The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, known in Arab history as the Battle of Al- Uqab (معركة العقابtook ,( place on 16 July 1212 and was an important turning point in the Reconquista and in the medieval history of Spain. The forces of King Alfonso VIII of Castile were joined by the armies of his Christian rivals, Sancho VII of Navarre, Pedro II of Aragon and Afonso II of Portugal, in battle versus the Berber Muslim Almohad rulers of the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula. The sultan Caliph al-Nasir led the Almohad army.
• In 1195, Alfonso VIII of Castile had been defeated by the Almohads in the so-called Disaster of Alarcos. After this victory, the Almohads had taken important cities as Trujillo, Plasencia, Talavera, Cuenca and Uclés. Then, in 1211, Muhammad al-Nasir had crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with a powerful army, and invaded the Christian territory.• After this, the threat was so great for the Iberian Christian kingdoms that Pope Innocent III called European knights to a crusade.• These European knights caused problems in Toledo (where the different armies of the Crusade gathered), with assaults and murders in the Jewish Quarter. More than 30,000 men deserted and returned to their homes across the Pyrenees.
Most of the men in the Almohad army came from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and even as far away as Mauritania and Senegal and much of the Iberian peninsulas southern half. In the battle, there were ten miles of Muslims soldiers in the eyes of Alfonso and his men. At the Battle of las Navas de Tolosa, 50,000 Christians fought a Muslim army of 125,000 soldiers.
• The 125,000 Muslims set up their camp on the “Cerro de los Olivares”. The infantry were in front, placed in three lines, with the cavalry on the flanks.• According to legend, the Caliph had his tent surrounded with slaves, who were chained together as a defense.
The first who gave the order to fight was Alfonso VIII. After a long operation of launching arrows, the Spanish cavalry attacked. The shock was absolutely brutal and the situation became critical for Christians; they had to retreat. Seeing the Christians go back, the Muslims broke their close formation to chase, which was a serious tactical error, because it weakened the Almohad army center. The three kings, Pedro II, Alfonso VIII and Sancho VII came to the forefront of his men and attacked with everything they had. It was victory or death. The troops of Navarre reached the red tent of al-Nasir, to crush the personal guard of Miramamolin. The Caliph only had time to scape with a group of loyal soldiers. Thousands of men have fallen, but the victory finally was decanted from the Christian side. King Alfonso VIII sent a letter to Pope Innocent III announcing the great victory of the Christians. The Crusade had been a succes.
• The Caliph Muhammad al-Nasir died shortly after the battle in Marrakech, where he had escape after the defeat.• Alfonso VIII of Castile extended his conquest, consolidating the southern border. He died two years after the victory (1214).• Pedro II of Aragon, died the following year (1213) in the battle of Muret.• Sancho VII of Navarre survived twenty years. At the end of his life, he locked himself in his palace of Tudela, where he remained until his death in 1234, when he was 80 years.
• The Christian victory was complete. 100,000 Muslims were left dead on the field, and the booty was immense.• Christian losses were very few, only about 2,000 men.• The crushing defeat of the Almohads would give greater impetus to the Christian Reconquest, begun by the kingdoms of northern Iberia centuries before.
That victory marked the Muslim decline and the beginning of the final phase of the Reconquista.Monument at Las Navas De Tolosa. Alberto Sánchez (2ºH)