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Sübe'etei Ba'atur, Anonymous Strategist

Pages 33 - 49



1 The name is rendered in many different ways. ‘Sübe'etei’ is adopted from Igor de Rachewiltz, The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century (Leiden: Brill 2004), commentary p. 735. Thereafter Secret History.

2 Giovanni Di Plano Carpini, The Story of the Mongols whom we call Tartars, tr. by Erik Hildinger (Wellesley: Branden, 1996), p. 65.

3 Yuan shi 元史 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1976), j. 122, p. 3008;

4 Leo de Hartog, Genghis Khan (London: Tauris, 1989), pp. 165–166;

5 B. H. Liddell Hart, Great Captains Unveiled (London: Da Capo, 1990), pp. 3–21;

6 Secret History, p. 735.

7 Paul Buell, “Sübötei Ba'atur (1176–1248)”, Igor de Rachewiltz (ed.), In the Service of the Khan: Eminent Personalities of the Early Mongol-Yuan Period (1200–1300) (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1993), pp. 13–26. Thereafter Eminent Personalities.

8 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2975. For an early Western reference, see Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat, “Souboutai”, in his Nouveaux Mélanges Asiatiques, ou Recueil…, 2 vols. (Paris: Schubart e Heideloff., Librairie Orientale…, 1829), II, pp. 89–94.

9 Rashid al-Din, Rashiduddin Fazlullah's Jami'u 't-tawarikh (Compendium of Chronicles), tr. by W. M. Thackston (Cambridge: Harvard University Pr., 1998–1999), 119 and 83–84. Thereafter Rashid al-Din; Eminent personalities, p. 13.

10 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2975, though Secret History, 210, says Sübe'etei first served Jamuqa.

11 Jelme's father was a blacksmith. The sources do not say what Sübe'etei's father did.

12 Secret History, 211, and commentary, p. 446; Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2975, j. 122, p. 3008.

13 Secret History, 120. This probably happened in 1193. See Abdul Ghazi Bahadur Khan, Shajareh-ye Turk, tr. by Le Baron Desmaisons as Histoire des Mogols et des Tatares, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Imprimerie de l'Académie Impériale des Sciences, 1871–1874), II, p.78 (rpt.: Frankfurt: Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science, 1994).

14 Secret History, 195 and 202.

15 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2975.

16 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2975; j. 122, p. 3008; Wang Yun's frequently quoted “Wuliang shi xian miao bei ming” 兀良氏先庙碑铭, in Qiuqian xiansheng daquan wenji 秋涧先生大全文集 (Sibu congkan ed.), j. 50, p. 4. Thereafter Wang Yun.

17 Desmond Martin, The Rise of Chingis Khan and his Conquest of North China (New York: Octagon, 1971), pp. 42–43.

18 Wang Yun, pp. 7–8.

19 Secret History, 199.

20 Sübe'etei joined Toqucar in Karluk territory. Toqucar could be Aqutai of the Secret History, 126 and 234, and perhaps the Aliju of Yuan shi, j. 121, pp. 2975–2976. Also see Wang Yun, pp. 4–5. Toqucar had probably taken over the position of Jelme.

21 Paul Buell offers an alternative chronology; see Eminent Personalities, pp. 14–16. On this, see Secret History, commentary pp. 1045–1050.

22 Wang Guowei 王国维 (ed.), Menggu shiliao si zhong 蒙古史料四禾中 (Taibei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1962), containing Shengwu qin zheng lu圣武亲肝录 72a. Thereafter SWQZL; Rashid al-Din, 331–332 and 337–338; Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2976; j. 122, p. 3008; Wang Yun, p. 5; Secret History, 199.

23 SWQZL, 72b; Yuan shi, j. 120, pp. 2269–2270.

24 Yuan shi, j. 120, pp. 2269–2270.

25 On the Olbari, see T. T. Allsen, “Prelude to the Western Campaigns”, Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 3 (1983), pp. 6–8.

26 Yuan shi, j. 128, pp. 3131–3132. The event is not dated. It must be placed either in early/middle 1218 or late 1218/early 1219. Here the former is assumed.

27 Sübe'etei may have helped escort the caravan. The odd reference to steel-reinforced wheels may perhaps be connected with this task. See Secret History, 236; SWQZL, 72a; and Rashid al-Din, 332.

28 D. S. Richards, The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period from al-Kamil fi'il-ta'rikh, part 3 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), p. 205, thereafter ibn al-Athir, p.205;

29 The caravan was seized in June-July 1218; Yuan Shi 1, Krause, Cingis Han, p.36, dated a year too late. The time required for allowing a survivor to return to Mongolia, a Mongol embassy to go to Khwarizm demanding compensation, and finally to return to Mongolia with a negative answer, means Cinggis Qan can have finally decided on war only by March 1219.

