Tamerlane : Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World

3.84 (464 ratings by Goodreads)
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A powerful account of the life of Tamerlane the Great (1336-1405), the last master nomadic power, one of history's most extreme tyrants ever, and subject of Marlowe's play. Marozzi travelled in the footsteps of the great Mogul Emperor of Samarkland to write this wonderful book which is part history, part travelogue. The name of the last great warlord immediately conjures up images of mystery and romance: medieval wafare on desert plains; the clash of swords on snow-clad mountain; the charge of elephants across the steppes of Asia; the legendary opulence and cruelty of the illiterate, chess-playing nemesis of Asia. He ranks alongside Alexander as one of the world's great conquerors, yet the details of his life are scarcely known in the West. He was not born to a distinguished family, nor did he find his apprenticeship easy -- at one point his mobile army consisted only of himself, his wife, seven companions and four horses -- but his dominion grew with astonishing rapidity. In the last two decades of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth, he blazed through Asia. Cities were razed to the ground, inhabitants tortured without mercy, sometimes enemies were buried alive -- more commonly they were decapitated. On the ruins of Baghdad, Tamerlane had his princes erect a pyramid of 90,000 heads. During his lifetime he sought to foster a personal myth, exaggerating the difficulties of his youth, laying claim to supernatural powers and a connection to Genghis Khan. This myth was maintained after his death in legend, folklore, poetry, drama and even opera, nowhere more powerfully than in Marlowe's play -- he is now as much a literary construct as a historical figure. Tamerlane and his armies swept through country after country, sacking great cities and imposing his order on the vast steppes of Asia. Justin Marozzi follows in his path and evokes his legacy in telling the tale of this fabulously cruel, magnificent and romantic warrior.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 480 pages
  • 159 x 240mm | 806g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • (16pp colour plate section)
  • 000711611X
  • 9780007116119

Author information

Justin Marozzi is contributing editor of the Spectator. He used to sell tobacco to Libya and was the Financial Times's correspondent in the Philippines for two years. He writes regularly for the Financial Times and has also written for The Times and The Economist and broadcast for the BBC World Service and Radio Four. He is the author of South from Barbary, an account of a journey along the old slave routes of the Libyan Sahara.show more

Review Text

Tamerlane (1336-1405) is remembered as a synonym for barbarity, the Mongol descendant of Genghis Khan, who determined to restore the Mongol empire in a lifetime of war. Poverty, bloodshed, and desolation followed his campaigns, which gave rise to many legends which inspired such works as Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great. His conquests extend from Mongolia to the Mediterranean, from Moscow to Baghdad to Delhi, and everywhere he left destruction and carnage, marked by towers of skulls. Marozzi uses his skills as a scholar and journalist to describe dramatically the world of Tamerlane -- and more: he repeatedly travelled through these often still troubled places in Central Asia still marked by Tamerlane and his dynasty. Not only are there dramatic word-pictures here, but numerous photographs, mostly taken by him. Paradocically, this cruel despot also left a dramatic capital in Samarkand, with the giant (but ruined) great mosque and monuments covered in multi-colored mosaics. There, one seen Tamerlane's mausoleum, a gem of Islamic art. Samarkand became a centre of scholarship and science. Marozzi has a wonderful feel for language, and explores with us the world of horror and beauty in one of the greatest conquerors of all history with courage ad flair. A quite fascinating read! (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

464 ratings
3.84 out of 5 stars
5 26% (122)
4 41% (190)
3 25% (116)
2 6% (30)
1 1% (6)
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