The Garden Guide

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

Timur as army comander

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Having firmly established his government, and thoroughly organized his immense army, the sovereign of Mawur-ul-naher began to aspire to universal conquest, and the empire of the world. His mind was filled with an inordinate lust of power; he felt his superiority to all other men, and that his genius was equal to his ambition; but, at the same time, he differed, in this respect, from a mere vulgar conqueror, that he was anxious that his name should go down to posterity as a benefactor, rather than as a scourge to the human race; and part of his Institutes are taken up with a defence of his system of conquests. Timur voluntarily defended himself at the bar of public opinion, and displayed some anxiety that the judgment of posterity might be in his favour. He said,-'if in any kingdom, tyranny, and oppression, and iniquity shall be predominant, it is the duty of a prince, from a regard to justice and the law, to expel and extirpate the authors of that iniquity, and to assault that kingdom. It is the duty of a victorious king to bring under his authority, every kingdom where the people are oppressed by their rulers; and thus I delivered Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) , and purified the kingdoms of Fars and Iraq, and Shaum {Institutes, p. 331}.' The fact that this great conqueror should have felt the necessity of framing some excuse, to soothe his own conscience, and to justify his conduct before posterity, is a proof that his was not the mind of a mere barbarian; and his wars were at least as excusable as many which have been undertaken in more modern times, and amongst more civilized people {The history of Timur's conquests is chiefly derived from the writings of two eastern authors, namely, Ali of Yezd, and Mirkhond. Mollah Shereef-ud-Deen Ali of Yezd wrote the life of Timur at Shiraz, by order of his grandson, Ibrahim Meerza, in 1424, nineteen years after the conqueror's death. His work was entitled Zaffah Nameh. It was translated into French by M. Petis de la Croix, a famous oriental traveller and scholar, in 1722. Mirkhond, who was born in 1432, flourished at the court of Hosein Meerza at Herat, and wrote a general history of Persia from the Creation to the year 1471, entitled Rauzat-us-Safa. After many years of disappointment from want of patronage, he was at length befriended by the munificent minister Ali Shir Beg, who obtained him a suitable dwelling near Herat, and assisted him in collecting materials. Mirkhond died in 1498, and his son, Khondemir, wrote an abridgment of his father's work, called Khulasat-al-Akhbar. Texeira, a Portuguese traveller, published a translated abstract of Mirkhond, and there is an English translation of Texeira, by Stephens; but the best translation of that portion of Mirkhond's work, which relates to the history of Timur's conquests, was published in Major David Price's Mohammedan history, in 1821. There is also a translation of Mirkhond's history of the early kings of Iran, published by David Shea in 1832. 1 Jojy means stranger in Mongol, and he was so called because his mother was in captivity when he was born. Few names have had a greater number of spellings. D'Herbelot calls him Giougi, his name is spelt Dgoudgy by Petis de la Croix; Zuzi by the translator of Abulghazi Khan; Jugi, Tushi, and Chuchi by the authors of the Universal History. 2 Desht Kapchah. Kapchah is a Turkish word, and Desht means a wide uncultivated plain}. For several years the operations of Timur's army were confined to incursions into Kharism, and frequent invasions of the country of his ancient enemies the Jetes; but in 1376 he undertook a more important enterprise. Jojy,1 the eldest son of Genghis Khan, received the sovereignty of a vast territory from his terrible father, called Desht Kapchak,2 which extended from the Caspian sea, over the greater part of southern Russia, to the shores of the Dnieper. He died in 1226, six months before Genghis; and his son Batou carried the Mongol arms into Russia and Hungary; and spread terror through all the Christian countries of Europe. Batou died in 1256, and his descendants of the golden horde continued to tyrannize over Muscovy, until they were finally subdued, and confined to the Crimea, by the Czar Ivan in 1552. In 1318 Uzbeg Khan was lord of Desht Kapchak, and he introduced the religion of Mohammed into his dominions {The seventh in succession from Jojy. He was much revered by his subjects, and from that time, according to Abulghazi Khan, who is partly supported by Khondemir, they called themselves Uzbegs. Eventually the Uzbegs expelled the descendants of Timur from Mawur-ul-naher, and they still retain possession of Khiva, Bokhara, and Kokan}. On the death of Uzbeg Khan in 1342, his son, and afterwards his grandson, followed him, but in 1360 Urus Khan, descended from a younger son of Jojy, became sovereign of Kapchak. He reigned peaceably for several years, but at length Tokatmish, a member of his family, rose in rebellion, was defeated, and took refuge at the court of Timur, the new sovereign of Mawur-ulnaher. Timur saw, in this feud, a means of extending his power, and he received the fugitive with great honour. Urus Khan led an army against Timur, and the hostile forces met on the plains beyond the River Jaxartes, but a terrible storm of snow and hail, accompanied by a hard frost, obliged Urus to retreat, and he died a few months afterwards. Timur then established Tokatmish as sovereign of Kapchak, and thus extended his influence, and the fame of his arms, through all the nomade tribes which wander over the interminable steppes of central Asia. Yusuf Soofy, the ruler of Kharism, alone defied the authority of Timur, and in 1378, the now powerful sovereign crossed the River Oxus, and laid siege to his enemy's capital. Yusuf challenged him to single combat, and Timur, in spite of the warnings and entreaties of his Amirs, rode up to the edge of the ditch, but no one came out to fight him, and he returned, amidst the applause of his own army. During the siege Yusuf died, and, the place having been taken by assault, was utterly destroyed, the inhabitants being removed to Kesh (Shakrisabz), Timur's native town, which he had enlarged and beautified, and made his summer residence, when not engaged in war.