The Timurid Empire (Persian: تیموریان, Timuriyān), self-designated as Gurkani (Persian: گورکانیان, Gurkāniyān), was a Persianate Turco-Mongol empire comprising modern-day Uzbekistan, Iran, the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, much of Central Asia, as well as parts of contemporary India, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey.
The empire was founded by Timur (also known as Tamerlane), a warlord of Turco-Mongol lineage, who established the empire between 1370 and his death in 1405. He envisioned himself as the great restorer of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan and, while not descended from Genghis, regarded himself as Genghis's heir and associated much with the Borjigin.
The ruling Timurid dynasty, or Timurids, lost most of Persia to the Aq Qoyunlu confederation in 1467, but members of the dynasty continued to rule smaller states, sometimes known as Timurid emirates, in Central Asia and parts of India. In the 16th century, Babur, a Timurid prince from Ferghana (modern Uzbekistan), invaded Kabulistan (modern Afghanistan) and established a small kingdom there, and from there 20 years later he invaded India to establish the Mughal Empire.
Motto: راستى رستى
"In rectitude lies salvation"
Map of the Timurid Empire at its greatest extent under Timur
|Badi' al-Zaman (last)|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
• Timur begins conquests
• Establishment of Timurid Empire
• Westward expansion begins
|20 July 1402|
• Fall of Samarkand
• Fall of Herat
• Founding of the Mughal Empire
|1405 est.||4,400,000 km2 (1,700,000 sq mi)|
Timur conquered large parts of Central Asia, primarily Transoxiana and Khorasan, from 1363 onwards with various alliances (Samarkand in 1366, and Balkh in 1369), and was recognized as ruler over them in 1370. Acting officially in the name of Suurgatmish, the Chagatai khan, he subjugated Transoxania and Khwarazm in the years that followed. Already in the 1360s he had gained control of the western Chagatai Khanate and while as emir he was nominally subordinate to the khan, in reality it was now Timur that picked the khans who became mere puppet rulers. The western Chagatai khans were continually dominated by Timurid princes in the 15th and 16th centuries and their figurehead importance was eventually reduced into total insignificance.
Timur began a campaign westwards in 1380, invading the various successor states of the Ilkhanate. By 1389, he had removed the Kartids from Herat and advanced into mainland Persia where he enjoyed many successes. This included the capture of Isfahan in 1387, the removal of the Muzaffarids from Shiraz in 1393, and the expulsion of the Jalayirids from Baghdad. In 1394–95, he triumphed over the Golden Horde, following his successful campaign in Georgia, after which he enforced his sovereignty in the Caucasus. Tokhtamysh, the khan of the Golden Horde, was a major rival to Timur in the region. He also subjugated Multan and Dipalpur in modern-day Pakistan in 1398. Timur gave the north Indian territories to a non-family member, Khizr Khan, whose Sayyid dynasty replaced the defeated Tughlaq dynasty of the Sultanate of Delhi. Delhi became a vassal of the Timurids but obtained independence in the years following the death of Timur. In 1400–1401 he conquered Aleppo, Damascus and eastern Anatolia, in 1401 he destroyed Baghdad and in 1402 defeated the Ottomans in the Battle of Ankara. This made Timur the most preeminent Muslim ruler of the time, as the Ottoman Empire plunged into civil war. Meanwhile, he transformed Samarkand into a major capital and seat of his realm.
Timur appointed his sons and grandsons to the main governorships of the different parts of his empire, and outsiders to some others. After his death in 1405, the family quickly fell into disputes and civil wars, and many of the governorships became effectively independent. However, Timurid rulers continued to dominate Persia, Mesopotamia, Armenia, large parts of Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, minor parts of India, and much of Central Asia, though the Anatolian and Caucasian territories were lost by the 1430s. Due to the fact that the Persian cities were desolated by wars, the seat of Persian culture was now in Samarkand and Herat, cities that became the center of the Timurid renaissance. The cost of Timur's conquests amount to the deaths of possibly 17 million people.
