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Timur (Persian: تیمور‎‎ Temūr, Chagatai: Temür; 9 April 1336 – 18 February 1405), historically known as Amir Timur and Tamerlane[1] (Persian: تيمور لنگ‎‎ Temūr(-i) Lang, "Timur the Lame"), was a Turco-Mongol conqueror. As the founder of the Timurid Empire in Persia and Central Asia[2] he became the first ruler in the Timurid dynasty. According to John Joseph Saunders, Timur's background was Iranized and not steppe nomadic.[3]

Born into the Barlas confederation in Transoxiana (in modern-day Uzbekistan) on 9 April 1336, Timur gained control of the western Chagatai Khanate by 1370. From that base he led military campaigns across Western, South and Central Asia, the Caucasus and southern Russia, and emerged as the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world after defeating the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, the emerging Ottoman Empire, and the declining Delhi Sultanate.[4] From these conquests he founded the Timurid Empire, but this empire fragmented shortly after his death.

Timur was the last of the great nomadic conquerors of the Eurasian Steppe, and his empire set the stage for the rise of the more structured and lasting Gunpowder Empires in the 1500s and 1600s.[5][6]:1 Timur envisioned the restoration of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan (died 1227). According to Beatrice Forbes Manz, "in his formal correspondence Temur continued throughout his life to portray himself as the restorer of Chinggisid rights. He justified his Iranian, Mamluk, and Ottoman campaigns as a re-imposition of legitimate Mongol control over lands taken by usurpers."[7] To legitimize his conquests, Timur relied on Islamic symbols and language, referred to himself as the "Sword of Islam", and patronized educational and religious institutions. He converted nearly all the Borjigin leaders to Islam during his lifetime. "Temur, a non-Chinggisid, tried to build a double legitimacy based on his role as both guardian and restorer of the Mongol Empire."[8] Timur also decisively defeated the Christian Knights Hospitaller at the Siege of Smyrna, styling himself a ghazi.[9]:91 By the end of his reign, Timur had gained complete control over all the remnants of the Chagatai Khanate, the Ilkhanate, and the Golden Horde, and even attempted to restore the Yuan dynasty in China.[citation needed]

Timur's armies were inclusively multi-ethnic and were feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe,[9] sizable parts of which his campaigns laid to waste.[10] Scholars estimate that his military campaigns caused the deaths of 17 million people, amounting to about 5% of the world population at the time.[11][12]

He was the grandfather of the renowned Timurid sultan, astronomer and mathematician Ulugh Beg, who ruled Central Asia from 1411 to 1449, and the great-great-great-grandfather of Babur (1483-1530), founder of the Mughal Empire, which ruled parts of South Asia for over three centuries, from 1526 until 1857.[13][14] Timur is also recognized[by whom?] as a great patron of art and architecture, as he interacted with Muslim intellectuals such as Ibn Khaldun and Hafiz-i Abru.[9]:341–2

Early life[edit]

Emir Timur feasts in the gardens of Samarkand.

Timur was born in Transoxiana near the city of Kesh (modern Shahrisabz, Uzbekistan) some 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Samarkand, part of what was then the Chagatai Khanate.[15] His father, Taraqai, was a minor noble of the Barlas,[15] a Mongolian tribe[16][17] that had been turkified in many aspects.[18][19][20]

According to Gérard Chaliand, Timur was a Muslim,[21] and he saw himself as Genghis Khan's heir.[21] Though not a Borjigid or a descendent of Genghis Khan,[22] he clearly sought to invoke the legacy of Genghis Khan's conquests during his lifetime.[23]

His name Temur means "Iron" in the Chaghatay language, Timur's mother-tongue (cf. Uzbek Temir, Turkish Demir).

Later Timurid dynastic histories claim that he was born on April 8, 1336, but most sources from his lifetime give ages that are consistent with a birthdate in the late 1320s. Historian Beatrice Forbes Manz suspects the 1336 date was designed to tie Timur to the legacy of Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan, the last ruler of the Ilkhanate descended from Hulagu Khan, who died in that year.[24]

At the age of eight or nine, Timur and his mother and brothers were carried as prisoners to Samarkand by an invading Mongol army. In his childhood, Timur and a small band of followers raided travelers for goods, especially animals such as sheep, horses, and cattle.[24]:116 In 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 crippled him 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 today the Dashti Margo in southwest Afghanistan. Timur's injuries have given him the names of Timur the Lame and Tamerlane by Europeans.[9]:31

Timur was a Muslim, possibly belonging to the Naqshbandi school of Sufism, which was influential in Transoxiana.[25] However, his chief official religious counsellor and adviser was the Hanafi scholar 'Abdu 'l-Jabbar Khwarazmi. In Tirmidh, he had come under the influence of his spiritual mentor Sayyid Baraka, a leader from Balkh who is buried alongside Timur in Gur-e-Amir.[26][27][28] Timur was known to hold Ali and the Ahl al-Bayt in high regard and has been noted by various scholars for his "pro-Alid" stance. Despite this, Timur was noted for attacking the Shia with Sunni apologism.[29]


File:Timur reconstruction03.jpg
Timur facial reconstruction from skull

Timur is regarded as a military genius, and as a brilliant tactician with an uncanny ability to work within a highly fluid political structure to win and maintain a loyal following of nomads during his rule in Central Asia. He was also considered extraordinarily intelligent – not only intuitively but also intellectually.[6]:16 In Samarkand and his many travels, Timur, under the guidance of distinguished scholars, was able to learn the Persian, Mongolian, and Turkish languages.[9]:9 (according to Ahmad ibn Arabshah, Timur didn't know Arabic)[30] More importantly, Timur was characterized as an opportunist. Taking advantage of his Turco-Mongolian heritage, Timur frequently used either the Islamic religion or the law and traditions of the Mongol Empire to achieve his military goals or domestic political aims.[9] Timur, mostly considered a barbarian, in fact was a well learned king, and did enjoy the company of scholars —he was tolerant and generous to them against his nature. Once Persian poet Hafez wrote a ghazal whose verse says if this Turk accept his homage:

