Tamerlane

Justin Marozzi

The name of the last great warlord conjures up images of mystery and romance: medieval warfare on desert plains; the clash of swords on snow-clad mountains; 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. Justin Marozzi follows in his path and evokes his legacy in telling the tale of this fabulously cruel, magnificent and romantic warrior.

Reviews of Tamerlane

  • ‘Using many contemporary sources, Marozzi creates a convincing portrait of a complex man…An engaging mixture of history, travelogue and contemporary reportage. Well written and skilfully put together.’ Jonathan Sumption, Sunday Telegraph, Books of the Year

    ‘He has brought the mighty warrior in from the cold and allowed him to stalk these pages with bloody magnificence.’ Sunday Times

    ‘Walking…about the dazzling buildings that are Tamur’s legacy, [Marozzi] brilliantly conveys how everything goes in cycles, both in nature and in human affairs.’ Daily Telegraph

    ‘Excellent…Provides a superbly rounded and vivid portrait of one of history’s most fascinating personalities.’ Evening Standard

    ‘As well researched in libraries as with boots on the ground in some of the world’s more impenetrable places, this is a fine study of a neglected but linchpin historical figure.’ Daily Mail

    ‘Robust, enthusiastic and richly detailed…full of fascinating, if often gruesome, anecdotes.’ Literary Review

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