Campaigns he waged against Persia occupied him until 1387. By that time he had in his possession the lands stretching E from the Euphrates River. He advanced (1392) across the Euphrates, conquered the territory between the Caspian and Black seas, and invaded several of the Russian states. By weakening the Crimean Tatars he helped clear the way for the conquests of the grand duchy of Moscow. Timur abandoned some of his Russian conquests to return to Samarkand and invade (1398) India along the route of the Indus River. He took Delhi and brought the Delhi Sultanate to an end, but he withdrew with little addition to his domain.
In 1400, Timur ravaged Georgia and proceeded to the Levant, where he took Aleppo and Baghdad. His next war was fought in Asia Minor against the Ottoman Turks, and in 1402, at Angora, he captured their sultan, Beyazid I, who, contrary to popular belief, was well treated. Timur died while planning an invasion of China. His tomb at Samarkand was long known to archaeologists, but it is only recently that his skeleton, buried in a deep crypt, was found.
Timur's reputation is that of a cruel conqueror. After capturing certain cities he slaughtered thousands of the defenders (perhaps 80,000 at Delhi) and built pyramids of their skulls. Although a Muslim, he was scarcely more merciful to those of his own faith than to those he considered infidels. His positive achievements were the encouragement of art, literature, and science and the construction of vast public works. He had little hope that his vast conquests would remain intact, and before his death he arranged for them to be divided among his sons. The Timurids are the line of rulers descended from him. Christopher Marlowe's play Tamburlaine luridly recounts his conquests.
See biographies by H. Hookham (1962) and B. F. Manz (1989); J. H. Sanders, tr., Tamerlane (tr. of late 14th-century Arabic work by A. Ibn Arabshah, 1936).
(born 1336, Kesh, near Samarkand, Transoxania—died Feb. 19, 1405, Otrar, near Chimkent) Turkic conqueror of Islamic faith whose conquests reached from India and Russia to the Mediterranean Sea. Timur took part in campaigns in Transoxania with Chagatai, a descendant of Genghis Khan. (Timur Lenk, or Tamerlane, means “Timur the Lame,” reflecting the battle wounds he received.) Through machinations and treachery he took over Transoxania and proclaimed himself the restorer of the Mongol empire. In the 1380s he began his conquest of Iran (Persia), taking Khorāsān and eastern Iran in 1383–85 and western Iran as far as Mesopotamia and Georgia in 1386–94. He occupied Moscow for a year. When revolts broke out in Iran, he ruthlessly suppressed them, massacring the populations of whole cities. In 1398 he invaded India, leaving a trail of carnage. Next he marched on Damascus and Baghdad, deporting the artisans of the former to Samarkand and destroying all the monuments of the latter. In 1404 he prepared to march on China but died early in the march. Although Timur strove to make Samarkand the most splendid city in Asia, he himself preferred to be always on the move. His most lasting memorials are the architectural monuments of Samarkand and the dynasty he established, under which Samarkand became a centre of scholarship and science.
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Timur, also written Emir Timur or Amir Temur (Chagatai: تیمور - Tēmōr, "iron") (1336 – 19 February 1405), among his other names, commonly called Tamerlane or Timur the Lame, was a 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror of much of western and Central Asia, and founder of the Timurid Empire and Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia, which survived until 1857 as the Mughal dynasty of India.
Timur belonged to a family of the Turkicized Barlas clan of Mongol origin. Although Timur was not a direct male-line descendant of the great Khan Genghis, he claimed descent from one of Genghis' granddaughters and took two of Genghis's descendants as his wives to link himself to Genghis. He was Turkic in identity and language, and he aspired to restore the Mongol Empire. He was also steeped in Persian culture and in most of the territories which he incorporated, Persian was the primary language of administration and literary culture. Thus the language of the settled diwan was Persian and its scribes had to be adept in Persian culture, regardless of ethnicity.. In addition to this, during his reign Turkic became a state and literary language, and some of the greatest contributions to Turkic literature were made during the Timurid era. Turkic culture was restored from the Mongol expansion and flourished. Major Turkic cultural sites like the Ahmad Yasavi shrine were constructed. Timur's short-lived empire consolidated the Turco-Persian cultural synthesis in Transoxiania: a literary form of Chaghatay Turkish was used alongside Persian as both cultural and official language.
