The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Biography - Life of Timur Beg

Timur - early battles

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It was not, however, until 1358, when he was twenty-three years of age, that Timur's ambitious views began to take a wider range than the government of his native tribe of Berlas. In that year Amir Kurgan determined to invade Khorassan (Iran/Iran/Afganistan) , and gave the command of a thousand horse to young Timur, who was delighted with his new command. The men became exceedingly attached to him; he wrote a list of their names, and kept it folded in his pocket; and he was so elated by finding himself at the head of so many faithful followers, that he resolved, when the ruler of Khorassan (Iran/Iran/Afganistan) was dispossessed, to grasp the sovereignty for himself. The ruler of Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) was expelled; and Timur was left in possession of Herat, while Amir Kurgan returned to the River Oxus, where he was treacherously murdered by two Turkish chiefs. Timur was justly indignant at this base act, and, with his accustomed energy, collected his native tribe, induced several other leading men to join him, and marched to Samarkand, where the victorious chiefs divided the whole empire amongst them. Timur's ambition was now roused. Eager to assume the sovereign power, and to distance all competitors, his wisdom yet taught him the necessity of keeping on terms with the chiefs who were as powerful as himself, whilst he endeavoured to throw the ball of contention amongst them, and to rise to the head of affairs amidst the general confusion. At this time Amir Hosein, the late Kurgan's grandson, and brother to Timur's wife, advanced from Kabul, and was encouraged by his relation to invade Badakshan, which he did in 1359. 'This,' says Timur, 'was the greatest error I committed during my whole reign; for the man was of a vile disposition, proud and miserly, but I did not then know his character.' While the petty chiefs were thus contending for superiority, the commander of a vast army, named Tugluk Timur Khan, of the lineage of Genghis, encamped on the banks of the River River Jaxartes, and summoned them all to his presence. His power was felt to be irresistible, and the chiefs selected young Timur to wait on him, and to endeavour, by his ingenuity, to prevent the country from being overrun.1 The envoy repaired to the encampment of the invader, who gave him the command of the whole country; and the 1 At this time Timur's father died, and was buried at Kesh (Shakrisabz). astute Timur, by his address, became sovereign of his native land, while the formidable Tugluk retired into the deserts of the east. Thus far the ambitious projects of the young chieftain had been crowned with success. He was now not only the hereditary head of the tribe of Berlas, but he had, with extraordinary ease and rapidity, obtained a prize beyond which his youthful dreams could scarcely have dared to soar. But the difficulties which surrounded his position, and the precarious tenure by which he held his power, were not disguised from himself, and he prudently deferred having the Khotbeh read, and coin struck in his name, until he had subdued all the nomade tribes {These are the customary marks of sovereignty in the east. The khotbeh is a prayer, offered up in the mosques for the reigning sovereign. It means, literally, written, from kataba (he wrote)}. He appears to have been, at this time, very decisive in his operations, and quick to remove persons, whom he could not trust, out of his way. He says, 'I went to assist Amir Hosein, in Badakshan, and at this time Kai Kobad, son of Kai Khosro Khutelany, who had killed the king of Badakshan, waited on me, and began to flatter me, but as I had no confidence in him, I put him to death.' Timur was as yet too weak to establish order amongst his unruly countrymen. Hajee Berlas, his own uncle, was in rebellion, and was only defeated after two days hard fighting; other chiefs tried to inveigle Timur into their power, in order to assassinate him; and the heads of the villages came to him, declaring that the land of Mawur-ul-naher was desolate, and that in every district there was some tyrant, who unjustly plundered the people. Finding it quite impossible to restore order single handed, Timur wrote to Tughlaq Timur Khan, representing that the country was ruined, but offering, with his assistance, to make it productive. The formidable chief advanced from the deserts of the east, with a great army, to the banks of the River River Jaxartes. The petty chiefs either fled or submitted. Hajee Berlas escaped into Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) , where he was murdered by some villagers; and another chief had his head cut off, for delaying to give up the gates of Samarkand {When Timur conquered Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) , he punished these people, and gave their village, in perpetual jagheer, to the grandson of his uncle, Hajee Berlas}. Timur, at first, received the command of all the hordes of Mawur-ul-naher, and he then naturally began to think of a pretext for inducing his formidable ally to leave the country; but some of his proceedings created suspicion, and he was ordered to be killed. He, therefore, fled with a few followers towards Kharism, and met his brother-in-law Amir Hosein on the road, who was also a fugitive. Timur was now to learn the bitter lessons of adversity. His misfortunes seem to have brought out some of the finest points in his character; and this time of disaster is the most interesting period in the life of the great conqueror. Although Timur and Amir Hosein had only sixty followers between them, they resolved to attack the fort of Orgunge {Near the modern Khiva}, and they fought with such desperation that only twelve of them were left, at the end of the day. Amir Hosein's horse was wounded, but his wife immediately gave up hers, and was remounted on the same horse with Timur's wife. They then retreated to the top of a hill in the desert, and continued to fight with the enemy, until only seven men were left. With this devoted little band, Timur at length retired, and fled across the boundless deserts. This took place in the year 1362.