Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.

Amir Temur

Timur (Persian: تیمور‎ Timūr, Chagatai: Temür "iron"; 8 April 1336 – 18 February 1405), historically known as Tamerlane (from Persian: تيمور لنگ‎,Timūr-i Lang, Aksak Timur "Timur the Lame" in Turkish), was a Turkic ruler who conquered West, South and Central Asia and founded theTimurid dynasty. He was the grandfather of Ulugh Beg, who ruled Central Asia from 1411 to 1449, and the great-great-great-grandfather of Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire, which ruled South Asia for centuries.

Timur envisioned the restoration of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. Unlike his predecessors Timur was also a devout Muslim and referred to himself as the Sword of Islam. His armies were inclusively multi-ethnic and multicultural. During his lifetime Timur would emerge as the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world after defeating the formidable Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, the emerging Ottoman Empire and the decliningSultanate of Delhi; Timur had also decisively defeated the Knights Hospitaler at Smyrna and since then referred to himself as a Ghazi. By the end of his reign Timur had also gained complete suzerainty over all the remnants of the Chagatai Khanate, Ilkhanate, and Golden Horde.

Timur is regarded as a military genius and a tactician whose prowess made him one of the world’s great conquerors. Timur's armies were ferocious, feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. Independent scholars estimate that his military campaigns caused the deaths of 17 million people, amounting to about 5% of the world population. The historian of Islamic Asia John Joseph Saunders summarized that "Till the advent of Hitler, Timur stood forth in history as the supreme example of soulless and unproductive militarism".

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 Hafez


Early history

Timur was born in Skardu, in the City of Kesh (an area now better known as Shahrisabz, "the green city"), some 50 miles south of Samarkand in modern Uzbekistan, then part of the Chagatai Khanate. His father, Taraqai, was a small-scale landowner and belonged to the Barlas tribe. The Barlas was a Turko-Mongol tribe which was originally a Mongol tribe and was 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.

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 Shiite leader from Balkh who is buried alongside Timur in Gur-e Amir. Despite his Hanafi background, Timur was known to hold Ali and the Shia Imams in high regard and has been noted by various scholars for his "pro-Alid" stance. Despite this, Timur was noted for attacking Shi’is on Sunni grounds and therefore his own religious inclinations remain unclear[30].

Timur is also known to have devout Islamic inclinations regarding his personal life and as such restricted himself to only four wives, while most Mongol rulers during that period did not. According to his famous descendant Babur, Timur is known to have kept fine copies of both the Quran and the Yassa (a Mongol code of honor introduced by Genghis Khan).

Military leader

Map of the Timurid Empire

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 power

Timur commanding the Siege of Balkh.
Timur besieges the historic city of Urganj.

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 play Tamburlaine the Great, Part 2:

Then shall my native city, Samarqand...
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 orders campaign against Georgia.
Emir Timur's army attacks the survivors of the town of Nerges, in Georgia, in the spring of 1396.

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 theCaspian 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. 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, reportedly killing 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, 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, 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 Ryazan and advanced on 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 had to organize 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 theOrenburg 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.[37] 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.

Campaign against the Tughlaq Dynasty

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi, Nasir Al-Din Mahmud Tughluq, in the winter of 1397–1398, painting dated 1595–1600.

In 1398, Timur invaded northern India, attacking the Delhi Sultanate ruled by Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty. He was opposed byAhirs and Jats but Delhi Government did nothing to stop him.[39] After crossing the Indus river on 30 September 1398, he sacked Tulamba and massacred its inhabitants. Then he advanced and captured Multan by October.

His campaign was officially justified by claims that the Muslim Delhi Sultanate was too tolerant toward its Hindu subjects, but was motivated greatly by the considerable wealth to be gained. 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 able to continue his relentless approach to Delhi, arriving in 1398, to fight the armies of Sultan Mehmud, which had already been weakened by a succession struggle within the royal family.

The battle took place on 17 December 1398. Sultan Mahmud Khan's army had 120 war elephants armored with chain mail and with poison on their tusks. With his Tartar 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's army 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 capitalised on the subsequent disruption in Mahmud Khan's forces, securing an easy victory. Delhi was sacked and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed 100,000 captives:

Timur defeating the Mamluk Sultan Nasir-ad-Din Faraj of Egypt.

