Last night I was watching off and on a show on History International that dealt with Tamerlane. In it, they claimed that he had said that if his grave were ever disturbed the land would suffer a fate worse than him. They went on to say that Russian archaeologists opened his tomb on June 21, 1941 -- the day before Hitler invaded Russia -- and then mentioned how much loss of life resulted from this invasion.
It appears to be fact that Russian archaeologists opened the tomb shortly before Hitler's invasion. What I'm curious about is if there is any record mentioning this threat by Tamerlane prior to 1941 or does this supposed prediction only pop up after it "came true"? Is there any contemporary account of this quote or is it one of those things that only starts to circulate centuries after anyone who would have been alive to hear it firsthand is long dead?
Posts: 716 | From: San Antonio, TX | Registered: Jan 2006
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Timur's tombstone had and still has the following Arabic inscription: "When I rise from the dead the whole world will tremble." Not quite the same thing as 'I'll get you if you defile my tomb!' but close enough for spooky story telling.
This site has a more lurid telling of the tomb opening and its consequences, tracing much of the legend to a documentary filmaker who was part of the exhumation team, and who later produced the film 'Tamerlane's Curse.' (It's a blog, so take it for what it's worth).
Of course, Time claimed the inscription read: "Whoever opens this will be defeated by an enemy more fearsome than I."
Our friends at Wikipedia have two versions of the inscription: 1) "Anyone who violates my stillness in this life or in the next one, will be subjected to inevitable punishment and misery" and 2) (paraphrased) whoever would dare disturb the tomb would bring demons of war onto his land.
Apparently there was a little known codicile to the curse that said, "OK, tell you what. Bring my head back and I'll defeat your enemies for you." At least that seems to be the logic behind the second part of the curse/coincidence. As Time (and others) put it: "Five weeks after the great Emir was reinterred in 1942, the Germans surrendered at Stalingrad." Well, sources seem to conflict on how much of Tamelane made it back to the grave (apparently just his his skull), and I can't find any date at all on when this happened, or when the 'full Islamic rites were conducted for the reinterment' (I doubt Stalin would have permitted that). But the German Army at Stalingrad surrendered on 2 Feb 1943. You decide.