Timur was a military genius and loved to play chess in his spare time to improve his military tactics and skill. His troops were essentially Turkic-speaking. He wielded absolute power, yet never called himself more than an emir, and eventually ruled in the name of tamed Chingizid Khans, who were little more than political prisoners. His heaviest blow was against the Mongol Golden Horde, which never recovered after his campaign against Tokhtamysh. Despite wanting to restore the Mongol Empire, Timur was more at home in a city than on a steppe as evidenced by his funding of construction in Samarkand. He thought of himself as a ghazi, but his biggest wars were against Muslim states.
He died during his campaign against the Ming Dynasty, yet records indicate that for part of his life he was a surreptitious Ming vassal, and even his son Shah Rukh visited China in 1420. He ruled over an empire that, in modern times, extends from southeastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and Iran, through Central Asia encompassing part of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, North-Western India, and even approaching Kashgar in China. Northern Iraq remained predominantly Assyrian Christian until attacked, looted, plundered and destroyed by Timur and its population decimated by systamatic mass slaughters and genocide, Churches were all destroyed and survivors were forcefully converted to Islam by the sword. This is based on what is written by Christian monks and historians.
Timur's military talents were unique. He is known to have employed what is known nowadays as information warfare. Timur's campaigns were preceded by spies whose tasks included collecting information and spreading horrifying reports about the cruelty, size and might of his armies - eventually weakening the morale of the population and causing panic among enemy forces.
Sources claim that when Timur conquered Persia, Iraq and Syria, the civilian population was decimated and their women and children raped, looted and converted to Islam by force. In the city of Isfahan, he ordered the building of a pyramid of 70,000 human skulls, from those that his army had beheaded, and a pyramid of some 20,000 skulls was erected outside of Aleppo. Timur herded thousands of citizens of Damascus into the Cathedral Mosque before setting it aflame, and had 70,000 people beheaded in Tikrit, and 90,000 more in Baghdad. As many as 17 million people may have died from his conquests.
Timur is historically considered to be a contradictory and controversial figure, as was the case even during his lifetime. He was a patron of the arts, but also destroyed the great centres of learning during his conquests.
The spurious genealogy on his tombstone taking his descent back to Ali, as well as the presence of Shiites in his army, led some observers and scholars to call him a Shiite. However, his official religious counselor was the Hanafite scholar Abd alJabbar Khwarazmi. There is evidence that he had converted to extremist Shia Nusayri sect under the influence of Sayyed Barakah, a Nusayri leader from his mentor, Balkh. He also constructed one of his finest buildings at the tomb of Ahmed Yesevi, an influential Turkic Sufi saint who was doing most to spread Sunni Islam among the nomads.
In his memoirs Timur gave the following information about his ancestry:
In about 1360 Timur gained prominence as a military leader. He took part in campaigns in Transoxania with the khan of Chagatai, a fellow descendant of Genghis Khan. His career for the next 10 or 11 years may be thus briefly summarized from the Memoirs. Allying himself both in cause and by family connection with Kurgan, the dethroner and destroyer of Volga Bulgaria, he was to invade Khorasan at the head of a thousand horsemen. This was the second military expedition which he led, and its success led to further operations, among them the subjection of Khwarizm and Urganj.
After the murder of Kurgan the disputes which arose among the many claimants to sovereign power were halted by the invasion of the energetic Jagataite Tughlugh Timur of Kashgar, another descendant of Genghis Khan. Timur was dispatched on a mission to the invader's camp, the result of which was his own appointment to the head of his own tribe, the Barlas, in place of its former leader, Hajji Beg.
The exigencies of Timur's quasi-sovereign position compelled him to have recourse to his formidable patron, whose reappearance on the banks of the Syr Darya created a consternation not easily allayed. The Barlas were taken from Timur and entrusted to a son of Tughluk, along with the rest of Mawarannahr; but he was defeated in battle by the bold warrior he had replaced at the head of a numerically far inferior force.
Tughlugh's death facilitated the work of reconquest, and a few years of perseverance and energy sufficed for its accomplishment, as well as for the addition of a vast extent of territory. It was in this period that Timur reduced the Jagatai khans to the position of figureheads, who were deferred to in theory but in reality ignored, while Timur ruled in their name. During this period Timur and his brother-in-law Husayn, at first fellow fugitives and wanderers in joint adventures full of interest and romance, became rivals and antagonists. At the close of 1369 Husayn was assassinated and Timur, having been formally proclaimed sovereign at Balkh, mounted the throne at Samarkand, the capital of his dominions. This event was recorded by Marlowe in his famous work Tamburlaine the Great: It is notable that Timur never claimed for himself the title of khan, styling himself amir and acting in the name of the Chagatai ruler of Transoxania. Timur was a military genius but sometimes lacking in political sense. He tended not to leave a government apparatus behind in lands he conquered, and was often faced with the need to conquer such lands again after inevitable rebellions.
