Would it be a controversial opinion in military history circles to believe that Timur was a more impressive general than Genghis?

Mar 2016
1,079
Australia
#1
The more I read about Timur, the more it makes me think surpassed Genghis if not in overall scope of conquest, but in the brilliance of his individual campaigns, and the impressive diversity of enemies he fought and beat. Genghis fought against other steppe tribes, the northern Chinese and the Kwarezmians, while Timur fought everyone from Persians to Indians to the Ottomans to the Crusaders to the Golden Horde, and won every time. Timur's victory against Delhi is, in my opinion, far more impressive than any individual action that Genghis achieved. God only knows what he could have achieved if he reached China before he died.
 
Jan 2015
5,437
Ontario, Canada
#2
I have a similar feeling on the matter. Not really sure though because I would want to hammer out the details. But it really is a close run thing.

It is important to point out that where as Genghis started out as a simple steppe nomad, Timur's army had over a hundred years of the Mongol tradition. By the time Timur came on the scene the Mongols had conquered massive territories then their empire collapsed and fought against each other in various wars. In Timur's time these Mongols were fighting as a result of the collapse of the Chagatai Khanate and the Il Khanate. For that reason they had complex and veteran armies which could provide capable infantry and carry out sieges, in addition to various kinds of cavalry and nomadic knowledge. On the one hand this means that Timur had to face tough opposition but still had a very good army. Where as Genghis had to start with his nomadic army and use it to battle civilized opponents, adapting as they went along.

Addressing the opponents of Genghis.
Genghis fought the Jin Jurchens which were actually tribal people from Manchuria which had invaded Northern China. So Genghis didn't actually fight the native Song Dynasty which was all the way in the south. Over the span of the century the Jin Jurchen became Sinicized. The court moved to from Manchuria to China and they adopted writing as well as Chinese style administration and customs. While they could raise armies from Chinese peasants and military families the majority of their forces were raised from nomads of various ethnic origins. The adoption of the court of a sedentary lifestyle was perceived as being decadent by many nomads and this made them unpopular among many of their nomadic subjects, including the nomadic Jurchen in Manchuria. At the time Genghis came to power the Jin Jurchen were technically the rulers of Mongolia and even conferred court titles to Genghis (the rank of Jaud Khuri) and also to his predecessor Toghoril (actually the title of Wang which means King, ergo "Ong" Khan). Although their control of the Mongolian steppe was tenuous because controlling these nomads was very difficult.

Another opponent were the Tanguts who controlled Gansu province, the state of Xi Xia. The Tanguts were a tribe in that general area of Tibet. They too were nomadic initially but settled in Gansu and became somewhat sedentary (adopting writing). Their armies had some Chinese as well but largely relied on Tangut tribesmen.

Their opponent to the immediate west of Mongolia were the Khitans. The Khitans were also a nomadic tribe which originated in that area of Mongolia. In the 900's they came out of Mongolia and conquered Manchuria and parts of northern China. Thus establishing the Liao Dynasty. They too eventually were affected by the local culture and began a period of sedentary life. Still they relied on their tribal cavalry. By the 1100's they began losing ground to the Jurchens who conquered them. A group migrated west to Central Asia and established the Kara Khitai (Western Liao) in 1124. These were later defeated by Genghis from 1216-1218. Since they originally ruled Mongolia and then lost control to the Jurchens, the period of the 1100's was regarded as a period without a clear power holder. This actually puts the rise of Genghis Khan into context as the Jin Jurchens were unable to effectively control the area.
 
Likes: macon
May 2018
113
Bordeaux
#4
Timur is unbeatable monster.
There are no equal of his military career in history.
On other hand Chinggis Khan just a bit overrated general(like his general Subutai)
He don't have fantastic military success unlike Timur
 
Feb 2018
205
US
#6
It's not controversial so much as it doesn't make much sense, even if you ignore political and administrative skill. Unfortunately this is a very difficult subject to really study in depth due to a lack of good synthesis books and source availability. To give some starting points for you to research, Timur fought weaker opponents using an army built upon the established tradition of the Chaghatai Ulus. It's obvious if you compare the strategies that Genghis Khan had to use in the Jin campaign, the Khwarezm campaign, and the 2nd Xi Xia campaign that he faced a different level of obstacle. Timur could afford to be much more direct. For example, he never had to deal with anything like the Ala Shan fortified lines of the Tanguts, or the Jin densely-fortified cities and mountain passes, nor an enemy as strong as the Jin (or possibly even Khwarezm).

