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Islam at the Gates of Europe
Battle of Corvadonga
See main article: Battle of Corvadonga
In 722, the forces of the Umayyad leader Al Qama engaged Pelagius's Asturian forces at Corvadonga after an invasion of the small kingdom in northwestern Iberia. The battle raged for only a few days before the Umayyads overwhelmed the Asturian forces encamped in the mountains, and stormed the rest of the Kingdom after defeating King Pelagius and slaying him in combat. The battle was fought chiefly in Corvadonga, but engulfed several neighboring villages and the surrounding area. Within the month, Asturias was formally added to the Umayyad Caliphate in the province of Al-Andalus.
However, after the new addition, the caliphate was faced with a logistical crisis. By no means could information travel to Damascus from Al-Andalus in time for action to be taken, and the same went for supplies. So, Governor Anbasa and Yazid II agreed to make Al-Andalus an independent emirate that would cooperate woth the caliphate to wage jihad against Europe, and Anbasa was made emir. After his rise to emir status, Anbasa initiated wide reforms, expanding religious tolerance in the emirate through decreasing the Jizya, and allowing greater freedom of worship, although many cathedrals were transformed into grand mosques.
Conquest of the Duchy of Gascony
After solidifying his grip on his new nation, Anbasa sent Al Qama into the Kingdom of Basque, a tiny Christian monarchy in northern Iberia in 723. The invasion began with Muslim hordes crossing the borders of the Kingdom and laying waste to several villages. Before the kingdom could respond, Al Qama had reached Gasteiz, the capital, and began to lay siege. The siege was relatively short, lasting only a few days, and the Muslims began raiding the surrounding territory as well, looting and setting up outposts along the way. The forces of King were overpowered within weeks, and the small nation was lost, absorbed by the Islamic behemoth awakening below Europe.
The armies then moved on to southern Gaul, flooding into the cities of Tarbes, Pau, and Tartas, capturing them throughout 724 and 725, eventually gaining hold throughout the entire Duchy, looting it and converting the populace in such short a time that the provincial government was overthrown and unified to the emirate, leaving Aquitaine proper the chief rival to the Muslims in western Gaul. After the absorption of the Duchy of Gascony, Anbasa sought to allow time for the assimilation of the territory, but before he could fully carry this out, he died of natural causes in Cordoba in 726 and was succeeded by the battle-hungry Ayyub II al-Lakhmi, who set his sights to the entirety of Gaul and the growing Frankish Kingdom.
Conquest of Aquitaine
Ayyub II immediately raised the Jizya on religious and ethnic minorities in Al-Andalus following his assumption of power in 726, and cut short Anbasa's plans to Islamicize the newly conquered territories. This led to increased unrest among the population, and many peasants were unable to pay the Jizya, and were subject to execution. These strict laws greatly weakened Islam's grip on power in the region, and increased disdain for the regime. Regardless, Ayyub II sent Al Qama into Aquitaine to spread the emirate's realm of influence in Gaul. By 727, his forces had penetrated as deep as Boureaux, where he lost a major battle and was forced to retreat after Charle Martel's force expelled him from the city. However, he appealed to the Emir to make the punishment for failure to pay the Jizya forced military service, which immediately added thousands to his army, and had tipped the scales by 728. At the end of that same year, Bourdeaux had fallen, and the Muslim forces were making attacks as far north as Poitiers.
Military operations became bogged down after the incursions on Poitiers, since the Frankish Kingdom entered the conflict on the side of the then independent Aquitaine. Several new commanders enteres the war in 729, and, upon the Muslim capture of Poitiers in February 729, the Franks were bent on containing this conflict to Aquitaine and halting any further advances into Gaul. In June of that year, Al Qama's warriors clashed with the Franks outside of Tours in a major battle where he was killed, but the Muslims emerged victorious, giving them near complete control of Gaul southwest of the Loire River save for a few cities such as Clermont. Seeing thus alarming trend, Theuderic IV, the puppet king of the Franks, signed a peace agreement with Ayyub II and totally circemvented the will of Odo (Duke of Aquitaine), relinquishing Aquitaine and all of the Frankish kingdom southwest of the Loire, which pleased the emir for the time being. By the end of 730, the new territories were absorbed and mosques were built, people were converted, and a provincial government for Gaul was established with a base in Narbonne.
The news alarmed the whole realm of the Frankish domain, and in 731, with the election of a new Pope, the Papacy as well. Charles Martel was furious at these new developments as well, and continually raided Muslim Gaul with small forces, taking a toll on the economic situation in the region and increasing tensions among the new neighbor states. The population of Muslim Gaul was not easily converted due to a deep rooted Christian background, but by the end of 735 enough of the population was Islamicized to create a stable system of government in the area, although a steady flow of refugees continued into Francia from the area due to the relatively harsh treatment of Christians.
The Christian World Responds
Gregory III's Holy Alliance
To cope with the loss of southern Gaul, which left the entire region in disarray and confusion, Pope Gregory III called for the creation of a Holy Alliance in 733 to stop further Islamic expansion in Europe, which Martel was enthusiastic about. Almost the entirety of the Frankish Kingdom joined the alliance, followed by the Lombards, Saxony, and Bavaria. Unfortunately, some of the nobles and leaders of Francia at the time, in addition to Charles himself, had ambitions to conquer Saxony and Bavaria, particularly the Carolingians due to these areas' support of the Merovingians. While the internal division within the alliance was certainly a cause for concern, many Christians thought that it would serve its purpose for the time being as long as a unifier, at this point Charles, was around to keep order. In an attempt to promote unity among the Europeans, Pope Gregory III sent missionaries into Germany to convert any nonbelievers, in hopes of uniting the Christians around a common cause.