One of the most formidable of his opponents was Tokhtamysh who, after having been a refugee at the court, became ruler both of the eastern Kipchak and the Golden Horde and quarreled with him over the possession of Khwarizm and Azerbaijan. Timur supported Tokhtamysh against Russians and Tokhtamysh, with armed support by Timur, invaded Russia and in 1382 captured Moscow. After the death of Abu Sa'id, ruler of the Ilkhanid Dynasty, in 1335, there was a power vacuum in the Persian Empire. In 1383 Timur started the military conquest of Persia. He captured Herat, Khorasan and all eastern Persia by 1385 and massacred almost all inhabitants of Neishapur and other Iranian cities.
In the meantime, Tokhtamysh, now khan of the Golden Horde, turned against his patron and invaded Azerbaijan in 1385. It was not until 1395, in the battle of Kur River, that Tokhtamysh's power was finally broken after a titanic struggle between the two monarchs. In this war, Timur first led an army of over 100,000 men north for more than 700 miles into the uninhabited steppe, then west about 1000 miles, advancing in a front more than 10 miles wide. The Timurid army almost starved, and Timur organized a great hunt where the army encircled vast areas of steppe to get food. Tokhtamysh's army finally was cornered against the Volga River in the Orenburg region and destroyed. During this march, Timur's army got far enough north to be in a region of very long summer days, causing complaints by his Muslim soldiers about keeping a long schedule of prayers in such northern regions. Timur led a second campaign against Tokhtamysh via an easier route through the Caucasus. Timur then destroyed Sarai and Astrakhan, and wrecked the Golden Horde's economy based on Silk Road trade.
Timur crossed the Indus River at Attock (now Pakistan) on September 24. The capture of towns and villages was often followed by the looting, massacre of their inhabitants and raping of their women, as well as pillaging to support his massive army. Timur wrote many times in his memoirs of his specific disdain for the 'idolatrous' Hindus, although he also waged war against Muslim Indians during his campaign.
Timur's invasion did not go unopposed and he did meet some resistance during his march to Delhi, by the Governor of Meerut. Timur was able to continue his relentless approach to Delhi, arriving in 1398 to combat the armies of Sultan Mehmud, already weakened by an internal battle for ascension within the royal family.
The Sultan's army was easily defeated on December 17 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked, destroyed, and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed more than 100,000 captives, mostly Hindus.
As per Malfuzat-i-Timuri, Timur targeted Hindus. In his own words, "Excepting the quarter of the saiyids, the 'ulama and the other Musalmans [sic], the whole city was sacked". In his descriptions of the Loni massacre he wrote, "Next day I gave orders that the Musalman prisoners should be separated and saved."
Timur's memoirs on his invasion of India describe in detail the massacre of Hindus, looting plundering and raping of their women and children, their forced conversions to Islam and the plunder of the wealth of Hindustan (Greater India). It gives details of how villages, towns and entire cities were rid of their Hindu male population through systematic mass slaughters and genocide and their women and children forcefully converted en masse to Islam from Hinduism.
Timur left Delhi in approximately January 1399. In April he had returned to his own capital beyond the Oxus (Amu Darya). Immense quantities of spoils were taken from India. According to Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, 90 captured elephants were employed merely to carry precious stones looted from his conquest, so as to erect a mosque at Samarkand — what historians today believe is the enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque. Ironically, the mosque was constructed too quickly and suffered greatly from disrepair within a few decades of its construction.
Before the end of 1399, Timur started a war with Bayezid I, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and the Mamluk sultan of Egypt. Bayezid began annexing the territory of Turkmen and Muslim rulers in Anatolia. As Timur claimed sovereignty over the Turkmen rulers, they took refuge behind him. Timur invaded Syria, sacked Aleppo and captured Damascus after defeating the Mamluk army. The city's inhabitants were massacred, except for the artisans, who were deported to Samarkand. This led to Timur's being publicly declared an enemy of Islam.
