Battle of Tours

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Apr 21, 2023

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The Battle of Poitiers, also known as the Battle of Tours and in Arabic sources as the Battle of the Shahid Cohort (Arabic معركة بلاط الشهداء, ma'arakat Balâṭ ash-Shuhadâ') took place on October 10, 732 near the city of Tours, near the border between the Frankish Kingdom and the then independent Aquitaine. The battle pitted Frankish forces under the leadership of the Austrian Majordomo Charles Martellus against Arab forces of the Umayyad Caliphate under Abdur-Rahman ibn Abdallah, governor-general of al-Andalusia. The Franks were victorious, Abdur-Rahman ibn Abdallah was killed, and Martell subsequently spread his influence further south. Ninth-century chroniclers, who interpreted the outcome of the battle as a sign of God's favor to Charles, gave him the nickname "The Hammer" (Martellus), perhaps in memory of Judas Maccabeus ("The Hammerer") during the Maccabean Rebellion. The details of the battle, including its exact location and the number of fighters, cannot be ascertained from extant sources; although, according to legend, the Frankish troops won the battle without cavalry.

Following the chroniclers who extolled Charles Martell as a champion of Christianity, historians until the twentieth century characterized the battle as a decisive turning point in resistance to Islam. "Most eighteenth- and nineteenth-century historians, such as Edward Gibbon, saw Poitiers (Tours) as a landmark battle marking the highest point of Muslim advance in Europe." Leopold von Ranke believed that "the Battle of Poitiers was the turning point of one of the most important eras in the history of the world.

Although modern historians are divided on the role of the victory - as Gibbon and his generation of historians assured us - in saving Christianity and preventing the conquest of Europe by Islam, the battle laid the foundation for the dominance of the Franks and the Carolingian Empire in Europe in the following century. "The establishment of Frankish domination in Western Europe sealed the fate of the continent and the Battle of Tours confirmed that domination.

Many modern historians hold that the Battle of Tours was one of the bloodiest and most important battles in the history of the Umayyads' conquests. It was a crushing defeat for the Umayyads and hastened their decline, halting the spread of Islam in Europe and establishing the rule of the Franks and their Carolingian rulers as the dominant European dynasty.

The battle was preceded by 20 years of Umayyad conquests in Europe, beginning with the invasion of the Visigothic Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 (the Battle of Guadalete) and extending into Gaul, a former province of the Roman Empire. The Umayyads' military campaigns reached as far north as Aquitaine and Burgundy, including the main battle of Bordeaux and the raid on Otön. Some historians consider Martell's victory a factor in stopping the advance of Umayyad forces north of the Iberian Peninsula and preserving Christianity in Europe at a time when Muslim rule had consumed the remnants of the former Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. Others argue that the victory merely marked the defeat of invading forces, not a turning point in history.

The exact location of the Battle of Tours remains unknown. The extant sources, Muslim and European, agree in some details but diverge in others. Most historians believe that the two armies met at the confluence of the Klen and Vienne rivers between Tours and Poitiers. The number of soldiers in both armies is unknown. Data from ancient Muslim sources indicate the number of Umayyad armies at 80,000 or more soldiers. In his 1999 work Paul C. Davis estimates the number of Arab troops at 80 thousand soldiers, and the number of Franks at 30 thousand, noting that modern historians estimate the strength of the Umayyad army at Tours at 20-80 thousand men. Edward Schonfield (rejecting earlier estimates of 60,000-400,000 Arab soldiers and 75,000 Frankish) argues that "an estimate of the Umayyad forces of more than 50,000 soldiers (and even more for the Franks) in terms of supply is not credible. Another modern military historian, Victor Davies Hanson, suggests that the two armies were roughly equal, having about 30,000 men. Perhaps modern historians are more accurate than medieval sources, since modern data are based on an estimate of the logistical ability to supply that many men and animals. Both Davis and Hanson point out that both armies had to obtain supplies and provisions from the surrounding area, since neither had an effective system of household food stores. It is not known what casualties the armies suffered during the battle, but later chroniclers have claimed that Martell's forces lost about 1,500 soldiers, while the Umayyad forces suffered massive losses of up to 37,500 men. However, the same loss figures are recorded in the Liber Pontificalis after the victory of Duke Ede (Eudon) of Aquitaine at the Battle of Toulouse (721). Paul Deacon reports in his Historia Langobardorum (written about 785) that the Liber pontificalis mentions these data in relation to Ed's victory at Toulouse (although he claimed that Charles Martell fought the battle with Ed), but later authors, probably "under the influence of Frederick's Continuers, attributed Saracen losses only to the merits of Charles Martell and the battle in which they fell came to be considered exclusively the battle of Poitiers. Vita Pardulfi, written in the middle of the eighth century, reports that after the battle the forces of 'Abd-el-Rahman made their way by fire and plunder back to Al-Andalusia through Limousin, which means that they were not as defeated as the Continuers of Fredegar claimed.


