Skip to comments.TOURS, 732
Posted on 10/11/2007 9:37:12 AM PDT by B-Chan
Charles Martel, "The Hammer" was a Frankish General, and then became the undisputed ruler of all the Franks. He became the ruler after defeating Austria in a war. He also engaged in wars against Alemanni, Bavarians, and Saxons, which were small tribes in and around France. But his greatest achievement was against the Muslims from Spain, who invaded France in 732. It was in this battle at Tours, it is said, that gave Charles his name, Martel "The Hammer", because of the merciless way in which he smote the enemy. The Franks were a Germanic tribe who eventually became the French as we know it.
Abd-ar-Rahman was an Arab soldier and emir of Spain, in a time when Islam culture was the most powerful in the world. He became governor of southern France in 721. In 732, when the growth of Frankish power menaced the Muslim position in Spain, he led an army across the Pyrenees Mountains into the dominions of the Franks. The army met the Franks, led by Charles Martel later that year in 732 near the town of Tours.
Abd-ar-Rahman crossed the Pyrenees at the head of an immense army and advanced as far as the Loire River, pillaging and burning as he went. David W. Koeller in his article "The Battle of Tours", says, " (The) Moslem army, in a crusading search for land and the end of Christianity, after the conquest of Syria, Egypt, and North Africa, began to invaded Western Europe under the leadership of Abd-ar-Rahman." The Muslim army had between 60,000 to 400,000 soldiers, and "an over whelming number of horsemen."
n October 732 AD(*), one hundred years after Muhammads death, a scouting party belonging to the army of Abd-ar-Rahman made contact with the Frankish army along the road between Poitiers and Tours. The Arab commander did not know that a trap had been set for him . [Abd-ar-Rahman was in hot pursuit of another Frankish commander, when he came upon Charles Mantels army.] Abd-ar-Rahman called for a halt. He wanted to discover the strength of the enemy, and he hoped the Franks, if not too numerous, would attack. What frightened him the most of all was the possibility of losing his army among the forests and the streams.
For seven days Charles [Martel] remained on the edge of the forest, waiting for the attack. It was bitterly cold weather, with Arabs still dressed for their summer campaigns. The wolf pelts (furs) of the Franks helped them in the icy cold. At last in the morning of the seventh day Abd-ar-Rahman decided to attack. Charles and his army held firm, forming a hollow square to take the main charge of the Arabs while dispatching raiders along infrequently used forest paths to attack the Arabs from the rear. The Arabs, once guerrilla warriors, had a reverted to classical mode of warfare, and were no match for the Franks, who numbered many more well equipped soldiers than the Arabs spies indicated. Also the Franks were fighting with the Loire river at their back, and could not retreated even if they wanted to. The Arabs marching through France had acquired a lot of loot, and this too worked in the favor of the Franks, who were not weighed down with the task of guarding their treasure, nor did they posses baggage trains of any kind. Most of them were simple foot soldiers, but there were some companies of cavalry.
As the battle progressed, the Franks began to waver . Behind their coats of mail, and their pointed helmets, their horses clothed in chain mail, the Arabs were almost impregnable. They were on the verge of victory when the Franks fought their way toward the treasure carts. Instead of fighting in column, the Arabs flew in defense of the treasure, and panicked when they saw the carts being driven away by the enemies. Abd-ar-Rahman ordered his troops back in line, but it was too late. A lance killed him. Then, while the armies were still fighting confusedly, night fell. Both armies retried to lick their wounds.
All through the night spies of Charles heard the clash of arms as lieutenants of Abd-ar-Rahman quarreled bitterly over the election of a new leader. The Arabs were fighting a small-scale civil war over the treasure carts. Toward dawn the sounds of fighting had ceased, and when the sun came through the clouds on that cold October Sunday, Charles saw that the enemy had vanished. They were hurrying south, away from the northern winter and the smell of defeat in the marshes of the Loire.
The reason that the battle turned out the way it did, a loss for the Muslims and a win for the Franks, seems disgraceful for the Muslims, and genius for the Franks. The Arabs were at a distinct disadvantage. The reason why is because the Franks had the advantages of more men, warmer clothes, and the home terrain. The Arabs were no match for the Franks. The Franks had more men, but only a few cavalry and much more foot soldiers than the Arabs. Although, the Arabs had an overwhelming number of horsemen and relied on them greatly. With their horseman the Arabs rushed forward relying on slashing tactics. The Arabs relying on the tactics began to weaken the more numerous Franks and the momentum of this battle began to change. But by this time the Franks had reached the treasure carts, and were riding off with them. The Arabs, in foolish move ran back to save the treasure carts, not thinking about the battle. The greed of the Arabs and the thought of the Franks taken their treasure terrorized them. Abd-ar-Rahman in his quest to take land in the name of Islam was killed in action leaving the panicking Muslims, without a leader. As Robert Payne said in his book The History of Islam, the loss of the leader a power vacuum, consequently starting a miniature civil war over the commanding role, weakening the Muslim army. This in turn led to the defeat of the Muslim army at Tours.
