11 Cultural Breakthroughs Genghis Khan Achieved During His Reign

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istock

Sure, he was a ruthless warlord who decimated armies and wiped out entire civilizations. But it turns out Genghis Khan (real name: Temujin) was anything but barbaric when it came to ruling. His cultural and political policies helped unify a previously disjointed collection of tribes and fiefdoms, creating a Mongol Empire that ruled a vast swath of Asia and Europe for more than a century. Here are a few of Genghis’s practices that were most definitely ahead of their time. 

1. HE ESTABLISHED FREEDOM OF RELIGION.

The great Khan, who was born a Tengrist, passed laws allowing subjects freedom of religion, and even gave tax exemptions to places of worship. This was a strategic move, since Genghis Khan knew subjects would be less likely to rebel. It was also practical, as the Mongol people observed so many different religions that unifying them under a single one would have been impossible. Tolerance aside, Genghis did establish one religious decree: That his was the word of God. 

2. HE BANNED TORTURE. 

In contrast to many civilized armies at the time, the Mongols did not maim or torture their prisoners. Instead, Genghis Khan believed the surest way to inspire terror was through speed and efficiency in battle. Many of the stories about building pyramids out of enemy skulls and boiling people alive, scholars believe, are fear-inspired myths. 

3. HE INCORPORATED ENEMIES INTO HIS ARMY. 

Rather than execute rival soldiers, Genghis Khan often absorbed them into his army. In 1201, when he was nearly killed in battle after his horse was shot out from under him, Genghis asked enemy prisoners who had fired the arrow. A man bravely stepped forward to take the blame, and said he would accept punishment of death or swear undying loyalty if spared. Genghis immediately made him an officer in his army. “Jebe,” or “arrow,” as Khan called him, would go on to become one of the great Mongol field commanders. 

4. HE LEFT CONQUERED CITIES ALONE. 

After capturing a city, Genghis Khan would leave behind a few officials to oversee municipal matters and essentially let people carry on with their lives (provided they were loyal to the Great Empire, of course). Most citizens knew better than to revolt against their minders, but a few did and ended up facing the wrath of the full army all over again. Nishapur, located in what’s today northeast Iran, tried its luck in 1221 and saw every last citizen killed.   

5. HE PROMOTED PEOPLE BASED ON INDIVIDUAL MERIT. 

The feudal system that existed throughout Asia before Genghis Khan’s time primarily rewarded aristocratic privilege and birth. Despite being the son of a chief, Genghis despised this system, and as he swept across the continent he implemented a new one that rewarded loyalty and individual achievement on the battlefield. 

6. HE OUTLAWED SLAVERY. 

Genghis Khan understood the bitterness and economic strain that slavery created. He’d also been a slave himself during his teenage years, when he and his wife Börte were captured by a rival clan. So when Genghis Khan began unifying the Mongol tribes, he outlawed the taking of Mongols as servants or slaves. 

7. HE ESTABLISHED UNIVERSAL LAW.

Adopted from Mongol common law, Genghis Khan’s system of law, known as the Yassa, prohibited theft, adultery, blood feuds, and bearing false witness. Some versions also incorporated the Mongol’s respect for the environment by outlawing bathing in rivers or streams and requiring soldiers to pick up anything that had been dropped on the ground. 

8. AND A UNIVERSAL WRITING SYSTEM. 

To enforce his law, Genghis ordered the creation of a writing system based on the Uyghur alphabet. It wasn’t the first writing system in Asia, but it was the first one to be widely adopted and taught to the people. 

9. HE ESTABLISHED FREE TRADE ALONG THE SILK ROAD. 

Genghis Khan believed in the unifying power of foreign trade as well as using it to gain valuable knowledge (many of his spies posed as merchants). As he swept across Asia, Genghis turned the towns and cities he conquered into waypoints for trade. In time, his conquests into Europe established key trade routes between East and West.    

