The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane

The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane : Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia

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Timur (or Tamerlane) is famous as the fourteenth-century conqueror of much of Central Eurasia and the founder of the Timurid dynasty. His reputation lived on in his native lands and reappeared some three centuries after his death in the form of fictional biographies, authored anonymously in Persian and Turkic. These biographies have become part of popular culture. Despite a direct continuity in their production from the eighteenth century to the present, they remain virtually unknown to people outside the region. This remarkable and rigorous scholarly appraisal of the legendary biographies of Tamerlane is the first of its kind in any language. The book sheds light not only on the character of Tamerlane and how he was remembered and championed by many generations after his demise, but also on the era in which the biographies were written and how they were conceived and received by the local populace during an age of crisis in their own history.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 184 pages
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1 map
  • 9781139064712

Table of contents

Introduction; 1. The origins and usages of Timur's heroic apocrypha; 2. Timur's birth and childhood; 3. Youth; 4. Inauguration and kingship; 5. Premonitions; 6. Central Asia in turmoil, 1700-50; Conclusion.
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Review quote

'Sela's book is a clear contribution to scholarship. He brings a relatively unknown body of fascinating material to our attention, and provides extensive translations of parts of this material, which give us an excellent view of what exists, helping us determine how to move forward. His work suggests new approaches to the history of a neglected period. Finally, the monograph gives us compelling evidence for the existence of a Timurmania in Central Asia, long before we knew one existed, which continues to this day with fascinating ramifications. In all these ways Sela's work is a service to the scholarly community.' Anne Broadbridge, Journal of the American Oriental Society 'Sela's well-argued and concise study of a group of Persian and Turkic heroic stories devoted to the life of Amir Timur, or Tamerlane, brings to our attention a large body of literature that has until now been generally ignored or discounted by previous scholars of Central Asian history ... historians of modern Central Asia would do well to apply to their own works Sela's emphasis on manuscript sources, his imaginative use of popular literature, and his critical approach to much current scholarship.' Allen J. Frank, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
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About Ron Sela

Ron Sela is Assistant Professor of Central Asian History at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of Ritual and Authority in Central Asia: The Khan's Inauguration Ceremony (2003) and co-author, with Scott C. Levi, of Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources (2009).
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