Conquerors and Culture

Conquerors and Culture

Throughout the world’s history, conquerors have amassed land and built empires. Their influences often live on long past the death of the conqueror and sometimes transform the course of history.


3 - 12


Social Studies, World History


Genghis Khan Painting

The Mongol Empire was begun by Genghis Khan. This painting shows the conqueror in combat.

Photograph by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
The Mongol Empire was begun by Genghis Khan. This painting shows the conqueror in combat.
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Lands have changed hands many times throughout the world's history. A conqueror is a leader who gathers an army and take over land through violence or threats, creating large kingdoms called empires.

Conquerors have changed the history of the world.


Alexander—sometimes called Alexander the Great—was born more than 2,300 years ago in 356 B.C.E. His father was King Philip II of Macedonia, a kingdom in the northern part of Greece. After his father died, Alexander became king at age 20.

Alexander was a strong military leader with good political skills. He used his skills to expand his kingdom. By the time he died at the age of 32, Alexander had conquered a huge empire. His land stretched from Macedonia to Egypt and from Greece to part of India. The entire empire made up almost 5,179,976 square kilometers (two million square miles), almost half the size of the United States. He ruled over the largest empire in the ancient world.

Alexander wanted to learn everything. He hired scientists to travel with the army and study his new territories and encouraged his people to live among and marry the people they conquered. He also founded cities, often named Alexandria, as centers of Greek government and learning. The most famous was Alexandria, Egypt. The city would continue as a center of learning long after his death and is still thriving today.

Alexander's conquests spread Greek culture, language, and ideas. Historians have named the time period the Hellenistic Age or Period, beginning after Alexander's death in 323 B.C.E.

Hellenistic culture grew and mixed with local cultures. Great buildings and works of art were created, and philosophers and scientists added to academic advances. The Hellenistic Period came to an end when Roman troops captured the last of Alexander's empire in 31 B.C.E.

The Norman Conquest

About 1,000 years ago in 1066, King Edward of England died without any children to take his place. His brother-in-law Harold took the throne. William, the duke of Normandy in France, believed he had a better claim to the throne. He gathered an army and launched an attack on England. Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings, and William was crowned the new king. Six hundred years of Anglo-Saxon rule came to an end. Today, this event is remembered as the Norman Conquest.

The Norman Conquest changed England. William kept careful records of the land in the Domesday Book. He used the book to charge his subjects taxes. William also took land from wealthy English people. He gave the land to Norman nobles who promised to follow him. Finally, William formed the Great Council, a group of nobles and church leaders who helped him make decisions. The Great Council would become what is now called the British Parliament.

The Norman Conquest also influenced English buildings and culture. Normans built castles and soaring cathedrals in England. French was used by lawyers and officials. Even today, the motto on the British Coat of Arms is not in English, but French.

The Mongol Empire

At its peak in the 1300s, the Mongol Empire stretched from China to Eastern Europe. The kingdom was the largest connected empire in world history. The Mongols conquered about 23,309,893 square kilometers (nine million square miles), more than twice the size of the U.S.

The effects of the Mongol conquests were felt for hundreds of years. They destroyed watering systems in what is now Iraq and Iran in the Middle East. This ruined farmland and increased fighting in the area.

However, the most lasting result of the Mongol Empire was peace. The Mongol Empire controlled the entire Silk Road, a network of trade routes. The Silk Road extended across Asia and into Europe. Knowledge moved freely, leading to advances in science. Chinese inventions and ideas spread to Europe. European goods and ideas flowed to Asia.

Unfortunately, the Mongols also probably carried the plague, or the Black Death. The deadly illness killed upwards of 25 million people in Europe.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Roza Kavak
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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