General Subutai, the greatest general of all time, was referred to by his master Ghengiz Khan, as The Dog of War. In the time before and up to Ghengiz Khan, generals could only rise from the top aristocratic families of the Mongols. Subutai was not a Mongol. Subutai’s father donated the young Subutai as a servant to the great Khan. Without being Mongol nor an aristocrat, essentially an indentured servant, Subutai normally would never have had chance to become a Mongol General. He was on the absolute opposite end of the demographic spectrum from the elite cast of the time.
Furtunately for both of them, the wise Khan believed that true meritocracy was the only way to cultivate a successful military. The Khan chose to disregard the Mongol tradition of appointing generals based on family rank. Instead he based status and promotion on merit and commitment: no other way existed to achieve true greatness. He believed the great ones rise to great challenges when permitted. The Khan’s role in history as the leader of the largest empire by landmass stretching across Europe all the way to China was achieved thanks to this principle and his leap in faith to part from the cultural norm of the time.
According to the wikipedia page here on the Mongol Empire:
The Mongol Empire ..., existed during the 13th and 14th centuries and was the largest contiguous land empire in history. Originating in the steppes of Central Asia, the Mongol Empire eventually stretched from Central Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending northwards into Siberia, eastwards and southwards into the Indian subcontinent, Indochina, and the Iranian plateau, and westwards as far as the Levant and Arabia.
According to the wikipedia page here on Subutai:
Subutai ... was a Mongolian general, and the primary military strategist of Genghis Khan and Ögedei Khan. He directed more than twenty campaigns in which he conquered thirty-two nations and won sixty-five pitched battles, during which he conquered or overran more territory than any other commander in history. He gained victory by means of imaginative and sophisticated strategies and routinely coordinated movements of armies that were hundreds of kilometers away from each other. He is also remembered for devising the campaign that destroyed the armies of Hungary and Poland within two days of each other, by forces over five hundred kilometers apart.
Despite this close family association, Subutai may be considered proof that the Mongol Empire was a meritocracy. He was a commoner by birth, the son of Jarchigudai, who was supposedly a blacksmith. When he was 14 years old, Subutai left his clan to join Temujin's army, following in the footsteps of his older brother Jelme who had joined when he was 17 years old. He rose to the very highest command available to one who was not a blood relative to Genghis. Within a decade he rose to become a general, in command of one of 4 tumens operating in the vanguard. In 1212 he took Huan by storm, the first major independent exploit mentioned in the sources.
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