The invasion of Spain and then Gaul was led by the Umayyad dynasty (Arab. بنو أمية banū umayya

The Frankish kingdom under Charles Martel was a major military force in Western Europe. It included most of present-day France (Austria, Neustria, and Burgundy) and significant parts of West Germany and the Netherlands. The Frankish kingdom had been on its way to becoming a major imperial power in Western Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire, fighting both external enemies, such as the Saxons and the Frisians, and internal enemies, such as Ed the Great, Duke of Aquitaine.

Muslim Conquests in Gaul

The Umayyad forces under the command of al-Samh ibn Malik, ruler of al-Andalusia, had captured Septimania by 719. In 720 al-Samh chose Narbonne, which the Moors called Arbu-na, as their capital. Having secured the port of Narbonne, the Moors quickly seized the largely unresisted cities of Ale, Beziers, Agde, Lodew, Magelon and Nîmes, still under the control of their Visigothic counts.

The campaign in Aquitaine temporarily stalled after the battle of Toulouse (721), when the Duke of Ed Aquitaine lifted the Arab siege of Toulouse, capturing the army of Al-Samh ibn Malik by surprise and mortally wounding the commander himself. This defeat did not stop the attack on Gaul and the Arab forces, firmly entrenched in Narbonne and easily supplied by sea, directed their attack northwards, penetrating as far as Auteuil in Burgundy in 725.

Threatened by the Umayyads from the south and the Franks from the north, Duke Ed allied himself in 730 with the Berber emir Uthman ibn Naissah, whom the Franks called Munuza, vice-governor of the lands that later became known as Catalonia. To strengthen the alliance, Ed's daughter Lampagia was given as a wife to Munuza, and Arab raids across the Pyrenees on the southern border of Ed's dominions ceased.

The following year, however, Uthman ibn Naissah rebelled against the ruler of al-Andalusia, Abd al-Rahman, who quickly put an end to the rebellion and turned his attention to Ed. 'Abd al-Rahman brought a huge force of Arab heavy cavalry and Berber light cavalry, as well as troops from all the provinces of the caliphate, seeking to capture Europe north of the Pyrenees. According to one unnamed Arab eyewitness, "This army passed everywhere like a destructive storm. The Duke of Ed (some called the king) gathered his army at Bordeaux, but was defeated and Bordeaux was plundered. The massacre of the Christians at the Battle of the Garonne was terrible; the Mos Arab Chronicle of 754 said, "Solus Deus numerum morientium vel pereuntium recognoscat," ("God alone knows the score of those killed"). Then the Umayyad horsemen completely devastated this region of Gaul, their own annals saying, "The faithful raced over the mountains, rode over the hills and plains, broke into the depths of the Frankish lands and struck all with the sword, so that Ed himself, when he appeared to fight them on the Garonne, fled."

The Appeal of Edus Aquitaine to the Franks

Ed of Aquitaine appealed to the Franks for help, which Charles Martell granted only after Ed agreed to recognize the supremacy of the Franks.

Apparently, the Arabs were not familiar with the true power of the Franks. They did not care much about the Germanic tribes, including the Franks, and the Arab chronicles, the historical documents of the time, show that the Franks began to be talked about as a growing military force only after the Battle of Tours.

Furthermore, the Arabs had not scouted the north for possible enemies, for if they had not, they would certainly have turned their attention to Charles Martell as a force to be reckoned with, since he had confidently dominated Europe since 717. This would have alerted them to the fact that a real force had risen from the ashes of the Western Roman Empire under the command of a talented general.

Advancement to the Loire

In 732 the advance troops of the Arabs advanced northward toward the Loire, far outstripping the convoy and the main body of the army. Essentially easily suppressing any resistance in this area of Gaul, the invading army broke into several plundering units, while the main force advanced more slowly.

The Moors probably attacked so late because people and horses were forced to eat what the land gave them as they advanced; thus, they had to wait for the wheat to ripen and then for it to be compressed, threshed (slowly, with hand chains) and stocked in sufficient quantity. The farther north one went, the later the crop ripened, and while people could kill livestock for food, horses did not eat meat and needed the grain. If the horses were allowed to graze daily to feed them, it would take too long, and questioning the locals about where they hid their stock was pointless, since the warring parties did not understand each other's languages.

From a military point of view, it is quite easy to explain why Ed Aquitaine was so easily defeated at Bordeaux and the Battle of the Garonne after winning the Battle of Toulouse 11 years earlier. At Toulouse Ed was able to suddenly attack an overconfident and unprepared opponent whose defenses were all inward, while Ed attacked from the outside. The Arab forces consisted mainly of infantry, and the few cavalry they had had no time to mobilize. As Hermann of Carinthia wrote in one of his translations of al-Andalusian history, Ed succeeded in a successful encirclement that took the besiegers by surprise, with the result that the Muslim forces were defeated.

