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Travis Gorrie




Location: Springfield, Illinois
Joined: 21 Apr 2004

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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jul, 2007 7:12 pm    Post subject: Battle of Tours 732         Reply with quote

I am searching for information on the Battle of Tours 732 AD - Charles the Hammer Martel and the Franks versus Abdul Rahman and the Umayyad Muslims. There doesn't seem to be a lot of info and what there is brief or somewhat conflicting.
Specifically, I am seeking info on the arms and armor of the combatants. My search has been via google and various sources like weikepidia, answers.com, etc; most are quick two paragraph summaries with basic info.

The Umayyad information claims the Muslims were either entirely light cavalry with spears (20ft ???) and swords or a mixture of heavy cavalry and light cavalry. The heavy cavalry wearing mail - shirts I am surmizing.

While the Franks were stated to be heavy infantry dressed in mail weighing 70lbs. 70lbs seems awful heavy to me and a little early for full mail armor. Wouldn't they have most likely only worn a brynie or mail shirt? Which would be what 15-20lbs or so at most. Also what is the likelihood of Martel being able to equip 30,000 heavy infantry in mail in 732 France?

Any information or links to sources would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jul, 2007 6:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The problem with this is that there's simply not as much information available as we'd like...

As far as I know, the Muslim force was a mixture of Arabs and Moors. The Arabs mostly made up the heavy horse formations; not all of them would have been armored in mail but many clearly were, and they generally carried spears and swords as their primary armament. They were capable of charging but were also quite inclined to fight in a hit-and-run manner with a propensity for feigned flights and ambushes (I think this was called karr wa farr tactics). Meanwhile, the Moors were...well, Moors. Mostly light horsemen with spears and javelins but certainly not barring other weapons, and fighting as swarms as mounted skirmishers.

The Frankish forces at this time would have been a predominantly infantry force. Thirty thousand does sound like an exaggerated figure, but I think the Carolingian state had sufficient resources to field a few thousand adequately-equipped infantry in this campaign, especially since not all men in a good infantry formation has to be heavily equipped--it's a common thing among late Roman and early medieval armies to have heavily-armored men in the first ranks and less well-armored ones bulking the formation in the rear ranks. As for how these people were raised, the Carolingian dynasty clearly had heerban/heribannum(?) regulations in place that required the raising of a select levy based on land, rather like the select fyrd of the Anglo-Saxons or the knightly service of later European feudal tenures. Mind that this was a select levy, not a general nation-in-arms levy, so the standard of gear was probably quite high. Mail would have been reasonably common and swords were perhaps not uncommon. At least if we believe the Muslim chroniclers who describe the Frankish swordsmen standing fats and repelling the Muslim charges like a "wall of ice."

There are some capitularies from Charlemagne's time, which is somewhat later than Tours-Poitiers but may still shed some light upon this earlier period:

http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/sources/charlemagne5.htm

http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/sources/charlemagne6.htm

Note that it is very likely that the Franks of Charlemagne's time, having shifted their paradigm in favor of their mounted forces, would have fielded a smaller number of men with a higher standard of equipment compared to the earlier Carolingian armies of Charles Martel.
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Felix Wang




Location: Fresno, CA
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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jul, 2007 10:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another relevant consideration in the size and makeup of the Frankish army at Tours was the fact that they were on the strategic (and also tactical) defensive, inside their own realm. This would make it considerably easier to amass and support a large infantry army. Most of Charlemagne's fighting was outside the Frankish heartland, which would impact the size of the forces which could be raised and supported. When assembling an expeditionary force, quality of troops might have been a higher priority, when compared with defending against an invading foe.
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Mike Arledge




Location: Indianapolis, IN
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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jul, 2007 11:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Victor Hanson has a good article about this battle from his book: Carnage and Culture. You might be able to find it cheap on Ebay, and it also has a phenomenal article on Cannae.
Mike J Arledge

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Bryce Felperin




Location: San Jose, CA
Joined: 16 Feb 2006

Posts: 552

PostPosted: Fri 20 Jul, 2007 5:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Arledge wrote:
Victor Hanson has a good article about this battle from his book: Carnage and Culture. You might be able to find it cheap on Ebay, and it also has a phenomenal article on Cannae.


I'll second this book as a source. Hanson is an excellent story teller and bases his books on good resources. His other books are excellent also.
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Hisham Gaballa





Joined: 27 Jan 2005
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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jul, 2007 2:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm afraid most of my information for this period is based on Osprey books, not original sources. But as long as you remember their limitations they are quite useful.