—For the black mole on his cheek
I would give the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara

Timur upbraided him for this verse and said; "By the blows of my well tempered sword I have conquered the greater part of the world to enlarge Samarkand and Bukhara, my capitals and residences; and you pitiful creature would exchange these two cities for a mole". Hafez replied "O Sovereign of the world, it is by the state of similar generosity that I have been reduced, as you see my present state of poverty." It is reported that the King was amazed by the witty answer and the poet departed with magnificent gifts.[31]

Timur used Persian expressions in his conversations often, and his motto was the Persian phrase rāstī rustī (راستی رستی, meaning "truth is safety" or "veritas salus").[30]

Military leader[edit]

About 1360 Timur gained prominence as a military leader whose troops were mostly Turkic tribesmen of the region.[21] He took part in campaigns in Transoxiana with the Khan of the Chagatai Khanate. Allying himself both in cause and by family connection with Kurgan, the dethroner and destroyer of Volga Bulgaria, he invaded Khorasan[32] 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 Khwarezm and Urgench.

Following Kurgan's murder, disputes arose among the many claimants to sovereign power. Khan of Eastern Chagatai Khanate Tughlugh Timur of Kashgar, another descendant of Genghis Khan, invaded, interrupting this infighting. Timur was sent to negotiate with the invader but joined with him instead and was rewarded with Transoxania. At about this time his father died and Timur became chief of the Berlas as well. Tughlugh then attempted to set his son Ilyas Khoja over Transoxania, but Timur repelled this invasion with a smaller force.[32]

Rise to power[edit]

File:Timur during attack on Balkh 1370.jpg
Timur commanding the Siege of Balkh

It was in this period that Timur reduced the Chagatai khans to the position of figureheads while he ruled in their name. Also 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 them began to become strained after Husayn abandoned efforts to carry out Timur's orders to finish off Ilya Khoja (former governor of Mawarannah) close to Tishnet.[9]:40

Timur began to gain a following of people in Balkh, consisting of merchants, fellow tribesmen, Muslim clergy, aristocracy and agricultural workers, because of his kindness in sharing his belongings with them. This contrasted Timur's behavior with that of Husayn, who alienated these people, took many possessions from them via his heavy tax laws and selfishly spent the tax money building elaborate structures.[9]:41–2 At around 1370 Husayn surrendered to Timur and was later assassinated, which allowed Timur to be formally proclaimed sovereign at Balkh. He married Husayn's wife Saray Mulk Khanum, a descendant of Genghis Khan, allowing him to become imperial ruler of the Chaghatay tribe.[9]

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 among us who is the first to reach the stake, may he become our leader". So they ran and Aksak Timur, as 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." 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.[33][34]

Legitimization of Timur's rule[edit]

Map of the Timurid Empire

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 Genghis Khan's eldest son, Jochi".[35]

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.[24]:106

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.[6]:14

Likewise, Timur 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, Timur reacted to the challenge by creating a myth and image of himself as a "supernatural personal power" ordained by God.[35] Since Timur 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 God. 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, Timur's assertions would not have seemed unbelievable to fellow Islamic people.

Period of expansion[edit]

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 quarreled 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.[36]

Conquest of Persia[edit]

File:Tamerlane Besieging Urganj.JPG
Timur besieges the historic city of Urganj.
File:Timur orders campaign against Georgia.jpg
Timur orders campaign against Georgia.
File:Timur's army attacks Nerges, Georgia.jpg
Emir Timur's army attacks the survivors of the town of Nerges, in Georgia, in the spring of 1396.

After the death of Abu Sa'id, ruler of the Ilkhanate, in 1335, there was a power vacuum in Persia. In the end Persia was split amongst the Muzaffarids, Kartids, Eretnids, Chobanids, Injuids, Jalayirids, and Sarbadars. In 1383, Timur started his lengthy military conquest of Persia, though he already ruled over much of Persian Khorasan by 1381, after Khwaja Mas'ud, of the Sarbadar dynasty surrendered. Timur began his Persian campaign with Herat, capital of the Kartid dynasty. When Herat did not surrender he reduced the city to rubble and massacred most of its citizens; it remained in ruins until Shahrukh Mirza ordered its reconstruction.[37] Timur sent a General to capture rebellious Kandahar. With the capture of Herat the Kartid kingdom surrendered and became vassals of Timur, but it would later be annexed in 1389 by Timur's son Miran Shah.

Timur then headed west to capture the Zagros Mountains, passing through Mazandaran. During his travel through the north of Persia, he captured the then town of Tehran, which surrendered and was thus treated mercifully. He laid siege to Soltaniyeh in 1384. Khorasan revolted one year later, so Timur destroyed Isfizar, and the prisoners were cemented into the walls alive. The next year the kingdom of Sistan, under the Mihrabanid dynasty, was ravaged, and its capital at Zaranj was destroyed. Timur then returned to his capital of Samarkand, where he began planning for his Georgian campaign and Golden Horde invasion. In 1386 Timur passed through Mazandaran as he had when trying to capture the Zagros. He went near the city of Soltaniyeh, which he had previously captured but instead turned north and captured Tabriz with little resistance, along with Maragha. He ordered heavy taxation of the people, which was collected by Adil Aqa, who was also given control over Soltaniyeh. Adil was later executed because Timur suspected him of corruption.

