Six Battles That Turned Back Islamic Conquest

For the past 1300 years, the followers of Islam have been bent on conquering Europe (and the rest of the world) by fire and sword. Today’s infiltration and terror attacks is merely a continuation of a war that began long ago. However, there once was a time when Europeans (and their American cousins) not only vigorously fought back, but actually soundly defeated jihadist forces and forced them to recede (for a time).

Here are six major defeats inflicted upon the forces of Islam over the past 1300 years or so:

1. The battle of Tours (October 10, 732).

A large Arab army invaded what is now France. We know who the combatants were (though not the exact number of soldiers), and we know the result of the battle, but not much else. This much is sure, a combined army of Frankish and Burgundian soldiers under the command of Charles Martel stopped repeated attacks by the Arab army of Abd Ar-Rahman Al Ghafiqi near Poitiers and Tours, France.

The Muslim leader was killed in battle, his defeated army retreated back across the Pyrenees to Spain (where they settled into a protracted 700 year old war against Catholic armies), and Christian Frankish power dominated western Europe for the next 1000 years or so.

2. Las Navas de Tolosa (July 16, 1212).

Spanish Christian forces from several kingdoms (Aragon, Navarre, Castille) along with French volunteers banded together to eject the Muslim Moors from Spain. They were quite successful in this battle. A force of about 30,000 Berber Muslims from North Africa crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to fight the knights of Catholic Spain. The combined Spanish army snuck through a mountain pass and found the Muslim army encamped … and asleep. The Christians attacked at sunrise and annihilated the enemy. The Caliph escaped, and his tent and standard were given as gifts to the pope.

The power of Islam in the Iberian peninsula sharply declined after this battle. By 1292 the only major cities still under Muslim control were Granada, Almeria, and Malaga. In 1492, the last of the Moors were driven out of Spain.

3. The siege of Vienna (September 27-October 15, 1529).

The Ottoman Turks, after a long and bloody campaign had finally captured Rhodes from the Catholic Knights of St. John. Following this, the Turks invaded Hungary and wiped out the Hungarian army at the Battle of Mohacs. The Turkish leader, Sultan Suleiman (known as “The Magnificent”), led his enormous army of almost 300,000 to continue up the Danube River to Vienna. What they thought would be a march of victory turned into a sea of mud as rain continuously slowed their progress. Artillery and cavalry was useless in the mud. Sickness wiped out thousands.

Suleiman laid siege to Vienna anyway. They tried to dig tunnels under the walls of the city and ignite large charges of gunpowder. But the defenders of Vienna found ways to cave in the tunnels. They even counterattacked and stopped the Turks from entering the city. More rain continued to drown the Turkish army, and then snow fell to freeze them. The Turks had had enough, pulled up stakes and went back home.

Next Page: The battle of Lepanto and the second siege of Vienna.

4. The battle of Lepanto (October 7, 1571).

Cyprus was attacked by a large Turkish force and the city of Nicosia was captured. The Turks slaughtered the entire Christian garrison. They then besieged Famagusta (a Venetian colony) on September 17, 1570. The Christians led by Marco Antonio Bragadin resisted valiantly, but finally asked for terms of surrender. The Turkish general, Lala Mustafa Pasha, granted generous terms.

As the Christians were leaving safely for other lands, the Turkish general suddenly turned on them. He had the Venetian leader Bragadin butchered (actually, flayed alive!) and all the Christians in the city murdered.

A relief force of Venetians, Spaniards, and Italians from the other major cities in Italy were coming with a large army and navy. The Turkish navy went out to meet them off the west coast of Greece at what is called Lepanto. This was a battle fought entirely by sailing ships that were also powered by galley slaves and free oarsmen. Fortunately for the Europeans, they had the advantage in cannons, elite Spanish infantry, and free oarsmen (who worked harder than galley slaves).

The tide of battle decisively turned when the Spanish/Italian troops boarded the Turkish flagship, killed their admiral (Müezzinzade Ali Pasha), cut off his head, stuck it on a pike, and displayed it prominently from the bow of the ship. Once the Turks saw that, they lost heart for the battle and headed home.

About 8000 Christian slaves were freed from Turkish ships, and the battle stopped Turkish expansion in the Mediterranean. After 1580 their navy never threatened again. The West now knew that the Turks could be beaten.

5. The battle of Vienna (September 12, 1683).

Once again, a large Turkish force was moving into central Europe. They laid siege to Vienna. The Austrians inside the city did their best to resist but knew they could not hold out forever. They were counting on a relief force to rescue them.

And that relief force came! A combined force of Poles, Hungarians, and Germans from a variety of states came just in the nick of time! The large combined European force met the Turks in battle near Kahlenberg Mountain. The battle was touch and go all day, until the Polish King Jan Sobieski arrived with his armored cavalry.

At 6 p.m., the largest cavalry charge in history occurred. Eighteen thousand knights charged into the Turks, with the brave Polish king personally leading the charge — out in front of his 3,000 Polish Hussars. The charge broke the back of the Turkish army, and they ran home, utterly defeated. No Muslim army dared to invade Europe again (until recently).

Next Page: “From the halls of Montezuma…”

6. The battle of Derne (April 27-May 13, 1805).

OK, this battle was not in Europe, and Muslims in this case were not actually trying to take over Europe. However, the Barbary pirates had enslaved about 1.5 million Europeans over the past 300 years (see Ohio State University Professor Robert C. Davis’ book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters for thorough documentation).

The United States tried to pay off the pirates for awhile, but finally had enough. So America sent a fleet of warships (in several expeditions) loaded with sailors and marines to finish off these 19th century terrorists.

The U.S. wanted to set up the exiled heir to the Tripolitan throne, Hamet Karamanli, and restore him to rule Tripoli. It was assumed he would leave U.S. shipping and citizens alone. So, the U.S. landed a squad of U.S. Marines (let by Lt. Presley O’Bannon) in Egypt. He found the exiled leader, gathered together a force of about 500 Greek and Arab mercenaries, and together with his seven other Marines marched across the North African desert to take the city of Derne in Tripoli!

It worked! Although there were several near mutinies, the marines and their motley force arrived outside the city. The U.S. Navy was offshore and bombarded. The Arab force attacked from the rear of the city, and the 8 marines and hundreds of Greeks attacked from the front. Through a hail of musket fire, the Marines dashed into a fort while the defenders ran out the back door. Lt. O’Bannon, U.S.M.C., then raised the flag of the United States … “over the shores of Tripoli!”

They set up the once-exiled leader, the Barbary Pirates sued for peace, and they were never a threat to the United States again.

While there have been Muslims who have assisted Europeans and Americans in their fight against the violent expansion of Islam (Morocco is America’s oldest ally in the fight with a treaty going back to 1787), the fact is that Islam has steadfastly tried to conquer Europe and the Western World for the past 1300 years. However, history shows that when the threat is taken seriously, and there is a united front, a strong military response does indeed roll back Islam’s expansion.