War Breaks Out
In 735, a series of uprisings in Muslim Gaul severely weakened the grip that Ayyub II had on the region, and made the possibility of a successful Christian campaign to reclaim the area more realistic, and many Christians rallied around the idea. Pope Gregory III and the Frankish leadership then began to promote the notion of Reconquête, or "Reconquest," noble goal of reclaiming Frankish lands from the axe of the Islamic regimes. So, the next year, a decent sized Christian force under Martel crossed into the Loire River valley and began to destroy mosques and liberate the area, igniting vast amounts of violence in the area between Muslims and Christians, making it easier for the Franks to exploit the chaos. The war would continue into 737, proving very costly, leading to increased taxation on the Frankish citizens to pay for it. The tax increase was met with widespread unrest among the peasantry and concern among the nobility, and further served to pry apart the kingdom.
Despite internal affairs, the war was moving in a positive direction for the Franks. Charles reached Saintes by mid-737, and had destroyed mosques throughout the countryside. This proved a strategically foolish move, as the Muslim population rioted and attacked the soldiers, weakening their influence. Eventually, the tides turned because of civilian attacks on Frankish soldiers, which was only made worse when Umayyad reinforcements arrived the next year with the onset of the Grand War.
The Grand War & Reconquête
The Gaul Campaign
During the Frankish campaigns in Muslim Gaul, Ayyub II saw a chance to exploit the failure of the Franks and capture Provence in the southeast, which ignited the Grand War itself. In 738, Al-Andalus forces entered Provence and captured Marseilles, Antibes, and Nice with minimal resistance, subjugating the territory within months and giving it to the governor of Gaul to deal with. However, the Holy Alliance, now including the Byzantine Empire, declared war on Al-Andalus, which could have conceivably been deadly if the Byzantines began a naval invasion of Iberia through their Mediterranean holdings. Ayyub II asked Caliph Hisham to launch naval attacks on the Byzantine Empire as well as a full war in Anatolia, which the Caliph agreed to for the sake of European Islam.
By 740, Charles Martel had died in battle in Muslim Gaul and the Frankish Kingdom was falling apart. The Umayyad naval forces had secured Sardinia and Sicilia, and launched stagnant campaigns in Anatolia. By 743, Al-Andalus had entered Burgundy and laid siege to the landscape, demolishing cathedrals and constructing mosques as they went, and conquered the area by 750, when the Muslim Civil War broke out. Further and longer, more bloody campaigns continued in Gaul with the invasion of Neustria in 758, ending with the fall of Paris in 765, and the invasion of Brittany in 770. The fall of Brittany was nearly 10 years long, ending in late 779, ending the Gaul Campaign save for a few outlying incursions into Austrasia, the last, most well fortified area of the Frankish Kingdom.
Muslim Civil War
Main article: Muslim Civil War
The Muslim Civil War began in 747, with the Abbasid Revolt. Throughout the first few years, the Abbasid clan led by Abu Muslim captured all of Persia, and many cities in eastern Arabia, establishing a new Caliphate. They established a new capital in Baghdad, overwhelmed the Umayyad forces, and ended up capturing Damascus, where they slaughtered the royal family and assumed control over much of the caliphate excluding Maghreb. However, one member of the Umayyad clan, the young Abd ar-Rahman I, escaped to Maghreb, where he defeated the warring Berber tribes and united them under his rule, re-establishing the Umayyad Caliphate.
From then on, the young Caliph waged war against the Abbasids with limited aid from the Andalusians, reaching the Sinai by 763, from which his forces stormed the Abbasid Caliphate, capturing city after city, aided by the fact that the Abbasids were at war with several other nations at the time. By 770, Abd had captured Damascus from the Byzantines which had occupied it from the Abbasids, and moved the capital back to the city. Later, in 787, as the Grand War was nearing its end, Abd's forces captured Baghdad and executed the majority of the Abbasid royal family, securing an Umayyad victory in the Civil War.
The Anatolia Campaign
Following the reunification of the caliphate, Abd ar-Rahman I inherited several wars that the Abbasid dynasty had started. By this time he was over 50 years old, and his advisors had counseled him not to continue to wage war and simply make peace with the warring states east of Persia and with the Byzantine Empire. While he was able to make peace with the tribes outside of Persia, the Byzantines refused his offer and he began to ride, against the will of all close to him, to Anatolia from Damascus. Once there, he surprised the Byzantine leadership by sweeping across the southern coast of the region and capturing the cities of Karaman and Antalya. Then, as the Byzantine forces attemted to regroup ans move west to meet his armies, other Umayyad commanders moved in on the northeast, ravaging the area and sacking Amasya in 790, and Ankara in 791.
Reinforcements were conscripted from the caliphate after southern and western Anatolia came under Umayyad rule, and the caliphate's forces advanced toward Constantinople. Upon laying siege to the city, the Umayyad forces took massive casualties and were forced to retreat multiple times to either regroup, restock, or quell rebellions. Nonetheless, the great city of Constantinople, one of the greatest Christian strongholds left in the world, was sacked, ravaged, and captured in 792, opening up a path to southern Europe.
The caliph then returned to Damascus to lead his people, and his commanders entered Europe and destroyed city after city under Byzantium surrendered to humiliating terms, thoroughly gutting the once great empire and reducing it to a mere shadow of its former self. Abd ar-Rahman I came to be known as "the greatest caliph" because he not only saved the Islamic community from destruction, he destroyed one of its greatest enemies in the process. Constantine VI was allowed, out of the respect the Muslims had for the Byzantines, to retain control of a small amount of fragmented territory throughout Europe.