It is no exaggeration to describe the Battle of Tours, which took place on October 10, 732, as one of the single most important battles in European history. The exact location of the battlefield is unknown, but the fight occurred somewhere between Tours and Poitiers. It was a decisive battle in the Umayyad Caliphate’s invasion of Gaul as they were defeated by a combined Kingdom of the Franks force led by the legendary Charles ‘the Hammer’ Martel.
Martel’s victory over his enemy’s forces, led by the Emir of Cordoba, Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, prevented the Muslimization of Western Europe. As well as halting the Islamic conquest, the Frankish win at Tours ensured that Christianity remained the controlling faith in Western Europe. At that time, the Muslim invaders were also busily trying to dismantle the Byzantine Empire in the East. Before we look at the battle, it is important to understand the events leading up to Tours.
The Muslim Invasion of Western Europe
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania began in 711 when Caliph Al-Walid I ordered Tariq ibn Ziyad to launch an invasion. Ziyad’s army disembarked from Gibraltar and began campaigning northwards. The Battle of Guadalete was an early victory, and Ziyad was joined by wali Musa ibn Nusair. The combined armies of both men continued to make inroads into enemy territory, and by 717 they had reached Septimania after crossing the Pyrenees.
A commander by the name of Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani took over the Arab-Berber forces and captured Barcelona and Narbonne in 719. This marked the beginning of the Umayyad conquest of Gaul. Although the Muslims suffered defeat at the Battle of Toulouse in 721, they retained control of Septimania, and in 725, Anbasa ibn Suhaym Al-Kalbi laid siege to Carcassonne. He forced the city to give tribute, cede half of its territory and make a defensive and offensive alliance with the Muslims.