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Timur
Timur
A Timurid era illustration of Emir Timur
Some attributes
First Name: Timur
Second Position: Amir
Third Nationality: Mongol
Other attributes
Fourth Nickname: Timur the Lame
Fifth Born: 9 April 1336
Sixth Died: 18 February 1412

Timur, Tarmashirin Khan, Emir Timur (Persian: تیمور‎ Timūr, Chagatai: Temür "iron"; 9 April 1336 – 18 February 1412), historically known as Tamerlane (from Persian: تيمور لنگ‎, Timūr-i Lang, Aksak Timur "Timur the Lame" in Turkish), was a Turkic ruler. He conquered West, South and Central Asia and founded the Timurid dynasty.

Timur envisioned the restoration of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. Unlike his predecessors Timur was also a devout Muslim who referred to himself as the Sword of Islam, converting nearly all the Borjigin leaders to Islam during his lifetime. His armies were inclusively multi-ethnic. During his lifetime Timur would emerge as the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world after defeating the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, the emerging Ottoman Empire, the declining Sultanate of Delhi, the Ming Dynasty and almost taking over Constantinople. Timur had also decisively defeated the Christian Knights Hospitaller at Smyrna; styling himself a Ghazi. By the end of his reign Timur had also gained complete suzerainty over all the remnants of the Chagatai Khanate, Ilkhanate, Golden Horde and even attempted to restore the Yuan dynasty. Timur's armies were feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, sizable parts of which were laid to ruin by his campaigns. Scholars estimate that his military campaigns caused the deaths of 17 million people, amounting to about 5% of the world population. On the other hand, Timur is also recognized as a great patron of art and architecture, while he interacted with Muslim intellectuals such as Ibn Khaldun and Hafiz-i Abru.

Early lifeEdit

Timur was born in Transoxiana , near the City of Kesh (an area now better known as Shahrisabz, "the green city"), some fifty miles south of Samarkand in modern day Uzbekistan, part of the Chagatai Khanate. His father, Taraqai, was a minor noble belonging to the Barlas tribe. The Barlas, a Turko-Mongol tribe which originally were Mongolian tribes that became Turkified and/or became Turkic-speaking or intermingling with the Turkic peoples. According to Gérard Chaliand, Timur was a Muslim Turk but he saw himself as Genghis Khan's heir. Though not a Chinggisid, he clearly sought to evoke the legacy of Genghis Khan's conquests during his lifetime. At the age of eight or nine, Timur with his mother and brothers, were carried as prisoners to Samarkand by an invading Mongol army. In his childhood, Timur with a small band of followers raided travelers for goods with most being animals such as sheep, horses, and cattle. At around 1363, it is believed that Timur tried to steal a sheep from a shepherd but was shot by two arrows; one in his right leg and another in his right hand, where he lost two fingers. Both injuries caused him to be crippled for life. Some believe that Timur suffered his crippling injuries while serving as a mercenary to the khan of Sistan in Khorasan in what is known today as Dasht-i Margo (Desert of Death) in south-west Afghanistan. Timur's injuries have given him the surname of Timur the Lame or Tamerlane by Europeans. Timur was a Muslim, but while his chief official religious counsellor and advisor was the Hanafi scholar 'Abdu 'l-Jabbar Khwarazmi, his particular persuasion is not known. In Tirmidh, he had come under the influence of his spiritual mentor Sayyid Barakah, a leader from Balkh who is buried alongside Timur in Gur-e Amir. Timur was known to hold Ali and the Ahlul Bayt in high regard and has been noted by various scholars for his "pro-Alid" stance.[citation needed] Despite this, Timur was noted for attacking Shi’is on Sunni grounds and therefore his own religious inclinations remain unclear.

Military leaderEdit

In about 1360 Timur gained prominence as a military leader whose troops were mostly Turkic tribesmen of the region. He took part in campaigns in Transoxiana with the Khan of Chagatai. 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 Volga Bulgaria, he was to invade Khorasan at the head of a thousand horsemen. This was the second military expedition that he led, and its success led to further operations, among them the subjugation of Khorezm and Urganj. Following Kurgan's murder, disputes arose among the many claimants to sovereign power; this infighting was halted by the invasion of the energetic Chagtaid Tughlugh Timur of Kashgar, another descendant of Genghis Khan. Timur was dispatched on a mission to the invader's camp, which resulted in 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. One of Tughlugh's sons was entrusted with the Barlas's territory, along with the rest of Mawarannahr (Transoxiana); but he was defeated in battle by the bold warrior he had replaced at the head of a numerically far inferior force.

