Battle of Graus

Coordinates: 42°11′N 0°20′E / 42.183°N 0.333°E / 42.183; 0.333
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Battle of Graus
Part of the Reconquista
Result Castilian–Zaragozan victory
Aragon Castile, Zaragoza
Commanders and leaders
Ramiro I of Aragon  Sancho the Strong,
al-Muktadir of Zaragoza,
El Cid

The Battle of Graus was a battle of the Reconquista, traditionally said to have taken place on 8 May 1063.[1] Either in or as a result of the battle, King Ramiro I of Aragon died.[2]

Antonio Ubieto Arteta, in his Historia de Aragón, re-dated the battle to 1069.[3] The late twelfth-century Chronica naierensis dates the encounter to 1070.[4]

Ramiro's first attempt to take Graus, the northernmost Muslim outpost in the valley of the Cinca, took place in 1055, probably in response to the defeat of García Sánchez III of Navarre at Atapuerca the year before (1054), which placed Ferdinand I of León and Castile in a commanding position against Ramiro's western border and the Muslim Taifa of Zaragoza to his south. His first expedition against Graus failed, and in 1059 Ferdinand succeeded in extorting parias (tribute) from Zaragoza. Ramiro marched on Graus again in the spring of 1063, but this time the Zaragozans had with them 300 Castilian knights under the infante Sancho the Strong and (possibly) his general Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as El Cid.[5] The presence of the Cid at the battle is based on a single source, the generally reliable Historia Roderici, which alleges that he was the alférez of Sancho at the time. Considering the rarity of the Cid's name in the documents of the early 1060s, this is unlikely.[6]

The circumstances of the actual battle are obscure. Reinhart Dozy argued that Ramiro survived four months after the battle and that neither the Cid nor Sancho took any part in it. The Fragmentum historicum ex cartulario Alaonis records only that occisus est a mauris in bello apud Gradus (he [Ramiro] was killed by the Moors in war near Graus), with no mention of the Castilians. The aforementioned Chronica naierensis contains an account generally, though not universally, regarded as a legend: that Sancho Garcés, an illegitimate son of García Sánchez III of Navarre, eloped with the daughter of García's wife, Stephanie (probably by an earlier marriage), who was the fiancée of the Castilian infante Sancho, and that he sought refuge at the court first of Zaragoza, then later of Aragon.[7] Sancho, to avenge the disruption of his marriage plans, marched against Ramiro and Zaragoza, and Ramiro died in the encounter near "the place called Graus" (loco qui Gradus dicitur) in 1064 or 1070. According to the Arabic historian al-Turtūshī, Ramiro (misidentified as "Ibn Rudmīr", the son of Ramiro) was assassinated by a Muslim soldier who spoke the Christians' language and infiltrated the Aragonese camp.[8]

Charles Bishko, summarising the position of Pierre Boissonnade, explains how the battle of Graus gave impetus to the War of Barbastro of the next year:

. . . the expedition against Barbastro is above all a French crusade, inspired by Cluny and launched through Cluny's persuasion by the papacy of Alexander II, the purpose of which is to preserve a hard-pressed Aragonese kingdom from imminent invasion and possible destruction at the hands of the Muslims, following Ramiro I's shattering defeat and death at Graus on 8 May 1063. Graus, in this Hispanic prelude to the Palestinian gesta Dei per Francos, serves as an Iberian Manzikert, with King Sancho Ramírez—like the legates of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus at Piacenza—appealing in desperation for papal and Frankish succor. . .[9]

Graus was finally taken by Sancho Ramírez, Ramiro's successor, in 1083.


  1. ^ The date comes from an epitaph of Ramiro preserved in the abbey of San Juan de la Peña, but not necessarily contemporary, cf. Diego Catalán (1966), "Sobre el «Ihante» que quemó la mezquita de Elvira y la crisis de Navarra en el siglo XI," Al-Andalus, 31:1/2, 230–1.
  2. ^ Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, (Oxford University Press, 1989), 113.
  3. ^ A date accepted by Thomas N. Bisson (2000), The Medieval Crown of Aragon: A Short History (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 14. The basis for Ubieto Arteta's argument was a document of Ramiro's dating to March 1064, which he believed to be an original; the re-dating contradicts most primary sources, Latin and Arabic.
  4. ^ Jaime de Salazar y Acha (1994), "Reflexiones sobre la posible historicidad de un episodio de la Crónica Najerense," Príncipe de Viana, 55(201):149–56.
  5. ^ Charles Julian Bishko (1980), "Fernando I and the Origins of the Leonese-Castilian Alliance With Cluny," Studies in Medieval Spanish Frontier History (London: Variorum Reprints), 65. Originally published in Cuadernos de Historia de España, 47(1968):31–135, and 48(1969):30–116.
  6. ^ Bernard F. Reilly (1989), The Kingdom of León-Castilla under King Alfonso VI, 1065–1109 (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 37–8. Ramón Menéndez Pidal dates the Cid's birth to c.1043, making him about twenty years old at the time of his first battle, but Ubieto Arteta re-dates his birth to c.1054.
  7. ^ . . . inter hec Santius rex desponsaverat sibi filiam regine Stephanie. Que, cum ad ipsum duceretur, infans domnus Santius, quem rex Garsias Pampilonensium ex concubina habuerat, saltum in viam dedit, quia nuntii amoris celo truciabantur. Rapuit eam, et cum ipsa ad regem maurorum Caesaraugustanum se contulit et ad patruum suum regem Ranimirum, qui eum pro sua probitate et armorum nobilitate quasi filium diligebat; quod rex Santius ulcisci desiderans Caesaraugustam cum suo perrexit exercitu, cui Ranimirus rex cum suis in loco qui Gradus dicitur ocurrens, ab eo in bello interfectus est era MCVIII (quoted in Salazar y Acha, 150 n2).
  8. ^ Brian A. Catlos (2004), The Victors and the Vanquished: Christians and Muslims of Catalonia and Aragon, 1050–1300 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-82234-3), 37.
  9. ^ Bishko, 55.

42°11′N 0°20′E / 42.183°N 0.333°E / 42.183; 0.333