Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Boston Bombing and Christopher Marlowe

      Everything is interconnected. The bombing of the Boston Marathon is connected to Christopher Marlowe in a surprising way: the name of one of the bombers, Tamerlan. It is also the name of a 14th century conqueror from Central Asia who aspired to be like Genghis Khan and called himself the Scourge of God like Attila the Hun. I myself was surprised to see Edgar Allen Poe connected to the name as well.
     The conqueror was Timur the Lame but his name has also been spelled Tamburlaine, Tamerlaine, Tamerlane (as Poe spelled it in a poem published in a book that was ironically not credited with Poe's name but "A Bostonian".) and Tamerlan (like the bomber in the Boston Marathon). Timur was a regional chief who eventually acquired an empire larger than Alexander's. He did what Alexander could not do: conquer Delhi. He accomplished this by sending flaming camels against the elephants. He was ruthless, i.e. he killed people, lots of them, age and gender did not matter, and was often very cruel in his methods of killing people, as anybody who calls himself the Scourge of God is likely to do. He seems to have been a devout Muslim but he preyed upon other Muslims as much as he preyed upon other people. He did declare jihad against Delhi and in his seventies against the infidel Chinese, mainly to raise the unwilling armies necessary for such a distant trek. He was born in the same part of the world as the bomber but on the other side of the Caspian Sea in modern day Uzbekistan.
      Christopher Marlowe wrote a play about Timur the Lame called "Tamburlaine the Great" in which he made the conqueror a shepherd who rose up to become master of his part of the world. Marlowe was probably making a statement against religion. He had Tamburlaine begin life as a shepherd, a veiled allusion to the role priests are supposed to take, and, in the attack on Babylon, has him burn the Koran as well as claim to be greater than God. The writing of this play got Marlowe killed.
      There was some political unrest in London at the time and some heretical and subversive bills posted about town, especially on the doors of Dutch Protestant churches, signed "Tamburlaine" which drew the attention of the crown. Then Walsingham and Queen Elizabeth wanted to know more about the play and suspected Marlowe of being behind the bills and an atheist. His room mate was tortured, with the usual confessions, and Marlowe was later stabbed in the head in a "bar fight". It was claimed that the man, who was a government spy, acted in self defence and that Marlowe had not been executed.
      I wonder if that part of the world has made a historical hero out of a man who was brutal murderer and did not deserve it. There are certain names one does not name one's children: Adolf springs to mind, Attila, is another, although odds are it was the guy's grandfather's name. It is a strange little name to have. While people are googling the bomber's name, surely links to the 14th century conqueror come up but nobody has commented in the news. 


Anachronist said...

Thanks for this post, especially the part about Christopher Marlowe.

The Red Witch said...

Thank you. I know I see things differently than other people and it is nice to know other people see things differently too. :-)

Dhyandeva said...

Attila is q a common name in some parts of the world.
And I know a Kurdish Timur, nice bloke!

The Red Witch said...

Cool. The view is definitely different from the other side of the street. Look at how the west views Justinian's queen Theodora and how the east views her. Attila is a fun name but, as he was a heathen, it would not have the political associations as the other two names. Or maybe it would. :) Scourge of God after all.