Timur then went north to begin his Georgian and Golden Horde campaigns, pausing his full-scale invasion of Persia. When he returned he found his generals had done well in protecting the cities and lands he had conquered in Persia. Though many rebelled, and his son Miran Shah, who may have been regent, was forced to annex rebellious vassal dynasties, his holdings remained. So he proceeded to capture the rest of Persia, specifically the two major southern cities of Isfahan and Shiraz. When he arrived with his army at Isfahan in 1387, the city immediately surrendered; he treated it with relative mercy as he normally did with cities that surrendered (unlike Herat). However, after Isfahan revolted against Timur's taxes by killing the tax collectors and some of Timur's soldiers, he ordered the massacre of the city's citizens; the death toll is reckoned at between 100,000 and 200,000.[38] An eye-witness counted more than 28 towers constructed of about 1,500 heads each.[39] 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 educated.[38] This would later influence the next great Persian conqueror: Nader Shah.

Timur then began a five-year campaign to the west in 1392, attacking Persian Kurdistan. In 1393, Shiraz was captured after surrendering, and the Muzaffarids became vassals to Timur, though prince Shah Mansur rebelled but was defeated, and the Muzafarids were annexed. Shortly after Georgia was devastated so that the Golden Horde could not use it to threaten northern Iran. In the same year Timur caught Baghdad by surprise in August by marching there in only eight days from Shiraz. Sultan Ahmad Jalayir fled to Syria, where the Mamluk Sultan Barquq protected him and killed Timur’s envoys. Timur left the Sarbadar prince Khwaja Mas'ud to govern Baghdad, but he was driven out when Ahmad Jalayir returned. Ahmad was unpopular but got some dangerous help from Qara Yusuf of the Kara Koyunlu; he fled again in 1399, this time to the Ottomans.

Tokhtamysh–Timur war[edit]

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 invaded Muscovy to the north of Tokhtamysh's holdings. Timur's army burned Ryazan and advanced on Moscow. He was pulled away before reaching the Oka River by Tokhtamysh's renewed campaign in the south.[40]

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, in 1391.

In the second phase of the conflict Timur took a different route against the enemy by invading the realm of Tokhtamysh via the Caucasus region. In 1395 Timur defeated Tokhtamysh in the Battle of the Terek River, concluding the struggle between the two monarchs. Tokhtamysh was unable to restore his power or prestige, and he was killed about a decade later 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 their losses to Timur.


In May 1393 Timur's army invaded the Anjudan, crippling the Ismaili village only a year after his assault on the Ismailis in Mazandaran. The village was prepared for the attack, evidenced by its fortress and 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.[41] 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, these locals assembled and brought up their complaint with Timur, possibly provoking his attack on the Ismailis there.[41]

Campaign against the Tughlaq Dynasty[edit]

File:Timur defeats the sultan of Delhi.jpg
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-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq of the Tughlaq Dynasty. He was opposed by Ahirs and Jats but the Sultanate at Delhi did nothing to stop him.[42] After crossing the Indus river on 30 September 1398, he sacked Tulamba and massacred its inhabitants.[43] Then he advanced and captured Multan by October.[44]

Timur crossed the Indus River at Attock (now in 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.

Capture of Delhi (1398)[edit]

File:Delhi after sack of Timur Lang, 1398.jpg
Delhi after sack of Timur Lang, 1398

The battle took place on 17 December 1398. Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq and the army of Mallu Iqbal[45] had war elephants armored with chain mail and poison on their tusks.[9]:267 As his Tatar forces were 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 the forces of Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq, securing an easy victory. Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq fled with remnants of his forces. Delhi was sacked and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed 100,000 captives.[14]

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 retaliatory bloody massacre within the city walls. After three days of citizens uprising within Delhi, it was said that the city reeked of the decomposing bodies of its citizens with their heads being erected like structures and the bodies left as food for the birds by Timur's soldiers. 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.[9]:269–274

Campaigns in the Levant[edit]

File:Behzad timur egyptian.jpg
Timur defeating the Mamluk Sultan Nasir-ad-Din Faraj of Egypt
File:Chlebowski-Bajazyt w niewoli.jpg
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.

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.[46]

Then Timur turned his attention to Syria, sacking Aleppo[47][48] and Damascus.[49][50][51][52] The city's inhabitants were massacred, except for the artisans, who were deported to Samarkand. Timur cited the killing of Hasan ibn Ali by Umayyad caliph Muawiyah I and the killing of Husayn ibn Ali by Yazid I as the reason for his massacre of the inhabitants of Damascus.

Timur 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. When they ran out of men to kill, many warriors killed prisoners captured earlier in the campaign, and when they ran out of prisoners to kill, many resorted to beheading their own wives.[53]

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.[citation needed] But Timur did besiege and take the city of Smyrna, a stronghold of the Christian Knights Hospitalers, thus he referred to himself as ghazi or "Warrior of Islam". A mass beheading was carried out in Smyrna by Timur's soldiers.[54][55][56][57]

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.

