Battle of Poitiers with Causes and consequences

Battle of Poitiers (732)

Warlike conflict that pitted the hosts of Carlos Martel against an Umayyad army that had invaded the Merovingian kingdom of the Franks. Causes and consequences of Battle of Poitiers

Dates 732.
Place Central France.
Belligerents Kingdom of the Franks vs. Umayyad caliphate
Outcome Victory of the Franks.

The battle of Poitiers took place on October 10, 732 and pitted the hosts of Charles Martel against an Umayyad army that had invaded the Merovingian kingdom of the Franks. The Muslim forces were commanded by Al-Gafiqi , governor of the province of Al-Andalus , in present-day Spain.

The Battle of Poitiers ended with a decisive victory for the Franks and the defeat of the Muslims, who lost thousands of men and were forced to retreat south of the Pyrenees.

Some historians call it the “first battle of Poitiers” to distinguish it from the one that, in 1356, faced France and England, in the context of the 100 Years’ War .

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Historic context

When the Arab prophet Muhammad died in 632, he was succeeded by various caliphs, who became the spiritual and temporal leaders of all Muslims. They drove the military expansion of Islam into Palestine, Syria, Asiatic Mesopotamia, Armenia, Persia, and Egypt.

In 661, after the death of Caliph Ali, the Umayyad family usurped power and created a caliphate whose capital was in the city of Damascus, in present-day Syria. Under his rule, Muslims spread to India in the east and Morocco in the west.

In 711, a Muslim army made up of Arabs and Berbers crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and invaded the Iberian Peninsula. The Visigoths, who had founded a kingdom in Hispania at the beginning of the 6th century, tried to stop them, but were defeated in the Battle of Guadalete , in which King Rodrigo died along with a large part of the Gothic nobility. Causes and consequences of Battle of Poitiers

After occupying much of the Iberian Peninsula, the Umayyad armies crossed the Pyrenees and in 719 they occupied the region of Septimania, which was part of the kingdom of the Franks. This state was ruled by the Merovingian dynasty , whose kings had very limited authority.

In 732, an Umayyad army made up of some 30,000 men led by Al-Gafiqi crossed the Pyrenees and attacked the Duchy of Aquitaine , which was practically independent of the power of the Merovingians.

Duke Eudes tried to stop the invaders on the banks of the Garonne River , but was defeated and fled north. The city of Bordeaux was left at the mercy of the Muslims who sacked it and carried out a great massacre of Christians .

After his victory in Bordeaux, Al-Gafiqi marched north towards the Loire River . It is believed that one of its targets could have been the Abbey of San Martín de Tours, which at that time was the most prestigious in all of western Europe.

To stop the Muslim invasion, the King of the Franks Theodoric IV sent an army to the front of Carlos Martel . He served as a palace steward and fulfilled functions similar to those of a prime minister. Martel waited for the Muslims in a plain located between the cities of Tours and Poitiers, in the center of present-day France.

Enhance your reading: Battle of Poitiers with historical context in detail

Development of the battle of Poitiers

Carlos Martel’s army consisted almost entirely of infantrymen armed with swords, spears, and shields, while the Muslims were all horsemen mounted on horseback. For this reason, Martel took a defensive position : he made a large square with the infantry brandishing their spears and concealed the cavalry in a forest further north.

For six days the two armies were face to face, with only a few skirmishes. On the seventh day, Al-Gafiqi , impatient because the days were getting colder and colder and his troops were not equipped, ordered repeated cavalry charges against the enemy cadre. Causes and consequences of Battle of Poitiers

The Franks withstood the assaults throughout the morning and afternoon. In the evening, groups of Muslim soldiers withdrew towards their camp, fearful that the Franks might capture the booty they had taken in Bordeaux. When the bulk of the Muslim army noticed the movement of their comrades, a general withdrawal was unleashed . Al-Gafiqi tried to stop the retreat and reorganize his troops, but was surrounded and killed by the Frankish cavalry, who had come out of hiding.

The surviving Muslims took advantage of the darkness to retreat to their camp. During the night they quietly left him and fled south.

Causes and consequences of the Battle of Poitiers


Among the causes of the Battle of Poitiers the following stand out:

  • The invasion of the kingdom of the Franks by an Umayyad army that in 732 crossed the Pyrenees and advanced northwards, looting towns, fields and cities.
  • The request for help of Duke Eudes of Aquitaine to the court of the Merovingians, after being defeated by the Muslims on the banks of the Garonne River.
  • The decision of King Theodoric IV to send an army led by Carlos Martel to stop the incursion of the Muslims and end the looting and massacres of Christians.


The main consequences of this battle were the following:

  • The Muslims lost some 10,000 men, including their commander, Al-Gafiqi. The francs, only 500.
  • The Muslims were forced to retreat south of the Pyrenees and only retained the Septimania, which they would retain for a further twenty-seven years. Causes and consequences of Battle of Poitiers
  • The victory of the Franks stopped the penetration of Muslims into the heart of Europe and preserved Christianity as the predominant religion on that continent.
  • The weakening of the Muslims was used by the Christian kingdom of Asturias to push the border towards the south, giving continuity to the Reconquest that began after the battle of Covadonga .
  • The triumph at Poitiers strengthened the internal position of Charles Martel , whose son, Pepin the Short, dethroned King Childeric III and founded the Carolingian dynasty. The greatest exponent of this royal house was Charlemagne, who at Christmas in 800 was crowned Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III.

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