Ögedei Khan: 3rd Son of the Genghis Khan


Ögedei Khan (c. 1186 – December 11 1241) was Genghis Khan's third son and the Mongol Empire's second khagan-emperor, succeeding his father. He maintained his father's Empire's expansion. He became a global figure during the Mongol conquests of Europe and East Asia when the Mongol Empire reached its widest extent west and south. He took part in conquests in China, Iran, and Central Asia, as did all Genghis' principal sons.


Ögedei was Genghis Khan and Börte Ujin's third son. He was present during the tumultuous circumstances of his father's ascension to power. Genghis Khan suffered the devastating defeat of Khalakhaljid Sands against the army of Jamukha when Ögedei was 17 years old. On the battlefield, Ögedei was severely wounded and died. Borokhula, his father's adopted brother and buddy, saved him. His father handed him Töregene, the widow of a vanquished Merkit chief, in 1204, despite being already married. In steppe society, having such a wife was not uncommon. After Genghis was declared Emperor or Khagan in 1206, he was given myangans (thousands) of appanage from the Jalayir, Besud, Suldus, and Khongqatan clans. The Emil and Hobok rivers were part of Ögedei's domain. Ilugei, the captain of the Jalayir, became Ögedei's instructor at his father's request. In November 1211, Ögedei and his brothers launched their first independent war against the Jin dynasty. In 1213, he was dispatched to devastate the country south of Hebei and then north of Shanxi. Ögedei's men forced the Jin garrison out of Ordos, and he rode to the Xi Xia, Jin, and Song domains' intersection. After a five-month siege in 1219–20, Ögedei and Chagatai killed the population of Otrar and joined Jochi, who was beyond the walls of Urganch, during the Mongol conquest of Khwarezmia. Genghis Khan assigned Ögedei to command the siege of Urganch because Jochi and Chagatai were at odds over military tactics. In 1221, they conquered the city. Ghazni was likewise pacified by Ögedei when the insurrection broke out in southeast Persia and Afghanistan.

Ascendancy to Supreme Khan

Empress Yisui demanded that Genghis Khan declare an heir before the invasion of the Khwarezmid Empire in 1219. Following a horrific brawl between two elder sons, Jochi and Chagatai, they agreed that Ögedei would be the heir. Their choice was endorsed by Genghis Khan. Jochi had died a year or two before Genghis Khan died in 1227. Tolui, Ögedei's younger brother, was regent until 1229. According to the kurultai convened at Kodoe Aral on the Kherlen River following Genghis' death, Ögedei was chosen supreme Khan in 1229; however, this was never disputed because it was Genghis' expressed intention that Ögedei replaces him. After ritually refusing three times, Ögedei was declared Khagan of the Mongols on September 13, 1229. However, Chagatai remained steadfast in his support for his younger brother's claim. Genghis Khan regarded Ögedei as a pleasant and generous man. Part of his success in maintaining the Empire on his father's path can be attributed to his charisma. The affairs of the Mongol Empire were fairly stable under his rule, thanks to the organization left behind by Genghis Khan and the personality of Ögedei. Ögedei was a pragmatic ruler who committed a few errors during his reign. Ögedei had no illusions that he was a military commander or organizer on par with his father, and he relied on the skills of those he deemed to be the most capable. According to Persian chroniclers, despite stories of his charisma, Ögedei was chastised by Mongol and Persian chroniclers for a crime he committed in 1237, which included ordering the rape of four thousand Oirat girls above seven. These ladies were either taken to Ögedei's harem or given to caravan hostels all around the Mongol Empire to be used as prostitutes. This manoeuvre placed the Oirat and their territories under Ögedei's control following the death of Ögedei's sister Checheyigen, who had previously managed Oirat holdings.

