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Conquests of Tamerlane


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Conquests of Tamerlane

Timur (8 April 1336 – 18 February 1405), historically known as Tamerlane in English ("Timur the Lame"), was a 14th-century conqueror of West, South and Central Asia, and the founder of the Timurid dynasty (1370–1405) in Central Asia, and great-great-grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived as the Mughal Empire in India until 1857. Timur was in his lifetime a controversial figure, and remains so today. He sought to restore the Mongol Empire, yet his heaviest blow was against the Islamized Tatar Golden Horde. He was more at home in an urban environment than on the steppe. He styled himself a ghazi while conducting wars that severely affected some Muslim states, in particular the Sultanate of Delhi. A great patron of the arts, his campaigns also caused vast destruction.



Rise to power

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 Chagatai 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:

Then shall my native city, Samarcanda... Be famous through the furthest continents, For there my palace-royal shall be placed, Whose shining turrets shall dismay the heavens, And cast the fame of lion's tower to hell.

A legendary account of Timur's rise to leadership, recorded among the Tatar descendants of the Qıpchaq Khanate in Tobol, goes as follows: 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.

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 was 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 reconquer such lands after inevitable rebellions had taken place.



Period of expansion

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 then 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 and captured almost all of Persia by 1387. These conquests were characterised by exceptional brutality. For example, when Isfahan surrendered to Timur in 1387, he initially treated it with relative mercy as he commonly did with cities that surrendered without resistance. However, after the city revolted against Timur's punitive taxes by killing the tax collectors and some of Timur's soldiers, Timur ordered the complete massacre of the city, killing a reported 70,000 citizens. An eye-witness counted more than 28 towers, each constructed of about 1,500 heads.
In the meantime, Tokhtamysh, now khan of the Golden Horde, turned against his patron and invaded Azerbaijan in 1385. This action would cause a counter by Timur that would become the Tokhtamysh–Timur war. In the initial stage of the war, Timur won a victory at the Battle of the Kondurcha River, however 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 Raizan and advanced upon Moscow, only to be 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 uninhabited steppe, then west about 1,000 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. 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 previously mentioned Battle of the Kondurcha River. 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.
It was in the second phase of the conflict that Timur took an easier route against the enemy, invading the realm of Tokhtamysh via the Caucasus region. The year 1395, saw the Battle of the Terek River, when Tokhtamysh's power was finally broken, 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, by agents of an emir named Edigu.
Timur during the course of his campaigns destroyed Sarai, the capital of the Golden Horde, and Astrakhan, subsequently wrecking the Golden Horde's economy based on Silk Road trade. The Golden Horde saw political disintegration after such losses, with Mongol unity in the region shattered permanently.
In May 1393 Timur invaded the Anjudan, crippling the Ismaili village only one year after his assault on the Ismailis in Mazandaran. The village appears to have been prepared for attack, as it contained a fortress and an intricate system of underground tunnels. These devices were, however, unsuccessful in thwarting Timur’s soldiers, who 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 among the locals in this region was dissatisfied with this. Khwandamir writes that some of these locals assembled and brought up their complaint with Timur, possibly provoking his attack on the Ismailis there.


 

Legacy

I am not a man of blood; and God is my witness that in all my wars I have never been the aggressor, and that my enemies have always been the authors of their own calamity.—Timur, after the conquest of Aleppo[47]

Timur's legacy is a mixed one. While Central Asia blossomed under his reign, other places such as Baghdad, Damascus, Delhi and other Arab, Georgian, Persian and Indian cities were sacked and destroyed and their populations massacred. He was responsible for the effective destruction of the Christian Church in much of Asia. Thus, while Timur still retains a positive image in Muslim Central Asia, Persia, and Arab countries, he is vilified by many in India, where some of his greatest atrocities were carried out. In the Islamic world at the time, he was variously considered both as a ghazi (or "Warrior for Islam") by some, and as an enemy of Islam by others.
Timur's military talents were unique. He planned all his campaigns years in advance, even planting barley for horse feed two-years ahead of his campaigns. He used propaganda, in what is now called information warfare, as part of his tactics. His campaigns were preceded by the deployment of spies whose tasks included collecting information and spreading horrifying reports about the cruelty, size, and might of Timur’s armies. Such psychological warfare eventually weakened the morale of threatened populations and caused panic in the regions that he intended to invade.
Although Timur's uncharacteristic (for the time) concern for his troops inspired fierce loyalty, he did not pay them. Their only incentives were from looting captured territory — a bounty that included horses, women, precious metals and stones; in other words whatever they, or their newly captured slaves, could carry away from the conquered lands.
Timur's short-lived empire also melded the Turko-Persian tradition in Transoxiania, and in most of the territories which he incorporated into his fiefdom, Persian became the primary language of administration and literary culture (diwan), regardless of ethnicity. In addition, during his reign, some contributions to Turkic literature were penned, with Turkic cultural influence expanding and flourishing as a result. A literary form of Chagatai Turkic came into use alongside Persian as both a cultural and an official language.
Timur became a relatively popular figure in Europe for centuries after his death, mainly because of his victory over the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid. The Ottoman armies were at the time invading Eastern Europe and Timur was ironically seen as a sort of ally.
Timur has now been officially recognized as a national hero of newly independent Uzbekistan. His monument in Tashkent now occupies the place where Marx's statue once stood.

 

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