Timur (Chagatay: تيمور Temür “Iron”; 9 April 1336 – 17–19 February 1405), later Timūr Gurkānī (Chagatay: تيمور کورگن Temür Küregen), sometimes spelled Taimur and historically best known as Amir Timur or Tamerlane (Persian: تيمور لنگ Temūr(-i) Lang; Chagatay: اقساق تیمور Aqsaq Temür, “Timur the Lame”), was a Turco-Mongol conqueror who founded the Timurid Empire in and around modern-day Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia, becoming the first ruler of the Timurid dynasty. As an undefeated commander, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest military leaders and tacticians in history. Timur is also considered a great patron of art and architecture, as he interacted with intellectuals such as Ibn Khaldun and Hafiz-i Abru and his reign introduced the Timurid Renaissance.:341–2
Born into the Barlas confederation in Transoxiana (in modern-day Uzbekistan) on 9 April 1336, Timur gained control of the western Chagatai Khanate by 1370. From that base, he led military campaigns across Western, South and Central Asia, the Caucasus and southern Russia, and emerged as the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world after defeating the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, the emerging Ottoman Empire, and the declining Delhi Sultanate of India. From these conquests, he founded the Timurid Empire, but this empire fragmented shortly after his death.
Timur was the last of the great nomadic conquerors of the Eurasian Steppe, and his empire set the stage for the rise of the more structured and lasting Islamic gunpowder empires in the 16th and 17th centuries.:1 Though not a Borjigid or a descendant of Genghis Khan, Timur clearly sought to invoke the legacy of the latter’s conquests during his lifetime. Timur envisioned the restoration of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan (died 1227) and according to Gérard Chaliand, saw himself as Genghis Khan’s heir.
According to Beatrice Forbes Manz, “in his formal correspondence Temur continued throughout his life to portray himself as the restorer of Chinggisid rights. He justified his Iranian, Mamluk, and Ottoman campaigns as a re-imposition of legitimate Mongol control over lands taken by usurpers.” To legitimize his conquests, Timur relied on Islamic symbols and language, referred to himself as the “Sword of Islam”. He was a patron of educational and religious institutions. He converted nearly all the Borjigin leaders to Islam during his lifetime. Timur decisively defeated the Christian Knights Hospitaller at the Siege of Smyrna, styling himself a ghazi.:91 By the end of his reign, Timur had gained complete control over all the remnants of the Chagatai Khanate, the Ilkhanate, and the Golden Horde, and even attempted to restore the Yuan dynasty in China.
Timur’s armies were inclusively multi-ethnic and were feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, sizable parts of which his campaigns laid to waste. Scholars estimate that his military campaigns caused the deaths of 17 million people, amounting to about 5% of the world population at the time. Of all the areas he conquered, Khwarazm suffered the most from his expeditions, as it rose several times against him.
Timur was the grandfather of the Timurid sultan, astronomer and mathematician Ulugh Beg, who ruled Central Asia from 1411 to 1449, and the great-great-great-grandfather of Babur (1483–1530), founder of the Mughal Empire, which then ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent.