Battle of Guadalete


Battle of Guadalete

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Guadalete
partof=the Muslim conquests


caption=
date=711 or 712
place=Near a body of water in southern Iberia
result=Decisive Muslim victory
combatant1=Christian Visigoths
combatant2=Muslim Arabs and Berbers,
possibly with some Iberian Jews
commander1=Roderic
commander2=Ṭāriq ibn Ziyad
(possibly Mūsā ibn Nuṣayr also)
strength1=~2,500
strength2=~1,900
casualties1=Unknown, but included many nobles and the king
casualties2=Unknown
The Battle of Guadalete was fought in 711 or 712 at an unidentified location between the Christian Visigoths of Hispania under their king, Roderic, and an invading force of Muslim Arabs and Berbers under Ṭāriq ibn Ziyad. The battle was significant as the culmination of a series of Arab-Berber attacks and the beginning of the Islamic conquest of Hispania. In the battle Roderic probably lost his life, along with many members of the Visigothic nobility, opening the way for the capture of Visigothic capital of Toledo.

The battle is sometimes referred to as the Battle of La Janda, Battle of the Río Barbate, or Battle of the Transductine Promontories.

ources

The primary source for the battle is the "Mozarabic Chronicle", which was written shortly after 754 probably in the vicinity of Toledo. [Roger Collins (1989), "The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710–97" (London: Blackwell Publishing), 26–27, argues for its Toledan provenance, but others have suggested Córdoba or even Syria. A full study of the "Mozarabic Chronicle" is given in Carmen Cardelle de Hartmann (1999), "The Textual Transmission of the Mozarabic Chronicle of 754", "Early Medieval Europe", 8 (1), 13–29.] The Latin "Chronicle" was written by a Mozarab Christian. The only other Latin Christian source written within a century of the battle is the "Historia Langobardorum" of Paul the Deacon. [ [http://www.northvegr.org/lore/langobard/041.php Paul, vi.XLVI] , only adds the fact that the "Saracens" came to Hispania from Ceuta.] Paul was neither Visigothic nor Hispanic, but was writing probably in Montecassino between 787 and 796. The "Chronicle of 741" is a near-contemporary Hispanic source, but it is a copy of the "Mozarabic Chronicle" for the eighth century and contains no original material pertaining to the battle. Several later Latin Christian sources contain descriptive accounts of the battle that have sometimes been trusted by historians, most notably the "Chronicle of Alfonso III", written by Alfonso III of Asturias in the late ninth century. The high medieval accounts, such as that of Lucas de Tuy, are generally untrustworthy, containing much legend and invention.

Besides the Latin Christian sources there are several Arabic language sources widely used by historians, but increasingly coming under heavy criticism. [In the nineteenth century, Reinhart Dozy compared them to the "Thousand and One Nights". More recently, Collins (1989), has compared them to the "Chanson de Roland" for French history (p. 34) or the "Lebor na Cert" and "Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh" for Irish history (p. 5), in terms of historical value.] None of them predates the mid-ninth century, the date of the earliest, the "Futūh Miṣr" of Ibn ʻAbd al-Ḥakam ("c".803–71), which was composed in Egypt. [Charles Cutler Torrey, trans. (1922), "The History of the Conquest of Egypt, North Africa and Spain: Known as the Futūh Miṣr of Ibn ʻAbd al-Ḥakam" (Yale University Press); also John Harris Jones, trans. (1858), "History of the Conquest of Spain" (Göttingen: W. Fr. Kaestner), pp. 18-22 excerpted at [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/conqSpain.html Ibn Abd-el-Hakem: The Islamic Conquest of Spain] from Medieval Sourcebook.] This account, more rich in detail than the "Mozarabic Chronicle", is at odds with not only the later Latin histories, but also the later Arabic ones: the anonymous compilation called the "Akhbar Majmu'ah", the late tenth-century work of Ibn al-Qūṭiyya ("the son [i.e. descendant] of the Goth [i.e. Wittiza] "), the eleventh-century historian Ibn Hayyān, the thirteenth-century "Complete History" of Ibn al-Athir, the fourteenth-century history of Ibn Khaldūn, or the early modern work of al-Maqqarī. [For an assessment of the value of these sources for the period of the conquest of Gothic Hispania, see Collins (1989), 1–5.] The " Akhbar Majmu'ah" in particular was upheld by Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz as a genuine eighth-century work surviving only in later copies, but this view has since been refuted. [Collins (1989), 3.] The Orientalist French scholar Évariste Lévi-Provençal on the other hand advocated Ibn Hayyān as the supreme Muslim historian of the era (and the battle). [Collins (1989), 2 note 3 and 3 note 5 summarises some debate concerning the Arab sources.]

