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Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Battle of Fraga, 1134

Toward the end of his reign, Alfonso the Battler had conquered enormous portions of the Moors’ Ebro Frontier. By 1132, Alfonso felt ready to push on to Lérida and Fraga. He assembled an impressive coalition army of Aragonese, Navarrese, and French troops. By 1133 Alfonso took control of the Mohammedan fortress of Mequinenza, and he besieged Fraga.

The siege of Fraga was long and difficult, especially due to the capable leadership of Abd Allah ibn-Iyad, the governor of Lérida, who harassed Alfonso’s efforts as much as possible. The siege dragged on over a year: a testament to Alfonso’s abilities as a general, since he managed to hold together disparate forces for a long period of time.

Realizing the enormous danger posed by Alfonso’s campaign, the Almoravid governor of Valencia, ibn-Ganiya attempted to relieve Fraga twice. The first time, in early 1134, ibn-Ganiya was defeated. But later that year, ibn-Ganiya came up with a new plan. On July 17, 1134, ibn-Ganiya’s Almoravid army attacked Alfonso’s camp. When the Battler rallied his forces for a counterattack, the Moors of Fraga mounted a sally and attacked Alfonso’s troops from behind. The fighting that followed was hard, but the Almoravids gained the advantage. Alfonso’s army was devastated. His old ally, Centulle of Bigorre was killed, along with thousands of French and Spanish troops. Alfonso himself was wounded, but managed to escape with a group of knights, despite being doggedly pursued by the victorious Almoravids.

This victory was important psychologically for the Almoravids. After being defeated repeatedly by Alfonso the Battler for years, the Almoravids finally managed to take revenge on the conqueror of Zaragoza. The Almoravids did manage to make some temporary gains as a result of the victory, but the overall reality of Alfonso’s Ebro conquests remained. An attempt by the Moors to recapture Zaragoza in the wake of Fraga failed, and in the coming years Alfonso’s heirs would not only regain what was lost at Fraga, but push the Mohammedan frontier back even farther.

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