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Many times we tend to identify peoples such as the Mongols as “ferocious barbarians” from distant lands; it would be enough to take a step back and remember the characteristics of that soil to open up a real universe.
Not “barbarians” but nomads
Another aspect that cannot fail to affect every reader of Mongolian epics is: mobility. Thousands of years of history have pushed us to consider land and soil as the main source of wealth and desire, ending up completely erasing the image of something different in us. In the stories of the Mongols, however, this concept comes out in a powerful way, pushing the reader to clash with his own conceptions in order to fully understand a society so far from ours.
If you do not fully understand this aspect, in fact, you will risk taking these inhabitants for simple “barbarians“, lacking decidedly more complex and fascinating analyzes that explain very well aspects that will also concern the Turkish people.
The wealth of the shepherds
First of all, a necessary premise on the main occupations of the Mongols is necessary, an element sometimes overlooked but of great help to simplify the reasoning; the latter, in fact, due to the very harsh climatic conditions of their territory, were forced since the dawn of time to carry out the profession of shepherds, a key element throughout their epic. Not being able to rely on the earth, in fact, they began to support themselves with the beasts, thus being able to worry about the current state of the soil and not of what it would have reserved in the future, forcing them however to a life in movement. It is very interesting that, always from their nomadism, their propensity for bow and arrows, weapons of hunting, rather than shield and sword, will be born, decidedly associated with life in the fields.
When the land is worth little or nothing, it is very simple that it decays as a value, imposing new ways on locals to evaluate the wealth of the various khans, often using different logics.
Men of the present
Precisely for this reason, Mongolian society does not care (except when it was not forced by the conquests of Genghis Khan) of “what you can do”, an essential feature of every free man, but rather “what you have”. Legendary the stories about sovereigns and emperors ready to reward the “barbarians” of “transportable goods” in order to see (almost always) save their city, all attributable to this aspect.
A man was only mostly what he possessed and showed, evaluating it, due to the almost total lack of artisans and inhabited centers, most of the time as something unique and incredibly rare, pushing the Mongols to give great value to the various objects. Furthermore, the lack of a state with fixed borders made the subjects very similar to “state borders”, many times replacing the acres of farmers with the arms of slaves, a real practical wealth transportable by the shepherd, together with his own beasts. Definitely fascinating aspects that can only be understood by making the effort to put yourself in the “other’s” shoes.
The information from this Mongolian week is mostly taken from “Secret History of the Mongols“.Do you want to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Ibn Battuta? Find out how to do it here; starting from March 1st. Follow us on our facebook page, Spotify, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, or on our Telegram channel. Any like, sharing or support is welcome and helps us to devote ourselves more and more to our passion: telling the Middle East.