Here it should be noted right away that the State of the Visigoths, even at the peak of its prosperity, simply could not collect tens and hundreds of thousands of warriors indicated in medieval sources, and King Rodrigo had even limited resources. His state was in crisis because of the civil war, and the constant hostilities and sharply increased separatism greatly reduced the mobilization capabilities of the ruler of Spain.
King Rodrigo at the head of his army moves to the river Guadaletta
Apparently, in reality, his army was so small that he not only abandoned the siege of Pamplona, leaving even a blocking contingent there, but went to conclude treaties on peace and alliance almost immediately with all his opponents from among the Westtow and Rome-Iberian aristocrats .
Goths fell not ingloriously:
They bravely beat,
For a long time the Moors doubted
Overcome someone who.
Eight days of battle lasted;
The dispute was finally resolved:
Was caught on the battlefield
Horse's favorite king ...
And, at first glance, he managed to gather quite a large and seemingly efficient army. According to modern researchers, he was able to score about 15-20 thousand people against the army of jihadists, or maybe even 30-33 thousand, which is relatively close to the smallest medieval estimates of his forces in 40 thousand.
However, his army was a reflection of Westgotland in miniature, with exactly the same problems and shortcomings. And the main one was that in his army real professional cavalry warriors, according to modern estimates, were only, at best, 2-3 thousand people, and the rest were mostly barely armed militias.
This was due to the fact that Roderick’s army reflected the specifics of the class structure of the early feudal society of Spain. And in this society, only aristocrats with equestrian guards (mostly, as it turned out later, there were a significant number of people who were in sharp opposition to the king and planned betrayal) could be professional military men.
Small contingents (estimated at several thousand) of relatively efficient heavy and medium infantry in the army of Christians were soldiers who were in the royal service and were recruited from the garrisons of the cities, where they ensured the rule of law and supported the power of the king. Basically, in their origin, they were also Germans - the West Goths from the poor strata, sweaters, vandals, etc., who lived in the Iberian Peninsula since the Great Migration.
Map of the Islamist invasion of the Iberian Peninsula
In addition, relatively efficient small contingents of light and medium cavalry were formed from the border troops, from forces like the local mounted police, and even from the analogue of the postal service. But that was all, and the remaining units, and this is the majority of the Christian troops, were represented by poorly capable infantry recruited from the Ibero-Romans. And even if they had any desire to fight for the power of the “Germans,” there was no real opportunity to do this successfully in a field battle (since the Visigoths had deprived the Ibero-Romans of military service and the right to wear weapons).
Tariq Ibn Ziyad’s army was numerically indeed smaller than the Christian army, but far from 8 or 10 or even 20 times, as Muslim authors write even nowadays, but about 1,5-2 times. At the same time, it consisted mostly of well-armed, battle-hardened and extremely fanatically-minded fighters.
In addition to 7.000 people with whom Tariq landed at Gibraltar, Musa ibn-Nusayr sent him, according to some data, 5.000, according to other data - 12.000 warriors from Berbers (there were about 80%) and Arabs (there were about 20%).
In general, it should be said that what really happened was not so much the Arab, but the Berber conquest of Spain. The Berbers were a nomadic people who lived on the northern outskirts of the then still emerging Sahara. The invaders-Arabs defeated them in a difficult struggle, but, assessing their fighting qualities, they gave a choice — either the Berbers would forever remain “defeated”, “dhimmi”, or accept Islam, enter the army of winners and provide their soldiers for the campaign in Spain. The combination of strength and cunning, seasoned with coarse flattery, allowed the Arabian conquerors to recruit (at the expense of promises of great victories and unbelievable riches waiting for them) a great many warriors from converts fanatics who became the basis of Tariq's troops.
In addition, a small contingent of professional warriors under the command of Count Julian (don Juan of the Late Hispanic and Ilyan Arabic annals), as one of the main initiators of the invasion, joined the army of jihadists.
And also among the allies of the Islamists who invaded Spain, we can note a very unusual contingent of Spanish and North African Jews, as well as Berbers who accepted Judaism and even a few Judaized Germans from the Vandal tribe who still survive in the Western Maghreb.
The exact number of this, quite unusual for the army of the jihad, the contingent is unknown, but it was headed by a separate “amir” of Kaula Al-Yahudi (whose name absolutely speaks of Jewish origin). The warriors of this unit had the main idea of revenge on the Visigoths, these "early medieval Spanish Germans" for the persecution that some of the Westgreenland kings rained down on the Jews.
