• Ben

Season Three, Episode Nine: The Spanish March

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Bodies laid upon the ground in every direction Roland looked. In some places they were stacked two or three deep, making movement near to impossible for his forces. Fortunately, the unfathomable bloodshed served to slow the Muslims as well, and Roland took this brief respite as an opportunity to confer with his remaining nobles, Olivier and Archbishop Turpin. The trio hunkered behind a large tree in the valley of Roncevaux and shared what little information they had.

“How many of our forces are left?” Roland asked.

“Not many at all,” Turpin responded. “The Saracens blocked both sides of the valley, then cut down our men. It was the perfect ambush.”

“You’re telling me the entire rearguard has been annihilated?”


Roland and Olivier let the significance of this simple, one-word response wash over them. The two men, friends for as long as either could remember, began to realize that this day, in the steep mountains dividing the Christian Franks from the Muslim Umayyads, was going to be their last.

“What shall we do?” Olivier asked Roland. Though they were friends, Roland was in command. Olivier and Turpin would follow his orders until they could no longer. For Roland, the answer was surprisingly easy. I suppose that it’s always the case that answers come easy when all the other options have gone away, he thought. Peeling himself from his thoughts, he gave his commands.

“Bishop, now is the hour of our death. Let us not expect anything more. I need you to spend your last moments in conversation with the Lord. Pray for us, and pray for all of those who have preceded us into death. Pray for our King, my uncle Charles, and pray that he has heard the blasts of my horn so that he and the main army might ride in our direction and avenge our defeat. Finally, pray for the death of these wicked Saracens, who will receive God’s judgement in due course for having so wickedly tricked and attacked us while leaving their country.”

Roland paused momentarily, then turned his attention to Olivier. “You, my friend, should wait for me to blow my horn once more, then the both of us can charge into battle one last time. Ready yourself, your weapons, and your soul. Once I have finished with this last call to our King, we will leave this hiding place and take as many of the enemy as we can with us to the end.”

For the first time that day, Olivier smiled. “If one must make an end, one could think of worse ways in which to do it.”

The two gave each other a final embrace, the low intonations of the nearby Archbishop mumbling in prayer barely audible over the sounds of the battle around them. When they finally let go, Olivier reached for his sword and hoisted his shield high. Roland reached for his horn, a beautiful piece of ivory carved from the tusk of a distant beast known as an oliphant.

Roland blew his call once more, the sound rising loud and triumphant through the valley and over the trees. He gave it his all, holding the deep and resonant note as long as he possibly could. Roland held the note so long that he saw his field of vision begin to narrow and dim. Near the end, he could feel something pop in his head and a warm trickle falling onto his neck.

Scene from The Song of Roland, Roland at the Battle of Roncesvalles. Painting by Wolf von Bibra (1862-1922). Roland blowing his Olifant (horn) for help while holding his sword Durendal while mounted on his horse Veillantif. Roland's Breach is in the background.
Battle of Roncevaux Pass, from The Song of Roland (Courtesy of Carl von Bibra, CC BY-SA 4.0)

“Roland, your ears,” Olivier said. “You’re bleeding!”

“It doesn’t matter now, does it my friend? Come on, let’s do as I ordered just a moment ago. Don’t stop until you are dead, or every last Saracen is clear of this field.”

With this command, Roland and Olivier burst forth and ran into the nearest pack of enemy soldiers they could find. These men, surprised by this unbridled burst of energy escaping from a foe they had thought vanquished, were caught off guard. The two Franks tore through them with their swords, and in mere seconds six more bodies littered the field. The commotion caused by their attack did not go unnoticed. An Umayyad noble came to explore on horseback, and upon seeing the two Franks, he gave charge with his lance. The footfalls of the speeding horse were upon Roland and Olivier in mere seconds, and it was all Roland could do to drop to a knee before the charge arrived. Fortunately for him, the

lance went over his head and the horse missed him altogether. He stood up, ready to engage should the cavalryman return. When the horse failed to stop, Roland turned to Olivier, ready to make a charge at the next set of Muslim fighters.

“Let’s g...” Roland began to say. He stopped fast when he saw Olivier. The young Frank was on the ground, blood covering his face and head.

“Oh God, oh no!” Roland cried, dropping to his friend. Olivier’s helmet rested several feet away. It had a large dent in the front from where the lance that missed Roland caught Olivier square. “Olivier, get up!”

