Muslim Conquest of Spain

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Tarik ibn-Ziyad

In the early 8th century, with the help of Berber forces from North Africa, the Umayyads, an Arab kingdom based in Damascus, Syria, moved into Iberia and conquered the fractured kingdom of the Visigoths, who had taken control there about a century earlier, after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. After that, much of the Iberian Peninsula became the Islamic territory of al-Andalus, which endured under the Umayyads even after the Umayyads lost Damascus and most of their empire in the Middle East and North Africa to the Abbasids in A.D. 750. [Source: Archaeology magazine, March 2023]

In A.D. 711, 12,000 Moorish (Arab-Berber) troops led by a Berber a slave named Tariq ibn Ziyad arrived in Spain from Northern Africa and conquered the divided Christian Visagoths that occupied Spain and defeated the last Visagoth King. Roderick (Rodrigo in modern Spanish). The Rock of Gibraltar (Jabal al-Tariq) was named after Tariq. The Moors were joined by Arab soldiers from the Syria-based Umayyad dynasty. They advanced northward and conquered the entire peninsula until they were finally turned back in southern France 21 years later.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art : “On July 19, 711, an army of Arabs and Berbers unified under the aegis of the Islamic Umayyad caliphate landed on the Iberian Peninsula. Over the next seven years, through diplomacy and warfare, they brought the entire peninsula except for Galicia and Asturias in the far north under Islamic control; however, frontiers with the Christian north were constantly in flux. The new Islamic territories, referred to as al-Andalus by Muslims, were administered by a provincial government established in the name of the Umayyad caliphate in Damascus and centered in Córdoba. Of works of art and other material culture only coins and scant ceramic fragments remain from this early period of the Umayyad governors (711–56). [Source: Department of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art \^/]

The Iberian peninsula was one of the first regions where Muslims and western Christians came into contact. By the end of the eighth century Muslims occupied most of the southern regions of Iberia, limiting Christians to the northern regions. On the peninsula they established the Umayyad caliphate in the city of Córdoba, Spain. A caliphate is a region or domain ruled by a caliph; "Umayyad" is the name of a family dynasty. Spanish Christians were determined to reclaim their country. They defeated the Muslims at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, and by 1225 the Muslim empire held only the area around the city of Granada, in the far south. They were driven out of Granada in 1492, completing what the Spanish called the Reconquista, or "Reconquest." However, the influence of Muslims, or the Moors as they were called, remains evident in southern Spanish architecture and within the Spanish language itself.

By 733 the Muslims reached Poitiers in France. There a battle, more significant to Westerners than Muslims, halted the Muslim advance. By this point Islam was at its limits of military expansion as Muslims were also major presenses in the Middle East and Central Asia. [Source: Paul Halsall of Fordham University, Internet Islamic History Sourcebook,]

Websites on Islamic History: History of Islam: An encyclopedia of Islamic history ; Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World ; Sacred Footsetps ; Islamic History Resources ; Internet Islamic History Sourcebook ; Islamic History ; Muslim Heritage ; Chronological history of Islam

Spain Under Muslim Rule

Spain is the only western European nation to be controlled by Muslims, which segregated it from the rest of Europe during much of the Middle Ages. Under the Muslim Umayyad dynasty, Spain was the richest part of Europe and Muslim cities such as Grenada and Cordoba were much more advanced in science, medicine and the arts than their counterparts in Christian Europe.

There were fairly large waves of Arab immigrants to Spain in the early stages but after a while most of the newly arriving Muslims were Berbers. Muslims initially ruled over a non-Muslim majority. Over time many people accepted Islam and some even began speaking Arabic. It is estimated that by the 10th century, majority of the inhabitants in Spain were Muslims. For the most part they lived peacefully with Christians and Jews.

Muslims stayed in Spain for seven centuries and ruled there unchallenged for three centuries. Sometimes the Muslims controlled nearly all the Iberian peninsula. Other times they controlled only the southern half. They ruled mostly with great tolerance towards non-Muslims.

