Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Battle of Tours: A Quick Look at The Battle that Changed History

The Battle That Changed History

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The Battle of Tours of 732 (or Poitiers, but not be confused with the battle in 1356) involved Charles Martel leading a force of Merovingian Franks against the Umayyad Caliphate. The Umayyad's had conquered the Iberian Peninsular in the early 700's. They then set out to invade southern France, but were repelled by the Duke of Aquitaine, Odo the Great, at the Battle of Toulouse (721). However, ten years later the Umayyads returned and crushed Odo's forces at the Battle of the River Garonne . Duke Odo looked for aid from Charles Martel. However, Martel only promised aid if Odo submitted to the Franks. Martel knew he had to raise a professional army to defeat the invaders, rather than using conscripts. Martel tried to remain undetected as he marched, so he could choose where to position his forces. He ended up positioning his forces between Tours and Poitiers. Abdul Rahman al Ghafiqi, leader of the Umayyad forces, was shocked when Martel's 30,000 men were positioned in a square on top of  terrain unfavourable for a Umayyad attack. Abdul Rahman' pause for a week while he gathered all his forces (up to 80,000). This pause allowed Martel to gather more veteran infantry at his position. However, a week later the pause ended and Abdul Rahman sent his cavalry into battle.

Martel's infantry held against wave after wave of cavalry. Eventually, the Umayyad cavalry broke through, but Martel was still saved, as his guard repelled the assault. However, the battle changed dramatically when some of Martel's men started to free prisoners in the Umayyad camp. Martel had sent the men out earlier. A large portion of the Umayyad force believed their plunder from the campaign was in danger and so the raced back to try and save it. Abdul Rahman was surrounded and killed by the Franks, when he tried to stop the supposed retreat.The Franks pursued the Umayyads for a short time. The Umayyads fully retreated and as a result they fled the whole of France, back to Iberia.

It seems the battle changed history, in the sense that it halted the advance if Islam into France. However, in 735 the new governor of al-Andalus, 'Uqba b. Al-Hajjaj moved into France to avenge Tours. Up until 739, the governor carried out raids on places such as Lyon, Burgundy and Piedmont. However, Charles Martel saved the day again with two campaigns, one in 736 and 739 . However, the Umayyads were still not defeated yet. But, in 759 Pippin the Short finally expelled the Umayyads out of France after the fall of Narbonne. The aftermath of the Battle of Tours reveals the Battle of France was far from over after Tours. This leads to one final question, did the Battle of Tours change history ? In my opinion, I think if the Umayyad's won the battle,  they would have advanced even further into France and possibly secured some land for a long period. However, the Franks won the Battle of Tours, and so now I shall say my opinion on what historically happened.  I believe, regardless of the Battle of the Tours, the Umayyads could have eventually finished their invasion of France successfully. It was the campaigns that followed that truly ended the Ummayad threat and therefore, in terms of the Umayyad's not winning Tours, I think the battle did change history, but in terms of the Franks winning, the battle did not change history greatly.

Sources: Greatly,

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