October 10, 732: Battle of Tours

Thursday, October 10, AD 2013

“A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar in Spain to the banks of the Loire in France; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian Fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the River Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Qur’an would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Muhammed.”

Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Charles Martel, “The Hammer”, led a life of conflict.  An illegitimate son of Pepin of Herstal, Mayor of the Palace and the true power behind the Merovingian puppet kings, after the death of his father he had to fight his father’s legitimate offspring who sought to deprive him of any share in his father’s inheritance.  Fortunately for Charles a streak of military genius ran through him, and he won battles against the odds, using force multiplying stratagems, including feigned retreats, and attacking in the middle of the day when armies of his time normally took a siesta.  By 717 he was in control of Neustria, showing mercy unusual for his day in letting his defeated adversaries live and treating them with kindness.

The 28 year old ruler now entered a round of endless wars with neighboring kingdoms, gradually extending his power, and building up a professional force of infantry to supplement the peasant levies that made up the vast bulk of most Frankish armies.

A friend and patron of Saint Boniface, he also began the alliance between the rulers of the Franks and the Popes.  He contributed much land to the Church, but roused ecclesiastical ire when he took some back to support his troops.  He might have been excommunicated if both Church and State had not suddenly confronted a common foe.

In 711 the forces of Islam began the conquest of Spain, helped along by Christian traitors.  Within a decade almost all of Spain had fallen, with small proto-kingdoms of Spaniards clinging to a precarious independence in the mountains of northern Spain.  Mohammed had died less than a century before in 632, and in that intervening period Islam had conquered the Middle East, northern Africa and seemed poised to do the same in Europe against the petty Christian kingdoms that specialized in ceaseless internecine war, seemingly weakening themselves before  their Islamic foes lifted a finger.

With Spain subdued, Muslim raids into what is now France became common.  In 732 Abd-al-Raḥmân, governor of Muslim Spain, led a predominantly cavalry army of 25,000 men north on a great raid beyond the Pyrenees, perhaps the prelude to a war of  conquest.

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5 Responses to October 10, 732: Battle of Tours

Battle of Tours

Sunday, October 10, AD 2010

1268 years ago today, a  Frankish and Burgundian army under Charles Martel “the Hammer”, Mayor of the the Palace of Austrasia, defeated and turned back an Islamic army from Spain.  The battle was decisive in that it stemmed the tide of Islamic conquest in the West that had conquered virtually all of Spain in less than a decade.  Tours demonstrated that if the rest of Europe was to be conquered, it would take unending war against Christians who would never stop fighting against the followers of the prophet.  Europe would remain under siege from Islam for almost a thousand years, but Charles Martel and his men had scored the first decisive Christian victory in the long war which would ultimately turn back the first Islamic attempt to conquer Europe.

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8 Responses to Battle of Tours

  • That account seems similar to the shield wall of house carls Harold deployed at Hastings in 1066. Harold was early on killed and he was not there to hold back the carls from opening up and following the Norman cavalry that appeared to be routed. But the Norman was able to turn and “deal” with the disunited, leaderless Saxon infantry. NB: those Saxons same had, within a week, defeated a large Danish army led by a third claimant to the English throne.

    Te Deum . . .

    Plato, “Mortui solum finem belli viderunt.”

  • The Franks traditionally fought on foot, throwing axes, franciscas, at their enemies. Charles Martel was the father of European heavy cavalry, using cavalry with stirrups to supplement the Frankish infantry.

    The army defeated by Harold Godwinson was Norwegian. It was led by one of the most colorful characters of the Middle Ages, King Harald Hardrada, an ancestor of my wife’s, who took the side of Tostig, a brother of Harold Gowdwinson, in hopes of taking as much of England as he could. Instead, all he got was defeat and death at Stamford Bridge. If the Saxon army hadn’t been exhausted by the Stamford Bridge campaign, I think they might have defeated the Normans at Hastings.

  • My ancestors came with William the conqueror part of the mobile livery infantry.

    All this whining about being exhausted counts for absolutely zero when it comes to fighting for life or death.

    The Normans did more for England in one day than the thin-blooded interlopers from eastern Sweden would have done in a lifetime.


  • Down with the Norman oppressors! 🙂

  • The family of St. Thomas a Becket came to England with the Normans, and St. Thomas was born in London.
    My father’s ancestors – Beckett – came from London( my paternal grandfather was born there). A young Englishman worked for me back in the 70’s; he and his father were builders in London before he came to NZ, and they purchased bricks from Beckett’s Brickworks in London. I like to think I’m a descendant of St.Thomas’ family, but without a jot of evidence to back it up 😉
    Then the Saxons? My paternal grandmother was of Saxon stock – her ancestors has migrated to England – around Norwich – in the 17th. century, and she was brought to NZ in the 1870’s – so on my father’s side, I am Anglo(Norman?)- Saxon.
    My mother’s family were of Celtic(Irish & Scottish) descent…..but that’s a whole other story 🙂

    (Dunno what that’s got to do with Charles Martel though 😉

    Will Europe need to find another Charles Martel, or will it simply be overtaking by being outbred? That is the way now that Islam intends to conquer Europe, as the europeans discard their Christianity and continue to decimate their own populations through abortion and contraception – ethnic and cultural suicide. So sad to be witnessing.

  • Don it is interesting to read the subject on this blog. Sometime back I received an email on statistics showing how Europe will be islamised by 2050. Looking at the current trend, I will not be surprised though I may not live untill then.

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