Charles Martel arrête les arabes à Tours en 732
The Christian victory in 732 at the Battle of Tours between the Christian Franks and the Muslim Moors, together with the failed Arab siege of Constantinople in 717-718, marked the end of large-scale Arab Muslim expansion into Christian lands.
The Battle of Tours followed 21 years of Umayyad conquests in Europe which had begun with the invasion of the Visigothic Christian Kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula in 711. These were followed by military expeditions into the Frankish territories of Gaul, former provinces of the Roman Empire. Umayyad military campaigns had reached northward into Aquitaine and Burgundy, including a major engagement at Bordeaux and a raid on Autun. Charles' victory is widely believed 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.
Most historians assume that the two armies met where the rivers Clain and Vienne join between Tours and Poitiers. The number of troops in each army is not known. The Mozarabic Chronicle of 754, a Latin contemporary source which describes the battle in greater detail than any other Latin or Arabic source, states that "the people of Austrasia [the Frankish forces], greater in number of soldiers and formidably armed, killed the king, Abd ar-Rahman", which agrees with many Arab and Muslim historians. However, virtually all Western sources disagree, and estimate the Franks at 30,000, less than half the Muslim force.
Modern historians, using estimates of what the land was able to support, and what Martel could have raised from his realm and supported during the campaign, believe the total Muslim force, counting the outlying raiding parties, which rejoined the main body before Tours, badly outnumbered the Franks. 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." Similarly, historian Victor Davis Hanson believes both armies were 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. Other sources give the following estimates: "Gore places the Frankish army at 15,000 - 20,000, although other estimates range from 30,000 to 80,000. In spite of wildly varying estimates of the Saracen force, he places that army as around 20,000 - 25,000. Other estimates also range up to 80,000, with 50,000 not an uncommon estimate." 
Losses during the battle are unknown but chroniclers later claimed that Charles 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 theBattle of Toulouse (721). Paul the Deacon reported correctly 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 invasion of Hispania, and then Gaul, was led by the Umayyad Dynasty the first dynasty of caliphs of the Islamic empire after the reign of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, 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 east across Persia and west across North Africa through the late 7th century.
In 711-18, Tariq ibn-Ziyad led forces across the Strait of Gibraltar to conquer the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania. 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 greater part of the Byzantine Empire, including Syria, Armenia and North Africa, although Leo the Isaurian stemmed the tide when he defeated the Umayyads at the Battle of Akroinon (739), their final campaign in Anatolia.
The Frankish realm under Charles Martel was the foremost military power of Western Europe. It consisted of what is today most of France (Austrasia, Neustria and Burgundy), most of Western Germany, and the Low Countries (Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands). The Frankish realm had begun to progress towards becoming the first real imperial power in Western Europe since the fall of Rome; however, it continued to struggle against external forces such as the Saxons, Frisians, and internal opponents such as Odo the Great (Old French: Eudes), the Duke of Aquitaine.
Muslim conquests from Hispania
Main article: Umayyad conquest of Hispania
Modern-day French borders. Septimania runs along the Mediterranean (southeast) coast from the Spanish border, and Aquitaine is along the Atlantic (west) coast running north from Spain.
The Umayyad troops, under Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani, the governor-general of al-Andalus, overranSeptimania by 719, following their sweep up the Iberian peninsula. Al-Samh set up his capital from 720 atNarbonne, which the Moors called Arbūna. With the port of Narbonne secure, the Umayyads swiftly subdued the largely unresisting cities of Alet, Béziers, Agde, Lodève, Maguelonne, and Nîmes, still controlled by their Visigothiccounts.
The Umayyad campaign into Aquitaine suffered a temporary setback at the Battle of Toulouse (721), when DukeOdo 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 Moorish forces, soundly based in Narbonne and easily resupplied by sea, struck eastwards in the 720s, penetrating as far as Autun in Burgundy in 725.
