Timur the Zoroastrian
Timur LR
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Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) ruled an empire that stretched from Kyrgyzstan to Damascus, from the Aral Sea to the Indus River. He founded a dynasty that would last hundreds of years. Timur the Lame indeniable left his mark on places as far apart as China and Jerusalem.

But the most important event in the whole of Timur's life is his conversion to Zoroastrianism. Because of this choice, Zoroastrianism once again became the dominant religion in the Zagros Mountains, Eastern Caucasus, Persia, Khorasan, and Central Asia.

Conversion to Zoroastrianism

Timur had no claim to become a khan because a khan had to be descended from Genghis Khan. He also had no claim to be a caliph because a caliph had to be related to Muhammed. He had no claim to kingship. For a time, he had a puppet khan as ruler. However, he came across Zoroastrianism. Realizing that such a religion would give him a claim to kingship, he removed the khan of the Chagatai Khanate, who was essentially a puppet anyway, and declared himself to be a Zoroastrian and chosen by Ahura Mazda to restore Zoroastrianism to dominance. Timur now had a legitimate reason to invade Persia. Ironically, in the Timurid Empire, Muslims were forced to pay jizya tax. Almost overnight, the aristocracy became Zoroastrians, promoting the Zoroastrian faith.


There was a power vacuum in Persian after the Ilkhanate fell. Timur began his invasion of Persia in 1383 and, by 1386, almost all of Persia was under Timur's control. In 1387, the last Persian city to not be under his rule, Isfahan, was under siege.Timur ordered all 200,000 inhabitants slaughtered and the city repopulated by Zoroastrians. Timur's belief was that conversion into or away from Zoroastrianism was impossible. Hence, he accepted all Persians as Zoroastrians, but taxed those that did not believe in Ahura Mazda. By 1340, half of Persia's population was Zoroastrian.
Tokhtamysh was khan of both the White and Golden Hordes. He was an ally of Timur until an event occurred. Turning against his ally, Tokhtamysh invaded Azerbaijan in 1385. Timur, facing this invasion, invaded the parts of the Caucasus ruled by Tokhtamysh. In the Battle of the Terek River, Tokhtamysh was defeated by Timur. Tokhtamysh never regained his previous power and was assassinated by assassins hired by Timur in 1390.

Invasion of India

Islamic dynasties ruled over India. Timur sought to remove these dynasties due to a possible threat of them invading Persia. His invasion of the subcontinent was rapid due to support from Hindu populations. Timur was closing in on the Delhi Sultanate.

Conquest of Delhi

In 1395, Timur led Rajput armies into Delhi. These armies led over 4,000 war elephants against the only 300 led by the Delhi Sultanate. In addition, camels set on fire caused the elephants of the Delhi Sultanate to panic, while almost all Rajput elephants were turned away. The disrupted Delhi Sultanate army was easily destroyed.


Timur tolerated Hinduism because the religion was very similar to Zoroastrianism. Timur's belief that conversion into or out of Zoroastrianism led to him forcing people to convert to Hinduism rather than Zoroastrianism. By the time Timur died, Islam was almost dead in India.

Invasion of Anatolia

Timur believed that all Turks were originally Zoroastrian. This included the Ottoman Empire. In 1398, Timur began an invasion of Anatolia. Despite Venetian support because, as a letter states, "It is better to have an enemy we can handle than Timur." Eastern Anatolia fell to Timur in 1401, setting the stage for the expansion of the Byzantine Empire.

Wars with the Ming Dynasty

The Chinese always thought of Central Asia as a vassal. The Timurid Empire was no exception. The Hongwu and Yongle Emperors both sent letters addressing Timur as a vassal and requested tribute. This would prove to be a mistake. Timur's generals invaded China in 1398 and destroyed a vast region of China. The Yongle Emperor surrendered to his army and Timur gained control over all of Central Asia in 1402, setting its path for Zoroastrianization.

Tenth Crusade

Main Article: Tenth Crusade
Weaknesses in the Muslim world caused the Tenth Crusade in 1401. Timur officially supported the crusade, sending troops in the reconquest of Jerusalem. Although he did not live to see the fall of Granada or Rif to the Christendom, his troops helped substantially in the Crusade. One of the last events before his death was his sack of Baghdad in 1405. He brought it to such ruin that "not even birds flew in Baghdad for six months." However, on the way home, he died and was given a Zoroastrian funeral.

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