Traditions and Encounters, AP Edition (Bentley), 5th Edition

Chapter 17: Nomadic Empires and Eurasian Integration


Nomadic herders populated the steppes of Asia for centuries during the classical and postclassical eras and periodically came into contact and conflict with the established states and empires of the Eurasian land mass. It was not until the eleventh century, however, that the nomadic peoples like the Turks and Mongols began to raid, conquer, rule, and trade with the urban-based cultures in a systematic and far-reaching manner. While these resourceful and warlike nomads often left a path of destruction in their wake, they also built vast trans-regional empires that laid the foundations for the increasing communication and exchange that would characterize the period from 1000 to 1500 in the eastern hemisphere. The success of these nomadic empires in this era can be attributed to the following:

  • They had unmatched skill on horseback. When organized on a large scale, these nomads were practically indomitable in warfare. Outstanding cavalry forces, skilled archers, and well-coordinated military strategy gave these peoples an advantage that was difficult for even the most powerful states to counter.
  • They had the ability to integrate vast territories through secure trade routes, exceptional courier networks, diplomatic missions, missionary efforts, and resettlement programs.

In spite of these successes and the enormous influence of these nomadic peoples, their leaders were, in general, better at warfare than administration. With the exception of the later Ottoman empire, most of these states were relatively short-lived, brought down by both internal and external pressures.

Traditions & Encounters, 5e
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