File:Gorskii 03978u.jpg
Shakh-i Zindeh mosque, Samarkand

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 Miran Shah to reconquer Baghdad, which he proceeded to do. Timur then spent some time in Ardabil, where he gave Ali Safavi, leader of the Safaviyya, 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.[58]

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.[59]

Of Timur's four sons, two (Jahangir and Umar Shaikh) 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 after Timur died, 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[edit]

File:Mongolia in the early 15th century.jpg
Timur had aligned himself with the remnants of the Yuan dynasty in his attempts to conquer Ming China.
File:Wanli Changcheng-Jiayu guan.jpg
The fortress at Jiayu Pass was strengthened due to fear of an invasion by Timur.[60]

By 1368, Han Chinese forces had driven the Mongols out of China. The first of the new Ming dynasty's emperors, the Hongwu Emperor, and his son, the Yongle Emperor, produced tributary states of many Central Asian countries. The suzerain-vassal relationship between Ming empire and Timurid existed for a long time. 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.[61] Neither Hongwu's next ambassador, Chen Dewen (1397), nor the delegation announcing the accession of the Yongle Emperor fared any better.[61]

Timur eventually planned to invade China. To this end Timur made an alliance with surviving mongol tribes based in Mongolia and prepared all the way to Bukhara. Engke Khan sent his grandson Öljei Temür Khan, also known as "Buyanshir Khan" after he converted to Islam while at the court of Timur in Samarkand.[62]


Timur's mausoleum is located in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Timur preferred to fight his battles in the spring. However, he died en route during an uncharacteristic winter campaign. In December 1404, Timur began military campaigns against Ming China and detained a Ming envoy. He suffered illness while encamped on the farther side of the Syr Daria and died at Farab on February 17, 1405,[63] before ever reaching the Chinese border.[64] After his death the Ming envoys such as Fu An and the remaining entourage were released[61] by his grandson Khalil Sultan.

Timur was buried in Gur-e-Amir, his mausoleum in Samarkand.


File:Timur Empire.jpg
The Timurid Empire at Timur's death in 1405

Just before his death, Timur designated his grandson Pir Muhammad ibn Jahangir as his successor. However, his other descendants did not abide by this wish, and spent the next fifteen years engaged in violent infighting. His son Shahrukh Mirza and grandson Khalil Sultan struggled for control until Shahrukh won.

Exchanges with Europe[edit]

File:Letter of Tamerlane to Charles VI 1402.jpg
Letter of Timur to Charles VI of France, 1402, a witness to Timurid relations with Europe. Archives Nationales, Paris.

Timur had numerous epistolary and diplomatic exchanges with various European states, especially Spain and France. Relations between the court of Henry III of Castile and that of Timur played an important part in medieval 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 the Kingdom of León and Castile a Chagatai ambassador named Hajji Muhammad al-Qazi with letters and gifts.

In return, Henry III of Castile sent a famous embassy to Timur's court in Samarkand in 1403–06, led by Ruy González 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 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 of France, suggesting that he send traders to Asia. It is written in Persian.[65]
  • A May 1403 letter. This is a Latin transcription of a letter from Timur to Charles VI, and another from Miran Shah, his son, to the Christian princes, announcing their victory over Bayezid I at Smyrna.[66]

A copy has been kept of the answer of Charles VI to Timur, dated 15 June 1403.[67]


Inside the mausoleum – deep niches and diverse muqarnas decorate the inside of the Gur-e Amir.

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 Nestorian Christian Church of the East in much of Asia. Thus, while Timur still retains a positive image in Muslim Central Asia, he is vilified by many in Arabia, Iraq, Persia, and India, where some of his greatest atrocities were carried out. However, Ibn Khaldun praises Timur for having unified much of the Muslim world when other conquerors of the time could not.[68] The next great conqueror of the middle east, Nader Shah, was greatly influenced by Timur and almost re-enacted Timur's conquests and battle strategies in his own campaigns. Like Timur, Nader Shah conquered most of Caucasia, Persia, and Central Asia along with also sacking Delhi.

Timur's short-lived empire also melded the Turko-Persian tradition in Transoxiana, 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.[69] 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.[70]

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

Tamerlane virtually exterminated the Church of the East, which had previously been a major branch of Christianity but afterwards became largely confined to a small area now known as the Assyrian Triangle.[71]

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 an ally.

Timur has now been officially recognized as a national hero in Uzbekistan. His monument in Tashkent now occupies the place where Karl Marx's statue once stood.

Muhammad Iqbal, a philosopher, poet and politician in British India who is widely regarded as having inspired the Pakistan Movement,[72][better source needed] composed a notable poem entitled Dream of Timur, the poem itself was inspired by a prayer of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II:[citation needed]

The Sharif of the Hijaz suffers due to the divisive sectarian schisms of his faith, And lo! that young Tatar (Timur) has boldly re-envisioned magnanimous victories of overwhelming conquest.

In 1794, Sake Dean 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.

Historical sources[edit]

File:Autograph of Ahmad ibn Arabshah.png
Ahmad ibn Arabshah's work on the Life of Timur

The earliest known history of his reign was Nizam ad-Din Shami's Zafarnama, which was written during Timur's lifetime. Between 1424 and 1428, Sharaf ad-Din Ali Yazdi wrote a second Zafarnama drawing heavily on Shami's earlier work. Ahmad ibn Arabshah wrote a much less favorable history in Arabic. Arabshah's history was translated into Latin by the Dutch Orientalist Jacobus Golius in 1636.

As Timurid-sponsored histories, the two Zafarnamas present a dramatically different picture from Arabshah's chronicle. William Jones remarked that the former presented Timur as a "liberal, benevolent and illustrious prince" while the latter painted him as "deformed and impious, of a low birth and detestable principles".[citation needed]

Malfuzat-i Timuri[edit]

The Malfuzat-i Timurī and the appended Tuzūk-i Tīmūrī, supposedly Timur's own autobiography, are almost certainly 17th-century fabrications.[14][73] The scholar Abu Taleb Hosayni presented the texts to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, a distant descendant of Timur, in 1637–38, supposedly after discovering the Chagatai language originals in the library of a Yemeni ruler. Due to the distance between Yemen and Timur's base in Transoxiana and the lack of any other evidence of the originals, most historians consider the story highly implausible, and suspect Hosayni of inventing both the text and its origin story.[73]

European views[edit]

Timur arguably had a significant impact on the Renaissance culture and early modern Europe.[74] His achievements both fascinated and horrified Europeans from the fifteenth century to the early nineteenth century.

