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ro4444
post Apr 17 2005, 11:17 PM
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Since U-P remains perpetually boring for me, I'm gonna try my hands at a debate.

Bar Aram:

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Timur Lenk would fight whomever, whereever for whatever reason. He just like to fight. He would give reasons to justify his wars (Armenians because they were Christians, India because the Muslim kingdoms there tolerated Polytheists), but in the end he just like fighting.


I disagree. Do you accept my challenge?
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Bar-Aram
post Apr 18 2005, 02:42 PM
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Tell me what part exactly you disagree with and make your case as to why it is incorrect. Then I'll decide whether I will argue with you or agree that you are right.
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ro4444
post Apr 18 2005, 10:00 PM
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That he went fighting around for no good reason.

His motives for his wars were varied, sometimes merely for plunder, but often to gain a strategic advantage for his empire, from preventing two powers from allying that would cause his state to be pinched in between the two, to simply destroying powers on his flank in order to keep them from threatening him at an inconvienent time.
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Bar-Aram
post Apr 18 2005, 10:38 PM
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I'll admit that I don't know all that much on this subject, and have only two sources (books from the public library that I don't have at the moment) that I am going by for my claims, but I'm sticking to the version I've learned until proven wrong.

I will agree on the plunder part, but he wasn't (and I'm sure you'll agree with me on this, at least) a champion of the faith or anything like that. He couldn't care less about the existence of Christians or Hindus. It just made for convenient justifications. As for the strategic reasons, he wasn't a real conquerer like Genghis Khan. He mostly just went there, crushed, plundered, and left. Because of that, he often had to face the same enemies over and over again. And I think it difficult to deny that a man like Timur Lenk enjoyed fighting, so...

That together makes for your standard war-hungry, plundering barbarian steppe warrior - not a great conquerer or civilization builder like the great Mongol Khans before him (like Genghis, Kublai, and Hulegu).
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ro4444
post Apr 19 2005, 03:15 AM
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OK cool. I'll respond tomorrow. I have a paper due and I also need to meet with my advisor tomorrow, but of course the forces of procrastination keep me here :unsure:
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ro4444
post Apr 20 2005, 05:46 AM
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QUOTE(Bar-Aram @ Apr 18 2005, 06:38 PM)
I'll admit that I don't know all that much on this subject, and have only two sources (books from the public library that I don't have at the moment) that I am going by for my claims, but I'm sticking to the version I've learned until proven wrong.

I will agree on the plunder part, but he wasn't (and I'm sure you'll agree with me on this, at least) a champion of the faith or anything like that. He couldn't care less about the existence of Christians or Hindus. It just made for convenient justifications. As for the strategic reasons, he wasn't a real conquerer like Genghis Khan. He mostly just went there, crushed, plundered, and left. Because of that, he often had to face the same enemies over and over again. And I think it difficult to deny that a man like Timur Lenk enjoyed fighting, so...

That together makes for your standard war-hungry, plundering barbarian steppe warrior - not a great conquerer or civilization builder like the great Mongol Khans before him (like Genghis, Kublai, and Hulegu).
*



OK, let's start this off then.

I agree with you on Timur's lack of religious piety. I also agree with you on his lust for war. There is absolutely no doubt that Timur enjoyed warfare. His campaigns are numerous and show extremely refined military skill on the part of the conquerer. It is even true that some of his expeditions had little more reason to be conducted than for the hell of it. Yet, Timur was no Genghis Khan. That great Mongol warrior was a nomad to the core, whose life can aptly be described as a "barbarian" one. Timur was different however. His origins, which were highly tribal in nature, were not reflected in his great career.

To start out with, a look at his military career should be made. This will show that the majority of Timur's campaigns had a cause behind them, rather than just being a bunch of random expeditions Timur carried out because he was too bored in his capital of Samarkand.

Timur's military career begins with him at the head of the Barlas tribe in Transoxiana, which was nominally under the control of the western Chagatai Khanate. He used the Barlas to conduct a series of raids. This is about the only instance in which the view of him as a war-loving barbarian can even be argued. During this time he was little more than a robber-baron; these raids, however, were necessary in order for him to advance his power in an area largely devoid of higher authority.

This situation changed in 1358, when the forces of Mughalistan under Tughluq Temur invaded. The Chagatai Khan fled, while Timur surrendered. He was given a governorship in Qashqa-Darya. When Tughluq Temur died six years later, however, he forged an alliance with a local noble, Amir Hasain, and together they expelled the forces of Mughalistan. The two soon had a falling out, however, as agreements and treaties were broken. Timur ended up defeating Husain, conquering Transoxiana around 1370. From here on in he made Samarkand his capital, and the process of abandoning the life of a barbarian began in earnest.

