Umayyad retreat and second invasion

 

The Umayyad army retreated south over the Pyrenees. Charles continued to drive the Umayyad forces from France in subsequent years. After the death (c. 735) of Eudes, who had reluctantly acknowledged Charles' suzerainty in 719, Charles wished to unite Eudes's Duchy to himself, and went there to elicit the proper homage of the Aquitainians. But the nobility proclaimed Hunold, Eudes' son, as the Duke, and Charles recognised his legitimacy when the Umayyads entered Provence as part of an alliance with Duke Maurontus the next year. Hunold, who originally resisted acknowledging Charles as overlord, soon had little choice. He acknowledged Charles at once as his overlord, and Charles confirmed his Duchy, and the two prepared to confront the invaders. Charles believed it was vital to confine the Umayyad forces to Iberia and deny them any foothold in Gaul, a view many historians share. Therefore he marched at once against the invaders, defeating one army outside Arles, which he took by storm and razed the city, and defeated the primary invasion force at the Battle of the River Berre, outside Narbonne.

 

 

Advance to Narbonne

 

Despite this, the Umayyads remained in control of Narbonne and Septimania for another 27 years, though they could not expand further. The treaties reached earlier with the local population stood firm and were further consolidated in 734 when the governor of Narbonne, Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri, concluded agreements with several towns on common defence arrangements against the encroachments of Charles Martel, who had systematically brought the south to heel as he extended his domains. He destroyed Umayyad armies and fortresses at the Battle of Avignon and the Battle of Nimes. The army attempting to relieve Narbonne met him in open battle at the Battle of the River Berre and was destroyed, but Charles failed in his attempt to take Narbonne by siege in 737, when the city was jointly defended by its Muslim Arab and Berber, and its Christian Visigothic citizens.

 

 

Carolingian dynasty

 

Reluctant to tie down his army for a siege that could last years, and believing he could not afford the losses of an all-out frontal assault such as he had used at Arles, Charles was content to isolate the few remaining invaders in Narbonne and Septimania. The threat of invasion was diminished after the Umayyad defeat at Narbonne, and the unified Caliphate would collapse into civil war in 750 at the Battle of the Zab. It was left to Charles' son, Pippin the Short, to force Narbonne's surrender in 759, thus bringing Narbonne into the Frankish domains. The Umayyad dynasty was expelled, driven back to Al-Andalus where Abd ar-Rahman I established an emirate in Cordoba in opposition to the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad. The threat posed by the Arab heavy cavalry also receded as the Christians copied the Arab model in developing similar forces of their own, giving rise to the familiar figure of the western European medieval armoured knight.

 

Charles's grandson, Charlemagne, became the first Christian ruler to begin what would be called the Reconquista from Europe. In the northeast of Spain the Frankish emperors established the Marca Hispanica across the Pyrenees in part of what today is Catalonia, reconquering Girona in 785 and Barcelona in 801. This formed a buffer zone against Muslim lands across the Pyrenees. Historian J.M. Roberts said in 1993 of the Carolingian Dynasty:

 

 

"It produced Charles Martel, the soldier who turned the Arabs back at Tours, and the supporter of Saint Boniface the Evangeliser of Germany. This is a considerable double mark to have left on the history of Europe."

 

The last Umayyad invasions of Gaul

 

In 735, the new governor of al-Andalus again invaded Gaul. Antonio Santosuosso and other historians detail how the new governor of Al-Andalus, 'Uqba b. Al-Hajjaj, again moved into France to avenge the defeat at Poitiers and to spread Islam. Santosuosso notes that 'Uqba b. Al-Hajjaj converted about 2,000 Christians he captured over his career. In the last major attempt at forcible invasion of Gaul through Iberia, a sizable invasion force was assembled at Saragossa and entered what is now French territory in 735, crossed the River Rhone and captured and looted Arles. From there, he struck into the heart of Provence, ending with the capture of Avignon, despite strong resistance. Uqba b. Al-Hajjaj's forces remained in French territory for about four years, carrying raids to Lyons, Burgundy, and Piedmont. Again Charles Martel came to the rescue, reconquering most of the lost territories in two campaigns in 736 and 739, except for the city of Narbonne, which finally fell in 759. Alessandro Santosuosso strongly argues that the second (Umayyad) expedition was probably more dangerous than the first. The second expedition's failure put an end to any serious Muslim expedition across the Pyrenees, although raids continued. Plans for further large-scale attempts were hindered by internal turmoil in the Umayyad lands which often made enemies out of their own kind.