Among modern Anglo-American historians, Roger Collins, R. A. Fletcher, E. A. Thompson (a Marxist), and Kenneth Baxter Wolf are sceptical of the Arabic sources and rely more on the "Chronicle" of 754. Thomas F. Glick and Bernard S. Bachrach are less sceptical. Collins in particular rejects a syncretistc approach incorporating information from all the available sources.

Background

Though the reign of Roderic is traditionally dated to 710–11, a literal reading of the "Chronicle" of 754 indicates 711–12. Roderic did not rule unopposed, however. The nature of his accession, whether on death of Wittiza or through his assassination, is not clear from the sources. It is possible that Roderic was the probably "dux" of Baetica before coming to the throne. [Bernard F. Reilly (1993), "The Medieval Spains" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 49–50.] Archaeological evidence and two surviving lists of kings show that one Achila II ruled in the northeast of the kingdom at this time, but his relationship to Roderic is unknown. Probably they were rivals who never actually came into open conflict, due to the shortness of Roderic's reign and his preoccupation with Muslim raids. Even with Roderic's sphere of influence (the southwest) and his capital Toledo, he was not unopposed after his "usurpation" (the "Chronicle" of 754 calls it an "invasion"). [Collins (1989), 28, and (2004), "Visigothic Spain, 409–711" (London: Blackwell Publishing), 130–2, provides a summary of the disputed succession.]

The battle of Guadalete was not an isolated Arab attack but followed a series of raids across the straits from Africa which had resulted in the sack of several south Iberian towns. Arab and Berber forces had probably been harassing the peninsula by sea since the conquest of Tangiers in 705/6. Some later Arabic and Christian sources present an earlier raid by a certain Ṭārif in 710 and one, the "Ad Sebastianum" recension of the "Chronicle of Alfonso III", refers to an Arab attack incited by Erwig during the reign of Wamba (672–80). and two reasonably large armies may have been in the south for a year before the decisive battle was fought.Collins (2004), 139.] These were led by Ṭāriq ibn Ziyad, and others, under the overall command of Mūsā ibn Nuṣayr. ["Taric Abuzara" and "others" come from the "Chronicle" of 754, see Collins (1989), 30. Ṭāriq, which means "chief", is considered an etymological invention by Joaquín Vallvé (1989), "Nuevas ideas sobre la conquista árabe de España: Toponimia y onomástica", "Al-Qantara", 10:1, 51–150. For the others that accompanied Ṭāriq—Abdelmelic, Alcama, and Mugheith— see Dykes Shaw (1906), "The Fall of the Visigothic Power in Spain", "The English Historical Review", 21:82 (April), 222.] Most of the Arabic accounts agree that Ṭāriq was the Berber freedman of Mūsā. Ignacio Olagüe, in "La Revolución islámica en occidente", argues Ṭāriq to have been a Goth and the nominal governor of Tingitania. [Ignacio Olagüe (2004 [1974] ), [http://web.archive.org/web/20070317165057/www.webislam.com/BEI/Olague/Index.htm "La Revolución islámica en occidente"] (Editorial Plurabelle), 274–75. On this view, Ṭāriq was a Christian (initially). A response to Olagüe can be found in Dolors Bramon (2001), [http://web.archive.org/web/20051128091600/www.webislam.com/numeros/2001/01_01/Articulos+01_01/Disparates_islam.htm "Dispatares sobre el Islam en España"] , "WebIslam", Opinión, No. 117.] Others have argued that Ṭāriq was Jewish. [Norman Roth (1976), "The Jews and the Muslim Conquest of Spain," "Jewish Social Studies", 38 (2), 146–148.]

