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Old May 28th, 2012, 07:38 PM   #21
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Discarding a few preconceptions


Two basic preconceptions might help us better understand this question.

1. We have to drop the idea that Europe was weak and had nothing to offer. Did Georgia or Korea have a lot to offer. Both those places took decades for the Mongols to submit. Georgia had been under sustained attack since roughly 1221 to 1240, when Rushudan submitted formally to the Mongols and began paying the hefty annual tribute. Regarding Korea, it took from around 1217 to 1260 to gain their submission. The fighting in the 1230s through 1250s was quite brutal. The supreme Mongol commander of the whole campaign was killed in the 1230s (Salida, or Sartaq).

Would anyone say Georgia or Korea had more resources and people than the whole of Western Europe? If so, then you are operating from a pre-conception of Europe that is informed by 21st century popular ideas and that is keeping you from taking a more honest approach to this problem.

2. Secondly, and Zarin and many others have already mentioned this: The Mongols had an ideology of world conquest. What did the world mean to the Mongols exactly? Was Europe not part of the "world" that the Mongols desired to own? Doubtful. We have empirical certainty that the Mongols wanted Europe to submit, and it was part of their "world" because of the numerous submission ultimatums that were given to the king of France, the Emperor, the Pope, and the king of Hungary. So let's not imagine that they just weren't interested. That's an absolute copout...

So, I think the best thing to do in that situation is to look at other regions or states the Mongols bordered and failed to conquer, such as Japan, India, Egypt. Why did they not conquer those places?

If the answer is a miltary problem, then the logical thing is to conclude that they also failed to conquer Western Europe because of a military problem. But the exact nature of that military problem is what we have to closely examine, since there was clearly no decisive check on the battlefield, and there was no kamikaze.
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Old May 28th, 2012, 08:58 PM   #22
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I would like to add something that hasn't been mentionned. I've read somewhere that the Mongols warriors had a large retinue of horses with them, something like 5 or more. When they raided hungarian lands, they supposedly did not try to settle because of the limited fodder capacity (in terms of lands). The main reason being the death of the great Khan, there are probably reasons that are associated with them leaving and never coming back.

Now if someone knows the area needed to feed a horse, we could make crazy mathematical equations with the number of warriors spotted during the raids in eastern Europe and the equivalent land it would need to feed them, available in the Carpathian plain. Maybe Guaporense will furnish us with Mongolian shipwrecks in the Adriatic sea even.

On the other hand, people have brought up pretty interesting things to contribute to the answer. It's hard to say if the problem is purely technical, ideological, or even a strike of events by which the Mongols readapted their needs and goals throughout passing time. It seems to me that it can be a bit of everything.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 09:22 AM   #23

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Originally Posted by Waterbabies View Post
Two basic preconceptions might help us better understand this question.

1. We have to drop the idea that Europe was weak and had nothing to offer. Did Georgia or Korea have a lot to offer. Both those places took decades for the Mongols to submit. Georgia had been under sustained attack since roughly 1221 to 1240, when Rushudan submitted formally to the Mongols and began paying the hefty annual tribute. Regarding Korea, it took from around 1217 to 1260 to gain their submission. The fighting in the 1230s through 1250s was quite brutal. The supreme Mongol commander of the whole campaign was killed in the 1230s (Salida, or Sartaq).

Would anyone say Georgia or Korea had more resources and people than the whole of Western Europe? If so, then you are operating from a pre-conception of Europe that is informed by 21st century popular ideas and that is keeping you from taking a more honest approach to this problem.

2. Secondly, and Zarin and many others have already mentioned this: The Mongols had an ideology of world conquest. What did the world mean to the Mongols exactly? Was Europe not part of the "world" that the Mongols desired to own? Doubtful. We have empirical certainty that the Mongols wanted Europe to submit, and it was part of their "world" because of the numerous submission ultimatums that were given to the king of France, the Emperor, the Pope, and the king of Hungary. So let's not imagine that they just weren't interested. That's an absolute copout...

So, I think the best thing to do in that situation is to look at other regions or states the Mongols bordered and failed to conquer, such as Japan, India, Egypt. Why did they not conquer those places?

