A great collision of armies under the banners of the crescent and the cross
The Battle of Tours (also called Poitiers) in 732 A.D. was one of the most significant battles fought during the last two millennia. This book is far more than just a description of the battle, it also recounts, through the writings of several academic contributors, the story of two emergent empires, drawn together on converging paths which resulted in a collision not simply between two armies, but between two uncompromisingly different cultures and faiths. Described in these pages is the violent and turbulent rise of the Franks in Europe who, by the time of the battle of Tours, were led by their warrior king, Charles Martel—‘the Hammer’—whose dynasty brought forth the Emperor Charlemagne. From the Middle East, Islam was conquering and spreading its political influence, which are outlined as they bore upon the invasion of Europe. By the sixth century, Umayyad Caliphate armies had swept along the Mediterranean coastline of North Africa, crossed over into Spain and could see no impediment in the mountain barrier of the Pyrenees to their farther expansion. So France faced an invasion by an army accompanied by their families and belongings who had come to stay and rule. That army, under Abdul Rhaman al Ghafiqi, in the valley of the Loire and less than 140 miles from Paris collided with the Frankish and Burgundian battle host and was brought to ruin. In later centuries the Moors successfully ruled Spain and the Ottoman Turks also attempted to invade western Europe but were defeated before Vienna. However, after Tours never again did a Muslim army drive so far westwards and despite the sectarian blood-letting that lay ahead, for which the Europeans themselves were responsible, this fact defined the culture and dominant religion of the modern continent. Included are illustrations which did not accompany the original texts.
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The Suabians, or Alemanni, were also attacked and defeated by Pepin on their own territories; but their final subjection was completed by his son Carl (Charles) Martel.
The wars carried on by Pepin with the above-mentioned nations, to which in this place we can only briefly allude, occupied him nearly twenty years; and were greatly instrumental in preserving peace at home, and consolidating the foundations of the Carlovingian throne. The stubborn resistance he met with from the still heathen Germans, was animated with something of that zeal, against which his great descendant Charlemagne had to contend in his interminable Saxon wars; for the adoption of Christianity, which was hated, not only as being hostile to the superstitions of their forefathers, but on account of the heavy taxes by which it was accompanied, was always made by Pepin the indispensable condition of mercy and peace.
But, happily for the cause of Gospel truth, other means were used for the spread of Christianity than the sword and the scourge; and the labours of many a zealous and self-sacrificing missionary from Ireland and England, served to convince the rude German tribes, that the warrior-priests whom they had met on the battlefield, and the greedy tax-gatherers who infested their homes, were not the true ambassadors of the Prince of Peace. And Pepin, who was by no means a mere warrior, was well aware of the value of these peaceful efforts; and afforded zealous aid to all who ventured their lives in the holy cause of human improvement and salvation. The civil governors whom he established in the conquered provinces were directed to do all in their power to promote the spread of Christianity by peaceful means; and, to give effect to his instructions, Pepin warned them that he should hold them responsible for the lives of his pious missionaries.
During these same twenty years, in which Pepin was playing the important and brilliant part assigned to him by Providence, the pale and bloodless shadows of four Merovingian kings flit gloomily across the scene. We know little or nothing of them except their names, and the order in which they followed each other. Theoderic III. died A.D. 691, and was succeeded by Clovis III., who reigned till A.D. 695 and was followed by Childebert III. On the death of Childebert in A.D. 711, Pepin raised Dagobert III. to the nominal throne, where he left him when he himself departed from the scene of his labours and triumphs; and this is really all that we feel called upon to say of the descendants of the conquerors of Gaul and founders of the Western Empire; “inclitum et notum olim, nunc tantum auditur!) (Once a famous known, but now we only hear!)
The extraordinary power which Pepin exercised at a period when law was weak, and authority extended no further than the sword could reach; when the struggles of the rising feudal aristocracy for independence had convulsed the empire and brought it to the verge of anarchy, sufficiently attests the ability and courage, the wisdom and moderation, with which he ruled. His triumphs over the ancient dynasty, and the Neustrian faction, were far from being the most difficult of his achievements. He had to control’ the very class to which he himself belonged; to curb the turbulent spirits of the very men who had raised him to his proud pre-eminence; and to establish regal authority over those by whose aid he had humbled the ancient kings: and all this he succeeded in doing by the extraordinary influence of his personal character. So firmly indeed had he established his government, and subdued the wills of the envious seigniors by whom he was surrounded, that even when he allowed his intention of making his power hereditary in his family, they dared not, at the time, oppose his will. (Fredeg. Chron. Cont.)
On the death of Norbert, major-domus at the court of Childebert III., Pepin—in all probability without even consulting the seigniors, in whom the right of election rested—appointed his second son Grimoald to the vacant office. To his eldest son Drogo, he had already given the Mayoralty of Burgundy, with the title of Duke of Campania. But though they dared not make any opposition at the time, it is evident from what followed that the fear of Pepin alone restrained the rage they felt at this open usurpation. In A.D. 714, when Pepin’s life was drawing to a close, and he lay at Jopil near Liege upon a bed of sickness, awaiting patiently his approaching end, the great vassals took heart, and conspired to deprive his descendants of the mayoralty. They employed the usual means for effecting their purpose—treachery and murder. (Annal Mett.).
Grimoald was assassinated, while praying in the Church of St. Lambert at Jopil, by a Frisian of the name of Rantgar, who relied, no doubt, on the complicity of the seigniors and the weakness of Pepin for impunity. But the conspirators had miscalculated the waning sands of the old warrior’s life, and little knew the effect which the sight of his son’s blood would have upon him. He suddenly recovered from the sickness to which he seemed to be succumbing. Like another Priam, he once more seized his unaccustomed arms, though, unlike the royal Trojan, he used them with terrible effect.
After taking an ample revenge upon the murderers of his son, and quenching the spirit of resistance in the blood of the conspirators, he was so far from giving up his purpose, or manifesting any consciousness of weakness, that he nominated the infant and illegitimate son of Grimoald, as if by hereditary right, to the joint mayoralty of Burgundy and Neustria—an office which the highest persons in the land would have been proud to exercise. By his very last act, therefore, he showed the absolute mastery he had obtained, not only over the “do-nothing” kings, but over the factious seigniors, who shrank in terror before the wrath of one who had, as it were, repassed the gates of death, to hurl destruction on their heads. His actual demise took place in the same year, on the 16th of December, A.D. 714.
Pepin had two wives, the first of whom, Plectrudis, bore him two sons, Drogo and Grimoald, neither of whom survived their father. In A.D. 688 he married a second wife, the “noble and elegant” Alpais, though Plectrudis was still alive. (Fred. Chron. Cont.) From this second marriage sprang the real successor of the Pepins, whom his father named in his own language Carl, and who is renowned in history as Carl Martel, the bulwark of Christendom, the father of kings and emperors.