However, both in Bordeaux and at the Battle of the Garonne, the Arab forces consisted mainly of cavalry rather than infantry, they could not be taken by surprise, and, given the opportunity to build for battle, they destroyed Ed's army, slaughtering almost all of his soldiers with minimal losses for the Muslims. Ed's horsemen, like other European armies of the time, lacked stirrups, so they had no heavy cavalry. His army was almost entirely infantry. The Arabs' heavy cavalry defeated the Christian infantrymen in the first onslaught, and then slaughtered them as they mingled and fled.

The invading armies then proceeded to ravage southern Gaul. According to Fredegar's second successor, the probable cause was the wealth of St. Martin's Abbey of Tours, the most revered shrine in Western Europe at the time. On hearing of this, the majordom of Australasia, Charles Martell, raised an army and set out south, avoiding the old Roman roads and hoping to take the Muslims by surprise. Since he intended to use a phalanx, he needed to choose a battlefield. The success of his plan - to find a wooded upland plain, build his men, and force the Muslims to attack - depended on the element of surprise.

Preparation and maneuvers

Apparently, the invading army was taken by surprise, encountering a large, battle-ready army on its way, on the hill directly between them and Tours. Charles achieved the surprise he sought. He then chose to begin the battle in a defensive formation, a kind of carriage. According to Arab sources, the Franks formed a large square between the trees and on the rise, so as to repel any onslaught of cavalry.

For seven days both armies scouted the battle, engaging in minor skirmishes. The Moors awaited the arrival of their main force, which soon did, but it did not add to their confidence. Abd al-Rahman, being an experienced commander, nevertheless allowed Martell to assemble all his troops and choose the place for the battle. Moreover, it was difficult for the Arabs to estimate the size of the army that confronted them because Martell used woods and trees to give the impression that his army was larger than it actually was. So Abd al-Rahman summoned all his forces, allowing him to assemble an even larger army - but it also gave time for Martell's experienced infantrymen to arrive from remote fortresses throughout Europe. These infantry were his best hope for victory. Hardened in battle, much of his army had fought under him for many years, some since 717. In addition, Charles received militia reinforcements, but they were of little use except to gather provisions and wear down the Muslims. Unlike an experienced and disciplined regular foot army, the militia lacked both of these qualities, so Martell could not rely on it to repel cavalry attacks. (For centuries, most historians have been convinced that the Muslim troops were twice as outnumbered at the start of the battle.) In preparing for battle, Martell put everything on the line, trusting that Abd al-Rahman would find it necessary to enter the battle and pave the way for the plundering of Tours. None of them wanted to attack - but Abd al-Rahman felt obliged to plunder Tours, for which he would have to literally walk through the ranks of the Frankish army that stood before him. Martell's choice proved decisive because he forced the Moors to attack up the slope, overcoming obstacles of terrain and vegetation that negated the natural advantages of cavalry.

Martell had been preparing for this clash since the battle of Toulouse a decade earlier. He was well aware that if he were defeated, there would no longer be a force left in Europe capable of defending Western Christianity. Gibbon, like other European historians, was confident that Martell had found a better way out of a bad situation. Although his army was outnumbered and he could only rely on infantry, Martell had a battle-hardened, unquestioning army that believed in him. Martell achieved an advantage in initiative and chose the field of battle.

The Franks, in their wolf and bear skins, were well dressed for the cold and had the advantage of using the terrain. The Arabs were not prepared for the severe cold of the impending northern European winter, although they had tents that the Franks lacked. They were reluctant to attack the Frankish army, which they considered numerically superior. In fact, the Arab general wanted to lure the Franks out into the open, while the Franks, who had formed a tight formation on the hill among the trees, waited for the Moors to come up to them, losing the advantages of cavalry. It was a waiting game that Martell won: the battle began on the 7th day because Abd al-Rahman did not want to delay the battle indefinitely in light of the approaching winter.


Abd al-Rahman trusted the tactical superiority of his cavalry and sent it out to attack again and again. This time the Arabs' faith in their cavalry armed with lances and swords, which had brought them victories in previous battles, was unwarranted.

The disciplined Frankish infantrymen withstood all attacks, although, according to Arab sources, Arab cavalry broke through inside the Frankish square several times. "Muslim horsemen rushed frequently and violently against battalions of Frankish soldiers, who stood bravely, and many fell on both sides."

In spite of this, the Franks did not falter. Martell's warriors accomplished what was thought impossible at the time: the infantry defeated the fierce Umayyad cavalry. Paul Davies says that the core of Martell's army was professional infantry, both perfectly disciplined and highly motivated, "having fought with him all over Europe," backed by the militia, which Martell used to keep the Umayyads busy and to get food for the infantry. The Mosarab Chronicle of 754 states, "And in the thunder of battle the men of the North seemed a sea that could not be moved. Firmly they stood, shoulder to shoulder, lined up like a block of ice; and with the mighty blows of their swords they smote the Arabs. Gathered in crowds around their leader, the men of Australasia reflected everything before them. Their tireless hands pierced the breasts of their enemies with their swords.