European views of Timur were mixed throughout the fifteenth century, with some European countries calling him an ally and others seeing him as a threat to Europe because of his rapid expansion and brutality.[75]:341

When Timur captured the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid at Ankara, he was often praised and seen as a trusted ally by European rulers such as Charles VI of France and Henry IV of England because they believed he was saving Christianity from the Turkish Empire in the Middle East. Those two kings also praised him because his victory at Ankara allowed Christian merchants to remain in the Middle East and allowed for their safe return home to both France and England. Timur was also praised because it was believed that he helped restore the right of passage for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land.[75]:341–44

Other Europeans viewed Timur as a barbaric enemy who presented a threat to both European culture and the religion of Christianity. His rise to power moved many leaders, such as Henry III of Castile, to send embassies to Samarkand to scout out Timur, learn about his people, make alliances with him, and try to convince him to convert to Christianity in order to avoid war.[75]:348–49

In the introduction to a 1723 translation of Yazdi's Zafarnama, the translator wrote:[76]

[M. Petis de la Croix] tells us, that there are calumnies and impostures, which have been published by authors of romances, and Turkish writers who were his enemies, and envious at his glory: among whom is Ahmed Bin Arabschah…As Timur-Bec had conquered the Turks and Arabians of Syria, and had even taken the Sultan Bajazet prisoner, it is no wonder that he has been misrepresented by the historians of those nations, who, in despite of truth, and against the dignity of history, have fallen into great excesses on this subject.

Exhumation and alleged curse[edit]

File:Timur reconstruction01.jpg
A forensic facial reconstruction of Timur by M. Gerasimov (1941)

Timur's body was exhumed from his tomb on 19 June 1941 and his remains examined by the Soviet anthropologist Mikhail M. Gerasimov, Lev V. Oshanin and V. Ia. Zezenkova. It was determined that Timur was a tall and broad-chested man with strong cheek bones. At 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 meters), Timur was tall for his era. The examinations confirmed that Timur was lame and had a withered right arm due to his injuries. His right thighbone had knitted together with his kneecap, and the configuration of the knee joint suggests that he had kept his leg bent at all times and therefore would have had a pronounced limp.[77][78] Gerasimov reconstructed the likeness of Timur from his skull and found that Timur's facial characteristics displayed Mongoloid features with some Caucasoid admixture. Oshanin also concluded that Timur's cranium showed predominately the characteristics of a South Siberian Mongoloid type.[78]

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, which read, "Whomsoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I."[79] In any case, three days after Gerasimov began the exhumation, Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the largest military invasion of all time, upon the Soviet Union.[80] Timur was re-buried with full Islamic ritual in November 1942 just before the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad.[81]

In the arts[edit]