Some authors have noted their prowess in the battles and at the same time inexorable brutality after the battle and during the repressions that they brought down in the captured cities to the West Gothic aristocracy and the Christian priesthood, which they considered the main culprits of persecution.
In the course of the further Muslim conquest of Spain, this contingent under the command of Kaula Al-Yahudi will take cities such as Seville and Cordoba, and will move further north, along the Mediterranean coast of the country, reaching even Catalonia. However, later, in 718, after the conquest of all of Spain, this commander quarreled with the Islamic authorities, raised an armed rebellion, his unit would be defeated, he himself executed, and the surviving Jews and Ger soldiers would hide in Jewish communities on the Mediterranean coast.
Bird's-eye view of one of the possible locations of the battlefield, next to the Guadaletta River
Unfortunately, the exact course of the battle due to the paucity of surviving historical descriptions can only be restored in general terms. The battle took place on a flat plain and, apparently, the relief did not affect the course of the battle in any way (except that the Muslims had chosen the area they needed in advance and met the Visigoths at a position convenient for the Tariq army).
Tarik was desperate for time, probably waiting for a reinforcement hike. He even tried to start negotiations, but Roderick was adamant, demanding that the jihadists of the world should immediately evacuate and compensate for all the damages from their invasion.
Apparently, the Arab-Berber army was built in a classic, spaced apart along the front and in depth, the battle order of several lines. This allowed the commander to freely increase the force of the strike in the right place and freely operate with reserves. The Visigoths, apparently, built up in one solid line: in the center in a deep formation - infantry, on the flanks - the cavalry.
The army of the Visigoths probably exceeded the length of the army of Tariq's army, however, due to the dismemberment of the battle order, its battle line was almost equal to the Christian army.
Both leaders took their places deep in the central positions of their battle lines: the leader of the Islamists was surrounded by his 300 "Ansars", and the leader of the Christians rode out on a chariot (probably, according to the custom of the Roman emperors; in addition, it is very convenient to observe the battlefield from the chariot).
All sources point out the very fierce nature of the battle. After a rather long exchange of fire and a number of fights (probably lasting for several days), both sides "came together with a lot of noise." Sich lasted a long time. Muslims increased the force of strikes, and the battle formations of the untrained infantry of Christians in the center turned into a huge, difficult to control crowd.
Battle of the river Guadaletta. In the center you can see the infantry battle, on the flanks - the cavalry. In the left part of the image of the battlefield, cavalrymen deserting from the Visigothic army under the command of their traitorous leaders are clearly visible.
Even worse for the king of the Visigoths was the situation on the flanks. If on one wing the Christian squads sufficiently successfully repelled the jihadist cavalry, then on the other wing the heavy cavalry forces, commanded by opposition opposition aristocrats, at first simply did not obey the order to attack, and then left the battlefield altogether. As it can be understood from one description, apparently, the horsemen under the command of the traitorous graphs did not just deserted, but even attacked their own brethren from their flank.
As you can see, Tariq did not just take the time before the battle - he was probably able to secretly negotiate treason with the former opponents of the king, and even bribed them. This, in parallel with the inept tactics and poor training of most of the Visigoth troops, predetermined the rout of Christians.
After the betrayal of the cavalry of one of the flanks or the liberated cavalry of the Muslims struck the other wing, turning it to flight, or there the Christian cavalry crumpled contingent from the equestrian reserve of jihadists.
Modern and most historically accurate image of warriors in the thick of the battle of Jerez de la Frontier
At the same time, the king, seeing the defeat of his troops, according to Christian annals, decided to take part in the decisive attack and rushed forward, disappearing forever in the crowd of combatants. According to Muslim descriptions, Tariq himself, seeing Rodrigo on a chariot, or hit his guards at the head of it right through the fighting infantry in the center, or, more likely, bypassing the front of one of the flanks, striking the side of the king’s squad.
Be that as it may, the last reserve of the Visigoths, the warriors of the king, was crushed. He had relatively weak resistance to jihadists (and some of them, apparently, also changed the king and fled). And, perhaps most importantly, according to a number of sources, the ruler of Spain was one of the first to die during this attack (although some authors believe that Roderick did not die in the bat under Guadalette, because his bodies were not found, only his golden one was found the chariot, and the king was able to run, collect a new army and died only in September 713, in the battle of Seguel).
