THE BATTLE OF ALARCOS 1195: Prelude to the De Toulouse Navas
The Battle of Alarcos was a battle between the Almohads led by Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur and King Alfonso VIII of Castile. It resulted in the defeat of the Castilian forces and subsequent retreat to Toledo whereas the Almohads conquered back Trujillo, Montanchez, and Talavera.
The Castilian king put most of his heavy cavalry in a compact body, about 8,000 strong, and gave its command to the fierce Diego Lopez de Haro, Lord of Vizcaya. They were to shatter the enemy with an irresistible charge. The king himself would follow with the infantry and the Military Orders to complete the enemy rout.
The Christian cavalry charge was somewhat disordered, but its impetus was still formidable. The knights crashed against the Zanatas and Bani Marin and dispersed them; lured by the Amir's standard, they charged uphill: vizier Abu Yahya was killed and the Hintatas fell almost to a man trying to protect themselves. Most of the knights turned to their left and after a fierce struggle they routed the al-Andalus forces of Ibn Sanadid. After three hours, in the afternoon's intense heat, fatigue and Almohad missiles took their toll of armored knights.
The Arab right under Yarmun had been enveloping the Castilian flank and rear. At this point, the best of the Almohad forces attacked, with the sultan himself clearly visible in the front ranks, and the knights were almost completely surrounded.
Alfonso advanced with all his remaining forces into the melee, only to find himself assaulted from all sides and under a rain of arrows. For some time he fought hand-to-hand, until removed from the action, almost by force, by his bodyguard. They fled towards Toledo.
The Castilian infantry was destroyed, together with most of the Orders which had supported them. The Lord of Vizcaya tried to force his way through the ring of enemy forces, but finally had to seek refuge in the unfinished fortress of Alarcos with just a fraction of his knights.
The castle was surrounded with some 3,000 people trapped inside, half of them women and children. The king's enemy, Pedro Fernandez de Castro, who had taken little part in the action, was sent by the Amir to negotiate the surrender; Lopez de Haro and the survivors were allowed to go, leaving 12 knights as hostages for the payment of a great ransom.
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Updated as of 11/30/2023ABBREVIATIONS: dj-dust jacket, biblio-bibliography, b/w-black and white, illust-illustrations, b/c-book club addition.
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