Commonly known as Tamerlane in Europe, Timur was one of the most dominant military commanders in human history. He was also one of the cruelest as his military campaigns were responsible for the deaths of at least 17 million people, or 5% of the world’s population during the 14th century when he terrorized Western, Southern, and Central Asia along with nations in the Caucasus. That’s the equivalent of 360 million+ deaths today.
Outside of historians, Timur is not well known in the West which is probably why his reputation hasn’t suffered. Indeed, there are those who gloss over his butchery and fawn over his incredible military skills. He was born in 1336 (although many historians believe he was born a decade earlier) in modern day Uzbekistan and became the leader of the Western Chagatai Khanate in 1370. Timur held this position until his death in Kazakhstan in 1405. In this article, I will look at interesting facts about this tyrant including details of the atrocities he was responsible for.
1 – He Had Notable Physical Disabilities
The Western versions of Timur’s name, ‘Tamberlane’ or ‘Tamerlane,’ come from the nickname ‘Timur-i-leng’ which means Timur the Lame. When a pair of Soviet scientists were sent to Samarkand to exhume the body of Timur in 1941, they uncovered a variety of disabilities in the tyrant’s body. Stalin, and a large number of Russians were curious to determine if it was the real tomb of Timur and whether the stories about his injuries and lameness were true.
The forensic findings determined that the warlord would have dragged his right leg when walking and he was missing the small and ring fingers on his right hand. Furthermore, Timur’s left shoulder was significantly higher than his right. There are different theories as to how he sustained his various injuries in a topic that usually leads to a great deal of disagreement amongst historians.
An author named Arabshah claimed that Timur and his band of thieves were shot by arrows when stealing sheep. It is probably untrue and also worth noting that Arabshah’s writing was generally anti-Timurid. His goal was to paint Timur in a bad light and suggest he got his wounds in a cowardly fashion. The more likely cause of the injuries was a battle when he was fighting for the Khan of Sistan in Iran. He was probably in his late twenties when it happened, and he wouldn’t have become the leader of the Khanate for another few years.
Whether the injuries and subsequent deformities altered his personality is unclear. After all, he had a torrid early life as he joined his mother and brothers as prisoners of the Mongol army when he was eight or nine years old. To survive, Timur stole from travelers as a child, and he was part of a gang. This is where Arabshah gets his story from. Regardless of how he suffered his injuries, they didn’t prevent him from becoming one of the greatest commanders the world has ever seen.