1205 or 1206: Jamukha, Genghis Khan’s brother and rival

2 comments April 4th, 2013 Headsman

It was in the spring of 1206 that the Mongol warlord Temujin was formally elevated by a council of nomadic chiefs to the title posterity knows him — “Genghis Khan”.

Sun Honglei as Jamukha in the 2007 Russian epic Mongol.

That makes this as good a time as any to mark the completely undated but deeply personal execution that Temujin inflicted on his childhood friend turned rival Jamukha in order to attain that position.

Jamukha was one of the last obstacles to consolidating Temujin’s own rule. His elimination cleared the way for the spring 1206 council adorning Temujin with the title Genghis Khan; this event also marks the traditional founding moment for the renowned Mongol Empire.

Temujin was by this time already past his 40th year, and he had spent that lifetime — for this much was already a plentiful allotment for a steppe warrior — maneuvering by conquest and diplomacy into leadership of Mongolia’s multifarious clans and confederations.

According to our only source for the execution, The Secret History of the Mongols,* Jamukha (or Jamuka, or Jamuga) was the young Temujin’s blood-brother; he had risked himself as a companion-at-arms with the teenage Temujin to recover the latter’s kidnapped bride from a neighboring tribe.

But Jamukha, too, was a young man on the make then, and it was not yet written that it was he who would be a foil in Temujin’s story instead of the other way around; indeed, it was Jamukha’s Jadaran clan that had rank and to whom Temujin’s family had once owed allegiance. Genghis Khan began his political life as a parvenu with questionable innovations like raising commoners to military command and sharing spoils outside of aristocratic circles. To judge from the results, history vindicated these decisions.

As both men rose to prominence in their own webs of family and alliance, it chanced that Jamukha headed the last bloc of nomadic Mongols opposing Temujin. They sparred, often savagely, for close to a decade before Temujin finally prevailed.

The Secret History records a spring 1205 campaign commencing against the Naiman and Merkids, tribes of Jamukha’s holdout coalition who eventually succumbed to Temujin’s arms over what reads like a period of months. This sent Jamukha fleeing into the wilderness with just a handful of followers.

At an unspecified point presumably either late in 1205 or early in 1206, those followers turned on Jamukha and handed him over to Temujin.

The Secret History says Temujin was maybe still a little sentimental about his old friend even after the bloodshed that had passed between him. For one thing, he immediately executed Jamukha’s betrayers.

But now that he had the humbled Jamukha in hand, defeated and no longer a threat, Temujin implored his rival to accept forgiveness and a place in that future greatest land empire in history.

Let us be companions. Now, we are joined together once again, we should remind each other of things we have forgotten. Wake each other from our sleep. Even when you went away and were apart from me, you were still my lucky, blessed sworn brother. Surely, in the days of killing and being killed, the pit of your stomach and your heart pained for me. Surely, in the days of saying and being slain, your breast and your heart pained for me.

Jamukha was, maybe, a little more realistic about things.

Now, when the world is ready for you, what use is there in my becoming a companion to you? On the contrary, sworn brother, in the black night I would haunt your dreams, in the bright day I would trouble your heart. I would be the louse in your collar, I would become the splinter in your door-panel.

Kill me and lay down my dead bones in the high ground. Then eternally and forever, I will protect the seed of your seed, and become a blessing for them.

And on that prophecy, too, you’d say that history vindicated the Mongols.

Temujin had his old friend and rival’s back broken — a noble death without any blood spilled — and gave him a decent burial. And then, perhaps with Jamukha watching over them as promised, Temujin and his heirs started conquering pretty much everything in sight.

* There are full text transcripts of the Secret History in various languages here.

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Entry Filed under: 13th Century,Arts and Literature,Back broken,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Mongol Empire,Mongolia,Myths,No Formal Charge,Nobility,Power,Soldiers,Volunteers,Wartime Executions

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1413: Francesco Baldovino, to enjoy the emoluments of office

Add comment March 5th, 2011 Headsman

From History of the Venetian Republic: Her Rise, Her Greatness, and Her Civilization:


Francesco Baldovino was a gentleman in affluent circumstances, of a handsome person, and of engaging manners. His domestic establishment was princely. He had a large sum in the Funds. In short, every adventitious advantage, which fortune brings, was within his reach, excepting one; Baldovino was not a noble.

It is said that, at the period of the War of Chioggia, he desired to become, among the rest, a candidate for the honours of the peerage. But, his paternal ancestor having been implicated in some manner in the Bocconio conspiracy of 1300, the family laboured under a certain obloquy, and Baldovino was a disappointed man.

Among his numerous acquaintance was one Bartolomeo D’Anselmo, also a cittadino of great wealth, and also an unsatisfied expectant of nobility. It happened on Friday, the 4th March, 1413, that Baldovino and D’Anselmo met at the Minorites, and began to discuss their common grievance. “We,” cried Baldovino, at once launching into diatribe, “pay taxes enough forsooth; yet those of the Council enjoy the emoluments of office.”

“True,” returned his companion, “and indeed we ought to make it our business to see if we cannot get for ourselves a share in the administration. Devise some plan in which I may co-operate.”

“The way would be,” whispered Baldovino, “to collect a company of our following, and to massacre them as they are leaving the Council, particularly the College, the Decemvirs, and the Avogadors.”

D’Anselmo said, “That is an excellent plan. How then do you purpose to find your men?”

“I intend,” the other continued, “to seek a good many trusty fellows, who will be at my elbow to compass this matter for us on Sunday that is coming.”

“I, too,” rejoined D’Anselmo, “will bring some.”

So they parted.

Bartolomeo D’Anselmo was not a bad man; but he was a man of no steady principle, and of an exceedingly nervous temperament. He had hardly bidden farewell to Baldovino, when the treasonable dialogue which had passed between them began to haunt his imagination. He found himself a prey to a variety of unwholesome and chimerical fancies. The echoes of his own words grated on his ears. The sound of his own voice threw him into a cold sweat.

He conceived it more than possible that they might have been overheard, and that they were betrayed. He pictured himself arrested, dragged before the Ten and into the chamber of torture, put to the question, condemned to an infamous and horrid punishment. If there had been eavesdroppers, he was pretty sure that this would be his destiny; and he knew that there was only one method of escaping from the danger.

He was base enough to pursue that method; D’Anselmo turned evidence, on the same day, against his friend.

The informer was pardoned and ennobled.

The man, whom with such vile and pitiful cowardice he had denounced, was taken into custody, examined under the cord, and on Saturday morning the 5th, at eight o’clock, was executed between the Red Columns, where he was left hanging three days, as a warning to traitors.

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Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Italy,Nobility,Power,Public Executions,Terrorists,Torture,Treason,Venice

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