Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

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The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, known in Arab history as the Battle of Al-Uqab (معركة العقاب), took place on 16 July 1212 and was an important turning point in the Reconquista
Reconquista
The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

and in the medieval history of Spain
Spain in the Middle Ages
After the disorders of the passage of the Vandals and Alans down the Mediterranean coast of Hispania from 408, the history of Medieval Spain begins with the Iberian kingdom of the Arianist Visigoths , who were converted to Catholicism with their king Reccared in 587...

. The forces of King Alfonso VIII of Castile
Alfonso VIII of Castile
Alfonso VIII , called the Noble or el de las Navas, was the King of Castile from 1158 to his death and King of Toledo. He is most remembered for his part in the Reconquista and the downfall of the Almohad Caliphate...

 were joined by the armies of his Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 rivals, Sancho VII of Navarre
Sancho VII of Navarre
Sancho VII Sánchez , called the Strong or the Prudent, was the King of Navarre from 1194 to his death...

, Pedro II of Aragon and Afonso II of Portugal
Afonso II of Portugal
Afonso II , or Affonso , Alfonso or Alphonso or Alphonsus , nicknamed "the Fat" , third king of Portugal, was born in Coimbra on 23 April 1185 and died on 25 March 1223 in the same city. He was the second but eldest surviving son of Sancho I of Portugal by his wife, Dulce, Infanta of Aragon...

 in battle against the Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 Almohad
Almohad
The Almohad Dynasty , was a Moroccan Berber-Muslim dynasty founded in the 12th century that established a Berber state in Tinmel in the Atlas Mountains in roughly 1120.The movement was started by Ibn Tumart in the Masmuda tribe, followed by Abd al-Mu'min al-Gumi between 1130 and his...

 rulers of the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

. The sultan Caliph al-Nasir
Muhammad an-Nasir
Muhammad an-Nasir was the Almohad caliph from 1198 until his death.- Biography :...

 (Miramamolín
Amir al-Muminin
Amīr al-Mu'minīn usually translated Commander of the Faithful or Leader of the Faithful, is the Arabic style of Caliphs and other independent sovereign Muslim rulers that claim legitimacy from a community of Muslims...

in the Spanish chronicles) led the Almohad
Almohad
The Almohad Dynasty , was a Moroccan Berber-Muslim dynasty founded in the 12th century that established a Berber state in Tinmel in the Atlas Mountains in roughly 1120.The movement was started by Ibn Tumart in the Masmuda tribe, followed by Abd al-Mu'min al-Gumi between 1130 and his...

 army, made up of people from the whole Almohad empire. Most of the men in the Almohad army came from the African side of the empire, which included Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 and even as far away as Mauritania
Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

 and Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 and much of the Iberian peninsula's
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 southern half.

Background


In 1195, Alfonso VIII of Castile had been defeated by the Almohads in the so-called Disaster of Alarcos
Battle of Alarcos
Battle of Alarcos , was a battle between the Almohads led by Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur and King Alfonso VIII of Castile. It resulted in the defeat of the Castilian forces and their subsequent retreat to Toledo whereas the Almohads conquered back Trujillo, Montánchez and Talavera.-Background:In...

. After this victory the Almohads had taken important cities as Trujillo
Trujillo, Spain
Trujillo is a Spanish city of 9860 inhabitants , located in the province of Cáceres, in the Extremadura region. Famous for its monuments, it is a premier resort in Extremadura. It was the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro and his brothers, conquerors of Peru, as well as of Francisco de Orellana...

, Plasencia
Plasencia
Plasencia is a walled market city in the province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Western Spain. , it had a population of 41,447.Situated on the bank of the Jerte River, Plasencia has a historic quarter that is a consequence of the city's strategic location along the Silver Route, or Ruta de la Plata...

, Talavera
Talavera
Talavera may refer to the following:Places* Talavera de la Reina, a city in Toledo province, Spain, where two battles took place:** Battle of Talavera, during the Peninsular War** Battle of Talavera de la Reina , during the Spanish Civil War...