"At this Court Amír Jahán Sháh and Amír Sulaimán Sháh, and other amírs of experience, brought to my notice that, from the time of entering Hindustán up to the present time, we had taken more than 100,000 infidels and prisoners, and that they were all in my camp. On the previous day, when the enemy's forces made the attack upon us, the prisoners made signs of rejoicing, uttered imprecations against us, and were ready, as soon as they heard of the enemy's success, to form themselves into a body, break their bonds, plunder our tents, and then to go and join the enemy, and so increase his numbers and strength. I asked their advice about the prisoners, and they said that on the great day of battle these 100,000 prisoners could not be left with the baggage, and that it would be entirely opposed to the rules of war to set these idolaters and foes of Islám at liberty. In fact, no other course remained but that of making them all food for the sword. When I heard these words I found them in accordance with the rules of war, and I directly gave my command for the Tawáchís to proclaim throughout the camp that every man who had infidel prisoners was to put them to death, and whoever neglected to do so should himself be executed and his property given to the informer. When this order became known to the gházís of Islám, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death. 100,000 infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain. Mauláná Násiru-d dín 'Umar, a counsellor and man of learning, who, in all his life, had never killed a sparrow, now, in execution of my order, slew with his sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives."

The alleged "Memoirs" of Timur, or Tuzk-e-Taimuri, relate the sack of Delhi:

"On the 16th of the month some incidents occurred which led to the sack of the city of Delhí, and to the slaughter of many of the infidel inhabitants. One was this. A party of fierce Turk soldiers had assembled at one of the gates of the city to look about them and enjoy themselves, and some of them laid violent hands upon the goods of the inhabitants. When I heard of this violence, I sent some amírs, who were present in the city, to restrain the Turks. A party of soldiers accompanied these amírs into the city. Another reason was that some of the ladies of my harem expressed a wish to go into the city and see the palace of Hazár-sutún (thousand columns) which Malik Jauná built in the fort called Jahán-panáh. I granted this request, and I sent a party of soldiers to escort the litters of the ladies. Another reason was that Jalál Islám and other díwáns had gone into the city with a party of soldiers to collect the contribution laid upon the city. Another reason was that some thousand troopers with orders for grain, oil, sugar, and flour, had gone into the city to collect these supplies. Another reason was that it had come to my knowledge that great numbers of gabrs, with their wives and children, and goods, and valuables, had come into the city from all the country round, and consequently I had sent some amírs with their regiments (kushún) into the city and directed them to pay no attention to the remonstrances of the inhabitants, but to seize and bring out these fugitives. For these several reasons a great number of fierce Turkí soldiers were in the city. When the soldiers proceeded to apprehend the Hindus and gabrs who had fled to the city, many of them drew their swords and offered resistance. The flames of strife were thus lighted and spread through the whole city from Jahán-panáh and Sírí to Old Dehlí, burning up all it reached. The savage Turks fell to killing and plundering. The amírs who were in charge of the gates prevented any more soldiers from going into the place, but the flames of war had risen too high for this precaution to be of any avail in extinguishing them. On that day, Thursday, and all the night of Friday, nearly 15,000 Turks were engaged in slaying, plundering, and destroying. When morning broke on the Friday, all my army, no longer under control, went off to the city and thought of nothing but killing, plundering, and making prisoners. All that day the sack was general. The following day, Saturday, the 17th, all passed in the same way, and the spoil was so great that each man secured from fifty to a hundred prisoners, men, women, and children. There was no man who took less than twenty. The other booty was immense in rubies, diamonds, garnets, pearls, and other gems; jewels of gold and silver; ashrafís, tankas of gold and silver of the celebrated 'Aláí coinage; vessels of gold and silver; and brocades and silks of great value. Gold and silver ornaments of the Hindu women were obtained in such quantities as to exceed all account. Excepting the quarter of the saiyids, the 'ulamá, and the other Musulmáns, the whole city was sacked. The pen of fate had written down this destiny for the people of this city. Although I was desirous of sparing them I could not succeed, for it was the will of Allah that this calamity should fall upon the city."

Timur left Delhi in December 1398 and marched on Meerut. Then he rode up to Haridwar and sacked the holy city on 23 January 1399. Before he crossed the Ganges, he faced stiff resistance from natives at Bhokarhedi. In April, he returned to his own capital beyond the Oxus (Amu Darya). Immense quantities of spoils and slaves 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 enormousBibi-Khanym Mosque.

Campaigns in the Levant

Bayezid I being held captive by Timur.

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. However, Ibn Khaldun praises Timur for having unified much of the Muslim world when other conquerors of the time could not.

