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Military


Tamerlane

Timur, better known by the name of Tamerlane, had been raised, amidst the confusion of civil wars, from the station of a petty sovereign to-the throne of the Mongols and Tartars, in the year 1369. He soon re-established, by his indefatigable activity and courage, the vast empire of Genghis-Kan in Asia. History can scarcely follow him through his gigantic expeditions; and the imagination itself is astounded at the rapidity with which he carried his destructive sword from the centre of Tartary to the borders of Egypt, and from the river Indus to the frozen deserts of Siberia. Such was the man whom Providence destined to crush the pride, and overthrow the power of Bajazet.

Historians are not unanimous in explaining the motives which induced these two mighty princes to turn their arms against each other. It is generally supposed that the complaints of the Greek emperor and of the Mussulman princes of Asia, against the encroachments of Bajazet, were the chief motive of Tamerlane's conduct on this occasion; but it might also be sufficiently accounted for by the character of the two rivals. In the opinion of the Tartar monarch, it was neither proper nor possible that the world should be governed by two sovereigns of equal power ; nor was the Turkish sultan less ambitious.

Tamerlane set out from the East at the head of his intrepid Tartars; and, as if he had resolved to give Bajav.et an idea of the ravages that everywhere accompanied his armies, he marched them across Armenia and Syria, and these unfortunate countries, so often before the theatre of disastrous warfare, were again laid waste, their riches seized, their cities destroyed, their inhabitants slaughtered; streams of blood, and towers built with human bodies and skulls, everywhere marked the passage of the Mogul conqueror.

Tamerlane combined the military talent of Attila with the affability and prudence of Chingis Chan, and the ferocious cruelty of both. A zealous Mohammedan, he united the different Mongol and Tartar tribes of Central Asia into a powerful and well organized army; and on his march westward, in 1370, all the nations went down in ruin before him. The Turkomans galloped to the mountains; the hitherto invincible Mamlukes, after the defeats at Baalbek and Damascus, wheeled round, and fleeing to Egypt, left all Syria at the mercy of the invader. The Ottoman Turks then advanced from Asia Minor, but while the prudent Tamerlane secured all the means that could facilitate his victory, the proud Bayazid, the Thunderbolt, despising his enemy, and neglecting that precaution which had procured him the victories of Nicopolis and Semendria, ran into the snare of his wily adversary at Angora, where he lost his throne and his liberty.

Tamerlane was as great a warrior as he was a statesman ; his army was the first of modern times in which the different bodies of troops were distinguished by the colors of their uniforms; his artillery was more formidable than that of the Turks ; and bis Tartar cuirassiers, admirably mounted and armed, rode down with irresistible impetuosity the Spahis and Janissaries, then in the height of their glory.

It may not be amiss to describe here more fully the character of this extraordinary prince. By the oriental nations, Tamerlane is compared to Alexander-the-Great; and the renowned biographer Feller, in his Historical Dictionary (article Tamerlane), seems to approve of that idea, which lie even endeavors to confirm by some examples. The comparison may be true with respect to exploits and military abilities; but, in many other particulars, it is certainly false. Alexander was ambitious, without being naturally cruel; while, on the contrary, nothing can be conceived more barbarous than the manner in which Tamerlane carried on his wars, and treated those who presumed to resist. By his orders, seventy thousand persons were inhumanly slaughtered in the capture of Ispahan; one hundred and twenty thousand in that of Sebaste; ninety thousand in that of Bagdad, which city was utterly destroyed; and so, proportionally, in other places. In the conquest of India, the natives were-hunted like wild beasts, and it is no exaggeration to say that millions of them were put to the sword, the multitude of prisoners being moreover so great, that each of the Tartar soldiers had many in his power. On one occasion, Tamerlane caused a hundred thousand of these unhappy captives to be slain in the space of an hour ; on another, he commanded multitudes of unfortunate people to be crushed under the feet of horses, or to be buried alive; and, besides, lie invariably kept up the horrid custom, which we have already mentioned, of building towers with human skulls, as monuments of his victories.* Never assuredly were there deeds of cruelty so awful and so multiplied, perpetrated either by Alexander-the-Ureat, or any other conqueror except Tamerlane.

It is truly astonishing that the man who could commit such atrocities in war, was in time of peace jilst, judicious, and generous. Equitable in his decisions, and ze lions in the correction of abuses, he was kind towards his relations, attentive to the welfare of his troops, and careful to reward their services, humane towards all his subjects and desirous of their happiness, particularly towards the close of his career. "I do not wish," he once said to his counsellors, " that the distressed and t he poor should cry out for vengeance against me on the day of judgment. I do not wish that any one of my brave soldiers, who have so many times exposed their lives in my service, should have to complain of me and of my ingratitude. I am more sensible of their wants than they are themselves. None of my subjects ought to hesitate to lay his grievances before me; for my intention is that the world should, under my reign, become a sort of Paradise; and I know that, when a king is just and beneficent, his kingdom is blessed with prosperity and glory."

Such was the language in which Tamerlane expressed the noble feelings of his soul in relation to the government of his people. To a sound mind, that distinguished him in council as much as his extraordinary valor distinguished him in battles, he is said to have added ja wonderful sagacity, which enabled him to unravel the most hidden intrigues and detect the most artful stratagems of his enemies, while his own secrets remained impenetrable. His principle in governing was to secure by unshaken firmness the execution of his orders, and to attend in person to all transactions of consequence. The palaces, mosques, cities, bridges, canals, magnificent roads, colleges, hospitals for the infirm, for travellers and for the poor, and many other public buildings, and institutions, which owed to him their existence, would suffice to make illustrious the reigns and the lives of several monarchs.

But observers turn with disgust from the bloody pages of his history, and behold, with a shudder, in Damascus and Bagdad, the chapels built to commemorate the spots where he reared his horrible pyramids of human skulls to grace his triumph over slaughtered nations.



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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:36:11 ZULU