In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Battle of Tours (732?)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Muslims and Christians in the Eighth Century
  • Frankish Politics
  • Muslims in Early Medieval Francia
  • Frankish Warfare
  • Andalusi Warfare
  • The Brunner Thesis
  • The End of Muslim Expansion in Gaul
  • The Memory of the Battle of Tours

Military History Battle of Tours (732?)
by
Sam Ottewill-Soulsby
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0247

Introduction

Despite being one of the most famous engagements of the medieval period, there are many uncertainties about the Battle of Tours, including its date, precise location, and significance. The traditional dating of the battle to October 732 has been questioned by scholars on the basis of Iberian sources, with many preferring to place it in late 733 or 734. Because the encounter took place between Tours and Poitiers, it is sometimes also named after the latter city. What is known is that the battle took place because the Muslim governor of al-Andalus, ʿAbd al-Rahman b. ʿAbd Allah al-Ghafiqi, invaded Aquitaine, motivated by an alliance between its Duke, Eudo, and the rebel Berber border lord ʿUthman b. Naissa. After being defeated, Eudo turned to the Frankish Mayor of the Palace, Charles Martel. The Frankish and Muslim armies met on the road to Tours, with the former being victorious. Al-Ghafiqi was killed, but his army retreated in good order. The significance of this clash has long been debated. The battle has been hailed as one of the most important in history for halting the expansion of the caliphate in western Europe and cementing the prestige and power of Charles Martel and his descendants, the Carolingians. More recent scholars have questioned this assessment, pointing to the continuation of Muslim raids into Frankish territory in subsequent years and the limited presence of the battle in Carolingian history writing. Beyond dispute is the modern importance of the Battle of Tours, inspiring numerous books, works of art, and political movements.

General Overviews

While the Battle of Tours has occasioned much interest, sober scholarly accounts are harder to come by. Collins 1994 addresses the subject from an Iberian perspective, drawing heavily on the Chronicle of 754. Fouracre 2000, a biography of Charles Martel, approaches the battle from a Frankish background.

  • Collins, Roger. The Arab Conquest of Spain 711–797. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.

    Offers an extremely useful account of the battle within the context of al-Andalus. Argues strongly in favor of a date in 733 or 734 on the basis of the Chronicle of 754.

  • Fouracre, Paul. The Age of Charles Martel. Harlow: Longman, 2000.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315845647

    The best overview of the career of Charles Martel, good for situating the Battle of Tours within wider Frankish politics, with a greater emphasis on the Frankish sources.

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