The battle at Tours was the turning point battle of the undeclared war between the Muslims and the Christians. This battle won by Charles Martel and his Franks stopped the spread of Islam into Western Europe. If Abd-ar-Rahman had won the battle at Tours and conquered even farther into Europe then the world as it is know might be different. "Will Durant speculates that the Muslims defeat at the French city of Tours in 732 AD determined that European countries remained Christian rather than becoming Islamic cultures." Instead of Christianity, Islam might be the dominant religion to in Europe.
The Battle of Tours has been hailed asone of the most crucial battles in history. This battle was the turning point of the undeclared war against Western Europe, which had become inevitable once [Gibraltar had been captured by the Moors]. The Muslims had moved in and captured all of Spain, from their position of strength in North Africa. After that they went into France they meet the Loire River and Charles Martel, and their campaign ended at Tours. This is where the expansion of Islam ended in Western Europe. Some say Charles Martel saved Christianity and Europe from Islam. This battle is said to be decisive because this battle decided whether Islam would spread father, or stop. This is the farthest a Muslim army ever got in Europe.
If the Muslims had not chased after their precious treasure, and pursued the wavering Franks, then they might have won the battle and Western Europe would be different today. If the Muslims had won the battle, and their campaign had gone farther into Western Europe, Islam would most certainly be the most predominate religion in Western Europe. That is only if the Muslims had won the battle. That is why the Battle of Tours is one of the most decisive battles in history, to decide which would prevail Islam or Christianity. As one sees today Christianity prevailed.
The Battle of Tours decided much. Which major religion would prosper in Western Europe, Christianity or Islam. Christianity won this battle, but it was not because of the Muslim tactics or the great leader ship of either side, it was greed that won the battle. If the Muslims had not thought of their treasure and thought of the spread of Islam they might have won the battle and changed the world as one knows it.
In addition, the year 732 seemed odd to me. (I was extremely young.) I figured the Revolution was 1776, so the Battle of Tours was, you know, just a few years before that. Because they were both in the 700's, pretty much.
Then someone explained to me that Tours was a thousand years before the Revolution, and the vast sweep of history opened up in front of me.
I went on to earn a BA in history. The Battle of Tours has always been personally significant for me.
That’s a great summary. Thanks for sharing.
Yet now there are no go zones in the capital of the France and other major cities. Wonder what Charles would think...
You must be feeling pretty old now though. :^)
In my 10th grade world history class the teacher would spout this little couplet from time to time. It never had anything to do with the subject he was discussing. Back then I thought it was his way of playfully downplaying the importance of memorizing dates. 732, and maybe 1066 too, seemed to be the only dates he ever mentioned. And the Battle of Tours seemed so obscure then. Now I wonder if he thought 732 was the most significant date in world history, and that all the others (except 1066 maybe) were really unimportant.
Great piece. Europe was saved for the Christian faith. Unfortunately, today Europe is voluntarily surrendering that which could not be won by force.
A thousand years later, the Russians had the same advantage against the invading French.
Thanks for posting - I'd never read about pre-1000 military battles, and love to see them.
And a fatwah on you!
The war is not over yet, Christian scum!
But the war continues.
In 1683 at the Battle of Vienna, Jan Sobieski and Charles V of Lorraine stopped the next Muslim thrust into Western Europe.
There was the US Tripolitan War against the Barbary pirates from 1801-1805, which were finally settled when the French (yes, the French) took over Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia in the 1830’s.
Then there was the Moro Insurrections in the Philippines resulting from the Spanish-American War, that lasted from 1901 to 1913.
The war is not over.
Ah, I'm sorry it was the "Moops". -- George Costanza
Ah, I'm sorry it was "the Moops". -- George Costanza
“Instead of Christianity, Islam might be the dominant religion in Europe.”
I understand that this is typical thought on this battle, and that if “the Hammer” had not won the day, it is “assumed” that Islam would have conquered Western Europe.
I am not so sure of that assumption. Neither is it clear that Europe was an either/or situation back then. It also feeds that idea that Islam could have won Europe. I am speaking back in 732 A.D. Christianity was a much stronger and real faith to the peoples of that time than in the present Europe of today.
I also find it interesting that greed played such an important role. It reminded me of the Battle of Lepanto where the Ottomans had their treasures on their ships and made them too heavy. They did this because they could not trust their rulers and had to protect their wealth by themselves. Another battle in October, 1571.