Battle of Tours
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The Battle of Tours (October 10
), also called Battle of Poitiers and in Arabic
بلاط الشهداء (Balâṭ al-Shuhadâ’) The Court of Martyrs
was fought near the city of Tours
, close to the border between the Frankish realm and the then independent region of Aquitaine
. The battle pitted Frankish
forces under Austrasian Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel
against an army of the Umayyad
Caliphate led by ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi
, Governor-general of al-Andalus
. The Franks were victorious, ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi was killed, and Martel subsequently extended his authority in the south.
Ninth-century chroniclers, who interpreted the outcome of the battle as divine judgment in his favour, gave Charles the nickname Martellus ("The Hammer"), possibly recalling Judas Maccabeus
("The Hammerer") of the Maccabean revolt
Details of the battle, including its exact location and the exact number of combatants, cannot be determined from accounts that have survived.
As later chroniclers praised Charles Martel as the champion of Christianity, pre-20th century historians began to characterize this battle as being the decisive turning point in the struggle against Islam. "Most of the 18th and 19th century historians, like Gibbon, saw Poitiers (Tours), as a landmark battle that marked the high tide of the Muslim advance into Europe."
Leopold Von Ranke felt that "Poitiers was the turning point of one of the most important epochs in the history of the world." 
While modern historians are divided as to whether or not the victory was responsible — as Gibbon and his generation of historians claimed — for saving Christianity
and halting the conquest of Europe by Islam
, the battle helped lay the foundations for the Carolingian Empire
, and Frankish domination of Europe for the next century. "The establishment of Frankish power in western Europe shaped that continent's destiny and the Battle of Tours confirmed that power." 
Many modern historians maintain that the Battle of Tours was one of the most important battles during the Umayyad conquests. As a devastating defeat for the Umayyads, it helped trigger their downfall, and this battle determined that Europe would be Christian, not Muslim.
The battle followed twenty years of Umayyad conquests in Europe, beginning with the invasion of the Visigothic Christian
Kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula
and progressing into the Frankish
territories of Gaul
, former provinces of the Roman Empire
. Umayyad military campaigns had reached northward into Aquitaine
, including a major battle at Bordeaux
and a raid on Autun
. Martel's victory is believed by some historians to have stopped the northward advance of Umayyad forces from the Iberian peninsula
, and to have preserved Christianity
in Europe during a period when Muslim rule was overrunning the remains of the old Roman
and Persian Empires
Others have argued that the battle marked only the defeat of a raid in force and was not a watershed event.
The exact location of the Battle of Tours remains unknown. Surviving contemporary sources, both Muslim and Western, agree on certain details while disputing others. Most historians assume that the two armies met where the rivers Clain
join between Tours
. The number of troops in each army is not known. Drawing on non-contemporary Muslim sources Creasy describes the Umayyad forces as 80,000 strong or more. Writing in 1999, Paul K. Davis estimates the Umayyad forces at 80,000 and the Franks at about 30,000,
while noting that modern historians have estimated the strength of the Umayyad army at Tours at between 20–80,000. Edward J. Schoenfeld
(rejecting the older figures of 60–400,000 Umayyad and 75,000 Franks) contends that "estimates that the Umayyads had over fifty thousand troops (and the Franks even more) are logistically impossible."
Another modern military historian, Victor Davis Hanson, believes both armies were of roughly the same size, about 30,000 men.
Modern historians may be more accurate than the mediæval sources as the modern figures are based on estimates of the logistical ability of the countryside to support these numbers of men and animals. Both Davis and Hanson point out that both armies had to live off the countryside, neither having a commissary system sufficient to provide supplies for a campaign. Losses during the battle are unknown but chroniclers later claimed that Martel's force lost about 1,500 while the Umayyad force was said to have suffered massive casualties of up to 375,000 men. However, these same casualty figures were recorded in the Liber pontificalis
for Duke Odo of Aquitaine
's victory at the Battle of Toulouse (721)
. Paul the Deacon
, correctly reported in his Historia Langobardorum
(written around the year 785
) that the Liber pontificalis mentioned these casualty figures in relation to Odo's victory at Toulouse (though he claimed that Charles Martel fought in the battle alongside Odo), but later writers, probably "influenced by the Continuations of Fredegar
, attributed the Saracen casualties solely to Charles Martel, and the battle in which they fell became unequivocally that of Poitiers."
