Battle of Roncevaux Pass

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Battle of Roncevaux Pass
ConflictCharlemagne's campaign in Spain
DateAugust 15, 778
PlaceRoncevaux Pass in the Pyrenees
ResultDefeat of the Frankish by the Basques
Charlemagne's Franks Basques
Roland unknown
unknown unknown
Complete destruction of the army unknown

The Roncevaux Pass (Roncesvaux in English, Roncesvalles in Spanish, Orreaga in Basque) is the site of a famous battle in 778 in which Hroudland (later changed to Roland), prefect of Brittany March was defeated by the Basques.



This battle was the last of Charlemagne's first campaign to capture Spain, an attempt that ended in failure. He had captured Barcelona and Pamplona but had been stopped at Saragossa which refused to yield. He then was forced to leave Spain to put down a rebellion by the Saxons, then newly conquered. He left the tribute with Roland and the rear guard while the main army hurried back to the Rhine. While retreating, Charlemagne pulled down the walls of the Christian Basque city of Pamplona. This act may have led to the attack upon Roland and the rear guard in the Pyrenees. This was Charlemagne's only major defeat. The Basques were outnumbered and had poorer weaponry.


Over the years, this minor battle was romanticized by oral tradition into a major conflict between Christians and Muslims, when in fact both sides in the real battle were Christian. The Basques have been replaced by 400,000 Saracens. Charlemagne does fight the Saracens in Spain itself not in the Pyrenees. The oral tradition also changed the outcome of the battle, from the historical, where Hroudland and his force is completely annihilated and the Basques escape, to that where Charlemagne comes to the rescue of Roland and destroys the Saracens.

When The Song of Roland was written down, by an unknown troubadour of the 11th century, it became the first Chanson de geste or epic poem of medieval France.

There is a tombstone near the Roncevaux Pass commemorating the area where it is traditionally held that Roland died.

See also

External link

fr:La Chanson de Roland


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