Turning the Tide of the Battle

Those Arab troops who broke through the phalanx tried to kill Martellus, but his vassals surrounded him and would not budge. The battle was in full swing when, according to Frankish historians, a rumor spread through the Arab armies that Frankish scouts were threatening the wagon train with the spoils captured in Bordeaux. Some of the Arab warriors immediately abandoned the battle to return to camp to guard their spoils. According to Muslim sources, in the midst of the second day of the battle (according to Frankish sources, it lasted only one day), scouts sent by Charles began plundering the camp and the convoy (including slaves and loot).

Apparently, Charles sent scouts to wreak havoc in the main camp of the Moors and free as many slaves as possible, hoping to split the ranks of the enemy. He succeeded, for many of the Arab cavalry returned to the camp. In the eyes of the rest of the Muslim army it looked like a full-scale retreat, and soon it did indeed become one. Both Western and Arab chronicles agree that in trying to stop the flight, Abd al-Rahman was surrounded, which led to his death, while the rest of the Muslim troops returned to the camp. "All the soldiers fled in the face of the enemy," one Arab source wrote frankly, "and many fell in that flight. The Franks recovered their phalanx and spent the night at rest, confident that with dawn the battle would resume.

The next day

The next day, when the Moors did not show up on the battlefield, the Franks suspected an ambush. At first Charles was sure that the Muslims wanted to lure him down the hill to an open lowland. This was a tactic he knew he had to avoid at all costs; in fact, he had spent years training his troops not to break formation or go into open ground under any circumstances. Only after a reconnaissance by the Frankish soldiers of the Moors' camp - which had been so hastily abandoned that, according to Arab and Frankish chronicles, the Arabs abandoned their tents and headed back to the Iberian Peninsula, taking all the booty they could carry - did it become clear that under cover of night the Muslims had retreated.

Given the disparity in armies - predominantly Frankish infantry against Berber cavalry and Arab cavalry in armor and chainmail (the Berbers were not as heavily equipped) - Charles Martell won a brilliant victory in defense. He chose the place and time of battle himself and defeated the superior forces of the enemy.

Contemporaries' reports

The Mosarab Chronicle of 754 "describes the battle in more detail than any Latin or Arabic sources. In particular, it states the following:

When Abd al-Rahman pursued Eudon, he decided to ravage Tours by destroying palaces and burning churches. There he encountered a consul of Australasia named Charles Martell, who, having proved himself a skilled warrior from his youth, had been summoned by Eudon. After both sides had pestered each other with raids for seven days, they finally built up their orders and fought fiercely. The Northerners stood motionless as a wall, clinging to each other like a glacier in the northern mountains. In the blink of an eye they destroyed the Arabs with their swords. The Australians, outnumbered and outgunned, discovered the ruler Abd al-Rahman and killed him with a blow to the chest. But suddenly, seeing the incalculable tents of the Arabs, the Franks contemptuously put their swords in their scabbards and postponed the battle until the next day, for night had descended during the battle. Rising from their camp at dawn, the Europeans saw the tents and marquees of the Arabs arranged exactly as they had been the day before. Unaware that they were empty, and thinking that a Saracen force was inside ready for battle, they sent officers to scout and found that all the Ishmaelite forces had fled. And indeed, they fled under the cover of night in close formation and returned to their country.

An account of the outcome of the battle, stylized by Charles Martell's entourage for the fourth book of the Fredegar Continuation Chronicle:

Prince Charles boldly led his ranks against them, and the warrior rushed upon them. With Christ's help he overturned their tents and hastened to wipe them out. As the king of Abdiram was slain, he destroyed , sending his army forward, he fought and won. Such was the triumph of the victor over his enemies.

This source then specifies that "he descended upon them as a great warrior" and, further, "scattered them as straw.

The Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Chapter XXIII) of Bede the Venerable is said to have mentioned the battle of Poitiers: "...the evil Saracen plague ravaged France with deplorable bloodshed, but soon in that country they received their deserts for their outrages.

Strategic analysis

Abd al-Rahman was a good general, but he failed to do two things. Gibbon places the emphasis on the fact that he did not immediately go against Charles Martell, and the latter took him by surprise at Tours, as he headed through the mountains, avoiding roads in order to achieve the effect of surprise. Thus the cunning Martell himself chose the time and place of the clash between the two forces:

If he had taken even one of these steps, he would have been able to keep his light cavalry from ravaging southern Gaul and march immediately with all his forces against the Franks. This strategy would have neutralized any advantage Charles had at the battle of Tours:

Although, according to some military historians, leaving the enemy behind was not very wise, the Mongols proved that indirect attack and avoiding combat with weak opponents in order to destroy the strong ones first had a devastating effect on the invasion. In the case at hand, these weak adversaries posed little danger, given the ease with which their Muslim armies defeated them. The real threat was Charles and the fact that the Muslims did not bother to reconnoiter the situation in Gaul led them to disaster.

