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Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  446 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Tamerlane (1336-1405)-the tartar successor to Genghis Khan-ranks with Alexander the Great as one of the world’s greatest conquerors. His armies were ferocious, feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. They blazed through Asia like a firestorm, razing cities, torturing captives, and massacring enemies. Anyone who dared defy Tamerlane was likely decapitated, and towers of ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Da Capo Press (first published 2004)
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Nov 13, 2012 Sheri rated it really liked it
I'd always heard of Tamerlane, but never knew who the heck he was, other than some sort of warrior leader from the Middle Ages. I even thought he was European; maybe French or English. How wrong was I???

Turns out that this guy was the biggest world conqueror ever, other than perhaps Genghis Khan. Unlike Genghis, who was an animist, Tamerlane was Muslim, and called himself the "Sword of Islam," although probably the vast majority of his victims were also Muslim. He started as a minor warlord in
Jul 20, 2014 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Temur-i-Leng, aka Tamerlane, doubtlessly led a fascinating - and bloodsoaked - life. He conquered a vast empire by clever military tactics, a pragmatic approach to religion (using whichever religious tradition served him best at any given moment) and an absolute ruthlessness and utter lack of mercy.

I would have loved to read a book devoted to a factual account of his life, with in-depth analysis of what it was that enabled a man of such humble beginnings to rise to absolute power in Central Asi
Jeff Lanter
Dec 28, 2014 Jeff Lanter rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I would describe Tamerlane: Sword of Islam as an interesting, but uneven book that is perhaps just a bit too long for its own good. As a historical figure, Temur is easy to respect for his prowess as a general, but is not a particularly likable person. He used religion as an excuse to start wars and mostly killed fellow Muslims (in spite of throwing religion in their faces). He permitted and often encouraged raping and pillaging after victory. Taking the heads of innocent people after a battle w ...more
James (JD) Dittes
Tamerlane, during his 35-year rampage through Asia, left a trail of blood that would make Hitler blanch. With that said, Marozzi could easily have filled the book with corpses and pyramids of skulls. What makes this book great, though, is that Marozzi finds sympathy--even admiration--for the "Scourge of Islam." He focuses on Tamerlane's strategies, his intellect, even the architecture that he inspired. Marozzi's personal accounts of visits to Asia's fabled forgotten cities--Samarkand, Balkh, Her ...more
Marc Brackett
Jan 08, 2013 Marc Brackett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been on a bit of a power trip lately. I can remember turning 30 and thinking that at nearly the same age Alexander the Great was conquering the known world. So as I near 40 I have returned in search of more stable appropriate role models.

This all started with a startling factoid that it is thought that 1 out of every 200 people on the planet is a descendant of Genghis Khan or for sure someone who came from Mongolia in the middle 13th century (based on DNA and populations sampling).

So I rea
Azimah  Othman
Jun 14, 2009 Azimah Othman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am actually re-reading this book. I have a number of recently acquired books on the Mughal Empire and I thought that I should refresh my memory from the time of Tamerlane making plans to march into India. He planned what Alexander the Great and Genghiz Khan had not done. Alexander barely crossed the Indus River, Genghiz turned back from the apalling heat of India.

While a leader got to do what a leader got to do in order to gain loyalty of his people and obedience of the conquered, I am more in
Feb 24, 2017 Charles rated it really liked it
I, and many others, have been exhausted in recent months by the nonstop political noise machine. So I pulled this book off the shelf, figuring that a biography of the 14th Century warlord Tamerlane would be pretty much non-political. Maybe not as non-political as a coffee table book about, say, flowers, but close, and to me more interesting. I was not disappointed. This book proved an informative escape—depressing at times, certainly, like any tale of violence, but at least I didn’t have to thin ...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 10, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it really liked it
I found myself wondering how I could possibly have heard so little of Temur before reading this. The name "Tamerlane" or "Tamburlaine" crops up now and again when reading Gibbon or Poole, but more than the name and its derivation from Timur the Lame (Temur-i-leng) one seldom hears. Marozzi's book comes as a welcome corrective, and as a bonus it is a joy to read, written with a truly poetic turn of phrase.

The mongols Cengiz and Khubilai Khan are familiar names. Alexander more so. It comes as a su
Mar 12, 2009 Mike rated it it was ok
Once upon a time there was a man named Temur who lived to conquor, and did it well. He crushed his enemies, saw them driven before him, and heard the lamentation of their women. Bloody towers built from recently-severed human heads were raised immediately following victory; more stable towers constructed with traditional materials were to follow. Along with Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan, the lord of the fortunate conjunction, Amin Temur, is one of the greatest conquerors of all time.

