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Battle of Roncesvalles
Campaign: Frankish Invasion of Spain
Date: 778 CE
Place: Roncesvaux Pass, northern Spain
Outcome: Moorish victory

Medieval France Frankish Empire

Moors Emirate of Babylon
Moors Al-Andalus
Moors Kingdom of Cappadocia


Roland, Duke of Brittany
Oliver the Paladin
Berengier the Paladin
Guy St. Antoine

Moors Emir Baligant
Moors Marsile
Moors Estramarin
Moors Grandoyne







The Battle of Roncesvalles was the final battle in the invasion of Moorish Spain by Charlemagne which resulted in the slaughter of his rearguard, led by the Duke of Brittany, Roland. However, the Frenk army slaughtered the Muslim army, which was led by the Emir of Babylon, the King of Spain, and the Prince of Cappadocia, and it was known for the high casualties on both sides.


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.


First Battle

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.

Ebro River

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.

Second Battle

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.