The Vita Pardulfi
, written in the middle of the eighth century
, reports that after the battle ‘Abd-al-Raḥmân's forces burned and looted their way through the Limousin on their way back to Al-Andalus, which implies that they were not destroyed to the extent imagined in the Continuations of Fredegar.The Opponents
The Invasion of Hispania
, and then Gaul
, was led by the Umayyad
: بنو أمية banū umayya / الأمويون al-umawiyyūn; Persian
: امویان Omaviyân; Turkish
: Emevi), also "Umawi", the first dynasty of caliphs of the Islamic empire after the reign of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs
, and Ali
) ended. The Umayyad Caliphate, at the time of the Battle of Tours, was perhaps the world’s foremost military power. Great expansion of the Caliphate occurred under the reign of the Umayyads. Muslim armies pushed across North Africa and Persia
, through the late 600s, expanding the borders of the empire from the Iberian Peninsula, in the west, to what is today Pakistan
, in the east. Forces led by Tariq ibn-Ziyad
and established Muslim power in the Iberian peninsula, while other armies established power far away in Sind
, in what is now the modern state of Pakistan. The Muslim empire under the Umayyads was now a vast domain that ruled a diverse array of peoples. It had destroyed what were the two former foremost military powers, the Sassanid Empire
, which it absorbed completely, and the Byzantine Empire
, most of which it had absorbed, including Syria, Armenia and North Africa, although Leo the Isaurian
successfully defended Anatolia at the Battle of Akroinon
) in the final campaign of the Umayyad dynasty.
The Frankish realm under Charles Martel was the foremost military power of Western Europe. It consisted of what is today most of Germany, the low countries, and part of France (Austrasia, Neustria and Burgundy). The Frankish realm had begun to progress towards becoming the first real imperial power in Europe since the fall of Rome, as it struggled against external forces such as the Saxons
and internal opponents such as Eudes, the Duke of Aquitaine.Muslim conquests from Hispania
The "Age of the Caliphs," showing Umayyad dominance stretching from the Middle East to the Iberian peninsula, including the port of Narbonne
, c. 720
Modern-day French borders. Autun
is just to the right of the map's midpoint, Septimania
runs along the rightward coast from the Spanish border, and Aquitaine
is along the coast running north from Spain.
The Umayyad troops, under Al-Samh ibn Malik
, the governor-general of al-Andalus
, overran Septimania
, following their sweep up the Iberian peninsula
. Al-Samh set up his capital from 720
, which the Moors called Arbūna. With the port of Narbonne secure, the Umayyads swiftly subdued the largely unresisting cities of Alet
, and Nîmes
, still controlled by their Visigothic
The Umayyad campaign into Aquitaine
suffered a temporary setback at the Battle of Toulouse (721)
, when Duke Odo of Aquitaine
(also known as Eudes the Great) broke the siege of Toulouse
, taking Al-Samh ibn Malik
's forces by surprise and mortally wounding the governor-general Al-Samh ibn Malik himself. This defeat did not stop incursions into old Roman Gaul, as Arab
forces, soundly based in Narbonne and easily resupplied by sea, struck eastwards in the 720s, penetrating as far as Autun
Threatened by both the Umayyads in the south and by the Franks in the north, in 730 Eudes allied himself with the Berber emir
Uthman ibn Naissa, called "Munuza" by the Franks, the deputy governor of what would later become Catalonia
. As a gage
, Uthman was given Eudes's daughter Lampade in marriage to seal the alliance, and Arab raids across the Pyrenees, Eudes's southern border, ceased.
However, the next year, Uthman rebelled against the governor of al-Andalus
, ‘Abd-al-Raḥmân, who quickly crushed the revolt and directed his attention against Eudes. ‘Abd-al-Raḥmân had brought a huge force of Arab heavy cavalry and Berber light cavalry, plus troops from all provinces of the Caliphate, in the Umayyad attempt at a conquest of Europe north of the Pyrenees. According to one unidentified Arab
, "That army went through all places like a desolating storm." Duke Eudes (called King by some), collected his army at Bordeaux
, but was defeated, and Bordeaux was plundered. The slaughter of Christians at the Battle of the River Garonne
was evidently horrific; the Mozarabic Chronicle of 754
commented, "solus Deus numerum morientium vel pereuntium recognoscat", ("God alone knows the number of the slain").
The Umayyad horsemen then utterly devastated that portion of Gaul, their own histories saying the "faithful pierced through the mountains, trampled over rough and level ground, plundered far into the country of the Franks, and smote all with the sword, insomuch that when Eudo came to battle with them at the River Garonne, he fled."
Sir Edward Creasy said, (incorporating verses from Robert Southey's poem "Roderick, the Last of the Goths")
It was under one of their ablest and most renowned commanders, with a veteran army, and with every apparent advantage of time, place, and circumstance, that the Arabs made their great effort at the conquest of Europe north of the Pyrenees. The victorious Moslem soldiery in Spain, eager for the plunder of more Christian cities and shrines, and full of fanatic confidence in the invincibility of their arms."
"A countless multitude;
Syrian, Moor, Saracen, Greek renegade,
Persian, and Copt, and Tartar, in one bond
Of erring faith conjoined — strong in the youth
And heat of zeal — a dreadful brotherhood"
"Nor were the chiefs
Of victory less assured, by long success
Elate, and proud of that o'erwhelming strength
Which surely, they believed, as it had rolled
Thus far uncheck'd, would roll victorious on,
Till, like the Orient, the subjected West
Should bow in reverence at Mahommed's name;
And pilrims from remotest Arctic shores
Tread with religious feet the burning sands
Of Araby and Mecca's stony soil."
