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Battle of ToursHistory -- Military history -- List of battles -- France/History History of England
The Battle of Tours (sometimes called the Battle of Poitiers) was fought on October 10, 732 between forces under the Frankishish leader Charles Martel and an Islamic army led by Emir Abd er Rahman. During the battle, the Franks defeated the Islamic army and Emir Abd er Rahman was killed. The result of this battle stopped the northward advance of Islam from Spain.
In 732 Abd er Rahman, governour of Spain, marched over the Pyrenees, possibly to end the unrest on his northern border, but more likely to plunder the Frankish territories. According to William E. Watson, however, it was not an expedition for more plunder or an operation to spread the word of Muhammed, but rather "a(n)...attempt to eliminate a strategic threat located north of the Andalusia border."
When the Arab army crossed the Garonne, they continued their rampage. According to one unidentified Arab, "That army went through all places like a desolating storm." Duke Eudes (called King by some), collected his army before Bordeaux. Abd er Rahman defeated Eudes near Bordeaux, plundered the town, and marched north to the River Loire. A possible motive was the riches in the cathedral of Tours. Upon hearing this, Austrasian Mayor Charles collected his army and marched south. His army consisted of veterans. Estimates vary widely, from 15,000 - 75,000.
For six days the two armies watched each other, with just minor skirmishes. Neither of them wanted to attack. The Franks were well dressed for the cold, and had the terrain advantage. The Arabs had prepared less well for the intense cold, but did not want to attack what they thought was a numerically superior Frankish army. The fight commenced on the seventh day, as Abd er Rahman did not want to postpone the battle indefinitely.
Abd er Rahman trusted the numerical superiority of his cavalry, and had them charge repeatedly. This time the faith the Muslims had in their cavalry, armed with their long lances, long swords and spears, which had brought them victory in previous battles, was not justified.
In one of the rare instances where medieval infantry stood up against cavalry charges, the disciplined Frankish soldiers withstood the determined charges, though according to Arab sources, their cavalry several times broke into the interior of the Frankish square.
For the Frankish soldiers the heavy Saracen cavalry looked invincible: heavily armoured, with even their horses wearing protective armour. Probably the numerous Berber cavalry was just lightly armoured.
According to a Frankish source the battle lasted one day, according to Arab sources two days. When the rumour went through the Arab army that Frankish cavalry threatened the booty they had taken from Bordeaux, many returned to their camp. This, to the majority of the Muslim army, appeared to be a full-scale retreat, and soon, it was one. Abd er Rahman attempted to stop this retreat. At this time he was surrounded and killed, and the Muslims returned to their camp.
The next day, when the Muslims did not renew the battle, the Franks feared an ambush. Only after extensive reconnaissance by Frankish soldiers of the Muslim camp did it turn out that the Muslims had retreated during the night.
Whatever the verdict, the death of Abd er Rahman caused the structure of the Muslim army to collapse. Leaderless and fighting among themselves, the Muslims could not muster up enough to make another stab at Europe. No further invasions of Europe were attempted.
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