This week in history: The Battle of Tours

By Cody Carlson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Oct. 11 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

“What was it like in the confused fighting at Poitiers? The Franks were large and physically formidable, well protected with chain-mail shirts or leather jerkins covered with metal scales. Their round shields, like those of the old Greek hoplite, were nearly three feet in diameter, curved, made of heavy hardwood, stoutly constructed with iron fittings, and covered with leather. … A small conical iron helmet protected the head, ideal for warding off downstrokes from horsemen. Each Frankish infantryman lumbered into battle with nearly seventy pounds of arms and armor, making him as helpless in open skirmishing as he was invulnerable in dense formation ….”

The wall of Frankish infantry would not be trampled under the foot of Islamic cavalry. Hanson said that when the Moors' usual trick of charging the enemy failed to make a breakthrough in the Frankish lines, they would fall back and launch uncoordinated volleys of arrows, having just as little effect upon the heavily armored Franks.

When a rumor spread among the Moorish troops that the Franks were threatening their baggage train and all of the loot they'd stolen in their march across southern France, they broke off the engagement. The next day, as the Franks prepared to battle again, the Moors had retreated, heading back to Spain. A legion of dead littered the field, including the Moorish commander, Rahman Al Ghafiqi.

Historian Rodney Stark writes in his book, “God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades,” "that Muslims in Spain learned from their defeat that the Franks were not a sedentary people served by mercenary garrison troops, nor were they a barbarian horde. … The Frankish host was made up of very well trained citizen volunteers who possessed arms, armor and tactics superior to those of the Muslims. Indeed, when the Muslims tried to invade Gaul again in 735, Charles Martel and his Franks gave them another beating so severe that Muslim forces never ventured very far north again.”

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the co-developer of the History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: ckcarlson76@gmail.com

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