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.)

Mosque of 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 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 ofAnatolia 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.

While Timur invaded Anatolia, Qara Yusuf assaulted Baghdad and captured it in 1402. Timur returned to Persia from Anatolia and sent his grandson Abu Bakr ibn Mirah Shah to reconquer Baghdad, which he proceeded to do. Timur then spent some time in Ardabil, where he gave Ali Safavi, leader of theSafaviyya, a number of captives. Subsequently, he marched to Khorasan and then to Samarkhand, where he spent nine months celebrating and preparing to invade Mongolia and China.

He ruled over an empire that, in modern times, extends from southeastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, through Central Asia encompassing part of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan,Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and even approaches Kashgar in China. The conquests of Timur are claimed to have caused the deaths of up to 17 million people; an assertion impossible to verify. Timur's campaigns sometimes caused large and permanent demographic changes, northern Iraq remained predominantly Assyrian Christian until attacked, looted, plundered and destroyed by Timur leaving its population decimated by systematic mass slaughter.

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 Islamic Mughal Empire and ruled over most of Afghanistan and North India. Babur's descendants Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, expanded the Mughal Empire to most of the Indian subcontinent.

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.

Attempts to attack the Ming Dynasty

Timur had aligned himself with the remnants of the Yuan dynasty in his attempts to conquer the Ming dynasty.

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 avassal did not go well: when in 1394 Hongwu's ambassadors presented Timur with a letter addressing him in this way, he had the ambassadors Fu An, Guo Ji, and Liu Wei detained, 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 1404, Timur started military campaigns against the Ming Dynasty and detained a Ming envoy, but he was attacked by fever and plague when encamped on the farther side of the Sihon (Syr-Daria) and died at Atrar (Otrar) on 17 February 1405,without ever reaching the Chinese border. Only after that were the Ming envoys released.

Although he preferred to fight his battles in the spring, Timur died enroute during an uncharacteristic winter campaign against the ruling Chinese Ming Dynasty. It was one of the bitterest winters on record; his troops are recorded as having to dig through five feet of ice to reach drinking water. Records indicated though, that for part of his life at least, he was a surreptitious Ming vassal and that his son Shah Rukh visited China in 1420.

Contributions to the arts

Timur became widely known as a patron to the arts. Much of the architecture he commissioned still stands in Samarkand, now in present-day Uzbekistan. He was known to bring the most talented artisans from the lands he conquered back to Samarkand, and is credited with often giving them a wide latitude of artistic freedom to express themselves. He also constructed one of his finest buildings at the tomb of Ahmed Yesevi, an influential Turkic Sufi saint who spread Sufi Islam among the nomads.

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. These pieces included the camel, siege-weapon, giraffe, and several others as well as boasting a complicated system involving the ability to exchange pawns for pieces should they reach the other side of the board.

Timur's mandating of Kurash wrestling for his soldiers ensured for it a lasting and legendary legacy. Kurash is now a popular international sport and part of the Asian Games.

Exchanges with Europe

Main article: Timurid relations with Europe
Letter of Timur to Charles VI of France, 1402, a witness toTimurid relations with Europe.

Timur had numerous epistolary and diplomatic exchanges with Western, especially Spanish and French, rulers. Timur hoped for an alliance with the European states to act offensively against the Ottoman Turks then attacking Europe.

Relations between the courts of Henry III of Castile and that of Timur constituted the most important episode of medieval Spanish Castilian diplomacy. In 1402, the time of the Battle of Ankara, two Spanish ambassadors were already with Timur: Pelayo de Sotomayor and Fernando de Palazuelos. Later, Timur sent to the court of Castile and León a Chagatay ambassador named Hajji Muhammad al-Qazi with letters and gifts.

In return, the King Henry III of Castile sent a famous embassy to Timur's court in Samarkand in 1403–06, led by Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, with two other ambassadors, Alfonso Paez and Gomez de Salazar. On their return, Timur affirmed that he regarded the king of Castile "as his very own son".

According to Clavijo, Timur's good treatment of the Spanish delegation contrasted with the disdain shown by his host toward the envoys of the "lord of Cathay" (i.e., the Ming Dynasty Yongle Emperor), the Chinese ruler. Clavijo's visit to Samarkand allowed him to report to the European audience on the news from Cathay(China), which few Europeans had been able to visit directly in the century that had passed since the travels of Marco Polo.