SOUTHEY'S Roderick, the Last of the Goths
And so, after smashing Eudes and laying waste in the south, the Umayyad Cavalry advanced north, pursuing the fleeing Eudes, and looting, and destroying all before them.
Eudes' appeal to the Franks
From the former Gothic
Kingdoms of Hispania
, lower left, Muslim armies advanced deep into Aquitaine
. Note the location of Tours
south of the Loire river
Eudes appealed to the Franks for assistance, which Charles Martel only granted after Eudes agreed to submit to Frankish authority.
It appears as if the Umayyads were not aware of the true strength of the Franks. The Umayyad forces were not particularly concerned about any of the Germanic
tribes, including the Franks, and the Arab Chronicles
, the history of that age, show that awareness of the Franks as a growing military power only came after the Battle of Tours.
Further, the Umayyads appear not to have scouted northward for potential foes, for if they had, they surely would have noted Charles Martel as a force to be reckoned with in his own account, due to his thorough domination of Europe from 717: this might have alerted the Umayyads that a real power led by a gifted general was rising in the ashes of the Western Roman Empire
. Advance toward the Loire
, the Umayyad advance force was proceeding north toward the River Loire
having outpaced their supply train and a large part of their army. Essentially, having easily destroyed all resistance in that part of Gaul, the invading army had split off into several raiding parties, while the main body advanced more slowly.
The Umayyad attack was likely so late in the year because many men and horses needed to live off the land as they advanced; thus they had to wait until the area's wheat harvest
was ready and then until a reasonable amount of the harvest was threshed
(slowly by hand with flails
) and stored. The further north, the later the harvest is, and while the men could kill farm livestock for food, horses cannot eat meat and needed grain
as food. Letting them graze each day would take too long, and interrogating natives to find where food stores were kept would not work where the two sides had no common language.
A military explanation for why Eudes was defeated so easily at Bordeaux
and at the Battle of the River Garonne
after having won 11 years earlier at the Battle of Toulouse
is simple. At Toulouse, Eudes managed a basic surprise attack against an overconfident and unprepared foe, all of whose defensive works were aimed inward, while he attacked from the outside. The Umayyad cavalry never got a chance to mobilize and meet him in open battle. As Herman de Carinthia
wrote in one of his translations of a history of al-Andalus, Eudes managed a highly successful encircling envelopment which took the attackers totally by surprise — and the result was a chaotic slaughter of the Muslim cavalry.
, and again at the Battle of the River Garonne
, the Umayyad cavalry were not taken by surprise, and given a chance to mass for battle, this led to the devastation of Eudes's army, almost all of whom were killed with minimal losses to the Muslims. Eudes's forces, like other European troops of that era, lacked stirrups
, and therefore had no armoured cavalry. Virtually all of their troops were infantry. The Umayyad heavy cavalry broke the Christian infantry in their first charge, and then slaughtered them at will as they broke and ran.
The invading force went on to devastate southern Gaul. A possible motive, according to the second continuator of Fredegar
, was the riches of the Abbey of Saint Martin
, the most prestigious and holiest shrine
in Western Europe at the time.
Upon hearing this, Austrasia
's Mayor of the Palace
, Charles Martel
, collected his army and marched south, avoiding the old Roman roads and hoping to take the Muslims by surprise. Because he intended to use a phalanx
, it was essential for him to choose the battlefield. His plan — to find a high wooded plain, form his men and force the Muslims to come to him — depended on the element of surprise. Battle
Preparations and maneuver
From all accounts, the invading forces were caught entirely off guard to find a large force, well disposed and prepared for battle, with high ground, directly opposing their attack on Tours. Charles had achieved the total surprise he hoped for. He then chose to begin the battle in a defensive, phalanx
-like formation. According to the Arabian sources the Franks drew up in a large square, with the trees and upward slope to break any cavalry charge.
For seven days, the two armies watched each other with minor skirmishes. The Umayyads waited for their full strength to arrive, which it did, but they were still uneasy. A good general never likes to let his opponent pick the ground and the conditions for battle. 'Abd-al-Raḥmân, despite being a good commander, had managed to let Martel do both. Furthermore, it was difficult for the Umayyads to judge the size of the army opposing them, since Martel had used the trees and forest to make his force appear larger than it probably was. Thus, 'Abd-al-Raḥmân recalled all his troops, which did give him an even larger army - but it also gave Martel time for more of his veteran infantry to arrive from the outposts of his Empire. These infantry were all the hope for victory he had. Seasoned and battle hardened, most of them had fought with him for years, some as far back as 717. Further, he also had levies of militia arrive, but the militia was virtually worthless except for gathering food, and harassing the Muslims. (Most historians through the centuries have believed the Franks were badly outnumbered at the onset of battle by at least 2-1) Martel gambled everything that ‘Abd-al-Raḥmân would in the end feel compelled to battle, and to go on and loot Tours. Neither of them wanted to attack - but Abd-al-Raḥmân felt in the end obligated to sack Tours, which meant literally going through the Frankish army on the hill in front of him. Martel's decision to wait in the end proved crucial, as it forced the Umayyads to rush uphill, against the grade and the woods, which in and of themselves negated a large part of the natural advantages of a cavalry charge.