According to Paul the Deacon, Ṭāriq left from Ceuta (Septem) and landed at the Rock of Calpe, the later Gibraltar, which Arabic sources derive from "Jebel Tariq", "Rock of Ṭāriq".E. A. Thompson (1969), "The Goths in Spain" (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 250–51.] After burning his boats, according to legend, from Gibraltar he moved to conquer the region of Algeciras and then followed the Roman road that led to Seville. [Thomas F. Glick (1979), [http://libro.uca.edu/ics/emspain.htm "Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages: Comparative Perspectives on Social and Cultural Formation] " (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 32. Ṭāriq landed on 28 April 711.] According to Ibn ʻAbd al-Ḥakam writing around 860, Ṭāriq, commander of the Arab-Berber garrison of Tangiers, crossed the straits of Gibraltar with ships from a certain Count Julian (Arabic "Ilyan"), lord of Ceuta and "Alchadra", and landed at near Cartagena, which he took and made his headquarters.Collins (2004), 134.]

According to the "Mozarabic Chronicle", Mūsā landed with a large force at Cádiz in 711 and remained in Hispania for fifteen months, but it is unclear from the sources if he came before or after the battle of Guadalete, which was fought by the forces of his subordinates. During his time in the peninsula it was racked by civil war ("intestino furore confligeratur", "internal frenzy", to the Mozarabic chronicler), cities were razed and many people slaugthered in the general destruction. [Later Arabic sources state that Mūsā only went to Hispania after news of Ṭāriq's success reached him. He flogged his subordinate in front of his soldiers and then the two together completed the conquest of the peninsula before Mūsā was recalled by the Caliph to Damascus, a fact confirmed by the "Mozarabic Chronicle". Mūsā took with him Ṭāriq and many Visigothic prisoners from the taking of Toledo (Collins [1989] , 29–31).]

According to al-Maqqarī, Roderic was fighting the Basques when he was recalled to the south to deal with an invasion. [Roger Collins (1986), "The Basques" (Londong: Blackwell Publishing), 97. The most specific accounts place Roderic in the vicinity of Pamplona (Shaw, 223).] There is also the record of a Byzantine attack on southern Iberia that was repulsed by Theudimer some years before the fall of the Visigothic kingdom. This has led to theories that the Arab-Berber attacks may be related to the Byzantine, and perhaps the Arabs were originally useful allies of the Byzantines an attempt to reconquer their lost province of Spania. [Bernard S. Bachrach (1973), "A Reassessment of Visigothic Jewish Policy, 589–711", "The American Historical Review", 78:1 (February), 32. This theory is predicated on a certain understanding of the identity of the mysterious Count Julian (see "Legend" below). Thompson, 250, is explicit that nothing is known of the context of these Byzantine raids.]

Date and place

The date of the battle is traditionally 711, though this is not the date given by the "Chronicle" of 754. The "Chronicle" dates it to 712 and places it before the conquest of Toledo, which it attributes to Mūsā in 711. If this discrepancy is solved by preferring the chronicler's order to his dating, then the battle occurred in 712 and the follow of Toledo later that same year. [Collins (2004), 135.] Later Arabic accounts give an exact date of 25 or 26 July.Bachrach (1973), 32.] A more rough dating is between 19 and 23 July. [Glick, 32. Some accounts say the battle began on the 19th and lasted one week. Shaw, 224, suspects that many skirmishes preceded the definitive battle (probably on the 25th or 26th).]