World Conquests

Expansion in the Middle East

After defeating the Khwarazmian kingdom, Genghis Khan was free to attack Western Xia. In 1226, Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, the last of the Khwarizm monarchs, arrived in Persia to restore the Empire destroyed by his father, Muhammad 'Ala al-Din II. At Dameghan, the Mongol armies sent against him in 1227 were defeated. Another army that marched against Jalal al-Din won a pyrrhic victory near Isfahan but could not repeat the win. Chormaqan led a force of 30,000 to 50,000 Mongol soldiers out of Bukhara with Ögedei's permission to undertake a campaign. He took over Persia and Khorasan, two long-standing Khwarazmian strongholds. Chormaqan swiftly crossed the Amu Darya River in 1230 and entered Khorasan without facing any resistance. He left a large contingent behind, led by Dayir Noyan, who had been given orders to attack western Afghanistan. In the autumn of 1230, Chormaqan and most of his army reached Tabaristan (modern-day Mazandaran), a territory between the Caspian Sea and the Alborz mountains, avoiding the south's hilly region, which was ruled by the Nizari Ismailis (the Assassins). Chormaqan set up his winter camp in Rey after reaching the city and dispatched his soldiers to subjugate northern Persia. He marched his army south in 1231 and soon conquered the cities of Qum and Hamadan. From there, he dispatched soldiers to the Fars and Kirman areas, whose kings swiftly submitted, choosing to pay tribute to Mongol masters rather than have their kingdoms destroyed. Meanwhile, Dayir made steady progress in seizing Kabul, Ghazni, and Zawulistan in the east. With the Mongols already in possession of Persia, Jalal al-Din was forced to flee to Transcaucasia. As a result, the Mongol Empire absorbed all of Persia.

Invasion of Korea

Korea stopped paying tribute after a Mongol emissary was assassinated in mysterious circumstances in 1224. In 1231, Ögedei sent Saritai to conquer Korea and avenge the slain messenger. As a result, Mongol armies invaded Korea in an attempt to subjugate the kingdom. The Goryeo King decided to accept Mongol overseers as a temporary solution. On the other hand, Choe U shifted the capital from Kaesong to Ganghwa Island when they left for the summer. As he campaigned against them, Saritai was killed by a stray arrow. Ögedei announced intentions to conquer the Koreans, the Southern Song, the Kipchaks, and their European allies at the kurultai in Mongolia in 1234, all of whom had killed Mongol envoys. Danqu was named commander of the Mongol army, while Bog Wong, a defected Korean general, was appointed governor of 40 cities and their inhabitants by Ögedei. When the Goryeo court petitioned for peace in 1238, Ögedei insisted that the Goryeo king appears in person before him. In 1241, the Goryeo monarch transported his relative Yeong Nong-gun Sung to Mongolia captive, bringing the battle to a temporary conclusion.


Under the reign of Batu Khan, the Mongol Empire advanced westward, conquering the western steppes and driving into Europe. Volga Bulgaria, practically all of Alania, Cumania, and Rus', and a brief occupation of Hungary were among their western conquests. Invasion of Poland, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, the Latin Empire, and Austria. Khulgen, the Khagan's half brother, was killed by an arrow during the siege of Kolomna. During the conquest, Ögedei's son Güyük and Chagatai's grandson Büri mocked Batu, causing discontent in the Mongol camp. Güyük was then dispatched to begin the conquest of Europe. Güyük and Kadan, another of Güyük's sons, respectively attacked Transylvania and Poland. Although Ögedei Khan had enabled the Mongols to conquer all of Europe, including the Atlantic Ocean, the Mongol progress in East Europe came to a stop early in 1242, a year after his death. Later, Mongol propaganda would blame the failure of the endeavour on his unexpected death, which forced Batu to withdraw to participate in the choice of Ögedei's successor personally. However, Batu never returned to Mongolia for the election, and his successor was not named until 1246. The fact that European fortifications constituted a strategic obstacle that Mongol commanders could not overcome with the available resources was most likely one reason the march paused and never regained momentum.

Conflict with Song China

From 1235 to 1245, the Mongols, led by Ögedei's sons, invaded the Song Dynasty and reached Chengdu, Xiangyang, and the Yangtze River in razzias. However, because of the weather and the amount of Song troops, they could not complete their conquest, and Ögedei's son Khochu died in the process. Khuden, Ögedei's other son, sent a supplementary expedition to Tibet in 1240. When Song officers killed Ögedei's envoys, commanded by Selmus, the situation between the two countries worsened even further. Nonetheless, the Mongols advanced across Asia under Ögedei's leadership, restoring governmental stability and re-establishing the Silk Road, the main trading route between East and West.


