Today is the 1,285th anniversary of the Battle of Tours, also known as the Battle of Poitiers, October 10, 732, when Charles Martel and his “northern men of robust limbs and iron hands stood like an unmovable wall of ice and cut the Arabs to pieces,” as the Mozarabic Chronicle puts it.
The Mahometan hordes had overrun Spain in 711, and after consolidating their control, they turned their attentions to France. In 720, when Theuderic IV was King of the Franks and Charles Martel was his Mayor of the Palace, the Saracens conquered Narbonne and laid siege to Toulouse. Duke Eudes of Aquitaine saved Toulouse, but could not recover Narbonne, and there Islam began to take root, and thence tentative minor raids were made on France. In 732 the Emir of Spain, Abd-er-Rahman, decided that there had been enough pussy-footing around, raised an army, crossed the Pyrenees, burned every church in his path, sacked Bordeaux, expelled Duke Eudes, and continued north, until he came to Poitiers, a mere 200 miles from Paris. Duke Eudes, however, had fled to the north, and formed an alliance with Charles, Mayor of the Palace. Their combined army held the road between Poitiers and Tours, and thanks to Charles’ brilliant tactics, the Franks held their ground. Abd-el-Rahman was slain, and his army melted away. There would be many further raids, but never again would they come so far north. France was saved.
Modern scholars have attempted to downplay the importance of the battle, but their arguments are weak. One the one hand, they point out that Muslim raids on Christendom continued. On the other, they claim that even in Charles and Eudes had been defeated, the Muslims still would not have conquered France. As to the first, that the raids continued is true, but, as we said above, they never again went so far north. As to the second, the idea that the Muslims would not have conquered France if Charles Martel had been out of the picture is preposterous in the extreme. A victory at Tours, with Charles disgraced or dead, would have left the road open for Abd-el-Rahman to reach the Rhine. Theuderic IV, a true do-nothing heir of the Merovingians, would certainly not have stopped him, and all France would have had to choose between the Koran, the sword, or dhimmitude. France would have become a new center of Muslim power, and new converts would have been made, a few from the Franks, most likely, and certainly many from the still-pagan Saxons and other Germans beyond the border, who would have been among the next to be attacked, and who, being pagans, would not have had the option of dhimmitude. One shudders to think what would have become of Italy and Constantinople if they had been attacked from the north by Vikings filled with zeal for Islam on top of their lust for plunder.