Tarik and the Islamic Conquest of Spain

Ṭariq ibn Ziyad, also known simply as Tarik in English,was the Berber governor of Tangier. His 12,000-man army landed at a promontory that was later named, in his honor, Jabal Tariq, or Mount Tariq, from which the name, Gibraltar, is derived). They came at the invitation of a Visigothic clan to assist it in rising against King Roderic. Roderic died in battle, and Spain was left without a leader. Tariq returned to Morocco, but the next year (712) Musa ibn Nusair, the Muslim governor in North Africa, led the best of his Arab troops to Spain with the intention of staying. In three years he had subdued all but the mountainous region in the extreme north and had initiated forays into France, which were stemmed at Poitiers in 732.

Paul Halsall of Fordham University wrote: Tarik gave his name to "Jabal (mount of) Tarik" or, as we say, Gibraltar. In 712 Tarik's lord, Musa ibn-Mosseyr, joined the attack. Within seven years the conquest of the peninsula was complete. Spain, called "al-Andulus" by Muslims remained was at least partially under Muslim control until 1492 when Granada was conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella.

Ibn Abd-el-Hakem's Account of The Islamic Conquest of Spain

The Egyptian Ibn Abd-el-Hakem (d. 870 or 871) wrote in “History of the Conqziest of Spain”: “Musa Ibn Nosseyr sent his son Merwan to Tangiers, to wage a holy war upon her coast. Having, then, exerted himself together with his friends, he returned, leaving to Tarik Ibn Amru the command of his army which amounted to 1,700. Others say that 12,000 Berbers besides 16 Arabs were with Tarik: but that is false. It is also said that Musa Ibn Nosseyr marched out of Ifrikiya [Africa] upon an expedition into Tangiers, and that he was the first governor who entered Tangiers, where parts of the Berber tribes Botr and Beranes resided. These bad not vet submitted themselves. When he approached Tangiers, be scattered his light troops. [Source: Ibn Abd-el-Hakem, “History of the Conqziest of Spain,” trans. by John Harris Jones (Gottingen, W. Fr. Kaestner, 1858), pp. 18-22. Ibn Abd-el-Hakem (d. 870 or 871) was an Egyptian, who also wrote a history of Egypt. He mixes myths and fact in his account, which was written a century and a half after the events it describes]

“On the arrival of his cavalry in the nearest province of Sus, he subdued its inhabitants, and made them prisoners, they yielding him obedience. And he gave them a governor whose conduct was agreeable to them. He sent Ibn Beshr Ibn Abi Artah to a citadel, three days' journey from the town of Cairwan. Having taken the former, he made prisoners of the children, and plundered the treasury. The citadel was called Beshr, by which name it is known to this day. Afterwards Musa deposed the viceroy whom be bad placed over Tangiers, and appointed Tarik Ibn Zeiyad governor. He, then, returned to Cairwan, Tarik with his female slave of the name Umm-Hakim setting out for Tangiers. Tarik remained some time in this district, waging a holy war. This was in the year 92. The governor of the straits between this district and Andalus was a foreigner called Ilyan, Lord of Septa. He was also the governor of a town called Alchadra, situated on the same side of the straits of Andalus as Tangiers. Ilyan was a subject of Roderic, the Lord of Andalus [i.e. king of Spain], who used to reside in Toledo.

“Tarik put himself in communication with Ilyan, and treated him kindly, until they made peace with each other. Ilyan had sent one of his daughters to Roderic, the Lord of Andalus, for her improvement and education; but she became pregnant by him. Ilyan having heard of this, said, I see for him no other punishment or recompense, than that I should bring the Arabs against him. He sent to Tarik, saying, I will bring thee to Andalus; Tarik being at that time in Tlemsen, and Musa Ibn Nossevr in Cairwan. But Tarik said I cannot trust thee until thou send me a hostage. So be sent his two daughters, having no other children. Tarik allowed them to remain in Tlemsen, guarding them closely.