Martel had been preparing for this confrontation since Toulouse a decade before. He was well aware that if he failed, no other Christian force remained able to defend western Christianity. But Gibbon believes, as do most pre and modern historians, that Martel had made the best of a bad situation. Though outnumbered and depending on infantry, without stirrups in wide use, Martel had a tough, battle hardened heavy infantry who believed in him implicitly. Martel had the element of surprise, and had been allowed to pick the ground.
The Franks in their wolf and bear pelts were well dressed for the cold, and had the terrain advantage. The Arabs were not as prepared for the intense cold of an oncoming northern European winter, despite having tents, which the Franks did not, but did not want to attack a Frankish army they believed may have been numerically superior. Essentially, the Umayyads wanted the Franks to come out in the open, while the Franks, formed in a tightly packed defensive formation, wanted them to come uphill, into the trees, diminishing at once the advantages of their cavalry. It was a waiting game which Martel won: The fight began on the seventh day, as Abd er Rahman did not want to postpone the battle indefinitely with winter approaching.
‘Abd-al-Raḥmân trusted the tactical superiority of his cavalry, and had them charge repeatedly. This time the faith the Umayyads had in their cavalry, armed with their long lances
which had brought them victory in previous battles, was not justified. The Franks, without stirrups
in wide use, had to depend on unarmoured foot soldiers.
In one of the instances where medieval infantry
stood up against cavalry charges, the disciplined Frankish soldiers withstood the assaults, though according to Arab sources, the Arab cavalry several times broke into the interior of the Frankish square. "The Muslim horsemen dashed fierce and frequent forward against the battalions of the Franks, who resisted manfully, and many fell dead on either side."
Despite this, the Franks did not break. It appears that the years of year-round training that Charles had bought with Church funds, paid off. His hard-trained soldiery accomplished what was not thought possible at that time: unarmoured infantry withstood the fierce Umayyad heavy cavalry. Paul Davis says the core of Martel's army was a professional infantry which was both highly disciplined and well motivated, "having campaigned with him all over Europe," buttressed by levies that Charles basically used to raid and disrupt his enemy. 
The Mozarabic Chronicle of 754 says: "And in the shock of the battle the men of the North seemed like a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice; and with great blows of their swords they hewed down the Arabs. Drawn up in a band around their chief, the people of the Austrasians
carried all before them. Their tireless hands drove their swords down to the breasts of the foe."The battle turns
Those Umayyad troops who had broken into the square had tried to kill Martel, but his liege
men surrounded him and would not be broken. The battle was still in flux when Frankish histories claim that a rumor went through the Umayyad army that Frankish scouts threatened the booty that they had taken from Bordeaux
. Some of the Umayyad troops at once broke off the battle and returned to camp to secure their loot. According to Muslim accounts of the battle, in the midst of the fighting on the second day (Frankish accounts have the battle lasting one day only), scouts from the Franks sent by Charles began to raid the camp and supply train (including slaves and other plunder).
Charles supposedly had sent scouts to cause chaos in the Umayyad base camp, and free as many of the slaves as possible, hoping to draw off part of his foe. This succeeded, as many of the Umayyad cavalry returned to their camp. To the rest of the Muslim army, this appeared to be a full-scale retreat, and soon it became one. Both Western and Muslim histories agree that while trying to stop the retreat, ‘Abd-al-Raḥmân became surrounded, which led to his death, and the Umayyad troops then withdrew altogether to their camp. "All the host fled before the enemy," candidly wrote one Arabic source, "and many died in the flight." The Franks resumed their phalanx, and rested in place through the night, believing the battle would resume at dawn the following morning.Following day
The next day, when the Umayyad forces did not renew the battle, the Franks feared an ambush. Charles at first believed that the Umayyad forces were trying to lure him down the hill and into the open. This tactic he knew he had to resist at all costs; he had in fact disciplined his troops for years to under no circumstances break formation and come out in the open. (See the Battle of Hastings
for the results of infantry being lured into the open by armoured cavalry.) Only after extensive reconnaissance of the Umayyad camp by Frankish soldiers — which by both historical accounts had been so hastily abandoned that even the tents remained, as the Umayyad forces headed back to Iberia
with what loot remained that they could carry — was it discovered that the Muslims had retreated during the night.
Given the disparity between the armies, in that the Franks were mostly infantry, all without armour, against Berber cavalry and armored or mailed Arab horsemen (the Berbers were less heavily protected), Charles Martel fought a brilliant defensive battle. In a place and time of his choosing, he met a far superior force, and defeated it.