  • The riches of India tempted him, and the weakness of the Delhi government provided him with a favorable opportunity. By invoking the propagation of the Islamic faith, he obtained the consent of his nobles. His invasion of India was the most ferocious that the country had ever known up to then.
    • A Brief History of India by Alain Daniélou
  • ...In vain, I see, men worship Mahomet:
    My sword hath sent millions of Turks to hell,
    Slew all his priests, his kinsmen, and his friends,
    And yet I live untouch'd by Mahomet.
    There is a God, full of revenging wrath,
    From whom the thunder and the lightning breaks,
    Whose scourge I am, and him will I obey.
    • Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great Part II Act V Tamburlaine, scene i, lines 177–183
Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr. Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni)
Numerous western scholars have dismissed Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni's claims, viewing his translated autobiography of Tīmūr as apocryphal and probably a forged document.[83]
  • About this time there arose in my heart the desire to lead an expedition against the infidels, and to become a ghazi; for it had reached my ears that the slayer of infidels is a ghazi, and if he is slain he becomes a martyr. It was on this account that I formed this resolution, but I was undetermined in my mind whether I should direct my expedition against the infidels of China or against the infidels and polytheists of India. In this matter I sought an omen from the Kuran, and the verse I opened upon was this, 'O Prophet, make war upon infidels and unbelievers, and treat them with severity.' My great officers told me that the inhabitants of Hindustan were infidels and unbelievers. In obedience to the order of Almighty Allah I ordered an expedition against them'.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), in Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 394
  • Then the Prince Muhammad Sultan said: 'The whole country of India is full of gold and jewels, and in it there are seventeen mines of gold and silver, diamond and ruby and emerald and tin and steel and copper and quicksilver, etc., and of the plants which grow there are those fit for making wearing apparel, and aromatic plants, and the sugar-cane, and it is a country which is always green and verdant, and the whole aspect of the country is pleasant and delightful. Now, since the inhabitants are chiefly polytheists and infidels and idolators and worshippers of the sun, by the order of Allah and his prophet, it is right for us to conquer them.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 396-397
  • Some of the nobles said, "By the favour of Almighty Allah we may conquer India, but if we establish ourselves permanently therein, our race will degenerate and our children will become like the natives of those regions, and in a few generations their strength and valour will diminish." The amirs of regiments (kushunat) were disturbed at these words, but I said to them, "My object in the invasion of Hindustan is to lead an expedition against the infidels that, according to the law of Muhammad (upon whom and his family be the blessing and peace of Allah), we may convert to the true faith the people of that country, purify the land itself from the filth of infidelity and polytheism; and that we may overthrow their temples and idols and become ghazis and mujahids before Allah." They gave an unwilling consent, but I placed no reliance upon them. At this time the wise men of Islam came before me, and a conversation began about the propriety of a war against infidels and polytheists; they gave it as their opinion that it is the duty of the Sultan of Islam, and all the people who profess that "there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah," for the sake of preserving their religion and strengthening their law, to exert their utmost endeavour for the suppression of the enemies of their faith. And it is the duty of every Muslim and true believer to use his utmost exertions in obedience to his ruler. When the edifying words of the wise men reached the ears of the nobles, all their hearts were set upon a holy war in Hindustan, and throwing themselves on their knees, they repeated the Chapter of Victory
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 397
  • When I girded up my loins for the expedition, I wrote to Hazrat Shaikh Zainu-d-din to the effect that I had determined on a religious expedition to Hindustan. He wrote in the margin of my letter: "Be it known to Abu-l-Ghazi Timur (whom may Allah assist) that great prosperity in this world and the next will result to you from this undertaking, and you will go and return in safety." He also sent me a large sword which I made my scepter.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 398
  • The ruler of Kator had a fort, on one side of which was a river, and beyond the river a lofty mountain reaching down to the water... On its being represented to me that this fort was the most important stronghold of the ruler of Kator in those parts, I resolved to subdue it. When I advanced into the neighbourhood of the fort I did not perceive a trace of the infidels, and when I came to the place itself I saw that they had abandoned it and fled. When I advanced into the neighbourhood of the fort I did not perceive a trace of the infidels, and when I came to the place itself I saw that they had abandoned it and fled. I obtained a booty of many sheep and some other things here, and ordered that they should set fire to the houses and buildings of the city, in the midst of which the fort was built, and that they should level it with the ground. Then crossing the river in haste and pursuing the track of the enemy, I reached the skirts of the mountain on the top of which the infidels had taken up their position in defiles and other strong places. I immediately gave orders to my valiant and experienced troops to ascend. Raising their war-cry and shouting the takbir, they rushed to the attack, and before all the rest Shaikh Arslan Aztuman Kabak Khan, who is a lion in the day of battle, mounting the hill on the left hand, commenced the fight. Leading his men upon the infidels he put them to flight, and following up the enemy entered the fastnesses of the rock and sent numbers of the impious unbelievers to hell. They all proved their zeal for Islam on the unbelieving foe, and having overpowered the infidels they put many of them to death and took possession of their fastnesses.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 403
  • Only a few of the enemy succeeded in sheltering themselves, wounded and worn out with fatigue, in their caverns. I sent Ak Sultan to them with the message that if they would consent to submit unconditionally and would all become Musulmans and repeat the creed, I grant them quarter, but otherwise I would exterminate them to a man...they all proffered submission, and repeating the necessary formula, embraced the Muhammadan faith.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 404-405
  • I was informed that the blessed tomb of Hazrat Shaikh Farid Ganj-shakar (whom may Allah bless) was in this city [Ajodhan], upon which I immediately set out on pilgrimage to it. I repeated the Fatiha, and the other prayers, for assistance, etc., and prayed for victory from his blessed spirit, and distributed large sums in alms and charity among the attendants on the holy shrine. I left Ajodhan on Wednesday, the 26th of the month on my march to Bhatnir. The raja of that place was called Dul Chain. He had assembled a body of Rajputs, a class which supplies the most renowned soldiers of India, and with these he waited ready to do battle'
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 421-22
  • So in all directions the brave warriors of Islam attacked the infidels with lion-like fury, until at length by the grace of Allah, victory beamed upon the efforts of my soldiers. In a short space of time all the people in the fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of ten thousand infidels were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels, and all the goods and effects, the treasure and the grain which for many a long year had been stored in the fort, became the spoil of my soldiers. They set fire to the houses and reduced them to ashes, and they razed the buildings and the fort to the ground. When this victory had been accomplished I returned to my tent. All the princes and amirs waited upon me to congratulate me upon the conquest and upon the enormous booty which had fallen into my hands. It was all brought out and I distributed it among my brave amirs and soldiers.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 427
  • When I made inquiries about the city of Sarsuti, I was informed that the people of the place were strangers to the religion of Islam, and that they kept hogs in their houses and ate the flesh of those animals. When they heard of my arrival, they abandoned their city. I sent my cavalry in pursuit of them, and a great fight ensued. All these infidel Hindus were slain, their wives and children were made prisoners, and their property and goods became the spoil of the victors. The soldiers then returned, bringing with them several thousand Hindu women and children who became Muhammadans, and repeated the creed'
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 427-28
  • It was again brought to my knowledge that these turbulent Jats were as numerous as ants or locusts and that no traveler or merchant passed unscathed from their hands. They had now taken flight, and had gone into jungles and deserts hard to penetrate. My great object in invading Hindustan had been to wage a religious war against the infidel Hindus, and it now appeared to me that it was necessary for me to put down these Jats. On the 9th of the month I despatched the baggage from Tohana, and on the same day I marched into the jungles and wilds, and slew 2,000 demon-like Jats. I made their wives and children captives, and plundered their cattle and property. On the same day a party of saiyids, who dwelt in the vicinity, came with courtesy and humility to wait upon me and were very graciously received. In my reverence for the race of the prophet, I treated their chiefs with great honour.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 429
