Battle of Covadonga

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Kingdom of Asturias

The Battle of Covadonga was the first major victory by a Christian military force in Iberia following the Muslim Moors' conquest of that region in 711. Taking place about a decade later, most likely in the summer of 722, the victory at Covadonga assured the survival of a Christian stronghold in northern Iberia, and today is regarded as the beginning of the Reconquista.[2]

From the perspective of the following seven centuries, this view of the battle has some validity - since the battle assured the independence of the Kingdom of Asturias, and it is that kingdom which eventually became the nucleus of new Christian rule over the entire peninsula. There is no reason to assume, however, that contemporaries (either Christian or Muslim) regarded it as anything more than part of local rebellion in a marginal area. In evaluating the battle, care must be taken to distinguish the actual historical facts from the meanings read into it and the myths created around it by later Spanish and Portuguese generations.[citation needed]

According to texts written by Mozarabs in northern Iberia during the ninth century, noble Visigoths, in 718 AD, elected a man named Pelayo (681-737) as their leader. Pelayo, a son of Favila, who had been a dignitary at the court of the Visigoth King Egica (687-700), established his headquarters at Cangas de Onís, Asturias and incited an uprising against the Umayyad Muslims.

From the beginning of the Muslim invasion of Iberia, refugees and combatants from the south of the peninsula had been moving north to avoid Islamic authority. Some had taken refuge in the remote mountains of Asturias in the northwestern part of the Iberian peninsula. There, from among the dispossessed of the south, Pelayo recruited his band of fighters. His first acts were to refuse to pay tribute to the Moors any longer and to assault the small Berber garrisons that had been stationed in the area. Eventually, he managed to expel a provincial governor named Munuza from Asturias. He held the territory against a number of attempts to re-establish Muslim control, and soon founded the Kingdom of Asturias, which became a Christian stronghold against further Muslim expansion.

For the first few years, this rebellion posed no economic or strategic threat to the new masters of Iberia, whose seat of power had been established at Cordoba. Consequently, there was only a quite perfunctory reaction. Pelayo was not always able to keep the Muslims out of Asturias, but neither could they defeat him, and as soon as the Muslims left, he would always re-establish control. Islamic forces were focused on raiding Narbonne and Gaul, and there was a shortage of manpower for putting down an inconsequential, albeit irritating, insurrection in the mountains. Pelayo never attempted to force the issue, and it was a Moorish defeat elsewhere that probably set the stage for the Battle of Covadonga. On July 9, 721, a Muslim force that had crossed the Pyrenees and invaded the Kingdom of the Franks was defeated by them in the Battle of Toulouse, in present-day France. This was the first serious setback in the Muslim campaign in southwestern Europe. Reluctant to return to Cordoba with such unalloyed bad news, the Ummayad wāli, Anbasa ibn Suhaym Al-Kalbi, decided that putting down the rebellion in Asturias on his way home would afford his troops an easy victory and raise their flagging morale.

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