But be that as it may, the dagger attack of the heavily armed mounted Ansars Tariq decided the course of the battle. After that, or seeing the death of his king, or seeing his escape and simply tired of the battle, a huge mass of Spanish Christians, sandwiched on three sides, rushed to escape from the intended environment around the “golden bridge” skillfully provided by jihadists, laying their bodies on the battlefield Jerez de la Frontier.
"The Final Battle of Guadalette" (Art. - Mariano Barbasa).
The losses of the Visigoth troops turned out to be catastrophic. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of Christians died during the encirclement and the persecution of the fleeing. The human losses of contingents in southern and central Spain were very high - jihadists were actively pursuing and did not take prisoners, rightly believing that the former warriors are bad slaves, and in the cities without defenders they will gain enough captives.
Old men and poor women
At the crossroads he sees;
All the crowd fleeing from the Moors
All sobbing, pray to God
About the salvation of Christians ...
And, most importantly, this battle decided the fate of Spain because most of the very few then lost in this kingdom of professional warriors, both recruited from the garrisons of cities and from among the Gothic aristocracy, died in it. In addition, another part of the ruling class has treacherously turned to the side of the conquerors, even more depriving the people of the possibility of resistance to the Islamists. It is this, in combination with a number of other factors, that opened the country to further conquest.
However, the losses among the troops of the “hard-fought gazavat” were heavy: judging by Muslim sources, about 25% of the battle participants died, and in reality, perhaps, much more. This is evidenced by the fact that after the battle, the army of Tariq Ibn Ziyad was so weakened that she did not begin to pursue strategic pursuit and further conquest of the country, and limited herself to the seizure of nearby areas. The march to Toledo was postponed until the following year, when in 712, Musa Ibn-Nuseir himself headed the new large army landed in Spain.
PS The ruler of Ceuta and his daughter, in many respects contributing to the invasion of jihadists in Spain, did not live happily ever after. Earl Julian, who was probably Rumian in origin (ie, a Byzantine) and did not convert to Islam, although he was close to the court of Musa Ibn Nusayr, was surrounded by the contempt of the Islamic aristocracy both as a non-Muslim and a traitor. As a result, when he once again tried to somehow defend the stipulated sovereignty of Ceuta in front of the governor of Africa, he was executed without further ado, and his property was included in the caliphate.
His daughter, both because of her dubious "glory" and because of the rejection of the lifestyle prepared for women by radical Islamists, was also not accepted among the upper-class conquerors. After the execution of her father, she became not even a wife, but simply a concubine of one of the emirs, who made her a “harem slave” and took her to her castle, El Pedroche, located in the province of Cordova, where she either lost her mind or committed suicide aware of the terrible consequences of their actions.
According to local legends, her ghost appeared in this castle for several centuries, until, in 1492, during the Reconquista Muslims were not completely expelled from the territory of Spain ...
Keeping the memory of the Battle of Guadalette and the female perfidy that ruined the kingdom, the Spaniards still drink the wine "La Cava"
Basic sources and literature
Álvarez Palenzuela, Vicente Ángel. Historia de Espana de la Media. Barcelona: Diagonal, 2008
Collins, Roger. La Espana visigoda: 474-711. Barcelona: Critica, 2005
Collins, Roger. España en la Alta Edad Media 400-1000. // Early Medieval Spain. Unity and diversity, 400-1000. Barcelona: Crítica, 1986
García Moreno, Luis A. Las invasiones y la época visigoda. Reinos y condados cristianos. // En Juan José Sayas; Luis A. García Moreno. Romanismo y Germanismo. El despertar de los pueblos hispánicos (siglos IV-X). Vol. II de la Historia de España, dirigida por Manuel Tuñón de Lara. Barcelona, 1982
LORING, Mª Isabel; PÉREZ, Dionisio; FUENTES, Pablo. La Hispania tardorromana y visigoda. Siglos V-VIII. Madrid: "Síntesis", 2007
Patricia E. Grieve. Confirmation of Baltimore: "Johns Hopkins University Press", 2009
Ripoll López, Gisela. La Hispania visigoda: del rey Ataúlfo a Don Rodrigo. Madrid: Temas de Hoy, 1995.