10. HE CREATED ONE OF THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL POSTAL SYSTEMS. 

Knowledge was power in Genghis Khan’s empire, and that’s why one of his first orders as ruler was the creation of a Pony Express-like courier system known as the Yam. Riders carried messages across a network of huts, and could cover as much as 200 miles a day by constantly changing mounts. In addition to delivering messages, riders also acted as scouts who could monitor enemy forces and keep tabs on assimilated towns and cities. 

11. HE REDISTRIBUTED THE WEALTH HE GAINED. 

Genghis Khan is frequently listed as one of the richest people in history—but only in terms of the land he conquered. Rather than hoard the money and goods he gained through conquering, Genghis gave it to his soldiers and commanders (who were otherwise prohibited from looting without permission), injecting it back into the economy.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

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Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

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Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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The Surprising History of Apple Cider Doughnuts

Apple cider doughnuts have a surprisingly modern history.
Apple cider doughnuts have a surprisingly modern history.
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Apple cider doughnuts are synonymous with fall, particularly in New England, where apple orchards from Maine to Connecticut use their own cider to flavor the fluffy, golden rings. Both sweet and savory, and often dusted in finger-licking cinnamon sugar, apple cider doughnuts may seem like a quaint tradition inherited from Colonial times—but the tasty treats have a more modern history that may surprise you.

It all started with Russian immigrant and entrepreneur Adolf Levitt. According to Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut, Levitt bought a chain of New York bakeries in 1916. He was impressed by American soldiers’ fondness for the fried loops of flavored dough and began developing a doughnut-making machine to take advantage of troops’ appetites. In one of his early marketing coups, he installed a prototype in the window of his Harlem bakery in 1920. The machine caught the eye—and the cravings—of passersby. Levitt went on to sell his doughnut-making machines and a standardized flour mix to other bakeries.

He spun his marketing prowess into founding the Doughnut Corporation of America. The corporation evangelized doughnuts in marketing campaigns across print media, radio, and TV. A World War II-era party manual the DCA produced noted, “no other food is so heartwarming, so heartily welcomed as the doughnut.” Levitt’s granddaughter Sally L. Steinberg wrote that Levitt, “made doughnuts America's snack, part of office breaks for coffee and doughnuts, of Halloween parties with doughnuts on strings, of doughnut-laden political rallies.”

The DCA launched the first National Doughnut Month in October 1928. In its zeal, the DCA sometimes made dubious recommendations. In 1941, along with surgeon J. Howard Crum, it advocated for the single source “doughnut diet.” Later it marketed “Vitamin Doughnuts” based on an enhanced flour mix it claimed provided more protein and nutrients than made-at-home creations. (The federal government required them to use the name “Enriched Flour Doughnuts,” according to Glazed America.) A skeptical public didn’t gobble up the sales pitch—or the doughnuts.

In 1951, however, the DCA introduced a flavor with staying power. A New York Times article from August 19 of that year observed, “A new type of product, the Sweet Cider Doughnut will be introduced by the Doughnut Corporation of America in its twenty-third annual campaign this fall to increase doughnut sales. The new item is a spicy round cake that is expected to have a natural fall appeal.”

The cider doughnut recipe gives a fall spin to the basic buttermilk doughnut by adding apple cider to the batter, with cinnamon and nutmeg boosting the autumnal flavor. Each orchard typically has its own family recipe and usually serves them paired with mulled apple cider. The doughnuts have caught on well beyond pastoral landscapes and are now seasonal favorites in national chains and home kitchens. Dunkin’ has taken up the mantle, and Smitten Kitchen and The New York Times have recipes for a make-at-home version.

Although the apple cider doughnut has stood the test of time, the DCA didn’t. J. Lyons & Co. bought out Levitt’s DCA in the 1970s, and the entrepreneurs behind Seattle’s Top Pot Doughnuts later bought the DCA trademark. The company distributes its doughnuts nationwide; however, its offerings don’t include a cider doughnut.