The Prince Of Destruction, Tamerlane
The date was June 20, 1941.
It was a night like many others. But not for a reasonably sized mausoleum in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. In the hall for the dead stood several scientists eager to see a tomb opened. One, closed in the 1400s, over half a thousand years ago.
Among the scientists were the president of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan - Tashmuhamed Kar-Nijazov, Orientalist - A. A. Semenov, anthropologist - M. M. Gerasimov; and a writer S. Aini.
In the main tomb, in the middle of the mausoleum stood a huge sarcophagus. Much larger than what most historians have ever seen. There was a small commotion outside as the tomb was being opened.
Three old men approached the makeshift headquarters of the scientists. One of the men was holding an old book and showing it to one of the videographers of the campsite. The old man was speaking a very old dialect of the region of Transoxania, much older than what the translators could understand.
The videographer, knowing Russian and a little Tajik, was attempting to calm the old men who were frantically trying to tell him something.
Back inside, the scientists with the help of some local men were hoisting up the main stone slab of the huge sarcophagus, which could probably fit 4-5 men and their own coffins. Something weird was happening though.
Their lights were flickering, unusual as the scientists know that they’ve replenished the gas supply in their portable generators. As the huge stone slab was opened, a loud creak was heard - reverberating all over the mausoleum and outside.
The videographer turned to look behind him at what caused the loud noise and saw a slight gust of wind ruffle the makeshift headquarters, coming from inside the mausoleum. As he turned back to talk with the old men, they were gone. Disappearing into the night.
All they left was a copy of a very old looking book - the Jangnoma - a compilation of legends and myths. Back inside the mausoleum, the scientists were astonished. They were pulling out coffin upon coffin from inside the huge sarcophagus. They have to do it by hand as the lift they used to pull open the sarcophagus had broken - another very unusual turn of events.
At the very bottom of the pile was a coffin made of black timber which was eerily whole after half a millennia of what should’ve been rot. At the head of the coffin was a jade tombstone, an epitaph, with an inscription written in a language unused for over 500 years.
They’ve set it aside for now, a mistake.
Upon hoisting up the final coffin, they started feeling exhausted - as if their energy were being drained. Feeling the excitement of discovery, and knowing that they’ve been hard at work for almost 16 hours now, they trudged on.
They opened the final coffin, and all eyes were turned on the skeleton of a man right in front of them. The man seemed to have been around 172 centimeters tall, and the skeleton seemed brusque and bulky compared to most skeletons that have survived this long.
One of his legs was shorter than the other one. His right leg’s knee cap grew into the lower thigh epiphysis. Many historians believe that this man was lame when he was alive.
The skull of the man was ill preserved because of the water present in the sarcophagus, although some hair was still remaining on it, another eerily unusual turn of events considering the age of the skeleton.
As they were prepping the remains for transport, one of the scientists noticed inscriptions inside the coffin. He called for one of the translators. He also remembered the epitaph. He walked to it and turned it over, the translator arriving behind him and reading the text out loud, without the scientist knowing.
“When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble.”
That was what the scientist felt. He dropped the epitaph nearly breaking it. He took translator by the arm and ran to the coffin asking him to read it the inscription inside. People around them have already stopped what they’re doing, waiting for the translator to read out loud. You could drop a pin in the hall and it would be heard even to the outside.
The translator took one look at the inscriptions and fell to his knees. Looked at the scientist behind him, sunken fear on his face.
“Whosoever disturbs my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I.”
Two Days Later - Nazi Germany invaded Russia.
This is the story of the Prince of Destruction, Tamerlane the Conqueror.
Born “Timur", in the town of Kesh in modern-day Shahrisabz, Uzbekistan some 80 miles south of the city of Samarkand, one of the metropolia of the ancient world to rival Konye-Urgench and Merv in Central Asia.
This area was part of the Chagatai khanate, owned by Genghis’s second and most brutal son Chagatai.
Timur was a feisty young man in his youth, with a penchant for violence and mischief.
In one old story, he was said to be stealing cattle with his band of bandits when an arrow to the leg left him lame on one foot for the rest of his life.
His rise to greatness, and subsequently, the annihilation of nearly 20% of the world’s population at the time - 17 million people - started when a minor khan conscripted him and his band of bandits to negotiate some terms with his rival, in a brutal manner.
When Timur arrived at this patron’s camp, he played the double spy game, and sided with the enemy. Doing this over and over again between his original patron and two other minor khans in Transoxania - or the land between the rivers Jaxertes, now known as Syr Darya, and Oxus, now known as the Amu Darya.
Transoxania, on the other hand, is now the lands between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Upon securing his newfound glory in Transoxania, he needed to secure his status with the Mongol Urdu, or horde. Unfortunately, he cannot take the title of his forebear Genghis Khan as he was not a descendant of the great Mongol ruler.
He came up with a plan. He would marry one of Genghis Khan’s descendants and name himself Amir - a title he would bear to his death.
After his marriage, he decided he would reconsolidate the territories of the Mongol empire by reconquering the adjacent khanates and assimilating the people into his own. He started with the khanate due west of him - the Ilkhanate - a part of the Persian Empire. The Ilkhanate at this point in time was already a crumbling entity after the death of Abu Sa’id in 1335.
Timur - already ruling over present-day Turkmenistan - in 1383 started his campaign, marching his armies across Central Asia towards present-day Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq.
He started his campaign with Herat, 3rd largest city in Afghanistan and the seat of the Kartid dynasty - a Sunni Muslim dynasty with Tajik origin.
When Herat did not surrender Timur reduced the city to rubble and massacred most of its citizens; it remained in ruins until Shah Rukh ordered its reconstruction.
Timur, upon capturing a large part of what is now Afghanistan - now essentially ruling what was the rich lands of Khorasan from up north over Turkmenistan to down south in Afghanistan - decided to head west to the Zagros Mountains, part of present-day Iran and Iraq.
This journey took him through Manzadaran - an Iranian coastal province south of the Caspian Sea. Along his travels, he captured Tehran - who heard of his massacre of Herat and decided to surrender, thus gaining Timur’s mercy.
On his way west, he heard the news that Khorasan was threatening a revolt, particularly how a governor he placed to oversee the town was murdered by followers of Shaikh Da'ud-I Khitatai. So he doubled back east to show the people disloyal to him how he treats treason.
Death visited the town of Isfizar, where the atrocity took place, and as retribution - as a show of force - Timur massacred a big portion of the population and cemented people alive into the walls.
Let's end this dark story here for now - watch out for the second installment on Monday, May 18, 2020 - 8 A.M. +8 GMT
Rhiz Manalo, is the co-partner to CentrAsia Tours, Co-Founder, and Co-Owner of The White Dog Collective. He is a seasoned digital marketing expert, an experienced blogger, systems architect, web designer, and a loving father to a beautiful 7-year-old girl whom he misses so much! Check out his portfolio here.