According to historian Edward Creasy, strategically it would have made most sense for the Muslims to abandon the battle, return with the spoils, garrison the captured cities of Western Gaul and return at a time when they could have met Martel on a more comfortable battlefield where they could have realized the huge advantage of heavy cavalry. Moreover, things might have turned out differently if Muslim forces had not gotten out of hand. Both Western and Arab historians agree that the battle was fierce and that the Arabs' heavy cavalry broke through the phalanx, but that the Franks managed to hold the line.

Charles could not sit idly by while the Frankish lands were in trouble. Sooner or later he would have to face the Umayyad army. His men were enraged at the total devastation of Aquitaine and rushed into battle. But Creasy notes that

Henry Gallam and William Watson argue that if Martell had lost, there would have been no military force left in Western Europe capable of defending it. Perhaps Gallam put it best: "It may be safely ranked with those few battles whose opposite outcome would have changed the drama of world history in all its subsequent acts: the battles of Marathon, Gaugamela, Metaurus, Chalon, and Leipzig.

Strategically and tactically, Martell made the best possible decision, waiting until the moment when the enemy least expected his intervention and approaching stealthily to take the enemy by surprise on his chosen battlefield. Both he and his men probably did not realize the importance of the battle they had just won; as Matthew Bennett et al. say in Medieval Battle Techniques (2005), "Few battles are remembered for 1000 years...But the Battle of Tours is an exception...Charles Martell turned back an invasion by Muslims who might have taken Gaul had they not been stopped."

The retreat of the Moors and the second invasion

The Arabs' army rolled back south over the Pyrenees. In the following years Martell continued their expulsion from France. After the death of Ede of Aquitaine (c. 735), who reluctantly recognized Martell's suzerainty in 719, Charles decided to annex Ede's duchy to his lands and went there to collect from the Aquitanians the tribute owed him. But the nobility proclaimed Gounold, son of Ede, as duke, and Charles recognized his legal rights the following year when the Arabs invaded Provence as allies of the duke of Maurontius. Gounold, who at first was unwilling to recognize Charles as supreme ruler, was soon left with no other choice. He recognized Charles' supremacy, Martell confirmed his rights to the duchy, and both began to prepare to meet the invaders. Martell was convinced that the Arabs had to be held in the Iberian Peninsula and not allowed to gain a foothold in Gaul, an opinion shared by many historians. He therefore set out at once on the invaders, defeated one army at Arles, taking it by storm and ravaging it, and defeated the main forces of the enemy at the Battle of the River Berre near Narbonne.

Advancement to Narbonne

In spite of this, the Umayyads continued to rule Narbonne and Septimania for another 27 years, although they could not advance any further. They strictly respected the treaties they had made with the local population, which were confirmed in 734 when the ruler of Narbonne, Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri, concluded agreements with several towns to defend themselves together against the encroachments of Charles Martel, who had systematically subdued the south as he expanded his dominions. He destroyed the armies and fortresses of the Moors at the battles of Avignon and Nîmes. An army trying to lift the siege of Narbonne met him face to face at the Battle of the River Berre and was destroyed, but Charles failed to take Narbonne by storm in 737 when the city was jointly defended by Arabs, Berbers and visigoth townspeople.

Carolingian Dynasty

Unwilling to tie up his army in a siege that could last years, and believing that he could not bear the losses of a frontal attack with all his forces as he had at Arles, Martell was content to isolate the few invaders in Narbonne and Septimania. After the Moors' defeat at Narbonne, the threat of invasion eased, and in 750 the united caliphate plunged into the abyss of civil war at the Battle of Zaba. Charles's son Pepin the Short had the task of securing the surrender of Narbonne in 759 and annexing it to the Frankish kingdom. The Umayyad dynasty was exiled to al-Andalusia, where Abd al-Rahman I established the Emirate of Cordoba as a counterbalance to the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. Furthermore, the heavy Arab cavalry was no longer such a threat as the Christians copied the Arab model and created similar troops from which the familiar figure of the European knight in armor grew.

Martel's grandson Charlemagne was the first Christian sovereign to begin what later became known as the Reconquista. In northeastern Spain beyond the Pyrenees, in what is now Catalonia, he established the Spanish Marche, conquering Girona in 785 and Barcelona in 801, thus creating a buffer zone between himself and the Muslim lands south of the Pyrenees. The historian J.M. Roberts wrote about the Carolingian dynasty in 1993:

In 735 the new ruler of Andalusia again invaded Gaul. Antonio Santosuosso and other historians describe how the Andalusian ruler Uqba ibn al-Hajjaj again moved to France to avenge his defeat at Poitiers and spread Islam. Santosuosso notes that Uqba ibn al-Hajjaj converted about 2,000 Christians he captured during his lifetime to Islam. In a last attempt to invade Gaul, he assembled a considerable army at Saragossa, which in 735 entered what is now French territory, crossed the Rhone, and captured and plundered Arles. From there he struck into the heart of Provence and occupied Avignon, despite the strong resistance he encountered. The forces of Uqba ibn al-Hajjaj remained in Frankish territory for about four more years, reaching as far as Lyon, Burgundy and Piedmont.

