chapter  9
21 Pages

Temür (Tamerlane) and Latin Christendom

Although those who wrote about Temür’s career during his lifetimegave no date for the conqueror’s birth, a convention among his later biographers would place it in 736 H./1335-6. The year was highly emblematic: it had witnessed the death of the last undisputed Ilkhan, AbÑ SaîÇd, the effective collapse of the Ilkhanate, and the division of its territories among a number of largely non-Mongol dynasties.2 Temür and his political opponents within the Mongol world acted out their lives on a stage dominated by the figure of Chinggis Khan.3 He and his historians believed (or wanted others to believe) that he was engaged in the restoration of Chinggis Khan’s world-empire.4 Temür’s own origins lay not in Ilkhanid Persia, but in the Chaghadayid khanate in Central Asia, the territory known to Western Europeans as Medium Imperium, ‘the Middle Empire’, or (much less accurately) as Media and Imperium Medorum. The history of this polity is ill-documented and more obscure than that of any of the other Mongol states, but it seems that from c.1340 it was split into two khanates. In the western part, comprising Transoxiana, the tribal amirs disputed power in the name of a series of feeble and ephemeral khans belonging to the lines of Chaghadai and (sometimes) of Ögödei. Here Islam had made significant advances, and the rulers were semi-sedentarized. In the east, by contrast, where Islam was only beginning to make any headway, the Chaghadayid khans retained real power and their lifestyle was characteristically that of the steppe nomad. This region was popularly called MughulistÖn (‘Mongolia’), though to their western neighbours in Transoxiana its Mongol inhabitants were known as Jata (allegedly ‘robbers’).5