The story happened in Golden Horde (1260-1480), which is one of the four Mongol Khanates, originating as the northern sector of the Mongol Empire.



The Golden Horde was founded by Batu Khan, although it was founded in 1242, not until 1260 did it become an independent Khanate of the Mongol empire. And after the death of Batu, Möngke-Temür obtained the lordship. According to the description in DW paragraph 228, Töle Buqa inherited the lordship of Temur and was killed by Töde Möngke, who got the assistance of Nogai. [1]

Finally, after Möngke’s death, Toqto’a got the lordship and was elected Lord. [2]


The Map of the Golden Horde


The Khans and the recession relationship were complicated during the Golden Horde, since it separated into several small Horde. [3]However, we are just going to pay attention to what is mentioned by Macro Polo in the description of Toqto’a and Nogai’s war in DW.


In the following sections, I am going to discuss the war between Toqto’a and Nogai in 3 different angles:

  1. Whether the record of this war in DW is reliable.

  2. The reasons for Nogai’s victory in this war.

  3. The following story between Nogai and Toqto’a


In DW paragraph 228, Macro Polo simply introduced the succession relationship of the Golden Horde. From his description, we knew that Töde Möngke killed Töle Buqa and got the lordship with the help of Nogai.[4]


However, in the record of Golden Horde in “金帐汗国兴衰史”, the period of each Khans’ lordship was listed as following: Möngke Temür (1266-1280), Töde Möngke (1280-1287), Töle Buqa (1287-1290). [5]From these, we can conclude that the record of the DW paragraph 228 was wrong, since Macro Polo said the lordship of Möngke is after the Lordship of Buqa.


Nevertheless, the reason of the battle may be true although the record of the sequence of the lordships was wrong. This is because in “金帐汗国兴衰史”,it was recorded that Töle Buqa was killed by Nogai. [6]Thus, it was reasonable that the two sons of Buqa asked Nogai for justice under Toqto’a’s help.


However, the things turned out to be different. According to the record in “金帐汗国兴衰史”, the reason for Toqto’a and Nogai’s battle didn’t have any relation with Buqa’s two sons. The reason of this war was that Nogai adopted two traitors who were escaped from Toqto’a.[7] Thus, Toqto’a started a war against Nogai. But this different recording of reasons does not matter so much.


Before further discussion, we have to figure out the relationship between Nogai and Toqto’a. From the “Background” part, we have already known that Toqto’a got the lordship with Nogai’s help. But why Nogai decided to help Toqto’a to get the lordship? This was because he wanted to control the Golden Horde. Thus, he incited wars between each prince, and finally killed Töle Buqa and support Toqto’a to get the lordship. [8]The reason that he didn’t take the lordship himself was easy to understand: He had no royal blood, thus, he would not get anyone’s support if he wanted to fight for the lordship himself. So Toqto’a was just as a puppet of Nogai. [9]The actual power of Golden Horde was controlled mostly by Nogai.


So, the real reason for this war was that Toqto’a was annoyed with Nogai’s inappropriate control of the Golden Horde and himself. As a result, Toqto’a would find any reason he could to start this war in order to get rid of Nogai’s control, so what was the actual reason didn’t matter so much.


In Paragraph 230-233, Macro Polo made a detailed description of the battle, which could not be found in other primary sources. Although we cannot prove the details, since there are rarely resources which wrote about such a small war happened in such a big empire, according to other sources, especially the “金帐汗国兴衰史”, we can find the record of this battle between Toqto’a and Nogai and the result of this war is consistent with which in the DW, Nogai won this battle.


As a result, we can consider DW as a historic resource. Although it contains some mistakes and some artistic adaption, we can still utilize it as an important primary source of the Mongol history.


The battle took place in Nerghi Plain, and ended after a bloody and violent war, which killed 60,000 men. The consequence of the battle is Nogai and his army while King Toqto’a escaped and Töle Buqa’s 2 sons escaped as well.[9]So what is the reason for Nogai’s victory of the war?

Preparation and Military capacity

In DW paragraph 230, we can get the information of both Toqto’a and Nogai’s preparation for the war. Both of them made great preparations. Toqto’a summoned all the people who were subject to him and told them to be ready to attack King Nogai. Since Toqto’a is the king of the Golden Horde, his army had a large number of soldiers, 200,000 horsemen he gathered for the battle.[10]

Meanwhile, Nogai doesn’t have such a huge power and such a large number of soldiers, so he just had 150,000 horsemen altogether, 50,000 less than Toqto’a. However, the horsemen in Nogai’s army were really powerful and have abundant war experience, and they are better men-at-arms than Toqto’a’s.[11]

Pre-battle speech of Nogai and Toqto’a

After both of their army arrived and settled down on the plain, the war was at the corner. Before departure, both Nogai and Toqto’a gathered their armies and made a brief speech to boost morale.


Here are Toqto’a’s and Nogai’s speech according to DW paragraph 232:



“Lords, we have come here to fight King Noqai and his men. We have a great reason to do this; for you know that all this hatred and rancor has come about because Nogai has not wanted to render accounts to Töle Buqa’s sons. And certainly, since he has separated himself from reason, it is fitting that we come out the winners in this battle and that he be killed and destroyed; for this, each of you should take comfort and have good hope of defeating our enemies. But nevertheless I pray you, as best I know and am able, that each of you be a brave man and strive beyond your power so that we can put our enemies to destruction and death.” At this he fell silent and said no more.