Threatened by both the Umayyads in the south and by the Franks in the north, in 730 Odo allied himself with the Berber emir Uthman ibn Naissa, called "Munuza" by the Franks, the deputy governor of what would later becomeCatalonia. As a gage, and to seal the alliance, Uthman was given Odo's daughter Lampade in marriage, and Moorish raids across the Pyrenees, Odo'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 Odo. ‘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 Odo (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."
Odo's appeal to the Franks
Odo, who despite the heavy losses was reorganizing his troops, gave the Frankish leader notice of the impending danger knocking on the heartland of his realm, and appealed to the Franks for assistance, which Charles Martel only granted after Odo agreed to submit to Frankish authority.
It appears that the Umayyads were not aware of the true strength of the Franks. The Umayyad forces were not particularly concerned about any of the Germanictribes, 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, because of his growing domination of much of Europe from 717: this might have alerted the Umayyads that a real power led by a gifted general was rising from the ashes of the Western Roman Empire.
Umayyad advance towards the Loire
In 732, the Umayyad advance force was proceeding north towards 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.
A military explanation for why Odo 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, Odo 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 forces were mostly infantry, and what cavalry they had never got a chance to mobilize and meet him in open battle. As Herman of Carinthia wrote in one of his translations of a history of al-Andalus, Odo managed a highly successful encircling envelopment which took the attackers totally by surprise — and the result was a chaotic slaughter of the Muslim forces.
At Bordeaux, and again at the Battle of the River Garonne, the Umayyad forces were cavalry, not infantry, and were not taken by surprise, and given a chance to mass for battle, which led to the devastation of Odo's army, almost all of whom were killed with minimal losses to the Muslims. Odo's forces, like other European troops of that era, lacked stirrups, and therefore had no heavy 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 of Tours, the most prestigious and holiestshrine 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 (October 732)
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 hills and trees to their front to break up the Muslim's cavalry charges.
For seven days, the two armies faced off with minor skirmishes. The Umayyads waited for their full strength to arrive, which it did, but they were still uneasy. 'Abd-al-Raḥmân, despite being a good commander, had allowed Charles to concentrate his forces and pick the field of battle. Furthermore, it was impossible for the Umayyads to judge the size of Martel's army, since Charles had used the trees and forest to help conceal his true numbers. Thus, 'Abd-al-Raḥmân recalled all his troops, which did give him an even larger army — but it also gave Charles time for more of his veteran infantry to arrive from outposts of the Kingdom.
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. Furthermore, he had levies of militia, but these were virtually useless except for gathering food and harassing the Muslims. Unlike his infantry, who were hardened campaigners, experienced and disciplined, the militia were neither; and Charles had no illusion of their ability to withstand a cavalry charge. While many Western historians through the centuries believed the Franks were outnumbered at the onset of battle by at least two to one, the most reliable and contemporary source, the Mozarabic Chronicle of 754, points to the contrary.
Charles gambled everything that ‘Abd-al-Raḥmân would in the end feel compelled to give battle, and to go on and loot Tours. Neither wanted to attack, but Abd-al-Raḥmân felt in the end obligated to sack Tours, which meant he had to go through the Frankish army on the hill in front of him. Charles's decision to wait in the end proved crucial, as it forced the Umayyads to rush uphill and through woods, negating to a large degree the lethality of a cavalry charge.
Charles had been preparing for this confrontation since the Battle of Toulouse a decade earlier. He was well aware that if he failed, no other Christian army remained to defend Western Christianity. But Gibbon believes, as do most pre-modern and modern historians, that Charles had made the best of a bad situation. Though outnumbered and without any heavy cavalry, Charles had tough, battle-hardened infantry which believed in him implicitly. Moreover, as Davis points out, this infantry was heavily armed, each man carrying up to perhaps 75 pounds (34 kg) of armour into battle.
Formed into a phalanx formation, they were able to withstand a cavalry charge better than might be expected, especially as Charles had been able to secure the high ground - with trees before him to further confound any cavalry charges. Charles also had the element of surprise - in addition to choosing the battlefield. That element of surprise extended to his opponents being totally unaware of just how good his forces were; Martel had trained them for a decade. And while he was well aware of the Caliphate's strengths and weaknesses; they knew next to nothing about the Franks.
