In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Amir Timur

  • Introduction
  • Bibliography
  • Narrative Sources
  • Epigraphy
  • Historiography
  • Modern Biographical Studies
  • The Chaghadayid State and Timur’s Rise to Power
  • Timur’s Origins
  • Timur’s Family and Descendants
  • Governance
  • Propaganda
  • The Mongol Heritage
  • The Army and the Conduct of War
  • Campaigns and Conquests
  • Diplomacy
  • Timur’s Buildings
  • Timur and Muslim Saints
  • Timur’s Posthumous Image
  • Timur’s Political Legacy

Military History Amir Timur
Peter Jackson
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0241


Timur (Temür-i lang, “Temür the Lame” in Persian; hence the Europeanized form “Tamerlane”) was born in Kish (later Shahr-i Sabz), in Transoxiana, in c. 1328 as a member of the ruling family of the nomadic Turco-Mongol Barlas tribe in Transoxiana (now the southern part of Uzbekistan). Through a succession of alliances, in 1370 he effectively became ruler of the “Ulus Chaghadai,” the western part of the Central Asian territory bequeathed by Chinggis (Genghis) Khan to his second son and divided into two separate khanates since 1347–1348. As a commoner, Timur was debarred from sovereign rank. He governed in the name of a khan of Chinggisid descent and was styled simply Amir (or Great Amir) and also Güregen (“imperial son-in-law”) by virtue of his marriage to a Chinggisid princess, though later in life he appears to have claimed descent from one of Chinggis Khan’s ancestors. His principal residence was Samarkand, but he spent much of his life on campaign. His tireless military operations aimed at restoring the imperial Mongol order, which had lapsed since the mid-fourteenth century, and were directed against those who had usurped control in the Mongol dominions. Timur brought most of Iran, Iraq, and present-day Afghanistan under his authority, ravaged the lands of the Mongol Golden Horde in the southern Russian steppes, sacked Delhi, overran Syria, and defeated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid at Ankara in 1402. At his death in 1405, he was poised to invade the Ming Empire in China, the only part of the formerly Mongol dominions that he had not attacked. Timur’s mixed reputation reflects the contradictions in his character that have long fascinated historians. His taste for the colossal found expression both in his appalling treatment of cities that refused to surrender and in the splendid buildings he left to posterity. Though probably illiterate, he spoke Persian as well as Turkish, evinced a strong interest in history, and enjoyed discussion with scholars. Albeit a Muslim who favored shaykhs and Sufis and whose campaigns against Christian Georgia and the Ming were portrayed as holy war, he devoted most of his energies to conflict with other Muslim potentates. His empire, founded on his personal authority, lacked strong institutional underpinnings, and his death inaugurated a conflict among his heirs, who were unable to preserve his empire in its entirety. Nevertheless, members of the Timurid dynasty ruled over Transoxiana until 1500 and eastern Iran until 1507, and in 1526 another descendant, Babur, founded the Mughal Empire in India.


There exists only a single full bibliography, apart from those found in secondary works on Timur (see under section Modern Biographical Studies), namely Bernardini 2003, which is nothing less than exhaustive.

  • Bernardini, Michele. “The Historiography concerning Timur-i Lang: A Bibliographical Survey.” In Italo-Uzbek Scientific Cooperation in Archaeology and Islamic Studies: An Overview, Rome, January 30, 2001. Edited by Samuela Pagani, 137–196. Rome: Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, Centro di studi e ricerche sul mondo islamico, 2003.

    An admirably full survey of both the primary source material and the secondary literature.

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