Timur, also known as Timour or Timurlenk, was born in 1336 in Kesh [now in Transoxania]–died 02/19/1405. Otrar, close to Chimkent [now Shymkent and Kazakhstan]), Turkic conqueror. He is best remembered for his brutal conquests of India and Russia and the cultural achievements of his dynasty.
Amir Timur was a member of the Turkicized Barlas tribe. After Genghis Khan’s campaigns there, this Mongol subgroup had settled in Transoxania, now roughly equivalent to Uzbekistan. The Chagatai Khanate was where Amir Timur grew up. Amir Kazgan was Transoxania’s current ruler.
Timur, however, declared his loyalty to Tughluq Temur, the Khan of Kashgar. He had in 1361 overthrown Samarkand, Transoxania’s capital city. Tughluq Temur named his son Ilyas Khaja governor of Transoxania, with Timur serving as his minister. Soon after, Timur fled to rejoin his brother-in-law Amir Husayn (grandson of Amir Kazan). They defeated Ilyas Khaja (1364) and then conquered Transoxania. The region was taken in 1366. Around 1370, Timur rebelled against Husayn and besieged Balkh. He declared himself to be the sovereign of the Chagatai khans at Samarkand and the restorer of the Mongol Empire.
Amir Timur fought for the khans Jatah (eastern Turkistan) and Khwarezm for the next ten years, eventually occupying Kashgar in 1380. Tokhtamysh was the Mongol khan in Crimea and a refugee at Timur’s court. He armed to support the Russians against them (who had risen to the khan Of The Golden Horde Mamai); his troops occupied Moscow and defeated the Lithuanians close to Poltava.
Amir Timur began his conquests of Persia in 1383 with the capture and subsequent destruction of Herat. The Persian political and economic position was very precarious. After the death of Abu Said (1335), there were signs of improvement under the Mongol rulers, later known as the Il-Khanid Dynasty. Rival dynasties filled the power vacuum, torn apart by internal dissensions and unable or unwilling to provide adequate resistance. Khorasan and eastern Persia were taken by him in 1383-85. Fars, Iraq, and Azerbaijan fell to him between 1386-and 1394. Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Mesopotamia also fell to him.
He was also engaged with Tokhtamysh (then khan of Golden Horde), whose forces invaded Azerbaijan in 1385 and Transoxania in 1388, defeating Timur’s generals. Tokhtamysh was defeated and dethroned by Timur in 1391. However, Tokhtamysh rallied a new army to invade the Caucasus in 1395. Tokhtamysh was defeated at the Kur River, and Tokhtamysh surrendered to the struggle. Timur occupied Moscow for one year. While Timur was on his campaigns, revolts broke out across Persia. Whole cities were destroyed, and their inhabitants massacred. Towers were built from their skulls.
Timur invaded India in 1398 under the pretense that the Muslim sultans at Delhi were too accommodating to their Hindu subjects. On September 24, he crossed the Indus River and marched towards Delhi, leaving behind a trail of destruction. On December 17, the army of the Delhi Sultan Mahmud Tughluq was defeated at Panipat. Delhi was left in ruins, and it would take more than 100 years to recover. Timur was already back in his capital by April 1399. Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo says that 90 elephants captured were used to transport stones from quarries to build a mosque in Samarkand.
Timur left before 1399 to embark on his last great expedition. He wanted to punish Bayezid I, the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, and the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt for their seizing of certain territories. He regained control over Azerbaijan and marched on Syria. Aleppo was sacked, and the Mamluk army was defeated. Damascus was occupied (1401). The deportation of its artisans from Samarkand was a devastating blow to its economic prosperity. Baghdad was also sacked by a storm in 1401. 20,000 people were killed,
and all monuments were destroyed. After spending winter in Georgia, Timur invaded Anatolia, destroyed Bayezid’s army near Ankara (July 20, 1402), and then captured Smyrna from Rhodes’s Knights. After receiving submission offers from John VII (then emperor and Byzantine Empire commander with Manuel II Palaeologus), Timur returned to Samarkand (1404) to prepare for an expedition to China. He set off at the end of December but fell ill at Otrar, west of Chimkent. He died in February 1405. His body was placed in an ebony coffin and sent to Samarkand, where it was buried at Gur-e Amir, a beautiful tomb. His territories were divided between his two sons and grandsons before his death. After years of conflict, his youngest son Shah Rokh was able to reunite the lands.
Timur rose to prominence as the leader of a small band of nomads, and, by force and guile, he seized control of the land between the Jaxartes and Oxus rivers (Transoxania). This was in the 1360s. For three decades, he led his mounted archers in subduing every state, from Mongolia to the Mediterranean, for thirty years. As the nomad warrior Lords leader, he was the last of the great conquerors of Central Asia. He ruled both pastoral and agricultural peoples on an Imperial scale. His campaigns caused poverty, bloodshed, and desolation, inspiring legends such as Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great.
Timur Lenk was a name that denoted Timur, the Lame. This title was used by his Persian enemies to show contempt. Tamburlaine or Tamerlane is now in Europe. Timur was the heir to a political and economic heritage rooted in Central Asia’s pastoral peoples. His compatriots cultivated the military arts of Genghis Khan. They also fought against the settled peasants as mounted archers or swordsmen. Timur never settled down in a permanent home. His almost constant campaigning forces saw him endure extreme desert heat and freezing cold. He moved with his army according to the season and grazing areas when he wasn’t campaigning. His court, which included one or more of his nine wives and his concubines, traveled with him. His capital, Samarkand, was the most beautiful city in Asia. However, he only stayed there for a few days before moving on to the pavilions in the plains.
Timur was a master of Genghis Khan’s military techniques. He used every weapon available in his day’s military or diplomatic arsenal. Timur never missed an opportunity for the enemy to be weak, either in political, economic, or military terms. He also used intrigue, betrayal, and alliances to his advantage. Before an engagement, his agents planted the seeds of victory among the enemies’ ranks. His diplomatic archives show that he conducted complex negotiations with both foreign and neighboring powers from England to China. His primary weapons of the attack were the nomadic tactics that combined mobility and surprise.
The Timurid architectural monuments of Samarkand are Timur’s most enduring memorials. They are covered in azure and turquoise mosaics and gold and alabaster mosaics. These are dominated by the great cathedral, soaring to an enormous fragment of dome despite being destroyed by an earthquake. The Gur-e Amir is his mausoleum. It is a masterpiece of Islamic art. He lies beneath a large, broken slab of jade in his tomb. After being in place for over a half-millennium, the tomb was finally opened in 1941. Soviet Archaeological Commission discovered the skeleton of a man who, although he was disabled in his right limbs, had a muscular physique and was above-average in height.
When the Chinese expedition ended, Timur’s grandsons and sons fought for the succession. However, his dynasty (see Timurid Dynasty) survived in Central Asia for over 100 years despite fratricidal strife. Samarkand was a center of scholarship and science. Ulugh Beg, his great-grandson, established an observatory here and created the astronomical tables later used by the English royal Astronomer in the 17th century. Herat, located southeast of Samarkand, was the birthplace of the brilliant school for Persian miniaturists during the Timurid Renaissance of the 15th Century. His descendant Babur settled in Kabul at the end of the 16th century after the Central Asian dynasty was overthrown. He then conquered Delhi to establish the Muslim line of Indian emperors known under the Great Mughals.