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Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World Paperback – 3 Oct 2005
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‘Using many contemporary sources, Marozzi creates a convincing portrait of a complex man…An engaging mixture of history, travelogue and contemporary reportage. Well written and skilfully put together.’ Jonathan Sumption, Sunday Telegraph, Books of the Year
‘He has brought the mighty warrior in from the cold and allowed him to stalk these pages with bloody magnificence.’ Sunday Times
‘Walking…about the dazzling buildings that are Tamur’s legacy, [Marozzi] brilliantly conveys how everything goes in cycles, both in nature and in human affairs.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Excellent…Provides a superbly rounded and vivid portrait of one of history’s most fascinating personalities.’ Evening Standard
‘As well researched in libraries as with boots on the ground in some of the world’s more impenetrable places, this is a fine study of a neglected but linchpin historical figure.’ Daily Mail
‘Robust, enthusiastic and richly detailed…full of fascinating, if often gruesome, anecdotes.’ Literary Review
A powerful account of the life of Tamerlane the Great (1336-1405), the last master nomadic power, one of history's most extreme tyrants ever, and the subject of Marlowe's play. Marozzi travelled in the footsteps of the great Mogul Emperor of Samarkland to write this wonderful combination of history and travelogue. The name of the last great warlord conjures up images of mystery and romance: medieval warfare on desert plains; the clash of swords on snow-clad mountains; the charge of elephants across the steppes of Asia; the legendary opulence and cruelty of the illiterate, chess-playing nemesis of Asia. He ranks alongside Alexander as one of the world's great conquerors, yet the details of his life are scarcely known in the West. He was not born to a distinguished family, nor did he find his apprenticeship easy - at one point his mobile army consisted only of himself, his wife, seven companions and four horses - but his dominion grew with astonishing rapidity. In the last two decades of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth, he blazed through Asia.Cities were razed to the ground, inhabitants tortured without mercy, sometimes enemies were buried alive - more commonly they were decapitated. On the ruins of Baghdad, Tamerlane had his princes erect a pyramid of 90,000 heads. During his lifetime he sought to foster a personal myth, exaggerating the difficulties of his youth, laying claim to supernatural powers and a connection to Genghis Khan. This myth was maintained after his death in legend, folklore, poetry, drama and even opera, nowhere more powerfully than in Marlowe's play - he is now as much a literary construct as a historical figure. Justin Marozzi follows in his path and evokes his legacy in telling the tale of this fabulously cruel, magnificent and romantic warrior. See all Product description
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I just needed something beyond Wikipedia on taymour, even his name us hard to pin down because it can be spelt a number of ways, even without the lame bit. Tamerlane is full of info that would be missing from a simple novel but it is hard to get into.
There is nothing new here, so if you are already familiar with the historiography of the Timurid period you will recognize every single source the author quotes and therefore naturally this is not a work which draws any new conclusions or puts forward any new theories or even hypotheses. It is however narrative history at its best and makes no pretense of being an academic analysis of the various aspects of Temur's life and empire, so I decided to give it a generous five stars.
The writing style is readable and lively, making effective use of near-contemporary sources like Arab historians or the Spaniard Clavijo. The analysis of both the reasons for Timur's staggering military successes (rewarding his troops well, exploiting the element of surprise and a range of ingenious ruses, as well as instilling utter terror among his enemies),and the other sides to his character (intellectual interests and architectural ambition)make for a balanced assessment.
Plenty to commend it, then, but for me a less impressive book than travel writing on the area,such as by Colin Thubron, which manages to be more evocative of today's Central Asian places and persons, or than histories of neighbouring powers, such as Michael Axworthy's impressive history of Iran. And the battles and massacres, though very vivid at times (the Indian campaign) do sicken the reader. Four stars, not five - good but not great.
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