30 The officers may have included Yelu Xieshe 邢律薛闍, Ismail, Megetu, Koko, Yesu Buqa, Qunan, Mongkeur, Kete, and Bodai. See Secret History, 243; Yuan shi, j. 120, pp. 2969–2970; j. 149, p. 3514; Juvaini, pp. 144, 163, and 172; Rashid al-Din, 408–409.

31 The battle was fought well east of Kipchaq territory and several months after the Mongols first arrived in the area.

32 In part because many Kangli tribesmen served in his army.

33 ‘Sübe'etei quartered the army to the east of the river and ordered each soldier to kindle three torches to magnify its strengh. The Huihui king withdrew by night.’ Yuan Shi, j. 121, p. 2976.

34 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2976; j. 151, pp. 2784-2785; ibn al-Athir, pp. 206–207; Rashid al-Din, pp. 344-346; Juvaini, p. 69 and pp. 370-373; O. Houdas, Histoire du sultan Djelal ed-Din Mankobirti, prince du Kharezm, par Mohammed en-Nesawi (Paris: Societé Asiatique, 1895), pp. 16–19, thereafter

35 Juvaini, p. 101.

36 James Chambers is confident Sübe'etei made the plan, without providing any source; see his The Devil's Horsemen, p. 10.

37 On numbers of the Mongols and their foes see Carl Sverdrup, “Numbers in Mongol Warfare”, Journal of Medieval Military History 8 (2010), pp. 109–117.

38 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2976, and Wang Yun, p. 5. Juvaini says 30,000 (p. 173), based on the incorrect notion that a tumen had 10,000 men. Toqucar initially remained behind in the region around Balkh. He was killed trying to take Nishapur in November 1220. Borkei took command of his forces (Juvaini, pp.174–175). Nasawi mentions an officer called Yerka (p. 87). It was probably Yedu Buqa Taishi, the son of Jelme. He eventually re-joined Sübe'etei and Jebe in Azerbaijan; Shīr Muḥammad Mīrāb Mūnis and Muḥammad Rizā Mīrāb Āgahī, Firdaws al-iqbāl: History of Khorezm, tr. and annotated by Yuri Bregel (Leiden: Brill, 1999), p. 84.

39 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2976; Wang Yun, p. 5; SWQZL, 76b; Rashid al-Din, 365–370; Juvaini pp. 142-150; ibn al-Athir, pp. 201-211; Nasawi, pp. 76-82; and Juzvini, pp. 277-279 and 987–992; Desmond Martin, The Rise of Chingis Khan, p. 7.

40 Ibn al-Athir, pp. 214–216 and 221; Rashid al-Din, 380, Kirakos Ganjakec'i, History of the Armenians; Vardan Arewelc'l; Grigor Aknerc'I; and History of Kart'li, for all Armenian sources see Robert Bedrosian, The Turco-Mongol Invasions and the Lords of Armenia in the 13–14th Centuries (unpubl. PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 1979), note 164. The two wings fought separate engagements, which ibn al-Athir turned into separate battles fought at different times (Rashid al-Din, who used ibn al-Athir as a source). The Georgians knew who had attacked them. Kirakos Gandzakets'i wrote: ‘… the name of their leader was Sabada Bahatur’.

41 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2976; j. 122, p. 3008, and Wang Yun, p. 5. Cinggis Qan later considered returning home from Peshawar through Tibet; Juvaini, pp. 137–138. It is perhaps possible that the strategic-geographic thinking of Sübe'etei had inspired his master or others in the main Mongol camp.

42 Ibn al-Athir, pp. 222–223. Pétis de la Croix, using sources he does not name, adds details not found in the account of ibn al-Athir; François Pétis de la Croix, History of Genghizcan the Great…, Engl. tr. (London: Printed for J. Darby …, 1722), pp. 347–348.

43 Ibn al-Athir, p. 223.

44 R. Mitchell and N. Forbes (tr.), The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016–1478 (London: Camden Society, 1914), pp. 64–66;

45 Ibn al-Athir, p. 225; Secret History, 270.

46 Juzvini, p. 1000; Pétis de la Croix, pp. 349–350; ibn al-Athir, p. 225; Yuan shi, j. 120, p. 2969–2970. These Kanglis are associated with the later Nogays. See Howorth, History of the Mongols from the 9th to the 19th Century (New York: Cosimo, 2008), part 1, p. 18.

47 Yuan shi, j. 120, pp. 2970–2971.

48 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2976; j. 122, p. 3008; Wang Yun, pp. 5–6.

