- For the chess engine Tamerlane, see Tamerlane.
Timur, (also known as Temur, Taimur, Timur Lenk, Timur i Leng, Tamerlane, Tamburlaine, or Taimur-e-Lang, which translates to Timur the Lame, as he was lame in the left foot since birth) (1336–February 1405) was a renowned 14th century Turkic conqueror, ruler of the Timurid Empire (1370–1405) in Central Asia, and founder of the Timurid dynasty, which survived until 1506.
He was born at Kesh, better known as Shahr-e-Sabz, 'the green city,' situated some 50 miles south of Samarkand in modern Uzbekistan.
His father Teragai was head of the tribe of Barlas. Great-grandson of Karachar Nevian (minister of Chagatai Khan, son of Genghis Khan, and commander-in-chief of his forces), and distinguished, among his fellow-clansmen as the first convert to Islam, Teragai might have assumed the high military rank which fell to him by right of inheritance; but like his father Burkul he preferred a life of retirement and study.
Under the paternal eye the education of young Timur was such that at the age of twenty he had not only become an adept in manly outdoor exercises but had earned the reputation of being an attentive reader of the Qur'an. At this period, if we may credit the Memoirs (Malfu'at), he exhibited proofs of a tender and sympathetic nature.
About 1358, however, he came before the world as a military leader. His career for the next ten or eleven 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 Kazan, he was to invade Khorasan at the head of a thousand horsemen. This was the second warlike expedition in which he was the chief actor, and the accomplishment of its objects led to further operations, among them the subjection of Khwarizm and Urganj.
After the murder of Kurgan the contentions which arose among the many claimants to sovereign power were halted by the invasion of Tughluk Timur of Kashgar, a descendant of Genghis Khan. Timur was despatched on a mission to the invader's camp, the result of which was his own appointment to the government of Mawaranahr.
By the death of his father he was also left hereditary head of the Barlas. The exigencies of his quasi-sovereign position compelled him to have recourse to his formidable patron, whose reappearance on the banks of the Sihon created a consternation not easily allayed. Mawaranahr was taken from Timur and entrusted to a son of Tughluk; but he was defeated in battle by the bold warrior he had replaced at the head of a numerically far inferior force.
Rise to power
Tughluk'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. During this period Timür 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.
It is notable that Timür never claimed for himself the title of khan, styling himself amir and acting in the name of the Chagatai ruler of Transoxiana. This is because he was not descended from Genghis Khan during a period when that ruler's political myth still dominated the area, and actual relation to the great khan was for the most part required to legitimate a ruler's right to power. As the Chaghatayid and Turkic lineages intertwined over time, this restriction became less important.
Period of expansion
The next thirty years or so were spent in various wars and expeditions. Timur not only consolidated his rule at home by the subjection of his foes, but sought extension of territory by encroachments upon the lands of foreign potentates. His conquests to the west and north-west led him among the Mongols of the Caspian Sea and to the banks of the Ural and the Volga; those to the south and south-West comprehended almost every province in Persia, including Baghdad, Karbala and Kurdistan.
One of the most formidable of his opponents was Toktamish, who after having been a refugee at the court of Timur became ruler both of the eastern Kipchak and the Golden Horde, and quarrelled with Timur over the possession of Khwarizm. It was not until 1395 that the power of Toktamish was finally broken.
In 1398, when Timur was more than sixty years of age, Farishta tells us that, "informed of the commotions and civil wars of India," he "began his expedition into that country," and on the September 12, 1398 "arrived on the banks of the Indus."
His passage of the river and upward march along the left bank, the reinforcement he provided for his grandson Pir Mahommed (who was invested in Multan), the capture of towns or villages accompanied, it might be, with destruction of the houses and the massacre of the inhabitants, the battle before Delhi and the easy victory, the triumphal entry into the doomed city, with its outcome of horrors—all these circumstances belong to the annals of India. It is said that the devastation of Delhi was not Timur's intent, but that his men could simply not be controlled in arriving inside the city gates.
In April 1399, some three months after quitting the capital of Mahmüd Toghluk, Timur was back in his own capital beyond the Oxus. It need scarcely be added that an immense quantity of spoil was conveyed away. According to Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, ninety captured elephants were employed merely to carry stones from certain quarries to enable the conqueror to erect a mosque at Samarkand.
The war with the Turks and Egyptians, which followed the return from India, was rendered notable by the capture of Aleppo and Damascus. He invaded Baghdad in June of 1401; after the capture of the city, 20,000 of its citizens were massacred. Timur ordered that every soldier should return with at least two severed human heads to show. In 1402, Timur invaded Anatolia and defeated Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I in the Battle of Ankara; Bayezid was captured and subsequently died in captivity. Timur also captured Smyrna from the Knights of Rhodes. This was his last campaign.
In December 1404 Timur started military expeditions against China, but the old warrior 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.
Markham, in his introduction to the narrative of Clavijo's embassy, states that his body "was embalmed with mush and rose water, wrapped in linen, laid in an ebony coffin and sent to Samarkand, where it was buried." 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.
Timur's skeleton was exhumed in June 1941 by a team of Soviet scientists under Mikhail Gerasimov. They determined that the conqueror was indeed lame, and Gerasimov constructed a model of Timur's head based on an examination of his skull. It is said that when Timur died he stated that great evils would befall him who excavated his grave, and on the day of the excavation, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa against the USSR.
Timur's generally recognized biographers are Ali Vazdl, commonly called Sharif ud-Din, author of the Persian Zafarnãma, translated by Peter de la Croix in 1722, and from French into English by J. Darby in the following year; and Ahmed ibis Mohammed ibn Abdallah, al-Dimashici, al-Ajrni, commonly called Ahmed Ibn Arabshah [Arab Shah = emperor of the Arabs], author of the Arabic Afaibu al-Makhlnkat, translated by the Dutch Orientalist Colitis in 1636. In the work of the former, as Sir William Jones remarks, "the Tartarian conqueror is represented as a liberal, benevolent and illustrious prince", in that of the latter he is "deformed and impious, of a low birth and detestable principles." But the favourable account was written under the personal supervision of Timur's grandson, Ibrahim, while the other was the production of his direst enemy.
Among less reputed biographies or materials for biography may be mentioned a second Zafarnãma, by ?MavlgnA NjzSmu? ad-Din Shanab Ghãzãni (Nizãm Shami), stated to be the earliest known history of Timur, and the only one written in his lifetime. Vol I of the ?Matla?u?s-Sa?dasn??, a choice Persian manuscript work of 1495. Timur's purported autobiography, the Tuzuk-i Temur (Institutes of Temur) is a later fabrication although most of the historical facts are accurate.
Timur Lenk was the subject of two plays (Tamburlaine the Great, Parts I and II) by English playwright Christopher Marlowe.
Bob Bainborough portrayed Tamerlane in an episode of History Bites.
George Frideric Handel made Timur Lenk the title character of his Tamerlano (HWV 18), an Italian language opera based on the 1675 play Tamerlan ou la mort de Bajazet by Jacques Pradon.
|Preceded by: ||Timurid dynasty ||Succeeded by: |
|none ||Pir Muhammad |
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.