Saturday 31 July 2021

Saving Christendom from a Muslim invasion in 732


As I grow older the one thing I like talking about is history and the people to whom I most like talking are historians. 

I had lunch yesterday with an historian who writes about and lectures in ancient history and he gave me an interesting insight into the Arab invasion of Europe in the 6th and 7th centuries. 

He said that the Arabs were making a foray in 732 rather than an attempt at conquest and they occupied what is now Switzerland. 

He thinks Charles Martel was fighting not for France or Christendom but for himself.

In any case the Arabs were what we now call Islamists, as I imagine was Mahomet or Muhammed, though we know for sure nothing about his life.
Forty-six years after the flight of Mahomet from Mecca, his disciples appeared in arms under the walls of Constantinople. They were animated by a genuine or fictitious saying of the prophet, that, to the first army which besieged the city of the Caesars, their sins were forgiven: the long series of Roman triumphs would be meritoriously transferred to the conquerors of New Rome; and the wealth of nations was deposited in this well-chosen seat of royalty and commerce.

Thus Chapter 52 of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire begins, with an account of the first unsuccessful Muslim siege of Constantinople that took place from 668 to 675 and continues with an account of their conquest of what remains the Muslim world and much else that they subsequently lost. 

It included his famous comment on the Battle of Tours or Poitiers in 732 when Charles Martel defeated the Arabs.

A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.
I did know that the Arabs took Rome briefly in 846. That was simply a raid and whether it happened has been questioned by one historian. 

The comments at lunch led me quickly to Google. I found no proof that my companion was right and Gibbon wrong and I rather think he is not, but I did discover that the Arabs controlled the whole of the South of France and what are now the French and Swiss Alps throughout the 10th century.

I shall take my companion's advice to read Hitler's Table Talk recorded by Martin Bormann. Doing so led him to change his mind abut Hitler being an intelligent man. 

As it happens, in the Table Talk Adolf Hitler said this about the battle that is alternatively known as the battle of Tours or of Poitiers.
Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers — already, you see, the world had fallen into the hands of the Jews, so gutless a thing is Christianity! — then we should in all probability have been converted to Mohammedanism, that cult which glorifies the heroism and which opens up the Seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone. Then the Germanic races would have conquered the world. Christianity alone prevented them from doing so.
I see that immediately after his comment about Charles Martel he says, 
It is a characteristic of old age that, while its memory for past events remains phenomenal, it gradually loses the facility for creative action.
This chimes with what my companion told me Hitler told Count Ciano, that he wanted a war when he was fifty not sixty. 

My friend and I agreed that Poland (meaning Foreign Minister Józef Beck) was very foolish not to accept Hitler's offer of a pretty reasonable deal in late 1938.

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly in the Table Talk Hitler immediately after the words I quoted about old age goes on to say that
    Budapest is the most beautiful town in the world and their is no town in the entire German Reich that can even compare with it.
    I thought the same thirty years ago but its Victoriana now pals for me. I'm reminded that Hitler's favourite composer was not Wagner, as many think, but Lehar.

    Hitler used Budapest, which was two insignificant towns in 1840, as an argument for what could be achieved in a rebuilt Berlin.

    I prefer cities that are not constructed at the whim of politicians but many like Haussmann's boulevards in Paris and Algiers.