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Europe as We Know it Would Not Exist if Not For This Lesser Known Battle

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The year was 732 and the muslim empire had almost taken over the entire ancient world.  The Umayyad Caliphate, as it was known, was one of the largest empires of all time and at its greatest extent controlled territory from modern day Iran all the way to Spain and is one of the largest empires the world has ever known.  But in 732, the Islamic nation was poised to gain even more territory.  After years of victories, the empire had completely taken the Iberian Peninsula and was advancing into southern France.  One of the biggest reasons for the decisive muslim victories throughout Europe was that the muslim soldiers were very heavily equipped and possessed heavy cavalry units that decimated infantry lines.  Few armies in Europe at the time had access to cavalry and therefore did not stand a chance in direct combat.  So basically the muslim empire was poised to take over all of Europe at will.

The Man, the Myth, the...Martel!

Enter Charles Martel the 52 year old veteran general who at the time was the foremost military power in Western Europe.  Charles grew up in the nobility and eventually rose through military conquest to become the king of a large nation in western France.  At the time Charles was busy expanding his kingdom throughout Europe and when he heard of the muslim advance he knew he had to stop the biggest threat to his new empire.  He quickly gathered a small army and headed to southern France to meet his foe.

Sending scouts out ahead of time, Martel heard that the invading force was quite substantial and possessed lots of heavy cavalry.  Charles Martel knew that his only chance to beat the cavalry was through superior tactical planning.  He knew that in order to take over the rest of France the muslims would need to take the city of Tours.  On the night before the invading army arrived, Martel and his army camped out in the dense forest on a hill just outside the city.  When the muslim force arrived the next day they found an opposing army of unknown size waiting for them in the woods.  

The Battle Begins!

Over the next few days the muslims were hesitant to attack because they did not know how big the Frankish army was.  Also, they wanted a larger force since their opponent had the higher ground and was heavily fortified in the forest.  This strategy actually turned out to be bad for the muslims because unknown to them, Charles Martel had originally arrived with a relatively small force of mostly militia.  The extra days of waiting before the battle allowed for Martel to call in well trained infantry from outposts around his kingdom.  

The two sides engaged in minor skirmishes until finally on the seventh day the muslims attacked.  Even though they pressed heavily against the Frankish infantry, the muslims never broke the line.  Charles Martel's battle hardened infantry were well trained and valiantly withstood the all out assault.  Eventually the Franks forced a muslim retreat and pushed them far back into Spain.  The muslims would never advance any farther into Europe and for the rest of his life charles Martel would continue to expand his empire and eventually drive the muslim empire out of Europe.



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