For several years afterward, Timur was relatively quiet. It was only in the 1380s that he became heavily active again, this time in Persia. His intervention in Persia was actually due to an invitation. The Kartids, who were centered in Herat, were suffering a power dispute between two brothers. Both brothers asked Timur for help. The brother that received his support, Ghiyath ud-Din II Pir 'Ali, married off one of his sons to Timur's niece in gratitude. However, the Kartid leader soon spurned Timur, by refusing to acknowledge Timur's summons. The conquerer therefore invaded Khurasan in 1381, taking Herat, which he spared of any serious retribution. Ghiyath surrendered, and Timur reinstalled him as Kartid ruler as his vassal. In 1389, however, Ghiyath became involved in a conspiracy, and Timur's son Miran Shah ended up annexing Herat.

Also in 1381, Timur marched against the ruler of Tus and Kalat, who had refused to help Timur in the campaign against Herat. He quickly subjugated these cities.

Another significant effect of the Herat campaign was the voluntary subjugation of the Sarbadars, who resided in western Khurasan. While marching to Herat, the leader of the Sarbadars came and paid him homage. From then on the Sarbadars maintained much influence in the Timurid realm, and never suffered the presence of Chagatai troops.

In 1383, the beginnings of conflict with the Golden Horde could be seen. Tokhtamish, who had once fled to Timur's court in exile, had tendered increasingly expansionist desires. Since he saw Timur's expansion in Persia, and was furthermore interested in western Persia, he quickly assumed the role of Timur's adversary. In 1383 he was already occupying parts of Khwarazm and menacing Timur's border.

In 1384 a campaign against Sistan was conducted, which neutralized that threat to the south. Also that year, Timur marched into western Persia. The Jalayirids, centered in Baghdad, were already working against Timur. Their leader, Sultan Ahmad, would quickly prove to be one of Timur's biggest enemies. Timur decided to end his threat by invading; while he made advances, he failed to capture the Jalayirid stronghold of Tabriz. He did, however, capture Sultaniyya, the former capital of the Il-Khanate. Timur, who was always interested in legitimacy (as evidenced by his maintaining a puppet Chagatai khan on the throne), would therefore of course be interested in capturing the city to maintain his presence in Persia.

That same year, the dying Shah Shuja of the Muzaffarids, who were centered in Shiraz and Isfahan, sent a letter to Timur. The letter stated that his sons would be subject to Timur's rule. The conquerer never took the letter too seriously; this would be demonstrated later.

In 1385 forces of the Golden Horde plundered Tabriz. Tokhtamish was clearly interested in diminishing Timur's presence in Persia. In 1386 Tokhtamish became more direct, invading Timur's realm. They were defeated by Miran Shah, who let the prisoners he captured go on his father's orders. Even now, Timur was being extrodinarily lenient with the Golden Horde. He did realize that the Horde had to be prevented from attacking again, however, which is why he conquered Tabriz and invaded the Kingdom of Georgia. By doing so, Timur hoped to block Tokhtamish's way into Persia. Georgia was overrun but ignored the conquerer soon after he left.

In 1388 Timur decided to make good on his overlordship of the Muzaffarids. He wrote to their leader Zain al-Abidin, reminding him of his father's letter, but al-Abidin ignored Timur. With a well-grounded casus belli, Timur advanced toward southern Persia. Isfahan was captured and was initially spared; it was only after a rebellion against Timur's tax collectors in the city flared that the conquerer's brutal methods showed through; a bloodbath then ensued. Pyramids of skulls that became Timur's trademark emerged all around the city. Shiraz was soon after captured, in a less drastic method. al-Abidin's brothers surrendered, and Timur gave them positions of power in the Muzaffarid realm. Timur then returned to Transoxiana.

Timur's center of power, however, was not secure. Transoxiana was surrounded by several enemies. In order to cement his power, he needed to conquer or at least neutralize these enemies. A campaign against Khwarazm ended in its conquest. Two campaigns against Mughalistan ensured that the eastern Chagatai Khanate would not be a threat. Finally, a campaign against the Golden Horde ended with Tokhtamish's temporary defeat.

While Transoxiana was now secure, new events brought Timur back to Persia. The Muzaffarid brothers had been engaging in civil war, causing a deterioration in the south. The particular points to note:

QUOTE
Unfortunately, the Muzaffarids soon began to resume their local feuding. Shah Mansur began by expelling Shah Yahya from Shiraz, whereupon Shah Yahya again fled to Yazd. Shah Mansur then conquered Arbaquh, but failed to take Isfahan. Meanwhile, Zain al-Abidin escaped from prison and reached Isfahan. An alliance was then formed between Azin al-Abidin, Shah Yahya and 'Imad ad-Din Ahmad against Shah Mansur. The alliance proved to be instable, however, and when they met Shah Mansur's army at Furg, Shah Yahya failed to show and 'Imad ad-Din Ahmad quickly retreated. The latter met Shah Mansur again, this time at Fasa, but lost and was captured in Ray. He was blinded and imprisoned. Shah Mansur then approached Kirman, where Sultan Ahmad and Shah Yahya had gone after the events at Furg. He offered a common alliance against Timur, but was rebuffed and thereafter returned to Shiraz.