Tarik Reaches Spain

Ibn Abd-el-Hakem wrote in “History of the Conqziest of Spain”: “After that Tarik went to Ilyan who - was in Septa on the straits. The latter rejoicing at his coming, said, I will bring thee to Andalus. But there was a mountain called the mountain of Tarik between the two landing places, that is, between Septa and Andalus. When the evening came, Ilyan brought him the vessels, in which he made him embark for that landing-place, where he concealed himself during the day, and in the evening sent back the vessels to bring over the rest of his companions. So they embarked for the landing-place, none of them being left behind: whereas the people of Andalus did not observe them, thinking that the vessels crossing and recrossing were similar to the trading vessels which for their benefit plied backwards and forwards. Tarik was in the last division which went across. He proceeded to his companions, Ilyan together with the merchants that were with him being left behind in Alchadra, in order that be might the better encourage his companions and countrymen. [Source: Ibn Abd-el-Hakem, “History of the Conqziest of Spain,” trans. by John Harris Jones (Gottingen, W. Fr. Kaestner, 1858), pp. 18-22. Ibn Abd-el-Hakem (d. 870 or 871) was an Egyptian, who also wrote a history of Egypt. He mixes myths and fact in his account, which was written a century and a half after the events it describes]

“The news of Tarik and of those who were with him, as well as of the place where they were, reached the people of Andalus. Tarik, going along with his companions, marched over a bridge of mountains to a town called Cartagena. He went in the direction of Cordova. Having passed by an island in the sea, he left behind his female slave of the name of Umm-Hakim, and with her a division of his troops. That island was then called Umm-Hakim. When the Moslems settled in the island, they found no other inhabitants there, than vinedressers. They made them prisoners. After that they took one of the vinedressers, slaughtered him, cut him in pieces, and boiled him, while the rest of his companions looked on. They had also boiled meat in other cauldrons. When the meat was cooked, they threw away the flesh of that man which they had boiled; no one knowing that it was thrown away: and they ate the meat which theh had boiled, while the rest of the vinedressers were spectators. These did not doubt but that the Moslems ate the flesh of their companion; the rest being afterwards sent away informed the people of Andalus that the Moslems feed on human flesh, acquainting them with what had been done to the vinedresser.

“As Abd-Errahman has related to us on the authority of his father Abd-Allah lbn Abd-El-Hakem, and of Hisham Ibn Ishaak: There was a house in Andalus, the door of which was secured with padlocks, and on which every new king of the country placed a padlock of his own, until the accession to power of the king against whom the Moslems marched. They therefore begged him to place a padlock on it, as the kings before him were wont to do. But he refused saying, I will place nothing on it, until I shall have known what is inside; he then ordered it to be opened; but behold inside were portraits of the Arabs, and a letter in which it was written: "When this door shall be opened, these people will invade this country."

Fighting After Tarik Reaches Spain

Ibn Abd-el-Hakem wrote in “History of the Conqziest of Spain”:“When Tarik landed, soldiers from Cordova came to meet him; and seeing the small number of his companions they despised him on that account. They then fought. The battle with Tarik was severe. They were routed, and he did not cease from the slaughter of them till they reached the town of Cordova. When Roderic heard of this, he came to their rescue from Toledo. They then fought in a place of the name of Shedunia, in a valley which is called this day the valley of Umm-Hakim [on July 11, 711, at the mouth of the Barbate river]. They fought a severe battle; but God, mighty and great, killed Roderic and his companions. Mugheyth Errumi, a slave of Welid, was then the commander of Tarik's cavalry. Mugheyth Errumi went in the direction of Cordova, Tarik passing over to Toledo. He, then, entered it, and asked for the table, having nothing else to occupy himself. This, as the men of the Bible relate, was the table of Suleyman Ibn Dawid, may the blessing of God be upon him. [Source: Ibn Abd-el-Hakem, “History of the Conqziest of Spain,” trans. by John Harris Jones (Gottingen, W. Fr. Kaestner, 1858), pp. 18-22. Ibn Abd-el-Hakem (d. 870 or 871) was an Egyptian, who also wrote a history of Egypt. He mixes myths and fact in his account, which was written a century and a half after the events it describes]