Rise to PowerEdit

It was in this period that Timur reduced the Chagatai khans to the position of figureheads while Timur ruled in their name. During this period Timur and his brother-in-law Husayn, who were at first fellow fugitives and wanderers in joint adventures, became rivals and antagonists. The relationship between Timur and Husayn began to become strained after Husayn abandoned Timur's orders to finish off Ilya Khoja (former governor of Mawarannah) close to Tishnet.

Timur began to gain a following of people in Balkh that consisted of merchants, fellow tribesmen, Muslim clergy, aristocracy and agricultural workers because of his kindness to share his belongings with them; as opposed to Husayn who alienated these people, took many possessions from them because of his heavy tax laws and selfishly spend the tax money building elaborate structures. At around 1370 Husayn surrendered to Timur; later being assassinated by a chief of a tribe, allowed Timur to formally proclaimed sovereign at Balkh. Timur married Husayn's wife Saray Mulk-khanum; a descendant of Genghis Khan, allowing him to become imperial ruler of Chaghatay tribe. One day Aksak Temür spoke thusly:


"Khan Züdei (in China) rules over the city. We now number fifty to sixty men, so let us elect a leader." So they drove a stake into the ground and said: "We shall run thither and he who among us is the first to reach the stake, may he become our leader". So they ran and Aksak Timur (since he was lame) lagged behind, but before the others reached the stake he threw his cap onto it. Those who arrived first said: "We are the leaders". (But) Aksak Timur said: "My head came in first, I am the leader". In the meanwhile an old man arrived and said: "The leadership should belong to Aksak Timur; your feet have arrived but, before then, his head reached the goal". So they made Aksak Timur their prince.

Legitimization of Timur's ruleEdit

Timur's Turco-Mongolian heritage provided opportunities and challenges as he sought to rule the Mongol Empire and the Muslim world. According to the Mongol traditions, Timur could not claim the title of khan or rule the Mongol Empire because he was not a descendant of Genghis Khan. Therefore, Timur set up a puppet Chaghatay khan, Suyurghatmish, as the nominal ruler of Balkh as he pretended to act as a "protector of the member of a Chinggisid line, that of Chinggis Khan's eldest son, Jochi." As a result, Timur never used the title of khan because the name khan could only be used by those who come from the same lineage as Genghis Khan himself. Timur instead used the title of amir meaning general, and acting in the name of the Chagatai ruler of Transoxania. To reinforce his position in the Mongol Empire, Timur managed to acquire the royal title of son-in-law when he married a princess of Chinggisid descent. Likewise, Tamerlane could not claim the supreme title of the Islamic world, caliph, because the “office was limited to the Quraysh, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.” Therefore, Tamerlane reacted to the challenge by creating a myth and image of himself as a “supernatural personal power”” ordained by the Islamic God. Since Tamerlane had a successful career as a conqueror, it was easy to justify his rule as ordained and favored by God since no ordinary man could be a possessor of such good fortune that resistance would be seen as opposing the will of Allah. Moreover, the Islamic notion that military and political success was the result of Allah’s favor had long been successfully exploited by earlier rulers. Therefore, Tamerlane’s assertions would not have seemed unbelievable to his fellow Islamic people.

