The Garden Guide

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

Timur as Amir

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Timur had now cleared his native land of seditious aspirants to the throne, as well as of foreign invaders. From the year 1369 until the day of his death, he held the sovereignty of Samarkand, while he extended his dominion over half the continent of Asia. He was formally enthroned in the city of Balkh, by four of the most revered Syuds, or descendants of the prophet, and all the people held up their hands in prayer for his prosperity. When this ceremony was over, he crossed the River Oxus, and marched to Samarkand, which he made the capital of his empire {For a description of Samarkand, see Clavijo, p. 164 et seq}. 'From my twelfth year,' he says in his Institutes, 'I travelled over countries, combatted difficulties, and hazarded my person in the hour of danger, until I vanquished empires, and established the glory of my name.' Timur's first important act, was to assemble a Couroultai, or general meeting of all the principal chiefs, and of the Amirs or commanders of Tomauns (ten thousand men), and Hazarehs (one thousand men); and he then proceeded to regulate the affairs of his empire {Timur frequently convoked a Couroultai, or diet of his nobles; as was also the custom of his predecessors. 'He always addressed them in a speech calculated to attain their cordial assent; and, through them, to animate the zeal and courage of their followers.' Malcolm's Persia, i, p. 476} Although Timur was the real sovereign, he only took the title of Amir, and, until the day of his death, all the affairs of state were conducted in the name of a puppet descendant of Genghis Khan, who was sometimes permitted to reside at Samarkand, but who was more frequently to be found serving in Timur's army. Yet Timur established all the outward forms of etiquette in his court, and each rank had its established place when they appeared before him. A council of state was formed, a code of regulations was drawn up for his government, favours were conferred on his friends, permanent grants of land were made for charitable purposes, and the army was carefully organized. Timur's army, as the chief instrument of his power and his conquests, received the greatest share of his attention, and a large portion of his Institutes is devoted to the details of its organization {Timur thus announces his intention, in drawing up his 'Institutes.' 'Be it known to my sons and descendants, that I have collected together these laws and regulations, for the well governing of my dominions, as a model for others. Let them make these regulations the rule of their conduct in the affairs of their empire.'}. It was divided into detachments of ten, a hundred, and a thousand men, each under separate officers, called respectively Oun-bashees, Euz-bashees, and Ming-bashees, over whom there were many Amirs, four Begler Begs, and an Amir-ul-Omrah, who had authority over the whole army, and acted as the deputy of his sovereign {The army of Genghis Khan was divided on the same principle into ten thousand men, called a Tomaun, under a Tomaun Aghassee; one thousand, called a Hazareh, under a Ming Aghassee; one hundred, under an Euz Aghassee; and ten, under an Oun Aghassee; and these divisions are said to have existed even before the time of Genghis.-De Guignes, ii, p. 73}. The Amir-ul-Omrah was distinguished by a standard; the subordinate Amirs by spears with figures on their points, denoting the rank of those to whom they belonged; the Ming-bashees by a trumpet; and the inferior officers by drums. Great attention was also given to the supply of arms and provisions for the soldiers. Each man had two horses, a bow, quiver of arrows, sword, saw, axe, awl, thread, ten needles, and a leathern knapsack; and every eighteen men were provided with a tent between them. Each Oun-bashee was supplied with a tent, a coat of mail, sword, bow, quiver, and five horses; the Euz-bashees had ten horses apiece; the Ming bashees, twenty; and the Amir-ul-Omrah, three hundred. Rules were laid down for guiding the tactics of the commanders when in the field; and, in choosing a position, they were particularly enjoined to take care to be near water, on a situation more elevated than that of the enemy, that their flanks and rear were covered, and that the ground in their front was extensive and open. But the noblest, and, considering his age and country, the most remarkable part of Timur's army regulations, was the treatment of the conquered. It is but too true that in the heat of battle the orders, recorded in his Institutes, were frequently disregarded, but the fact of their existence proves that Timur's ideal standard of right was far in advance of other conquerors of his race and creed. He ordered that every soldier who had performed his duty, and fought with valour on the side of the enemy, if he sought shelter under his