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Thanks to anonymous medieval epic, “The Song of Roland,” the battle at the Pass of Roncevaux in Spain is seen as Christianity vs. Islam. While the poem has a lot to say about courage in the face of overwhelming odds, any resemblance between it and the facts is purely coincidental.

The people responsible for the 778 massacre were Basques, not Saracens. In fact, the nobleman who persuaded Charlemagne to cross the Pyrenees and invade Spain was a Saracen seeking assistance to fight a fellow Muslim. For more about the emir, Sulaiman Yaqzan ibn al-Arabi, and why he sought aid from a devout Christian king, read my post on author Jessica Knauss’s blog.

And if you would like to learn more about the massacre–so traumatic that no one wrote about while Charlemagne was still alive–read a post I wrote in May for Unusual Historicals.

Illustration to “The Song of Roland,” 1903, Heorhiy Narbut (public domain image via wikipaintings.org)

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