Olivier answered, "I hear you speaking, but I can’t see you. God sees you though, he sees both of us. Have I struck you, brother? If so, forgive me."

"I am not hurt,” Roland replied. “Oh Olivier, in sight of God, I forgive you here. Forgive me as well.” With this last order, Roland put his head to his friend’s. As he did so, he felt the strength go out from Olivier and heard his breathing stop. His fight was done.

Roland, tears in his eyes, jumped to his feet. Now alone, he wanted nothing more than to cut down anyone else he could get his hands on. The opportunity was to be short in coming. An entire company of enemy fighters was bearing down on him, anxious to find the last of the Franks and to be done with the days carnage. Finding Archbishop Turpin praying under the tree, this group of fighters ended the holy man’s life as they made their way to Roland.

With the vision of his dead friends fresh in his mind, the Frankish commander swung his sword and gave his all to the fight against overwhelming numbers. Two fell quickly, but while they were in front, a third Umayyad soldier attacked from the rear. His halberd struck Roland in the thigh, dropping him to a knee. Roland turned and thrust at the cowardly attacker; his effort connected directly in the man’s sternum, and Roland watched life drain from his in seconds. He attempted to pull his sword back, but the hilt was slippery with mud and gore. Roland dropped it on the grass. As he went to retrieve it, no less than five Saracens descended upon him, stabbing. The fight was over.

“Nice sword,” one of the triumphant Umayyads said, surveying this final kill. He bent over to pick up the blade.

“You are not one of us!”

The Umayyad reaching for the sword heard these words without realizing where they came from. Roland - full of holes and assumed dead - rose from the ground. Grabbing his oliphant, he swung the ivory at the crouching Saracen with a force he should not have had. The trunk of the instrument struck the enemy directly in the crest of his helmet. Everyone near heard the sound of shattering steel, bone, and skull. Roland followed his target to the ground, continuing to beat him as they fell.

“Who are you to lay your hands on me?” Roland yelled as he struck. “If you want what is mine, then here, take it! Behold the mouth of my ivory horn, broken just for you!”

Roland continued his assault until the remaining Umayyads came to their senses and made an end to the scene. Never had they seen someone fight with such determination, to live when life should not have been possible. Despite the dead man before them being their enemy and a Christian, they could not help but offer him a begrudging respect. A man such as Roland was a worthy enemy.

His deeds would be remembered, and word would spread of how he fought to the end. His actions were epic, and no matter how much the enemies of the True God detested to hear them, songs would spread through the ages to remember the warrior Roland.

This is Thugs and Miracles.


Season 3, Episode 9: The Spanish March


Alright, welcome back! As always, I’m Benjamin Bernier, and this week we’re going to take a look at what would ultimately be remembered as a really bad idea, kind of the medieval equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade. If you are unfamiliar with that reference, the Light Brigade was a force of 19th century British light cavalry fighting the Russians in Crimea - and given the current state of geopolitics, I can sincerely hope this reference remains in the past tense. At any rate, the Light Brigade was sent on a de facto suicide mission to attack a dug-in, fortified position set into high ground on three sides. The attendant result was an enormous casualty rate for the British with little or no tactical gain. This was not necessarily unique in the annals of war, but the fact that the Light Brigade made the charge without so much as a dissenting voice in their ranks made them into British heroes. Add to this that Alfred, Lord Tennyson penned a famous poem about them - called The Charge of the Light Brigade - and, while they may not have been militarily successful, they were remembered for their adherence to orders and attempt to carry out their charge, no matter the conditions. As a taste, here’s the first two stanzas of Tennyson’s poem:

Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!” he said.

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”

Was there a man dismayed?

Not though the soldier knew Someone had blundered.

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

This lovely and catchy poem did much to capture the British mindset and perhaps even went a ways to idealize the notion of unthinking adherence to orders that would be necessary in a situation like, well, say, going over the top of a trench to then crawl through barbed wire in no-man’s land and overrun machine-gun nests. But why am I talking about it so much here?

Well, the opening story today is a retelling of a portion of an epic poem called The Song of Roland. It was written somewhere between 1040-1115 CE. And wouldn’t you know it, much as how The Charge of the Light Brigade and its ideals match up neatly with late 19th- and early 20th-century warfare, the values and ideals put forth in Roland just so happen to line up with the time frame that incorporates the First Crusade. Now mind you, the events of Roland occurred about 300 years before the Song was first performed, and the events inside of the Song bear almost no resemblance to the actual events of 778, but all of that is extraneous. What was important for 11th-century France and this chanson de geste, this song of deeds, was to depict clear differences between Christians and Muslims. One side was good and noble, while the other was duplicitous and evil. We will leave it to you to guess which one was which for the Pope’s crusaders.

