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The Battle of Tours, the Battle of Syllaeum and the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople

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The Battle of Tours, the Battle of Syllaeum, and the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople were important battles that averted the entry of Islam into Europe. Had these hostilities been lost to the Arabs, the present idea of European civilization would not exist. Islam and Islamic culture would be the dominant religion and way of life in Europe (both Eastern and Western Europe) and America. The Battle of Tours (also known as the Battle of Poitiers) is considered as one of the most decisive battles in history.

On October 10, 732, the Frankish army under Charles Martel defeated the forces of Spanish governor Abd-er Rahman outside the city of Tours (Koeller, n. pag.). The Battle of Tours was said to have retained Christian predominance over Western Europe by preventing the expansion of Islam in the said region (Culp, n. pag. ). By the 7th century, Islam was the most dominant religion in the Arabian Peninsula. During this period, Islamic armies had already conquered Persia, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa and were about to occupy Constantinople and Spain. At the beginning of the 8th century, they had scaled the Pyrenees Mountains and were on the verge of entering France (Whittington, n. pag. ). The Septimania region of Southern France fell to the Moors in 719. Under the leadership of Al-Samh ibn Malik, they invaded the town of Toulouse in the Duchy of Aquitaine two years later. However, Al-Samh was defeated by Duke Odo of Aquitaine and eventually died of war injuries at Narbonne (Whittington, n. pag. ). Al-Sam's loss and demise did not stop Arab raids in France.

Islamic forces reached the town of Atun in Burgundy in 725, forcing Duke Odo to align himself with Catalonian Emir Uthman ibn Naissa to maintain peace in the southern border of Aquitaine. But Uthman staged an unsuccessful revolt against Al-Andalus governor Abd er Rahman, prompting the latter to go after Duke Odo in retaliation (Whittington, n. pag. ). Abd-er Rahman defeated Duke Odo at the Battle of Bordeaux, resulting in the mass killing of Christians in the area. Desperate, Duke Odo sought the help of Austrasian Mayor-of-the-Palace Charles Martel. Martel agreed to help him, provided that he will bow down to Frankish rule. Martel and his army waited for Rahman's forces to arrive at Tours (Whittington, n. pag. ). Despite being composed of only 30,000 men, the Franks were well-armed – they had swords, axes, javelins, and a small throwing ax called the fran-circa (Wallechinsky & Wallace, n. pag. ). In addition, they knew the terrain very well and were properly outfitted for the bitterly cold weather. On the other hand, Rahman's 80,000-strong army was equipped with just light cavalry – spears and swords (Whittington, n. pag. ). The two forces only had minor encounters for seven days (Whittington, n. pag. ).

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Then, on October 10, 732, the Arabs assaulted the Franks. Due to their superior artillery, the Franks easily fended off the Arabs' charge. The Arabs tried to attack repeatedly, to no avail (Wallechinsky & Wallace, n. pag. ). The Franks struck back as soon as the Arabs' stamina waned. They triumphantly defeated the Arabs and had Rahman captured and killed. The next morning, the Franks discovered that the Arabs had fled, leaving behind their plunder and their dead (Wallechinsky & Wallace, n. pag. ). Martel's victory in the Battle of Tours gained him the title “The Hammer. ” In addition, France never experienced another Arab invasion. On the side of the Arabs, their defeat in the Battle of Tours severely destroyed their unity – a revolt by the Berbers (inhabitants of North Africa) ensued after Rahman's passing (Wallechinsky & Wallace, n. pag. ). Martel went on to crush Arab conquests at the River Berre and Narbonne. He also fought in Frankish expansion wars in Bavaria, Aquitaine, Provence, and Alemannia. Martel's sons Carloman, Pippin the Younger, and Grifo took over his territories after his death in 741. Pippin became the king of the Franks, while his son, Charlemagne, became the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Byzantine army found themselves fighting two different battles, as the Slavs were staging an assault of Thessalonica by land (Reference, n. pag. ). Byzantine forces under Emperor Constantine IV met the Arabs near Syllaeum (Reference, n. pag. ). They defeated the latter through Greek fire, a “burning-liquid weapon…that could continue burning even on water” (Reference, n. pag. ). As the Arabs were retreating, a storm sank almost all of their remaining ships. The Byzantine army then proceeded to conduct a land assault on the Arabs, finally defeating them in Syria. The Battle of Syllaeum was believed to have brought peace over Eastern Europe for almost 30 years (Reference, n. pag. ). But Constantine IV’s death in 685 was followed with power struggles for the Byzantine throne, making the Byzantine Empire more prone to defeat in the hands of the Arabs (Gregory, n. pag. ). Caliph Sulieman took advantage of this situation by sending 120,000 Muslim troops (headed by his brother Moslemah) in 717 in an attempt to occupy Constantinople for a second time (TheLatinLibrary, n. pag. ). An additional 100,000 Muslims with 1,800 galleys from Syria and Egypt served as reinforcements. But Byzantine forces led by Emperor Leo III quickly defeated them through the Greek fire. The vanquished Muslims later died of freezing and starvation outside Constantinople. Muslim troops from Adrianopolis that were supposed to assist them were destroyed by the Bulgarian army (a Byzantine ally) (TheLatinLibrary, n. pag. ). Several historians argued that had the Arabs won the Battle of Tours, the Battle of Syllaeum, and the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople, the present concept of European civilization would be altered dramatically. The Arabs would be able to spread Islam throughout European countries such as France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom. At most, Christianity would end up being a minority religion (Whittington, n. pag. ). America would have been discovered by a Muslim explorer and Islam would be the religion both taught and practiced by the settlers across the United States.

Reference

  1. Culp, Reid. “The Battle of Tours. ” 2008.
  2. http://www.ccds.charlotte.nc. us/History/Europe/05/culp/index. html>. Gregory, Timothy E.
  3. “Leo III and the Beginnings of Iconoclasm. ” 19 November 2001. A Chronology of Early Byzantine History. 3 May 2008 <http://isthmia.osu.edu/teg/50501/20. htm>. Koeller, David W. “The Battle of Tours: 732. ” 1999.
  4. WebChron. 28 April 2008 <http://www.thenagain.info/webchron/WestEurope/Tours. html>. Wallechinsky, David, and Irving Wallace. “About the Battle of Tours in 732 between the Arab Army and the French Army led by Charles. ” 1981.
  5. Trivia-Library. 28 April 2008 <http://www.trivia-library.com/a/european-history-battle-of-tours.htm>. Whittington, Mark.
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