Shahrukh Mirza, fourth ruler of the Timurids, dealt with Kara Koyunlu, who aimed to expand into Iran. But, Jahan Shah (bey of the Kara Koyunlu) drove the Timurids to eastern Iran after 1447 and also briefly occupied Herat in 1458. After the death of Jahan Shah, Uzun Hasan, bey of the Ak Koyunlu, conquered the holdings of the Kara Koyunlu in Iran between 1469 and 1471.
The power of Timurids declined rapidly during the second half of the 15th century, largely due to the Timurid tradition of partitioning the empire and by 1500, the divided and wartorn Timurid Empire had lost control of most of its territory, and in the following years was effectively pushed back on all fronts. Persia, the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and Eastern Anatolia fell quickly to the Shiite Safavid dynasty, secured by Shah Ismail I in the following decade. Much of the Central Asian lands was overrun by the Uzbeks of Muhammad Shaybani who conquered the key cities of Samarkand and Herat in 1505 and 1507, and who founded the Khanate of Bukhara. From Kabul, the Mughal Empire was established in 1526 by Babur, a descendant of Timur through his father and possibly a descendant of Genghis Khan through his mother. The dynasty he established is commonly known as the Mughal dynasty though it was directly inherited from the Timurids. By the 17th century, the Mughal Empire ruled most of India but eventually declined during the following century. The Timurid dynasty finally came to an end as the remaining nominal rule of the Mughals was abolished by the British Empire following the 1857 rebellion.
Although the Timurids hailed from the Barlas tribe, which was of Turkicized Mongol origin, they had embraced Persian culture, converted to Islam, and resided in Turkestan and Khorasan. Thus, the Timurid era had a dual character, reflecting both its Turco-Mongol origins and the Persian literary, artistic, and courtly high culture of the dynasty.
During the Timurid era, Central Asian society was bifurcated, with the responsibilities of government and rule divided into military and civilian spheres along ethnic lines. At least in the early stages, the military was almost exclusively Turko-Mongolian, while the civilian and administrative element was almost exclusively Persian. The spoken language shared by all the Turko-Mongolians throughout the area was Chaghatay. The political organization hearkened back to the steppe-nomadic system of patronage introduced by Genghis Khan. The major language of the period, however, was Persian, the native language of the Tājīk (Persian) component of society and the language of learning acquired by all literate and/or urban people. Timur was already steeped in Persian culture and in most of the territories he incorporated, Persian was the primary language of administration and literary culture. Thus the language of the settled "diwan" was Persian, and its scribes had to be thoroughly adept in Persian culture, whatever their ethnic origin. Persian became the official state language of the Timurid Empire and served as the language of administration, history, belles lettres, and poetry. The Chaghatay language was the native and "home language" of the Timurid family, while Arabic served as the language par excellence of science, philosophy, theology and the religious sciences.
Persian literature, especially Persian poetry, occupied a central place in the process of assimilation of the Timurid elite to the Perso-Islamic courtly culture. The Timurid sultans, especially Shāh Rukh Mīrzā and his son Mohammad Taragai Oloğ Beg, patronized Persian culture. Among the most important literary works of the Timurid era is the Persian biography of Timur, known as Zafarnāmeh (Persian: ظفرنامه), written by Sharaf ud-Dīn Alī Yazdī, which itself is based on an older Zafarnāmeh by Nizām al-Dīn Shāmī, the official biographer of Timur during his lifetime. The most famous poet of the Timurid era was Nūr ud-Dīn Jāmī, the last great medieval Sufi mystic of Persia and one of the greatest in Persian poetry. In addition, some of the astronomical works of the Timurid sultan Ulugh Beg were written in Persian, although the bulk of it was published in Arabic. The Timurid prince Baysunghur also commissioned a new edition of the Persian national epic Shāhnāmeh, known as Shāhnāmeh of Baysunghur, and wrote an introduction to it. According to T. Lenz:
It can be viewed as a specific reaction in the wake of Timur's death in 807/1405 to the new cultural demands facing Shahhrokh and his sons, a Turkic military elite no longer deriving their power and influence solely from a charismatic steppe leader with a carefully cultivated linkage to Mongol aristocracy. Now centered in Khorasan, the ruling house regarded the increased assimilation and patronage of Persian culture as an integral component of efforts to secure the legitimacy and authority of the dynasty within the context of the Islamic Iranian monarchical tradition, and the Baysanghur Shahnameh, as much a precious object as it is a manuscript to be read, powerfully symbolizes the Timurid conception of their own place in that tradition. A valuable documentary source for Timurid decorative arts that have all but disappeared for the period, the manuscript still awaits a comprehensive monographic study.