If Charlemagne’s Spanish campaign is best known for a historically inaccurate song touting Crusader values, then what actually happened in 778? For that matter, knowing that Charles had already gone to war in Aquitaine and Italy, and had his hands pretty full in Saxony, what was he doing in Spain at this time anyway? For this, we have to do a little bit of backstory on Muslim Spain.

In the last season we discussed the fight between the Franks and the Muslims when the two clashed in Tours/Poitiers in 732. In that battle, Charles Martel defeated a raiding force led by Abd al-Rahman, who, if the latter had broken through, could have really had a significant impact on the outcome of relations between East and West for years to come. We have contended that this impact probably would not have been as significant as some scholars - most notably Edward Gibbon - would have made it out to be. Part of the reason for this is because the Umayyad Caliphate, the group under whose banner Abd al-Rahman was riding and raiding, was extremely overextended and not particularly healthy by the time they met Charles Martel in 732. The group was having trouble with regional administration in an empire that extended from India to Spain. North Africa was particularly contentious, what with the Berbers of that region pushing back against the second-hand treatment they tended to receive from the Arab leadership of the Umayyads. For a variety of reasons, to include those just mentioned, the Umayyads were overthrown in 750 and replaced by the Abbasid Caliphate.

The fall of the Umayyads led to a natural shrinking of the Abbasids territorial holdings. The most far-flung of these sites was al-Andalus, also known as the former Roman province of Hispania, the former Kingdom of the Visigoths, or the modern day countries of Spain and Portugal (for the remainder of this episode and for the next few centuries, I will refer to this area by its contemporary name of al-Andalus). This lack of government authority from the Umayyads and the Abbasids did not mean that the Muslim occupants of the territory simply gave it up and returned to their ethnic countries of origin. No; by 750, Islam had a 40-year foothold in al-Andalus and no natural predators, so to speak, immediately threatening it. This would also mean that the people holding the peninsula were now 2nd- and 3rd- generation inhabitants, and not likely to think of anywhere except al-Andalus as their home.

In 755, an Umayyad prince who was half-Berber, on his mother’s side, was on the run for his life and arrived on the peninsula. His harrowing escape from the would-be assassins of the new Abbasid Caliphate led him from Damascus, down the Euphrates, across Arabia and Egypt, and finally into North Africa. Upon his arrival in al-Andalus, an area filled with people who remembered the Umayyads and who had also staged what became known to history as the Berber Revolt in 740, this dual-blooded prince was able to attract leaders and, more importantly, an army. He moved quickly in the confused and fractious region, and by 756 he managed to seize power and proclaim himself as ruler, driving the point home by nailing the head of the last governor to a bridge for all to see. This young man - this Umayyad-Berber prince - was only 25 years old and at the start of a long reign as the Emir of al-Andalus. His name, just like the leader of the force routed by Charles Martel over 20 years earlier, was Abd al-Rahman.

Without getting too deep into the history of al-Andalus, suffice it to say that Abd al-Rahman was a successful and long-lived ruler. However, that does not mean that his control of the region went without contest. The Abbasids would eventually send a force to try and retake the peninsula, a move that had to have been expected at some point as no ruler would be happy to see a prince of the previous Caliphate setting up shop on the periphery of the new one. The Abbasid attempt did not go very well, however, and ended with their Caliph, al- Mansur, receiving a box filled with the salt-preserved heads of his generals while he was on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Which, I think we can all agree, is pretty much just about the worst possible outcome for an invasion.

More locally, Abd al-Rahman had issues with various leaders who were happy to try and push back against the new kid on the block, or at least to hold on to their territory that they had seized fair and square while the peninsula had been in a state of relative free-for-all. The groups most concerning to our history were the Christians in the far north of the Iberian Peninsula living in Asturias and Galicia, and a group of Muslims ruling the northern towns of Zaragoza, Huesca, Girona, and Barcelona. As to the former, the Christians in the north claimed to be the hereditary successors of the Visigoths, and they were actually treated relatively well in 8th-century Spain. The culture of the peninsula was notable, and as “People of the Book” they were allowed to live and work without much hostility. That certainly does not mean that everything was great about the situation, but by and large, Abd al-Rahman had bigger fish to fry, vís-à-vís the legitimacy of his government, than to oppress a religious minority. None of that mattered much to people living outside of al-Andalus. For the Christian Franks, protecting their “brothers” in the Kingdom of Asturias and Galicia would serve as a ready-made excuse anytime they needed or wanted to impose themselves into a situation that really did not call for their assistance. Add to all of this that some of the Christians in the region of the Pyrenees were starting to develop some funky theological notions that, to our minds, sounded like a mixture of Arianism and Islam seeping into Orthodoxy, and suddenly the idea of entering al-Andalus had a theological context to go along with the military/protection idea.

