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Temür ibn Taraghai Barlas, also known under the name Tamerlan ( facial reconstruction by Michail Gerasimow )

Temür ibn Taraghai Barlas (from Central Turkish temür 'iron'; * April 8, 1336 in Kesch ; † February 19, 1405 in Schymkent ) was a Central Asian military leader of a Turkish - Mongolian tribal association based in Samarkand and conqueror of Islamic faith at the end of the 14th century .

In European historiography he is better known as Timur ( Persian تیمور Tīmūr or Taymūr ), also Timur Lenk or Timur Leng ( Persian تيمور لنگ, DMG Teymūr-i Lang , also Tīmūr-i Lang , "Timur the Lame"). The name Tamerlane , as it is also still in use in various European languages, is derived from this.

Raised in the nomadic tribal confederation of the Chagatai Khanate , he sought the restoration of the Mongol Empire under his supremacy . In the position of emir , he was the founder of the dynasty of the Timurid , whose empire much of the zenith of power front and central Asia included. Timur's rule is marked by brutality and tyranny. At the same time he was considered a generous patron of art and literature and recognized the importance of knowledge through conversations with Ibn Chaldūn , which he described in his autobiography.


Timur is also called in some Persian sourcesتیمور لنگ Timur-i Lang , 'Timur the Lame'. Due to an adhesion on the right kneecap ( bone tuberculosis according to Soviet researchers), his right leg was paralyzed and there was also an adhesion on the right shoulder. Furthermore, an arrow shot had restricted the mobility of the right hand, as Soviet scientists discovered during an examination of the skeleton in 1941. "Timur the Lame " was therefore partlyshortenedto Tamerlane in Europe.

He referred to himself as gurkāni 'son-in-law' , indicating that he was married into the family of Genghis Khan in order to underpin his claims to rule.


Origin and advancement

Timur came from the Mongolian nomadic tribe of the Barlas who immigrated to Transoxania in the 13th century , but over time they had adopted a Turkic language and could no longer be distinguished from other Turkic peoples . The Barlas tribe divided into several branches, and Timur's father Taragai ruled the area around Kesch and the valley of the river Kashkadarja as the tribal prince . The Barlas traced their ancestry back to Qarchar Barlas , a military leader in Chagatai's army, and through him - as once did Genghis Khan  - to a legendary Mongolian warlord by the name of Bodon'ar Mungqaq . Timur's childhood is largely in the dark and has been heavily mythologized after his rise. His mother Tikina-Chatun died early, he had three brothers and two sisters.

As an adolescent, Timur entered the service of the Qaraunas -Emir Kazagan (1346-1357), a career common at the time for children from the lower nobility, and remained there for several years. After Kazagan's assassination by a rival, he took part in the civil and tribal wars in Transoxania and attempted by means of intrigues and frequent changes of position between the Mongol ruler Tughluq Timur († 1363), who invaded this area in 1360, and Haji Barlas, his uncle, who opposed the resistance led the Mongols to maintain its power base. In 1361 Tughluq Timur invaded Transoxania again. Hajji Barlas fled and died unexplained. Tughluq Timur made Timur, who was the first to submit to the power of the Mongol prince, as an advisor to his son and the new ruler of all of Transoxania.

Timur tried to usurp power, but overestimated his popularity and his attempt at rebellion was nipped in the bud. He had to flee and found shelter with his brother-in-law Hussain, Kazagan's grandson. But since Hussain had sufficient power base, they moved around in the company of fewer soldiers before they decided in Khorezm to ask for help. On the way, their group was almost completely wiped out in one skirmish and Timur was captured near the town of Merw . Soon he was free again and gathered around him a group of adventurers and mercenaries who became the horror of Transoxania.

In 1363 Timur and Hussain succeeded in defeating the troops of Ilias Hodschas and moving into the city of Kesch. In the same year they defeated the Ilias Hodscha, who had meanwhile risen to Khan. He fled to his eastern home country Mogulistan (Eastern Chagatai Khanate). Timur, who himself had no legitimation, had to accept that a descendant of Genghis Khan named Kabul Khan was elected supreme ruler of Transoxania by the assembled nobles.