, Cuenca
Cuenca, Spain
-History:When the Iberian peninsula was part of the Roman Empire there were several important settlements in the province, such as Segóbriga, Ercávica and Gran Valeria...

 and Uclés
Uclés
Uclés is a municipality located in the province of Cuenca, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. According to the 2004 census , the municipality has a population of 287 inhabitants....

. Then, in 1211, Muhammad al-Nasir
Muhammad an-Nasir
Muhammad an-Nasir was the Almohad caliph from 1198 until his death.- Biography :...

 had crossed the Strait of Gibraltar
Strait of Gibraltar
The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. The name comes from Gibraltar, which in turn originates from the Arabic Jebel Tariq , albeit the Arab name for the Strait is Bab el-Zakat or...

 with a powerful army, and invaded the Christian territory and captured the stronghold of the Calatrava Knights in Salvatierra
Salvatierra
Salvatierra may refer to:* Salvatierra, Guanajuato, a municipality in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico* Salvatierra/Agurain, a municipality in the province of Álava, Basque Country, Spain* Juan María de Salvatierra , Catholic missionary...

. After this, the threat was so great for the Iberian Christian kingdoms that Pope Innocent III called European knights to a crusade.

Previous movements


There were some disagreements among the members of the Christian coalition: French and other European knights were not used to the Iberian summer heat, but more importantly, they did not agree with Alfonso's merciful treatment of Jews and Muslims that were previously defeated in the conquest of Malagón
Malagón
Malagón is a municipality in Ciudad Real, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. , it has a population of 8,731....

 and Calatrava la Vieja
Calatrava la Vieja
Calatrava la Vieja is a medieval site and original nucleus of the Order of Calatrava. It is now part of the Archaeological Parks of the Community of Castile-La Mancha. Situated at Carrión de Calatrava, Calatrava during the High Middle Ages was the only important city in the Guadiana River valley...

. Previously, they had caused problems in Toledo
Toledo, Spain
Toledo's Alcázar became renowned in the 19th and 20th centuries as a military academy. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 its garrison was famously besieged by Republican forces.-Economy:...

, (where the different armies of the Crusade gathered), with assaults and murders in the Jewish Quarter
Jewish Quarter (diaspora)
In the Jewish Diaspora, a Jewish quarter is the area of a city traditionally inhabited by Jews. Jewish quarters, like the Jewish ghettos in Europe, were often the outgrowths of segregated ghettos instituted by the surrounding Christian authorities. A Yiddish term for a Jewish quarter or...

. More than 30,000 men deserted and returned to their homes across the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

.

Battle


Alfonso crossed the mountain range that defended the Almohad camp, sneaking through the Despeñaperros Pass, being led by a local shepherd that knew the area. The Christian coalition caught the Moorish army by surprise.
According to legend, the Caliph had his tent surrounded with a bodyguard of slave-warriors who were chained together as a defense. The Navarrese force led by their king Sancho VII broke through this bodyguard. The Caliph escaped, but the Moors were routed, leaving some 100,000 casualties on the battlefield. The victorious Christians seized several prizes of war: the tapestry covering the entrance to Al Nasir's tent was sent to the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas near Burgos where it remains on display to date, and Miramamolin's tent and standard were delivered to Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

.

Christian losses were far fewer, only about 2,000 men (though not as few as legend had it). The losses were particularly heavy among the Orders. Those killed included Pedro Gomez de Acevedo (bannerman of the Order of Calatrava
Order of Calatrava
The Order of Calatrava was the first military order founded in Castile, but the second to receive papal approval. The papal bull confirming the Order of Calatrava as a Militia was given by Pope Alexander III on September 26, 1164.-Origins and Foundation:...

), Alfonso Fernandez de Valladares (comendator of the Order of Santiago
Order of Santiago
The Order of Santiago was founded in the 12th century, and owes its name to the national patron of Galicia and Spain, Santiago , under whose banner the Christians of Galicia and Asturias began in the 9th century to combat and drive back the Muslims of the Iberian Peninsula.-History:Santiago de...

