Mongolian History; the Good, the Bad, the Fact, the Fiction

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Very rarely is the first thought regarding the Mongols anything but the stereotypical barbarian images that have become popular. The Mongols are generally perceived to be a savage people that devastated Asia and Eastern Europe, massacring hundreds of thousands of people and territories in their conquest (Rossabi 1). Unfortunately most of the primary sources regarding the Mongols depict negative images, because they were written by those who were conquered by the Mongols. The Mongol side of the story is rarely told (Rossabi 2), thus it is important to compare and contrast each source in an attempt to truly understand the Mongol people. When comparing Grigor of Akanc’s “History of the Nation of Archers”, Marco Polo’s “The Description of the World”, and an unknown author’s “The Secret History of the Mongols” a comprehensive account of the Mongol’s is given. These authors provide readers with information that portrays the Mongols both positively and negatively. This is due to the fact that these authors had different encounters with the Mongols, or none at all. By looking into accounts written by those who had varying opinions of the Mongols one is able to obtain a broader understanding of the Mongols. In Grigor of Akanc’s “History of the Nation of Archers” the reader is given insight into how the Mongols were viewed by those who never actually interacted with them. Grigor was born around 1280 (Bedrosian), and yet his accounts of the Mongols spanned from 1230 to 1270, so he could never have actually witnessed any of the events he wrote about (Rossabi 25). Grigor’s sources for his information were often oral accounts provided by Armenian visitors to the Akner Monastery (Bedrosian). He often confused fact with myth, and this is obvious in his “History of the Nation of Archers” (Rossabi 25).

When describing the Mongols, he describes them as being “terrible to look at and indescribable, with large heads like a buffalo’s, narrow eyes like a fledgling’s, a snub nose...
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