Most people don’t understand the importance of this battle.This is the battle that caused the reign of the Muslim people over Spain holding it for a lot of centuries. One slight mistake that was made by personal ambitions ended up to be a disaster. Lots of lives were lost and huge trouble was created for the European countries.
What if this mistake wasn’t made, and the Gothic kingdom was still standing? How could this small battle change the course of Europe’s history? Maybe they could centralize the kingdom and invade the African coast pushing the Muslims from both sides, But that wasn’t what happened and Spain was conquered.
The Time Period
This is an unstable time period for Europe.The fall of the Roman empire on the west caused a huge vacuum and new kingdoms were established. The way most kingdoms were established was mostly on other fallen kingdoms in the medieval period.
The Goths were Germanic people with an interesting past and caused some trouble to the Roman empire. They finally moved to the Iberian peninsula and established their kingdom which was unique. The Visigothic Kingdom was established in 418 and ended in the year 718 – 720. This is a good time period and they could have made some good progress if it wasn’t for the swift and drastic changes.
How Everything Changed?
Well, the Visigothic Kingdom was in a very good state, everything was well established and the central power was stable. But things were changing all the time and that made things complicated.
This kingdom was run by more houses with a good amount of power across Spain. On the kingdom sat a younger ruler named Wittiza. He was very well respected, the time was peaceful and he had a previous experience of ruling with his father.
This was a peaceful time, even though there were border attacks from the Byzantium and the Francs along with some slight inside conflicts, everything else was good. Then out of nowhere in the year around 710, the young king was thrown off the Throne. The exact reasons aren’t well known, and there is a chance that he was murdered.
As a pretended to the throne came a noble from a big family called Roderic. He reigned for two years around 710 to 712 and he is also known as the last king of the Goths. Roderic was crowned king but in the meantime, there was an opposition. Another king was crowned, some king named Achila who also had a claim to the kingdom.
Things were getting tenser every day because one had the lower part of Spain which was south and the other had the East. A serious risk of civil war was going to advance but there was also a third threat.
The Umayyad Caliphate
Before I continue I don’t know a lot about this topic because I haven’t taken much notice in this history but will do in the near future. Feel free to comment below so we can discuss on various topics and make this post more relevant and interesting.
The leader of this Caliphate was called Musa, this caliphate had the north coast of Africa under their control and it’s really close to the European territory of Spain. They started with small attacks to see how would the border hold up and if they should plan the next conquest or not.
But after this big change inside the Kingdom, a lot of things have changed and it wasn’t stable anymore. The leader Musa sent his governor called Tariq on a quest (who was located in Tanjir) to simply cross the water barrier and move to Spain. And because of the situation which was going on here with the Kingdom of Visigoths he crossed and conquered a good portion of territory from the South border of Spain.
Because of this, the Muslim leader wanted to grab a hold of more, he knew there was a situation inside the kingdom which made things easier. So he sent more troops to Tariq to grab a hold of more land.
Knowing that an intruder was crossing and conquering his borders Roderic was getting ready and recruiting troops to defend his kingdom. The interesting part is that even his enemies the Athila went to give him troops as help for the defense of their Kingdom. The other nobles helped here as well, all houses got together to push the invaders.
When Roderic gathered his troops he was ready to move south to meet with the enemy. By the sources combined with the analytics, the troops for Roderic were around 25 000 – 35 000 while the Caliphate had around 6 000 – 14 000. You are probably wondering how on earth did the Visigoths lose?
Most of the troops Roderic had were not so ready for battle, they had no training and experience plus they were lower class people. This can be a factor in the battle and their loss but what really happened?
Battle of Guadalete was believed to be held around 711 but some sources suggest 712. They met near the Guadalete river and their forces were face to face. Everything was ready and the battle was about to begin.
When the forces marched into each other they clashed but the problem was the forces of the Visigoths were split into 3 orders. The middle order was Roderic’s. He first charged into the enemy, and it was the logical thing to do, having the numbers advantage it was a normal strategy, but the right and left wing didn’t engage.
They moved back and the generals pulled their troops out and away. Seeing that Rodric was betrayed he and his troops were killed and routed by the units of Umayyad and their Berber mounted troops. After this, the nobles which betrayed their king maybe made a deal with the Umayyad but it was too late.
They made a huge mistake and didn’t defeat the enemy when they had the chance. The army of the Caliphate advanced into Spain conquering almost all of it and destroying the kingdom of the Goths in 718 – 720.
I’m pretty sure that the nobles realized how big of a mistake they made when they throw their victory away. They might get something in return but this little and stupid mistake made a huge impact on the history of Europe and Asia.