Moving on to the latter group mentioned just a second ago, the Muslim rulers of the rebellious northern cities would have been a bigger problem for Abd al-Rahman. One of these rulers, Suleiman al-Arabi of Barcelona, was particularly vocal in his dissent to al- Rahman and willing to try almost anything if it meant he could safeguard his territory. Suleiman initially played to the Abbasids by rallying against al-Rahman, but given how well that invasion went - remember, salted heads - Suleiman was going to need a different patron. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the strongest militaries in the world, a military that had stood up and stopped an earlier Abd al-Rahman, was right across the mountains from him. Hence Suleiman’s travels along with al-Husain al-Ansari of Zaragoza in 777 to meet with Charles in Paderborn, and discuss with him the idea of coming down to the south to give the Emir of Cordoba, Abd al-Rahman, a little taste of real military might.

We know that Suleiman was at Paderborn in 777 because, literally in the line of the Royal Frankish Annals after noting the absence of Widukind from the meeting, this is written:

“Saracens from Spain also came to this assembly, ibn al-Arabi and his son...as well as his son-in-law.”

The RFA does not say much about what or why the Saracens were at Paderborn, but when we get to the entry for 778, it starts off immediately with Spain:

“The Lord King Charles marcheds to Spain by two different routes. One was by Pamplona, which the great king himself took as far as Zaragoza.”

Let’s remember, 777 was smack in the middle of the time when Charles would have been tending to the Saxons. And he also had issues he could have been helping the Pope with in Italy, or pesky nobles such as Duke Tasillo he could have been sorting out. With such a full dance card, why would the Most Christian King Charles choose to raise his armies and go clear across Francia, all for the benefit of a small Christian minority and some rebellious Muslims? What in the world did Suleiman offer him while they talked on the sidelines of the conference of Paderborn in 777?

Apparently, Suleiman went all in and “surrendered himself and the cities that the King of the Saracens had assigned to him.” In doing so, Charles would have gone from being an interested neighbor watching the shenanigans in al-Andalus with some amount of curiosity, to being a major shareholder in the contested area just south of his own border. He would have had significant territorial expansion at the snap of his fingers. And to justify his actions, Charles could sugarcoat the notion of going south and away from three or four other significant issues by claiming the excursion to be a military campaign that would protect the Asturians, rectify the growing heresy of “Adoptianism” in the Pyrenees, and spread the Good Word back into an area that had been largely Christianized - until the Umayyads had shown up and ruined everything. These ideas must have worked, because nothing in the sources points to any significant dissent from Charles’s nobles.

On a more personal level, it seems entirely likely that Charles would have relished the opportunity to head south as a way to stack up, so to speak, against both his father and his grandfather. Both men had fought the Saracens, and both men had enjoyed significant victories. Charles Martel had sent the Muslims running back over the mountains and saved the Franks and Western Europe from turning to Islam - or something like that - and Pepin had taken back significant portions of southern Francia, to include Septimania and the Mediterranean seafront town of Narbonne. Now Charles would have his chance to fight the Umayyads and perhaps push the Franks onto the peninsula. The Abbasids had shown that they were not going to be able to take over or get in the way. With no one coming to help al-Rahman, could Charles have been dreaming larger dreams, perhaps even of being the guy who would launch the Reconquista of al-Andalus?

Well, here’s the thing: Dreams are great, but intelligence is gold. While Charles was thinking of spreading Christianity down to the Straits of Gibraltar, he was not properly scouting the military forces of al-Andalus. His campaign was formed with big goals and lofty ideals, but the Franks had no practical knowledge of Muslim culture, governance, or social structures. They proceeded to battle relying on stereotypes and nearly 20-year-old knowledge. This intelligence reflected a bygone time of growing fractiousness and fraying strength rather than the current state of affairs, wherein Abd al-Rahman had managed to unify most of the peninsula behind him. Add to this that Alcuin, one of Charles’s great advisors, was relying on descriptions of the Saracens as related by the Venerable Bede - who had died over 40 years earlier, in 735 - to gain an image of Muslims as devil worshippers and adherents of Apollo, and we can see that the Franks, who had fought the Umayyads in the past, had no real idea of who and what they were up against. You are forgiven if you can feel the revenge of Sun Tzu coming our way.