The French archives preserve:

  • A 30 July 1402, letter from Timur to Charles VI, king of France, suggesting that he send traders to the Orient. It was written in Persian.
  • A May 1403 letter. This is a Latin transcription of a letter from Timur to Charles VI, and another from Amiza Miranchah, his son, to the Christian princes, announcing their victory over Bayezid, in Smyrna.

A copy has been kept of the answer of Charles VI to Timur, dated 15 June 1403.


Emir Timur and his forces advance against the Golden Horde, KhanTokhtamysh.
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

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 and Persia,he is vilified by many in Arabia and India, where some of his greatest atrocities were carried out.

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.[59] 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 whereMarx's statue once stood.

Sir Muhammad Iqbal, whose Brahman ancestors converted to Islam during the Mughal era composed a notable poem entitle the Dream of Timur, the poem itself was inspired by a prayer of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II:


In 1794, Sake Deen Mahomed published his travel book, The Travels of Dean Mahomet. The book begins with the praise of Genghis Khan, Timur and particularly the first Mughal Emperor Babur. He also gives important details on the then incumbent Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II.


Ahmad ibn Arabshah's work on the Life of Timur.

Timur's generally recognized biographers are Ali Yazdi, commonly called Sharaf ud-Din, author of the Zafarnāmeh (Persian: ظفرنامه‎), translated by Petis de la Croix in 1722, and from French into English by J. Darby in the following year; and Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Abdallah, al-Dimashiqi, al-Ajami (commonly called Ahmad Ibn Arabshah) translated by the Dutch Orientalist Colitis in 1636. In the work of the former, as Sir William Jones remarks, "the Tatarian 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 Zafarnāmeh, 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'sTamerlane: The Ultimate Warrior (1998).


A forensic facial reconstruction of Timur by M. Gerasimov (1941).

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 reconstructed the likeness of Timur from his skull. At 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 meters), Timur was very tall for his era. Gerasimov also confirmed Timur's lameness due to a hip injury. Gerasimov also found that Timur's facial characteristics conformed to general Mongoloid features. In the study of "Anthropological composition of the population of Central Asia" shows the cranium of Timur predominate the characters of the South Siberian Mongoloid type. Timur is classified as being closer to the Mongoloid race with some admixture.

It is alleged that Timur's tomb was inscribed with the words, "When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble." It is also said that when Gerasimov exhumed the body, an additional inscription inside the casket was found reading, "Who ever opens my tomb, shall unleash an invader more terrible than I."  In any case, two days after Gerasimov had begun the exhumation, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, its invasion of the U.S.S.R. Timur was re-buried with full Islamic ritual in November 1942 just before the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad (ref Marozzi 2004).

In the arts

Gūr-e Amīr complex with its Azuredome.
  • Tamburlaine the Great, Parts I and II (English, 1563–1594) – play by Christopher Marlowe
  • Tamerlano (1724) – opera by George Frideric Handel, in Italian, based on the 1675 play Tamerlan ou la mort de Bajazet by Jacques Pradon.
  • Bajazet (1735) – opera by Antonio Vivaldi, portrays the capture of Bayezid I by Timur
  • Il gran Tamerlano (1772) – opera by Josef Mysliveček that also portrays the capture of Bayezid I by Timur
  • Tamerlane – first published poem of Edgar Allan Poe (American, 1809–1849).
  • Timur is the deposed, blind former King of Tartary and father of the protagonist Calaf in the opera Turandot (1924) by Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni.
  • Timour appears in the story Lord of Samarkand by Robert E. Howard.
  • Tamerlan – novel by Colombian writer Enrique Serrano in Spanish[67]
  • Timur Lang is also the name of the warlord that shall be defeated in the game Might and Magic IX, a sort of joke using the names of Timur Leng and this game's designer's one, Timothy Lang.
  • Timur is featured in the "Mongols" episode of the History Channel miniseries Barbarians.
  • Tamerlan appears in the Russian movie Dnevnoy Dozor (Day Watch), in which he steals the chalk of fate.
  • Tamerlane is the name of the corporation which is taking over Central Asia in the 2008 satire War, Inc..
  • Tamburlaine: Shadow of God by John Fletcher, BBC Radio 3 play broadcast 2008, a fictitious account of an encounter between Tamburlaine, Ibn Khaldun and Hafez.

Family of Timur

View of the Registan.
Statue of Timur in Samarkand.