The Timurids also played a very important role in the history of Turkic literature. Based on the established Persian literary tradition, a national Turkic literature was developed in the Chagatai language. Chagatai poets such as Mīr Alī Sher Nawā'ī, Sultan Husayn Bāyqarā, and Zāher ud-Dīn Bābur encouraged other Turkic-speaking poets to write in their own vernacular in addition to Arabic and Persian. The Bāburnāma, the autobiography of Bābur (although being highly Persianized in its sentence structure, morphology, and vocabulary), as well as Mīr Alī Sher Nawā'ī's Chagatai poetry are among the best-known Turkic literary works and have influenced many others.
The golden age of Persian painting began during the reign of the Timurids. During this period – and analogous to the developments in Safavid Persia – Chinese art and artists had a significant influence on Persian art. Timurid artists refined the Persian art of the book, which combines paper, calligraphy, illumination, illustration and binding in a brilliant and colourful whole. The Mongol ethnicity of the Chaghatayid and Timurid Khans was the source of the stylistic depiction of Persian art during the Middle Ages. These same Mongols intermarried with the Persians and Turks of Central Asia, even adopting their religion and languages. Yet their simple control of the world at that time, particularly in the 13th–15th centuries, reflected itself in the idealised appearance of Persians as Mongols. Though the ethnic make-up gradually blended into the Iranian and Mesopotamian local populations, the Mongol stylism continued well after and crossed into Asia Minor and even North Africa.
Timurid architecture drew on and developed many Seljuq traditions. Turquoise and blue tiles forming intricate linear and geometric patterns decorated the facades of buildings. Sometimes the interior was decorated similarly, with painting and stucco relief further enriching the effect. Timurid architecture is the pinnacle of Islamic art in Central Asia. Spectacular and stately edifices erected by Timur and his successors in Samarkand and Herat helped to disseminate the influence of the Ilkhanid school of art in India, thus giving rise to the celebrated Mughal (or Mongol) school of architecture. Timurid architecture started with the sanctuary of Ahmed Yasawi in present-day Kazakhstan and culminated in Timur's mausoleum Gur-e Amir in Samarkand. Timur's Gur-I Mir, the 14th-century mausoleum of the conqueror is covered with "turquoise Persian tiles". Nearby, in the center of the ancient town, a "Persian style madrassa" (religious school) and a "Persian style mosque" by Ulugh Beg is observed. The mausoleum of Timurid princes, with their turquoise and blue-tiled domes remain among the most refined and exquisite Persian architecture. Axial symmetry is a characteristic of all major Timurid structures, notably the Shāh-e Zenda in Samarkand, the Musallah complex in Herat, and the mosque of Gowhar Shād in Mashhad. Double domes of various shapes abound, and the outsides are perfused with brilliant colors. Timur's dominance of the region strengthened the influence of his capital and Persian architecture upon India.
Nevertheless, in the complex process of transition, members of the Timurid dynasty and their Turko-Mongolian supporters became acculturated by the surrounding Persianate millieu adopting Persian cultural models and tastes and acting as patrons of Persian culture, painting, architecture and music. [...] The last members of the dynasty, notably Sultan-Abu Sa'id and Sultan-Husain, in fact came to be regarded as ideal Perso-Islamic rulers who develoted as much attention to agricultural development as they did to fostering Persianate court culture.
His origin, milieu, training, and culture were steeped in Persian culture and so Babor was largely responsible for the fostering of this culture by his descendants, the Mughals of India, and for the expansion of Persian cultural influence in the Indian subcontinent, with brilliant literary, artistic, and historiographical results ...