49 Eminent personalities, p.20; also Desmond Martin, The Rise of Chingis Khan, p. 307 (where Bugurji also is considered important).

50 Yuan shi, j. 1 (Krause, Cingis Han, p. 39); j. 120, pp. 2269-2270; j. 121, p. 2976; j. 149, p. 3509; Secret History, 267; Rashid al-Din, 385; Zhongguo renmin xieshang huiyi 中国人民协商会议 and Neimenggu … weiyuanhui 内蒙古 … 委员会 (eds.), Menggu zu gudai junshi sixiang yanjiu lunwenji 蒙古族古代军事 思想硏究论文集(Huhehot: Neimeng Menggu zu gudai junshi sixiang yanjiuhui, 1989), p. 340. More generally also Ruth W. Dunnell, “The Fall of the Xia Empire: Sino-Steppe Relations in the Late 12th–Early 13th Centuries”, in Gary Seaman and Daniel Marks (eds.), Rulers from the Steppe: State Formation on the Eurasian Periphery (Los Angeles: Ethnographies Press…, University of Southern California, 1991), pp. 158–185.

51 Wang Yun, p.8; also Yuan shi j. 121, pp. 1976–1977; j. 122, p. 3009.

52 Yuan shi, j. 1 (Krause, Cingis Han, p.39); j. 121, p. 2977; j. 122, p. 3008; Wang Yun, p. 6.

53 Yuan shi, j. 2, Waltraut Abramowski, “Die Chinesischen Annalen von Ögödei und Güyük. Übersetzung des 2. Kapitels des Yüan-shih”, Zentralasiatische Studien 10 (1976), p. 125, thereafter Abramowski; Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2976; Jin shi (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), j. 17, pp. 378-380; j. 112, p. 2470; j. 119, pp. 2605-2606; j. 123, p. 2687–2688; Song shi (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985), j. 449, pp. 13230-13233; Rashid al-Din, 455.

54 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2977.

55 Rashid al-Din, 475, Secret History, summary (CXXV); Wang Yun, p. 7; Yuan shi, j. 121; p. 2978; j. 122, p. 3009. Wang Yun and the Yuan shi place the campaign after the Chinese campaigns ending in 1234.

56 The Jin army on paper had 350,000 men. The Mongols had about 150,000, but not all were committed against the Jin. The effective totals engaged may respectively have been 120,000 and 100,000 fighting men.

57 Yuan shi, j. 2 (Abramowski, pp. 125–126); j. 115, pp. 2889–2890; j. 119, p. 2939; j. 121, p. 2277; j. 155, p. 3645; Jin shi, j. 17, pp. 382-383; j. 112, pp. 2467-2468, 2471; j. 114, pp. 2506-2507; j. 118, p. 2577; j. 123, pp. 2687–2689.

58 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2977.

59 Jin shi, j. 17, pp. 384–387; j. 111, pp. 2445–2446; j. 112, pp. 2468–2474; j. 114, pp. 2506–2510; j. 116, pp. 2551–2552; j. 117, pp. 2555–2557; j. 118, pp. 2577–2579; j. 123, pp. 2688–2689; Yuan shi, j. 2 (Abramowski pp. 126–127); j. 115, pp. 2885–2886; j. 119, p. 2938; j. 121, p. 2977; j. 122, pp. 3008–3009; j. 123, pp. 3025–3026; j. 147, p. 3473; j. 155, p. 3659; SWQZL, 80b, 81b; Song shi, j. 449, pp. 13230–13233; Wang Yun, p. 6.

60 SWQZL, 83a; Yuan shi, j. 2 (Amramowski, p. 127); Wang Yun, p. 6.

61 Jin shi, j. 17–18, pp. 387-403; j. 118, pp. 2579-2581; Yuan shi, j.147, pp. 3473-3474; SWQZL, 84a; Song shi, j. 412, pp. 12369-12380; Erich Haenisch (tr.), Peter Olbricht (ed.), Zum Untergang zweier Reiche: “Luh Ta-Liang shi” und “Pei-sün sze-ki”. Berichte… aus den Jahren 1232–33 und 1368–70 (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1969), pp. 7–26; and

62 Zhou Mi 周密, Qidong yeyu 齐东野语 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983), pp. 77–80; Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2977; j. 150, pp. 3559–3560. Also see the early work by