), Pedro Arias (master of the Order of Santiago, died of wounds on 3 August) and Gomes Ramires (Portuguese master of the Knights Templar
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

). Ruy Diaz (master of the Order of Calatrava) was so grievously wounded that he had to resign his command.

The Caliph Muhammad al-Nasir himself died shortly after the battle in Marrakech
Marrakech
Marrakech or Marrakesh , known as the "Ochre city", is the most important former imperial city in Morocco's history...

, where he had fled after the defeat.

After the battle, the kingdom of Navarre adopted a new coat of arms in memorial of Sancho's achievement. The new coat of arms featured a network of golden chains on a red field with an emerald. Today, it can be seen within the coat of arms of Spain
Coat of arms of Spain
The current coat of arms of Spain, although it has its roots centuries ago, was approved by law in 1981, when the present established replaced the interim version which, in turn, replaced the official arms of Francoist Spain...

.

Aftermath


The crushing defeat of the Almohads significantly hastened their decline both in the Iberian Peninsula and in the Maghreb
Maghreb
The Maghreb is the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt. It includes five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and the disputed territory of Western Sahara...

 a decade later. This would give further momentum to the Christian Reconquest begun by the kingdoms of northern Iberia centuries before, resulting in a sharp reduction in the already declining power of the Moors
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 in the Iberian Peninsula. Shortly after the battle, the Castilians took Baeza
Baeza
Baeza is a town of approximately 16,200 inhabitants in Andalusia, Spain, in the province of Jaén, perched on a cliff in the Loma de Baeza, a mountain range between the river Guadalquivir on the south and its tributary the Guadalimar on the north. It is chiefly known today as having many of the...

 and then Úbeda
Úbeda
Úbeda is a town in the province of Jaén in Spain's autonomous community of Andalusia, with some 35,600 inhabitants. Both this city and the neighboring city of Baeza benefited from extensive patronage in the early 16th century resulting in the construction of a series of Renaissance style palaces...

, major fortified cities near the battlefield, and gateways to invade Andalusia
Andalusia
Andalusia is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities of Spain. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a nationality of Spain. The territory is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and...

. Thereafter, Ferdinand III of Castile
Ferdinand III of Castile
Saint Ferdinand III, T.O.S.F., was the King of Castile from 1217 and León from 1230. He was the son of Alfonso IX of León and Berenguela of Castile. Through his second marriage he was also Count of Aumale. He finished the work done by his maternal grandfather Alfonso VIII and consolidated the...

 took Cordova
Córdoba, Spain
-History:The first trace of human presence in the area are remains of a Neanderthal Man, dating to c. 32,000 BC. In the 8th century BC, during the ancient Tartessos period, a pre-urban settlement existed. The population gradually learned copper and silver metallurgy...

 in 1236, Jaén
Jaén, Spain
Jaén is a city in south-central Spain, the name is derived from the Arabic word Jayyan, . It is the capital of the province of Jaén. It is located in the autonomous community of Andalusia....

 in 1246, and Seville
Seville
Seville is the artistic, historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and of the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of above sea level...

 in 1248; then he took Arcos
Arcos
-Portugal:* Arcos , a civil parish in the municipality of Anadia* Arcos , a civil parish in the municipality of Braga* Arcos , a civil parish in the municipality of Estremoz...

, Medina-Sidonia
Medina-Sidonia
Medina-Sidonia is a city and municipality in the province of Cádiz in the autonomous community of Andalusia, southern Spain. It is considered by some to be the oldest city in Europe, used as a military defense location due to its elevated location. Locals are known as Asidonenses...

, Jerez and Cadiz
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

. After this chain of victories, only Ferdinand's death prevented the Castilians from crossing the Gibraltar Strait to take the war to the heartland of the Almohad empire. Ferdinand III died in Seville on May 30, 1252, when a plague spread over the southern part of the Iberian peninsula while he was preparing his army and fleet to cross the Straits of Gibraltar. On the Mediterranean coast, James I of Aragon
James I of Aragon
James I the Conqueror was the King of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, and Lord of Montpellier from 1213 to 1276...

