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Arabs in France

The End of the Visigoths

In 711 AD, a large group of North African Muslims and Arabs led by general Tariq bin Ziyad landed on the southern coast of Spain. First, they raided the villages which lined the Mediterranean coast, but as months passed they rampaged north until the campaign turned into an invasion. This alarmed the Visigoths who ruled Spain and they tried to defend their territory, but it was too late—the series of issues and civil wars that troubled the Visigoths exposed their vulnerability to the Muslim invaders. Spain was easily overpowered by the Muslims after the defeat and death of the Visigothic elite in the Battle of Guadalete. For the next seven years, Spain (except for the tiny kingdom of Asturias) was firmly in Arab hands. They named this new territory al-Andalus—the Land of the Vandals— this was their gateway to Western Europe. The Arabs soon entered France in 720 AD as recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History.

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Against Duke Odo the Great and Charles Martel

By 717 AD, the Arab-Berber troops marched north past the Pyrenees mountain range and established their presence in the Rhone Valley region of Southern France. This period marked the complete disappearance of the Visigoths as the dominant power in southern France. They were replaced by the stronger Arab-Berber army. The duchy of Aquitaine which was ruled by Duke Odo was all that stood between the Arab-Berber army and Western Europe. While the Arabs and Berbers were busy conquering territories in southern France, they also sent out spies to scout Odo’s territory.

“Location of metropolitan France (dark green)– in Europe (green & dark grey)– in the European Union (green)”

Odo’s army and the Muslim troops met for the first time in the Battle of Toulouse in 721 AD. The Muslim troops were defeated by Odo’s army, and they limped back to Al-Andalus with fewer men. It was not until 732 AD that they tried once again to wrest Aquitaine from the Duke, and the Arab-Berber troops went into Aquitaine once again, but this time they were led by ‘Abd ar-Rahman Al-Ghafiqi. Odo and the Aquitaine troops ran out of luck; his forces were crushed, and he barely made it out of the battle alive. He sought refuge to the Merovingian territory of Charles Martel and swore his allegiance in return for fresh troops against the Arabs and Berbers. Charles Martel mobilized his army and together, they fought the Andalusian troops in the Battle of Tours-Poitiers on October 25, 732 AD. It was Charles who received more credit for the defeat of the Muslim troops in France, while Odo faded into obscurity. Throughout the 730s to the 750s, southern France served as the battle front between the Franks (under Charles and his son Pepin III) and the Andalusians until the Muslims were driven out completely from the Rhone Valley region.

Picture By NuclearVacuumFile:Location European nation states.svgThis vector image was created with Inkscape., CC BY-SA 3.0,
Bauer, Susan Wise. The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.
Watson, William E. Tricolor and Crescent: France and the Islamic World. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.
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