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Brief Overview of Timur


Timur (1336-1405) is known in the west as Tamerlane. He emulated the great Mongol ruler Genghis Khan (r.1206-1227) some of whose descendants he displaced to reach power in 1370. Though later rulers were not able to emulate the charisma and military guile of figures like Genghis Khan and Timur, Turco-Mongol society continued to value skill in warfare, hunting and bravery. Still more than Timur before them, members of the Timurid and Turkman dynasties used art and architecture as a means of legitimising their rule.


Mounted falconer, Tabriz (?), (detail) c.1478-90. Opaque pigment, ink, gold and silk. Topkapι Saray Museum, Istanbul. Photo Hadiye Cangökçe.


It was during Timur’s reign that the nomadic steppe culture of Central Asia fused with the settled culture of Iran. One of its consequences was an entirely new visual language that glorified Timur and subsequent Timurid rulers. This visual language was also used to articulate their commitment to Islam.

Contemporaries noted Timur’s preoccupation with history. During his campaigns he gathered scholars, architects, and artists from the cities and regions he conquered. Timur’s successors were fully aware of the important role that books could play in legitimising their rule. Books were one way to develop accounts about Timur’s life and deeds, an activity that began when he was still alive.


Tamerlane State


One of the most important states of the 14th century was the Tamerlane State (1370-1507). It was founded by Tamerlane, who was a provincial governor in one of the Çağatay khanates. Tamerlane expanded the borders of the state from the Volga River to the Ganges River in India, and from the Tanrı Mountains to İzmir and Damascus in a short period of 35 years. The Empire disintegrated after the death of Tamerlane just as rapidly as it had been established. Only Hüseyin Baykara from the Tamerlane dynasty could manage to hold out in Khorasai Herat, the capital city, which became one of the most significant cultural centers in Turkish history. Ali şir Nevai, the Turkish poet and statesman, was educated there.


Enthronement scene, Tabriz (?), c.1470-90. Opaque pigment,ink, gold and paper. Topkapι Saray Museum, Istanbul. Photo Hadiye Cangökçe.


The Turkoman group of the Karakoyunlu, founded the Karakoyunlu State (1370-1507) between Irbil and Nakhichevan. This state was formed by the Yıva, Yazır, Döğer and Avşar tribes and the Oghuz Turks. Kara Yusuf, the ruler of the Karakoyunlu State, had to take refuge in the Ottoman state during the reign of Yıldırım Beyazid as a result of the pressure exerted by Tamerlane. This was considered to be a reason for the Battle of Ankara. Kara Yusuf, who managed to recover after this war reestablished his state after 1406 and captured Mardin, Erzincan, Baghdad, Azerbaijan, Tabriz, Kazvin, and Sultaniye. After his death, the country was dragged into chaos. Although Cihan Shah managed to reunite the state, he was defeated by Akkoyunlu Uzun Hasan at Mardin and the country fell under the hegemony of the Akkoyunlu State.

The Akkoyunlu State (1350-1502) was founded by Turkoman tribes who settled around Diyarbakır-Malatya during the collapse of Mongol rule. The real founder of the state is known to be Kara Yülük Osman Bey. The most powerful period of the Akkoyunlu State was during the reign of Uzun Hasan. During his reign, the borders of the state extended from the Caspian Sea to Syria, and from Azerbaijan to Baghdad. However, his defeat in the Otlukbeli Battle in 1473 by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror was a heavy blow for him. This defeat helped in the collapse of the Akkoyunlu State and paved the way for the founding of the Safavid State (1501-1736) by Shah İsmail who managed with religious enthusiasm to get the Turkoman groups of Ustaçlı, Rumlu, Musullu, Tekeli, Bayburtlu, Karadağlı, Dulkadırlı, Karamanlı, Varsak and Avşar on his side.

Shah İsmail, who established political unity in Iran, expanded his territories. The religious fervor of the Shiite sect played a role in his conquests. However, his activities in Anatolia and also his attempts to annex Anatolia, provoked the reaction of the Ottoman Yavuz Sultan Selim (Selim the Grim). Shah İsmail's army was seriously defeated at the Battle of Çaldıran in 1514. Still, all his successors continued fighting against the Ottomans. However, they were defeated in almost all the battles they fought. The Safavid State ended in the Nadir Shah period.

Zahiruddin Babür, a member of the Tamerlane dynasty, entered India and founded the Turkish-Indian (Babür) Empire (1526- 1858). He became famous for his work written in Turkish called, "Vekayi Babürname". After his death, during the reigns of his sons, Humayun and Ekber, this state developed even further and a large portion of the Indian subcontinent was united under one rule. The period of Hürrem, who had assumed the name of Shah Cihan (Shah of the World) upon ascending the throne, was the most brilliant period of the empire in terms of politics and art. The Taj Mahal at Agra, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful architectural monuments in the world, was constructed during his reign. Architects were also sent from the Ottoman State in order to construct the monument. Domestic turmoil which began during the reign of Alemgir I continued until the reign of Shah Bahadır II. The British, who suppressed a revolt in the country in 1857, annexed India to Britain and Queen Victoria was officially declared the Empress of India.












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