The Franks were dressed for the cold, and had the terrain advantage. The Arabs were not as prepared for the intense cold of the oncoming northern European winter, despite having tents, which the Franks did not, but they did not want to attack an army which may have been numerically superior. The Umayyads were waiting for the Franks to come out into the open; while the Franks, formed up in a thick defensive formation, waited for them to charge uphill. It was a waiting game Charles won: the battle began on the seventh day, as ‘Abd-al-Raḥmân did not want to postpone the battle any longer with winter approaching.
Western Knight fighting against an Arabian horseman. (Illustration from the 19th c.)
‘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 and swords which had brought them victory in previous battles, was not justified.
In one of the few 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: infantry withstood the Umayyad heavy cavalry. Paul Davis says the core of Charles'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, and gather food for his infantry. The Mozarabic Chronicle of 754 says:
The battle turns
Umayyad troops who had broken into the square had tried to kill Charles, but his liege men surrounded him and would not be broken. The battle was still in flux when—Frankish histories claim—a rumour went through the Umayyad army that Frankish scouts threatened the booty that they had taken fromBordeaux. 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.
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.
Charles Martel's family composed, for the fourth book of the Continuations of Fredegar's Chronicle, a stylised summary of the battle:
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 Latin word used for "warrior", belligerator, "is from the Book of Maccabees, chapters 15 and 16, which describe huge battles.
It is thought that Bede's Historia ecclesiastica 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".
‘Abd-al-Raḥmân was a good general, but failed to do two things he should have done. Gibbon makes the point that he did not move at once against Charles Martel, was surprised by him at Tours as Charles had marched over the mountains avoiding the roads to surprise the Muslim invaders, and thus the wily Charles selected the time and place they would collide:
Having done either, he would have curtailed his light horse 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:
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 Charles to a battleground more to their liking, one that maximized the huge advantage they had in their mailed and armored horsemen. 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,
Both Hallam and Watson argue that had Charles 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, Charles 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."
Umayyad retreat and second invasion
The Umayyad army retreated south over the Pyrenees. Charles continued to drive the Umayyad forces from France in subsequent years. After the death (c. 735) of Odo, who had reluctantly acknowledged Charles'suzerainty in 719, Charles wished to unite Odo's Duchy to himself, and went there to elicit the proper homage of the Aquitainians. But the nobility proclaimed Hunold, Odo's 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 Charles confirmed his Duchy, and the two prepared to confront the invaders. Charles believed it was vital to confine the Umayyad forces to Iberia and deny them any foothold in Gaul. Therefore he marched at once against the invaders, defeating one army outside Arles, which he took by storm and razed, and defeated the primary invasion force at the Battle of the River Berre, outside Narbonne.
Umayyad invasion (735-39)
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.
Advance to Narbonne
Despite the defeat at Tours, 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 Nîmes.
The army attempting to relieve Narbonne met him in open battle at the Battle of the River Berre and was destroyed. 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.
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, Charles was content to isolate the few remaining invaders in Narbonne and Septimania. 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 Charles' 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 Córdoba in opposition to the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad.
Charles'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 Hispanicaacross 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:
Prior to Tours, stirrups may have been unknown in the west. Lynn White Jr., in his book "Medieval Technology and Social Change", argues the adoption of the stirrup for cavalry was the direct cause for the development of feudalism in the Frankish realm by Charles Martel and his heirs.
Historical and macrohistorical views
The historical views of this battle fall into three great phases, both in the East 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 Charles 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 such 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, where the Bulgarian Emperor Tervel played a crucial role, or a part of a series of great macrohistorical defeats which together brought about the fall of the first Caliphate. With the Byzantines and Bulgarians together with the 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 medieval period, such as Edward Gibbon, contended that had Charles fallen, the Umayyad Caliphate would have easily conquered a divided Europe. Gibbon famously observed:
Nor was Gibbon alone in lavishing praise on Charles as the savior of Christendom and western civilization. H.G. Wells in his A Short History of the World said in Chapter XLV "The Development of Latin Christendom:"
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."