] Contemporary accounts
The Mozarabic Chronicle of 754 "describes the battle in greater detail than any other Latin or Arabic source".
It says of the encounter that,
While Abd ar-Rahman was pursuing Eudes, he decided to despoil Tours by destroying its palaces and burning its churches. There he confronted the consul of Austrasia by the name of Charles, a man who, having proved himself to be a warrior from his youth and an expert in things military, had been summoned by Eudes. After each side had tormented the other with raids for almost seven days, they finally prepared their battle lines and fought fiercely. The northern peoples remained as immobile as a wall, holding together like a glacier in the cold regions. In the blink of an eye, they annihilated the Arabs with the sword. The people of Austrasia, greater in number of soldiers and formidably armed, killed the king, Abd ar-Rahman, when they found him, striking him on the chest. But suddenly, within sight of the countless tents of the Arabs, the Franks despicably sheathed their swords postponing the fight until the next day since night had fallen during the battle. Rising from their own camp at dawn, the Europeans saw the tents and canopies of the Arabs all arranged just as they had appeared the day before. Not knowing that they were empty and thinking that inside them there were Saracen forces ready for battle, they sent officers to reconnoitre and discovered that all the Ishmaelite troops had left. They had indeed fled silently by night in tight formation, returning to their own country.
— Wolf (trans), Chronicle of 754, p. 145
Charles Martel's family composed, for the fourth book of the Continuations of Fredegar's Chronicle
, a stylised summary of the battle:
Prince Charles bodly drew up his battle lines against them [the Arabs] and the warrior rushed in against them. With Christ's help he overturned their tents, and hastened to battle to grind them small in slaughter. The king Abdirama having been killed, he destroyed [them], driving forth the army, he fought and won. Thus did the victor triumph over his enemies.
— Fouracre, Continuations of Fredegar, p. 149
This source details further that "he (Charles Martel) came down upon them like a great man of battle." It goes on to say Charles "scattered them like the stubble."
The references to "rushing in" and "overturning their tents" may allude to the phraseology of the Book of Numbers
, chapter 24, "where the Spirit of God 'rushed in' to the tents of Israel." The Latin word used for "warrior", belligerator, "is also biblical, from the Book of Maccabees
, chapters 15 and 16, which describe huge battles.
It is thought that Bede
's Historiam Ecclesiasticam Gentis Anglorum (Chapter XXIII) includes a reference to the Battle of Poitiers: "...a dreadful plague of Saracens ravaged France with miserable slaughter, but they not long after in that country received the punishment due to their wickedness". Strategic analysis
‘Abd-al-Raḥmân was a good general and should have done two things he failed to do, Gibbon makes the point that he did not move at once against Charles Martel, was surprised by him at Tours as Martel had marched over the mountains avoiding the roads to surprise the Muslim invaders, and thus the wily Martel selected the time and place they would collide:
‘Abd-al-Raḥmân either assumed that the Franks would not come to the aid of their Aquitanian
rivals, or did not care, and he thus failed to assess their strength before invasion.
He failed to scout the movements of the Frankish
army, and Charles Martel.
Having done either, he would have curtailed his lighthorse ravaging throughout lower Gaul, and marched at once with his full power against the Franks. This strategy would have nullified every advantage Charles had at Tours:
The invaders would have not been burdened with booty that played such a huge role in the battle.
They would have not lost one warrior in the battles they fought before Tours. (Though they lost relatively few men in overrunning Aquitaine
, they suffered some casualties — losses that may have been pivotal at Tours).
They would have bypassed weaker opponents such as Eudes, whom they could have picked off at will later, while moving at once to force battle with the real power in Europe, and at least partially picked the battlefield.
While some military historians point out that leaving enemies in your rear is not generally wise, the Mongols proved that indirect attack, and bypassing weaker foes to eliminate the strongest first, is a devastatingly effective mode of invasion. In this case, those enemies were virtually no danger, given the ease with which the Muslims destroyed them. The real danger was Charles, and the failure to scout Gaul adequately was disastrous.
According to Creasy
, the Muslims' best strategic choice would have been to simply decline battle, depart with their loot, garrisoning the captured towns in southern Gaul, and return when they could force Martel to a battleground more to their liking, one that maximized the huge advantage they had in their mailed and armored horsemen—the first true "knights". It might have been different, however, had the Muslim forces remained under control. Both western and Muslim histories agree the battle was hard fought, and that the Umayyad heavy cavalry had broken into the square, but agreed that the Franks were in formation still strongly resisting.
