The Turco-Mongolian warlord Timur is usually portrayed as a fairly one-dimensional figure, a brutal conqueror who had no broader ambitions beyond building piles of his enemies’ skulls and amassing a vast empire. He’s usually just lumped into a collection of Asiatic despots in a line starting with Genghis Khan, or Attila the Hun if you want to reach back into ancient history. Even the descriptor I just used for him, “Turco-Mongolian,” reads like shorthand for “exotic Oriental man.” Its actual meaning can vary a bit, but for our purposes I’m going with “an ethnic Mongol who spoke a Turkic language and practiced Islam.”
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