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Muslim Invasions: Battle of Tours

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Battle of Tours - Conflict:

The Battle of Tours was fought during the Muslim invasions of Western Europe in the 8th century.

Armies & Commanders at the Battle of Tours:

Franks

Umayyads

  • Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi
  • unknown, but perhaps as high as 80,000 men

Battle of Tours - Date:

Martel's triumph at the Battle of Tours occurred on October 10, 732.

Battle of Tours - Background:

In the early 700s, after conquering the Iberian Peninsula, Umayyad forces pushed north into modern-day France. Initially meeting little resistance, they were able to gain a foothold and began launching attacks against Aquitaine. At the Battle of Toulouse in 721, Duke Odo was able defeat the Muslim invaders and forced them out of his realm. Returning ten years later, Umayyad forces led by the governor of Al-Andalus, Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, crushed Odo at the Battle of the River Garonne. Fleeing north, Odo sought aid from the Franks.

Coming before Charles Martel, the Frankish mayor of the palace, Odo was promised aid only if he promised to submit to the Franks. Agreeing, Martel began raising his army to meet the invaders. In the years previous, having assessed the situation in Iberia and the Umayyad attack on Aquitaine, Charles came to believe that a professional army, rather than raw conscripts, was needed to defend the realm from invasion. To raise the money necessary to build and train an army that could withstand the Muslim horsemen, Charles began seizing Church lands, earning the ire of the religious community.

Battle of Tours - Moving to Contact:

Moving to intercept Abdul Rahman, Charles used secondary roads to avoid detection and allow him select the battlefield. Marching with approximately 30,000 Frankish troops he assumed a position between the towns of Tours and Poitiers. For the battle, Charles selected a high, wooded plain which would force the Umayyad cavalry to charge uphill through unfavorable terrain. Forming a large square, his men surprised Abdul Rahman, forcing the Umayyad emir to pause for a week to consider his options. This delay benefited Charles as it allowed him to summon more of his veteran infantry to Tours.

Battle of Tours - The Franks Stand Strong:

On the seventh day, after gathering all of his forces, Abdul Rahman attacked with his Berber and Arab cavalry. In one of the few instances where medieval infantry stood up to cavalry, Charles' troops defeated repeated Umayyad attacks. As the battle waged, the Umayyads finally broke through the Frankish lines and attempted to kill Charles. He was promptly surrounded by his personal guard who repulsed the attack. As this was occurring, scouts that Charles had sent out earlier were infiltrating the Umayyad camp and freeing prisoners.

Believing that the plunder of the campaign was being stolen, a large part of the Umayyad army broke off the battle and raced to protect their camp. While attempting to stop the apparent retreat, Abdul Rahman was surrounded and killed by Frankish troops. Briefly pursued by the Franks, the Umayyad withdrawal turned into a full retreat. Charles reformed his troops expecting another attack, but to his surprise it never came as the Umayyads continued their retreat all the way to Iberia.

Battle of Tours - Aftermath:

While exact casualties for the Battle of Tours are not known, some chronicles relate that Christian losses numbered around 1,500 while Abdul Rahman suffered approximately 10,000. Since Martel's victory, historians have argued over the battle's significance with some stating that his victory saved Western Christendom while others feel that its repercussions were minimal. Regardless, the Frankish victory at Tours, along with subsequent campaigns in 736 and 739, effectively stopped the advance of Muslim forces from Iberia allowing the further development of the Christian states in Western Europe.

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