Charles Martel again rushed to his aid and recovered most of the territories lost in the campaigns of 736 and 739, except Narbonne, which did not finally fall until 759. Alessandro Santosuosso argues that the second Arab expedition was more dangerous than the first. The failure of the second expedition put an end to any serious Muslim attempts to penetrate beyond the Pyrenees, although isolated raids continued. Plans for further large-scale attacks were frustrated by internal strife in the Umayyad lands, which often made enemies of their own countrymen.

Historical views of this battle, both in the East and especially in the West, fall into three main groups. Western historians, beginning with the Mosarab Chronicle of 754, have emphasized the macro-historical impact of the battle, such as the Continuers of Frederick. It has been suggested that Charles Martell actually saved Christianity, while Gibbon and his generation of historians believed that the Battle of Tours was certainly decisive for history.

Contemporary historians have essentially split into two camps on this issue. The first camp largely agrees with Gibbon, while the second argues that the significance of the battle is substantially overestimated: it is transformed from a raid by large forces into an invasion, and its outcome from a mere irritant to the Caliphate into a crushing defeat that ended the era of Muslim conquest. It is important to note, however, that the first camp, which shares the view of the macro-historical importance of the battle, also includes scholars who hold moderate views on the significance of the battle and who do not share Gibbon's spectacular rhetoric. The most prominent representative of this school is William Watson, who believes that the battle was of macrohistorical importance, as will be discussed in more detail below, but analyzes it from a military, cultural, and political perspective, rather than viewing it from the classic "Muslim-Christian" confrontation perspective.

Arab historians in the East have followed a similar path. At first the battle was considered a catastrophic defeat, then this view gradually disappeared from the Arab chronicles and is now reduced to a debate as to whether it was a minor defeat amidst the failure of the second siege of Constantinople, or one of a series of macro-historical defeats that led to the final fall of the caliphate. In fact, many modern Muslim scholars argue that the Umayyad caliphate was a jihadist state that could not hold out after the end of the expansion. When Byzantium and the Franks put a stop to further expansion, internal social problems came to the fore, from the Berber revolt in 740 to the Battle of Zaba and the fall of the Umayyad caliphate in 750.

In Western History.

The first wave of genuine contemporary historians, especially those who studied Rome and the Middle Ages, such as Edward Gibbon, argued that if Martell had fallen, the Umayyad Caliphate would have easily taken over a divided Europe. Gibbon's statement is well known:

Gibbon was not alone in praising Martell as the savior of Christianity and Western civilization. Herbert Wells in his A Brief History of the World (chapter XLV, "The Development of Latin Christianity") said:

A century later, Gibbon was echoed by the Belgian historian Godefroy Kurt, who wrote that the Battle of Poitiers "must forever remain among the most important events in world history, for its outcome determined whether Christian civilization survived or Islam would prevail throughout Europe.

German historians have most passionately extolled Martell's role. Schlegel discusses this "magnificent victory" and goes on to say that "the power of Charles Martell saved and delivered the Christian nations of the West from the deadly grip of all-destroying Islam. Creasy quotes Leopold von Ranke as saying that this period was

The German military historian Hans Delbruck said of this battle, "There has never been a more important battle in the history of the world" (Barbarian Invasions, p. 441.). Had Martell fallen, Henry Gallam argued, there would have been no Charlemagne, no Holy Roman Empire, no Papal province; everything depended on whether Martell succeeded in containing the spread of Islam in Europe while the caliphate was united and able to make such a conquest. Another great historian, Thomas Arnold, rated the victory of Charles Martell even higher than that of Arminius in its influence on all modern history: "The victory of Charles Martell at Tours was one of those momentous deliverances which for centuries have influenced the happiness of mankind. The British historian G. L. M. Stross, in his book Muslims and Franks; or Charles Martell and the Salvation of Europe, said: "He won a decisive and final victory, reversed the tide of Arab conquests, and Europe was saved from the threat of the Saracen yoke" (p. 122).

British military historian Charles Oman, in his History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages, concludes that

American historian John Haaren, in Great Men of the Middle Ages, says: "The Battle of Tours, or Poitiers, as it should be called, is considered one of the decisive battles of the world. It determined that Christians, not Muslims, should rule Europe. Charles Martell in particular is lauded as the hero of this battle. The Irish historian John Bagnell Beery wrote in the early twentieth century: "The Battle of Tours <...> is often portrayed as a first magnitude event in world history, for after it the penetration of Islam into Europe was finally ended.

But, as we shall see below, the opinions of today's historians on the significance of the battle and the place it should occupy among the most important historical battles are clearly divided.

