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Interesting Mongol War Tactics: Cats, Swallows and Human Fat

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  • Interesting Mongol War Tactics: Cats, Swallows and Human Fat

    While doing some research, I found out some of the Mongols' most deadly seige technology included cats, swallows and even human fat!

    The first large-scale Mongol attack in Xi Xia happened at the mighty fortress at Volohai. Unable to breach the walls of Volohai, Genghis Khan resorted to a clever trick. He sent a message from his encampment to the Tangut general announcing that he would end his siege in exchange for a gift of one thousand cats and ten thousand swallows. Astonished by the unusual request, the fortress commander gratefully complied. After the animals arrived in the Mongol camp, Genghis Khan ordered his men to tie a small cotton-wool tuft to the tail of each creature then set the tuft afire. When the panicked and frightened animals were turned loose, they made directly for their nests and lairs inside Volohai, igniting hundreds of small fires. While the panicked defenders were preoccupied with putting out fires, Genghis Khan's warriors stormed the city in conquest.
    The Mongol siege against the walled town of Kusong exemplified Koryo's [Korea's] heroic resistance. General Sartai brought the full array of his medieval assault weapons to bear against the city's defenses. While Mongol troops attempted to undermine the defensive walls by tunneling under them, formidable lines of catapults hurled large boulders and molten metal at the town. Special assault teams used siege towers and scaling ladders against the earthen walls and pushed flaming carts against the city's wooden gates. Perhaps the most grisly tactical weapon used at the siege of Kusong was the catapult-launched fire-bomb. The Mongols boiled down their captives and used liquified human fat to fuel a weapon which produced fires that were practically inextinguishable. Kusong's defenders refused to surrender and stubbornly held on for thirty terrifying days and nights. An old Mongol general, inspecting the ramparts during the siege, commented that, "...I have never seen [a city] undergo an attack like this which did not, in the end, submit." In the end Kusong remained in Koryo's hands.
    O.K. Now I might have held off against the cats. The 10,000 swallows with burning tufts of cotton on their tails setting everything on fire would have really started to bother me.

    But I tell you what: The burning fat of my melted friends being spewed all over my fort in viturally inextinguishable hell pretty much would have put me over the top.

    "Mr. Mongol. Please stop throwing the burning fat of my men all over this fort. You can have it. It's drafty anyway."
    I've been on these boards for a long time and I still don't know what to think when it comes to you -- FrantzX, December 21, 2001

    "Yin": Your friendly, neighborhood negative cosmic force.

  • #2
    *gasp* *choke* Good Lord!
    That Genghis Kahn was a monster!
    *starts Civ 2 campaign to free world from demonic cat-killer*
    Great research once again Yin!!!


    • #3
      AFAIK most civs that used catapaults threw some pretty crazy stuff. Cows, dead people, etc. This was done for a couple of reasons, one was to make your opponent get unnerved, think of it as the ultimate psychout. "Mommy, there's a big cow flying right toward us!" Another was to spread disease. The last I can think of was to conserve the big-ass boulders and flaming bales of hay.
      I never know their names, But i smile just the same
      New faces...Strange places,
      Most everything i see, Becomes a blur to me
      -Grandaddy, "The Final Push to the Sum"


      • #4
        Nice piece of info. I've read a few things about GK and there's no doubt he was an absolute monster, reducing complete cities to dust, pilling up thousands of human and animal skeletons just to set an example and build up a reputation. Inflicting terror to the opponents was the cornerstone of his modus operandi.


        • #5
          AFAIK most civs that used catapaults threw some pretty crazy stuff.
          The Romans used it to get rid of Hannibal,they cattapulted the head of his brother into his camp=>guess that might be considered a reason to feel ill,seeing your brother's head flying toward you.(Hannibal retreated i thought)

          ex-president of Apolytonia former King of the Apolytonian Imperium
          "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." --Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
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          • #6
            The Mongols did many horrible things, but not all stories about them are true. Like the Nazis, its easy to attach anything however wild to them, and people believe it.

            I've got a book called "The Mongols" by David Morgan that mentions the cats and birds story more or less as you describe it. Then, it says:

            "The story comes from the seventeenth century Mongol chronicle of Sagang Sechen, hardly a contemporary source. Indeed, the tale is, in slightly variant forms, a frequently recurring motif in medieval sources, being attached to Princess Olga of Kiev, Harald Hardrada of Norway, Guthrum the Dane and Robert Guisard the Norman, among others. But whatever the truth of the story, the Mongols certainly soon found it necessary to add a train of Chinese siege engineers to their forces."

            When you think about it, how likely it is to really work? And if human fat was so effective a weapon, wouldn't they have used it on a regular basis? Seems to me urban legends are not a new phenomenon.


            • #7
              GK a monster? Perhaps. However, the greater part of the wars the mongols fought, they didn't start. Mnay countries simply did very rude thigns to their ambassadors or their traders. One paticular fellow who had imperial spirations over north of india was certainly such a fool.

              After watching massive caravan after massive caravan of rich chinese traders pass through his coutnry he got greedy and started grabbing them up. The mongols sent some ambassadors to talk thigns over with him, and to make sure that his army knew there was not turning back he had them executed. And the mongols naturally invaded.

              And the thing about razing a resisting city to the ground, and masacring its people, is that afte you do that once or twice, most everyone stops resisting. Which is basically the tactic the us used to defeat japan. we turned two of their cities to glass, and told them we'd keep doing it ttill they surrendered. Not a nice thing to do. But in the end it very probably saved lives.

              Especially since the firebombs we were dropping were killing a hell of a lot more people, but just not attracting enough attention.
              By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Kc7mxo
                GK a monster? Perhaps. However, the greater part of the wars the mongols fought, they didn't start.
                I didn't question the mongols' right to respond to aggression, what I did question was GK's cruel tactics.

                Human fat might not be the most powerful item in war, but word-of-mouth of it being used could help create a psychologic advantage for him, as stories like that did create the legend of an unstoppable and undefeatable monster. Remember William Wallace was considered to be a giant, and although untrue, this proved to be an important psychologic leverage.