Las Navas de Tolosa

The battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, does not appear to be one of the featured battle of MTW.  This I find quite amazing, as it was a most important battle, and some would say it changed history.  It is my intention to correct this oversight by the creators.

The initial battle I created was for the MTW demo, however, as the full game as now been released I have modified this initial mod to be included in the battles section.

BACKGROUNDwhile Pope Urban was preaching the First Crusade at Clermont in 1095, urging the people of France to take up the Cross to regain Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Saracens, a similar crusading spirit prevailed south of the Pyrenees, in the Christian kingdoms of Leon, Aragon and Castile.

Spain has been first conquered by the Muslim Moors in 711, but he 11th century the country was divided between the areas  reconquered by the Christians in the north and the Moorish lands of the south (al-Andalus).The process to liberate the south was gathering strength. The following century saw the introduction of the white-robed Knights of Calatrava and the red-cloaked Knights of Santiago, the rulers of the spanish kingdoms took the initiative against the crumbling Muslim power.

The death of Caliph Yaqoob in 1199, saw his shy, nervous and unwarlike son, al-Nasir come to the thrown, known as Miramamolin. The Christians took the initative and began raiding into Almohad territory.  By 1211 Nasir haad had enough and brought an army across from Africa, landing in seville and threatening Alphonso, King of Castile, with retribution.  By 1212 a great cosmopolitan crusading army was assembling at Toledo, including representatives from Aragon, Castile, Portugal, Leon, Navarre along with Italy, France and Germany.  It was an impressive force numbering perhaps 10,000 knights and 60,000 footsoldiers.  Even so, they could expect to be outnumbered by Nasir’s army of Berbers, African Negroes and Andalusians.

THE BATTLEOn 13 July Alphonso encountered the Almohad army at Las Navas de Tolosa.  For two days both armies sat watching each other, content to skirmish.  Finally on 16 July the christian army formed up for battle in four devisions.  At the rear, Alphonso VIII with the knights of the military orders formed a reserve, while in the front line the centre was held by his men of Castile and Leon under Diego Lopez de Haro.  On the left winf was Pedro II commanded the troops of Aragon, and on the right Sancho VII led the men of Navarre.

The battle began with a series of frontal charges by heavily armoured Leonise knights under Diego Lopez, which were repulsed by the Muslims.  The tactics of the Almohad were described by one of their warriors:

We formed a square on the flat land.  On all four sides we placed a rank of men with long spears in their hands.   Behind them stood a second line with spears and javelins while behind them were men with bags of stones. Behind all stood archers.

However, when the Almohad counter-attacked to the sound of huge kettle-drums, some several yards in daimeter – with Andalusian heavy cavalry and Mauretanian light horse men, they were held up by the infantry of the Spanish reserve, who peppered them with missiles from slings, bows and crossbows.  There now occured a vicious dispute between Miramamolins Berber and Andalusian troops, and the later suddenly deserted en masse, throwing the Caliph back on his African troops alone.  Taking advantage of this Alphonsolaunched his reserve to join the two wings under Pedro II and Sancho VII and broke the Almohad line with his armoured knights, rolling up his left wing. King sancho broke right through the muslim defenders to Miramamolins magnificent gold-embroidered tent, which was surrounded by a palisade held together by chains.  The Caliphs Negro guards armed with spears and enormous hide shields, fought ferociously around the royal tent, but the knight of Navarre hacked them down and seized the pavilion.  It was a signal for Miramomolin to flee the field and make his way to Seville, with just 4000 of his men remaining.  The Almohad losses were large – possibly a third of thier entire army – but in view of the desertion of the Andalusians it is possible to exaggerate their casulities.  In spite of chroniclers, who speak of just 25 or 30 spanish casualties, it is clear that such a hard-fought battle christian losses must have been heavy, particularly to the military orders, which had borne the brunt of the fighting.  The booty was immense and the great tapestry that covered the entrance to Miramamolins tent was sent to the monastery of Las Huelgas at Burgos, where it still hangs today as a symbol of this battle – Spains greatest national victory.

Alphonso’s victory was the ‘waterloo of the arab rule in Spain’. the muslim threat to Christian Spain was ended and the Almohad Empires days were numbered.  Miramamolin was dead within a year, with his death the equilibrium in Spain between a Christian north and a Muslim south was permanently altered.  Within 40 years the whole of al-Andalus had fallen to the Christians, leaving only the Muslim kingdom of Granada in the south beyond christian control

 SPANISHCommander : King Alphonso VIII of Castile
Vanguard : Diego Lopez de Haro, Lord of Viczaya
Centre : Pedro II of Aragon
Rearguard: Alphonso and Archbishop Rodrigo of Toledo
Numbers : 10,000 knights and heavy cavalry, 60,000 infantry
ALMOHADSCommander : Mirammolin
Numbers : Unknown