Historical Research Paper on Alex the Great and Genghis Khan

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Research paper
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When one considers the greatest world conquerors, the titles Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan are likely some of the names to appear first in mind. By many accounts, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan are some of the greatest world leaders to ever live, especially with regard to the expansive territories they ruled, the conquests they attained, and their capacity to unite disperse people. In their unique ways and in their times, both rulers transformed the world. However, while one conquered territories and ruled them by the sword, the other used wit and persuasion in an endeavor to attain conciliation (Rogers, 2004). Ultimately, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan employed unique leadership styles that allowed them to conquer expansive territories.

The leadership styles employed by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan were unique to their characters and times. The leadership styles employed by the two rulers varied significantly. On the one hand, Alexander the Great led by example, and from the front. Alexander the Great grew up in a life of privilege as the son of King Phillip II who endeavored to groom his son into a formidable ruler. His leadership style was commanding, yet sensitive as he made ordinary soldiers feel like he identified with them.

In their conquest of territories, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan used different approaches. Alexander the Great was often merciful, and generally used force, terror, and destruction to attain his objectives. Alexander used destruction as a form of punishment towards individuals who contradicted or interfered with his ambition, especially with regard to expanding his territories (Rogers, 2004). However, Genghis is renowned for being ruthless and extremely brutal. Genghis is famous for annihilating all those who dared to oppose him, including enemy tribes and clans, as well enemy cities. Genghis killed millions in his pursuit of territories. Although this was typical of all rulers of his time, Genghis showed no mercy to anyone he perceived as an enemy, or those he overtook. Genghis ruthlessness stemmed from his desire to single-handedly launch the biggest empire. Like other Mongols, Genghis considered his nation as the topmost empire in the world amongst lesser nations and people. Opposition to Genghis rule meant instant death while surrender implied a desire to join his divinely-backed empire. Under his leadership, Genghis army was famous for its merciless mass executions, as well as torturous practices such as demanding captured prisoners to fight against one another for the soldiers amusement. Genghis army was also known to strangled enemies using bow strings or suffocating them under heaps of carpets.

Religion was of critical importance during the reigns of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. Another major area of similarity between the two leaders concerns their beliefs in divine assistance in their ruling. It is historically typical for rulers to speak of their divine support or heritage. However, ancient rulers always limited their claim to their individual nations, or empires, and their own people. From a young age, Alexander the Greats mother, Olympias instilled in him the belief that his birth was divinely designed, making his leadership a divine event (Rogers, 2004). In addition, Alexander grew up with the belief that he was a descendent of gods and heroes, and that he was uniquely designed to attain greatness in all his endeavors. This belief significantly influenced Alexanders ambition to conquer expansive territories. On the other hand, Genghis believed that as a ruler, he had the backing of heaven. Genghis and his heirs were of the belief that Heaven had placed the entire world in their hands, and that their only responsibility was to ensure that the entire world acknowledged this.

The argument regarding having divine backing was one of the most critical aspects of the charismatic appeal of both Alexander and Genghis. Historic records indicate that Genghis supported all religions, and religious beliefs and practices. Despite his apparent ruthless and brutality, Genghis demonstrated exceptional tolerance for all religions, embracing religious diversity as a form of religious freedom (Nicolle & Hook, 2001). Genghis often used religious persecution to his favor by turning religiously suppressed individuals into spies for his army. Additionally, Genghis is documented as protecting individuals from religious persecution.

As leaders, both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan were charismatic, domineering, and highly ambitious. Their charisma allowed Alexander and Genghis to serve as catalysts of unity in their communities. The rulers were effective at uniting disperse groups into unified nations. Alexander continued his fathers pursuit of unifying Greece. He succeeded at unifying Greece by wagging a sequence of successful wars with diverse city states (Man, 2009). In addition, Alexanders leadership style also involved building coalitions with other city states. The strategic alliances forged assisted Alexander to capture more territories and expand his empire. Rather than using force as his first war strategy, Alexander attempted to negotiate and persuade nations to surrender to prevent his army from breaching their borders and causing extensive destruction. On the other hand, Genghis was a remarkable warrior who effectively united different Mongol tribes, establishing the largest empire the world has ever known. Between the year 1237 and 1242, Genghis penetrated the Great Wall of China, and invaded and conquered states such as Russia, Persia, and Afghanistan (Marr & Calisher, 2003). Genghis greatest capacities included his capacity to organize his military and people, as well as his great insight into the nature of humans. Through his organizational capacities, Genghis was extremely impactful on the Mongol people who previously lived amid great confusion. Given this, Genghis elicited great pride in his people.

In the end, few rulers can match up to the extensive accomplishments realized by both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. Although the rulers lived hundreds of years apart, their achievements tie them together as two of the greatest rulers to ever live. Some of their shared accomplishments include conquering extensive territories and expanding the scopes of their empires, as well as unifying disperse groups into singular nations. Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan were universal rulers who claimed divine support and used exceptional military skills, as well as their intrinsic charisma to lead successful armies and empires.


Man, J. (2009). The leadership secrets of Genghis Khan. New York: Bantam Press.

Marr, J. S., & Calisher, C. H. (2003). Alexander the Great and West Nile Virus Encephalitis.

Historical Review, (9), 12.

Nicolle, D., & Hook, R. (2001). The Mongol warlords: Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, Hulegu,

Tamerlane (Heroes & warriors) (2nd ed). London: Firebird.

Rogers, G. M. (2004). Alexander: The ambiguity of greatness. New York: Random House.

Weatherford, J. (2005). Genghis Khan and the making of the modern. Oregon: Broadway Books.

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