The choice of Man of the Millennium {Style, Dec. 31} may be partly a matter of taste, but Joel Achenbach's choice of Genghis Kahn is so preposterously wrongheaded that it can't go without comment. Genghis may have conquered most of Eurasia, but the Avars and Huns did it before him, and Tamerlane and the Bolsheviks did it after him. He ruled vast tracts -- but mostly of emptiness. He stimulated some trade, but destroyed more. Wherever the Mongols went, they either left or were absorbed. Mongolia was a backwater like Genghis Kahn found it long before the millennium ended. His influence was just a multi-car pileup on the highway of progress.

I think maybe Achenbach elevates Genghis Kahn because he is dismayed by the barbarities of our century. I say they are not much worse than earlier ones, though our means to do evil (and good) have increased. Picking the Mongol as Man of the Millennium obscures the real story of the last thousand years, which is of fantastic technical, moral, social, scientific and cultural progress. It was liberal Western civilization that almost bloodlessly stopped, humbled and then destroyed the 20th century's would-be military conquerors from the Asian steppes. -- Roger C. Burk

I am writing to concur with your choice of Genghis Khan as the Man of the Millennium. My support comes notwithstanding my Mongolian ancestry. It is perhaps the same heritage that compels me to respond to some of the glaring historical inaccuracies and offensive points in Joel Achenbach's article.

It is well established that there is only one extant contemporaneous portrait of Genghis Khan, which is currently in the National Museum of the Republic of China on Taiwan. Your use of a portrait that bears an eerie resemblance to Omar Sharif in the Hollywood version of "Genghis Khan" fosters greater ignorance of a subject you purport to illuminate. The question that comes to mind is why your paper would use a Westernized, "central casting" depiction of its Man of the Millennium.

As a Mongolian American, I also found Achenbach's pronouncement that "it is true that he was a thug," particularly offensive because it perpetuates an unsubstantiated, negative image of a truly remarkable individual. Perhaps your reporter should have begun his research with Daniel J. Boorstin's "The Discoverers", in which the former librarian of Congress writes:

"The Mongol Khans, from Genghis Khan through his sons and grandsons . . . were as able a dynasty as ever ruled a great empire. They showed a combination of military genius, personal courage, administrative versatility, and cultural tolerance unequaled by any European line of hereditary rulers. They deserve a higher place and a different place than they have been given by the Western historian."

These are hardly character traits commonly associated with mere thugs. My point is that the personal story of the rise of Genghis Khan from obscurity in the remotest of places to heights unprecedented -- and as yet unduplicated -- in human history is enough to make him worthy of the recognition you bestow without the unsupported attack upon his character and integrity.

-- David Urubshurow

Your discussion under Millennial Milestone No. 8, "Greatest Scientist of the Millennium," contained numerous factual errors. It was implied that Newton's ideas had been anticipated by the ancient Greeks, whereas the only truly original scientist of the early modern period was Copernicus.

In fact, the situation was the other way around. Copernicus was anticipated by the third-century B.C. astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, who first hypothesized that the earth moves around the sun. It was Newton (and before him Galileo and Descartes) who was truly original, because it was he who first gave a precise formulation of the concept of inertia (Newton's first law of motion), which was unknown to the ancients.

That plus the fact that Newton had to invent a whole branch of mathematics, calculus, before he could express his scientific theories suggests to me that he and not Copernicus should have been the first runner-up to Einstein.

At least the first runner-up. -- Donald L. Ross

In Millennial Milestones No. 11, "Greatest Musical Composition of the Millennium," Tim Page considers Bach's "B Minor Mass" and "Saint Matthew Passion" for the honor of greatest musical composition, then rejects them both as seeming "more concerned with the heavens than with the Earth." He selects instead Mozart's undeniably earthy opera, "The Marriage of Figaro."

Many good musical arguments might be made for this preference. But a work must be considered on its own merits; that a piece was divinely inspired does not render it less musically excellent nor make it irrelevant to human experience. In light of the fact that one of the most pervasive themes of this millennium has been the question of our place in the universe and relationship with the divine, disqualification of Bach's magnificent works on the basis of extra-earthly focus seems absurd and shortsighted. -- Laura Talley Geyer