The Garden Guide

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

Timur and Amir Hossein

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For the next seven years, from 1362 to 1369, when he was finally seated on the throne of Samarkand, Timur was engaged, first in expelling the invaders from his native land, and afterwards in a death struggle with his brother-in-law Amir Hosein. Togluck Timur Khan, who had driven Timur into the desert, was ruler of Kashgar, and of the boundless pastures further east, and he was at the head of a great army, composed of a race called Jetes, or Calmucks, who were unconverted to the faith of Islam. Togluck, who was of the race of Chagatai, left the country of Mawur-ul-naher, under the rule of his son Alyus Khwajeh, returning to the pastures east of Kashgar. The first result of Timur's assumption of royalty, was a quarrel with Amir Hosein, who took offence, and left him. Many old followers, however, continued to flock to his standard, and, after passing some months in hunting along the banks of the River Oxus, he entered Seistan at the head of a thousand horsemen, in 1362 {Seistan is a territory, between Persia and Affghanistan, surrounded, except on the north, by wide deserts. It is a flat country, with low hills here and there. One third of its surface is moving sand, and the other two thirds are composed of compact sand and clay, covered with thickets of tamarisk, and abundant pasture. The Helmund, which is by far the finest river between the Tigris and the Indus, flows through Seistan, and falls into the lake of Zurrah. The river banks are clothed with luxurious vegetation, and the lake, which is about ninety miles long by sixty broad, is bordered by forests of reeds, beyond which there are pastures and tamarisk thickets. The original inhabitants of Seistan were Taujiks; but the country has long been occupied by savage tribes of Beloochees. Seistan is well known to the admirers of Ferdosi, as the country of Zal and Rustam.-Ferrier; M. Elphinstone}. He took several forts from the Beloochees of Seistan, but was eventually defeated, and wounded in the hand and foot; which obliged him to retire into the Gurmseer, or hot regions of the coast of the Arabian sea, where he remained to recover from the effects of his wounds {This gave rise to the story that Timur was wounded in the leg by a shepherd, when stealing sheep, and to his name of Timur-lenc (lame), corrupted into Tamerlane. This name was first given him by the Syrian Ahmed ben Arabshah, who wrote a life of the conqueror in 1440, called Ajaib-al-Mukhlukat (wonders of the creation), which was translated from Arabic into Latin by Golius in 1636, and by Mangin in 1767 and 1772. Arabshah hated the memory of Timur for the devastation caused by his armies in his native land of Syria, he takes every opportunity of blackening his character, and his history is a coarse satire, little worthy of credit. See Clavijo's account, p. 77 of this volume}. Having recruited his strength, and collected forty horsemen, he marched towards Balkh, and was joined by a hundred men, under his kinsman Sadyh Berlas. They encamped under the shelter of a hill, on the banks of a rivulet, and lived by the chace; while their numbers gradually increased to fifteen hundred cavalry, and Timur found himself in a position to face the Jete armies under Alyas Khwajeh, the son of Timur Tughlaq, which were now in possession of his native land. The spirits of the young chief rose in proportion, the companions of his early days flocked around him, his ambitious hopes seemed once more to be near their accomplishment, and his heart was filled with gladness. Before encountering the enemy, he passed ten days in feasting and rejoicing, with his old companions in arms. In 1363 he determined to fight a decisive battle with Alyas Khwajeh, but the odds were fearfully against him, as his force only numbered six thousand men, while that of the Jetes consisted of thirty thousand victorious horsemen. Timur took up an intrenched position near the River Oxus, between Khulm and Koondooz, where he was attacked by the Jetes. His troops showered arrows upon them, which forced them to retire, and on the following morning he took them by surprise in their own camp, and put them to flight. Alyas Khwajeh, overwhelmed with shame at having been defeated by such an inferior force, retreated to within twelve miles of Timur's native city of Kesh (Shakrisabz). At this time news came that Timur Tughlaq was dead, and Alyas Khwajeh, therefore, marched away with all his forces; closely followed by Timur, whose army rapidly increased in numbers. Once the retreating Jetes turned to face their foe, but Timur charged at the head of his troops, and finally drove them across the frontier. His native country was thus delivered from the invaders; once more the young chieftain was sovereign of the land. The citizens of Samarkand came out to meet him, and, amidst the general rejoicings, his faithful wife, who, since the disaster in Seistan, had taken refuge in the Gurmseer, came to share the prosperity of her lord. The pretensions of Timur were disputed by his brother-in-law, Amir Hosein, and the feud continued for five years, although the rivals were obliged to unite their forces, more than once, to resist an invasion of their common enemies the Jetes. In 1364 Timur crossed the River Jaxartes, and fought with the Jete army, during the whole day. Night closed in with a heavy fall of rain, and the chief passed the hours of darkness in the open plain, with a saddle for his pillow. The rain had converted the land into a swamp, but the Chagatais charged through it, and engaged the Jetes, who had received large reinforcements, during the whole of the following day. Timur lost two thousand men, and was obliged to retreat to Kesh (Shakrisabz) where he refreshed his troops, and eventually succeeded in clearing the land of the enemy. Amir Hosein, stirred up by jealousy, had now become Timur's implacable enemy; and Timur himself declared that, 'as there was only one God in the universe, so there should only be one monarch in a kingdom.' He defeated his rival in 1366, and forced him to retire across the River Oxus {In this year Timur's faithful wife, the illustrious Aljay Turkan Agha, departed this life. 'Verily we belong to God, and to him shall we return,' was Timur's pious reflection.-Memoirs}. In 1637 Amir Hosein again attacked his brotherin-law, and Timur retreated to Tashkent, where he passed a month in pleasant idleness, hunting and hawking over the plains, and receiving forty eggs, and a tureen of soup every morning, from the Khet Khoda, or ruler of the district. His peace was, however, again disturbed by Amir Hosein, but his followers deserted him, and he gave himself up to Timur, requesting permission to be allowed to retire to Mecca. His successful rival at first consented; but many of the rude chiefs had cause to hate the wretched captive, who had been cruel and insolent, as well as avaricious, in the days of his prosperity. Timur appears to have been desirous to save his life, but he gradually yielded to the clamours of his officers, and Amir Hosein was killed by three chiefs, who dragged him out of a minaret, where he had taken refuge.