He invaded Baghdad in June 1401. After the capture of the city, 20,000 of its citizens including Muslims were massacred. Timur ordered that every soldier should return with at least two severed human heads to show him (many warriors were so scared they killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign just to ensure they had heads to present to Timur). After years of insulting letters passed between Timur and Bayezid, Timur invaded Anatolia and defeated Bayezid in the Battle of Ankara on July 20, 1402. Bayezid was captured in battle and subsequently died in captivity, initiating the 12-year Ottoman Interregnum period. Timur's stated motivation for attacking Bayezid and the Ottoman Empire was the restoration of Seljuq authority. Timur saw the Seljuks as the rightful rulers of Anatolia as they had been granted rule by Mongol conquerors, illustrating again Timur's interest with Genghizid legitimacy.
By 1368, the Ming had driven the Mongols out of China. The first Ming Emperor Hongwu demanded, and received, homage from many Central Asian states paid to China as the political heirs to the former House of Kublai. Although Timur more than once sent to the Ming Government gifts, he wished to restore the Mongol Empire, and eventually planned to conquer China. To this end, Timur made an alliance with the Mongols and prepared all the way to Bukhara. The Mongol leader Enkhe Khan sent his grandson Öljei Temür, also known as Buyanshir. In December 1404, Timur started military campaigns against the Ming Dynasty, but he was attacked by fever and plague when encamped on the farther side of the Sihon (Syr-Daria) and died at Atrar (Otrar) in mid-February 1405. His scouts explored Mongolia before his death, and the writing they carved on trees in Mongolia's mountains could still be seen even in the 20th century.
Of Timur's four sons, two (Jahangir and Umar Shaykh) predeceased him. His third son, Miran Shah, died soon after Timur, leaving the youngest son, Shah Rukh. Although his designated successor was his grandson Pir Muhammad b. Jahangir, Timur was ultimately succeeded in power by his son Shah Rukh. His most illustrious descendant Babur founded the Mughal Empire and ruled over most of North India. Babur's descendants, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, expanded the Mughal Empire to most of the Indian subcontinent along with parts of modern Afghanistan.
Markham, in his introduction to the narrative of Clavijo's embassy, states that his body "was embalmed with musk and rose water, wrapped in linen, laid in an ebony coffin and sent to Samarkand, where it was buried." His tomb, the Gur-e Amir, still stands in Samarkand, though it has been heavily restored in recent years. Timur had carried his victorious arms on one side from the Irtish and the Volga to the Persian Gulf, and on the other from the Hellespont to the Ganges River.
According to legend, Omar Aqta, Timur's court calligrapher, transcribed the Qur'an using letters so small that the entire text of the book fit on a signet ring. Omar also is said to have created a Qur'an so large that a wheelbarrow was required to transport it. Folios of what is probably this larger Qur'an have been found, written in gold lettering on huge pages.
Timur was also said to have created Tamerlane Chess, a variant of shatranj (also known as medieval chess) played on a larger board with several additional pieces and an original method of pawn promotion.
Timur's body was exhumed from his tomb in 1941 by the Soviet anthropologist Mikhail M. Gerasimov. From his bones it was clear that Timur was a tall and broad chested man with strong cheek bones. Gerasimov also found that Timur's facial characteristics conformed to that of Mongoloid features, which he believed, in some part, supported Timur's notion that he was descended from Genghis Khan. Gerasimov was able to reconstruct the likeness of Timur from his skull.
Famously, a curse has been attached to opening Timur's tomb. In the year of Timur's death, a sign was carved in his tomb warning that whoever would dare disturb the tomb would bring demons of war onto his land. Gerasimov's expedition opened the tomb on June 19, 1941. Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany, began three days later. Timur's skeleton and that of Ulugh Beg, his grandson, were reinterred with full Islamic burial rites in 1942. On that same day, the Soviets won a major victory at Stalingrad.
A copy has been kept of the answer of Charles VI to Timur, dated June 15th, 1403.
Among less reputed biographies or materials for biography may be mentioned a second Zafarnāma, by Nizam al-Din Shami, stated to be the earliest known history of Timur, and the only one written in his lifetime. Timur's purported autobiography, the Tuzk-e-Taimuri ("Memoirs of Temur") is a later fabrication, although most of the historical facts are accurate.
More recent biographies include Justin Marozzi's Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World (2006) and Roy Stier's Tamerlane: The Ultimate Warrior (1998).