Timur, who while campaigning elsewhere took note of these events, decided in 1392 that a campaign against Shah Mansur was in order. Shah Mansur gained the Sarbadar Muluk as his ally; Muluk was sent to defend Kashan and the Muzaffarid northern front. By March 1393 Timur had advanced down to Shushtar and Dizful, installing a Sarbadar as governor there. He also freed 'Imad-Din Ahmad from imprisonment. Shah Mansur fled Shiraz, but then turned around and met Timur's forces. With an army weakened by desertions, he fought bravely but was forced to retreat. Attempting to reach Shiraz, he was captured by forces of prince Shah Rukh and was decapitated. The other Muzaffarid princes then again swore alliegence to Timur. They were received honorably by the conquerer, but on May 22 in Qumisha they were executed. Only Zain al-Abidin and Sultan Shibli (another son of Shah Shuja) survived the purge; they were sent to Samarkand.


Southern Persia was now stable, and the problem of the Muzaffarid princes was solved only by their execution.

The Jalayirids under Sultan Ahmad, however, remained a serious problem. He offered refuge to Timur's enemies and posed a risk to the conquerer's possessions. Because of this, an expedition was undertaken in 1393 against him. While Sultan Ahmad escaped, most of his state was overrun. Mesopotamia was ravaged, although when Baghdad fell it was relatively spared. Rule of the city was transferred to a Sarbadar. However, Sultan Ahmad, who had found refuge in the Mameluk Sultanate, returned in 1394 and captured the city. Sultan Ahmad remained in Baghdad for several years, however, thus ending his threat to the Timurid realm for a while.

In the meantime, Tokhtamish had reemerged as a threat. Timur decided to make an attempt at reconciliation in 1395 by sending a letter. Tokhtamish, however, reacted poorly to the letter. He also sought an alliance with the Mameluks. This presented a serious threat. If the Mameluks and the Golden Horde became allies, Timur's possessions would be caught in between the two. No doubt Timur remembered the famous defeat of the forces of the Il-Khanate against the Mameluks over a century ago. With this in mind, he decided that the Golden Horde needed to be destroyed immediately, before the situation became unmanagable. In the ensuing battle between the forces to Timur and Tokhtamish, the latter was defeated. The Golden Horde was then utterly ravaged. Sarai was put to the sack and the Chagatais did not leave until 1396. Georgia was also attacked, for continuing to ally with Timur's enemies.

With Persia thus secure (following an attack on the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen, the sporatic allies of the Jalayirids), Timur decided to mount a campaign against the Delhi Sultanate. The reasons were mainly plunder, but also to knock out the Indian front as a threat; Timur recognized that northern India was weak by infighting and decided to take advantage of it. An expedition was headed by his grandson, Pir Muhammed, followed by Timur himself. The campaign reached its height in 1398 with the sack of Delhi.

Also in 1398, Timur decided to do something about the Jalayirids. Sultan Ahmad had forged an alliance with the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen; despite the fragility of the alliance it posed a potentially serious threat. An expedition was sent under Miran Shah. It was eventually aborted, however. The only other note of worth before 1400 was the failure of Marin Shah to capture Alinjaq, an important Jalayirid fortress. This, combined with Timur's suspicions about loyalty, caused the downfall of Miran Shah. Georgia was again invaded, in revenge for Georgian troops relieving Alinjaq, and also for the refusal of the kingdom to hand over certain Jalayirids that had fled there.

Timur then decided that a campaign against the Mameluks was needed. Timur had a whole list of reasons to choose from: the Mameluks had entered into discussion with Tokhtamish, they had given refuge to several Jalayirids, including Sultan Ahmad, and Timur's ambassador to Cairo had been murdered by the government there. With these in mind, he mounted an expedition into Mameluk Syria in 1400. The campaign was devastating for Syria; Damascus in particular suffered (Timur had ordered the city to be spared, an order which was largely ignored by the Chagatais). The campaign was enriching and rather devoid of challenge; events in Cairo forced the Mameluk army to abort its march against Timur.

The Jalayirids - still - posed a problem to Timur. When a Chagatai division approached the city of Mosul to collect tribute, hordes of bedouins fought the division outside the city on the commandant's order. The commandent was apparently unaware they were Timur's troops. However, the conquerer was unaware of this and prepared to ravage the Jalayirid lands. Baghdad was again captured; this time, however, Timur ordered the inhabitants of the city to be largely exterminated, with a few exceptions. In spite of all this, Sultan Ahmad soon returned to the city and rebuilt it. For the remainder of his reign, however, he would be engaged against the Kara Koyunlu, which effectively knocked both sides out as opponents to Timur.

