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Timur (tĭmo͝orˈ) or Tamerlane (tămˈərlān), c.1336–1405, Mongol conqueror, b. Kesh, near Samarkand. He is also called Timur Leng [Timur the lame]. He was the son of a tribal leader, and he claimed (apparently for the first time in 1370) to be a descendant of Jenghiz Khan. With an army composed of Turks and Turkic-speaking Mongols, remnants of the empire of the Mongols, Timur spent his early military career in subduing his rivals in what is now Turkistan; by 1369 he firmly controlled the entire area from his capital at Samarkand.

Campaigns he waged against Persia occupied him until 1387. By that time he had in his possession the lands stretching E from the Euphrates River. He advanced (1392) across the Euphrates, conquered the territory between the Caspian and Black seas, and invaded several of the Russian states. By weakening the Crimean Tatars he helped clear the way for the conquests of the grand duchy of Moscow. Timur abandoned some of his Russian conquests to return to Samarkand and invade (1398) India along the route of the Indus River. He took Delhi and brought the Delhi Sultanate to an end, but he withdrew with little addition to his domain.

In 1400, Timur ravaged Georgia and proceeded to the Levant, where he took Aleppo and Baghdad. His next war was fought in Asia Minor against the Ottoman Turks, and in 1402, at Angora, he captured their sultan, Beyazid I, who, contrary to popular belief, was well treated. Timur died while planning an invasion of China. His tomb at Samarkand was long known to archaeologists, but it is only recently that his skeleton, buried in a deep crypt, was found.

Timur's reputation is that of a cruel conqueror. After capturing certain cities he slaughtered thousands of the defenders (perhaps 80,000 at Delhi) and built pyramids of their skulls. Although a Muslim, he was scarcely more merciful to those of his own faith than to those he considered infidels. His positive achievements were the encouragement of art, literature, and science and the construction of vast public works. He had little hope that his vast conquests would remain intact, and before his death he arranged for them to be divided among his sons. The Timurids are the line of rulers descended from him. Christopher Marlowe's play Tamburlaine luridly recounts his conquests.


See biographies by H. Hookham (1962) and B. F. Manz (1989); J. H. Sanders, tr., Tamerlane (tr. of late 14th-century Arabic work by A. Ibn Arabshah, 1936).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Timur; Timur-i-leng, Timur the Lame). Born 1336, in the village of Hodja-Il’gar; died Feb. 18, 1405, in Otrar. Middle Asian state figure and military leader; emir. Son of Taragai of the Barulas tribe, Turkic Mongols.

In 1361, Tamerlane entered the service of Toklug-Timur and was given control of Kashkadar’ia Vilayet. After concluding an alliance with the ruler of Balkh and Samarkand, Amir Hussayn, he embarked on a lengthy struggle against Toklug-Timur and his son Ilyas Khoja. In 1366, Tamerlane and Hussayn quelled an uprising of Sarbedars in Samarkand. The ensuing struggle for power between Tamerlane and Hussayn ended in victory for Tamerlane in 1370. He took the title of emir and began to rule Mavera-un-Nahr (Transoxania) on behalf of the descendants of Genghis Khan, supported by the nomadic nobility, the settled feudal lords, and especially the Islamic clergy. The capital of his empire was Samarkand.

In 1373 and 1374, Tamerlane subordinated southern Khwar-azm and in 1388 all of Khwarazm, destroying its capital Urgench. In the 1380’s and 1390’s he combined the unification of Middle Asia with predatory campaigns in Iran, Transcaucasia, and other regions; these campaigns were characterized by Tamerlane’s extraordinary cruelty to the inhabitants. As a result of three campaigns against Toktamysh (1389, 1391, and 1394–95), Tamerlane routed the Golden Horde and pillaged its capital, Sarai-Berke, as well as other cities. In 1398 he invaded India and seized Delhi. He defeated and captured the Turkish sultan Bayazid I in a battle at Ankara in 1402. Tamerlane embarked on a campaign in China in 1404, which was cut short by his death. At the end of his reign, Tamerlane’s empire included Mavera-un-Nahr, Khwarazm, Khorasan, Transcaucasia, Iran, and Punjab.


Novosel’tsev, A. P. “Ob istoricheskoi otsenke Timura.’ Voprosy istorii, 1973, no. 2.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(1336–1405) Tartar; vanquished Persia and India. [Asian Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 1061]


(1336–1405) Mongol conqueror, his name a corruption of Timur i Long (Timur the Lame). [Asian Hist.: Benét, 985]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Tamburlaine
Turkic name Timur . ?1336--1405, Mongol conqueror of the area from Mongolia to the Mediterranean; ruler of Samarkand (1369--1405). He defeated the Turks at Angora (1402) and died while invading China
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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