chapter  5
22 Pages

The halting of the Mongol advance

If princely strife played an uncertain role in the Mongols’ retreat fromEastern Europe in 1242 (above, pp. 72-3), it is undoubtedly one reason behind their failure to return in force for some time. For all the efficiency and discipline of the Mongol military machine, and the striking loyalty of the nomads to Chinggis Khan’s dynasty, the empire he had founded was characterized by certain tensions. First, the boundary between the qaghan’s sphere of authority and that of his kinsmen was increasingly blurred. In conformity with steppe tradition, the Mongol conquests were regarded as the property of the imperial family as a whole. One expression of this idea was the tama (or tamma) system, whereby troops were selected, on a basis of perhaps two or three in every hundred, and despatched to the frontiers to make fresh conquests and to act as garrison troops: these comprised units supplied by the various branches of the imperial family and representing their interests.1