Mongols, Turks, and Others: Eurasian Nomads and the Sedentary World

By Reuven Amitai; Michal Biran | Go to book overview

NOMAD AND SETTLED IN THE TIMURID MILITARY
Beatrice Forbes Manz

In 1370 the Turco-Mongolian conqueror Temür (Tamerlane) founded the Timurid state, one of a succession of nomad dynasties that controlled the Middle East from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries. As the last of the nomad rulers to conquer from the borderlands, Temür brought in new nomad troops and within Iran inherited a mixed population of urban, agricultural, nomadic and mountain peoples, along with a dual system of administration based on difference of lifestyle and interest. The Timurids followed earlier precedent and organized their government in two sets of offices, one held by TurcoMongolian commanders and centered on the military and the court, another staffed with Iranians and concerned primarily with correspondence and fiscal affairs.1 Theoretically then, military activity was the province of the Turks. It is clear however that formal structure did not represent the full reality of military manpower and activity. Under the Timurids as under earlier nomad dynasties, Iranians served in the military, though only rarely in the highest ranks. To achieve an understanding of military dynamics then, we must include Iranian personnel. In this paper I plan to assess the importance of settled Iranians in military affairs, examining particularly the role of a segment of settled society rarely counted among military actors, namely the urban population.

One problem we face in estimating the importance of settled military forces lies in the conventions of our sources. Historical chronicles, both before and after the Mongol invasion, give us individual examples of Iranians who were active in the military sphere and relate events in which city populations played a role, but when they enumerate the troops in descriptions of campaigns and military reviews they consistently emphasize the preeminence of the Turco-Mongolian military. For the Timurid period we possess a particularly valuable

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1
There was also a chancellery using the Chaghatay language and staffed with Turks, but there is little evidence of the activities of this branch.

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