Period of expansionEdit

Timur spent the next 35 years in various wars and expeditions. He not only consolidated his rule at home by the subjugation of his foes, but sought extension of territory by encroachments upon the lands of foreign potentates. His conquests to the west and northwest led him to the lands near the Caspian Sea and to the banks of the Ural and the Volga. Conquests in the south and south-West encompassed almost every province in Persia, including Baghdad, Karbala and Northern Iraq. One of the most formidable of Timur's opponents was another Mongol ruler, a descendant of Genghis Khan named Tokhtamysh. After having been a refugee in Timur's court, Tokhtamysh became ruler both of the eastern Kipchak and the Golden Horde. After his accession, he quarrelled with Timur over the possession of Khwarizm and Azerbaijan. However, Timur still supported him against the Russians and in 1382 Tokhtamysh invaded the Muscovite dominion and burned Moscow. After the death of Abu Sa'id, ruler of the Ilkhanid Dynasty, in 1335, there was a power vacuum in Persia. In 1383, Timur started the military conquest of Persia. He captured Herat, Khorasan and all eastern Persia by 1385; he captured almost all of Persia by 1387. Of note during the Persian campaign was the capture of Isfahan. When Isfahan surrendered to Timur in 1387, he treated it with relative mercy as he normally did with cities that surrendered. However, after the city revolted against Timur's taxes by killing the tax collectors and some of Timur's soldiers Timur ordered the massacre of the city's citizens with the death toll reckoned at between 100,000 and 200,000. An eye-witness counted more than 28 towers constructed of about 1,500 heads each. This has been described as a "systematic use of terror against towns...an integral element of Tamerlane's strategic element" which he viewed as preventing bloodshed by discouraging resistance. His massacres were selective and he spared the artistic and technical (e.g. engineers) elites. In the meantime Tokhtamysh, now khan of the Golden Horde, turned against his patron and in 1385 invaded Azerbaijan. The inevitable response by Timur resulted in the Tokhtamysh–Timur war. In the initial stage of the war Timur won a victory at the Battle of the Kondurcha River. After the battle Tokhtamysh and some of his army were allowed to escape. After Tokhtamysh's initial defeat Timur then invaded Muscovy to the north of Tokhtamysh's holdings. Timur's army burned Ryazan and advanced on Moscow. He was then pulled away before reaching the Oka River by Tokhtamysh's renewed campaign in the south. In the first phase of the conflict with Tokhtamysh, Timur led an army of over 100,000 men north for more than 700 miles into the steppe. He then rode west about 1,000 miles advancing in a front more than 10 miles wide. During this advance 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.It was then that Tokhtamysh's army was boxed in against the east bank of the Volga River in the Orenburg region and destroyed at the Battle of the Kondurcha River. It was in the second phase of the conflict that Timur took a different route against the enemy by invading the realm of Tokhtamysh via the Caucasus region. The year 1395 saw the Battle of the Terek River concluding the titanic struggle between the two monarchs. Tokhtamysh was not able to restore his power or prestige. He was killed about a decade after the Terek River battle in the area of present day Tyumen. During the course of Timur's campaigns his army destroyed Sarai, the capital of the Golden Horde, and Astrakhan, subsequently disrupting the Golden Horde's Silk Road. The Golden Horde no longer held power after the coming of Tamerlane. In May 1393 Timur's army invaded the Anjudan. This crippled the Ismaili village only one year after his assault on the Ismailis in Mazandaran. The village was prepared for the attack. This is evidenced by it containing a fortress and a system of underground tunnels. Undeterred Timur’s soldiers flooded the tunnels by cutting into a channel overhead. Timur’s reasons for attacking this village are not yet well-understood. However, it has been suggested that his religious persuasions and view of himself as an executor of divine will may have contributed to his motivations. The Persian historian Khwandamir explains that an Ismaili presence was growing more politically powerful in Persian Iraq. A group of locals in the region was dissatisfied with this and, Khwandamir writes, that these locals assembled and brought up their complaint with Timur; possibly provoking his attack on the Ismailis there.

Campaign against the Tughlaq DynastyEdit

In 1398, Timur invaded northern India, attacking the Delhi Sultanate ruled by Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq of the Tughlaq Dynasty. He was opposed by Ahirs and Jats but Delhi Government did nothing to stop him. After crossing the Indus river on 30 September 1398, he sacked Tulamba and massacred its inhabitants. Then he advanced and captured Multan by October. He justified his campaign towards Delhi as a religious war against the Hindu religion practiced in the city and also as a chance for to gain more riches in a city that was lacking control.By all accounts, Timur's campaigns in India were marked by systematic slaughter and other atrocities on a truly massive scale inflicted mainly on the subcontinent's Hindu population. Timur crossed the Indus River at Attock (now Pakistan) on 24 September 1398. His invasion did not go unopposed and he encountered resistance by the Governor of Meerut during the march to Delhi. Timur was still able to continue his approach to Delhi, arriving in 1398, to fight the armies of Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq, which had already been weakened by a succession struggle within the royal family. The battle took place on 17 December 1398. Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq and Mallu's army had war elephants armored with chain mail and poison on their tusks. With his Tatar forces afraid of the elephants, Timur ordered his men to dig a trench in front of their positions. Timur then loaded his camels with as much wood and hay as they could carry. When the war elephants charged, Timur set the hay on fire and prodded the camels with iron sticks, causing them to charge at the elephants howling in pain: Timur had understood that elephants were easily panicked. Faced with the strange spectacle of camels flying straight at them with flames leaping from their backs, the elephants turned around and stampeded back toward their own lines. Timur capitalized on the subsequent disruption in Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq's forces, securing an easy victory. Delhi was sacked and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed 100,000 captives. The capture of the Delhi Sultanate was one of Timur's greatest victories, arguably surpassing the likes of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan because of the harsh conditions of the journey and the achievement of taking down one of the richest cities at the time. After Delhi fell to Timur's army, uprisings by its citizens against the Turkic-Mongols began to occur, causing a bloody massacre within the city walls. After three days of citizens uprising within Delhi, it was said that the city reeked of decomposing bodies of its citizens with their heads being erected like structures and the bodies left as food for the bird. Timur's invasion and destruction of Delhi continued the chaos that was still consuming India and the city would not be able to recover from the great loss it suffered for almost a century.