German historians were especially ardent in their praise of Charles 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:
The German military historian Hans Delbrück said of this battle "there was no more important battle in the history of the world." (The Barbarian Invasions, page 441.) Had Charles Martel failed, Henry Hallamargued, there would have been no Charlemagne, no Holy Roman Empire or Papal States; all these depended upon Charles'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." Louis Gustave and Charles Strauss in Moslem and Frank; or, Charles Martel and the rescue of Europe said "The victory gained was decisive and final, The torrent of Arab conquest was rolled back and Europe was rescued from the threatened yoke of the Saracens." (page 122)
Charles Oman, in his History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages, concludes that
John H. Haaren says in Famous Men of the Middle Ages:
John Bagnell Bury, writing at the beginning of the 20th century, said:
Modern Western historians are clearly divided on the importance of the battle, and where it should rank in military history; see below.
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 in 718, 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 Akhbar al-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 that “they (the Muslims) called the battle's location, the road between Poitiers and Tours, "the pavement of Martyrs".” However, as Henry Coppée pointed out, "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." (Coppée 2002, p. 13)
Khalid Yahya Blankinship argued that the military defeat at Tours was 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 AD. 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 theGreat Berber Revolt of 740 in Iberia and Northern Africa."
Current historical debate on macrohistorical impact of Battle of Tours
Some modern historians argue that the Battle of Tours was of no great historical significance while others continue to contend that Charles Martel's victory was important in European or even world history.
Supporting the significance of Tours as a world-altering event
William E. Watson, strongly supports Tours as a macrohistorical event, but distances himself from the rhetoric of Gibbon and Drubeck, writing, for example, of the battle's importance in Frankish, and world, history in 1993:
Watson adds, "After examining the motives for the Muslim drive north of the Pyrenees, one can attach a macrohistorical significance to the encounter between the Franks and Andalusi Muslims at Tours-Poitiers, especially when one considers the attention paid to the Franks in Arabic literature and the successful expansion of Muslims elsewhere in the medieval period."
Victorian writer John Henry 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." Bernard Grun delivers this assessment in his "Timetables of History", reissued in 2004: "In 732 Charles Martel's victory over the Arabs at the Battle of Tours stems the tide of their westward advance."
Historian and humanist Michael Grant lists the battle of Tours in the macrohistorical dates of the Roman era. Historian Norman Cantor who specialized in the medieval period, teaching and writing at Columbia and New York University, says in 1993: "It may be true that the Arabs had now fully extended their resources and they would not have conquered France, but their defeat (at Tours) in 732 put a stop to their advance to the north."
Military historian Robert W. Martin considers Tours "one of the most decisive battles in all of history." Additionally, historian Hugh Kennedy says "it was clearly significant in establishing the power of Charles Martel and the Carolingians in France, but it also had profound consequences in Muslim Spain. It signaled the end of the ghanima (booty) economy."
Military Historian Paul Davis argued in 1999, "had the Muslims been victorious at Tours, it is difficult to suppose what population in Europe could have organized to resist them." Likewise, George Bruce in his update of Harbottle's classic military history Dictionary of Battles maintains that "Charles Martel defeated the Moslem army effectively ending Moslem attempts to conquer western Europe."
History professor Antonio Santosuosso puts forth an opinion on Charles, Tours, and the subsequent campaigns against Rahman's son in 736-737, presenting that these later defeats of invading Muslim armies were at least as important as Tours in their defense of Western Christendom and the preservation of Western monasticism, the monasteries of which were the centers of learning which ultimately led Europe out of her Middle Ages. He also makes an argument, after studying the Arab histories of the period, that these were clearly armies of invasion, sent by the Caliph not just to avenge Tours, but to begin the end of Christian Europe and bring it into the Caliphate.