Charles could not afford to stand idly by while Frankish territories were threatened. He would have to face the Umayyad armies sooner or later, and his men were enraged by the utter devastation of the Aquitanians and wanted to fight. But Sir Edward Creasy noted that,
when we remember that Charles had no standing army, and the independent spirit of the Frank warriors who followed his standard, it seems most probable that it was not in his power to adopt the cautious policy of watching the invaders, and wearing out their strength by delay. So dreadful and so widespread were the ravages of the Saracenic light cavalry throughout Gaul, that it must have been impossible to restrain for any length of time the indignant ardor of the Franks. And, even, if Charles could have persuaded his men to look tamely on while the Arabs stormed more towns and desolated more districts, he could not have kept an army together when the usual period of a military expedition had expired.
argue that had Martel failed, there was no remaining force to protect Western Europe. Hallam perhaps said it best: "It may justly be reckoned among those few battles of which a contrary event would have essentially varied the drama of the world in all its subsequent scenes: with Marathon, Arbela, the Metaurus, Châlons, and Leipzig."
Strategically, and tactically, Martel probably made the best decision he could in waiting until his enemies least expected him to intervene, and then marching by stealth to catch them by surprise at a battlefield of his choosing. Probably he and his own men did not realize the seriousness of the battle they had fought, as Matthew Bennett
and his co-authors, in Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World (2005) says: "few battles are remembered 1,000 years after they are fought [...] but the Battle of Tours is an exception [...] Charles Martel turned back a Muslim raid that had it been allowed to continue, might have conquered Gaul." AftermathUmayyad retreat and second invasion
The Umayyad army retreated south over the Pyrenees
. Martel continued to drive the Umayyad forces from France in subsequent years. After the death (c. 735) of Eudes, who had reluctantly acknowledged Charles' suzerainty
in 719, Charles wished to unite Eudes's Duchy to himself, and went there to elicit the proper homage
of the Aquitainians
. But the nobility proclaimed Hunold, Eudes' son, as the Duke, and Charles recognized his legitimacy when the Umayyads entered Provence
as part of an alliance with Duke Maurontus
the next year.
Hunold, who originally resisted acknowledging Charles as overlord, soon had little choice. He acknowledged Charles at once as his overlord, and Martel confirmed his Duchy, and the two prepared to confront the invaders. Martel believed it was vital to confine the Umayyad forces to Iberia
and deny them any foothold in Gaul, a view many historians share. Therefore he marched at once against the invaders, defeating one army outside Arles
, which he took by storm and razed the city, and defeated the primary invasion force at the Battle of the River Berre
, outside Narbonne
. Advance to Narbonne
Despite this, the Umayyads remained in control of Narbonne and Septimania
for another 27 years, though they could not expand further. The treaties reached earlier with the local population stood firm and were further consolidated in 734 when the governor of Narbonne, Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri
, concluded agreements with several towns on common defense arrangements against the encroachments of Charles Martel, who had systematically brought the south to heel as he extended his domains. He destroyed Umayyad armies and fortresses at the Battle of Avignon
and the Battle of Nimes
. The army attempting to relieve Narbonne met him in open battle at the Battle of the River Berre
and was destroyed, but Charles failed in his attempt to take Narbonne by siege in 737, when the city was jointly defended by its Muslim Arab and Berber, and its Christian Visigothic
citizens. Carolingian dynasty
Reluctant to tie down his army for a siege that could last years, and believing he could not afford the losses of an all out frontal assault such as he had used at Arles
, Martel was content to isolate the few remaining invaders in Narbonne
. The threat of invasion was diminished after the Umayyad defeat at Narbonne, and the unified Caliphate
would collapse into civil war
in 750 at the Battle of the Zab
. It was left to Martel's son, Pippin the Short
, to force Narbonne's surrender in 759, thus bringing Narbonne into the Frankish domains. The Umayyad
dynasty was expelled, driven back to Al-Andalus where Abd ar-Rahman I
established an emirate in Cordoba in opposition to the Abbasid
Caliph in Baghdad
. The threat posed by the Arab heavy cavalry also receded as the Christians copied the Arab model in developing similar forces of their own, giving rise to the familiar figure of the western European medieval armored knight
Martel's grandson, Charlemagne
, became the first Christian ruler to begin what would be called the Reconquista
from Europe. In the northeast of Spain the Frankish emperors established the Marca Hispanica
across the Pyrenees
in part of what today is Catalonia
, reconquering Girona
in 785 and Barcelona
in 801. This formed a buffer zone against Muslim lands across the Pyrenees. Historian J.M. Roberts said in 1993 
of the Carolingian Dynasty:
"It produced Charles Martel, the soldier who turned the Arabs back at Tours, and the supporter of Saint Boniface the Evangelizer of Germany. This is a considerable double mark to have left on the history of Europe."The last Umayyad invasions of Gaul
In 735 the new governor of al-Andalus again invaded Gaul. Antonio Santosuosso
and other historians detail how the new governor of Al-Andalus, 'Uqba b. Al-Hajjaj, again moved into France to avenge the defeat at Poitiers and to spread Islam. Santosuosso notes that 'Uqba b. Al-Hajjaj converted about 2,000 Christians he captured over his career. In the last major attempt at forcible invasion of Gaul through Iberia, a sizable invasion force was assembled at Saragossa and entered what is now French territory in 735, crossed the River Rhone and captured and looted Arles. From there he struck into the heart of Provence, ending with the capture of Avignon, despite strong resistance. Uqba b. Al-Hajjaj's forces remained in French territory for about four years, carrying raids to Lyons, Burgundy, and Piedmont. Again Charles Martel came to the rescue, reconquering most of the lost territories in two campaigns in 736 and 739, except for the city of Narbonne, which finally fell in 759. Alessandro Santosuosso strongly argues that the second (Umayyad) expedition was probably more dangerous than the first. The second expedition's failure put an end to any serious Muslim expedition across the Pyrenees although raids continued. Plans for further large scale attempts were hindered by internal turmoil in the Umayyad lands which often made enemies out of their own kind.Historical and macrohistorical views
The Historical views of this battle fall into three great phases, both in the East and and especially in the West. Western historians beginning with the Mozarabic Chronicle of 754 stressed the macrohistorical impact of the battle, as did the Continuations of Fredegar. This became a claim that Martel had literally saved Christianity as Gibbon and his generation of historians agreed that the Battle of Tours was unquestionably decisive in world history.
