Siege of Isfizar, 1383

The siege of Isfizar (1383) saw Tamerlane put down a revolt in a city south of Herat, and ended with yet another of his trademark atrocities. Tamerlane always had trouble retaining control of his conquests. In 1383 Herat was taken by rebels led by one of his governors, while the revolt in Isfizar was led by Shaikh Da'ud-I Khitatai, a military man who had worked for the Kart dynasty before being appointed chief of Isfizar by Tamerlane.

Isfizar is a town of many names. For several centuries, and until the 1970s, it was known as Sabzavar, a Persian name meaning Green Fields. In the 1970s it was renamed as Shindand, a Pashtun name. The town is located 70 miles south of Herat, and as a result was known as Sabzavar of Herat to avoid any confusion with a second Sabzavar, further to the west.

Shaikh Da'ud-I Khitatai's rebellion began with the murder of Tamerlane's governor of the town. An account of the resulting siege is recorded in Sharaf al-din's history of Tamerlane. According to this account Miranshah, Tamerlane's youngest son and governor of Khorasan sent two of his Emirs to deal with the siege. They besieged Isfizar, put large numbers of rebels to the sword, took the town and forced Shaik Da'ud to retreat into a fortress built on a mountain ridge. The Emirs followed and laid siege to this fortress.

Hearing of this revolt Tamerlane split his army, sending part of it towards Mazendran, on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, while he led the rest of the army south, towards Isfizar and Sistan. After camping at Herat in November 1383, Tamerlane led his army south to Isfizar, where he took control of the siege. Energetic mining work began, and eventually much of the fortress fell down. The man in charge of the mining effort was killed when one of the walls fell on him. With the walls gone the rebels were quickly defeated and 2,000 taken prisoner.

At previous cities Tamerlane had built mountains of skulls. This time he went one better, building the two thousand prisoners into a pyramid of brick and mortar while still alive, in an attempt to intimidate other cities into remaining quiet. When he was 'satisfied with this vengeance' Tamerlane moved south into Sistan, the target for his next campaign.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (20 September 2010), Siege of Isfizar, 1383 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_isfizar.html

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