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Covadonga was the scene of the first significant victory by Christian forces in Spain following the Moors conquest in 711. The victory at Covadonga assured the survival of a Christian stronghold in northern Spain, and today is regarded as the beginning of the Reconquista.


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Some years after the Muslim conquest of Iberia, Pelayo, a Visigoth nobleman of the country's former rulers, managed to expel a provincial governor named Munuza from the district of Asturias in the northwestern part of the Iberian peninsula. He held the territory against a number of attempts to re-establish Muslim control, and soon established the Kingdom of Asturias which became a Christian stronghold against further Muslim expansion.


Pelayo was unable to keep the Muslims out in many cases, but neither could they defeat him, and as soon as they left Asturias, he would re-establish control. In the late summer of 722, a Moorish general named Alqama led his men into Pelayo's territory, and overran much of it, forcing Pelayo to retreat deep into the mountains of Asturias. Pelayo retired into a narrow valley flanked by mountains, which was easily defensible due to the impossibility of launching a broad-fronted attack. Pelayo may have had as few as 300 men with him at this point.


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Alqama eventually arrived at Covadonga, and sent forward an envoy to convince Pelayo to surrender. He refused, so Alqama ordered his best troops into the valley to fight. The Asturians opened fire from the slopes of the mountains, and then at some point, Pelayo personally led some of his soldiers out into the valley. They had been hiding in a cave, unseen by the Moors. The Christian accounts of the battle claim that the slaughter among the Moors was great, while Moorish accounts describe it as a mere skirmish. Alqama himself fell in the battle, and his soldiers fled from the battlefield


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In the aftermath of Pelayo's victory, the people of the conquered villages of Asturias now emerged with their weapons, and killed hundreds of Alqama's fleeing troops. Munuza, learning of the defeat, organized another force, and gathered what was left of the survivors of Covadonga. At some later date, he confronted Pelayo and his now greatly-augmented force, near the modern town of Proaza. Again Pelayo won, and Munuza was killed in the fighting. And although the Muslims in their own histories called Pelayo and his men "thirty Infidels left, what can they do", they never again seriously challenged the independence of the Kingdom of Asturias

 


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