Correction: The Truth about Timur

I was rather surprised to see the 14th century history of Timur the Lame (or Tamerlane) included in the book "Not Even My Name" [TH00] that deals with the events of the first quarter of the 20th century. It is even worse that the account given is quite inaccurate. Here is a passage from p. 99: "Tamurlane ... was fanatical in his hatred of everything Christian. When Tamurlane moved his troops to Persia in 1380, he had his men build a pyramid of 70,000 human heads in Isfahan, and in Baghdad a pyramid of 90,000 human heads, to warn people not to resist." This passage may leave a reader with the impression that the heads were those of Christians while the truth is that most (if not all of them) were Muslims. Timur's soldiers were slaughtering indiscriminately and given the composition of the population of Isfahan and Baghdad in those times, most of those killed were Persian or Arab Muslims.

A Univ. of Calgary site states that "The Timurid Empire was not singularly defined by the fact that it was an Islamic empire. Its founder, Timur, was himself a Muslim, but he rarely invoked his religion as any sort of impetus for his invasions. All of the territories he invaded were also Muslim-ruled, and thus he could not proclaim a jihad, or holy war, as the reason for his attacks, as Islamic leaders before him had done."

According to the web site of Ancient Worlds "The defeat and dismembering of the Ottoman Empire by Timur’s Mongol hordes handed the Byzantines a chance to rebuild a meaningful empire." Thus, if anything, Timur was helpful to the Byzantine Christians as an "enemy of their enemy."

There is an even more interesting twist. According to Gibbon [EG, Ch. LXV, vol. 6, p. 321] "The Mogul prince (Timur) was a zealous Musulman; but his Persian schools had taught him to revere the memory of Ali and Hosein; and he had imbibed a deep prejudice against the Syrians, as the enemies of the son of the daughter of the apostle of God." In today's terms Timur was a Shiite and if there was a religious component in his motivation, it was hatred of Sunnis.