63 Allsen, “Prelude”, p. 15 (citing a Russian source).

64 The Yuan shi, j. 121, clearly states that this was the second time Ögödai ordered Sübe'etei to assist Batu.

65 Secret History, 270.

66 Rashid al-Din, 475, and Juvaini, pp. 268–269. Yuan shi, j. 121, pp. 2977-2978, and Wang Yun, p. 7, seem to mix up the Bulgars with the Rus. Jiku and Bayan of Rashid al-Din could be Ye-lie-ban (Yelie and Ban 也烈班) of the Chinese sources. Douglas S. Benson finds evidence in the Tartar Relation and in Carpini that the Mongol right made a deep march into the Ural Mountains to approach the Bulgars from the east. See Six Emperors: Rise of the Mongolian Empire, 1195 to 1295. A Study of Mongolian Imperialism in the Thirteenth Century (Chicago: P. F. Collier & Sons, 1995), pp. 172–173. After the conquest of the Bulgars, Mongke was detached to hunt down Bachman. Yuan shi, j. 3;

67 Julianus: Hansgerd Göckenjan and James Sweeney, Der Mongolersturm: Berichte von Augenzeugen und Zeitgenossen, 1235–1250 (Graz, etc.: Styria, 1985), pp. 101–109.

68 Mitchell and Forbes, Chronicle of Novgorod, pp. 81–84,

69 Rashid al-Din, 476–477; T. T. Allsen, “The Mongols and North Caucasia”, Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 7 (1991), pp. 5–40.

70 Perfecky, The Hypatian Chronicle, p. 47.

71 Yuan shi, j. 2 (Abramowski, pp.133–134).

72 Secret History, 275–277.

73 Rashid al-Din, 466.

74 R. A. Skelton, The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation (New Haven: Yale University Pr., 1965), p. 80. Thereafter Tartar Relation.

75 Martin Dimnik, Mikhail, Prince of Chernigov and Grand Prince of Kiev, 1224–1246 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1981), pp. 110–112.

76 Perfecky, The Hypatian Chronicle, pp. 48–49, and Rashid al-Din, 482–483.

77 Rogerius, Carmen Miserable, and Thomas of Spalato, Historia Salonitana, both in Göckenjan and Sweeney, Der Mongolersturm, pp. 149-186 and pp. 236-261; Annales Frisacenses, in Monumenta Germaniae Historia, vol. 24 (Hannover 1879), p. 65;

78 Secret History, 276.

79 Yuan shi, j. 121, p.2978.

80 Rashid al-Din, 570. He dates this to 1246/47, but Yuan shi, j. 2, places the campaign of Cahen in 1245/46 (Abramowski, p. 136).

81 Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2978, j. 122, p. 3009: Wang Yun, p. 7.

82 See Wang Yun, pp. 8–28.

83 Rashid al-Din, 602.

84 19th century commander Zeng Guofang 曾国藩 observed that ‘since ancient times the strategy for pacifying the lower Yangtze has been to establish a strong position in the upper region and then press down-stream’. See Christopher Bellamy, The Evolution of Modern Land Warfare (London: Routledge, 1990), p. 223. On the war in China, see Thomas Allsen, “The Rise of the Mongolian Empire and Mongolian Rule in North China”, and

85 Jin shi, j. 112, p. 2464.

86 Yuan shi, j. 115, pp. 2916–2917; SWQZL, 84a; Yuan shi, j. 2 (Abramowski, pp. 126-127).

87 Jin shi, j. 112, p. 2484.

88 The only hard fought battles were the second Irghiz engagement and (perhaps) the first encounter with the Bulgars.

89 Rashid al-Din, 245–246.

90 Secret History, 109–110.

91 Secret History, 129.

92 Stephen Turnbull claims the Mongols had a standard system of conquest that was always followed, see his The Mongols (Oxford: Osprey, 1980), pp. 24–31. If this was the case, why was this system used in Europe (by Sübe'etei) but not at the same time in China (without Sübe'etei)? On the war in China, see Richard L. Davis, “The Reign of Li-tsung (1224–1264)”, in the Cambridge History of China, vol. 5 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Pr., 2009), pp. 863–868.

93 Karl A. Wittfogel and Chia-Sheng Feng, History of Chinese Society: Liao 907–1125 (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1949), pp. 529–534.

94 Secret History, 120–122, 202–234, 242; Yuan shi, j. 120, p. 2962.

95 Thomas Allsen, “Military Technology in the Mongolian Empire”, Nicola Di Cosmo (ed.), Warfare in Inner Asian History (500–1800) (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 275.

96 Thomas J. Barfield, The Nomadic Alternative (Michigan: Prentice Hall, 1993), p. 160.

97 Eminent Personalities, pp. 21–22; Yuan shi, j. 121, p. 2977.

98 Rafé de Crespigny, Imperial Warlord: a Biography of Cao Cao, 155–220 AD (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 89–92; Song shi, j. 412, pp. 12369–12380.

99 Eminent Personalities, p. 25.


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