Kingdom of Pamplona

Kingdom of Pamplona
Iruñeko Erresuma (Basque)
The Kingdom of Pamplona at its greatest extent
The Kingdom of Pamplona (dark orange) at its greatest extent during the reign of Sancho III (1030)
Capital Pamplona (Iruñea)
Languages Basque[1]
Occitan (Provençal)
Government Feudal monarchy
   824–851 Íñigo Arista (first)
  1150–1162 Sancho IV (last)
Historical era Middle Ages
   Established 824
   Sancho IV names himself "King of Navarre" 1162
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Marca Hispánica
Kingdom of Navarre
Today part of  Spain

The Kingdom of Pamplona (Basque: Iruñeko Erresuma) was a Basque kingdom or polity that took form across the western Pyrenees and around the city of Pamplona during the first centuries of the Iberian Reconquista. It was thus one of the Christian political entities that arose on northern Iberia following the conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom by the Umayyad Caliphate in the early 8th century.[3] The kingdom has its origins in the conflict in the buffer region between the Frankish king Charlemagne an the Islamic caliphate that controlled most of the Iberian Peninsula. The city of Pamplona (Latin: Pompaelo; Basque: Iruñea), had been the main city of the indigenous Vasconic population and was located amid the Basque region, in a predominantly Basque-speaking area.[4]

In the year 824 Íñigo Arista, initially with support of the Caliphate of Córdoba and the Muladi Banu Qasi family, founded the Kingdom of Pamplona. Starting in the 10th century the Kingdom would break its formal alliance with Córdoba and would start expanding militarily, establishing strong links with the Christian Kingdom of Leon. A series of dynasties would follow one another, until the year 1162 when the King Sancho IV would change his title from King of Pamplona to King of Navarre, and thus giving form to the Kingdom of Navarre.


Historiographically, the kingdom is usually referred to as the Kingdom of Pamplona. After the conquest of Nájera and the reign of García Sánchez III the kingdom is usually referred to as the Kingdom of Pamplona and Nájera and eventually as the Kingdom of Navarre.


Vasconic background

Main article: Vascones
Tribes of the western Pyrenees.

The Kingdom of Pamplona originated in the southern side of the western Pyrenees, in the flatlands around the city of Pamplona. According to Roman geographers such as Pliny the Elder and Livy, these regions were inhabited by the Vascones and other related Vasconic-Aquitanian tribes, a pre-Indo-European group of peoples. These tribes already inhabited the area at the time of the Roman arrival. These tribes spoke an archaic version of the Basque language, usually known by linguistics as Proto-Basque language, as well as some other related languages, such as the Aquitanian language.

Unlike their northern neighbors, the Aquitanians, and other tribes from the Iberian Peninsula, the Vascones negotiated their status within the Roman Empire.[5] During the Sertorian War Pompey would command the foundation of a city in Vasconic territory, giving origin to Pompaelo, modern-day Pamplona, founded on a previously existent Vasconic town.

The Romans had great influence on the region around Pamplona and south of it, which led to a romanization of the Vascones living in these areas, who would eventually adopt forms of the Latin language, which would evolve into the Navarro-Aragonese language. The Basque language would remain widely spoken, especially in rural and mountainous areas.


The Duchy of Vasconia in 814.

The origin and foundation of the Kingdom of Pamplona is intrinsically related to the Carolingian expansion over the Pyrenees with the establishment of the Marca Hispánica by Charlemagne across the eastern Pyrenees and the progressive conquest of the Duchy of Vasconia following the War of Aquitaine (760-768). The duchy is commonly regarded as direct precedent of the Basque kingdom. The Duchy of Vasconia (Latin: Wasconiae) was an Early Middle Ages political entity established around 601 by the Merovingian Frankish Kingdom on the territorial base or circumscription of Roman Novempopulania, that extended from the southern course of the river Garonne to the northern side of the Pyrenees. The first documented Duke of Vasconia was Genial, who would hold that position until 627.

The Duchy of Vasconia then became a frontier territory with varying levels of autonomy granted by the Merovingian monarchs, until the advent of the Carolingian dynasty, who suppressed the autonomy of the Duchy of Vasconia as well as the Duchy of Aquitaine, both would rise, led by Lupo II of Gascony against Charlemagne in the years 760-769. Unable to regain its independence, the Duchy would be divided into several counties, ruled from Toulouse. Similarly, across the eastern Pyrenees the Marca Hispánica was established next to the Marca Gothica, a Frankish attempt at creating buffer states between the Carolingian empire and the independent Emirate of Cordova.