Charlemagne and his forces went over the mountains for all of the reasons we have discussed thus far. Good to his word, Suleiman al-Arabi opened the gates of the cities under his control to his new friends, and the Franks entered Barcelona and Girona. But, remember when the RFA told us that “the great king himself took as far as Zaragoza”? Well, that stopping point came up because al-Husain al-Ansari, the wali/governor of Zaragoza, reneged on his promise to join with Suleiman in welcoming the Franks into the northern cities. His reaction sounds like a legitimate case of cold feet. Here we have a Muslim military and political leader being asked to willingly opening the doors of his city to invading Christian armies. Even if this plan had sounded okay when al-Husain and al- Suleimani had talked about it in 777, the reality of having Charles knocking on the gates of his city could easily have aroused understandable feelings of regret. So when Charles knocked, al-Husain did what so many other medieval leaders who had found themselves safely ensconced behind high walls did before him. He refused to answer, and he hunkered down for a siege.

It is at this point that we can start to understand that Charles may not have been overly happy with his battle arrangements. Here he was, on the wrong side of a huge freaking mountain range from his native supply lines, and with nowhere to fall back to if or when Abd al-Rahman should decide to bring a military force to bear against him. In a way, Charles was now the opposite of the 732 Abd al-Rahman: He had led a successful raiding force far into enemy territory, but with no practical way to hold his gains. Perhaps this thought had crossed his mind, because Charles ultimately decided to pull chalks on the Zaragoza siege well before he actually gained access to the city. After a month, he agreed to a cash payment and the release of some prisoners to just go away. And that’s what he did - with Suleiman al-Arabi coming with him, of course, wrapped in chains. Such is what happens when you go all-in and you lose.

Now understand, Charles would eventually claim a portion of northern Iberia as a buffer zone between Francia and the Umayyads. He just would not be able to do that in 778; this was merely the first step in a much longer campaign. Girona and Urgell would submit to Charles in the 780s, and Barcelona would be fought over in the 790s clear through to the beginning of the next century. It would take Charles’s son, Louis the Pious, conducting a siege to finally get that city to kneel, a siege that ended with Louis entering Barcelona on Easter Sunday of 801. With all of this, however, we must note that Charles never made significant inroads on to the Iberian Peninsula, and those gains that he did make had not come quickly or easily. Given what happened on his return home in 778, it is almost surprising that he returned for as much as he did.

Because you see, leaving al-Andalus, Charles chose to go around the western side of the Pyrenees to go back into Francia. This side of the mountain range was home to the Basques, a people with an ancient culture and, for lack of a better term, an independent streak. The Basques, similar to the Saxons, had been the target of Christian missionaries for quite a while by 778, but were proving difficult to bring entirely into the fold. The group had also sided over time with various other entities, to include the Gascons in Aquitaine and possibly even the Muslims. Charles, possibly distraught by his lack of success thus far, decided to take out some of his frustration on this group. He razed towns in the region, and when he came to the capital city of Pamplona, he ordered the walls of the city to be pulled down. This, he claimed, was preemptive in nature, keeping the city from becoming a fortress for the antagonistic group.

We know few things in this world bring people together better than a foreign invasion, and the Basques already had a long history and strong cultural identity. The slight inflicted upon them by the Franks was galvanizing and, given an opportunity to respond, they were going to do so. The opportunity, it would turn out, was nearly immediate. The Franks returned to Francia through the Pyrenees in August, and given their large supply train and the difficulties posed in traversing the mountain passes, they became strung out. Realizing this, Charles assigned several of his most prominent nobles to protect the rearguard and his supplies. These included Eggihard, the Mayor of the Palace; Anselm, Count Palatine; and Roland. The Roland.

As they were moving slowly through the unfamiliar and difficult terrain, the Frankish rearguard became a rich target for the Basques. This latter group was able to move quickly and undetected. Given their homefield knowledge of the terrain, they overtook the Franks and identified the best possible place in which to form an ambush: The mountain pass of Roncevaux. There, surrounded and outmaneuvered, Einhard tells us:

“They cut them off to a man, they then plundered the baggage, and dispersed with all speed in every direction under cover of approaching night... This ill turn could not be avenged for the nonce, because the enemy scattered so widely after carrying out their plan that not the least clue could be had to their whereabouts.”