Campaigns in the LevantEdit

Before the end of 1399, Timur started a war with Bayezid I, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and the Mamluk sultan of Egypt Nasir-ad-Din Faraj. 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. In a form of rectification, in 1400 Timur invaded Christian Armenia and Georgia. Of the surviving population, more than 60,000 of the local people were captured as slaves, and many districts were depopulated.

He invaded Baghdad in June 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 him. (Many warriors were so scared they killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign just to ensure they had heads to present to Timur.)

In the meantime, years of insulting letters had passed between Timur and Bayezid. Finally, Timur invaded Anatolia and defeated Bayezid in the Battle of Ankara on 20 July 1402. Bayezid was captured in battle and subsequently died in captivity, initiating the twelve-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. After the Ankara victory, Timur's army ravaged Western Anatolia, with Muslim writers complaining that the Timurid army acted more like a horde of savages than that of a civilized conqueror.

But Timur did take the city of Smyrna, a stronghold of the Christian Knights Hospitalers, thus he referred to himself as ghazi or "Warrior of Islam". Timur was furious at the Genoese and Venetians whose ships ferried the Ottoman army to safety in Thrace. As Lord Kinross reported in The Ottoman Centuries, the Italians preferred the enemy they could handle to the one they could not.

Timur then used Smyrna to create a huge fleet and two years later, in year 1404, he invaded Thrace and exterminated the remaining Turkish Army. He then layed siege on Constantinople.

Siege of Constantinople and Takeover of BaghdadEdit

At the beginning of the siege, Timur sent out some of his best troops to reduce the remaining Byzantine strongholds outside the city of Constantinople. The fortress of Therapia on the Bosphorus and a smaller castle at the village of Studius near the Sea of Marmara were taken within a few days. Instead of attacking the city, Timur decided to starve the Byzantines and force them to surrender. In several battles, the Mongol fleet was able to defeat the Byzantine fleet.

After more than a year of siege, the Byzantines were ready to surrender. Just then news arrived that Qara Yusuf assaulted Baghdad and captured it. So Timur just forced the Byzantines to pay him a large amount of money and Constantinople was saved from pillage.

In just a few weeks, Timur reached Baghdad, defeated Qara Yusuf and forced him to make peace.

Invasion of China and DeathEdit

By 1368 the new Chinese Ming Dynasty had driven the Mongols out of China. The first Ming Emperor Hongwu and his successor Yongle demanded, and received, homage from many Central Asian states as the political heirs to the former House of Kublai. The Ming emperor's treatment of Timur as a vassal did not sit well with the conqueror. In 1394 Hongwu's ambassadors eventually presented Timur with a letter addressing him as a subject. He summarily had the ambassadors Fu An, Guo Ji, and Liu Wei detained. He then had them and their 1,500 guards executed. Neither Hongwu's next ambassador, Chen Dewen (1397) nor the delegation announcing the accession of the Yongle Emperor fared any better. Timur eventually planned to conquer China. To this end Timur made an alliance with the Mongols of the Northern Yuan Dynasty and prepared all the way to Bukhara. The Mongol leader Enkhe Khan sent his grandson Öljei Temür, also known as Buyanshir Khan after he converted to Islam while he stayed at the court of Timur in Samarkand. In December 1408 Timur started military campaigns against the Ming Dynasty and detained a Ming envoy.

Timur used his 150,000 strong army to seriously damage the Ming Chinese garrisons and border troops in the west. Timur then layed seige to a couple of cities in the western border of the Ming state, taking his time to rape and plunder. Meanwhile the Mongol allies of Timur lead an expedition south of the Gobi Desert.

Emperor Yongle, a fierce commander who excelled in cavalry warfare, defeated the Mongols and forced them to make peace with the Ming. At the same time, Timur conquered and pillaged all the lands west of Tongguan Pass.

The Chinese generals, however, managed to hold Tongguan Pass and Hanzhong, taking advantage of the mountaineous terrain. Timur's cavalry became useless at the chokepoints, and his further advance fell into well laid traps. Chinese reinforcements from the Southern and Eastern provinces came to aid, barracading Tamerlane and preparing to launch a counter-offensive.

Timur then realized that he had reached the extent of his campaign. So he decided to rape, pillage, and plunder as much as he could and return to Samarkand with his loot. The western borders of Ming China were ravaged again on the way back. It took years for recovery and thus Tamerlane secured his monopoly of the Silk Road.

In 18 February 1412, at the age of 75, he died.

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