With regards to the Ummayyads, the great majority of them would have actually been infantry armed with spears and large shields, fighting in what the Arabs called sufuf, i.e. "lines", presumably this was some type of phalanx-like formation. They would have been supported by infantry archers and cavalry.

My assumption is that the Arab warriors in the Ummayad armies would have been very well equipped. After all in last than 100 years the Arabs had wiped out the Sassanid Persian empire and captured all of the Eastern Roman Empires's possessions in Northa Africa and the Middle-East. They probably would have had loads of mail shirts and iron helmets captured from the Persians and Romans, not to mention they also would have plenty of money to buy armour.

Berber troops on the other hand, being a subject people would have been much less well equipped, still they would have had spears and shields at least.

AFAIKduring this periods the Arabs used their camels to fight as fast moving "mounted infantry", riding to battle on their camels and dismounting to fight. IMO The camels were the secret of their success. Because whole armies were mounted that alowed them to move very quickly and sometimes seem to just appear out of nowhere, almost always taking their enemies by surprise. The cold wet conditions of Europe would have made camels unsuitable and they lost their greatest advantage, hence the defeat at Tours/Poitiers. That's my theory anyway, feel free to pick as many holes in it as you want. Big Grin

These books should be a good starting point BTW:
http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.php?ASIN=185532279X
http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.php?ASIN=1855329646

This book is quite old and a lot of the info is probably out of date, it is still quite useful though:
http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.php?ASIN=0850454484
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Nathan Keysor




Location: WV
Joined: 15 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jul, 2007 6:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hisham Gaballa wrote:


AFAIKduring this periods the Arabs used their camels to fight as fast moving "mounted infantry", riding to battle on their camels and dismounting to fight. IMO The camels were the secret of their success. Because whole armies were mounted that alowed them to move very quickly and sometimes seem to just appear out of nowhere, almost always taking their enemies by surprise. The cold wet conditions of Europe would have made camels unsuitable and they lost their greatest advantage, hence the defeat at Tours/Poitiers. That's my theory anyway, feel free to pick as many holes in it as you want


From what I've read that is a valid theory. Once the Arabs were united under Islam they crossed inhospitable territory by camel and took their enemies by surprise. A lot of the territory adjascent to these regions weren't as well defended because nobody expected an attack to come from that quarter. They also had the advantage that if they happened to lose a battle they could retreat back into the desert and couldn't be pursued. Mobility and quick deployment of military assets ranks up there with equipment/armament. If your troops don't make it to the party on time it doesn't really matter how nice their toys are. This high-mobility style also worked for the Mongols who appeared out of nowhere (not on camels of course) and repeatedly crushed their enemies.
Certainly the lack of the ability to use camels hampered the "Franks of the Coast" in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

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PostPosted: Sat 21 Jul, 2007 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hisham Gaballa wrote:
With regards to the Ummayyads, the great majority of them would have actually been infantry armed with spears and large shields, fighting in what the Arabs called sufuf, i.e. "lines", presumably this was some type of phalanx-like formation. They would have been supported by infantry archers and cavalry.


Quite true, although the arm that featured most prominently in the Tours/Poitiers campaign was the cavalry since it was essentially a deep rear-area raid into Frankish and allied territories. Moreover, the Umayyads in North Africa, Spain, and southern France were not the same as the Umayyads in the Egypt-Arab-Syria central axis--their military organization, strategy, and tactics differed in some important details.


Quote:
AFAIKduring this periods the Arabs used their camels to fight as fast moving "mounted infantry", riding to battle on their camels and dismounting to fight. IMO The camels were the secret of their success. Because whole armies were mounted that alowed them to move very quickly and sometimes seem to just appear out of nowhere, almost always taking their enemies by surprise. The cold wet conditions of Europe would have made camels unsuitable and they lost their greatest advantage, hence the defeat at Tours/Poitiers. That's my theory anyway, feel free to pick as many holes in it as you want. Big Grin


Quite true as well, though it is worth noting that the camel was considered as the poor man's horse and the richer/more successful warriors tended to become cavalrymen or at least horse-mounted infantrymen instead. Their penchant for surprise attacks also seem to have faded somewhat after the initial expansions. The Umayyad and Abbasid periods saw the armies of the Muslim principalities becoming somewhat more "conventional" in outlook compared to their principal adversaries, such as the Byzantines.


Take all this stuff with a garin of salt. I'm an amateur researcher, and certainly it is much, much better to go directly to those books Hisham has listed rather than listening to my (often unqualified) opinions...
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