“As Abd Errahman has related to us on the authority of Yahva Ibn Bukeir, and the latter on the authority of Leyth Ibn Sad: Andalus having been conquered for Musa Ibn Nosseyr, he took from it the table of Suleyman Ibn Dawid, and the crown. Tarik was told that the table - was in a citadel called Faras, two days' journey from Toledo, and the governor of this citadel was a nephew of Roderic. Tarik, then, wrote to him, promising safetv both for himself and family. The nephew descended from the citadel, and Tarik fulfilled his promise with reference to his safety. Tarik said to him, deliver the table, and he delivered it to him. On this table were gold and silver, the like of which one bad not seen. Tarik, then, took off one of its legs together with the pearls and the gold it contained, and fixed to it a similar leg. The table was valued at two hundred thousand dinars, on account of the pearls that were on it. He took up the pearls, the armour, the gold, the silver, and the vases which he had with him, and found that quantity of spoils, the like of which one had not seen. He collected all that.

“Afterwards he returned to Cordova, and having stopped there, he wrote to Musa Ibn Nossevr informing him of the conquest of Andalus, and of the spoils which he had found. Musa then wrote to Welid Abd Ed-Malik' informing him of that, and throwing himself upon his mercy. Musa wrote to Tarik ordering him not to leave Cordova until he should come to him. And he reprimanded him very severely. Afterwards Musa Ibn Nosseyr set out for Andalus, in Rajab of the year 93, taking with him the chiefs of the Arabs, the commanders, and the leaders of the Berbers to Andalus. He set out being angry with Tarik, and took with him Habib Ibn Abi Ubeida Elfihri, and left the government of Cairwan to his son Abd Allah who was his eldest son. He then passed through Alchadra, and afterwards went over to Cordova. Tarik then met him, and tried to satisfv him, saving: "I am merely thy slave, this conquest is thine." Musa collected of the monev a sum, which exceeded all description. Tarik delivered to him all that he had plundered.”

Al Maggari: Tarik's Address to His Soldiers, 711 CE, from The Breath of Perfumes

Tarik was the Muslim leader who lead the conquest of Spain. When he had been informed of the approach of the enemy, he rose in the midst of his companions and, after having glorified God in the highest, said the following — “Tarik's Address to His Soldiers” (711): "Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but vou, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy. If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams, and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freelv to death. Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. In the attack I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least. [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 241-242, Internet Islamic History Sourcebook,]

"Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you. You have heard that in this country there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings. The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country, and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves.

"Remember that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing. If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you."


Battle of Poitiers (Tours) in 732

In 732, Charles Martel defeated an army of Spanish Muslim at Poitiers (Tours) in southern France in 732. European historians have sometimes declared this as one of the most pivotal battles in human history because it kept the Muslims out of the heart of Europe and was main reason why Europe is not a Muslim territory today. But in reality the loss was not a big disaster for the Muslims, who were not really very interested in Europe at that time because they found the weather unfavorable and saw little worth conquering.

Charles Martel was Charlemagne's grandfather and the Frankish leader of the West Merovingians (also known as the Neustrians, eastern Austrasians or Frenchmen). He was pitted against an invading force, some say, of perhaps 60,000 Muslim commanded by the Yemenite Abd-ar-Rahman at Poitiers. Other say the the army was much smaller was more of a raiding party than an invading force. In any case, the Arab army assembled by the Moroccan leader Berber Othman crossed the Pyrenees from Spain (then a Muslim territory) and advanced across southern France on a Roman road, claiming several rich Christian monasteries as they went, until the met Martels army south of the central French town of Tours.

The French army consisted mainly of infantrymen and the Arab force, light cavalry. The two great armies faced each for a week before the Arabs finally attacked. Equipped with shields, swords, axes, javelins and battle-axes, and packed together like a stone wall, Martel's Frenchmen held off the Muslim charge, and when it appeared they had exhausted themselves the French counter attacked and swept around a weak Arab flank and through a stroke of luck killed Abd-ar-Rahman.

By the next morning the Arabs had begun retreating back to Spain and, although later on Muslims would occupy Sicily and parts of Italy, they would never again try a full scale invasion of Western Europe. For his efforts, Charles was nicknamed "The Hammer."