Timur finally turned his attention to the Ottoman Empire. For years, relations between the two powers had been degrading. Chagatai troops had raided the eastern part of the Empire while Bayezid I was besieging Constantinople; Bayezid retaliated a year later in 1401 by capturing Arzinjan. The two leaders both recognized that they could not cooexist peacefully. Timur had made his court a haven for Ottoman refugees, whom he gathered information about the empire from. In 1402, therefore, he invaded the Ottoman Empire. The two sides met at Ankara, where Timur defeated and imprisoned Bayezid. Timur proved to be disinterested in the Ottoman territories, allowing one of Bayezid's sons to recognize him as overlord. After plundering Anatolia, which included the sack of Smyrna (then owned by the Knights of St. John), he returned to his realm. His victory gained him the congratulations of nearly all of his neighbors, with the notable exception of Georgia. Since the Georgians obviously still did not respect his authority, Timur invaded the kingdom yet again.

His last expedition was directed at Mughalistan and China. Timur was probably attracted to attacking China due to the fact that it was the only major power that posed a threat to him, and of course the plunder too. In any case, the expedition was terminated on his death; attempts to at least conquer Mughalistan were cancelled when Pir Muhammed's succession proved to be tenuous.

What can we gather from Timur's campaigns? It seems obvious that he had a whole load of different reasons to attack or intervene in a particular area. In any case, nearly all of his attacks were staged at someone he perceived to be a threat. Timur's dominion absolutely required stable borders. His realm constantly suffered revolts, which he himself sometimes had to put down, with varying severity. In order to be able to deal with these revolts, he had to absolutely make sure that none of his fronts were exposed to a powerful enemy. This was also the case when dealing with external threats; in order to deal with one, he would often have to campaign on another front to make sure it would be secure enough.

Timur's method of administration is interesting. Outside of Transoxiana, which he directly controlled, he contained many fiefs and psuedo-fiefs. Examples of these can be seen with the Kartids, Sarbadars and Muzaffarids. In each instance, he at first kept most of the existing rulers, only dethroning them if they revolted (as with the Kartids and Muzaffarids). These actions, where he would keep the local systems already in place, suggest that Timur was not merely a nomad, nor even a plunderer. By granting mercy to those that surrendered to him, he proved himself to be a stateman, not simply a man who invaded every time he saw an oppurtunity for loot. This same policy applied to cities. Generally, the cities that suffered his wrath the most were the ones that went into rebellion after he had already conquered them, or the ones which he needed to capture several times.

Timur also did not attack his most wealthy neighbors all the time. His Indian campaign was his only one; if he had been a mere plunderer, he surely would have been much more involved in the Indian subcontinent. Neither did he make further raids into the Golden Horde following the defeat of Tokhtamish, which was in a state of decay ever since his first raids. He never attacked the various Russian principalities, which he was in proximity to during his campaign. He also did not press his advantage following his crushing of the Ottomans. Timur was content to let the Ottomans stay self governing, for he recognized that incorporating the Anatolian empire into his realm was not feasable. He made no expedition into Europe and even maintained decent terms with the Byzantines, whose Constantinople was still ripe for plundering.

I do not agree with you that he was not a great civilization builder. His contributions to Transoxiana (Samarkand and Bukhara in particular) were great indeed. He paid special attention to his capital. Upon capturing enemy cities, he would usually send all the scientists, philosophers and artisians back to Samarkand. Because of this, the city experienced a Renaissance. His contributions in this area are therefore not to be ignored, and further dispel the myth that he was a barbarian. In addition, the fact that Samarkand was his capital that he paid much attention to should receive some attention, as his heavy use of a capital city was a slap in the face to nomadism.

Overall, Timur was a conquerer from nomadic backgrounds, but he was not a second Genghis Khan. With his patronage of Samarkand, he built his city into the greatest in the region, until Herat surpassed it later in the 15th century. Once he got a base of power to work from, he usually only attacked enemies whom he had a grievance with. His plundering raids are exceptional for their brutality, but not from their basic occurance; many Western leaders carried out campaigns whose primary purpose would be to loot. Timur did not needlessly destroy areas that would be able to be incorporated into his realm; he rather spared the local princes and allowed them to rule in his name. While his administrative abilities may not have been the best ever seen, they do not confirm that he was a simple barbarian, intent more on murder and wealth than on a feasable empire. Neither should his usage of traditional Mongol customs distract us from the fact that he was a settled ruler. Timur is known for his cruelty, but he is also known for setting up an extrodinary empire as a civilized statesman.
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