If the answer is a miltary problem, then the logical thing is to conclude that they also failed to conquer Western Europe because of a military problem. But the exact nature of that military problem is what we have to closely examine, since there was clearly no decisive check on the battlefield, and there was no kamikaze.
Military reasons are not the only reason why any area is not conquered. Topology, distance, weather and economics are just as important. Remember that although the Mongols may have appeared to be a united people, there were actually five different Khanates (at the time of Genghis Khan). And only one Khanate was involved in the conquest of Europe. The Mongols were moving in more than one direction at the time Europe was being invaded. Pasturage may have been a consideration in Europe, but this would also have affected local European stables as well. The most likely reason why the invasion of Europe was forestalled was that other more prosperous regions were closer at hand and seemingly more easy and likely to fall to Mongol overtures. The Mongols had reached as far into Europe as Vienna, that at the same distance would have taken them as far as the western edge of modern Libya in Africa. Which the Mongols were never able to do as they were defeated in Egypt by the highly virulent Egyptian Marmaluke mercenaries. Plus the Mongols seemed to have their greatest difficulties with their military methodology in mountainous regions so they never attempted to invade the Balkans or Constantinople. Which was one of the richest cities in the world of that time. Although Constantinople would have been on their agenda. In India they were halted as much by the terrain (topology) as by the fierceness of the warriors encountered and in Korea, also by topology and strong resistance there as well. They were only stopped from invading Japan by the weather. What might have happened if that huge fleet had not been destroyed is debatable.
While it is true that the Mongols desired to conquer the entire world (that they knew of) there were practical reasons why some areas were invaded and others took far greater time and were never conquered at all. Europe may have been forestalled merely because of the great distance and that this distance meant the logistics were much more difficult to maintain than conquering more immediate and more prosperous regions. One of the greatest tenets of military effectiveness is never over extend you supply lines. To do so is to invite defeat. And deep into central Europe was the farthest point the Mongols ever reached on Earth.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 09:26 AM   #24

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Originally Posted by BrowniesRule View Post

Now if someone knows the area needed to feed a horse, we could make crazy mathematical equations with the number of warriors spotted during the raids in eastern Europe and the equivalent land it would need to feed them, available in the Carpathian plain. Maybe Guaporense will furnish us with Mongolian shipwrecks in the Adriatic sea even.
From what I have read, 120 acres of grazing land per horse per year. Ive calculated the number before...its quite big.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 09:28 AM   #25

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From what I have read, 120 acres of grazing land per horse per year. Ive calculated the number before...its quite big.
Also depends on the horse. A Brabander eats more than a steppe pony.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 09:31 AM   #26

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Also depends on the horse. A Brabander eats more than a steppe pony.
Very true. The number of 120 I believe is given as a particular limit, I forget if its the upper or lower end though.
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Old May 29th, 2012, 12:54 PM   #27

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Begging your pardon, but after all their victories elsewhere, they probably thought that they could do it. If their Empire had stayed united, then, even with their difficulties using composite bows in the wet, they might well have done so.
I agree that their confidence was unchecked, but its more than just the problem with the bows. The steppe runs out in Central Europe, and it would have presented a huge problem to an army dependent on mobility.

Also, I never knew it, but there is another current thread going in which they are talking about Mongols defeats in Europe during sieges:

http://www.historum.com/general-history/42693-croats-defeated-mongols-2.html
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Old May 31st, 2012, 07:24 PM   #28
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Supply lines


The problem with the suggestion of a supply line problem is that the Mongols never would have been able to achieve something even remotely the size of their empire if they actually had supply lines.

They took their herds and they plundered. All their food products came from animals. If Europe was too far away, why wasn't the Seljuk Sultanate or Iraq, or Novgorod?
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Old May 31st, 2012, 10:19 PM   #29
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How about the fact that these places were not as heavily settled required less troops to effective conquer and the availability of large areas nearby.

Moving large armies Logistics is very important, often the decisive factor.

Europe wold require a longer more sustained campaign thus better logistics.
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Old May 31st, 2012, 10:57 PM   #30
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Precisely, pugsville. Precisely.

One thing I've noticed is that Mongols would not try to hold a fortress or city if it was under attack, even if they were the ones in possession of it.

The battle of Herat between two Mongol factions is a good example. The Chagatai khanate was holding this fortified city as the Ilkhanate forces were approaching, and they came out to fight in the open rather than try to get the advantage of defense.

They often abandoned cities on the approach of the enemy. For instance, Damascus.

So if they got drawn into a protracted war in feudal europe, for pete's sake, that would require that they totally changed how they thought about conducting war.

In China they showed adaptability at getting pulled into a type of war they didn't want, and succeeding anyway. But it took 75 freaking years! You've got jokers on this site acting like London was going to be burning by Christmas, 1242, because of course, Europeans were just such pencil-necked losers that they were all going to lay down and die without a fight.
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