Exactly a century passed between the death of Mahomet and the date of the battle of Tours.
Continuing Battle of Tours,
our selection from Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World by Edward S. Creasy published in 1851. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in four easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Battle of Tours.
Place: Tours, France
The great bulk of the population still consisted of the conquered provincials, that is to say, of Romanized Celts, of a Gallic race which had long been under the dominion of the Caesars, and had acquired, together with no slight infusion of Roman blood, the language, the literature, the laws, and the civilization of Latium. Among these, and dominant over them, roved or dwelt the German victors; some retaining nearly all the rude independence of their primitive national character, others softened and disciplined by the aspect and contact of the manners and institutions of civilized life; for it is to be borne in mind that the Roman Empire in the West was not crushed by any sudden avalanche of barbaric invasion. The German conquerors came across the Rhine, not in enormous hosts, but in bands of a few thousand warriors at a time. The conquest of a province was the result of an infinite series of partial local invasions, carried on by little armies of this description. The victorious warriors either retired with their booty or fixed themselves in the invaded district, taking care to keep sufficiently concentrated for military purposes, and ever ready for some fresh foray, either against a rival Teutonic band or some hitherto unassailed city of the provincials.
Gradually, however, the conquerors acquired a desire for permanent landed possessions. They lost somewhat of the restless thirst for novelty and adventure which had first made them throng beneath the banner of the boldest captains of their tribe, and leave their native forests for a roving military life on the left bank of the Rhine. They were converted to the Christian faith, and gave up with their old creed much of the coarse ferocity which must have been fostered in the spirits of the ancient warriors of the North by a mythology which promised, as the reward of the brave on earth, an eternal cycle of fighting and drunkenness in heaven.
But, although their conversion and other civilizing influences operated powerfully upon the Germans in Gaul, and although the Franks — who were originally a confederation of the Teutonic tribes that dwelt between the Rhine, the Maine, and the Weser — established a decisive superiority over the other conquerors of the province, as well as over the conquered provincials, the country long remained a chaos of uncombined and shifting elements. The early princes of the Merovingian dynasty were generally occupied in wars against other princes of their house, occasioned by the frequent subdivisions of the Frank monarchy; and the ablest and best of them had found all their energies tasked to the utmost to defend the barrier of the Rhine against the pagan Germans who strove to pass that river and gather their share of the spoils of the Empire.
The conquests which the Saracens effected over the southern and eastern provinces of Rome were far more rapid than those achieved by the Germans in the North, and the new organizations of society which the Moslems introduced were summarily and uniformly enforced. Exactly a century passed between the death of Mahomet and the date of the battle of Tours. During that century the followers of the prophet had torn away half the Roman Empire; and besides their conquests over Persia, the Saracens had overrun Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain, in an unchecked and apparently irresistible career of victory. Nor, at the commencement of the eighth century of our era, was the Mahometan world divided against itself, as it subsequently became. All these vast regions obeyed the Caliph; throughout them all, from the Pyrenees to the Oxus, the name of Mahomet was invoked in prayer and the Koran revered as the book of the law.
It was under one of their ablest and most renowned commanders, with a veteran army, and with every apparent advantage of time, place, and circumstance, that the Arabs made their great effort at the conquest of Europe north of the Pyrenees. The victorious Moslem soldiery in Spain,
A countless multitude, Syrian, Moor, Saracen, Greek renegade, Persian, and Copt, and Tartar, in one bond Of erring faith conjoined — strong in the youth And heat of zeal — a dreadful brotherhood,”
were eager for the plunder of more Christian cities and shrines, and full of fanatic confidence in the invincibility of their arms.
Nor were the chiefs Of victory less assured, by long success Elate, and proud of that o’erwhelming strength Which, surely they believed, as it had rolled Thus far unchecked, would roll victorious on, Till, like the Orient, the subjected West Should bow in reverence at Mahomet’s name; And pilgrims from remotest arctic shores Tread with religious feet the burning sands Of Araby and Mecca’s stony soil.”
— Southey’s Roderick,
It is not only by the modern Christian poet, but by the old Arabian chroniclers also, that these feelings of ambition and arrogance are attributed to the Moslems who had overthrown the Visigoth power in Spain. And their eager expectations of new wars were excited to the utmost on the reappointment by the Caliph of Abderrahman Ibn Abdillah Alghafeki to the government of that country, A.D. 729, which restored them a general who had signalized his skill and prowess during the conquests of Africa and Spain, whose ready valor and generosity had made him the idol of the troops, who had already been engaged in several expeditions into Gaul, so as to be well acquainted with the national character and tactics of the Franks, and who was known to thirst, like a good Moslem, for revenge for the slaughter of some detachments of the “true believers,” which had been cut off on the north of the Pyrenees.
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