  • On the 29th I again marched and reached the river Jumna. On the other side of the river I descried a fort, and upon making inquiry about it, I was informed that it consisted of a town and fort, called Loni. I determined to take that fort at once. Many of the Rajputs placed their wives and children in their houses and burned them, then they rushed to the battle and were killed. Other men of the garrison fought and were slain, and a great many were taken prisoners. Next day I gave orders that the Musalman prisoners should be separated and saved, but that the infidels should all be despatched to hell with the proselyting sword. I also ordered that the houses of the saiyids, shaikhs and learned Musulmans should be preserved but that all the other houses should be plundered and the fort destroyed. It was done as I directed and a great booty was obtained.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 432-33
  • Next day, Friday the 3rd of the month, I left the fort of Loni and marched to a position opposite to Jahan-numa where I encamped. I now held a Court. At this Court Amir Jahan Shah and Amir Sulaiman Shah and other amirs of experience, brought to my notice that, from the time of entering Hindustan up to the present time, we had taken more than 100,000 infidels and Hindus 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 [Islamic] rules of war to set these idolaters and foes of Islam 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 tawachis 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 ghazis of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death. 100,000 infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain. Maulana Nasiru-d-din '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.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 435-36
  • On the 16th of the month some incidents occurred which led to the sack of the city of Delhi, and to the slaughter of many of the infidel inhabitants... Another reason was that it had come to my knowledge that great numbers of Hindu and 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 amirs with their regiments (Jiushun) 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 Turki 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 Jahanpanah and Siri to Old Delhi, burning up all it reached. The savage Turks fell to killing and plundering. The Hindus set fire to their houses with their own hands, burned their wives and children in them, and rushed into the fight and were killed. The Hindus and gabrs showed much alarcity and boldness in fighting. On that day, Thursday, and all the night of Friday, nearly 15,000 Turks were engaged in slaying, plundering, and destroying... 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, pearls and other gems; jewels of gold and silver, ashrafis, tankas of gold and silver of the celebrated 'Alai 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 'ulama and the other Musulmans, the whole city was sacked.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 445-46
  • I had been at Delhi fifteen days, which time I had passed in pleasure and enjoyment, holding royal Courts and giving great feasts. I then reflected that I had come to Hindustan to war against infidels, and my enterprise had been so blessed that wherever I had gone I had been victorious. I had triumphed over my adversaries. I had put to death some lacs of infidels and idolaters, and I had stained my proselyting sword with the blood of the enemies of the faith. Now this crowning victory had been won, and I felt that I ought not to indulge in ease but rather to exert myself in warring against the infidels of Hindustan'
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 448
  • On the 1st Jumada-l-awwal I placed the left wing of the army under the command of Amir Jahan Shah, with orders to march up the Jumna, to take every fort and town and village he came to, and to put all the infidels of the country to the sword. The amir led off his army to execute my commands. My brave fellows pursued and killed many of them, made their wives and children prisoners, plundered their property and goods, and secured a vast number of cows and buffalos. When by the favour of Allah, I had secured this victory, I got off my horse and prostrated myself on the ground to pay my thanks... Pressing on with all haste I passed the jungles and thickets, and arrived in front of the infidels [at Kutila].75 After a slight resistance the enemy took flight, but many of them fell under the swords of my soldiers. All the wives and children of the infidels were made prisoners, and their property and goods, gold, money and grain, horses, camels (shutur), cows and buffaloes in countless numbers, fell as spoil into the hands of my soldiers. Satisfied with this rout of the enemy, I said the afternoon prayers in public in that desert, and I returned thanks to Allah.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 451-458
  • My brave men displayed great courage and daring; they made their swords their banners, and exerted themselves in slaying the foe (during a bathing festival on the bank of the Ganges). They slaughtered many of the infidels, and pursued those who fled to the mountains. So many of them were killed that their blood ran down the mountains and plain, and thus (nearly) all were sent to hell. The few who escaped, wounded, weary, and half dead, sought refuge in the defiles of the hills. Their property and goods, which exceeded all computation, and their countless cows and buffaloes, fell as spoil into the hands of my victorious soldiers.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 459
  • When I was satisfied with the destruction I had dealt out to the infidels, and the land was cleansed from the pollution of their existence, I turned back victorious and triumphant, laden with spoil. On that same day I crossed the Ganges, and said my mid-day prayers in the congregation, on the banks of that river. I prostrated myself in humble thanks to Allah, and afterwards again mounting my horse, marched five miles down the river and then encamped. It now occurred to my mind that I had marched as a conqueror from the river Sind to Delhi, the capital of the kings of India. I had put the infidels to the edge of the sword on both sides of my route, and had scoured the land. I had crossed the rivers Ganges and Jumna, and I had sent many of the abominable infidels to hell, and had purified the land from their foul existence. I rendered thanks to Almighty Allah that I had accomplished my undertaking, and had waged against the infidels that holy war I had resolved upon; then I determined to turn my course towards Samarkand, my capital and paradise.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 459-60
  • Amir Sulaiman Shah and other amirs said: "So long as we your servants, are able to move hand and foot, we will execute your orders... and (you) should now order us to march against the infidels of the Siwalik, and to rout and destroy them." I replied: "My principal object in coming to Hindustan and in undergoing all this toil and hardship, has been to accomplish two things. The first was to war with the infidels, the enemies of the Muhammadan religion; and by this religious warfare to acquire some claim to reward in the life to come. The other was a worldly object; that the army of Islam might gain something by plundering the wealth and valuables of the infidels: plunder in war is as lawful as their mothers' milk to Musulmans who war for their faith, and the consuming of that which is lawful is a means of grace."
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 461
  • On the 10th Jumada-l-awwal I mounted my horse and drew my sword, determined on fighting the infidels of the Siwalik' The infidel gabrs were dismayed at the sight, and took to flight. The holy warriors pursued them, and made heaps of slain. A few Hindus, in a wretched plight, wounded and half dead, escaped, and hid themselves in holes and caves. An immense spoil beyond all compute, in money, goods and articles, cows and buffaloes, fell into the hands of my soldiers. All the Hindu women and children in the valley were made prisoners... On the following day, the 14th Jumada-I-awwal, I crossed the river Jumna with the baggage, and encamped in another part of the Siwalik hills. Here I learned that in this part of the Siwalik there was a raja of great rank and power, by name Ratan Sen. In the front of this valley Raja Ratan Sen had drawn out his forces. At the first onset, the Hindus broke and fled, and my victorious soldiers pursued, slashing their swords killing many of the fugitives, and sending them to hell. Only a few of them escaped, wounded and dispirited, and hiding themselves like foxes in the woods, thus saved their lives. When the soldiers gave up killing the infidels, they secured great plunder in goods and valuables, prisoners and cattle. No one of them had less than one or two hundred cows, and ten or twenty slaves - the other plunder exceeded all calculation.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 462-64
  • When I entered the valley on that side of the Siwalik, information was brought to me about the town (shahr) of Nagarkot, which is a large and important town of Hindustan and situated in these mountains. I instantly ordered Amir Jahan Shah, whom I had sent to the front with the forces of the left wing and the army of Khurasan, to attack the enemy. The amir, in obedience to my order, advanced and charged the enemy. At the very first charge the infidels were defeated and put to flight. The holy warriors, sword in hand, dashed among the fugitives, and made heaps of corpses. Great numbers were slain, and a vast booty in goods and valuables, and prisoners and cattle in countless numbers, fell into the hands of the victors who returned triumphant and loaded with spoil.
    • Malfuzat-i Timuri (tr.Abū Ṭāleb Hosayni), Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 465-66