Modern historians have essentially fallen into two camps on the issue. The first camp essentially agrees with Gibbon, and the other argues that the Battle has been massively overstated—turned from a raid in force to an invasion, and from a mere annoyance to the Caliph to a shattering defeat that helped end the Islamic Expansion Era. It is essential however, to note that within the first group, those who agree the Battle was of macrohistorical importance, there are a number of historians who take a more moderate and nuanced approach to supporting the battle's importance, rather than the more dramatic rhetoric of Gibbon. The best example of this school is William E. Watson
, who does believe the battle has macrohistorical importance, as will be specifically discussed below, but analyzes it militarily, culturally and politically, rather than seeing it as a classic "Muslim versus Christian" confrontation.
In the East, Arab histories followed a similar path. First, the Battle was regarded as a disastrous defeat, then it faded essentially from Arab histories, leading to a modern dispute which regards it as either a secondary loss to the great defeat of the Second Siege of Constantinople
or a part of a series of great macrohistorical defeats which together brought about the fall of the first Caliphate. Essentially, many modern Muslim scholars argue that the first Caliphate was a jihadist state which could not withstand an end to its constant expansion. 
With the Byzantines and Franks both successfully blocking further expansion, internal social troubles came to a head, starting with the Great Berber Revolt
of 740, and ending with the Battle of the Zab
, and the destruction of the Umayyad Caliphate.In Western history
The first wave of real "modern" historians, especially scholars on Rome and the medevial period, such as Edward Gibbon
, contended that had Martel fallen, the Umayyad Caliphate would have easily conquered a divided Europe. Gibbon famously observed:
A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.
Nor was Gibbon alone in lavishing praise on Martel as the savior of Christiandom and western civilization. H.G. Wells in his "A Short History of the World" said in Chapter XLV "The Development of Latin Christendom:"
The Moslim when they crossed the Pyrenees in 720 found this Frankish kingdom under the practical rule of Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace of a degenerate descendant of Clovis, and experienced the decisive defeat of Poitiers (732) at his hands. This Charles Martel was practically overlord of Europe north of the Alps from the Pyrenees to Hungary. He ruled over a multitude of subordinate lords speaking French-Latin, and High and Low German languages.
Gibbon was echoed a century later by the Belgian historian Godefroid Kurth
, who wrote that the Battle of Poitiers "must ever remain one of the great events in the history of the world, as upon its issue depended whether Christian Civilization should continue or Islam prevail throughout Europe." 
Isidorus Pacensis, the chronicler to whose account historians of today are in great debt for what we know of the battle of Tours/Poitiers, wrote that
“The men of the North stood as motionless as a wall; they were like a belt of ice frozen together, and not to be dissolved, as they slew the Arabs with the sword. The Austrasians, vast of limb, and iron of hand, hewed on bravely in the thick of the fight; it was they who found and cut down the Saracen king.”
historians were especially ardent in their praise of Martel; Schlegel
speaks of this "mighty victory"
, and tells how "the arm of Charles Martel saved and delivered the Christian nations of the West from the deadly grasp of all-destroying Islam." Creasy quotes Leopold von Ranke
's opinion that this period was
one of the most important epochs in the history of the world, the commencement of the eighth century, when on the one side Mohammedanism threatened to overspread Italy and Gaul, and on the other the ancient idolatry of Saxony
once more forced its way across the Rhine. In this peril of Christian institutions, a youthful prince of Germanic race, Karl Martell, arose as their champion, maintained them with all the energy which the necessity for self-defence calls forth, and finally extended them into new regions.
The great german military historian Hans Delbruck said of this battle "there was no more important battle in the history of the world." (The Barbarian Invasions, page 441.)
Had Martel failed, Henry Hallam
argued, there would have been no Charlemagne
, no Holy Roman Empire
or Papal States
; all these depended upon Martel's containment of Islam from expanding into Europe while the Caliphate was unified and able to mount such a conquest.
