In the second decade of the twelfth century, Alfonso the Battler, King of Aragon and Navarre, made enormous gains against the Almoravids by conquering important portions of the Ebro River Valley, including the cities of Zaragoza and Tudela. The loss of Zaragoza was perhaps the greatest disaster for Iberian Islam since the passage of Toledo into Christian hands in 1085. Ali ibn-Yusuf, the Almoravid ruler, reacted by mustering an army to check Alfonso’s advance.
By the spring of 1120, the Battler had already put Calatayud to siege, and had even dispatched troops to capture Daroca. Ali ibn-Yusuf selected his brother, Ibrahim ibn-Yusuf, governor of Seville, to lead the expedition against the Aragonese. Ibrahim was one of Ali’s most trusted and talented generals, who had proven himself over the years in Iberian politics. Ibrahim marched his army toward Alfonso’s position, joined en-route by Mohammedan forces from Murcia, Granada, and Lérida. The full Almoravid army that then moved to attack Alfonso probably numbered around 2,500 cavalry and 5,000 infantry.
Alfonso's army annihilated the Almoravids at Cutanda
Alfonso had good intelligence on their approach, and mustered his troops for a counter-attack. In addition to Alfonso’s Aragonese and Navarrese troops, he had considerable French allies with him, including the army of Count William of Poitiers. This was a rare instance in which the Christian army may have slightly outnumbered the Mohammedan troops.
Alfonso took the Almoravids by surprise on June 17th near the village of Cutanda, in the Jiloca River Valley. A series of punishing cavalry charges led by the Battler himself utterly devastated the Almoravids. So total was the destruction visited upon the Mohammedan forces that for years afterwards a saying endured that the unlucky “were like the vanquished at Cutanda.” As a result, Calatayud and Daroca fell to the Christians. Alfonso the Battler’s conquests were some of the most devastating losses for al-Andalus during the early twelfth century. Never again would the Almoravids attempt to take the Frontera Superior from the Aragonese.