Friday, October 10, 2008

The Battle of Tours

Charles Martel
Battle of Tours

A posting about the anniversary of the Battle of Tours by the BBC reminded me of an old line of poetry that I heard years ago: "In 732 at the Battle of Tours, Charles Martel defeated the Moors." As the battle is largely forgotten today, it is most likely due to this mnemonic device that I can even recall this famous battle that took place so long ago in France. (The actual fighting took place somewhere between the cities of Tours and Poitiers - the battle is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Poitiers).

In October of 732 a large Saracen army, under the command of Abd-er Rahman, crossed the Pyrenees from Spain into the land of the Franks seeking plunder and conquest. First defeating Count Eudo at the Battle of Bordeaux the Moors continued out into the French countryside. Count Eudo then made peace with his rival Charles Martel and combined their forces under Martel's command.

By then marching against the Moors and threatening their rear guard, Charles Martel forced Abd-er Rahman to retire from his attempt to take Tours and meet the new threat. Martel wisely dismounted his cavalry and formed a "wall" of armor to combat the enemy. It is estimated that the Moorish army was some 50,000 strong and made up mostly of cavalry. The Frankish army was of an unknown number, but usually is considered to have been a similar sized force made up of both cavalry and infantry.

Once the battle lines were formed, the Moorish cavalry made a series of attacks against the Franks. The Franks were able to hold their ground and even gained an advantage, threatening their camp. The Muslim army fell back from the attack with their leader killed. The next day the Moors began their retreat back south of the Pyrenees. Charles Martel had won the day and had earned his name the "Hammer".

Charles Martel and his victory at the Battle of Tours is credited with turning back the tide of Islam from Europe and saving Christendom for another day. He then founded a dynasty that included his even more famous grandson, Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Having saved the "western world" and then founding the Frankish Empire, it is no wonder that Charles Martel was the subject of poetry.

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