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Considering how far the Umayyad Empire had come into Europe, and their defeat at the Battle of Tours could they have pushed further into Europe? Did Tours really stop their advance or were there other forces that kept them from further conquest?

Their empire was already large, and it's hard to see how their forces could have continued into the Frankish Kingdoms, and maintain a stable country especially considering they just took Iberia. Looking at later times they had revolts in North Africa they were not in solid control, so if they had spread their forces more they could have fallen swifter and lost European territories if there were revolts. So it looks like they hadn't stabilized control but pressed onwards, yet if they didn't then did they stop to stabilize control of the empire or were there other forces at work?

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  • I wouldn't consider it unprecedented, see Mongol invasion of Europe - that country was far larger. Depends on what you consider a "country" of course, it clearly couldn't be governed in a centralized way. Oct 14, 2011 at 12:37
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    I was waiting for this question to come out. :-) It's an interesting point of debate.
    – Noldorin
    Oct 14, 2011 at 12:47
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    Russia was geographically very open to attack from the east, and militarily at a disadvantage to light cavalry on the steppes of Asia. The more advanced and indeed populous nations of Central and Western European would have posed a much larger challenge, for sure.
    – Noldorin
    Oct 20, 2011 at 0:28
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    I’m voting to close this question because counterfactuals are off topic.
    – Spencer
    Apr 20, 2021 at 21:04
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    Hard to see where its counterfactual but you could propose an edit if it really bothers you.
    – MichaelF
    Apr 23, 2021 at 15:49

3 Answers 3

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During the battle of Tours, the invading Muslim leader, Emir Abd al Rahman was killed, which represented a major setback for them. After winning the battle in 732, the Frankish leader Charles Martel followed up his victory by "cleaning out" Muslim enclaves established in southern France, meaning that they had lost the initiative.

By about 750, the Ummayad Empire had degenerated into civil war, making it possible for Martel's son and grandson, Charlemagne, to push the invaders out of France entirely, and begin pushing them out of northern Spain.

So yes, the battle of Tours represented a bursting of the Ummayad bubble.

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    Nice, didn't know about Emir Abd al Rahman being killed - that would definitely be a setback. Thanks.
    – MichaelF
    Oct 20, 2011 at 12:07
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As a complementary answer:

While the battle of Tours was an important moment in the Arab expansion into Europe, it was not the only one, for the simple reason that the Arab expansion in that direction (from Africa and the Middle East to the north) was not made (and was not stopped) only there.

I even think that the Frankish victory was disproportionately emphasized by Western historiography until recently against the sieges of Constantinople of 674–678 and 717–718, as if the Franks were the most important European power (which, at that time, they were most certainly not) or even the only European power (in a restrictive, westerly-centered perspective that excludes the Byzantines).

A front where the Arabs were stopped from entering Europe from the east (and from becoming an Eurasian steppe empire in the way that others did before and after the Mongols) is that of the Arab–Khazar wars of c. 642–652 and c. 722–737.

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Not only it is doubtful that an Arab victory at Tours would have meant the full conquest of Europe (meaning Franks, Vikings, Saxons, Longobards, and Avars, not to re-mention the Byzantine empire), but the fall of Constantinople or the conquest of the Turkic Khazars (and their possible conversion to Islam) would have surely been much richer in consequences.

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  • There was also the raid on Ostia in 849 where the Arab fleet was scattered by a storm.
    – Spencer
    Mar 4, 2023 at 18:22
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Yes, the Battle of Tours was absolutely a turning point for the Umayyad Caliphate in the year, 732 AD/CE...but it was also, a type of starting point for France, as an early Medieval European civilization-(following the more regionally rooted Merovingian dynastic period).

It was under the leadership of Charles "The Hammer" Martel who was able to prevent further Islamic expansion into France. In doing so, France-(unlike a sizable part of Spain during the Middle Ages), was never Islamized or Arabized and was able to retain both the Catholic Faith and the Latin language-(the French language, to the best of my knowledge, emerged as a conversational/colloquial language later in the Middle Ages).

While I won't necessarily say that Charles "The Hammer" Martel "saved Western civilization" from Muslim expansion, one could say that Charles "The Hammer" Martel certainly helped to preserve and conserve Frankish, Catholic and Western civilization during the Early Middle Ages. His grandson, Carlos Magnus-(better known as Charlemagne), would become the First Holy Roman Emperor and a Carolingian Renaissance based in Aachen, Germany would follow.

If the Umayyads were successful and victorious at the Battle of Tours, it is very unlikely that such an above mentioned historical reality would have ever materialized.

However, as the Umayyads were literally forced over the Pyrenees and returned to Spain, the Umayyad Caliphate began a near 300 year Islamic civilizational flourishment largely based out of the Andalusian city of Cordoba.

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  • At that time there was no "Catholic, western civilization", they were all still gravitating around Byzantium and they were equally "Christian" and "Catholic". While one can argue that things would have been different without the Franks, it seems a bit doubtful that, even defeated at Tours, Franks would have gone out of the picture completely. Maybe one Arab victory in Gauls wouldn't have been enough, But one fall of Constantinople would. Take a look at my complementary answer. Arabs wanted Constantinople as much as the Ottoman did, but were severely beaten.
    – cipricus
    Mar 3, 2023 at 13:35
  • It is worth considering that the real fall of Constantinople was to the Crusaders (called "Franks" in the east). The city had under one million souls then, and just 20 thousand when the Turks took it.
    – cipricus
    Mar 3, 2023 at 13:46
  • Thanks for the comments...I'll address each of them individually:
    – Alex
    Mar 3, 2023 at 19:54
  • I am quite aware of the fact that during the 700's AD/CE, there was no official distinction between Catholicism and Eastern rite/Orthodox Christianity. However, it is not entirely correct to say that "they were equally Christian and Catholic"....that is just not true. The Byzantine East, during the 700's AD/CE, did not view themselves as equal to the Roman Catholic West in a variety of areas.....ranging anywhere from major theological differences, to the maintenance of the earlier Greco-Roman "Classics", and above all, the Byzantines, while viewing Rome as a Sister Church,
    – Alex
    Mar 3, 2023 at 19:58
  • did not see Rome as an intellectual equal; remember, this was the Early Middle Ages-(the so-called "Dark Ages") and Byzantium, as you are probably aware, was the Center of civilization-(West of Xi'an, China).
    – Alex
    Mar 3, 2023 at 19:59

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