Basque Fact of the Week: The Song of Roland is Really about the Basques

The Song of Roland, one of the oldest major works in French, describes how Charlemagne’s nephew, Roland, takes the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army back through the pass of Roncevaux, where they are ambushed and slaughtered by the Muslims. In reality, it was the Basques that attacked Roland.

Image from Wikipedia.
  • While The Song of Roland was written between 1040 and 1115, the Battle of Roncevaux, or Orreaga in Basque, Pass occurred in 778.
  • The Basques attacked in retaliation for the prior destruction of the walls of Pamplona. Some accounts say that the whole city was destroyed.
  • The Basque force was essentially a guerrilla army. “A typical Basque mountain warrior was armed with two short spears and a knife or short sword as his main weapons, and bows or javelins for missile weapons. He would not normally wear armour.” (from Wikipedia)

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