According to ʻAbd al-Ḥakam, Ṭāriq was marching from Cartagena to Córdoba—after defeating a Gothic army that tried to stop him—when he met Roderic in battle near "Shedunya", probably modern Medina Sidonia. The later Arab accounts, most of them generating from al-Ḥakam's, also place the battle near Medina Sidonia, "near the lake" or "Wadilakka" (river Lakka), often identified as the Guadalete river, La Janda lake, [For this, see Glick, 31.] stream of "Beca", [For the theory that Guadabeca became Guadaleca and finally Guadalete, see Shaw, 223.] or the Barbate river [As in William E. Watson (1993), [http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/watson2.htm "The Battle of Tours-Poitiers Revisited"] , "Providence: Studies in Western Civilization", 2.] (that is, their associated valleys). The earliest Christian source, and the nearest source in time to the events, says that it took place near the unidentified "Transductine promontories" ("Transductinis promonturiis"). [Collins (1989), 28.] Thomas Hodgkin, probably following Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, placed the battle at Jerez de la Frontera. [Thomas Hodgkin (1887), "Visigothic Spain", "The English Historical Review", 2:6 (April), 233. Rodrigo states that the battle took place "ad fluvium qui Guadalete dicitur, prope Assidonam quae nunc Xeres dicitur": at the river called Guadalete, beside Sidonia, now called Xeres (quoted in Shaw, 223 n42). "Sidonia", probably the Roman "Caesaris Asidona" became Xeres-Sidonia to the Arabs and thence Jerez de la Frontera.] Joaquín Vallvé, studying toponymy, puts the engagement on the banks of the Guadarranque, which he says might derive from "Wad al-Rinq" (Roderic's river). [Glick, 32.]

Engagement and aftermath

The armies that met in battle on the day that decided the fate of the Goths in Spain are not reliably described in the surviving records. Glick surmises that the Muslims army was predominantly Berber cavalry under Arab leadership. [Glick, 32.] The Arabic sources traditionally give Roderic 100,000 troops, gathered during his return to the south after confronting the Basques. [Other estimates include 60,000 and 90,000; Ibn Khaldūn gives the low figure of 40,000. These troops massed on the plain of "Secunda" on the western bank of the Guadalquivir opposite Córdoba, later called the "Campo de la Verdad" (Field of Truth).] This number is outrageously high; it complements the figure of 187,000 for the Muslims provided by the "Ad Sebastianum" version of the "Chronicle of Alfonso III". Ṭāriq is said to have landed with 7,000 and requested 5,000 more from Mūsā. There could thus have been as many as 12,000 Muslim fighters at the battle. [Glick, 32, notes that an army of 10–15,000 would have required more than three months to ferry across the straits, thus explaining the delay between Ṭāriq's reported landing and his march north in the traditional accounts.] One modern estimate, disregarding the primary source claims, suggest a quarter of the 7,500 reported in one of them; this would be approximately 2,000.Collins (2004), 141.] The Visigothic forces were "probably not much larger" and it must be emphasised that the Visigothic kingdom had been relatively peaceful and not, like Francia to its north, organised for war. A small number of elite clans (perhaps around twenty five), their warrior followings, the king and his, and the forces that could be raised from the royal fisc constituted the troops upon which Roderic could draw.