There are a couple of theories how Martel defeated the Arabs at Tours in A.D. 732. One is that his heavily armored Frankish cavalrymen on heavy horses stood firm against Arab attacks on smaller horses. Another theory has it that the Arab horsemen were unable to penetrate the tight Frankish phalanx. The victory marked the switch to heavily-armored, cavalry-oriented tactics.

Accounts Battle of Poitiers (Tours) in 732

Abdul Rahman at Tours

The late-19th, early-20th-century historian William Stearns Davis wrote: “The defeat of the Saracen invaders of Frankish lands at Tours (more properly Poitiers) in 732 A.D. was a turning point in history. It is not likely the Muslims, if victorious, would have penetrated, at least at once, far into the north, but they would surely have seized South Gaul, and thence readily have crushed the weak Christian powers of Italy. It is very unfortunate that we do not possess scientific accounts of Charles Martel's great victory, instead of the interesting but insufficient stories of the old Christian chroniclers. [Source: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 362-364. Internet Islamic History Sourcebook,]

According to the Chronicle of St. Denis: “The Muslims planned to go to Tours to destroy the Church of St. Martin, the city, and the whole country. Then came against them the glorious Prince Charles, at the head of his whole force. He drew up his host, and he fought as fiercely as the hungry wolf falls upon the stag. By the grace of Our Lord, he wrought a great slaughter upon the enemies of Christian faith, so that—as history bears witness—he slew in that battle 300,000 men, likewise their king by name Abderrahman. Then was he [Charles] first called "Martel," for as a hammer of iron, of steel, and of every other metal, even so he dashed: and smote in the battle all his enemies. And what was the greatest marvel of all, he only lost in that battle 1500 men. The tents and harness [of the enemy] were taken; and whatever else they possessed became a prey to him and his followers. Eudes, Duke of Aquitaine, being now reconciled with Prince Charles Martel, later slew as many of the Saracens as he could find who had escaped from the battle.”

The following opinion was expressed about the Franks by the emir who conquered Spain, and who — had he not been recalled — might have commanded at Tours. It shows what the Arab leaders thought of the men of the North up to the moment of their great disillusionment by "The Hammer.": “Musa being returned to Damascus, the Caliph Abd-el Melek asked of him about his conquests, saying "Now tell me about these Franks—what is their nature?" "They," replied Musa, "are a folk right numerous, and full of might: brave and impetuous in the attack, but cowardly and craven in event of defeat." "And how has passed the war betwixt them and thyself? Favorably or the reverse?" "The reverse? No, by Allah and the prophet!" spoke Musa. "Never has a company from my army been beaten. And never have the Moslems hesitated to follow me when I have led them; though they were twoscore to fourscore."

Arab Account of the Battle of Poitiers (732)

Paul Halsall of Fordham University wrote: “From 711 Muslim forces crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, conquered the Visigothic Kingdom, and in less than a decade crossed the Pyrenees. In 732, under the command of Abd-er- rahman, they were decisively defeated by Charles Martel and the Franks at the Battle of Poitiers [or Tours]. This event looms much larger in Western history than Muslim - leading to a famous passage of purple prose by Edward Gibbon about minarets rather than spires in Oxford if the Muslims had won. The event was notice the Muslim world, however, and the following is from an Arab chronicle.” [Source: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook,]

An anonymous Arab Chronicler wrote: “The Moslems smote their enemies, and passed the river Garonne, and laid waste the country, and took captives without number. And that army went through all places like a desolating storm. Prosperity made those warriors insatiable. At the passage of the river, Abderrahman overthrew the count, and the count retired into his stronghold, but the Moslems fought against it, and entered it by force, and slew the count; for everything gave way to their scimitars, which were the robbers of lives. All the nations of the Franks trembled at that terrible army, and they betook them to their king Caldus [Charles Martel], and told him of the havoc made by the Moslem horsemen, and bow they rode at their will through all the land of Narbonne, Toulouse, and Bordeaux, and they told the king of the death of their count. Then the king bade them be of good cheer, and offered to aid them. [Source: Quoted from an unidentified Arabian in Edward Creasy, “Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World,” 1851, Everyman's Library (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.), 168-169]