CONCLUSION: The Battle of Roncevaux was a classic military defeat of a large force by a small group with superior tactical knowledge, and it served as the only significant military defeat for Charles wherein he was leading the army. Other setbacks, such as the Frankish defeat in the Suntel Mountains, were led by Charles’s generals and not the King himself. And this was a significant defeat: A large number of men died, nobles close to Charles were lost, and one can assume that the gold taken from Zaragoza probably found its way into Basque pockets. However, this was not a catastrophic event. Charles still maintained the bulk of his military force, and his supply train would have been less consequential once he was back on Frankish soil. As a propaganda event, however, the memory of the Battle of Roncevaux would far outlive its real-world effects. The Song of Roland would be used as a call to battle, to get Christian soldiers hyped up to fight the perfidious Muslims. The fact that the Song, by the time it was being sung in the 11th-century, had become a complete bastardization of the events and wrongly inserted the Umayyads into the Basque’s event, and also made out Roland to be a nephew of Charles, was completely glossed over. Why worry about facts when you can have a good story?

Even to this day, there is a certain amount of debate as to whether or not Charles’s actions in al-Andalus should be considered a form of Crusade. After all, we see in the events of 788 and on into the 9th century a push by proselytizing Christian soldiers to enter into Muslim lands to reclaim what once had been Christian cities. This certainly sounds Crusader-ish. In our opinion, however, this was not the First First Crusade. For one, the call to arms was not brought forth by the Pope, and did not target the Holy Land. Both of these conditions were met when Pope Urban II made the call for Christians to get in the fight in 1096 - the start date of the actual First Crusade. The simple presence of Muslims and Christians engaged in battle does not escalate the conflict into this higher category.

Second off, the call to action was not even brought by Christians! The call for Charles to enter al-Andalus and take on the Umayyad Emir in Cordoba was brought by Suleiman al- Arabi, the wali of Barcelona. If he had not approached Charles in Paderborn in 777, it seems unlikely the Franks would have gone south in 778. Finally, after all of this research, we cannot help but come away thinking that Charles almost certainly went into battle for reasons unrelated to religion. Yes, the religious differences and the possibility of protecting fellow Christians did provide a certain amount of cover, a fig leaf over the true intentions of expansion. But expansion, the opportunity for plunder, and the chance to create a buffer space between the Christian and Muslim realms - and possibly pushing the Umayyads out of Europe altogether - were the ultimate drivers of this campaign. It’s also telling that this was not a Crusade, a Muslim-Christian showdown, by the fact that the group ultimately responsible for inflicting a defeat against the Franks was neither Christian nor Muslim! The Basques, who may very well have had religious leanings toward both groups - or just been pagans - destroyed the Frankish rearguard and supply train out of revenge and opportunity. They had no need to wrap their intentions in religion; they simply did not like the Franks, and were happy to take their shot when they had it.

In the end, it was Charles’s actions that make the strongest argument for the Iberian incursion not being religiously based. If he, this pious Christian King, had truly felt God’s hand pushing him to fight the Muslims, he would have. Charles was not afraid to range far and wide. He crossed the Alps several more time, he led armies into Saxony, and he went into battle against the Bavarians, Avars, and Huns. It was not for lack of time or lack of ability, and he did send forces over the Pyrenees to create the Spanish March between the Umayyads and the Franks. He did not go over the mountains himself, however; if he had felt it was God’s plan that he should have, he would have. But he did not. Once was enough for Charles; if his intentions had been driven by God or the Pope, he almost certainly would have taken a second bite at the apple. Like the Light Brigade, he would not have made reply or questioned why, but rather he would have done or died, riding into the Valley of Death.


OUTRO: Alright, that is it for this episode. Thank you again for listening; if you enjoyed it and want to read the transcript, then head on over to the website at ThugsAndMiracles.com. You’ll find those there, as well as our French Monarchy Tree and a sign-up area for our newsletter. You can also look through past podcast episodes and special features.

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Alright, again, my name is Benjamin Bernier. When we come back in ten days, we’re going to be looking taking one last look at Charlemagne’s expansions before we turn our eyes to his family, the Carolingian Renaissance, and the events of the year 800. All of that is coming soon, in the next episodes of Thugs and Miracles.