I'm sure the narration, addressed to the wider world audience won't lose anything should the long portion dedicated to Marlowe's Tamburlaine play was absent. It's a different class altogether (History of Early Modern English Literature, perhaps?) to consider this piece in Tamerlane's biography, no doubt overburdened with details more pertinent to the book's title. Marlowe's book is not a primary source to be trusted (he never been anywhere close to Asia) let alone to spread over dozens of pages ...more
Dec 28, 2009 Mike rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-away, abandoned
Given its subject matter, this ought to be one of the most exciting books I've ever read, but it goes off on so many tangents that I'm finding it increasingly heavy going. I don't really understand, for example, why we should be subjected to an extended section on Marlowe's play, when we've already been told that early opinions as to Timur's life and character were faulty or one-sided. And why on earth do we suddenly have a description of the Aral Sea's problems under the soviet system, when we' ...more
Oct 16, 2010 Tlaloc rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I have to admit that this book was written with both historical poise and a taste for action; it almost makes you feel sympathetic towards an uncouth warlord that had little qualms about dealing most un-gently with whoever got in his way.

This is mostly biographical. I initially hoped to find choice data on Tamerlane and his empire, such as economic figures or military data other than 'army of x soldiers'. Better luck next time.
Ahmed Abdul rehman
Feb 24, 2017 Ahmed Abdul rehman rated it really liked it
I have a profound love of history especially of oriental and Muslim empires. This book is really good and gives you an overall picture of the 14th century Asia. I would describe this book more a profound look into the psyche and mind of the great Tatar conqueror than a historical reference book(which I thought it would be), nonetheless if I struggled in the beginning to hold on to it I couldn't let it go. Justin Marrozi has done justice to Timur. He has used historical references of Arabshah and ...more
Jul 07, 2016 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two things I knew about Tamerlane (Temur the Lame) before I read this book. He was actually lame and he built huge pyramids of his victims' heads to discourage others to resist him.

Two things I didn't know about Tamerlane before I read this book. He was a Muslim and he was not a descendent of Ghengis Khan.

Of course, there are myriads of things I didn't know or I wouldn't have read this book. For instance, Temur was the son of a minor official and worked his way up to the top. There was no heredi
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Nov 12, 2013 Babak Fakhamzadeh rated it liked it
Shelves: history, iran, far-east
Marozzi has an engaging style of writing, is very pleasant to read but is, not yet at least, a match for the likes of John Man, with whom it's just too easy to compare this author.

Not sure why, but Marozzi also really wants to make the point that Tamerlane was more of a conqueror than Chinggis Khan and he clearly does not agree with John Man's description of that conqueror. Although Marozzi also is very credible in his writing, I was baffled to spot some obvious mistakes, including one date, pl
Apr 12, 2014 Vijay rated it it was amazing
One has heard much about the brutality and the unparalleled military genius of Genghis Khan, but unfortunately very little is known of Timur the lame who was equal in measure in terms of land he conquered, the ruthlessness he displayed against whoever dared to defy him and the vice like grip he had over his disparate army of tribes and followers.