Timur had eighteen wives and twenty four concubines:

  • Turmish Agha, mother of Jihangir Mirza;
  • Oljay Turkhan Agha (m. 1357/58), daughter of Amir Mashlah and granddaughter of Amir Kurgen;
  • Saray Mulk Khanum (m. 1367), widow of Emir Husain, and daughter of Khazan Khan;
  • Islam Agha (m. 1367), widow of Emir Husain, and daughter of Amir Bayan Salduz;
  • Ulus Agha (m. 1367), widow of Emir Husain, and daughter of Amir Khizr Yasuri;
  • Dilshad Agha (m. 1374), daughter of Shams ed-Din and his wife Bujan Agha;
  • Touman Agha (m. 1377), daughter of Emir Musa and his wife Arzu Mulk Agha, daughter of Amir Bayezid Jalayir;
  • Chulpan Mulk Agha, daughter of Haji Beg of Jetah;
  • Tukal Khanum (m. 1395), daughter of Mongol Khan Khizr Khawaja Aglen;
  • Tolun Agha, concubine, and mother of Umar Shaikh Mirza I;
  • Mengli Agha, concubine, and mother of Miran Shah ibn Timur;
  • Toghay Turkhan Agha, lady from the Kara Khitai, widow of Emir Husain, and mother of Shahrukh Mirza ibn Timur;
  • Tughdi Bey Agha, daughter of Aq Sufi Kong-Kirat;

His other wives and concubines included: Dawlat Tarkan Agha, Sultan Agha, Burhan Agha, Jani Beg Agha, Tini Beg Agha, Munduz Agha, Bakht Sultan Agha, Nowruz Agha, Jahan Bakht Agha, Nigar Agha, Ruhparwar Agha, Dil Beg Agha, Dilshad Agha, Murad Beg Agha, Piruzbakht Agha, Khoshkeldi Agha, Dilkhosh Agha, Barat Bey Agha, Sevinch Malik Agha, Arzu Bey Agha, Khan Malik Agha, Yadgar Sultan Agha, Khudadad Agha, Bakht Nigar Agha, Qutlu Bey Agha, Nigar Agha, Sultan Aray Agha Nukuz, and Malikanshah Agha Filuni.

Descendants of Timur[edit]

Sons of Timur[edit]

  • Jahangir Mirza ibn Timur - with Turmish Agha;
  • Umar Shaikh Mirza I - with Tolun Agha;
  • Miran Shah ibn Timur - with Mengli Agha;
  • Shahrukh Mirza ibn Timur - with Toghay Turkhan Agha;
  • Khalil Sultan ibn Timur - with Saray Mulk Khanum.

Daughters of Timur[edit]

  • Akia Beghi, married to Mohammad Bey, son of Amir Musa - mother unknown;
  • unknown, married to Solyman Mirza - mother unknown;
  • unknown, married to Cumaleza Mirza - mother unknown;
  • Sultan Bakht Begum, married firstly Mohammed Mireke, married secondly, 1389/90, Soliman Shah- with Aljaz Turkhan Agha.

Sons of Jahangir[edit]

Sons of Umar Shaikh Mirza I[edit]

  • Pir Muhammad ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I
  • Iskandar ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I
  • Rustam ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I
  • Bayqarah ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I

Sons of Miran Shah[edit]

Sons of Shahrukh Mirza[edit]

See also[edit]


<templatestyles src="Reflist/styles.css" />

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  • ‘My principal object in coming to Hindustan.....has been to accomplish two things. The first was to war with the infidels, the enemies of the Muhammadan religion; and by this religious warfare to acquire some claim to reward in the life to come. The other was a worldly object; that the army of Islam might gain something by plundering the wealth and valuables of the infidels: plunder in war is lawful as their mother’s milk to Musulmans who war for their faith, and the consuming of that which is lawful is a means of grace”.
    • From Timur’s memoirs, quoted in Andrew Bostom, Legacy of Jihad, p 645-651


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  • File:Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Timūr"  [archive]. Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Timurid Empire
Succeeded by
Pir Muhammad ibn Jahangir
and Khalil Sultan

Template:Timurid Empire

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