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Battle of Pancorbo
Part of the Reconquista
Reino de Pamplona Sancho III
Map of the Kingdom of Pamplona.
Date 816
Location Pancorbo, Spain
Result Cordoban victory, revolt of the Basques that established Íñigo Arista of Pamplona.
Francia Emirate of Córdoba
Commanders and leaders
Balask al-Yalasqi Abd al-Karim ibn Abd al-Wahid

The Battle of Pancorbo was a battle that took place in the year 816 between a Moorish army from the Emirate of Cordoba sent by Al-Hakam I and under the control of Abd al-Karim ibn Abd al-Wahid ibn Mugit and the forces loyal to Francia under the control of Balask al-Yalasqi. The battle was fought when the Muslim forces attempted to cross the pass at Pancorbo. The battle resulted in a Muslim victory and was instrumental in the Basque revolt and the establishment of Íñigo Arista of Pamplona as a major player in the contemporary Iberian political scene.


The Emirate of Cordoba was engulfed in conflict as Al-Hakam I fought against the pretensions of his uncles Sulaymán and Abd-Al·lah ibn Abd-ar-Rahman[1] who had rebelled against the Cordoban establishment with the death of Hisham I of Córdoba.

The disorder in the Emirate was exploited by the Franks who in 798, convened an assembly under William of Gellone for the purpose of assisting Alfonso II of Asturias and Bahlul Ibn Marzuq against the Cordoban Emirate.[2] Their goal was to coordinate operations to take Al-Tagr al-Ala (Marca Superior) in the name of Louis the Pious. However, for some reason that didn´t happen, and the Kingdom of Asturias launched attacks upon Lisbon in 797, Velasco took over Pamplona in 798, but William of Orange and Louis the Pious launched an expedition to conquer Barcelona later in 801.

The Arabs, commanded by Muawiya ibn al-Hàkam, son of Emir Al-Hakam I, attacked Álava and the Kingdom of Castile in 801, crossing the River Ebro and the pass of las Conchas. They were surprised by Velasco, a Basque commander in control of troops from all over the Christian kingdoms, possible sent by Sancho I of Gascony. The surprise Christian attack occurred at La Puebla de Arganzón and resulted in a complete rout of the Muslim forces under Muawiya ibn al-Hàkam who was obliged to return to Cordoba (Qurtuba) after most of his best commanders and a large part of his army were wiped out.

In 803, Basque troops and members of the Banu Qasi attacked and took control of Tutila, capturing Yusuf ibn Amrús, although the city and its municipality were later retaken for Cordoba by Amrús ibn Yússuf.[2]

By 806, Pamplona and the western Basque territories fell again in the hands of a Frankish vassal, Velasco (or Belasko, "Balask al-Yalasqi"), who had rebelled against the Cordoban wali in the Basque stronghold (798). He was Charlemagne's man in the Basque territories extending up to the boundaries of Alfonso II's realm. Meanwhile, in 812 Seguin was appointed dux Wasconum in Bordeaux, but soon after the spread of news of Charlemagne's death, the Basques stirred.

The BattleEdit

Abd al-Karim ibn Abd al-Wahid ibn Mugit directed the incursion of 816 into the Kingdom of Pamplona. There the Muslim forces pillaged the valley of Orón. Balask al-Yalasqi, the lord of Pamplona pleaded for assistance from the Kingdom of Asturias.[3] On the Basque-Asturian side another two leaders are cited besides Velasco and Alfonso: Alfonso's maternal uncle Garcia ibn Lubb (='son of Lupus') and Saltan, "the best knight of pagans". The battle lasted for thirteen days of non-stop combat during which, the Basques planned their defense in rough fords of rivers and ravines, blocking access with logs, trenches and pits dug with their own weapons, that Muslims could not get through. Finally, the Christian-Basque forces took the offensive and tried to cross the river but the Muslims had sealed off the crossing and massacred them with swords and lances. The major part of the victims died after falling off of the cliffs surrounding the battleground.

With the subsequent rains, the Christians were found ill prepared after all their defensive works had been destroyed. The Basque-Asturians vassals of Charlemagne were forced to withdraw. However, the Muslims were equally in a difficult situation and despite victorious much of their army deserted the field.


The defeat of the army of Asturian-Basque Frankish vassals sparked a general revolt by the Basques against the Frankish crown and established Íñigo Arista of Pamplona as a major Basque power player in the region.[4]


  1. d'Abadal i de Vinyals, Ramon (1986) (in Catalán). El domini carolingi a Catalunya. Ed. Institut d'Estudis Catalans. pp. 186–188. ISBN 978-84-321-1882-1. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Suárez Fernández, Luis. Historia de España Antigua y media. Ediciones Rialp. pp. 86–92. ISBN 978-84-321-1882-1. 
  3. Lévi-Provençal, Évariste (1954). Textos inéditos del Muqtabis de Ibn Hayyan sobre los orígenes del Reino de Pamplona. pp. 296–297. ISSN 0304-4335. 
  4. Sánchez Albornoz, Claudio; Claudio Sánchez Albornoz. Problemas del Reino de Navarra del siglo IX. p. 16. 

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