 



 

Historical and macrohistorical views

 

The historical views of this battle fall into three great phases, both in the East and especially in the West. Western historians, beginning with the Mozarabic Chronicle of 754, stressed the macrohistorical impact of the battle, as did the Continuations of Fredegar. This became a claim that Charles had literally saved Christianity, as Gibbon and his generation of historians agreed that the Battle of Tours was unquestionably decisive in world history.

 

Modern historians have essentially fallen into two camps on the issue. The first camp essentially agrees with Gibbon, and the other argues that the Battle has been massively overstated, turned from a raid in force to an invasion, and from a mere annoyance to the Caliph to a shattering defeat that helped end the Islamic Expansion Era. It is essential however, to note that within the first group, those who agree the Battle was of macrohistorical importance, there are a number of historians who take a more moderate and nuanced approach to supporting the battle's importance, rather than the more dramatic rhetoric of Gibbon. The best example of this school is William E. Watson, who does believe the battle has such importance, as will be specifically discussed below, but analyzes it militarily, culturally and politically, rather than seeing it as a classic "Muslim versus Christian" confrontation.

 

In the East, Arab histories followed a similar path. First, the battle was regarded as a disastrous defeat, then it faded essentially from Arab histories, leading to a modern dispute which regards it as either a secondary loss to the great defeat of the Second Siege of Constantinople or a part of a series of great macrohistorical defeats which together brought about the fall of the first Caliphate. Essentially, many modern Muslim scholars argue that the first Caliphate was a jihadist state which could not withstand an end to its constant expansion. With the Byzantines and Franks both successfully blocking further expansion, internal social troubles came to a head, starting with the Great Berber Revolt of 740, and ending with the Battle of the Zab, and the destruction of the Umayyad Caliphate.

 

In Western history

 

The first wave of real "modern" historians, especially scholars on Rome and the medieval period, such as Edward Gibbon, contended that had Charles fallen, the Umayyad Caliphate would have easily conquered a divided Europe. Gibbon famously observed:

 

 

A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.

 

 

Nor was Gibbon alone in lavishing praise on Charles as the savior of Christiandom and western civilisation. H.G. Wells in his A Short History of the World said in Chapter XLV "The Development of Latin Christendom:"

 

 

The Moslim when they crossed the Pyrenees in 720 found this Frankish kingdom under the practical rule of Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace of a degenerate descendant of Clovis, and experienced the decisive defeat of Poitiers (732) at his hands. This Charles Martel was practically overlord of Europe north of the Alps from the Pyrenees to Hungary. He ruled over a multitude of subordinate lords speaking French-Latin, and High and Low German languages.

 

 

Gibbon was echoed a century later by the Belgian historian Godefroid Kurth, who wrote that the Battle of Poitiers "must ever remain one of the great events in the history of the world, as upon its issue depended whether Christian Civilisation should continue or Islam prevail throughout Europe."

 

German historians were especially ardent in their praise of Charles Martel; Schlegel speaks of this "mighty victory", and tells how "the arm of Charles Martel saved and delivered the Christian nations of the West from the deadly grasp of all-destroying Islam." Creasy quotes Leopold von Ranke's opinion that this period was:

 

 

One of the most important epochs in the history of the world, the commencement of the eighth century, when on the one side Mohammedanism threatened to overspread Italy and Gaul, and on the other the ancient idolatry of Saxony and Friesland once more forced its way across the Rhine. In this peril of Christian institutions, a youthful prince of Germanic race, Karl Martell, arose as their champion, maintained them with all the energy which the necessity for self-defence calls forth, and finally extended them into new regions.