Objecting to the significance of Tours as a world-altering event
Other historians disagree with this assessment. Alessandro Barbero writes, "Today, historians tend to play down the significance of the battle of Poitiers, pointing out that the purpose of the Arab force defeated by Charles Martel was not to conquer the Frankish kingdom, but simply to pillage the wealthy monastery of St-Martin of Tours". Similarly, Tomaž Mastnak writes:
The Christian Lebanese-American historian Philip Hitti believes that "In reality nothing was decided on the battlefield of Tours. The Moslem wave, already a thousand miles from its starting point in Gibraltar — to say nothing about its base in al-Qayrawan — had already spent itself and reached a natural limit."
In their introduction to The Reader's Companion to Military History Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker summarise this side of the modern view of the Battle of Tours by saying "The study of military history has undergone drastic changes in recent years. The old drums-and-bugles approach will no longer do. Factors such as economics, logistics, intelligence, and technology receive the attention once accorded solely to battles and campaigns and casualty counts. Words like "strategy" and "operations" have acquired meanings that might not have been recognizable a generation ago. Changing attitudes and new research have altered our views of what once seemed to matter most. For example, several of the battles that Edward Shepherd Creasy listed in his famous 1851 book The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World rate hardly a mention here, and the confrontation between Muslims and Christians at Poitiers-Tours in 732, once considered a watershed event, has been downgraded to a raid in force.
A number of modern historians and writers in other fields agree with Watson, and continue to maintain that this Battle was one of history's pivotal events. Professor of religion Huston Smith says in The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions "But for their defeat by Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours in 733, the entire Western world might today be Muslim." Historian Robert Payne on page 142 in "The History of Islam" said "The more powerful Muslims and the spread of Islam were knocking on Europe's door. And the spread of Islam was stopped along the road between the towns of Tours and Poitiers, France, with just its head in Europe."
Contemporary Arab historians and chroniclers are much more interested in the second Umayyad siege Arab defeat at Constantinople in 718, which ended in a disastrous defeat. After the first Arab siege of Constantinople (674-678) ended in complete failure, the Arabs Umayyad Caliphate attempted a second decisive attack on the city. An 80,000 strong army led by Maslama, the brother of Caliph Umar II, crossed the Bosporus from Anatolia to besiege Constantinople by land, while a massive fleet of Arab war galleys, estimated between 1,800 and 2,000, sailed into the Sea of Marmara to the south of the city. Fortunately for the Byzantines, the great chain kept the fleet from entering the inner harbor, and the Arab galleys were unable to sail up the Bosporus as they were under constant attack and harassment by the Greek fleet, who used Greek fire to level the differences in numbers. (The Byzantine fleet was less than a third of the Arab, but Greek fire swiftly evened the numbers). Emperor Leo III was able to use the famed Walls of Constantinople to his advantage and the Arab army was unable to breach them. (it must be noted that Bulgar forces had come to the aid of the Byzantines, and constantly harassed the Muslim army, and definitely disrupted resupply to the point that much of the army was close to starvation by the time the siege was abandoned. Some Muslim historians have argued that had the Caliph recalled his armies from Europe to aid in the siege, the city might have been taken by land, despite the legendary walls - such a recall would have doubled the army laying siege, allowed a full attack while still beating off Bulgar forces attempting to end the siege by harassing the army from outside while the defenders held the walls.
Some contemporary historians argue that had the Arabs actually wished to conquer Europe they could easily have done so. Essentially these historians argue that the Arabs were not interested enough to mount a major invasion, because Northern Europe at that time was considered to be a socially, culturally and economically backward area with little to interest any invaders. Some western scholars, such as Bernard Lewis, agree with this stance, though they are in a minority.
