|Biographical detail : ||Conqueror of the world.
Tamur the Lame, a self-made nomadic chieftain from Kesh, became “one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever seen.” Styling himself the Scourge of God, he outdid Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan (to whom he was related by marriage) in carving out a kingdom from Moscow to the Mediterranean and from Damascus to Delhi. Europe was spared only because he reckoned it worthless.
Tamerlane, (or Taimur Lang, because of some defect in his leg), Temur to the Uzbeks, whose real name was Amir Taimur Sahib Qiran, was born a minor noble of a Tartar tribe in the middle of Transoxiana. “At 12 years of age, I fancied that I perceived in myself all the greatness and wisdom.” He won leadership of his tribe at 24 and, after building up an army, proceeded to dominate first the whole of Transoxiana, then much of the wider world – “perhaps the greatest self-made man who ever lived.”
Tamerlane ascended the throne in 1370 after conquering Balkh. Thereafter Iran, Iraq, Syria, eastern Turkey and most of the Caucasus fell under his sway, followed by northern India and he took Delhi in 1398. Europe’s crowned heads trembled as he vanquished the Ottoman sultan Bayzid in 1402. The King of Constantinople and the Monarch of Castila paid homage to him. Tamerlane made Samarqand his capital.
He had a multicultural army of nomads and urbanites, Muslims and Christians, Arabs, Turks, Tajiks, Persians, Georgians, Indians and Tartars. Tamerlane ransacked Baghdad in 1401 and massacred 90,000 inhabitants, slaughtered 70,000 in Isfahan and in Afghanistan killed everyone who could not run fast enough.
Tamerlane was fond of chess, and played the “greater game” with a board of 10 squares by 11, which carried the usual complement plus camels, giraffes and war machines. He planned his campaigns with a chess player’s cleverness – and, like a good Mongol, led from the saddle. He used the Mongol tactic of feigned flight to lethal effect, even feigning mortal sickness – vomiting up a bowl of boar’s blood he’d covertly swallowed – to ally an enemy’s fear.
Tamerlane – who was the ancestor of Babar who later founded the Mughal Empire in India – died while trying to invade China after reigning for 36 years.
The Soviet archaeologist who opened his jade tomb in 1941 discovered a man of five feet and seven inches, well-built, with injuries to his right shoulder, leg and elbow. There the certainty ends. An untraceable story, however, warned that if Tamerlane’s grave was violated, disaster would follow, and a few hours later news arrived that Hitler had invaded Russia.
Neglected by historians, Tamerlane was also erased from the record by the Soviets, who feared his capacity to foment nationalist unrest in Central Asia. Only in the newly independent Uzbekistan has he become revered as the father of the nation, rebranded as the champion of “well-being, prosperity, and above all, peace and harmony.”