Many historians believe that the Battle of Tours was one of the great turning points in history. Often, a battle becomes more myth than fact through the passage of time, but the Battle of Tours is one that many modern historians agree was vital in determining the course of future events in Europe and the Americas…
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The Battle of Tours occurred in October of 732. The participants were the Frankish leader Charles Martel and Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi of the Umayyad Empire. The Franks were one of the first Germanic tribes to convert to Christianity and the Umayyad Empire was the strongest Muslim empire of the day. The Franks were located in Central and Eastern France. They forged a close alliance with the remnants of the Christian Church located in Rome. The Church helped provide money so that Charles Martel could train his soldiers year round. This was necessary because of the advances of the Muslim Caliphate into Western Europe (Wood, 1999). The Umayyad Empire was established after the original Muslim Empire founded by the Rightly Guided Caliphs collapsed. The Umayyad Empire conquered the whole of the old Persian Empire, much of the Byzantine Empire and all of Northern Africa. They crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and slowly conquered the while of the Iberian Peninsula. Ever seeking to expand the Empire and Islam, general Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi built upon the acquisition of lands on the other side of the Pyrenees Mountains. His plan was to push North and East, eventually surrounding Rome and ending the presence of Christianity in Western Europe. The only army that was large enough to withstand the assault of the Muslim invaders was that of Charles Martel (Cantor, 1994). Rome was still reeling from the German invasions of the century before. The Roman Empire was defunct, so Charles Martel and his army of 30-40 thousand soldiers was the last line of defense for European Christianity. Some historians today argue that the Battle of Tours is overrated. They say that it was really nothing more than the defeat of a small Muslim exploratory party. The fact is Muslim and Christian historians and chroniclers of the battle have produced many sources that dispute these modern day historians. The Battle of Tours was very important for the history of Christianity. Part of the reason Charles Martel was able to win the Battle of Tours was the element of surprise. The Franks had leaned from experience that the only way they could battle the military might of the Umayyad forces was to catch them overconfident and off guard. Duke Odo had done this nearly two decades earlier at the Battle of Toulouse. Under siege, he surprised the Muslim warriors with a counter attack that took advantage of their sloppy preparation and overconfidence. It was Odo’s recent defeat on the battlefield that convinced Charles Martel to organize his troops for a surprise attack on the invaders. After forcing a pledge of allegiance from Odo, Martel began the expansion of the Carolingian empire by organizing his troops for counterattack against the Umayyad troops. Charles Martel organized his troops on a semi-wooded hillside near where two small rivers converged in the Loire valley. He needed this place because it gave him the high ground and the trees provided cover for his troops. The trees served the purpose of breaking up the charges by the Umayyad cavalry and concealing the true number of his troops. When the Muslim troops arrived in the plain at the food of the plateau he occupied, they were completely surprised to see their way blocked by the Franks. One stroke of luck enjoyed by Charles Martel was the fact that the rapid advancement of the Umayyad troops up the Loire valley had separated them from their supply chain. As a result, the entire army had broken into several
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