Any linguist of today who reads the essay will inevitably conclude that Nawa'i argued his case poorly, for his principal argument is that the Turkic lexicon contained many words for which the Persian had no exact equivalents and that Persian-speakers had therefore to use the Turkic words. This is a weak reed on which to lean, for it is a rare language indeed that contains no loan words. In any case, the beauty of a language and its merits as a literary medium depend less on size of vocabulary and purity of etymology that on the euphony, expressiveness and malleability of those words its lexicon does include. Moreover, even if Nawā'ī's thesis were to be accepted as valid, he destroyed his own case by the lavish use, no doubt unknowingly, of non-Turkic words even while ridiculing the Persians for their need to borrow Turkic words. The present writer has not made a word count of Nawa'i's text, but he would estimate conservatively that at least one half the words used by Nawa'i in the essay are Arabic or Persian in origin. To support his claim of the superiority of the Turkic language, Nawa'i also employs the curious argument that most Turks also spoke Persian but only a few Persians ever achieved fluency in Turkic. It is difficult to understand why he was impressed by this phenomenon, since the most obvious explanation is that Turks found it necessary, or at least advisable, to learn Persian – it was, after all, the official state language – while Persians saw no reason to bother learning Turkic which was, in their eyes, merely the uncivilized tongue of uncivilized nomadic tribesmen.
[Part] v. In the Mongol and Timurid periods: ... Like his father, Olōğ Beg was entirely integrated into the Persian Islamic cultural circles, and during his reign Persian predominated as the language of high culture, a status that it retained in the region of Samarqand until the Russian revolution 1917 ... Ḥoseyn Bāyqarā encouraged the development of Persian literature and literary talent in every way possible ...
During the Timurid period, three languages, Persian, Turkish, and Arabic were in use. The major language of the period was Persian, the native language of the Tajik (Persian) component of society and the language of learning acquired by all literate and/or urban Turks. Persian served as the language of administration, history, belles lettres, and poetry.
What is now called Chaghatay Turkish, which was then called simply türki, was the native and 'home' language of the Timurids ...
As it had been prior to the Timurids and continued to be after them, Arabic was the language par excellence of science, philosophy, theology and the religious sciences. Much of the astronomical work of Ulugh Beg and his co-workers ... is in Arabic, although they also wrote in Persian. Theological works ... are generally in Arabic.
The Battle of Algami Canal was fought between Kara Koyunlu under their Bey, Qara Yusuf and the Timurid Empire under the leadership of Timur's grandson Abu Bakr bin Miran Shah for control of Baghdad and therefore Iraq in late 1402.Battle of Ankara
The Battle of Ankara or Angora was fought on 20 July 1402 at the Tchubuk plain near Angora between the forces of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I (Bajazet) and Timur (Tamerlane), ruler of the Timurid Empire. The battle was a major victory for Timur, and it led to a period of crisis for the Ottoman Empire (the Ottoman Interregnum). However, the Timurid Empire went into terminal decline following Timur's death just three years after the battle, while the Ottoman Empire made a full recovery, and continued to increase in power for another two to three centuries.Battle of Damghan (1447)
When Abdal-Latif Mirza reached Damghan, the prefect sealed the city and showed his opposition. After a skirmish and siege, the prince took the city by force and gave it over to general plunder. From Damghan, Abdal-Latif Mirza went to Bistam. At this city he learned of the progress made by Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza who had taken Jurjan and Mazandaran and thereby cut-off Abdal-Latif Mirza's path north to Samarkand. Abdul-Latif Mirza now had no choice but to move east arriving at Nishapur where he learned that Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza had taken Mashad. He was now completely encircled, he had nowhere to go. Finally he was attacked at Nishapur on 20 April 1447 by Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza's army and defeated.Battle of Farhadgerd
While Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza was away from Herat crushing the revolt of Amir Hendugha in Asterabad, Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza, his older brother, managed to escape from prison in Herat and went straight to his youngest brother Sultan Muhammad Mirza's province of Fars seeking his protection. Sultan Muhammad Mirza and Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza then marched with a large army and invaded Khurasan in 1449. This was the same time as the revolt of Abdal-Latif Mirza in Balkh against his father Ulugh Beg at Samarkand. While the father and son were busy facing off at the Amu Darya in the north, the Baysonqor brothers were about to engage in battle in Khurasan. Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza marched to face his brothers in battle and the two armies met at Farhadgerd. Sultan Muhammad Mirza and Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza defeated Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza who fled to the castle of Omad. Sultan Muhammad Mirza entered Herat and freed Ibrahim Mirza son of Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza. Abdal-Latif Mirza, who before the battle had sent an envoy to Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza professing peace during his revolt against his father Ulugh Beg, now congratulated Sultan Muhammad Mirza in taking Herat. But Sultan Muhammad Mirza was saddened by Ulugh Beg's defeat at Dimishq and his murder en route to Makkah by his son; however, he decided not to pursue a war in Transoxiana and instead wanted to concentrate on his holdings in Iraq-i-Ajam, Fars and now Khurasan as well.
