From Publishers Weekly
By the time of his death in 1405, the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane-a pejorative derivative of the nickname "Temur the Lame"-commanded as much land and fear as any ruler in history. Literally following in the footsteps of Ghengis Khan, he built his empire with one invasion after the next, eventually amassing a kingdom that stretched "from Moscow to the Mediterranean, from Delhi to Damascus." Nonetheless, Tamerlane remains relatively unknown in the Western world, taking a historical backseat to Ghengis despite a reign and ruthlessness every bit as remarkable. Faced with such a complex and underreported subject, Marozzi delivers an exceptional account of the emperor's life, revealing him to be both an extravagantly merciless tyrant and tireless proponent for the cultural and architectural progress in his beloved Samarkand (in modern day Uzbekistan). One peculiar choice, however, is the book's subtitle, as Tamerlane killed tens of thousands of his fellow Muslims along his so-called "pilgrimage of destruction," including a particularly bloody massacre of Baghdad that left 90,000 dead, "their heads cemented into 120 towers." The subtitle certainly wasn't chosen for a lack of nicknames, as Tamerlane's life produced plenty: "Lord of the Fortunate Conjunction." "Emperor of the Age." "Unconquered Lord of the Seven Climes." "Scourge of God." The list goes on, too, leading one to wonder how it is that such a large part of the world hardly recognizes name.
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This revisionist history traces the rise of the fourteenth-century warlord Temur -- known in the West as Tamerlane -- from a crippled peasant boy wandering the steppe to ruler of half the known world. Marozzi asserts that while Temur, like Genghis Kahn, specialized in razing cities and slaughtering their inhabitants, he also had the wisdom to rebuild, and Islamic art and architecture flourished on his watch. Marozzi quotes widely from contemporaneous accounts, relishing the fantastical detail. In India, for example, Temur countered the armored elephants of Delhi with "roaring camels on fire," then had the defeated beasts brought before him and forced to kneel. Along the way, Marozzi makes a pilgrimage through Temur's former empire, and argues that the Soviets outdid the warlord in destruction by turning the once fertile basin of Central Asia into a dust bowl.
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