Tamerlane and the Towers of Severed Heads

Tamerlane, Skulls, severed heads, conquests

If you are looking for someone who exemplified the art of subtlety, don’t spend a lot of time studying Tamerlane (1336-1405). He was also known by the name Timur the Lame, but don’t make the mistake of thinking the “Lame” meant that he was boring. The nickname was given to him because of a lifelong limp. This handicap did not slow him down in the field of battle or in the technique of psychological warfare.

Tamerlane’s exploits in the conquest of Persia are so legendary that it is difficult to separate the myth from reality. What remains unquestioned, however, is that the guy wasn’t in the least repulsed by bloodshed.

Tamerlane conquered the city of Isfahan in 1387. Since the city immediately surrendered, Tamerlane treated the inhabitants with relative mercy. The lenient treatment ended, however, when Tamerlane’s tax collectors were killed in an act of rebellion. Tamerlane responded by slaughtering the city’s citizens. The fatality reports range from 100,000 to 200,000 people.

Just in case anyone held any lingering doubts about what would happen to anyone who opposed him, Tamerlane constructed more than 28 towers, each one made out of about 1,500 severed heads.

Following his defeat of Baghdad in 1393, Tamerlane decided that less is more. He had 90,000 severed heads on hand, recently liberated from the necks of Baghdad’s defenders. Tamerlane constructed 120 towers from the gory trophies, sending a clear message that it’s best not to mess with Tamerlane.

Tamerlane died on his way to attempt to conquer Ming China. He was entombed in Uzbekistan with dire warnings throughout his tomb, warning that his killing spree would continue against anyone who disturbed his eternal slumber. Those warnings were not heeded, and some wonder if Tamerlane’s Curse contributed to one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

Read more fun facts about history.

Read more fun facts about warfare.

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