This is also disputed by Arab histories of the period circa 722-850 which mentioned the Franks more than any other Christian people save the Byzantines, (The Arabian chronicles were compiled and translated into Spanish by José Antonio Conde, in his "Historia de la Dominación de los Árabes en España", published at Madrid in 1820, and in dealing specifically with this period, the Arab chronicles discuss the Franks as one of two non-Muslim Powers then concerning the Caliphate). Further, this is disputed by the records of the Islamic raids into India and other non-Muslim states for loot and converts. Given the great wealth in Christian shrines such as the one at Tours, Islamic expansion into that area would have been likely had it not been sharply defeated in 732, 736, and 737 by Martel, and internal strife in the Islamic world prevented later efforts. Other relevant evidence of the importance of this battle lies in Islamic expansion into all other regions of the old Roman Empire -- except for Europe, and what was retained by Byzantium, the Caliphate took all of the old Roman and Persian Empires. It is not likely Gaul would have been spared save by the campaigns by, and the loyalty of, Charles Martel's veteran Frankish Army. Finally, it ignores that 4 separate Emirs of al-Andalus, over a 25 year period used a Fatwa from the Caliph to levy troops from all provinces of Africa, Syria, and even Turkomens who were beginning conversion, to raise 4 huge invading armies, well supplied and equipped, with the intention of permanent expansion across the Pyrenees into Europe. No such later attempts however were made as conflict between the Umayyad Emirate of Iberia and the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad prevented a unified assault on Europe.
Given the importance Arab histories of the time placed on the death of Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi Abd al Rahman and the defeat in Gaul, and the subsequent defeat and destruction of Muslim bases in what is now France, it seems reasonably certain that this battle did have macrohistorical importance in stopping westward Islamic expansion. Arab histories written during that period and for the next seven centuries make clear that Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi Abd al Rahman's defeat and death was regarded, and most scholars believe, as a catastrophe of major proportions. Their own words record it best: (translated from Arabic) "This deadly defeat of the Moslems, and the loss of the great leader and good cavalier, Abderrahman, took place in the hundred and fifteenth year." (Islamic Calendar) This, from the portion of the history of the Umayyad Caliphate, and the great Arab period of expansion, also translated into Spanish by Don Jose Antonio Conde, in his "Historia de la Dominacion de los Arabos en España," appears to put the importance of the Battle of Tours in macrohistorical perspective.
Had Martel fallen at Tours the long term implications for European Christianity may have been devastating. His victory there, and in the following campaigns, may have literally saved Europe and Christianity as we know it, from conquest while the Caliphate was unified and able to mount such a conquest. Had the Franks fallen, no other power existed stopping Muslim conquest of Italy and the effective end of what would become the modern Catholic Church. In addition, Martel's incorporation of the stirrup and mailed cavalry into the Frankish army gave birth to the armoured Knights which would form the backbone of western armies for the next five centuries. But had Martel failed, there would have been no Charlemagne, no Holy Roman Empire or Papal States. The majority view argues that all these events occurred because Martel was able to contain Islam from expanding into Europe while it could. His son retook Narbonne, and his Grandson Charlamagne actually 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 permanent buffer zone against Islam, with Frankish strongholds in Iberia, which became the basis, along with the King of Asturias, named Pelayo (718-737, who started his fight against the Moors in the mountains of Covadonga 722) for the origins of the Reconquista until all of the Muslims were expelled from the Iberia.
No later Muslim attempts against Asturias or the Franks was made as conflict between what remained of the Umayyad Dynasty, (which was the Umayyad Emirate and then Caliphate of Iberia) and the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad prevented a unified assault on Europe. It would be another 700 years before the Ottomans managed to invade Europe via the Balkans.
Perrecy-les-Forges - Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Benoît
The church of the former Priory Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Benoît is now the parish church of the village. When I visited Perrecy-les-Forges in April 2011 I had the impression, that the church and the museum were locked since years.
Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne and leader of the frankish armee in the Battle of Tours (732), gave the Perrecey estate to his brother Childebrand as a gift to thank him for defeating the Sarascens in the valleys of the Rhone and the Saône. Childebrands heirs bequeathed it to famous the abbey of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire.
First monks, coming from the Loire, settled here 880/885. Some parts of the westwork may date back to the 9th century. 1020/1030 a romanesque basilica was constructed here, one arm of the transept collapsed in 1095 - but got reconstructed soon after. 1120/1130 the narthex was added, which is - a unique masterpiece. Though obviously the priory run out of funds and so the second tower was never completed. Over the next centuries more chapels were added.
The monastery burnt down in 1500 and got dissolved in 1776 by a royal order. All existing buildings but the church got demolished after the French Revolution. The church lost its crossing tower.