The Battle of Alarcos was a battle between the Almohads, led by caliph Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur, and the Castilians, ruled by Alfonso VIII. It took place on July 18 1195 in Alarcos, Spain, and resulted in the victory of the Almohads and the retreat of the Castilians to Toledo.
In 1190, the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansur succeeded in repelling the attacks of the Castilians over the Muslim territories and an armistice was agreed upon. When the truce ended in 1194, King Alfonso VIII decided to attack Seville and ransack it. Immediately, Al-Mansur left Marrakech, his North-African capital, to fight the Castilians, as they posed a threat to his empire.
On June 30, 1195, the Almohad army reached Cordoba. It was joined by troops raised by the local governors and a Christian cavalry contingent, Pedro Fernández de Castro, who held a personal feud against Alfonso VIII. On July 4, some knights of the Order of Calatrava gathered information about the Almohad troops while they were crossing Despeñaperros and managed to warn the Castilian King about the approaching danger.
Alfonso then marched with his army to Alarcos, a city located in the province of Ciudad Real that marked the border of his kingdom. The Almohad army reached the city on July 16, although the caliph did not accept battle until the 18th.
The Almohad had a formidable army, whose strength the Castilians underestimated. At the beginning of the battle, the Christian cavalry managed to charge uphill and disperse the Almohad forces. However, after hours of intense fighting and missiles falling on them, their fatigue took a toll on them. The Almohad took advantage of this and commanded their best forces to attack. They eventually surrounded the Castilians and left them no escape.
Alfonso tried to advance with his remaining forces but was soon assaulted from all sides. He was then removed from the battlefield by his bodyguard and fled toward Toledo. The surviving Castilian infantry sought refuge in the fortress of Alarcos, where there were also hidden women and children. Aferwards, Pedro Fernández de Castro was sent by the Almohad to negotiate the surrender. The survivors were eventually allowed to go but a few knights were left as hostages for the payment of a ransom.
The loss at the battle caused strong instability in the Kingdom of Castille for several years. All of the castles close to Alarcos were abandoned and the way to Toledo was left unprotected. Instead of taking advantage of this, the caliph moved back to Seville and adopted the title of al-Mansur Billah (‘the one victorious by God’). During the next two years, his forces devastated the region of Extremadura, La Mancha and the surroundings of Toledo. As a result, King Alfonso IX of León, who was enraged at Alfonso VIII for not waiting for him before the battle, negotiated an alliance with the Almohad and obtained the neutrality of Navarre.
Still, the caliph returned to Africa in 1198, having accomplished his goal of retaining hold over al-Andalus. He passed away a year later.
The military success of the Almohad didn’t last long. In 1212, they were severely defeated in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which put an end to the Moorish rule in the Iberian Peninsula. Their Empire collapsed a few decades later.
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