Battle of Atoleiros

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Battle of Atoleiros
Part of 1383–1385 Crisis
Date 6 April 1384
Location Atoleiros, Alentejo, Portugal
39°01′16″N 7°37′34″W / 39.021°N 7.626°W / 39.021; -7.626Coordinates: 39°01′16″N 7°37′34″W / 39.021°N 7.626°W / 39.021; -7.626
Result Portuguese victory[1]
PortugueseFlag1385.svg Kingdom of Portugal Escudo Corona de Castilla.png Crown of Castile
Commanders and leaders
Nuno Álvares Pereira Fernando Sanchez de Tovar
Pedro Álvares Pereira
Pero Gonzalez de Sevilla 
Martim Anes de Barundo
1,400 men:[2][3]
  • 1,000 foot soldiers[4]
  • 300 cavalry[5]
  • 100 crossbowman[6]
5,000 men[7]
  • 3,000 foot soldiers
  • 2,000 cavalry[8]
Casualties and losses
No casualties[9][10] Heavy[11]

The Battle of Atoleiros (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐtuˈlɐjɾuʃ]) took place on 6 April 1384, between a Portuguese force and a punitive expedition from Castile sent by John I. The battle took place near the population centre of the same name[12] in Alentejo. It was the first major battle of the 1383–1385 Crisis.

Nuno Álvares Pereira had been chosen to protect the frontier in this area, amid fear that a Castilian force could enter Portugal here. He left Lisbon with 1,000 infantry, adding to the strength of his forces on his way to Atoleiros. The Castilian army consisted of some 6,000 men, mostly cavalry, which was besieging the village of Fronteira. As Pereira approached, the Castilians sent an emissary to him, attempting to persuade him to retire. He refused, and the Castilians advanced to meet him, lifting the siege. The Portuguese formed a defensive square. In the short battle that followed, the Castilian cavalry was unable to break the Portuguese formation, suffering heavy losses. The Portuguese suffered none, and the Castilians withdrew.

The battle of Atoleiros represents the first effective use of “square tactics” on the battleground. This tactic, in which groups of infantry armed with both missile and hand-to-hand weapons defended themselves from all directions, was so successful that it was still in use over 500 years later during the Napoleonic Wars against mass French cavalry attacks, and during the Zulu War against huge masses of predominantly spear-armed infantry. It was especially effective when the infantry had to fight against strong cavalry.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tony Jaques, p.81
  2. ^ Conceição, p.47
  3. ^ Sylva, p.57
  4. ^ Conceição, p.47
  5. ^ Conceição, p.47
  6. ^ Conceição, p.47
  7. ^ Affreizo, p.96
  8. ^ Castro, p.197
  9. ^ History of Portugal, p.176
  10. ^ Sylva, p.65
  11. ^ Castro, p.198
  12. ^


  • Tony Jaques, Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A-E (2007) ISBN 0-313-33536-2
  • History of Portugal: Pamphlet Collection (197?) ISBN 1-00-128780-0
  • Cláudio da Conceição, Gabinete historico: Desde 1325 até 1580 (1818)
  • José Soares da Sylva, Memorias para a historia de Portugal: que comprehendem o governo del rey D. Joaõ o I., do anno de mil etrezentos e oitenta e tres, até o anno de mil e quatrocentos e trinta e tres (1731)
  • José María da Graça Affreizo, Compendio de historia de Portugal (1885)
  • Damião António de Lemos Faria e Castro, Historia geral de Portugal, e suas conquistas (1786)