 

 

The German military historian Hans Delbruck said of this battle "there was no more important battle in the history of the world." (The Barbarian Invasions, page 441.) Had Charles Martel failed, Henry Hallam argued, there would have been no Charlemagne, no Holy Roman Empire or Papal States; all these depended upon Charles's containment of Islam from expanding into Europe while the Caliphate was unified and able to mount such a conquest. Another great mid era historian, Thomas Arnold, ranked the victory of Charles Martel even higher than the victory of Arminius in its impact on all of modern history: "Charles Martel's victory at Tours was among those signal deliverances which have affected for centuries the happiness of mankind." Louis Gustave and Charles Strauss in Moslem and Frank; or, Charles Martel and the rescue of Europe said "The victory gained was decisive and final, The torrent of Arab conquest was rolled back and Europe was rescued from the threatened yoke of the Saracens." (page 122)

 

Charles Oman, in his History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages, concludes that:

 

 

At Poitiers the Franks fought as they had done two hundred years before at Casilinum, in one solid mass, without breaking rank or attempting to maneuver. Their victory was won by the purely defensive tactics of the infantry square; the fanatical Arabs, dashing against them time after time, were shattered to pieces, and at last fled under shelter of night. But there was no pursuit, for Charles had determined not to allow his men to stir a step from the line to chase the broken foe. [I, 58]

 

 

Adolf Hitler says in Hitler's Table Talk (August 28, 1942, midday):

 

 

Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers -already, you see, the world had already fallen into the hands of the Jews, so gutless a thing Christianity! -then we should in all probability have been converted to Mohammedanism, that cult which glorifies the heroism and which opens up the seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone. Then the Germanic races would have conquered the world. Christianity alone prevented them from doing so."

 

 

John H. Haaren says in Famous Men of the Middle Ages:

 

 

The battle of Tours, or Poitiers, as it should be called, is regarded as one of the decisive battles of the world. It decided that Christians, and not Moslems, should be the ruling power in Europe. Charles Martel is especially celebrated as the hero of this battle.” John Bagnell Bury, writing at the beginning of the 20th century, said "The Battle of Tours… has often been represented as an event of the first magnitude for the world’s history, because after this, the penetration of Islam into Europe was finally brought to a standstill.

 

 

But, as will be seen below, today’s historians are very clearly divided on the importance of the battle, and where it should rank in the signal moments of military history.

 

 

In Muslim history

 

Eastern historians, like their Western counterparts, have not always agreed on the importance of the battle. According to Bernard Lewis, "The Arab historians, if they mention this engagement [the Battle of Tours] at all, present it as a minor skirmish," and Gustave von Grunebaum writes: "This setback may have been important from the European point of view, but for Muslims at the time, who saw no master plan imperilled thereby, it had no further significance." Contemporary Arab and Muslim historians and chroniclers were much more interested in the second Umayyad siege of Constantinople in 718, which ended in a disastrous defeat.

 

However, Creasy has claimed: "The enduring importance of the battle of Tours in the eyes of the Moslems is attested not only by the expressions of 'the deadly battle' and 'the disgraceful overthrow' which their writers constantly employ when referring to it, but also by the fact that no more serious attempts at conquest beyond the Pyrenees were made by the Saracens."

 

Thirteenth-century Moroccan author Ibn Idhari al-Marrakushi, mentioned the battle in his history of the Maghrib, "al-Bayan al-Mughrib fi Akhbar al-Maghrib." According to Ibn Idhari, "Abd ar-Rahman and many of his men found martyrdom on the balat ash-Shuhada'i ("the path of the martyrs)." Antonio Santosuosso points out in his book Barbarians, Marauders and Infidels: The Ways of Medieval Warfare, on p. 126 "they (the Muslims) called the battle's location, the road between Poitiers and Tours, "the pavement of Martyrs." However, as Henry Coppée has explained, "The same name was given to the battle of Toulouse and is applied to many other fields on which the Moslemah were defeated: they were always martyrs for the faith"

 

Khalid Yahya Blankinship has argued that the military defeat at Tours was amongst one of the failures that contributed to the decline of the Umayyad caliphate: "Stretching from Morocco to China, the Umayyad caliphate based its expansion and success on the doctrine of jihad--armed struggle to claim the whole earth for God's rule, a struggle that had brought much material success for a century but suddenly ground to a halt followed by the collapse of the ruling Umayyad dynasty in 750 AD. The End of the Jihad State demonstrates for the first time that the cause of this collapse came not just from internal conflict, as has been claimed, but from a number of external and concurrent factors that exceeded the caliphate's capacity to respond. These external factors began with crushing military defeats at Byzantium, Toulouse and Tours, which led to the Great Berber Revolt of 740 in Iberia and Northern Africa."

 

 









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