Babur's conquest of Northern India, for example, was far more difficult than Timur's, even if Timur was clearly the better leader overall. Timur invaded during a lengthy Tughluk Civil War, a point of serious weakness, while Babur fought a weakened but still more intact Lodi dynasty and defeated the Rajput coalition shortly after. However, Timur had the finest army in the world at his service, Babur was leading an inferior force driven into exile in Kabul. I personally hold his 1399-1404 campaign in much higher regard, along with the Golden Horde invasion. The former showed him at his strategic and tactical best, and the latter his organization, boldness, and persistence. Timur's victory over a mostly unified Golden Horde is the one type of obstacle he faced that Genghis Khan didn't.

I'd be interested to know which ruler was more reliant on skilled generals. I'm sure Ghenghis had a great military mind, but he also delegated a great deal to exceptional commanders like Subutai and Jebe.
Yes, Genghis definitely had a ridiculously stacked lineup of generals. Of course, he promoted and chose them himself, and the quality of Mongol generals declined heavily in later eras. Though it wasn't that he was reliant on their skill to win a war, it just allowed him to do way more than pre-20th century armies could do, much more quickly. For example, in 1216, Genghis Khan is training and handling administrative affairs in Mongolia, Muqali is fighting the Jin in Manchuria, Samuqa is fighting the Jin in Henan, Dorbei is campaigning in the Angara/Yenisei area Siberian forests, Jochi is campaigning against Siberian tribes to his west, Jebe is defeating Kara Kitai in the Tarim and Tien Shan, and Subutai is fighting Merkits, Kipchaks, and then the Khwarezm army in Central Asia. Or during the Khwarezmian campaign, while Genghis Khan is pacifying Afghanistan, Dorbei Doqshin is besieging Lahore, other forces are in Khorasan and the Aral Sea, Jochi is in the Central Asian Steppe, Muqali is in Shandong and Shaanxi, and Jebe/Subutai are in modern-day Ukraine. In the first case he was fighting 4 wars simultaneously, in the latter, 3, both times with large forces several thousands of miles away. The Jin and Khwarezmians would have been 2 out of the 3 or 4 strongest (non-Mongol)powers in the world. There is no parallel for this.
 
Mar 2012
4,340
#7
Competence is hard to guage in any direct manner, but the conquest of the Jin capital alone puts Chinggis Qan's feat above anything Timur ever accomplished. The Jin, with some 53 million registered subjects in its empire, is a league apart from any European or Middle Eastern states or even a combination of them. This is the regime which drove the Qara Khitai west, a small remnant of the Liao with only 10,000-20,000 soldiers, and annihilated the Seljuk army under the Sultan Sanjar and took Central Asia away from the Seljuk Empire, which was then terrorizing the west.
The Delhi Sultanate even at the height of its power was on the defensive against the Chagatai Qanate, and it was already fragmented when Timur invaded. The Golden Horde, Persia, Mamluks, and Ottoman combined had less manpower and resources than the Jin in 1200 nor matched its bureaucratic organization. Individually these states were barely more populous (and less militarized too) or extensive than Xi Xia or the Khwrezmian Empire, which Chinggis Qan conquered as well.
 
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Mar 2012
4,340
#8
Their opponent to the immediate west of Mongolia were the Khitans. The Khitans were also a nomadic tribe which originated in that area of Mongolia. In the 900's they came out of Mongolia and conquered Manchuria and parts of northern China. Thus establishing the Liao Dynasty. They too eventually were affected by the local culture and began a period of sedentary life. Still they relied on their tribal cavalry. By the 1100's they began losing ground to the Jurchens who conquered them. A group migrated west to Central Asia and established the Kara Khitai (Western Liao) in 1124. These were later defeated by Genghis from 1216-1218. Since they originally ruled Mongolia and then lost control to the Jurchens, the period of the 1100's was regarded as a period without a clear power holder. This actually puts the rise of Genghis Khan into context as the Jin Jurchens were unable to effectively control the area.