In 1365 the transoxan troops were defeated by the resurgent Iliad Hodscha in a battle near Tashkent . The Mongols occupied large areas and unsuccessfully besieged Samarkand . Ilias Hodscha was killed by a rival a little later, and the Mongols withdrew to Mogulistan. However, Timur faced strong rivalries from his brother-in-law Hussain, who was now in power, and had to lead the unsteady life of a refugee again. After several skirmishes and small clashes, he managed to raise a strong army. He occupied Bactria and pulled the ruler of Badakhshan to his side. Shortly afterwards his army stood before the walls of Balkh . Hussain, abandoned by his followers, submitted and went as a pilgrim to Mecca . On the way there he was killed - presumably on the orders of Timur. On April 10, 1370 Timur proclaimed himself ruler of all of Transoxania and took the title of emir.

Timur and the Golden Horde

The conflict with the Golden Horde under Khan Toktamish shaped the politics of Timur for many years and represented a serious challenge for Timur. Toktamish appeared for the first time in Samarkand in 1376, but not as an opponent, but as a supplicant. As his throne ambitions were thwarted by Urus Khan , Toktamish asked Timur to help him to his inheritance. Toktamisch got the troops he requested very quickly and attacked the Golden Horde, but was driven out by Urus Khan. Then Timur took up the fight himself and went against Urus Khan in the winter of 1376/77 with great success. Urus Khan was defeated in a battle near Otrar and died soon after. Thus Toktamish gained power in the Golden Horde only thanks to the active support of Timur.

In 1387 Toktamisch appeared with a strong army on the border with Transoxania. Since Timur was in Karabakh at the time and was not prepared for an attack, he had hardly any troops to stop Toktamish. However, his son Miran Shah came to his aid in time and Toktamish's troops were crushed. Timur ordered, contrary to the customs of the time, to spare the prisoners and to release them to their homeland. He wanted to show the Golden Horde that he was not an enemy of the Chingisids, i.e. the descendants of Genghis Khan.

Toktamisch misunderstood this gesture of goodwill. Already in the winter of 1388/89 his army, which united the entire diversity of the Golden Horde - including Caucasians, Russians and Bulgarians - appeared again on the borders of Timur's empire. In January 1389 the decisive battle broke out near Khodschent . The battle, which was fought with extreme severity, was decided by the unexpected intervention of one of Timur's sons, Omar Sheikh, who broke down the rearguard of the enemy and caused him to panic. Toktamish's troops fled and scattered in all directions.

A picture of Timur from a copy of the Zafarnāma completed shortly after his death in the vicinity

This attack showed Timur that he had to take the threat from his former protégé seriously. He could no longer safely consolidate his power in Iran and Afghanistan, as he had to reckon with constant attacks by Toktamish during his absence. To remove this threat once and for all, Timur marched against Toktamish in 1391. He decided to cross the steppe areas as quickly as possible and force his opponent to a decisive battle. His army moved through the vast expanses of the Kazakh steppe for a full three months , always striving to find the traces of the nomads. At Tobolsk the army turned to the northwest. In this area, which is in what is now Siberia , the armies from Central Asia were confronted with polar day for the first time , so that the mullahs temporarily suspended evening prayers. After almost four months of searching, Timur's son Omar Sheikh managed to field the enemy near the Kondurcha River west of the Urals . Timur's main force appeared a few hours after the battle began. The battle lasted for three days, with several interruptions, from June 18 to 21, 1391, and ended with the complete defeat of Toktamish, who fled the battlefield.

However, Toktamish proved to be a tough opponent. Supported by the Moscow Grand Duke Vasily I , Toktamish appeared in the North Caucasus in 1395 , where Timur's troops tried to subjugate Georgian princes. Toktamisch tried to get the areas of Azerbaijan recently conquered by Timur to his side and thereby create a base of operations from where he wanted to establish contact with the Syrian-Egyptian Mamluks of the Burjiyya dynasty . After he began to besiege Shirvan , Toktamish fled as soon as he heard of Timur's approach and turned to battle on April 15, 1395 north of the Terek River . The nomads succeeded in surrounding Timur, who had to defend himself and was only saved by his bodyguards, who almost without exception perished in battle. Toktamisch lost the battle and with it finally lost his position as Khan of the Golden Horde. He fled to Lithuania to the court of Grand Duke Vytautas . Timur's troops plundered the Volga Delta and destroyed Sarai , the capital of the Golden Horde.

