The Battle of Poitiers as Viewed by an Anonymous Christian Mozarabic Chronicler Living in Cordoba

Barrie Brill

The Mozarabic Chronicle, which begins in 611 and ends in 754, was written by a Latin Christian living in Al-Andalus. It seems that it was conceived as a continuation of the historical work of Isidore of Seville. It differs on important points from other sources on the Battle of Poitiers. As you read through this document, and the one that follows, note the differences in interpretation.

The Mozarabic Chronicle

Then ‘Abd al-Rahman[1], seeing the earth full of the multitude of his army, crossing the mountains of the Basques and treading the passes like plains, descended into the land of the Franks; and already entering it, he struck the sword so much that Eudo, having prepared for combat on the other side of the river called Garonne or Dordogne, was put to flight. Only God can count the number of dead and wounded. Then ‘Abd al-Rahman while pursuing the said Eudo decided to go and pillage the Church of Tours while destroying on his way the palaces and burning the churches. But the mayor of the palace of Austrasia, in the interior of Francia, named Charles, a bellicose man from a young age and expert in the military arts, warned by Eudo, confronted him [i.e. ‘Abd al-Rahman and his army]. At this point, for seven days, the two adversaries harassed one another seeking to choose the place of battle, then finally, preparing for combat; but while they are fighting with violence, the people of the North, remaining motionless at first sight like a wall, pressed against each other, like an area of ​​freezing cold, massacred the Arabs with sword blows. But when the people of Austrasia, superior by the mass of their limbs and more ardent by their iron-armed hand, striking at the heart, had found the king [‘Abd al-Rahman], they killed him; as soon as it got dark, the fighting ended and they raised their swords in the air with contempt. Then, the next day, seeing the huge Arab camp, they prepared for combat. Drawing the sword, at daybreak, the Europeans observed the tents of the Arabs arranged in order. They did not know that they were empty; they thought that inside were phalanxes of Saracens ready for combat; they sent scouts who discovered that the columns of the Ishmaelites had fled. All of them, in silence, during the night, had gone away in strict order towards their country. The Europeans[2], however, feared that by hiding along the paths, the Saracens would ambush them. Also, what a surprise when they found themselves after having gone around the camp in vain. And, as these aforementioned peoples did not care about the pursuit, having shared between them the booty and the spoils, they returned joyfully to their homelands.



Questions for Consideration

  1. In this account, what are the key factors leading to the Muslim retreat?
  2. In what ways does the author frame the account to support his own belief system?

  1. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Ghafiqi, Wali of al-Andalus on behalf of the Umayyad caliph at Damascus.
  2. This account by a Spanish cleric provides the first occurrence of the word “Europeans” in a text.


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The Ancient and Medieval World Copyright © by Barrie Brill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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