, proceeded to conquer the Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

 (from 1228 over the following four years) and Valencia
Valencia (city in Spain)
Valencia or València is the capital and most populous city of the autonomous community of Valencia and the third largest city in Spain, with a population of 809,267 in 2010. It is the 15th-most populous municipality in the European Union...

 (the city capitulated September 28, 1238).

By the year 1252, the Almohad empire was almost over, at the mercy of another emerging African power. In 1269, a new association of African tribes, the Marinid
Marinid
The Marinid dynasty or Benemerine dynasty was a Zenata Berber dynasty of Morocco. The Marinid dynasty overtook the Almohads in controlling Morocco in 1244. They controlled most of the Maghreb from the mid-14th century to the 15th century and supported the Kingdom of Granada in Al-Andalus in the...

, had taken control of the Maghreb, and most of the former Almohad empire was under their rule. Later, the Marinids tried to recover the former Almohad territories in the Iberian peninsula, but they were definitively defeated by Sancho IV
Sancho IV of Castile
Sancho IV the Brave was the King of Castile, León and Galicia from 1284 to his death. He was the second son of Alfonso X and Yolanda, daughter of James I of Aragon.-Biography:...

, Ferdinand's grandson, and King Afonso IV
Afonso IV of Portugal
Afonso IV , called the Brave , was the seventh king of Portugal and the Algarve from 1325 until his death. He was the only legitimate son of King Denis of Portugal by his wife Elizabeth of Aragon.-Biography:...

 of Portugal in the Battle of Salado, the last major military encounter between large Christian and Muslim armies in the Iberian peninsula.

Moorish Granada


In 1294 Sancho IV retook the Taifa of Granada
Taifa of Granada
The Taifa of Granada was a Moorish kingdom in Al-Andalus, within the present day Granada Province in southern Spain...

, key to the control of the Straits of Gibraltar. Granada
Granada
Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil. It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea...

, Almería
Almería
Almería is a city in Andalusia, Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the capital of the province of the same name.-Toponym:Tradition says that the name Almería stems from the Arabic المرية Al-Mariyya: "The Mirror", comparing it to "The Mirror of the Sea"...

 and Málaga
Málaga
Málaga is a city and a municipality in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, Spain. With a population of 568,507 in 2010, it is the second most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth largest in Spain. This is the southernmost large city in Europe...

 were the only major Muslim cities of the time remaining in the Iberian peninsula. These three cities were the core of the Nasrid dynasty
Nasrid dynasty
The Nasrid dynasty was the last Moorish and Muslim dynasty in Spain. The Nasrid dynasty rose to power after the defeat of the Almohad Caliphate in 1212 at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa...

 and its Emirate of Granada
Emirate of Granada
The Emirate of Granada , also known as the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada , was an emirate established in 1238 following the defeat of Muhammad an-Nasir of the Almohad dynasty by an alliance of Christian kingdoms at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212...

, which was a vassal state
Vassal state
A vassal state is any state that is subordinate to another. The vassal in these cases is the ruler, rather than the state itself. Being a vassal most commonly implies providing military assistance to the dominant state when requested to do so; it sometimes implies paying tribute, but a state which...

 of Castile
Crown of Castile
The Crown of Castile was a medieval and modern state in the Iberian Peninsula that formed in 1230 as a result of the third and definitive union of the crowns and parliaments of the kingdoms of Castile and León upon the accession of the then King Ferdinand III of Castile to the vacant Leonese throne...

, until the kingdom was finally taken by the Catholic Monarchs
Catholic Monarchs
The Catholic Monarchs is the collective title used in history for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They were both from the House of Trastámara and were second cousins, being both descended from John I of Castile; they were given a papal dispensation to deal with...

in 1492.