Meanwhile, Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza quickly moved to attack Asterabad as the governor appointed by Sultan Muhammad Mirza had oppressed the people of that place. Eventually the two brothers would fight each other again at Asterabad.Battle of Ghazdewan
The Battle of Ghazdewan occurred in what is now Uzbekistan in 1512 AD between Babur's Mughal army and invading Uzbek tribes from Central Asia. It resulted in Babur's defeat after which he resigned hope of recovering his father's empire of Ferghana. It also helped solidify the alliance between the Mughal Empire and the Ottoman empire.Battle of Nakhchivan (1406)
The Battle of Nakhchivan was fought between Kara Koyunlu under their Bey, Qara Yusuf and the Timurid Empire under the leadership of Timur's grandson Abu Bakr bin Miran Shah for control of Azerbaijan on October 14, 1406. Qara Yusuf decisively defeated the Timurids in this battle and took over Tabriz the capital of Azerbaijan.Battle of Nishapur (1447)
During the Second Timurid Succession Crisis, The Baysonqor brothers; Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza and Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza had acted in cognizance and blocked Abdal-Latif Mirza's chances of uniting with his father Ulugh Beg. Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza had taken Mazandaran and Jurjan whereas Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza had taken Mashad thereby surrounding Abdal-Latif Mirza at Nishapur. On April 20, 1447, Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza's army surprised and attacked the city of Nishapur. Abdal-Latif Mirza was defeated and imprisoned whereas, Goharshad and the Tarkhans were freed.They then marched towards Sadabad, Nishapur where Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza met Goharshad and together they marched with the army towards Herat. At Herat, Abdal-Latif Mirza was kept in the fort of Iktiyar-al-Din. The army of Khurasan now marched against Ulugh Beg towards Samarkand.Battle of Qara-Derrah Pass
The Battle of Qara-Derrah Pass was fought between Pir Muhammad ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I of the Timurid Empire and Abu Nasr Qara Yusuf of the Kara Koyunlu confederation of Turkmen people in eastern Turkey near Lake Van in the year 1395 C.E.Bibi-Khanym Mosque
The mosque Bibi-Khanym Mosque (Persian: مسجد بی بی خانم; Uzbek: Bibi-Xonim masjidi; Russian: Мечеть Бибиханым; also: Khanum / Khanom / Hanum / Chanym / Hanim, etc.) is one of the most important monuments of Samarkand. In the 15th century it was one of the largest and most magnificent mosques in the Islamic world. By the mid-20th century only a grandiose ruin of it still survived, but major parts of the mosque were restored during the Soviet period.Goharshad Begum
Goharshād Begum (Persian: گوهرشاد Gowharšād; meaning "joyful jewel" or "shining jewel"; alternative spelling: Gawharshād; died 19 July 1457) was a wife of Shāhrukh, the Emperor of the Timurid Empire of Herāt.Military history of Asia
The military history of Asia spans thousands of years.