Sons of Timur

  • Jahangir Mirza ibn Timur
  • Umar shaikh mirza ibn Timur
  • Miran Shah ibn Timur
  • Shahrukh Mirza ibn Timur

Sons of Jahangir

  • Pir Muhammad ibn Jahangir

Sons of Umar Shaikh Mirza I

  • Pir Muhammad ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I
    • Molvi Aburrazzak Beg ibn Pir Muhammad
      • Mirza Khalk Beg ibn Abdurrazzak bin Pir Muhammad
  • Mirza Ali Husain Beg ibn Mirza Khalk Beg
    • Mirza Hafiz Abdurrahman Beg ibn Mirza Ali Husain Beg
      • Abdussubhan ibn Abdurrahman bin Ali Husain Beg
  • Mirza Mohd Ali Beg ibn Mirza Molvi Abdussubhan Beg
    • Mirza Mohd Saad Beg ibn Mirza Mohd Ali Beg
      • Mirza Sadik ibn Mirza Saad Beg bin Mirza Mohd Ali Beg
  • Mirza Mohd Rustom Beg ibn Mirza Mohd Sadik Beg
    • mirza sirajuddin beg ibn mirza mohd rustom beg
      • mirza mohd daod beg ibn mirza sirajuddin bin mirza rustom beg
  • mirza shamsuddin beg ibn mirza daod beg
    • mirza khanjahan beg ibn mirza shamsuddin beg
      • mirza mohd isa beg ibn mirza khanjahan beg bin mirza shamsuddin beg
  • mirza mohd yusuf beg ibn mirza mohd isa beg
    • mirza mohd maroof beg ibn mirza yusuf beg
      • mirza mohd zakariya beg ibn mohd maroof beg bin mirza yusuf beg
  • mirza mohd ismaeel beg ibn mirza mohd zakariya beg
    • mirza khalk dya beg ibn mirza mohd ismaeel beg
      • mirza hateem beg ibn mirza khalk dya beg bin mirza ismaeel beg
  • mirza wali mohd beg ibn mirza hateem beg
    • mirza jaan mohd beg ibn mirza wali mohd beg
  • mirza raham ali beg ibn mirza jaan mohd beg
    • mirza mitthu beg ibn mirza raham ali beg
  • mirza karam ali beg ibn mirza jaan mohd beg
  • mirza maher ali beg ibn mirza jaan mohd beg
    • mirza omed ali beg ibn mirza maher ali beg
      • mirza hidaitullah beg ibn omed ali beg bin maher ali beg
  • mirza molvihakeem ismaeel beg ibn mirza hidaitullah beg
    • mirza aslam beg ibn mirza hakeem ismaeel beg
  • mirza molvi noor mohd beg ibn mirza hidaitullah beg
  • mirza hafiz laal mohd beg ibn mirza hidaitullah beg
    • mirza hafiz molvi ikram beg kasmi ibn mirza hafiz laal mohd beg
  • mirza salahuddin beg ibn mirza hafiz molvi ikram beg kasmi
  • mirza muslehuddin beg ibn mirza hafiz molvi ikram beg kasmi
  • mirza irfan beg ibn mirza hafiz molvi ikram beg kasmi
  • mirza rizwan beg ibn mirza hafiz molvi ikram beg kasmi
    • mirza noamaan beg ibn mirza rizwan beg bin mirza hafiz molvi ikram beg
    • mirza farhan beg ibn mirza rizwan beg bin mirza hafiz molvi ikarm beg
  • Iskandar ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I
  • Rustam ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I
  • Bayqarah ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I
    • Mansur ibn Bayqarah
      • Husayn ibn Mansur bin Bayqarah
        • Badi' al-Zaman
          • Muhammed Mu'min
        • Muzaffar Hussein
        • Ibrahim Hussein

Sons of Miran Shah

  • Khalil Sultan ibn Miran Shah
  • Abu Bakr ibn Miran Shah
  • Muhammad ibn Miran Shah
    • Abu Sa'id Mirza
      • Umar Shaikh Mirza II
        • Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur
          • the Mughals
        • Jahangir Mirza II ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza II

Sons of Shahrukh Mirza

  • Mirza Muhammad Taraghay – better known as Ulugh Beg
    • Abdul-Latif
  • Ghiyath-al-Din Baysonqor
    • Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza ibn Baysonqor
      • Ibrahim Mirza
    • Sultan Muhammad ibn Baysonqor
      • Yadigar Muhammad
    • Mirza Abul-Qasim Babur ibn Baysonqor
  • Sultan Ibrahim Mirza
    • Abdullah Mirza