Overview of the conquests

From 1380 he began to conquer the south of Khorasan, Iran and Iraq , eliminating the dominions of local dynasties such as those of the Kartids , Sarbadars , Muzaffarids and Jalairids .

In addition to horsemen and archers, Timur's army consisted of war elephants that originally came from India, although he also had infantry and cannons.

In the years 1391 and 1395 Timur won decisive victories over the Mongol rulers of the Golden Horde on the Volga , whose empire then inexorably divided into individual khanates . As early as 1394, the zone of influence of Timur's power extended over an area that spanned parts of what is now Iraq with Baghdad , Iran, Azerbaijan , Uzbekistan , Armenia , Georgia , Syria and Turkey . In the east his empire bordered directly on the (eastern) Chagatai Khanate of the Mongols.

Sultan Bayezid as Timur's prisoner ( historical painting by Stanisław Chlebowski 1878)

In 1398 he conquered Delhi , in 1401 Damascus and (again) Baghdad fell into his hands.

On July 20, 1402 - at that time almost blind - he inflicted one of the worst defeats in the history of the Ottoman army under Sultan Bayezid I in the battle of Ankara (Angora). Thousands of soldiers had died of thirst before they even reached the battlefield because Timur's soldiers had destroyed all the wells far and wide. The Sultan's Tatar troops defected to the Timurids. After almost twenty hours of fighting, the sultan's Serbian auxiliaries also gave up and fled (around 10,000 Serbs under Stefan Lazarević ). Bayezid was captured; Timur is therefore also "famous" in Europe. Bayezid died in captivity in Mongolia.

However, Timur soon left Anatolia without going into Christian Constantinople .


As a final problem, Timur saw his symbolic vassal position to the Chinese Empire of the Ming Dynasty , to which he had had to pay tribute for a time . In 1405 he set out on a campaign in China in the middle of winter, but died near today's Schymkent in Kazakhstan after several days of excessive alcohol.

Timur was buried in Samarkand. His mausoleum Gur-e Amir is one of the most important architectural monuments of this time, it was built under Muḥammad Sultān Mirzā , the son of Jahāngīr Mirzā , i.e. a grandson of Timur.

Timur's empire soon fell apart as a result of succession disputes. The Ottomans no longer had to reckon with an overpowering enemy and continued their campaigns of conquest after a ten-year interregnum .

Characteristics of his rule


The kingdom of Timur

Timur married in the house of Chagatais, d. H. the family of Genghis Khan and apparently wanted to renew his empire under the auspices of Islam. But that did not prevent him from having Muslims killed or from taking action against the rule of the Genghisids.

This apparent contradiction can be explained against the background of his homeland: the respect for the Mongolian tradition was unbroken and a benchmark of politics, even if the Mongolian law had long been opposed to the Islamic law and the Genghisid princes rarely represented special personalities. Timur Lenk therefore never became a khan , instead he appointed two princes from the Chagatai family as shadow rulers (“khans”) to legitimize his rule. As an "emir", however, due to his marriage to Sarai Mulk, he claimed the title Gurgani (used in the sense of "royal son-in-law", Mongolian: güregen  - "son-in-law").

He completed the Islamization of the Mongols immigrating to Central Asia, which, however, had already reached its peak under Tarmashirin . In theory, the Mongolian Jassa applied in his empire , in practice it was sharia , the Islamic law. He was personally of a popular piety, which was then reflected in the dervish orders and Qalandaren , and was buried at the feet of a dervish . He was considered a Sunni , but the relationship is contradictory because in Syria he was the patron of the Shia . He stuck to Turkic Congolian traditions, even if they contradicted Sharia law.


The emir created one of the greatest, if short-lived, empires that ever existed in Central Asia. He gained the reputation of an unscrupulous conqueror who murdered hundreds of thousands of the population in the subject areas and cities - including in the Sultanate of Delhi and the Kingdom of Georgia - and mercilessly suppressed uprisings. For example, when Isfahan was conquered in 1387, according to Hafiz-i Abru, 28 skull towers were counted on one side of the city, so that 70,000 dead can be assumed.