Middle kingdoms of India
DzungarsSiege of Balkh (1447)
After the Battle of Nishapur and the peace treaty which gave the Chechektu valley to Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza, he placed in that out post a certain Mirza Saleh who was an enemy of Abdal-Latif Mirza. Furthermore, Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza kept hostages, certain men of importance, who were in the entourage of Abdal-Latif Mirza against the treaty. This forced Abdal-Latif Mirza's hand to take action which he did by attacking Mirza Saleh who then escaped to Herat. On this Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza marched from Herat with his army and besieged Balkh in the winter of 1447 C.E. Abdal-Latif Mirza sent a letter to his father Ulugh Beg for reinforcements. In response Ulugh Beg sent an envoy to Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza to admonish him and to let him know to address his grievances to Samarkand in the future rather than go to war. Finally, realizing his mistake Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza agreed to move his army back to Herat.Siege of Herat (1448)
Ulugh Beg and his son Abdal-Latif Mirza marched towards Herat in the spring of 1448 in order to take Khurasan from his nephew, Ala-ud-Daulah Mirza, who had escaped to Quchan after the defeat at the Battle of Tarnab. They easily took the city except the Qila Ikhtiyar-al-Din and fort Neretu both of which offered stiff resistance. At this point only the advance troops had reached Herat, which was unable to take the citadel or the Fort Neretu. The Bakharz Tajik archers offered stiff resistance and beat back many assaults by the Timurids of Samarkand. Eventually Ulugh Beg arrived 17 days after the siege had begun; after which all resistance crumbled before him in no time. Abdal-Latif Mirza succeeded in capturing the citadel Qila Ikhtiyar-al-Din in which he was imprisoned after the debacle at Nishapur and now here he managed to take 4,000 Iranian toman in coins. They followed up their victory by taking Mashad. Ulugh Beg was unable to pursue his nephews and instead decided to return to Herat leaving his son Abdal-Latif Mirza in charge at Mashad.Siege of Kabul (1504)
In 1504 Babur besieged Kabul and took the city from the Arghuns under Mukim Beg Arghun to become the new king of Kabul and Ghazni regions. The territory gave him respite from his Uzbek troubles in Central Asia and allowed him to build his nascent kingdom into a strong and formidable power in later years, enough to be able to conquer northern India.Timeline of 15th-century Muslim history
This is a timeline of major events in the Muslim world from 1400 AD to 1499 AD (803 AH – 905 AH).Timurid art
Timurid art is a style of art originating during the rule of the Timurid Empire (1370-1507). Timurid art was noted for its usage of both Persian and Chinese styles, as well as for taking influence from the art of other civilizations in Central Asia. After the decline of the Timurid Empire, the art of the civilization continued to influence other cultures in West and Central Asia.Timurid dynasty
The Timurid dynasty (Persian: تیموریان), self-designated as Gurkani (Persian: گورکانیان, Gūrkāniyān), was a Sunni Muslim dynasty or clan of Turco-Mongol origin descended from the warlord Timur (also known as Tamerlane). The word "Gurkani" derived from "gurkan", a Persianized form of the Mongolian word "kuragan" meaning "son-in-law", as the Timurids were in-laws of the line of Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire. Members of the Timurid dynasty were strongly influenced by the Persian culture and established two significant empires in history, the Timurid Empire (1370–1507) based in Persia and Central Asia and the Mughal Empire (1526–1857) based in the Indian subcontinent.Timurid family tree
This is a simplified family tree of the Timurid dynasty. The Timurid dynasty were a ruling family descended from the 14th century Central Asian conqueror, Timur, who founded the Timurid Empire in 1370. At it's peak, the empire encompassed Iran and much of Central Asia, as well as portions of modern-day India, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey. The later Mughal Emperors of India were descendants of Timur through his great-great-great grandson, Babur.Tokhtamysh–Timur war
The Tokhtamysh–Timur war was fought from 1389 to 1395 between Tokhtamysh, khan of the Golden Horde, and the warlord and conqueror Timur, founder of the Timurid Empire, in the areas of the Caucasus mountains, Turkistan and Eastern Europe. The battle between the two Mongol rulers played a key role in the decline of the Mongol power over early Russian principalities.
|Battles and conflicts|
Inner Asia history series