The Battle of Tours was fought in 732 between a sizable Moorish invading force and a Frankish army under Charles Martel. The battle is considered highly significant in that it was crucial in stemming the tide of Muslim advance into north-eastern Europe after the Moors had successfully taken over southern Iberia.
Modern historians believe that had Martel not defeated the Moorish army at Tours, Christianity may have lost a vital sphere of influence in Western Europe. The outcome of the battle was the routing of Muslim army and a resounding victory for Charles Martel, earning him the title of being the “Saviour of Christianity”.
Prelude to the Battle
Muslim forces were defeated at the 721 Battle of Toulouse in their advance into northern Iberia. Duke Odo of Aquitaine secure this victory but by 732, another sizable Muslim army arrived to invade northern Iberia.
Odo attempted to stem the tide but was defeated and fled. He then turned to the Franks who were conventionally considered rivals of Aquitaine. Charles Martel, the Frankish military general, agreed to come to Odo’s help if Odo agreed to bend the knee to Frankish authority. Between the threats of a complete Muslim invasion and the condition of submitting to the Franks, Odo chose the latter.
The Battle of Tours was also known as the Battle of Poitiers
Formation of Battle Lines
The key advantage that the invading Moorish army had over the Franks was its highly mobile cavalry. Martel, on the other hand, had thousands of veteran troops. While the Frankish had no cavalry advantage over Muslims, Martel managed a crucial advantage by setting up his army at the ridge of a hill.
The phalanx-like formation of his infantry, surrounded by trees on both sides, ensured that any charge from the Muslim cavalry would have little advantage against the Frankish infantry. Being able to choose the terrain and the condition of the battle played the most central role in ensuring the subsequent Frankish victory in the battle.
The Muslim army was led by Abd er Rehman. He had been able to victories in many previous battles using the might of Muslim heavy cavalry. At the Battle of Tours, the importance of Rehman’s cavalry was greatly diminished.
The Muslim army was positioned at the foot of the hill while the Frankish stood in a defensive formation atop the ridge of the hill. After waiting for six days, Ab der Rehman made the tactical mistake of making his troops charge uphill.
This negated the cavalry advantage the Muslims had. The Franks, on the other hand, stood in highly organised formations and withstood one cavalry charge after another from the Muslims. Although Muslim army was able to pierce through the Frankish formations, they couldn’t penetrate deep enough and sustained heavy losses at the hands of the Frankish infantry.
After the battle which had lasted nearly a day, rumours spread that the Franks had attacked the Muslim camp. A sizable portion of the Muslim army immediately broke off to reach the camp. Muslim general, Ab der Rehman, was consequently killed while trying to restore order in his army.