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The Battle of Narbonne was fought in 737 between the forces of Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri, Umayyad governor of Narbonne, and a Frankish army led by Charles Martel.

The city of Narbonne was captured by Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani, governor of Al-Andalus,[1] in 719 or 720. The city was renamed Arbūnah and turned into a military base for future operations.[2] Following his success at the Battle of Avignon in 737 Charles Martel besieged Narbonne, but his forces were unable to take the city. However, when the Arabs sent reinforcements from Spain the Franks intercepted them at the mouth of the River Berre, in the present-day département of Aude, and scored a significant victory, after which they marched on Nîmes.

In Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels, Antonio Santosuosso, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Western Ontario, and considered an expert historian in the era in dispute, puts forth an interesting modern opinion on Martel, Tours, and the subsequent campaigns against Rahman's son in 736-737. Santosuosso presents a compelling case that these later defeats of invading Muslim armies were at least as important as Tours in their defence of Western Christendom and the preservation of Western monasticism, the monasteries of which were the centers of learning which ultimately led Europe out of her Dark Ages. He also makes a compelling argument, after studying the Arab histories of the period, that these were clearly armies of invasion, sent by the Caliph not just to avenge Tours, but to conquer Christian Europe and bring it into the Caliphate.

Charles probably could have taken Narbonne had he been willing to commit his army and full resources for an indefinite siege, but he was not willing to do so. He had accomplished his primary goals by destroying the Arab armies, and leaving the remaining Arabs confined to Narbonne. However, a second expedition was needed later that year to regain control of Provence after Arab forces returned. According to Paul the Deacon's Historia gentis Langobardorum the Arabs retreated when they learned that Martel had formed an alliance with the Lombards, leaving the allied forces too strong for the relief force from Al-Andalus to meet in open battle. Martel's remaining years - he had only four to live - were spent setting up and strengthening the administrative structure that became the Carolingian Empire, and the feudal state that would persist through the Dark Ages. His son would return in 759 and finish his father's work by taking Narbonne and driving the Emirate of Córdoba back over the Pyrenees.

References

  1. ^ Christys, Ann (2002). Christians in Al-Andalus (711-1000). London: Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-1564-9, p. 28.
  2. ^ Holt, P. M., Lambton, Ann K. S. and Lewis, Bernard (1977). The Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29135-6, p. 95.

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