authority, should be treated with honour and regard, since he had performed his duty, and acted with fidelity to his former master. The civil departments of Timur's government also received their share of attention at his hands, and he gave minute instructions respecting all the details of his administration. He superintended everything himself with a watchful eye, and, in the frequent audiences which he gave to his officers, every rank had a regular place assigned to it. The sons and other relations of the sovereign sat round the throne, the Syuds and learned men stood on the right hand, the Amir-ul-Omrah, Begler Begs, and Amirs on the left hand, the Dewan Beggee, Viziers, and other civil officers opposite the throne, the magistrates behind the viziers, and the soldiers, with the title of Bahadur {A reward for valour in the field}, in the left rear of the throne. The council of ministers, for the administration of civil affairs, was presided over by the Dewan Beggee, under whom there was an Erz-Beggee, or presenter of petitions, who communicated the complaints of the people, and four Viziers. The first superintended the state of the husbandmen, the produce, the levy of duties, the merchandize, and the police; the second had charge of the pay of the troops, the supply of provisions, and the state and strength of the army; the third took possession of the effects of absentees and of the dead, received taxes, and restored the effects of the dead to their lawful heirs; and the fourth superintended the receipts and general expenditure of the household of the sovereign. Although enormous revenue was derived from the spoils of conquest, and from the dues levied on the transit of merchandize; yet the largest item was probably the land tax, as is the case in all eastern countries. In Timur's Institutes the tax was fixed at a third of the produce on all irrigated land, besides a certain due for using water from the public reservoirs; but any cultivator who built a tank, planted a grove, or brought new land under cultivation, paid no revenue for the first and second years {The land tax has, from the most remote ages, been the chief source of revenue in all Asiatic countries. The Sassanian kings of Persia established the tax at a third of the value of the produce, but when calamity overtook the crops, the cultivators received advances from the treasury. By Mohammedan law the produce of the land is liable to two imposts, namely, the Ooshr or tithe, a poor rate due only on the actual produce of the soil; and the Khiraj or tribute, generally imposed on land within reach of irrigation or running water. No land can be subject to both Ooshr and Khiraj at the same time. The Khiraj was imposed on Syria by Omar, on Egypt by Amru; but Arabia is Ooshree, a very small part of it being under the influence of running water. The Khiraj is of two kinds, Mookassimah and Wuzeefa. The former is due on the actual produce only, and resembles the Ooshr; the latter is due, whether there is any produce or not. The Caliph Omar levied the Khiraj in Syria and Persia, the rate varying according to the value of the produce. The Hindu kings exacted one sixth of the produce, besides a poll tax, which was Mookassimah; but the Mohammedans converted it into Wuzeefa, in the time of Shere Shah; and the emperor Akbar, while adopting the same system, carried it into effect with greater precision and exactness. In Persia, in the days of Timur, the land tax amounted to one tenth the produce of the soil; but the husbandman was loaded with a number of other taxes, which altogether exceeded half the produce. In India Timur's descendant, the emperor Akbar, abolished all arbitrary taxes, and fixed the revenue according to the value of the different lands; which were divided into four classes. 1. Poolej, which never lies fallow. 2. Perowty, kept out of cultivation a short time, for the soil to recover its strength. The Poolej and Perowty were each of three kinds; best, middling, and bad. The produce of a beegah of each sort was added together, and a third of the sum was considered as the average produce of Poolej or Perowty land; one third of that being the revenue. Shere Shah exacted rather more. 3. Checker was land which had suffered from inundations, or excessive rains; and received grants of remissions for five years. 4. Bunjer land, which had suffered from great inundations, and enjoyed still larger remissions. Rewards were granted, by Akbar, for high cultivation, and the land settlement was made for periods of ten years. Ayeen Akbery; Neil Baillie on the Land Tax}. Ruined bridges were repaired, and serais for travellers were erected on the roads, at the expense of the sovereign. The collection of taxes, when necessary, was enforced by menaces and threats; but Timur ordered that the whip and scourge should never be used, saying that the 'governor whose power is inferior to the power of the scourge, is unworthy to govern.'