Is there any estimate of the number of people that were killed during the invasions and conquests of Alexander III of Macedon and Genghis Khan?

At least can tell me which one killed more people?
What percent of them were military vs civilian?

  • 2
    I have seen an estimate of "millions" for Horde victims. The source was a fiction book (obviously with no citations), but the author was a historian by trade, and one with an unusually respectful attitude for the Horde.
    – DVK
    Jan 25, 2013 at 19:38
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    What percent of them were military vs civilian? A nearly irrelevant distinction given the time. Down vote for a badly framed question (Just losing that element of it will improve it). May 30, 2017 at 17:17
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    For Genghis Khan You may refer to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destruction_under_the_Mongol_Empire. "The population of north China decreased from 50 million in the 1195 census to 8.5 million in the Mongol census of 1235–36. However many were victims of plague. ". These number have been quotes/used for many sources in China but I don't what is original source. Dec 6, 2021 at 7:12
  • "Killed by..." -- You mean, personally? Ordered to be killed? Killed in the name of? Killed by subjects of?
    – DevSolar
    Jan 24 at 19:42
  • If there's any sound argument against using the honorific "The Great" for Alexander III, than surely the exact same argument holds for not using the honorific "Genghis Khan" - meaning "universal Ruler" for Temujin. In meaning, there is far more similarity than difference in the significance of both honorifics. Jan 25 at 12:51

5 Answers 5


Such estimates are pretty difficult. Even for WWII there is no universal agreement over the number of dead - and that's for a relatively recent event that was extensively documented.

However, I think one can say from the record that the civilian/military ratio among Genghis Khan's victims was much higher than that of Alexander's. (To wit, Genghis Khan would raze whole cities and kill all the inhabitants - something Alexander never did, except for the one singular case of Thebes).

  • 12
    Even here, how sure are we really? We are relying entirely on histories written by people who feel a lot of cultural affinity with the ancient Greeks, and none at all for the nomadic Mongols.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 25, 2013 at 20:06
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    Also, Alexander typically sold civilians to slavery - different times, different customs, a comparison is pointless.
    – yannis
    Jan 25, 2013 at 23:16
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    @T.E.D.: Not sure about that, actually. The en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_History_of_the_Mongols seems to have little anti-Mongolian bias... Jan 26, 2013 at 1:09
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    Since the population density in the age of Genghis Khan was significantly higher, and mongols tend to destroy whole area's agriculture to have pasture, it is rather likely thar the Mongols beat Alexander any time.
    – Greg
    Oct 30, 2016 at 8:43
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    civilian/military ratio is an irrelevant distinction, even an anachronism, particularly given the time. I don't think we should encourage badly framed questions with answers that fall into their traps, Felix. May 30, 2017 at 17:18

Alexander also razed the city of Tyre to the ground and built a new city in its place, and the burned and looted of the Persian city of Persepolis. There were also a number of small Bactrian cities/forts that refused to surrender, and in retaliation he killed everyone. Between civilians and military I would say somwhere between 800,000 and 1.2 million, this is just a guess though. In ancient battles, a defeated force was much more likely to be completely wiped out.

  • 3
    Tyre was destroyed, but Tyrian civilians were sold to slavery, not killed. Thebes is the only example (we know of) where the civilian population was slaughtered.
    – yannis
    Jan 28, 2013 at 16:02

It is estimated that genghis Khan killed around 40 million. This is an estimate but that is a similar amount to Stalin and more than Hitler.

  • 11
    Do you have a source for that figure?
    – Steve Bird
    Oct 27, 2016 at 22:25
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    How is that more than Hitler? It seems that people forget that besides commiting genocide against Jews and Roma, Hitler started a war that killed several million people. Why would those killed in such war go to Stalin's body count instead of Hitler's? Apr 21, 2017 at 21:55

I have a dataset of all battles that Alexander participated in. The dataset does not have complete data about the total number of deaths for all battles, but it has data for most of the confrontations of his armies (also consider his father's). The number of deaths is nowhere comparable with Gengis Khan. Ratio looks like 10 to 1.

1. Conquering Policies

Mongols had a policy of razing to the ground the very populous cities in southern Central Asia, which were placed besides rivers and on very fertile lands. Similar policy was applied to cities in China.

Regarding Alexander, in contrast, the massacre of Thebans is numbered at 6k death + 30k sold into slavery. Then, the burning of Persepolis was restricted to the royal palaces, in vengeance to the burning of Greek temples in previous Persian campaigns back in Greece. I would say total deaths related to Alexandre's campaigns are below 200k, my dataset does not reach 80k.

Yet, you need to consider that most deaths ocurred not because battles but because of the havoc caused in the Empires Alexander or Gengis Khan invaded. On this regard, Gengis Khan caused various population collapses in the many political entites he invaded, some of which near total collapses. Estimates then can go big quite fast, as archaeologists will tell you. Alexander, in contrast, "only" invaded Persia in full, and there was havoc, but not a population collapse at all.

In summary, they are not comparable.

2. Hoplite-based Infantry

As additional info, Historians consider that infantry battles based on Greek hoplite formations had typically about 5% to 15% casualty rate (Winner-Loser), which is very low in antiquity standards.

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  • 1
    Can we get some kind of idea of where the numbers for that dataset came from? Also, it could just be me being dense, but I don't understand the data in the last two columns of the table. What is it, and why does every number start with a hyphen?(minus sign?) Perhaps date range in y-m-d format, with the leading hyphen instead indicating BCE?
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 24 at 16:05
  • It's from a dataset of all wars in history. It includes other datasets, generalist sources (like the Dictionary of Wars, Gledish, etc), as well as particular sources to each conflict. Yes, the date range is in the last two columns, and the minus means "BCE".
    – James
    Jan 24 at 17:23

With Alexander the Great it's hard to say due to lack of information, which is caused by the bad record keeping in those days combined with the fact that the west considers him a hero. However, estimates go from anywhere between 100,000 and several millions. A realistic number is hard to determine but I'd say 300,000-400,000 is most likely accurate. As for Genghis Khan, his horde has killed 10,150,000 people in the Khwarezmid Empire alone, reducing the former Empire's population by 90%. Meanwhile, the population of China plummeted by 40 million during his rule. If we exclude deaths he can't be held accountable for, we'll end up at about 27 million. The remaining conquests probably killed a few hundred thousand too. If we add up the numbers, Genghis Khan ends up at about 38.5 million, earning him the title 'worst mass murderer' with an advantage of millions of people killed in front of #2, which would be Timur with 17 million.

  • 7
    Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Oct 17, 2018 at 17:22

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