Siege of Hisor, late winter-spring 1496

The siege of Hisor in the late winter and spring of 1496 was the main event in a brief war between the Timurid sultans of Samarkand and Khorasan, and the successful defence of the city effectively ended the war.

The Timurids, or descendants of Timer Leng (Tamerlane), were prone to family squabbles. In 1495 Samarkand looked to be particularly vulnerable. Sultan Ahmad Mirza had died soon after abandoning an attack on Babur, the new Sultan of Fergana. His brother Mahmud had only survived for a year, and was followed by his second son Baisanghar. He was immediately attacked by Sultan Mahmud of Tashkent (known as the 'Elder Khan'), defeating him at Kan-bai, and was also involved in a rebellion in Fergana.

The confused state of Samarkand attracted the attention of Sultan Husain Mirza Baiqara, another Timurid, and ruler of the powerful state of Khorasan. He decided to attack Baisanghar's eastern provinces, which were centred on the city of Hisor or Hisar (now in western Tajikistan, close to the Uzbekistan border). He was opposed by Sultan Mas'ud Mirza, Baisanghar's elder brother, who had been passed over after the death of their father.

The two armies came together late in 1495 on opposite banks of the Amu Darya (Oxus) River. Mas'ud took up a position in the city of Termez (Tirmiz), on the northern bank of the river, and for most of the winter the two armies faced each other in something of a stalemate. This ended towards the end of the winter, when Husain Mirza used a feint to get across the river. Mas'ud retreated north-east up a river valley to Hisor, but before the siege began escaped across the mountains to his brother in Samarkand.

Mas'ud's example was followed by several of his allies, including a force of Uzbeks who moved north to take service with Babur. The defence of Hisor was led by Baqi Chaghaniani, Madmud Barlas and Sultan Ahmad, father of Quch Beg.

Sultan Husain Mirza spent two and a half months outside Hisor, conducting a vigorous siege. The Babur-nama (Babur's autobiography) describes the siege as including constant mining and countermining under the walls and a catapult and mortar bombardment of the fort that came close to success, cracking one of the towers.

Despite all of this activity Husain Mirza never ordered an assault, and by the spring his enthusiasm for the siege was running low. His other armies had met with no more success, and after the spring rains began to make conditions in the siege lines difficult peace negotiations were opened. Husain Mirza's son married Baisanghar's sister, and after a brief campaign against Kunduz he returned back to Khorasan.

Baisanghar's troubles were not over. In the aftermath of this war he was briefly deposed in favour of one of his brothers, and recovered power only to be twice besieged in Samarkand (1496 and 1497). At the end of the second siege he was to flee to Kunduz, where he was eventually murdered.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 April 2010), Siege of Hisor, late winter-spring 1496 ,

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