 1453, many cities grew rapidly. Urban mer- chants became wealthy enough to sponsor artists. This happened first in Flanders, which was rich from long-distance trade and the cloth industry.
Looking to Greece and Rome Renaissance scholars looked down on the art and literature of the Middle Ages. Instead, they wanted to return to the learning of the Greeks and Romans. They achieved this in several ways. First, the artists and scholars of Italy drew inspiration from the ruins of Rome that surrounded them. Second, Western scholars studied ancient Latin manuscripts that had been preserved in mon-
asteries. Third, Christian scholars in Constantinople fled to Rome with Greek manu- scripts when the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453.
Donatello’s statue was created in the late 1460s. It was the first European sculpture of a large, free-standing nude since ancient times. For sculptors of the period, including Michelangelo, David (page 478) was a favorite subject.
His grandson, Lorenzo de Medici, came to power in 1469. Known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, he ruled as a dictator yet kept up the appearance of having an elected government.
Like Leonardo, Michelangelo was a Renaissance man.
He excelled as a painter, sculptor, architect, and poet.
Michelangelo is most famous for the way he portrayed the human body in painting and sculpture. Influenced by classical art, he created figures that are forceful
The women writers who gained fame during the Renaissance usually wrote about personal sub- jects, not politics. Yet, some of them had great influence. Vittoria Colonna (1492–1547) was born of a noble family.
In 1494, a French king claimed the throne of Naples in southern Italy and launched an invasion through northern Italy. As the war dragged on, many Italian artists and writers left for a safer life in Northern Europe.
In 1509, Erasmus wrote his most famous work, The Praise of Folly. This book poked fun at greedy merchants, heartsick lovers, quarrelsome scholars, and pompous priests
The Prince (1513) by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Renaissance spread to England in the mid-1500s. The period was known as the Elizabethan Age, after Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth reigned from 1558 to 1603. She was well educated and spoke French, Italian, Latin, and Greek. She also wrote poetry and music. As queen she did much to support the development of English art and literature.
Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small town about 90 miles northwest of London. By 1592 he was living in London and writing poems and plays, and soon he would be performing at the Globe Theater.