In spite of its cruelty , which surpassed the Mongols , there was a certain system: the top of the urban aristocracy were usually spared, the clergy anyway, and negotiations for ransom prices, the collection of tributes and, more rarely, requisitions certificates were recorded . Timur obviously intended to raise the economic and cultural level of Transoxania, which had sunk in the 13th and 14th centuries, through a flood of captured animals, weapons, food, consumer goods, theologians, scholars and craftsmen.

Urban planning

Timur's sarcophagus in the Gur Emir mausoleum in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The destruction caused by its soldiers contrasts with its urban development, although this is limited to a few Transoxan cities and the occasional restoration of destroyed irrigation systems. Economic planning cannot be identified. The “center of the world” - his world: Samarkand , Bukhara , Kesch  - was magnificently expanded. As a result, Central Asia developed its own Timurid architectural style (Gur-e Amir, Bibi-Chanum mosque, etc.). For him, the Iranian-influenced Khorasan was apparently the epitome of all culture, the Persian taste was predominant. The capital was Samarkand in what is now Uzbekistan . There he received, among other things, a Spanish embassy under Clavijo and embassies from the Chinese Ming , the latter in order to keep his back clear in his incessant battles.

Timur had numerous structures built in Samarkand. The Friday mosque ( sangīn ) near the iron gate was designed by stone masons from India. A saying from the Koran was carved over the entrance (i, 24). The four-story Kiösk, Gūk Sarāī, was in the citadel. The unsuccessful pretenders to the throne from the Timur family were later executed here.

Timur also had several gardens laid out, the Bāgh-i-bulandī in the east of the city, the Bāgh-i-dilkuschā, which was connected to the doorway by an avenue of white plane trees, the Naqsch-i-jahān on the edge of Kohik, above of the Qara-Su, the Bāgh-i-chanār south of the city wall, the Bāgh-i-shamāl in the north and the Bāgh-i-bibish. The Naqsch-i-jahān was already destroyed in Babur's time.


Timur Lenk tried to do justice to the traditional way of life of the nomads as well as the city culture. This was also due to the fact that his power was based on both Turkic Congol and, increasingly, on Iranian troops, especially from Khorasan, as well as on an Iranian administration.

Outside its heartland, Timur left no regular administration. He installed some of his descendants as princes in Persia and Central Asia, but left the areas in southern Russia and Moghulistan with Mongolian princes and made no attempt to administer the Middle East. The governor posts in the heartland, that is, in Iran and Transoxania, were not uniformly measured and organized. So there were large and small governorships, hereditary or only temporary, tax-exempt or not. The organization also left wide-ranging opportunities for the ruler to intervene, for example by submitting only small contingents of the troops drawn up to the governors. Thus, deficiencies in the administration were apparently compensated for by the fear of terror that the subjects had to reckon with in the event of a rebellion.


Timur the Conqueror was primarily a Central Asian military leader and, even by the standards of the time, a cruel destroyer, but not without cultural interests and intellectual education. He could neither read nor write, but mastered the Eastern Turkish and Persian languages ​​and made use of both, and also used to interact with representatives of intellectual life; so there was B. Conversations with Ibn Khaldun during the siege of Damascus in 1400/01. The description of Ibn Khaldun, who portrays Timur as an intelligent and calculating discussion partner, but was the only contemporary witness who was not interested in an idealization of Timur because he was not his subject, caused many historians to distance themselves from the old image of Timur's pathological cruelty. Apparently he acted out of a conscious power calculation. A long-term oriented administration did not seem to have been important to him. This resulted in the weakness of his dynasty: the rule was a private power of disposal and could be challenged by military means, which happened immediately after his death.