Timur was born in Kazakhstan. The exploits of Timur was suppressed by erstwhile soviet Russia, to prevent a rallying point for the people of Kazakhistan
May 04, 2010 Greg rated it liked it
A fun piece of light history... I have no idea how accurate Marozzi's account of Tamerlane is, since he provides little in the way of sources, but he weaves together a fascinating and entertaining story. He regularly digresses to describe his own experiences in modern-day Uzbekistan, which I found distracting but still enjoyed on a personal level because they brought to mind my own travels there. Marozzi has a gift for evocative description, and in my opinion he grasps very well the contradictio ...more
Taymour Siddiqui
Dec 12, 2016 Taymour Siddiqui rated it liked it
An interesting read but he does go off on a lot of tangents and quite a bit of it is hard to follow if you are not well versed in the History of this period and area. For example, he'll reference geographic regions and names of a people throughout the book but if you're not familiar with the names, you'll be lost. Furthermore, if you look at his bibliography, you will see that the majority of his sources are western sources and not of that area and time period, so it may be a bit imbalanced vers ...more
Oct 15, 2009 John rated it it was ok
A journalist acquaintance of mine recently described New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins' book about Afghanistan, The Forever War, as "the best book ever written about Dexter Filkins." That catty but spot-on comment about how journalists tend to become the subjects of their books, whatever their ostensible topic, stuck with me as I read Justin Marozzi's book on Tamerlane. It's one thing for Filkins to make his book about Afghanistan also a book about himself -- after all, he's here covering t ...more
Dec 21, 2016 Charit rated it really liked it
Wow, such savagery and conquest by one man and not much left to show for it, not too long after! Had it not been for age, he would have gone for China and Europe too.
Sep 15, 2008 Nicholas rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Central Asian history.
The story of Tamerlane (or Temur, Tamerlane being a pejorative term, commenting on his lame leg, due to a war wound) can be summed up in the following: He rose to power, he killed a lot of people, he died. Not an uncommon story, in fact, summed up, it all seems pretty standard. The text is mostly for someone interested in Central Asia's long and less then illustrious history, and who needs a detailed account a figure, much like his beautiful cities of Samarkand and Bukhara*, have been lost to ti ...more
Excellent book on the fearsome Tamerlane, the man who came from a small village in the Qashka Darya valley and rose to conquer half the known world. This is narrative history at its finest, Marozzi going beyond the dry facts to embellish his account with plausible imaginative touches to Timur's career and tales of his own travels in Central Asia. And what a career too - Timur laid waste to Moscow and Baghdad, Delhi and Damascus, Aleppo and Tiflis and Isfahan like a raging hurricane tearing acros ...more
Zeke Chase
Jun 19, 2014 Zeke Chase rated it really liked it
Shelves: mongol
This was an okay book. There's few books available on Tamerlane, and this one's a tour-de-force that covers everything, right down to the palatial gardens so grand that a prized horse managed to be lost in them for 6 months. I was overall not thoroughly impressed with some of the detail Marozzi went into, the long tangents where he's arguing with Uzbeks or the Taliban, the history of Marlowe, but I suppose some readers would greatly like this information and it's a good book if you know how to n ...more
Wood Duck
Dec 21, 2016 Wood Duck rated it it was ok
Brutality cataloged
Jun 17, 2007 Felipe rated it liked it
Recommends it for: patient people
Provides excellent information into the life and conquests of Tamerlane due to the author's meticulous and strong research. The research is derived from many sources, each with differing bias toward Tamerlane, strengthening the book. The book, however, has two main flaws: digressions and authorial personal observations. Scattered throughout the accounts of Tamerlane's life are digressions which discuss history not related to the subject matter (some Soviet history) and lengthy personal observati ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Jonathan rated it it was ok
Mongol invasions have largely been forgotten in the West. Europe was lucky that the Mongol invaders never turned their attention westward, as they devastated everything that they passed through. Tamberlane laid waste to any city that opposed him in the 14th and early 15th centuries. He often didn't even spare civilians. His troops would make towers out of thousands of skulls. Tamberlane was a brilliant tactician, and he never lost a battle. He scared the mighty, Indian war elephants with burning ...more
Colin Rush
Nov 19, 2009 Colin Rush rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
This was the first and probably only book I had read about Timur. It had very detailed information taken from many different contemporary sources, as well as from visit made by the author to the cities that Timur conquered. Unfortunately, most of Tamerlane's kingdom did not weather the years well, suffering the most during the Soviet occupation, and later the Taliban residency. Hopefully many of the old monuments are restored and available for viewing once again. One has to wonder how different ...more
Alia Salleh
Dec 27, 2012 Alia Salleh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable part narrative history, part travelogue. Considering the lack of popular history books on Amir Temur, this book is a gem. Like a lot of books, the first few chapters are pretty slow & discouraging. BUT bear with it - soon enough I was properly transported to Central Asia (& later I don't want to leave). He writes of Temur generally in a chronological way & slips in between his journey anecdotes & lush description of Temur's beloved cities & the ones he conquer ...more
Ronald Jones
Justin Marozzi has done an admirable job of combining the present with the past in this grand, often disturbing study of one of history's bloodiest and most successful conquerer. Tamerlane was an Asian warlord who, through lifelong campaigning, followed in the footsteps of Genghis Khan to forge a vast Central Asian empire. Marozzi chronicles Tamerlane's life, while recounting his own experiences in the lands where this restless conquerer's armies plundered and pillaged. A great read for anyone i ...more
Sanity Assasin
Dec 20, 2010 Sanity Assasin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy reading about such historical figures as genghis khan or attila
i enjoyed it as it illuminated some middle eastern history (an area i've not read alot about) and most importantly brought a historical figure to my attention that i'd never heard of. problem is like so many historical figures (and i know it's not the authors fault) there's not enough known about them... this being a prime example... so alot of information was repetitive and although the book is mostly never dull (due to the author making it into a bit of a travel journal too) it still could've ...more
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[Excerpt from]

Justin is a travel writer, historian, journalist and political risk and security consultant. He has travelled extensively in the Middle East and Muslim world and in recent years has worked in conflict and post-conflict environments such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur. He graduated from Cambridge with a Starred Double First in History in 1993, befo
More about Justin Marozzi...

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