This French, Italian and English surname of MARTEL was from a medieval given name, a diminutive of Martin. This surname was derived from the Latin Martinus - from Mars, the God of War. A popular font name during the 12th and 13th centuries. It was also a metonymic occupational name for a smith or a nickname for a forceful person, rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form MARTULUS. The name has many variant spellings which include MARTELL, MARTEAU, MARTELIER, MARTELLI, MARTIELLO AND MARTELET. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. The typical Italian surname endings are 'i' and 'o', the former being characteristic of northern Italy. The singular form 'o' is more typical of southern Italy. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected. A notable member of this name was Charles MARTEL, 'the Hammer' (c.688-74l) ruler of the Franks from 7l9, progenitor of the Carolingian dynasty, and grandfather of Charlemagne. He was the illegitimate son of Pepin II of Heristal and in 7l4 he was chosen duke by the Austrasian (eastern) Franks, defeated the Neustrian (western) Franks in 7l6 and in 7l9 became 'mayor of the palace' of Austrasia and real ruler of all the Frankish kingdom. He earned his nickname by his defeat of the Moors in a desperate battle at Tours, near Poitiers in 732, thus turning back the tide of Arab conquest in Europe, then drove the Saracens out of Burgundy and Languedoc (737). He died in 74l.
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