Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Timur

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TIMUR.Timúr Bey or Timúr Lang (Timur i Leng), "the lame Timur" vulgarized into TAMERLANE the renowned Oriental conqueror, was born in 1336 at Kesh, better known as Shahr-i-Sabz, " the green city," situated some 50 miles south of Samarkand in Transoxiana. His father Teragai was head of the tribe of Berlas. Greatgrandson of Karachar Nevian (minister of Jagatai, son of Jenghiz Khan, and commander-in-chief of his forces), and distinguished among his fellow-clansmen as the first con vert to Islamism, Teragai might have assumed the high military rank which fell to him by right of inheritance; but like his father Burkul he preferred a life of retirement and study. Under the paternal eye the education of young Timur was such that at the age of twenty he had not only become an adept in manly outdoor exercises but had earned the reputation of being an attentive reader of the Koran. At this period, if we may credit the Memoirs (Malfuzdt), he exhibited proofs of a tender and sympathetic nature.

About 1358, however, he came before the world as a leader of armies. 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 connexion with Kurgan, the dethroner and destroyer of Kezan, chief of the Jagatai, he was deputed to invade Khorasan at the head of a thousand horse. This was the second warlike expedition in which he was the chief actor, and the accom plishment of its objects led to further operations, among them the subjection of Khwarizm and Urganj. After the murder of Kurgan the contentions which arose among the many claimants to sovereign power were arrested by the invasion of Tughlak Timur of Kashgar, a descendant of Jenghiz. Timur was despatched on a mission to the invader's camp, the result of which was his own appoint ment to the government of Mawara lnahr (Transoxiana). By the death of his father he was also left hereditary head of the Berlas. The exigencies of his quasi -sovereign position compelled him to have recourse to his formidable patron, whose reappearance on the banks of the Sihon created a consternation not easily allayed. Mawara lnahr was taken from Timur and entrusted to a son of Tughlak; but he was defeated in battle by the bold warrior he had replaced at the head of a numerically far inferior force. Tughlak'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. During this period Timur and his brother-in-law, Hosain at first fellow-fugitives and wan derers in joint adventures full of interest and romance became rivals and antagonists. At the close of 1369 Hosain was assassinated and Timur, having been formally proclaimed sovereign at Balkh, mounted the throne at Samarkand, the capital of his dominions.

The next thirty years or so were spent in various wars and expeditions. He not only consolidated his rule at home by the subjection of intestine foes, but sought extension of territory by encroachments upon the lands of contemporary potentates. His conquests to the west and north-west led him among the Mongols of the Caspian, and to the banks of the Ural and the Volga; those to the south and south-west comprehended almost every pro vince in Persia, including Baghdad, Kerbela, and Kurdistan. To this time belong the vestiges of his presence that still remain, such as the ruined monastery at Keghut near the Aras (Araxes), the cleft stone in the church at Dayiru 1Omar (M ar Jibrail) near Mardin, and the ruinless sites of such ancient cities as Zaranj in Sistan. In 1398, when Timur was more than sixty years of age, Farishta tells us that, "informed of the commotions and civil wars of India," he " began his expedition into that country," and on 12th September "arrived on the banks of the Indus." His passage of the river and upward march along the left bank, the reinforcement he provided for his grandson Pir Mohammed (who was invested in Multan), the capture of towns or villages accompanied, it might be, with de struction of the houses and the massacre of the inhabitants, the battle before Delhi and the easy victory, the triumphal entry into the doomed city, with its outcome of horrors, all these circumstances belong to the annals of India. In April 1399, some three months after quitting the capital of Mahmiid Tughlak, Timur was back in his own capital beyond the Oxus. It need scarcely be added that an im mense quantity of spoil was conveyed away. According to Clavijo, ninety captured elephants were employed merely to carry stones from certain quarries to enable the conqueror to erect a mosque at Samarkand. The war with the Turks which succeeded the return from India was rendered notable by the capture of Baghdad, Aleppo, and Damascus, and especially by the defeat and imprisonment of Sultan Bayazid. This was Timiir's last campaign. Another was projected against China, but the old warrior was attacked by fever and ague when encamped on the further side of the Sihon (Syr-Daria) and died at Atrdr (Otrar) on the 17th February 1405. 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." Timur had carried his victorious arms on one side from the Irtish and the Volga to the Persian Gulf and on the other from the Hellespont to the Ganges.

