Sunday, June 10, 2012

June 9, 721 – Umayyads take Toulouse

Following the defeat of King Roderic of the Visigoths in 712, the Muslim Umayyad Caliphate had poured into Hispania and begun to threaten expansion into Europe.  From the new province of Al-Andalus, the Muslims began preparations to launch conquest of the land to the northeast, Aquitaine.  A former vassal state of under the Franks, Aquitaine was ruled by Duke Odo from its most powerful city, Toulouse.  Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani amassed an army in Andalus and marched in 721 to besiege Toulouse.  Odo escaped ahead the Muslim army and went into the kingdom of the Franks, asking for help from Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace and effective ruler for the Merovingian king Theoderic IV.  Martel chose to wait before offering Frankish military support, which was tied up in war with the Saxons.

Odo returned to Toulouse with what army he could muster.  The city’s walls had remained impregnable, but supplies had run so low that leaders were preparing to surrender.  While seeing Duke Odo flee and managing an easy siege tempted the army to become soft, Al-Samh determined to keep his scouting parties sharp.  They spotted Odo’s army as it approached, and the besieging army raced to change ranks for a battle.  Odo attempted to envelop his enemy, but the Muslims stood, and the Christian army crumbled.  As Odo’s retreat began, the Muslims returned to besiege the city, prompting Toulouse to fall.  Al-Samh installed a guard and took up pursuit of Odo, who led him into Frankish lands after another defeat in Poitiers.  Martel balked and tried to disengage his armies from the Saxons, but the result only weakened his hold on Bavaria.  Al-Samh continued to march until he caught up with Odo, destroying him in the battle of Tours.  Keeping up the military momentum, Al-Samh marched on Orleans, where he met and defeated Charles Martel, and soon took Paris.

Having conquered the Franks, Al-Samh fell to stabilizing his political control.  He allowed the German dependencies greater self-rule while encouraging them to join Islam, which many of the surviving upper class of Western Europe did.  Marginal religious tolerance kept the kingdom from revolting, though Rome lost significant power without the Frankish support.  As Muslim raids intensified in Italy, Pope Gregory II was forced to capitulate to Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian’s iconoclasm, which had prompted violent revolts.  The Muslims battled the Byzantines for decades over the Italian peninsula before finally adding it to the Caliphate.  After 800, the Byzantines were a limited power in Europe, gradually declining until it fell to the Seljuq Empire of the Sunni Muslims in 1095.

Meanwhile, the Western Muslims faced incursion by the Magyar, who had migrated out of Central Asia, and the Vikings of the North.  Both groups would eventually be converted to Islam, which became the dominant religion in Europe with a minority of Christians and Jews.  Mongol invasions threatened Europe centuries later, but they would eventually be rebuffed, and order restored.  The major east-west trade routes of the world kept major historical focus on sea travel through the Mediterranean and the land route known as the Great Silk Road.  Trade also brought the Black Death in the 1300s, which left to a surplus of tradable goods for the rebuilding of world population.  Islamic merchant ships explored southwest of Asia, coming into contact with Aborigines and Polynesians, who expanded trade knowledge through the Pacific Ocean.

Eventually, explorers reached the New World by island-hopping to the west coast of the New World, coming first into contact with the expansive Incan Empire.  Later exploration across the Atlantic outlined the East Coast, though it would be centuries before explorers had charted the mysterious interior.  Islam spread among the new nations as lands were gradually conquered, empires fell, and new ones arose.  Coal as an energy source made European states particularly powerful until petroleum showed more promise, which restored world economic attention to the Middle East in addition to the religious qibla toward Mecca during salah.


In reality, the army under Al-Samh had let down its defenses, and Odo destroyed the Muslim army with an encircling maneuver.  A new army marched on Aquitaine in 732 under Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi and proved unstoppable until defeated by Charles Martel between Tours and Poitiers.  Martel had dedicated the years after Toulouse assembling a massive fulltime army, building the foundations for Feudalism as he worked to feed his creation and exercising temporal power as he seized church property to fund it.  His son Pepin overthrew the Merovingian king with the Pope’s approval, and his grandson Charlemagne established a massive empire in Western Europe.

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