In Muslim History

Eastern historians, like their Western counterparts, did not always agree on the importance of the battle. According to Bernard Lewis, "Arab historians, if they referred to the battle <the battle of Tours>, represented it as only a minor skirmish"; and Gustav von Grunebaum writes: "This defeat may have been important from the point of view of Europeans, but for Muslims at the time, who saw in it no serious threat to the unified plan, it was of no particular importance. Arab and Muslim historians and chroniclers of the time were much more interested in the second siege of Constantinople by the Umayyads in 718, which ended in a disastrous defeat.

But Creasy argued, "The cornerstone importance of the Battle of Tours in Muslim eyes is confirmed not only by such expressions as 'the death struggle' and 'the shameful end' that their authors constantly used when speaking of it, but also by the fact that no further serious attempt was made to conquer the lands north of the Pyrenees.

The 13th-century Moroccan author Ibn Idari al-Marrakushi mentions this battle in his history of the Maghrib, Al Bayan al-Mughrib fi Akbar al-Maghrib. According to Ibn Idari, "Abd al-Rahman and many of his men found martyrdom on the balat al-Shuadai (path of the martyrs)." Antonio Santosuosso notes in his book Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels: Customs of Medieval Wars on p. 126: "They called the place of battle, the road between Poitiers and Tours, 'the sidewalk of the martyrs. However, as Henry Coppet explains, "The same name was given to the battle of Toulouse and applied to many other battlefields where Muslims were defeated: they were always martyrs for the faith.

The American historian Khalid Yahya Blankinship argued that the military defeat at Tours was one of the failures that led to the decline of the Umayyad Caliphate: "Stretching from Morocco to China, the Umayyad caliphate based its success and expansion on the doctrine of jihad-the armed struggle to seize all the land for the glory of God, a struggle that brought notable success for a century but stopped suddenly, followed by the fall of the ruling Umayyad dynasty in 750 AD. The end of the jihadist state demonstrated for the first time that the cause of this fall was not simply internal conflict, as claimed, but a series of simultaneous external factors that exceeded the caliphate's capacity to respond to them. These external factors began with the crushing military defeats at the second siege of Constantinople (in 717-718), Toulouse (in 721), Poitiers (in 732), and led to the Great Revolt of the Muslim Berbers in 740 in Iberia and North Africa."

Some historians today argue that the Battle of Tours was of little historical significance, while others insist that Martell's victory had an important impact on European and even world history.

Arguments for the importance of the battle as an event of world significance

William Watson strongly supports the view of the battle as a macro-historical event, but distances himself from the rhetoric of Gibbon and Droubeck when, in particular, he wrote in 1993 about the significance of the battle for Frankish and world history:

Watson adds: "By examining the motives of the Muslim aspiration north of the Pyrenees, one can give historical significance to the clash between the Franks and the Andalusian Muslims at Tours-Poitiers, especially if one takes into account the role assigned to the Franks in Arabic literature and the successful expansion of Muslims in the remaining regions during the Middle Ages.

Bernard Gruen assesses the battle this way in Timeline of History, reprinted in 2004: "In 732, Charles Martell's victory over the Arabs at the Battle of Tours broke the tide of their invasion of the West.

The historian Michael Grant, Professor of Humanities at the University of Edinburgh and author of the History of Rome, counts the victory at Tours among the macro-historical milestones of the Roman era. The historian Norman Cantor, who specialized in the Middle Ages at Columbia and New York University, said in 1993: "It may be true that the Arabs had exhausted their resources by then and could no longer conquer France, but the defeat in 732 ended their advance northward.

The military historian Robert Martin considered the Battle of Tours "one of the most decisive battles in all history" said: "It was certainly instrumental in establishing the power of Charles Martel and the Carolingians in France, but it also had serious consequences for Muslim Spain. It proclaimed the end of the economy of ganim (plunder).

Military historian Paul Davis argued in 1999: "If the Muslims had won at Tours, it is hard to imagine what people in Europe could have organized to fight them back. Likewise, George Bruce, in his supplement to Harbottle's classic military-historical Dictionary of Battles, says that "Charles Martell, by defeating the Muslim army, effectively ended Muslim attempts to take over Western Europe."

Antonio Santosuosso offers an interesting contemporary understanding of Martell, the Battle of Tours, and the ensuing campaign against Rahman's son in 736-737. Santosuosso makes a compelling case that all subsequent defeats by Muslim armies were at least as important as the Battle of Tours in protecting Western civilization and preserving Western monasticism, since monasteries were the educational centers that finally brought Europe out of the Middle Ages. He also makes a strong argument, based on his study of Arab historians of the period, that these were invading armies sent by the Caliph not just to avenge Tours, but to begin the conquest of Western Europe and annex it to the Caliphate.

Objections to recognizing the battle as a world-changing event

Other historians disagree with this assessment. Alessandro Barbero writes: "In modern times historians tend to downplay the Battle of Poitiers, pointing out that the goal of the Arab forces defeated by Charles Martel was not to conquer the Frankish kingdom, but only to plunder the rich monastery of St. Martin in Tours. Similarly, Tomasz Mastnak writes:

The Lebanese-American historian Philip Hitti opined that "In reality, nothing was decided on the battlefield of Tours. The Muslim wave, already a thousand miles from its starting point at Gibraltar - not to mention its base at al-Qairawan - had already exhausted itself and reached its natural limit.