Timiir's generally recognized biographers are "Ali Yazdi, commonly called Sharifu d-Din, author of the Persian Zafarndma, translated by Petis de la Croix in 1722, and from French, into English by J. Darby in the following year; and Ahmed ibn Mohammed ibn Abdallah, al Dimashki, al Ajmi, commonly called Ibn Arabshah, author of the Arabic Ajaibu I Makhlnkdt, trans lated by the Dutch Orientalist Golius in 1636. In the work of the former, as Sir William Jones remarks, "the Tartarian 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. Few indeed, if any, original annals of this class are written otherwise than to order, under patronage, or to serve, a purpose to which truth is secondary. Among less reputed biographies or materials for bio graphy may be mentioned a second Zafarndma, by Maulana Nizamu d-Din Shanab Ghazani (Nizam Shami), stated to be "the earliest known history of Timur, and the only one written in his lifetime "; and vol. i. of the Afatla u's-Sa dain a choice Persian MS. work of 1495 introduced to Orientalists in Europe by Ham mer, Jahrbiicher, Dorn, and (notably) Quatremere. There are also the Memoirs (Malftiz&t) and Institutes (Tuzukdt), of which an important section is styled Designs and Enterprises ( Tadbirdt wa Kangdshahd). Upon the genuineness of these doubt has been thrown. The circumstance of their alleged discovery and presenta tion to Shah Jahan in 1637 was of itself open to suspicion. Alhazen, quoted by Purchas in his quaint notice of Timur, and referred to by Sir John Malcolm, can hardly be accepted as a seri ous authority. His assumed memoir was printed for English readers in 1597 by William Ponsonby under the title of a Historic of the Great Emperor Tamerlan, drawn from the ancient monuments by Messire Jean du Bee, Abbot of Mortimer, and another version of the same book is to be found in the Histoire du Grand Tamerlan, by De Sainctyon, published at Amsterdam in 1678. But, although the existence of this Alhazen of Jean de Bee has been believed by many, the more trustworthy critics consider the history and histo rian to be equally fictitious.

Reference may be made to two more sources of information. (1) Supposed likenesses of Timur are to be found in books and in the splendid collection of Oriental manuscripts and drawings in the British Museum. One contained in the Shah Jahan Ndma a gorgeous specimen of illuminated Persian manuscript and exquisite caligraphy represents a most ordinary, middle-aged Oriental, with narrow black whisker fringing the cheek and meeting the tip of the chin in a scanty, pointed beard; a thin moustache sweeps in a semicircle from above the upper lip; the eyebrow over the almond-shaped eye is marked but not bushy. But it were vain to seek for an expression of genius in the countenance. Another portrait is included in a set of sketches by native artists, some of which, taken probably from life, show great care and cleverness. Timiir is here displayed as a stoutish, long -bodied man, below the middle-height, in age and feature not unlike the first portrait, but with thicker and more straggling hair, and disiincter, though not more agreeable character in the facial expres sion, yet not a sign of power, genius, or any elements of grandeur or celebrity. The uncomfortable figure in the Bodleian Library does not give much help. Sir John Malcolm has been at some pains to invest his portrait of Tirniir with individuality. But an .analysis of his results leaves the reader in more perplexity than satisfaction at the kind of information imparted, and he reverts insensibly to the sources from which his instructor has himself been instructed. (2) As regards plays, in Marlowe's Tamburlaine Timur is described as tall of stature, straightly fashioned, large of limb, having joints strongly knit, long and sinewy arms, a breadth of shoulders to "bear old Atlas's burden," pale of complexion, and with "amber hair wrapp'd in curls." The outline of this de scription might be from Sharifu d-Din, while the colours are the poet's own. A Latin memoir of Tamerlane by Perondinus, printed in 1600, entitled Magni Tamerlanis Scytharum Imperatoris Vita, .describes Timur as tall and bearded, broad-chested and broadshouldered, well-built but lame, of a fierce countenance, and with receding eyes, which express cruelty and strike terror into the lookers-on. But Jean du Bee's account of Timur's appearance is quite different. Now Tamburlaine was written in 1586. The first English translation of Jean du Bee is dated in 1595, the Life by Perondinus in 1600, and Petis de la Croix did not introduce Sharifu d-Dm or All Yazdi to European readers till 1722. The dramatist must have heard of Timur in other quarters, equally reliable it may be with those available in the present stage of Oriental research. At the beginning of the 18th century Tirnur was represented in Rowe's Tamerlane as a model of valour and virtue. The plot, however, has little to do with history, and is improbable and void of interest. By Matthew Gregory Lewis again "Timour" is depicted as the conventional tyrant of a gorgeous melodrama, slaying, burning, slaughtering, and coinmitting^ every possible atrocity until checked by violent death and a poetical climax.

Apart from modern European savants and historians, and the more strictly Oriental chroniclers who have written in Persian, Turkish, or Arabic, the following authorities may be cited Laonicus Chalcondylas, Joannes Leunclavius, Joachimus Camerarius, Petrus Perondinus, Lazaro Soranzo, Simon Mairlus, Matthew Michiovius. A score or so of other names are given by Samuel Purchas. See also Clements Markham's Clavijo, in the Hakluyt Society's pub lications; White's edition of Davy's translation of the Institutes (1783); Stewart's translation of the Malfuzdt; Malcolm's History of Persia; and Trans. Roy. Soc., 1885. (F. J. G.)