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Children of Tamerlane


Gur-e-Amir - a mausoleum of the Asian conqueror Timur (also known as Tamerlane) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Copyright: under license from ShutterStock)

Edgar Allen Poe wrote a fictionalized poem about Timur that was published anonymously in 1827, lamenting a love traded for ambition. Marlowe wrote a fictionalized play about him in 1587, "Tamburlaine, the Great", that tells of humble origins as a Scythian shepherd, the love of an Egyptian princess, and success in conquering the world.


Poe's notes in the original publication tell of the light connection to any historical facts:

“Of the history of Tammerlane little is known; and with that little I have taken the full liberty of a poet. That he was descended from the family of Zinghis Khan is more than probable.- but he is vulgarly supposed to have been the son of a shepherd, and to have raised himself to the throne by his own address.He died in the year of 1405, in the time of Pope Innocent VII.”
-Edgar Allen Poe, 1827, Notes on Tamerlane

Nevertheless there is a person named Timur behind these stories with a reputation for brutality, who could line up with the description of a triumphant, proud spirit in Poe's poem:

I have not been always as now
The fever’d diadem on my brow
I claim’d and won usurpingly 
Ay - the same heritage hath given
Rome to Caesar this to me;
The heirdom of a kingly mind -
And a proud spirit, which hath striven
Triumphantly with human kind.
- Edgar Allen Poe, Tamerlane, 1827

A brutally successful military commander, he built an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the border of China. Timur was born April 9th, 1336, in Kesh, near Samarkand, Transoxania (now in Uzbekistan) and died February 19th, 1405, in Otrar, near Chimkent (now in Kazakhstan). To legitimize his position Timur placed Soyurgatmish, a member of Ögedei Khan's family (third son of Genghis Khan) on the throne of Western Chagatai province. Timur then ruled as an Amir. When Soyurgatmish died, his son Mahmud was made khan by Timur. Like his father, Mahmud served only as puppet to Timur. This first coin calls out Timur as Amir to Sultan Mahmud Khan and is the reference coin from the Zeno database.

Timurid, Timur with Mahmud Khan, 790-807AH / AD1388-1405, AR Tanka, NM (Herat) mint, only one digit of date on flan: [7]9[6] AH 796 (1394 AD). Ref: A.2386, this coin the Zeno reference coin 267254 ex M. Tye May 1995 list 11 #105


Timurid, Timur (Tamerlane) AH 771-807/1370-1405, AR 1/8 tanka (?) 1g 14mm, without his nominal overlord, thus likely struck during the last two years of his reign, uncertain mint, undated, local type not specifically listed in the Stephen Album's Checklist - extremely rare coin, perhaps unique?

Ref: A.2388 (var) , Zeno 267257 (this coin)


Timur was feared for his brutal destruction of cities and massacres of the inhabitants. The next three coins come from the son of Timur, Shahrukh. After Timur's death the western portion of his empire was lost, however Shahrukh still held control of the main trade routes between Asia and Europe including the Silk Road which brought great wealth. He chose Herat as the capital over Samarkand.

Islamic, Persia (Post-Mongol), Timurids, Shahrukh I, AH 807-850 / CE 1405-1447, AR Tanka (21mm, 4.39g), dated AH 828 (AD 1426), Sabzawar mint

Obv: Shahrukh with titles, year and mint

Rev: (Album type T1) kalima in three lines within square "la ilah illa / Allah muhammad / rasul Allah" which translates as "There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah". The names of the four Rashidun ("rightly guided") caliphs in petals around the square, the first four caliphs of Islam who reigned 632-661 CE.

Ref: SICA 9, 388–9; Album 2405


This Google map shows the location of Sabzawar in western Afghanistan.

Tamerlane derives from Timur Lang and Lenk a Persian name used in contempt by his rivals مور لنگ‎ is literally “Timur the Lame”. He is thought to have been wounded in his early life by arrows to his leg and hand from which he lost two fingers from his right hand and retained a permanent limp. He also took the title “Royal son in law” or Küregen after marrying in 1367 the princess Saray Mulk Khanum of the Chagatai Khanate, a descendant of Ghengis Khan’s second son Chagatai Khan. The Chagatai Khanate had been independent of the Mongol Empire for a century or more by the time of Timur.


Timur was born April 9th, 1336, in Kesh, near Samarkand, Transoxania (now in Uzbekistan) and died February 19th, 1405, in Otrar, near Chimkent (now in Kazakhstan).


In Poe’s poem, Timur relates his story to a “friar”, this seems not so improbable when reading of a Dominican friar sent in August 1401 to Timur's court by John VII Palaiologos to pay respect to Timur. Timur would defeat Turkish ruler Bayezid I in Ankara in 1402, this worked in favor of John VII and the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople by ending a 5-year struggle with Bayezid.


This second coin from Shahrukh is from Astarabad in AH 829. This map shows where Astarabad is in Northern Iran about 20 miles from the Caspian Sea.

This coin another variation of Album 2405 with a similar reverse with Kalima and Rashudin. The date assigned is deduced as it is a year that contains a 9 and is later than the coinage reform of 828 AH and was represented in a hoard deposited in 833AH.

Islamic, Persia (Post-Mongol), Timurids, Shahrukh I, AH 807-850 / CE 1405-1447, AR Tanka (21mm, 4.39g), assigned to AH 829 (AD 1426), Astarabad mint

Obv: Shahrukh with titles, year and mint

Rev: (Album type T1) kalima in three lines within square "la ilah illa / Allah muhammad / rasul Allah" which translates as "There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah". The names of the four Rashidun ("rightly guided") caliphs in petals around the square, the first four caliphs of Islam who reigned 632-661 CE.


Timurid Dynasty Shahrukh Mirza (reigned 1405-1447) 828 AH Herat mint (?) beh bud countermark of Sultan Husayn after an attempt to reform the currency - the countermarks revalued coins in terms of a standard dinar. A 5g tanka was valued at 6 dinars. (Album-2437). Beh bud means “prosperity”, and was the name of Sultan Husayn’s coinage. Sultan Husayn (Abu’l-Ghazi), at Herat, AH 873-911 / AD 1469-1506.


One of Timur's great-great-great-grandsons was Zahīr ud-Dīn Muhammad Babur, founder of the Moghul Empire in 1526, a dynasty that would survive into the middle of the 19th century. This Rupee is a coin from 1732 from one of the descendants of Babur.

Muhammad Shah, Akbarabad Mustaqir al-Khilafa, Silver Rupee(11.4g, 23.7mm), AH 1145, 1732 CE, Regnal Year 15

Obv: sikka mubarak badshah ghazi

Rev: sana julus zarb


Cover print for this Note is public domain and comes from : "The universal geography: earth and its inhabitants", Reclus, Elisée, published 1876-94, London, J.S. Virtue & Co., Ltd., Volume 6 : Asiatic Russia

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