The defeat of the Visigothic army followed on the flight of the king's opponents, who had only accompanied the host "in rivalry", "deceitfully", and "out of ambition to rule" says the Mozarabic chronicler.Collins (1989), 28.] The story of Sisibert abandoning Roderic with the right wing of the host is a legend. It is possible that his enemies intended to abandon Roderic on the field, to be defeated and killed by the Muslims. Whatever the case, their plan failed, for they too were largely slain. By another text from the "Mozarabic Chronicle" the treachery can be placed at Roderic's feet. He "lost his kingdom together with his "patria" with the killing of his rivals". This unclear passage could indicate that Roderic had killed his rivals and weakened his army, ensuring defeat, or that his rivals too died in the battle or its retreat. The chronicler may be blaming the defeat on factionalism. The "Chronicle of Alfonso III", in both its versions, blames the anonymous "sons of Wittiza" for conspiring against Roderic. [According to Rafael Altamira y Crevea, the "connexion between the Muslims and the sons of Wittiza is confirmed by all the chroniclers, and forms a trustworthy starting-point for the history of the invasion," cited in Bachrach (1973), 33n86, who finds it tempting to place the Muslims, the native Jewry, and Achila II, whom he reckons a son of Wittza, in a tripartite alliance against Roderic. Collins (2004), 137–38, rejects any attempt to salvage the historicity of the sons of Wittiza from contradictions in the primary source. Thompson, 251, records "presumably he was opposed by another member of the aristocracy or by a relative of Wittiza".] Oppa, Wittiza's historical brother, was found in Toledo, possibly as king-elect, by Musa when he took the city. This Oppa may have had a part to play in the opposition to Roderic, but certainly not his nephews, who would have been too young to participate in power politics in 711. The metropolitan of Toledo, Sindered, fled the city at the coming of the Muslims, and remained for the rest of his life an exile in Rome. The author of the "Mozarabic Chronicle" caustically notes that he was "an hireling, and not the shepherd" (quoting Jesus, "Gospel of John" 10:12). The Gothic nobleman Theudimer made an alliance with the conquerors to preserve his own rule of his territory. [For a general discussion of military arrangements in late Visigothic and post-Visigothic Spain until the Carolingian reconquest, see Joaquín Vallvé (1978), "España en el siglo VIII: ejército y sociedad", "Al-Andalus", 43(1), pp. 51&ndash112.] Within a decade all of the peninsula save the tiny Kingdom of Asturias and the mountain-dwelling Basques was under Muslims dominion and they had advanced beyond the Pyrenees as well.

The later Arabic historians universally credit their religion for the victory. [Collins (2004), 135 and 139; Collins (1989), 1–6 and 31.] Al-Maqqarī, in "The Breath of Perfumes", places in the mouth of Ṭāriq a morale-boosting address to his soldiers on the eve of battle, which closes with this exhortation to kill Roderic:

According to later traditions, indigenous Iberian Jews, progressively disenfranchised under the rule of the Catholic kings and the bishops, [Wolfram Drews (2002), "Jews as Pagans? Polemical Definitions of Identity in Visigothic Spain", "Early Medieval Europe", 11 (3), 189–207, provides a good overview of the treatment of the Jews in Spain. For the involvement of the Church, and especially of Julian of Toledo, in the Jewish persecutions of the late seventh century, see Francis X. Murphy (1952), "Julian of Toledo and the Fall of the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain", "Speculum", 27 (1), 1–27. Bernard S. Bachrach (1977), "Early Medieval Jewish policy in Western Europe" (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), 23–25, deduces reasons from later medieval Christian chroniclers for believing Roderic's predecessor Wittiza to have been mild in his policies towards the Jews, thus provoking opposition.] provided fighters to augment the Moorish forces. Kawlah al-Yahudi distinguished himself in the battle at the head of a mixed contingent of Jews and Berbers, [ [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?letter=K&artid=144 "Jewish Encyclopedia", "s.v." "Kaula al-Yahudi"] .] according to the compiler of the "Akhbar Majmu'ah". [Arie Schippers (1994), "The Jews in Muslim Spain", "Spanish Hebrew Poetry and the Arabic Literary Tradition: Arabic Themes in Hebrew Andalusian Poetry", 43.] In the aftermath of victory, the Jews reputedly took several cities and were even commissioned to garrison Seville, Córdoba, and Toledo itself. Thompson remarks that "whatever the reason for the [Goths'] persecution [of the Jews] , it may have contributed to the utter destruction of those who initiated and enforced it." [Thompson, 316; Bachrach (1977), 26, agrees.] Despite all this, the participation of Jews on the side of the Muslims is not recorded in the "Chronicle" of 754.

