Asia's Great Conquerors

Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Timur (Tamerlane)

They came from the steppes of Central Asia, striking fear into the hearts of the settled peoples of western Asia and Europe. Here, take a closer look at Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Timur (Tamerlane), the greatest conquerors Asia has ever known.

Attila the Hun, 406(?)-453 A.D.

Battle of the Catalaunian Plains between Romans and Huns (451)

ZU_09 / Getty Images

Attila the Hun ruled over an empire that stretched from modern-day Uzbekistan to Germany, and from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. His people, the Huns, moved west to Central Asia and Eastern Europe after their defeat by imperial China. Along the way, the Huns' superior battle tactics and weapons meant that the invaders were able to conquer tribes all along the way. Attila is remembered as a blood-thirsty tyrant in many chronicles, but others remember him as a relatively progressive monarch. His empire would survive him by only 16 years, but his descendants may have founded the Bulgarian Empire.

Genghis Khan, 1162(?)-1227 A.D.

Statue of Genghis Khan at government building, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Jeremy Woodhouse / Getty Images

Genghis Khan was born Temujin, the second son of a minor Mongol chieftain. After his father's death, Temujin's family fell into poverty, and the young boy was even enslaved after killing his older half-brother. From this inauspicious beginning, Genghis Khan rose to conquer an empire larger than Rome's at the peak of its power. He showed no mercy to those who dared oppose him, but also promulgated some very progressive policies, such as diplomatic immunity and protection for all religions.

Timur (Tamerlane), 1336-1405 A.D.

Mural of Tamerlane, Uzbekistan

 Tim Graham / Getty Images

The Turkic conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) was a man of contradictions. He identified strongly with the Mongol descendants of Genghis Khan but destroyed the power of the Golden Horde. He took pride in his nomadic ancestry but preferred to live in great cities like his capital at Samarkand. He sponsored many great works of art and literature but also razed libraries to the ground. Timur also considered himself a warrior of Allah, but his most ferocious attacks were leveled on some of Islam's great cities. A brutal (but charming) military genius, Timur is one of history's most fascinating characters.

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Szczepanski, Kallie. "Asia's Great Conquerors." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Szczepanski, Kallie. (2023, April 5). Asia's Great Conquerors. Retrieved from Szczepanski, Kallie. "Asia's Great Conquerors." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).