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Bloody Hunts and War Games of the Armies of Khan: The Mongol Military – Part II

Bloody Hunts and War Games of the Armies of Khan: The Mongol Military – Part II

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Mongol military organization based on decimal lines under Genghis Khan was nothing new. Other steppe peoples, like the Khitan and Jurched had been using the same system for many years beforehand. Genghis Khan was introduced to this military system during his time with Ong Khan. The system introduced by Genghis Khan to the Mongols was structured as arban, jagun, minqan, and tumen.

Mongol military leadership started with the arban at the bottom of the chain. Every Mongol warrior belonged to an arban. An arban consisted of 10 men with one being the commander. Ten arbans equaled one jagun (plural jaghut) consisting of 100 men. Ten jagunt consisted of 1000 men and formed a minqan (plural minqat). Ten minqat formed one tumen (plural tumet) consisting of 10,000 men.

10 men = 1 arban

100 men = 1 jagun

1000 men = 1 minqan

10000 men = 1 tumen

100000 men = 1 Tuc

The military organizational structure was divided into three corps that consisted of the baraghun ghar (right flank), je’un ghar (left flank), and tob or gol (center or pivot). To move this large army the command structure of course started with the Great Khan, who issued orders to three commanders in charge of the three tumen. See the figure below.

Chart showing command structure of Mongol leaders.

Chart showing command structure of Mongol leaders.

To break down the chain of command further, Marco Polo provides more detail:

You see, when a Tartar prince goes forth to war, he takes with him, say, one hundred thousand horse. Well, he appoints an officer to every ten men, one to every hundred, one to every thousand, and one to every ten thousand, so that his own orders have to be given to ten persons only, and each of these ten persons has to pass the orders only to other ten, and so on; no one having to give orders to more than ten. And every one in turn is responsible only to the officer immediately over him; and the discipline and order that comes of this method is marvelous, for they are a people very obedient to their chiefs.

Even though Marco Polo wrote this during the time of Kublai Khan, the document indicates that the military organization Genghis Khan had set in place was still in use and relatively unchanged. Furthermore, Marco Polo’s description shows how well organized the Mongol military staff was, and indicates the effectiveness of this system to rapidly relay orders from the top down and information from the bottom up. This allowed swift changes to be made during the thick of battle. 

The Mongols at war. (

The Mongols at war. (Public Domain)

With such a large army on hand, every Mongol preformed certain duties within the camp. Some were in charge of carrying bows and arrows. Others were responsible for the manufacturing of the arrows. Some were responsible for food and drink. Others were responsible for watching over the sheep and horses in the pasturage. Carts were of great importance and men were assigned to prepare, repair, and watch over them. Carrying swords was another duty. Overseeing the domestic staff was another. Lastly, two men would serve as guardians of the assembly. Overall, every Mongol soldier had a duty to perform and most likely rotated out to perform other tasks once or every two weeks. Leaving one Mongol unit for another was unheard of. The Persian historian and bureaucrat Juvayni (1226–1283) noted, “No man may depart to another unit than the hundred, thousand, or ten to which he has been assigned, nor may he seek refuge elsewhere.”

Military Training and the Great Hunt

When it came to military training, the Mongols would take part in a great hunt called the Nerge. The Nerge was a way for the Great Khan, starting with Genghis Khan, to see how well his commanders led their men on a hunting expedition and how well the soldiers performed…


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Top Image: Deriv; Illustration of Yesugei, Temujin’s father (CC BY-SA 3.0) and a battle between Mongols and Chinese (Public Domain)

By Cam Rea

Cam Rea's picture

Cam Rea

Cam Rea is a Military Historian and currently the Associate Editor/Writer at Strategy & Tactics Press. Mr. Rea has published several books and written numerous articles for Strategy & Tactics Press and Classical Wisdom Weekly. His most current publication is... Read More

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