Power Defeated by Greed and Pride

The history of the world is filled with good examples of behavoir to avoid but we mostly ignore them and mankind continues to suffer the consequences of failing to heed those lessons.  The Battle of Tours in 732 A.D. is a prime exhibit of what to avoid.   The Bible is full of stories about pride and the pain it will inevitably cause if it is allowed to run rampant in the human heart.  Proverbs had very good advice about how to deal with your fellows and what it means to “play nice” with the other kids.  It even has some very good economic advice for those ears willing to listen and learn. 

From the death of the Mohamend the Prophet the semetic races adopting his beliefs and commands had spread their fervent religious  beliefs with  the edge of the sword across great swaths of the earth.  From the heartland in Saudi Arabia the religion was moved outward in all directions–Syria, Persia, Eygpt, then all  of north Africa and even into the European continent across the straits of Hercules to Spain.  This vast expansion had all occurred within a little more than 100 years from the death of the Prophet.  Christiandoom was in full retreat.    Only the barrier of the Pyrenees separated the two factions.  The Caliph had appointed one of the most able and skilled of all his commanders to the post in Spain.  At that time the Muslim world was ruled by a single Caliphate.  (We here rumblings from time to time from some modern Muslims about the restoration of that hegomony–see Iran and the Al-Queada statements of recent years).  There had been forays into France from time to time but no permenant establishment had been made by the Muslims thus far.  They invaded briefly and plundered and then would retreat and did suffer a few minor defeats but all these were minor encounters. 

The Muslims had known nothing but victory for over a hundred years.  There were a few setbacks along the way but the tide of their victories was inexorable.   Now the new leader, Abderrahman, was determined upon a  permenant and devastating invasion into the heartland of the European continent across the Pyrenees and then as far as his victories would take him.  He gathered a mighty army.  The estimates vary greatly as to its size, some say it was 80,000, some accounts say it was hundreds of thousands.  The army took with it all its baggage and families and fellow travelers.  They met with initial success and took in much loot.  The villages and towns of southwest France fell to them.  The alarm went out.

France at that time was not “France” but a hodge-podge of principalities and small kingdoms.  They had emerged from the detritus of the fall of the Roman Empire a couple of centuries earlier.  There was no central governement over the entire region.  But this part of France and a good deal of central Europe was Christian. 
That was the one bond they all held in common.  Charles Martel was the highest ranking of the minor kings and princes of the area.    He won his surname due to his prowess in battle and victories–Martel means hammer.  There was no standing army because the Gallic land was divided up into so many principalities.  He cobbled together a force to do battle with the Muslims.  The Muslims were reaching farther into France and gathering loot along the way with every new victory they obtained.   They had already conquered Toulouse and Bordeaux and were now well into the heart of France.  You can see from  a modern map that Tours is only a little over a hundred miles southwest of Paris.  There they continued their rampage, rape and pillage.  They took Tours and the slaughter was horrific.   It was so bad that even the Muslim chroniclers noted that God’s chastisment was sure to follow. 

The Muslim leader did not want to displease his soldiers when the army of Charles Martel arrived by having them temporarily abandon their baggage train that contained all their loot and spoils.  Often in the face of battle an army would carry with it only it arms and horses.  They stayed close to their baggage and tents for the battle.  the Muslims had known only victory on this campaign and were puffed up with confidence they would sweep the foe from the field of battle and see only  their heels soon.  It is open country there, mostly plains.  The battle lasted for a few days.   The exact number can not be determined.  The Muslims attacked the army of Martel but his army held and indeed inflicted great casualties upon the Muslims.   A few days into the battle the Muslims became concerned that the army of Martel was making an end run to attack their baggage and tents to steal their loot.   This casused some of the Muslim forces to move in that direction and broke their ranks.  They were moving to protect their loot.  It was more important than following orders or winning the victory they desired so much, or at least they did till their purse was believed threatened.  That opening was all that was needed by Charles Martel.  He slashed with his army into the breach of the Muslims and killed Abderrahman and then the balance of his army.  The battle became a complete rout. The exat casualties will never be known but the losses for the Muslims was almost total; the losses of Martel were small.  Only a remnant of the Muslim force made it back to Spain to tell the tale.   They lost due to the military skill of Charles, the bravery of his troops, their devotion to their religion and the greed of the Muslims.  If they had held ranks the battle might well have been a draw as so many were in those days and the ultimate outcome would still have been undetermined.

The history of Europe was changed forever by that event.  Martel’s grandson became Charlegmagne.  The Muslims hung onto a foothold in Spain for centuries more but never threatened again the European heartland until the fall of Constantinopole in 1453.

You are referred to Creasy for this and  accounts of the other significant battles of the world.

A harbinger of things to come that I have predicted about problems with the Chinese owning so much of our debt is the recent proposal by them to go to a global currency rather than the US dollar.  They are thinking and worrying already about our future inflation with the reckless spending spree we are embarking on.  Keep up with that story.  It WILL affect your life.

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Filed under Culture, Foreign Affairs, geography, history, military history

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