Why Charles Martel?

800px-Steuben_-_Bataille_de_PoitiersCharles Martel, or Carolus Martellus in Latin, was born August 23, 686 AD and reigned as Mayor of the Palace and then King of the Franks from 715 AD to his death.  In the Frankish Empire at his time, the kings had been “do-nothings” or mere puppets, while the Mayor of the Palace could raise armies and declare war. Both of these Martel excelled at, and his life was marked by a steady stream of military victories. As Charles was an illegitimate son and not the favored heir of his predecessor Pepin of Herstal, he had to consolidate his power through his swift decisioning and natural skill as a warrior. His most critical battle which ensured that his name and mark were left history was the Battle of Tours. The outcome of this event decided which kingdom, the Christians or the strategically advancing Muslims, would rule Europe.

The Battle of Tours, also called the Battle of Poitiers due to its approximate location, was fought by the Austrasian forces under Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel against an army of the Umayyad Caliphate led by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (died 732), the Governor-General of al-Andalus. Although lacking a calvary and severely deficient in numbers, Charles Martel became the hero of the battle and subsequently extended his authority to the south. It is widely agreed that this battle confirmed the influence of the Frankish Empire on the formation of Western civilization, and thus it would be an entirely different history story had Charles not been victorious.

His Wikipedia page adds interesting insight on the connection of this battle and his name:

The victory at the battle near Poitiers and Tours would later earn Charles the cognomen ‘Martellus’ (L., and so “Martel”, Fr.: ‘the hammer’) from 9th century chroniclers who, in the view of Pierre Riche, ‘seem to have been… recalling Judas Maccabaeus, ‘the Hammerer,’ of some bibles, ‘whom God had similarly blessed with victory’

Furthermore, Charles is considered a sort of founding father for the Middle Ages in Europe, having expanded the responsibility of knights in court and established a role of the king as protector of the Papacy.  Before his death in 741 AD, Charles the Hammer divided up his kingdom between his sons Pippin and Carloman. Pippin’s son Charlemagne would later be crowned Holy Roman Emperor, uniting the original territories of the Roman Empire before its fall and ushering in an age of religious and cultural renaissance to the European continent.

The Gryphon Editions consultation has placed Charles Martel on our list of the 100 Most Influential People because he is almost single-handedly responsible for turning around the tide of Islamic advances on Christendom through his victory at the Battle of Tours. This was the crucial event that decided whether Christianity or Islam would prevail in both society and religious belief in Europe. The story of this great man will be immortalized once again in our leather-bound biography, part of our 100 Most Influential People Library.100importantpeople


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