Another great mid era historian, Thomas Arnold
, ranked the victory of Charles Martel even higher than the victory of Arminius
in its impact on all of modern history: "Charles Martel's victory at Tours was among those signal deliverances which have affected for centuries the happiness of mankind."
Sir Charles Oman, in his History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages, concludes that
“at Poictiers the Franks fought as they had done two hundred years before at Casilinum, in one solid mass, without breaking rank or attempting to maneuver. Their victory was won by the purely defensive tactics of the infantry square; the fanatical Arabs, dashing against them time after time, were shattered to pieces, and at last fled under shelter of night. But there was no pursuit, for Charles had determined not to allow his men to stir a step from the line to chase the broken foe.” [I, 58]
John H. Haaren says in “Famous Men of the Middle Ages:”
”The battle of Tours, or Poitiers, as it should be called, is regarded as one of the decisive battles of the world. It decided that Christians, and not Moslems, should be the ruling power in Europe. Charles Martel is especially celebrated as the hero of this battle.”John Bagnell Bury
, writing at the beginning of the 20th century, said "The Battle of Tours… has often been represented as an event of the first magnitude for the world’s history, because after this, the penetration of Islam into Europe was finally brought to a standstill.”
But, as will be seen below, today’s historians are very clearly divided on the importance of the Battle, and where it should rank in the signal moments of military history. In Muslim history
Eastern historians, like their Western counterparts, have not always agreed on the importance of the Battle. According to Bernard Lewis
, "The Arab historians, if they mention this engagement [the Battle of Tours] at all, present it as a minor skirmish,"
and Gustave von Grunebaum
writes: "This setback may have been important from the European point of view, but for Muslims at the time, who saw no master plan imperilled thereby, it had no further significance."
Contemporary Arab and Muslim historians and chroniclers were much more interested in the second Umayyad siege of Constantinople
, which ended in a disastrous defeat.
However, Creasy has claimed: "The enduring importance of the battle of Tours in the eyes of the Moslems is attested not only by the expressions of 'the deadly battle' and 'the disgraceful overthrow' which their writers constantly employ when referring to it, but also by the fact that no more serious attempts at conquest beyond the Pyrenees were made by the Saracens."
Thirteenth-century Moroccan author Ibn Idhari al-Marrakushi
, mentioned the battle in his history of the Maghrib, "al-Bayan al-Mughrib fi Akhbaral-Maghrib." According to Ibn Idhari, "Abd ar-Rahman and many of his men found martyrdom on the balat ash-Shuhada'i ("the path of the martyrs)." Antonio Santosuosso points out in his book Barbarians, Marauders and Infidels: The Ways of Medieval Warfare, on p. 126 "they (the Muslims) called the battle's location, the road between Poitiers and Tours, "the pavement of Martyrs." However, as Henry Coppée has explained, "The same name was given to the battle of Toulouse and is applied to many other fields on which the Moslemah were defeated: they were always martyrs for the faith" Khalid Yahya Blankinship
has argued that the military defeat at Tours was amongst one of the failures that contributed to the decline of the Umayyad caliphate: "Stretching from Morocco to China, the Umayyad caliphate based its expansion and success on the doctrine of jihad--armed struggle to claim the whole earth for God's rule, a struggle that had brought much material success for a century but suddenly ground to a halt followed by the collapse of the ruling Umayyad dynasty in 750 CE. The End of the Jihad State demonstrates for the first time that the cause of this collapse came not just from internal conflict, as has been claimed, but from a number of external and concurrent factors that exceeded the caliphate's capacity to respond. These external factors began with crushing military defeats at Byzantium, Toulouse and Tours, which led to the Great Berber Revolt of 740 in Iberia and Northern Africa."
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Poke, The Battle of Tours
, from the book Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World From Marathon to Waterloo by Sir Edward Creasy, MA
Edward Gibbon, The Battle of Tours
, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Michael Grant, History of Rome
Richard Hooker, "Civil War and the Umayyads"Arabs, Franks, and the Battle of Tours, 732: Three Accounts
from the Internet Medieval SourcebookThe Battle of Tours 732
, from the "Jewish Virtual Library
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, from "Leaders and Battles Database" online.
Robert W. Martin, "The Battle of Tours is still felt today"
, from about.com
] External linksIan Meadows, "The Arabs in Occitania"
: A sketch giving the context of the conflict from the Arab point of view.Poke's edition of Creasy's 15 Most Important Battles Ever Fought
ACCORDING TO EDWARD SHEPHERD CREASY Chapter VII. THE BATTLE OF TOURS, A.D. 732.Cassius Dio: Roman HistoryMedieval Sourcebook: Arabs, Franks, and the Battle of Tours, 732: Three AccountsMedieval Sourcebook: Anon Arab Chronicler: The Battle of Poitiers, 732History of Europe: The Battle of Tours