All of Timur's efforts raised the level of Transoxania for only a few generations, because ultimately the destruction and conquests of the immediately and indirectly adjacent Islamic empires weighed heavier and had the consequence that Renaissance Europe overtook and overtook the Islamic world in its development. Constantinople , the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire , received a respite from the Ottoman conquest, and the Grand Duchy of Moscow was freed from the pressure of the Golden Horde in the medium term by Toktamish's defeat and began its slow rise to great power. The way of thinking and living of the nomads had a renewed influence in Iran, as can be seen in the inadequate state organization of the Turkmens in the course of the 15th century. Nevertheless, the Timurid dynasty founded by Timur was not lackluster: It recorded personalities such as the "astronomer prince " Ulugh Beg († 1449) and ruled Transoxania (until 1501) and Khorasan (until 1507) until the beginning of the 16th century . Timur's great-grandson Zahir ad-Din Muhammad Babur founded the Mughal Empire in India in 1526 .

Artistic and literary processing in the West

Timur Monument in Tashkent

Timur served for the historical legitimation of different rulers. Despite all crimes and despite his limited political vision, he is considered a kind of national hero in today's Uzbekistan.

Timur has always been a literary or musical subject:


  • Beatrice Forbes Manz: The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1989, ISBN 0-521-34595-2 ( Cambridge studies in Islamic civilization ).
  • Tilman Nagel : Timur the Conqueror and the Islamic World in the Late Middle Ages . Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-37171-X .
  • Jean-Paul Roux: Tamerlane . Fayard, Paris 1991, ISBN 2-213-02742-0 .
  • Heribert Horst: Tīmūr and Ḫōğä 'Alī. A contribution to the history of the Safavids (= treatises of the humanities and social sciences class of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz. Born in 1958, No. 2).

Web links

Commons : Timur  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Bernd Roeck: The morning of the world . 1st edition. CH Beck, 2017, p. 409 .
  2. Johann Christoph Bürgel: A thousand and one worlds: Classical Arabic literature from the Koran to Ibn Chaldûn . 1st edition. CH Beck, 2007, p. 36 .
  3. گوركانى Gurkāni is the Iranian form of the originally Mongolian word kürügän and means 'son-in-law'. The title isattestedas fu ma with the same meaning in Chinese and was worn by Mongolian princes who were married to female descendants of Genghis Khan.
  4. Sharaf ud-Dīn Alī Yazdī: Zafarnāma (contemporary biography; written on behalf of Timur), 14th century.
  5. B. F. Manz: Article Tīmūr Lang ; in: Encyclopaedia of Islam , digital edition, 2006
  6. a b The Secret History of the Mongols ; translated into English by I. De Rachewiltz, Chapter 1, reference to the tribal name "Barlas" ["Birlas"]; Brill Inner Asian Library, 2004.
  7. a b B. F. Manz: The rise and rule of Tamerlan ; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1989, p. 28: “ We know definitely that the leading clan of the Barlas tribe traced its origin to Qarchar Barlas, head of one of Chaghadai's regiments […] These then were the most prominent members of the Ulus Chaghadai : the old Mongolian tribes - Barlas, Arlat, Soldus and Jalayir ”.
  8. Because of their assimilation by the Turkish steppe nomads of Turkistan, the “Barlas” are sometimes referred to in literature as “Barlas Turks”.
  9. Monika Gronke : Timur and his successors ; in: History of Iran ; Munich 2003; P. 60
  10. Mahin Hajianpur: The Timurid Empire and the conquest of Mawarannar by the Uzbeks ; in: Fischer Weltgeschichte, Volume 16, Central Asia; P. 162: "His father Taraghai was a Turkish emir from the Barlas clan".
  11. Bernd Roeck: The morning of the world . 1st edition. CH Beck, 2017, p. 433 .
  12. ^ Annette Susanne Beveridge: Babur-nama (Memoirs of Babur) . Translated from the original Turki text of Zahiru'd-din Muhammad Babur Padsha Ghazo. Delhi 1921 (reprinted by Low Price Publications 1989 in one volume, ISBN 81-85395-07-1 ), p. 78.
  13. ^ Annette Susanne Beveridge: Babur-nama (Memoirs of Babur) , p. 77.
  14. ^ Annette Susanne Beveridge: Babur-nama (Memoirs of Babur) , note p. 63.
  15. ^ Annette Susanne Beveridge: Babur-nama (Memoirs of Babur) , p. 78
  16. See Manz, pp. 16-18.