The view that the battle was of no historical importance was summed up by Franco Cardini, who said in Europe and Islam:

In their introduction to The Reader's Companion to World History, Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker summarize the views of contemporary proponents of this view of the Battle of Tours: "The study of military history has undergone a radical change in recent years. The old approach to the drum roll and fanfare is no longer good enough. Factors such as economics, supply, intelligence, and technology have taken the place that used to be given only to battles, campaigns, and casualty counts. Words such as "strategy" and "operation" have taken on meanings they did not have a generation ago. New approaches and research have changed the way we think about what once seemed most important. For example, some of the battles that Edward Creasy listed in his famous 1851 book, The 15 Decisive Battles of the World, are hardly worth mentioning, and the clash between Muslims and Christians in 732, once considered a watershed event, has now been relegated to a massive raid.

Some contemporary historians and authors in other fields agree with William Watson and continue to argue that the battle was one of the turning points of world history. Professor of Religion Houston Smith says in World Religions: The Great Traditions of Wisdom: "Had it not been for the defeat of Charles Martell at Poitiers in 732, the entire Western world might be Muslim today." Historian Robert Payne on p. 142 of his History of Islam said: "More powerful Muslims and the spread of Islam were knocking at the door of Europe. And the spread of Islam was stopped on the road between the French cities of Tours and Poitiers when it had just time to poke its head into Europe."

Conservative military historian Victor Davis Hanson shares his view of the battle's macro-historical significance:

Paul Davies, another contemporary historian who addresses both sides of the debate as to whether the battle really determined the future direction of history, as Watson argues, or was a relatively unimportant raid, as Cardini writes, says: "Whether or not Charles Martell saved Europe for Christianity is a matter for debate. What is not in doubt, however, is that his victory secured the dominion of Gaul for more than a century.


  1. Battle of Tours
  2. Битва при Пуатье (732)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Cirier, Aude; (2014-07-14). La bataille de Poitiers: Charles Martel et l'affirmation de la suprématie des Francs (in French). 50 Minutes. pp. 6–7. ISBN 9782806254290.
  4. ^ The Andalusian History, from the Islamic conquest till the fall of Granada 92–897 A.H. (711–1492 C.E.), by Professor AbdurRahman Ali El-Hajji, a professor of the Islamic history at Baghdad University, published in Dar Al-Qalam, in Damascus, and in Beirut. "Second Edition". p. 193
  5. ^ The Andalusian History, from the Islamic conquest till the fall of Granada 92–897 A.H. (711–1492 C.E.), by Professor AbdurRahman Ali El-Hajji, a professor of the Islamic history at Baghdad University, published in Dar Al-Qalam, in Damascus, and in Beirut. "Second Edition". p. 194
  6. ^ The Andalusian History, from the Islamic conquest till the fall of Granada 92–897 A.H. (711–1492 C.E.), by Professor AbdurRahman Ali El-Hajji, a professor of the Islamic history at Baghdad University, published in Dar Al-Qalam, in Damascus, and in Beirut. "Second Edition". pp. 198–99
  7. ^ Balat Al-Shuhada battle, in Islamic and European history, by Dr. Abd Al-Fattah Muqallid Al-Ghunaymi, published in Alam Alkotob, Cairo, Egypt. "First Edition". ISBN 977-232-081-9. p. 77
  8. 1 2 3 Oman, Charles W. Art of War in the Middle Ages A. D. 378—1515. — P. 167.
  9. D'autres estimations plus élevées existent, allant de 20 000 à 25 000 hommes.[réf. nécessaire]
  10. D'autres estimations avancent 50 000 ou 80 000 hommes.[réf. nécessaire]
  11. À une dizaine de kilomètres au sud-ouest de Tours, sur le lieu-dit des landes de Charlemagne en raison des armes qui y avaient été retrouvées. Voir à ce sujet : André-Roger Voisin, La bataille de Ballan-Miré : dite bataille de Poitiers, 732, Société des Écrivains associés, 2003, 195 p. (ISBN 978-2-84434-606-3).
  12. ^ a b Hanson, 2001, p. 143.
  13. ^ Cea mai veche sursă musulmană pentru această campanie este Futūh Mir de Ibn Abd al-Hakam (c. 803-71) — vezi Watson, 1993 și Torrey, 1922.
  14. ^ a b Hanson, 2001, p. 141.
  15. ^ Davis1999, p. 104.
  16. ^ Henry Coppée scrie "Același nume a fost dat și bătăliei de la Toulouse și este aplicat mai multor câmpii unde musulmanii au fost învinși: ei au fost întotdeauna martiri pentru credință" (Coppée, 1881/2002, p. 13.)

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