Alexander and Genghis Khan: Two World Conquerors Compared
In examining the early years of both men, one can get a sense of why one became a destroyer of nations while the other was much more benign. Both were born to relatively barbarian and backward tribes, next to great civilizations Macedon lay north of the Greek states, the Mongolian tribes lay north of China.
For generations, Macedon had adopted Greek ways so much as to be practically indistinguishable. The magnificent Macedonian fighting machine wielded by Alexander was a creation of his father, Philip, who in turn, had copied and then refined it based on the Greek model. Significantly, the Greeks were squabbling sister states, and could offer limited resistance to a unified Macedon under Philip.
Alexander was born into a life of wealth and privilege due the son of a conquering hero. Philip took great pains to groom his son to be his successor, constantly challenging him, and providing for him the pick of the kingdom as his playmates and competitors. In addition, while himself a man of little learning, Philip arranged for the wisest man in Greece to tutor his son, none other than Aristotle. By the time of Philip's death in 336 BC, Alexander, aged 20, had already earned his spurs. He stood as regent in his father's absence at the age of 16. At the age of 18, he already had his baptism of fire and of command, leading a cavalry regiment in the successful Battle of Chaeronea. In two years of battle and diplomacy, Alexander managed to consolidate his power base in Greece and was ready to embark on a career of conquest.
By comparison, the man who would be Genghis Khan was born Temuchin, the son of a minor Mongolian chieftain. The Mongols were extremely poor and divided tribes, struggling to survive. Arrayed against them was a strong China, a China that had built the greatest defense line in history to keep these barbarians at bay and as barbarians the Mongols were treated.