Subatai Ba'adur (1190-1242)

A son of a clan blacksmith Subatai (also spelt Subedei, Subodai and Sabatai) was but a boy when he joined Temujins band around 1190. His ability meant that he and his brother quickly rose to power in Temujin (later Genghis Khan) service and in 1194 both brothers were named as band captains in 1194. The two brothers together with Jebei Noyon and Khubilai became know as Genghis Khan's four hounds. This is surprising when it was said that he quickly became very stout and travelled with the armies in some kind of light wagon. Subatai led a touman in the Hsia and Chin wars in 1207-15. He jointly led a campaign with Jebei with 3 toumans in pursuit of the Shah after the victories at Bokhara and Samarkand. The with Jebei in command they led a remarkable campaign in southern Russia defeating a large army of Georgians who had assembled for the fifth crusade and advanced further into Russia destroying local resistance and captured Astrakhan.

In 1222-3 they wintered by the Black Sea then crossing the Don swinging through the Crimea and into Ukraine. When attacked at the Battle of Kalka River by 80,000 men they defeated the enemy and raided for hundreds of miles. When Jebei became ill and died Subatai led the army back to rendezvous with the main army having covered 4,000 miles in under three years. Subatai also served in the 1225-7 campaign against the Hsia and after the Khans death under Ogatai. In 1232 he besieged the city of Kaifeng for a year which included the first use of explosives against the Mongols and took the city by storm in 1233. He also took part in the 1240 campaign in Eastern Europe destroying a huge Hungarian army in 1241 by a brilliant flanking attack, personally leading the attack, killing between 40,000 and 70,000 of the enemy troops. Subatai was forced to turn back from Europe only when Ogatai died and all offspring of Genghis Khan had to return to Karakorum to elect a successor, 6,000 miles away although they did pillage Serbia and Bulgaria on their way out of Europe. For the wide variety and spectacular career Subatai is one of the greatest generals the world has ever seen.

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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (23 December 2000), Subatai Ba'adur (1190-1242), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_subatai.html

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