Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/176

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

170 BATTLE OF TOURS.


to the narrative of the battle of Tours, and to the consideration of the consequences which probably would have resulted if Abderrahman's enterprise had not been crushed by the Frankish chief. Schlegel* speaks of this "mighty victory" in terms of fervent gratitude, and tells how "the arm of Charles Martel saved and delivered the Christian nations of the West from the deadly grasp of all-destroying Islam;" and Ranke† points out, as "one of the most important epochs in the history of the world, the commencement of the eighth century, when on the one side Mohammedanism threatened to overspread Italy and Gaul, and on the other the ancient idolatry of Saxony and Friesland once more forced its way across the Rhine. In this peril of Christian institutions, a youthful prince of Germanic race, Karl Martel, arose as their champion, maintained them with all the energy which the necessity for self-defense calls forth, and finally extended them into new regions."

Arnold‡ ranks the victory of Charles Martel even higher than the victory of Arminius, "among those signal deliverances which have affected for centuries the happiness of mankind." In fact, the more we test its importance, the higher we shall be led to estimate it; and, though all authentic details which we possess of its circumstances and its heroes are but meagre, we can trace enough of its general character to make us watch with deep interest this encounter between the rival conquerors of the decaying Roman empire. That old classic world, the history of which occupies so large a portion of our early studies, lay, in the eighth century of our era, utterly exanimate and overthrown. On the north the German, on the south the Arab, was rending away its provinces. At last the spoilers encountered one another, each striving for the full mastery of the prey. Their conflict brought back upon the memory of Gibbon the old Homeric simile, where the strife of Hector and Patroclus over the dead body of Cebriones is compared to the combat of two lions, that in their hate and hunger fight together on the mountain tops over the carcass of a slaughtered stag; and the reluctant yielding of the Saracen pow-

might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mohammed," has almost an air of regret.

  • "Philosophy of History," p. 331.

† "History of the Reformation in Germany," vol. i., p. 5.

‡ "History of the later Roman Commonwealth," vol. ii., p. 317.