The traditional explanation for the rapid fall of the Visigothic kingdom has been decadence. [This view was influentially expounded in English by the Presbyterian Reverend Dykes Shaw (1906), "The Fall of the Visigothic Power in Spain", "The English Historical Review", 21:82 (April), 209–228.] This is not accepted by specialists today, though it still exerts heavy influence through tertiary accounts, especially in Spanish-language historiography.

Legend

Among the legends which have accrued to the history of the battle, the most prominent is that of Count Julian, who, in revenge for the rape of (or affair with) his daughter Florinda (the later "Cava Rumía" or "Doña Cava") by Roderic while the youth was being raised at the palace school, supposedly lent Ṭāriq the necessary ships for launching an invasion. [Shaw, 221, writing in 1906, rejects this as legend from the late ninth- and tenth-century Arabic histories. The first Latin chronicler to pick it up was the Monk of Silo in 1110. It blossomed under Pedro del Corral (who in the fifteenth century invented "Floresinda", an authentic Gothic name) and Miguel de Luna (who in the sixteenth turned her into a "meretrix").] That the Arabs already possessed sufficient naval forces in the western Mediterranean is attested by their activities against the Balearic Islands. While the rape (and the name of his daughter) are universally disregarded, the Count Julian of the Arabic histories [Ibn Khaldūn calls him a Christian Berber, loyal follower ("fidelis") of Wittiza, and finally emir of the Gūmara tribe. Sánchez-Albornoz agreed (Glick, 32n36).] has been identified with a North African Catholic named Urban who appears in the "Chronicle" of 754. [The passage mentioning Urban is quoted in Shaw, 221 note 38: "Quod ille consilio nobilissimi viri Urbani, Africanae Regionis sub dogmate Catholicae fidei exorti " [or "exarci"] ", qui cum eo cunctas Hispaniae adventaverat patrias".] This Urban accompanied Mūsā across the straits. Urban may be the Julian of legend, but more likely Julian is the legend of Urban. [Collins (1989), 36.] According to one interpretations of the Urban-Julian legend, he was a Byzantine governor of Ceuta who joined with the Arabs to raid the southern coasts of Iberia in 710 with Ṭārif. Glick has suggested that Ṭārif is an inventioned designed to explain the etymology of Tarifa, the ancient "Julia Traducta", of which "Julian" was probably the (unnamed) Gothic count ("comes julianus"). [Glick, 32. "Tarīfa" means "point" in Arabic, a reference to its place as the southern tip of Hispania. According to Vallvé, based on a theoretical confusion in the Arabic source between the bay of Cádiz and that of Algeciras, "Julian", a Goth, was the governor of Cádiz.]

The "sons of Wittiza" that figure so prominently in later Christian sources, are likewise unhistorical. Wittiza, who is praised by the "Chronicle" of 754, is almost universally vilified in subsequent works, beginning with the "Chronicle of Moissac" around 818. The outrageousness of the accusations is proportional to the chronological distance of the narrative. Thus, Lucas de Tuy, writing in the late thirteenth century, portrays a monster, while Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, rectifying the disparate accounts, shows Wittiza commencing his reign with promise and evolving into an tyrant.Hodgkin, 234, who quotes extensively from Felix Dahn, "Könige der Germanen", VI, 2nd ed. Both appear sceptical of the later (post-eighth century) sources.] The Monk of Silo in 1110 recorded that the sons of Wittiza fled from Roderic to Julian and enlisted his aid. [Shaw, 222.]

Among the other legends surrounding the battle is that of Roderic's arrival at the field in a chariot drawn by eight white mules. Concerning the conquest are the legends of the sealed chamber in Toledo ("la maison fermée de Tolède") and the table (or carpet, depending on the translation) of Solomon that ʻAbd al-Ḥakam alleges was also discovered in Toledo. Roderic's golden sandal was allegedly recovered from the Guadalete river. For a history of the conquest which incorporates and retells many of the legends, see Henry Coppée, [http://books.google.com/books?id=uFYzAAAAMAAJ "History of the Conquest of Spain by the Arab-Moors: With a Sketch of the Civilization which They Achieved and Imparted to Europe"] (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1881).

Notes


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.