Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From Lameness To Greatness


Magnet # 210: Amir Temur on Horseback

Material:  Clay

Purchased By:  Dad

The great Turco-Mongol conqueror Amir Temur was born on this day in 1336. Or was it the 8th? Or perhaps the 9th? Well, I've gotten conflicting dates all over the Internet, so I decided to go ahead and post today - at the very least, we know Temur was born around this time. Temur started from somewhat humble beginnings and went on to conqueror much of Central Asia and the surrounding area. He has been remembered favorably by some and less so by others, but when Uzbekistan gained its freedom from the Soviet Union in 1991, Temur gained a new importance. The newly-liberated country needed a national hero to help boost its morale and Temur fit the bill. The Soviet statue of Marx in the capital city of Tashkent was removed and an impressive monument of Temur was erected in its place. In fact, this magnet is based upon that very monument. Like its predecessor, it's a little larger than life - it's one of the largest in my collection and is about as big as my hand.  It's definitely an appropriate way to honor a man who went on to create a vast empire with the strength of his sword.

Temur was born in the city of Kesh, located in what would eventually become Uzbekistan, to a minor chief who owned a small amount of land. He became lame in one leg from an injury that was said to have either been incurred during a battle or perhaps brought on when he was younger and attempting to steal a sheep. Whatever the cause, this handicap didn't deter his ambitions, but it did earn him the nickname of "Temur the Lame," or Tamerlame. His enemies used to taunt him with it and it upset him - although not so much that he wasn't able to defeat most of them on the battlefield. In fact, the size of his conquests was second only to that of Alexander the Great. He quickly established himself as a powerful and capable military leader. And when others who stood in his way for leadership, they conveniently died or were otherwise defeated. Soon, Temur ascended to leader of a mighty army and, under his guidance, it defeated the Persians, the Indians, the Turks, and the Egyptians.  He treated his troops well, and they were fiercely loyal to him, despite the fact that he did not pay them.  They received their payment in the form of looting in the areas they conquered.  Although he could be a brutal fighter, he was also an enlightened man.  He couldn't read or write, but he spoke several languages and liked to have history read while he dined.  He may have destroyed great architecture, but he often had them sketched beforehand so he could rebuild them in Samarkand, his capitol.  Many of his commissioned buildings still stand there.  He also brought back many of the artists and architects from the lands he defeated and had them create works of art for his people.  And even though Temur was a great conqueror, he often didn't have the foresight to establish a firm rule there and would be forced to wage war on the same area when rebellions broke out.

Temur's campaign against China would be his last.  Although a fever killed him in his camp before he was able to bring down the civilization, he inspired a great fear in Ming China.  His empire soon crumbled, but his legend has persisted for centuries.  Christopher Marlowe, one of the greatest writers of the Elizabethan era, wrote Tamburlaine, a two part play about Temur's life.  He also inspired Edgar Allen Poe, whose epic poem "Tamerlane" was likewise inspired by the conqueror's life.  And now, he has become the official national hero of Uzbekistan.  Temur and the empire he forged may be gone, but evidence of it is still very visible in our modern world, where he continues to inspire those who live in his former lands.

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