|Previous: Siege of Saragossa (778)|
|Next: Battle of Rio Burbia|
|Battle of Roncesvalles|
|Campaign: Frankish Invasion of Spain|
|Date: 778 CE|
|Place: Roncesvaux Pass, northern Spain|
|Outcome: Moorish victory|
The Frenks invaded Spain in 778 CE, facing many Muslim armies in the north of Moorish Hispania. They besieged Saragossa, whose king Marsilla and queen Bramimonde fought hard to defend the city. Marsilla called on the Emir of Babylon, Emir Baligant, to support him, so Baligant and a large Syrian army marched through North Africa and into northern Spain to assist him.
In the meantime, Charlemagne decided to retreat from Spain due to the high amount of casualties suffered during the campaign, and the Moors sought a perfect opportunity to strike. They achieved one when treacherous nobleman Ganelon, the stepfather of Roland, Duke of Brittany (who led Charles' vanguard), gave away the location of the vanguard in revenge for being assigned to a near-suicidal mission. The Moors and Syrians, now backed up by Prince Grandoyne of Cappadocia, attacked the French vanguard at Roncevaux Pass, known better as Roncesvalles.
The vanguard, led by Roland and his sub-officers Oliver the Paladin and Turpin, Archbishop of Reims, was ambushed in a mountain pass by Ganelon and the Saracen army, catching them completely off-guard. Despite Oliver's pleas, Roland refused to blow on his war horn for help, saying that they could smite the whole pagan army without the need of reinforcements. However, they were charged by the mass of the Arab army, and King Marsile's general Grandoyne slew five of the Frankish warriors before Roland smote him. The warriors on both sides were involved in judicial combat, with individual duels occurring frequently during the conflict. Eventually, Roland was mortally wounded, but not before killing King Marsile and several of his generals, including Grandoyne. Roland then blew his horn so hard that his temple burst, hoping to alert Charlemagne's main force to see what happened to the vanguard; his men were beyond relief. When Charlemagne arrived, all they saw were dead bodies, including that of Roland, Oliver, and all of the men.
The Saracens then attempted to flee, so Charlemagne chased them all down. In the stampede across the Ebro River, all of the running Moors drowned or were cut to ribbons, getting revenge for the brave death of Roland and his company.
Meanwhile, Baligant and the large Babylonian army reached the battlefield, attacking Charlemagne's invasion force. In another onslaught, French divisonal commander Lorant was slain, but later on, Charles the Great himself dueled and killed the Emir, and the pagan army was demoralized and collapsed.
Saragossa, with no defenders left, was captured by Charlemagne's army, and Charlemagne returned to his capital of Aix (Aachen) with his army and Bramimonde, the widow of Marsilla. The defeat at Roncesvalles was a rare setback for Charlemagne, but he was able to conquer Northern Spain and establish the kingdoms of Aragon, Navarre, and Catalonia.