Ögedei selected Dayir as Ghazni's commander and Menggetu as Qonduz's commander. The Mongol force reached the Indus valley in winter 1241 and besieged Lahore under the Delhi Sultanate's hands. Dayir, on the other hand, died attacking the town on December 30, 1241, and the Mongols massacred it before fleeing the Delhi Sultanate. A new Mongol force entered Kashmir after 1235, stationing a darughachi there for several years. Kashmir was quickly annexed by Mongolia. Otochi, a Kashmiri Buddhist master, and his brother Namo came to Ögedei's court around the same time.


The bureaucratization of Mongol governance began with Ögedei. His administration was divided into three sections:

  • Chinqai, the Uyghur scribe, and the Keraites, who symbolize the Christian eastern Turks;
  •  The Islamic sequence (characterized by two Khorazmians, Mahumud Yalavach, Masud Beg)
  • The North Chinese Confucian circle, which includes Khitan Yelu Chucai and Jurchen Nianhe Zhong-shan.

Mahamud Yalavach advocated for a system in which the government delegated tax collection to silver-collecting tax farmers. Yelu Chucai urged Ögedei to build a traditional Chinese administration structure, with taxation handled by government agents and payments made in government-issued money. Working with funds provided by the Mongol aristocracy, Muslim merchants loaned the silver required for tax payments at a higher interest rate. Ögedei, in particular, made a significant investment in these ortoq businesses. Simultaneously, the Mongols began issuing paper money backed by silver reserves. According to Yelü Chucai's idea, Ögedei dissolved the branch departments of state affairs and divided the areas of Mongol-ruled China into ten routes. He also separated the Empire into Beshbalik and Yanjing administrations, with Manchuria, Mongolia, and Siberia being dealt with directly by the headquarters in the Karakorum. The Amu Darya government was founded late in its rule. Mahamud Yalavach was in charge of Turkestan, while Yelu Chucai was in North China from 1229 to 1240. In China, Ögedei appointed Shigi Khutugh as Chief Judge. Ögedei appointed first Chin-temur, a Kara-Kitai, and subsequently Korguz, an Uyghur who proved to be a trustworthy administrator in Iran. Some of Yelu Chucai's responsibilities were then passed to Mahamud Yalavach, and taxes were turned over to Abd-ur-Rahman, who pledged to treble the annual silver payments. Despite Ögedei's restriction on even higher rates, the Ortoq or partner merchants lent Ögedei's money to the peasants at outrageous interest rates. Many individuals abandoned their homes to evade the tax collectors and their strong-arm gangs, even though it was profitable. Ögedei had imperial princes trained by Christian scribe Qadaq and Taoist priest Li Zhichang, and he created schools and an academy for them. Ögedei Khan also directed that paper currency be issued, backed by silk reserves, and established a Department to destroy existing notes. Yelu Chucai objected to Ögedei's large-scale distribution of appanages in Iran, Western and North China, and Khorazm, claiming that it could lead to the Empire's downfall. The Mongol nobility might choose overseers in the appanages, but the court would appoint additional officials and collect taxes, according to Ögedei. The Great Yassa was declared an integral body of precedents by the Khagan, confirming his father's directives and ordinances and adding his own. During the kurultais, the Ögedei established the standards of attire and conduct. In 1234, he established postroad stations (Yam) throughout the Empire with a regular workforce to supply post riders' demands. Every 25 kilometres, a relay station was put up, and the yam personnel provided remounts and supplies to the envoys. Other taxes were waived for the associated households, but they had to pay a qubchuri tax to deliver the commodities. Chagatai and Batu were both given their yams by Ögedei. The Khagan forbade the nobles from issuing paizas and jarliqs, which gave the holder the ability to demand goods and services from civilian people. Within decimal units, Ögedei declared that one sheep and one mare from each herd should be forwarded to form a herd for the imperial table and that one sheep and one mare from each herd should be forwarded to make a herd for the imperial table.

The Karakorum

Ögedei built a succession of mansions and pavilions along his annual nomadic tour across central Mongolia from 1235 to 1238. Wanangong, the first palace, was built by North Chinese artisans. The Emperor insisted that his kin build homes nearby and that the exiled Chinese craftsmen be resettled near the site. The city of Karakorum was completed in 1235, with various sectors assigned to Islamic and North Chinese artisans competing for Ögedei's favour. The city was surrounded by earthen walls with four gates. Private apartments were attached, and in front of it stood a massive stone turtle with an engraved pillar, similar to those found in East Asia. There was a castle with gates that looked like garden gates and lakes with many waterfowl. For his Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, and Christian groups, Ögedei built various halls of worship. There was a Confucian temple in the Chinese ward where Yelu Chucai developed or managed a Chinese calendar.

