In the early 8th century, the Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Iberian Peninsula, destroying the Visigoth Kingdom. In 719 AD, they Umayyad’s invaded the Kingdom of the Franks in Gaul (modern day France). The Muslims successfully conquered the region of Septimania before diverting their attention against the Merovingians. In 732 AD, the Umayyad army under the command of Abd ar-Rahman Al Ghafiqi marched north toward the Frankish capital in Paris.
Countering the Muslim army was Charles Martel. Martel served as the Merovingian mayor of the palace, a proto-prime minister position in the Frankish court. As the Merovingian monarchs by this time had largely become figureheads, the real political and military power was with Martel. After assembling his army, Martel marched south to engage the Muslim army near the city of Tours. The two sides clashed on 10 October 732, with the Franks achieving a decisive victory. The victory halted the Muslim advance into Gaul, resulting in their eventual withdrawal in 759 after Pepin III (Charles’ son) conquered Narbonne.
The rise of Martel would spell the end of the Merovingian dynasty. In 751, Pepin III would be crowned king and would establish the Carolingian dynasty. After Pepin’s death in 768, his son Charlemagne would rise to power. Under Charlemagne, the Carolingian’s would greatly expand their influence in Western Europe. On Christmas day in 800 AD, Charlemagne would be crowned “Emperor of the Romans” at Aachen Cathedral by Pope Leo III. The coronation would mark the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Carolingian dynasty would last until the end of the 9th century. It would have an important influence on history. Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Western Europe entered what has been popularly known as the Dark Ages (though historians today contest this interpretation). Under Charlemagne, there was a renaissance in art, literature, and architecture. The Carolingian Empire would become a great power in Europe, and the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire would become important nations that would lead Europe into the Middle Ages.
Look for more information regarding the Carolingian Empire and Charles Martel in the upcoming Strategy & Tactics issue #302 article “The Battle of Tours: Islam Halted, 732” and join the conversation on Facebook!