European History: Battle of Tours

About the battle of Tours in 732 between the Arab army and the French army led by Charles.

TOURS, 732

In 732 a large Arab Army crossed the Pyrenees and invaded France. Commanded by the Yemenite Abd-ar-Rahman, it defeated a rebellious Moslem kingdom ruled by the Berber Othman.

Abd-ar-Rahman then pushed north, routing the forces of Eudo, Duke of Aquitaine, an ally of Othman. The vanquished Eudo was forced to seek aid from his bitter enemy, Charles Martel. Charles cooperated because the Arabs were penetrating further north, leaving plundered towns and monasteries behind them.

The Arabs advanced toward the heart of France, lured by the wealthy monasteries of St. Hilaire and St. Martin. After gutting St. Hilaire, they rode up the Roman road toward Tours. Somewhere south of the town they met Charles and his Frankish Army.

For 7 days the 2 armies sat facing each other. The Franks were waiting for additional levies, and the Arabs were trying to move their spoils to safety. Then the Arabs attacked.

With a bolstered force that totaled 30,000 men, Charles arrayed his men to receive the Arab charge. The Franks, mainly infantrymen, were heavily armored with swords, axes, javelins, and a small throwing ax called the fran-cisca. The Arab Army totaled nearly 80,000 and was composed entirely of light cavalry. Extremely fast and mobile, the cavalry relied on the lance and sword. Because the Arabs were an offensive unit they were forced to attack the Franks or retreat south without their loot. The conquerors of Spain refused to flee before a smaller untried army, so they charged the Frankish lines.

The Franks unflinchingly received the Moslem charge, fending it off. The Arabs attacked repeatedly, searching for a weakness in the Franks' line. But the Frankish Army was like a wall against which the Arabs quickly pounded themselves to pieces.

As Arab stamina faded, the Franks counterattacked. The Arab flank was turned by an avengeful Eudo and his men from Aquitaine. Abd-ar-Rahman was killed while trying to rally his broken army. Next morning the Franks discovered the Moslem camp deserted except for abandoned plunder and the Arab dead.

Charles earned his name "The Hammer," and France never again was invaded by a Moslem Army. Although the Arabs were only raiding, a Frankish defeat at Tours would have led to greater incursions. As it happened, Abdar-Rahman's death brought on a revolt by the Berbers which destroyed Arab unity.

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