Wives, Concubines, and Children

Similar his father, Genghis Khan, ÖÖgedei had many wives and sixty concubines: ÖÖgedei married first Boraqchin and then Töregene. Other wives included Möge Khatun (former concubine of Genghis Khan) and Jachin.










  • Güyük: the 3rd Great Khan of the Mongols
  • Koden: the first Buddhist Mongol prince.
  • Köchü: (died 1237) during the campaign in Song China
  • Qarachar
  • Qashi: died during reign of ÖÖgedei

Unknown concubine


Melik: brought up by Danishmand Hajib.

Möge Khatun









Since his boyhood, Ögedei has been regarded as his father's favoured son. He was known as an adult for his capacity to persuade sceptics in whatever debate he was involved in simply by the force of his personality. He was a physically large, boisterous, and captivating man who looked only concerned with having a good time. He had a calm and collected demeanour. His charisma was credited in part with his ability to keep the Mongol Empire on the path set by his father. Tolui's untimely death in 1232 appears to have had a profound impact on Ögedei. According to some accounts, Tolui gave his life in a shamanist rite by swallowing a poisoned drink to save Ögedei, who was sick. According to some reports, Ögedei planned Tolui's death with the help of shamans who drugged the alcoholic Tolui. Ögedei had a reputation for being an alcoholic. Chagatai assigned an official to keep an eye on him, but Ögedei still managed to drink.

Ögedei has achieved this by pledging to minimize the number of cups he drank each day and then having cups double the size made for his exclusive usage. People accused Tolui's widow's sister and Abd-ur-Rahman when he died in the morning on December 11, 1241, after a late-night drinking session with Abd-ur-Rahman. However, the Mongol aristocracy recognized Khagan's lack of self-control as the cause of his death. Ögedei was also noted for being a humble man who didn't consider himself a genius and was prepared to listen to and use the great generals left to him by his father, as well as those he believed to be the most capable. Although he was Emperor (Khagan), he was not a dictator. He was taught and educated as a warrior from boyhood, as were all Mongols at the time, and as the son of Genghis Khan, he was a part of his father's plan to establish a world empire. His military career was distinguished by his readiness to listen to his generals and adapt to changing situations. He, like his father, was a pragmatic guy who focused on the aim rather than the methods. Despite having two elder brothers, his father respected his character and dependability, which earned him the heir to his father. However, Ögedei is chastised by Mongol and Persian chroniclers for a crime he committed in 1237, which broke his father's laws prohibiting the seizure, rape, kidnapping, bartering, or selling of young girls, who were allowed to marry at a young age but could not engage in sexual activity until they were sixteen years old. The nature of the crime was unclear in Mongol chronicles. Still, Persian chroniclers claimed that after the Oirat refused to furnish girls for Ögedei's harem, Ögedei had four thousand Oirat girls over the age of seven stripped naked and repeatedly raped by his men in full front of the girls' relatives. The experience claimed the lives of two of the girls. The remaining girls were divided up by soldiers. Some were sent to the royal harem, others were assigned to caravan hostels for sexual servitude, and others were not deemed suitable for this being left present for anyone to carry away or use whatever purposes they saw fit. Ögedei appears to have done this more to consolidate dominance over the Oirat than out of sexual perversion.

Death and Aftermath

According to the Tarikh-i Jahangushay Juvayni, Ögedei died immediately after his lion-like hounds chased and tore to shreds a wolf he saved and released, despite his expectation that God Almighty would spare his ailing bowels if he released a living creature. This tale challenges the commonly held belief that Ögedei died after a late-night drinking session with Abd-ur-Rahman. Ögedei had named his grandson Shiremun as his heir, but following Töregene Khatun's five-year regency, Güyük eventually succeeded. However, Güyük, who died on the route to confront Batu, was only nominally recognized by Batu, the Khan of the Golden Horde (also known as the Kipchak Khanate or the Ulus of Jochi). It wasn't until 1255, deep into Möngke Khan's rule, that Batu felt comfortable enough to prepare for another invasion of Europe. Unfortunately, he passed away before his intentions could be carried out. When Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty in 1271, he had Ögedei Khan's name changed to Taizong on the official record.

Last updated: 2021-October-12
Tags: Mongol Empire
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