“Fair brothers and friends, you know that we have already won many great battles and many great combats; we have already tangled with many better people and come out on top. And so, since this is the truth as you yourselves know, you should be quite reassured about winning this battle; moreover, we are very right and they are wrong; for you know well that he who ordered me to come before him in his court to make an accounting to others was not my lord. Now, I don’t want to say any more to you except that I pray each of you to put your mind to doing well, and that we should comport ourselves in this battle such that everyone will speak of us, and that we and our heirs will be feared forevermore.” At this King Nogai fell silent and said no more.



Different address of the soldiers

We can find the difference between Nogai and Toqto’a’s speech. First of all, is the address form towards their soldiers. Toqto’a didn’t pay attention to how to call his soldiers while Nogai called them “Fair brother and friends”. This difference may be caused by the different identity of Toqto’a and Nogai. We know that Toqto’a was the Khan of the Golden Horde, the relationship between him and his soldiers is the relationship of supervisor and subordinates. Thus, he will not pay attention to the address since in his mind all his soldiers should obey his command and serve him as their king. However, Nogai was not a orthodox king, although he had his own territories and was called “king”. Thus, although the relationship between him and his soldiers was a supervisor-subordinate relationship, he showed his respect by calling them “friends and brothers” and told them they were equal.


This mattered how their soldiers take this war as. For Toqto’a’s soldiers, they would take this battle as an important mission to accomplish. It was their job but not their own will. However, Nogai’s soldiers would take this battle as a fight for their brother. In their mind, it may be like: “I should help my brother to win the battle in order to prevent him from being bullied.” It is not only their mission, but also a time to prove their brotherhood. Thus, Nogai’s army had a strong will to win the battle than Toqto’a’s.


The reason for the battle mentioned by Toqto’a and Nogai


Toqto’a mentioned in his speech that the reason for the battle is Nogai didn’t come to explain the reason for killing Buqa. Personally speaking, this reason is not very sufficient. Although we knew that the real reason for this battle was to get rid of Nogai’s control of the Golden Horde, the soldiers didn’t have idea of this. All they knew were Nogai didn’t come to see Toqto’a and looked down at them. Thus, the soldier didn’t have a clear view of the real meaning of this war. In conclusion, they didn’t have a strong will to win this war.


Nogai mentioned in his speech that the reason for the battle was Toqto’a asked Nogai to make an accounting to Buqa’s two sons, who were not their king. Thus, Nogai had no reason to do such an inappropriate thing although it was asked by their king, Toqto’a. And they knew that Toqto’a took this as the reason for starting a war against them, which couldn’t be understand by them. Due to Toqto’a’s unjustified reason for the battle mentioned by Nogai, the soldiers had a will to protect their superior.

The Strategic arrangements and the consequence of the war

As mentioned in DW, Toqto’a made 20 battlelions and put a good leader and good captain in each. We knew that Toqto’a had 200,000 soldiers, thus, each battalion had 10,000 soldiers. Nogai made 15 battalions with good captains and good leaders, in each he put 10,000 soldiers as well.


Although Toqto’a had more soldiers than Nogai, since Nogai’s soldiers were better men-at-arms than Toqto’a’s, a lot more of Toqto’a’s men died than Nogai’s during the middle of the war.

Also, both two kings threw themselves among their enemies. They didn’t care about their death, which gave their soldiers strong motivation to make more effort to fight against their enemies.

However, although Toqto’a had more soldiers than Nogai, due to Nogai’s soldiers’ stronger will to win the battle and the soldiers’ more powerful physical features, Nogai won the battle.


Although the Description of the World ended with the first battle between Toqto’a and Nogai, the war between them didn’t end.

We know that in the first battle, Nogai’s army won and Toqto’a escaped. When Toqto’a and his army retreated to Sarai, Nogai made a mistake and did not immediately advance to Sarai. In 1299, the two sides fought for the second time near the Dnieper River. [12]


This time, Toqto’a defeated Nogai and Nogai’s army abandoned him. “At dusk, Nogai’s sons and the army disintegrated. Nogai was old and his long eyebrows covered his eyes. He was lured into the trap by a soldier from Toqto’a’s army. He told the soldiers that he was Nogai, asking him to bring himself to Toqto’a. However, the soldier cut off his head. Toqto’a was deeply saddened by this old man’s death, and even executed the murderer. ” This was because Toqto’a didn’t want others to think he was an ungrateful man since it was Nogai who helped him to get the lordship. However, the death of Nogai meant the end of his inappropriate control of the Golden Horde and Toqto’a had finally gotten rid of him.

  1. The Description Of The World chapter 6 paragraph 228-233 by Macro Polo

  2. The Rise And Fall Of The Golden Horde “金帐汗国兴衰史 ” by Suglev

  3. The Secret History of Mongol

  4. 钦察汗国之疆域以及其历史变迁” by 田庆锋

  5. “The Encyclopedia of Empire, Nogai Horde”, 2016


[1] Description of the World, Marco Polo, Chapter 6, Paragraph 228

[2] Description of the World, Marco Polo, Chapter 6, Paragraph 228

[3]The Rise And Fall Of The Golden Horde, Suglev

[4] Description of the World, Marco Polo, Chapter 6

[5] The Rise And Fall Of The Golden Horde, Suglev

[6] The Rise And Fall Of The Golden Horde, Suglev

[7] The Rise And Fall Of The Golden Horde, Suglev

[8] “The Encyclopedia of Empire, Nogai Horde”, 2016

[9] Description of the World, Marco Polo, Chapter 6

[10] Description of the World, Marco Polo, Chapter 6, Paragraph 233

[11] Description of the World, Marco Polo, Chapter 6, Paragraph 233

[12] 钦察汗国之疆域以及其历史变迁” , 田庆锋

Other obvious citations are just in the article.



By Emily Shi