“He mounted his horse, and he took with him a host that could not be numbered, and went against the Moslems. And he came upon them at the great city of Tours. And Abderrahman and other prudent cavaliers saw the disorder of the Moslem troops, who were loaded with spoil; but they did not venture to displease the soldiers by ordering them to abandon everything except their arms and war-horses. And Abderrahman trusted in the valour of his soldiers, and in the good fortune which had ever attended him. But such defect of discipline always is fatal to armies. So Abderrabman and his host attacked Tours to gain still more spoil, and they fought against it so fiercely that they stormed the city almost before the eyes of the army that came to save it; and the fury and the cruelty of the Moslems towards the inhabitants of the city were like the fury and cruelty of raging tigers. It was manifest that God's chastisement was sure to follow such excesses; and fortune thereupon turned her back upon the Moslems.

“Near the river Owar [Loire], the two great hosts of the two languages and the two creeds were set in array against each other. The hearts of Abderrahman, his captains and his men were filled with wrath and pride, and they were the first to begin to fight. The Moslem horsemen dashed fierce and frequent forward against the battalions of the Franks, who resisted manfully, and many fell dead on either side, until the going down of the sun. Night parted the two armies: but in the grey of the morning the Moslems returned to the battle. Their cavaliers had soon hewn their way into the center of the Christian host. But many of the Moslems were fearful for the safety of the spoil which they had stored in their tents, and a false cry arose in their ranks that some of the enemy were plundering the camp; whereupon several squadrons of the Moslem horsemen rode off to protect their tents. But it seemed as if they fled; and all the host was troubled. And while Abderrahman strove to check their tumult, and to lead them back to battle, the warriors of the Franks came around him, and he was pierced through with many spears, so that he died. Then all the host fled before the enemy, and many died in the flight.”

Christian Account of the Battle of Poitiers (732)

Charles Martel

According to “Isidore of Beja's Chronicle written by an anonymous Mozarab (Christian) chronicler in 754: “Then Abderrahman, [the Muslim emir] seeing the land filled with the multitude of his army, crossed the Pyrenees, and traversed the defiles [in the mountains] and the plains, so that he penetrated ravaging and slaying clear into the lands of the Franks. He gave battle to Duke Eudes (of Aquitaine) beyond the Garonne and the Dordogne, and put him to flight—so utterly [was he beaten] that God alone knew the number of the slain and wounded. Whereupon Abderrahman set in pursuit of Eudes; he destroyed palaces, burned churches, and imagined he could pillage the basilica of St. Martin of Tours. It is then that he found himself face to face with the lord of Austrasia, Charles, a mighty warrior from his youth, and trained in all the occasions of arms.

“For almost seven days the two armies watched one another, waiting anxiously the moment for joining the struggle. Finally they made ready for combat. And in the shock of the battle the men of the North seemed like North a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice; and with great blows of their swords they hewed down the Arabs. Drawn up in a band around their chief, the people of the Austrasians carried all before them. Their tireless hands drove their swords down to the breasts [of the foe].

“At last night sundered the combatants. The Franks with misgivings lowered their blades, and beholding the numberless tents of the Arabs, prepared themselves for another battle the next day. Very early, when they issued from their retreat, the men of Europe saw the Arab tents ranged still in order, in the same place where they had set up their camp. Unaware that they were utterly empty, and fearful lest within the phalanxes of the Saracens were drawn up for combat, they sent out spies to ascertain the facts. These spies discovered that all the squadrons of the "Ishmaelites" had vanished. In fact, during the night they had fled with the greatest silence, seeking with all speed their home land. The Europeans, uncertain and fearful, lest they were merely hidden in order to come back [to fall upon them] by ambushments, sent scouting parties everywhere, but to their great amazement found nothing. Then without troubling to pursue the fugitives, they contented themselves with sharing the spoils and returned right gladly to their own country.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: ; Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Library of Congress and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2024

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