I would like to add that Mongolia was not without a clear power holder in the 1100s, it was for the most part under Jin rule. While the Jin was annihilating the Liao, Yelu Dashi moved to the center of Liao control of Mongolia; the fort of Kedun 可顿; (west of Ulanbaatar) and continued resisting against the Jin. Then after 1130, the Jin stroke against Yelu Dashi and forced him westwards (forming the Qara Khitai). The Jin took over Kedun city shortly after, stationed a garrison there, and took control of the rest of the Liao administration of Mongolia (except the Naimans in the western end, which remained under Western Liao control until 1176, when the Naimans switched their allegiance to the Jin). However, already in the 1130s, when the Jin called upon the Mongol tribes north of the Kherlen river for soldiers against the Western Liao remnants, they were denied. The Jin was campaigning against the Song at the time so it did not focus on the war north of the Gobi. After 1135, when truce was established with the Song, the Jin started to campaign against the Mongols consistently for four years. The details of these campaigns were lacking, but by 1139, the Jin campaigns stopped, and eventually the Jin had to abandon 27 garrisons north of the Kherlen river to the new Mongol power (but southern, eastern and central Mongolia was still under Jin control). The original Mongols north of Kherlen rejected Jin authority until they were eventually destroyed by the Tartars (Jin subjects) and submitted to the Jin by the 1160s. From the 1176 onwards, the Jin directly controlled Mongolia, with garrisons and even built a section of wall near the Kherlen river until 1196 when the Tartars broke off direct Jin control, only then did Jin control over Mongolia became merely nominal. Chingis Qan was originally a Jin subject and nominally remained so under Ong Qan's reign.
 
May 2018
113
Bordeaux
#9
Competence is hard to guage in any direct manner, but the conquest of the Jin capital alone puts Chinggis Qan's feat above anything Timur ever accomplished. The Jin, with some 53 million registered subjects in its empire, is a league apart from any European or Middle Eastern states or even a combination of them. This is the regime which drove the Qara Khitai west, a small remnant of the Liao with only 10,000-20,000 soldiers, and annihilated the Seljuk army under the Sultan Sanjar and took Central Asia away from the Seljuk Empire, which was then terrorizing the west.
The Delhi Sultanate even at the height of its power was on the defensive against the Chagatai Qanate, and it was already fragmented when Timur invaded. The Golden Horde, Persia, Mamluks, and Ottoman combined had less manpower and resources than the Jin in 1200 nor matched its bureaucratic organization. Individually these states were barely more populous (and less militarized too) or extensive than Xi Xia or the Khwrezmian Empire, which Chinggis Qan conquered as well.
1-)Lio army three time more bigger than Seljuks.
Nearly all sources confirmed this(except your Liao Shi)
Battle of Katwan does not prove anything.
We can see their war with Khwarezmians and Kara Khanids,how poor of Khitan army was.
2-)According to Mamluk sources Golden Horde have 2 million soldier capacity.
This can destroy anything your ''Muh super power'' Jin.
Also if you claim Jin more bureaucratic than Ottomans,you dont know anything.
Jin not even more bureaucraitic than Timur's Empire.
Stop exaggeration.
 
Mar 2012
4,340
#10
1-)Lio army three time more bigger than Seljuks.
Nearly all sources confirmed this(except your Liao Shi)
Piffles.
I know textual criticism isn't your strong point, but we've already done a topic on that and you are just making me repeating myself.
There is only one source which claimed the Liao army was bigger and that's "The Chronicles of Ibn al-Athir", written in the late 12th century which stated that Yelu Dashi had 300,000 cavalry while Sultan Sanjar only had 100,000;



"They head out for Sanjar Sultan's state, they send out an army of 300,000 cavalry. Sanjar and his army advanced against them, the two armies fought at ma wara a al-nahr and had a fierce battle. Sanjar's army was defeated, 100,000 was killed, including 11,000 Sahib al-Imamah and 4,000 women. Sanjar's wife also got captured. Sanar escaped to Tirmidh, then left there for Balkh. After Sanjar was defeated, the Khwarazmian king came to Marv, and entered the city to oppose Sanjar."


Abu al-Fida on the other hand stated that the force of the Sultan and the Gurkhan Yelu Dashi was about equal ('al-Mukhtasar, vol 3, page 15-16 in Arabic).

The Liao Shi stated clearly that the Khara Khitai only had 10,000-20,000 men, while the Seljuks had 100,000.

