Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/175

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BATTLE OF TOURS. 169


CHAPTER VII. THE BATTLE OF TOURS, A.D. 732.

The events that rescued our ancestors of Britain and our neighbors of Gaul from the civil and religious yoke of the Koran.—Gibbon.

The broad tract of champaign country which intervenes between the cities of Poictiers and Tours is principally composed of a succession of rich pasture lands, which are traversed and fertilized by the Cher, the Creuse, the Vienne, the Claine, the Indre, and other tributaries of the River Loire. Here and there the ground swells into picturesque eminences, and occasionally a belt of forest land, a brown heath, or a clustering series of vineyards breaks the monotony of the widespread meadows; but the general character of the land is that of a grassy plain, and it seems naturally adapted for the evolutions of numerous armies, especially of those vast bodies of cavalry which principally decided the fate of nations during the centuries that followed the downfall of Rome, and preceded the consolidation of the modern European powers.

This region has been signalized by more than one memorable conflict; but it is principally interesting to the historian by having been the scene of the great victory won by Charles Martel over the Saracens, A.D. 732, which gave a decisive check to the career of Arab conquest in Western Europe, rescued Christendom from Islam, preserved the relics of ancient and the germs of modern civilization, and re-established the old superiority of the Indo-European over the Semitic family of mankind.

Sismondi and Michelet have underrated the enduring interest of this great Appeal of Battle between the champions of the Crescent and the Cross. But, if French writers have slighted the exploits of their national hero, the Saracenic trophies of Charles Martel have had full justice done to them by English and German historians. Gibbon devotes several pages of his great work*

  • Vol. vii., p. 17, et seq. Gibbon's sneering remark, that if the Saracen

conquests had not then been checked, "perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits

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