Monday, 10 October 2011

The Battle of Tours

It's that time again, ladies and gents.

Time for me to stop rambling about endless political posts and off-topic trivialities and give you all a history lesson.

On this day (October 10th) 1279 years ago a major battle was ensuing. It would decide just how far Islam would encroach on western Europe and would mark the rise of a European power.

By 732 AD Spain had been consumed by the Moors. Islam was on the rise and threatening to spread further into Europe.

Remember learning about how terrible life in the dark ages was? It wasn't just terrible food, plagues, hard work and neighbouring warlords that were a problem, the Muslims had Europe in a vice grip too.

At this point in history there was no major power to stop them. The Umayyed Caliphate (aka the Moors, aka the evil forces of Islam) had already crushed the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) which had been held by feeble visigothic christian kingdoms and were poised add Gaul (France) to their list of conquests.

But as we already know, every story has a hero and today's hero, boys and girls, is none other than Charles Martel.

Stop! Hammertime!

Martel was the "Mayor of the Palace" of Austrasia at the time but don't let titles fool you; Martel was an autocrat ruling over Gaul and a rising general.

As it turned out, he had his work cut out for him. The Moors were slowly invading and ravaging the land with a cavalry-rich composition. All poor Charles had to work with was infantry, so he had to pick his battles carefully.

And pick carefully he did, he planted his army in between the Moorish army and Tours in the woods on high ground. If the Moors wanted to sack the juicy ripe town of Tours they would have to charge their cavalry through trees and up a hill. Moorish commander Abd-al-Rahman, was naturally afraid of fighting such a battle and against an unknown number (the trees made it difficult to judge the size of Martel's army), so he waited and called for reinforcements.

This was Rahman's first major blunder. By waiting for reinforcements, he gave Martel more time to prepare and call on reinforcements of his own. This was Martel's country, and so he had more reinforcements to call from in his countrymen.

When Rahman finally decided to bite the bullet and attack, the battle was already decided for him. He led cavalry charge after cavalry charge into a solid wall of trees and men clad in heavy armor. The casualties were heavy for the Moors. Nevertheless, eventually the cavalry broke through Martel's phalanx to the general himself, but Martel's liege men were quick to come to his aid.

Meanwhile, Martel had scouts sent into the Moor's base camp to create havoc. Rahman was forced to send some of his cavalry back to deal with the small threat, but his camp mistook the riding cavalry for a retreat. And so his whole camp began routing and it soon became a retreat.

Rahman attempted to stop the retreat and re-rally his troops and at this point Martel struck the killing blow, and surrounded and cut off Rahman from his retreating army. The Arabian King was slain and the battle was won.

For those of you who were too busy checking out the hot girl in front of you in Geography class.

Charles Martel's legacy continued in the form of the Carolingian dynasty. His grandson would become known as Charles the Great (aka Charlemagne) of the Holy Roman Empire.

But above all else Christian Europe was safe once more from Islam.

I for one find it interesting that for once the French were on the receiving end of a cavalry charge with an army of infantry when medieval history is littered with accounts of the mighty french cavalry. And also the stupidity of Rahman, all he had to do was continue his journey of pillaging the countryside until Charlie was forced to engage unfavourably.


  1. Hey I've been moving houses last week. Glad I can follow your blog again :)
    I like the topics on War best and this was nice read. Discovered one typo 'kimgdoms'

  2. In the words of Epic Meal Time:


  3. I always wondered how the Moors were driven back; good 'ol Gauls.

  4. "(aka the Moors, aka the evil forces of Islam)"

    Hmm. Yes, evil forces of islam, sure whatever. Tell that to the Europeans in 1066 who had never seen soap, water toilets, wind mills and the vast multidute of produce available in the Middle Eastern supermarkets of the day (bazaars). In reality, the "evil" Islamic empires were quite advanced and developed countries.

    Also, the Battle of Tours did not decide Europe's fate. I really doubt that the Muslims would have expanded deeper into France than Aquitaine on a permament basis.