Liaoshi volume 30:

"When the Jin army arrived, Concubine Su de submitted to Tianzuo (last emperor of the Liao), Tianzuo was furious and killed Concubine Su and reprimanded Dashi: "I am still here, how could you establish a Hatun (empress), he replied, 'your majesty cannot defeat the enemy even with the whole empire's strength, and had to abandon the state to flee afar subjecting the people to hardship. Even if 10 empresses are established, they are still Taizu's descendants, isn't it better than falling into the hands of others?" The emperor had nothing to respond to, so he bestowed whine and food and forgave (Dashi's) crimes. Dashi was still uneasy, so he killed Suyixie Polikuo and established himself as the king, led a cavalry of 200 and fled. He traveled north for three days, passed the Black river, and met with Badada xiangwen Chuanguer. Chuanguer gave him 400 horses, 20 camel, and some sheeps. He traveled west to Keguo city and settled at Military protectorate of Beiting (Urumchi), he met with...18 kings and decreed to them: "Our ancestor created his state in hardship, now nine lords have ruled in 200 years. The Jin used to be our vassal, but now forced upon our dynasty, killing our people cutting up your prefectures and towns, making our emperor Tianzuo settling outside, I am sad day and night. I will now travel west, and I will borrow the strengths of the various vassals, to cut our enemy, and reestablish our territory, you also weep for our dynasty, worry about our ancestral spirit and think about saving the lord together and safe the people from hardship.' He then received an elite force of over 10,000, established official positions....
The next year, second month of Jiawu, (Yelu Dashi) used dark ox and white horse to sacrifice for heaven, ancestors and sorted out his army westwards. He fist send a letter to the Uighur king Bilege which said: 'In the past, our Taizu emperor attacked north, passed Puguhan city, and send an envoy to Ganzhou, asking your ancestor Wumuzhu and said: 'if you think about your old state, I will revive it for you, if you cannot return'... your ancestor submitted a memorial for thanks and moved back here for over ten generations, all the people are safely relocated and cannot go back. We are cordial not just for a day. Now I want to march west to the Taziks (Arab) and want a pass through your state, don't suspect this.' Bilege received the letter and received him at a lodging, feasted for three days. When its time to move, he submitted 600 horses, 100 camels, and 3000 goats, gave his grandson as a hostage to send outside of the borders. Wherever (the army passed, they won against the enemy, and those who surrendered were settled. The army traveled for 10,000 li, several states submitted...The army grew by day and the force doubled in a day. They arrived at Samarkand, the various western armies raised 100,000 at Khurasan to resist. The two armies faced each other at around 2 li. (Dashi) told the army: "the enemy forces are numerous but has no stratagem, if we attack it, the head and end of their army will not aid each other and we will certainly win. He send the Six department minister Dawang Suwo lila, and the vice commander Yelu Songshan to lead 2,500 to attack the left, and the Qumi vice minister Sulaabu, and expedition commander Yelu Shuxie to lead 2,500 to attack the left, and personally led the force to attack the center. The three armies attacked together and Khurasan was greatly defeated. Corps lay for tens of miles..."



What we actually have is three sources saying three different things, only one said the Liao army was larger (not nearly all, unless you don't know how to count), one said they were equal and one said it was much smaller. However, we need to keep in mind of the following:

1) The Liao Shi is a Liao source counting their own numbers, so its more reliable than Islamic sources bloating enemy figures.
2) The Islamic source itself mentions the Seljuks had 100,000.
3) Liao Shi confirmed the Islamic sources in saying the Seljuks had 100,000.
4) No army from Mongolia could mobilize 300,000 against Central Asia, crossing over 1,000 miles of barren land, Mongolia did not have armies of such size to mobilize afar; its logistically impossible and not even the Qing army of the 18th century managed that.

When critically examining all sources, it is easy to conclude that the Liao forces were more around 10,000-20,000, whereas the Islamic army was closer to 100,000, even if it wasn't it was almost certainly bigger than 20,000 as the army was led by the Sultan himself and Seljuk Turks have easily mobilized larger armies.

This is also a mere fragment of the Liao army we are talking about, the main force was already annihilated by the Jin a decade before that.






Battle of Katwan does not prove anything.
It's the only major battle fought and it had strategic consequences, the Seljuks lost Central Asia and fragmented later as a result of the battle and they lost to merely 10,000-20,000 remnant Liao force fleeing from the Jin army. Your baseless opinion where the source origin cannot even be verified is what proves nothing.

We can see their war with Khwarezmians and Kara Khanids,how poor of Khitan army was.
Yes, we can see how poor the Khitan army was, seeing that both Khwarezmians and Kara Khanids were subjugated by them for over half a century. If by losing, you mean the later KharaKhitai withdrawing the majority of their force from Samarkand because of Naiman rebellion, and where the Khwarezmian only overwhelmed a fraction of their remnants, you might as well argue the British army was inferior to the American revolutionary army because they were forced to pull out. The Khitan army of the Karakhitai also never surpassed 10,000-20,000. Most were auxiliars they conquered and it was Kuchlug (who was also once a Jin subject) which seized their throne.
 
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