Charlemagne led an expedition south with the intention of taking the city of Zaragoza and as a result weakening the position of the Emirate of Córdoba. However, the expedition was a failure, and the Frankish army was forced to retreat. When retreating, the Frankish army destroyed the city walls of Pamplona, with the intention of weakening the city's position and avoiding a possible rebellion.[6] However, after retreating from the city and while crossing the Roncevaux Pass in the Pyrenees on 15 August 778, the rearguard of the Frankish army, led by Roland was attacked by surprise by the Vascones, leading to a confrontation known by historians as the Battle of Roncevaux Pass; Roland was killed and the rearguard scattered.

The Kingdom of Pamplona in 910.

As a response to the attempted Frankish seizure of Zaragoza, the Cordobese Emir retook the lands around the city as well as Pamplona itself. In 781 the Basque ruler of Pamplona, Jimeno the Strong submitted to the Emir. However, by 806, some of the Pamplonese aristocracy opposed the Caliphate and submitted to the Carolingian Empire of Louis the Pious. In 799, Mutarrif ibn Musa, thought to have been Muladi governor of the city, was killed by a pro-Frankish faction whose leader Velasco 'the Gascon' (Balask al-Yalaski, called "the enemy of God" by chronicler Ibn Hayyan) gained control of the region.

During this period, Basque territory extended on the west up to somewhere undefined around the headwaters of the Ebro river.[7] Equally Einhart's Vita Karoli Magni pinpoints the source of the Ebro in the land of the Navarrese.[8] However, this western region fell under the influence of the Kingdom of Asturias.

The Emirate sent an army against Velasco, and in 816 he was killed in battle along with García Loup, kinsman of Alfonso II of Asturias, Sancho, the foremost warrior in the region, and Saldun, "leader of the pagans. As a result the region returned to the sphere of influence of the Córdoba. The local Basque Íñigo Arista became the ruler of Pamplona as vassal of the Emirate, in association with his half-brother, the Muladi Musa ibn Musa ibn Qasi, governor of the broader region, the Upper March. The city was allowed to keep the Christian religion and have its own administration but had to pay taxes to the Emirate.[9] Íñigo Arista is mentioned in Arab records as sahib (lord) of the Vascones (bashkunish) and not as king.[10] In 824, Pamplona broke away from Vasconia and declared independence from the Frankish Empire, and in 841 Íñigo rebelled in concert with Musa ibn Musa, and thought he latter was forced to submit, Íñigo was still in rebellion at the time of his death. He is credited with founding what became the Kingdom of Pamplona and is referred to by later historians as its first king.

The son of Íñigo Arista, García Íñiguez (851-882), formed alliances with Asturias and with families in Zaragoza opposed to Musa ibn Musa. This temporarily reduced the pressure on their frontiers but would eventually lead the emirate to attempt to reestablish control, and his son Fortún Garcés (882-905) would spend two decades in Cordoban captivity before succeeding in Pamplona as ally of the Emirate. Neither would make significant territorial expansion, and with the ineffectual Fortún the dynasty ended.

Jimenez dynasty

The Kingdom of Pamplona (dark orange) in 1000.

After taking the political power from Fortún Garcés, Sancho Garcés (905-925), son of Dadilde, sister of Raymond I, Count of Pallars and Ribagorza, proclaimed himself king,[11] terminating the alliance with the Emirate of Córdoba and expanding its domains through the course of the River Ega all the way south to the Ebro and taking the regions of Nájera and Calahorra, which caused the decline of the Banu Qasi family, who ruled these lands. As a response, Abd-ar-Rahman III undertook two expeditions to these lands, earning a victory at the Battle of Valdejunquera, after which the Emirate retook the lands south of the river Ebro, and by 924 attacked Pamplona. The daughter of Sancho Garcés, Sancha, was married to the King of Leon Ordoño II, establishing an alliance with the Leonese kingdom and ensuring the Calahorra region. The valleys of the river Aragón and river Gállego all the way down to Sobrarbe also ended up under control of Pamplona,[12] and to the west the lands of the kingdom reached the counties of Álava and Castile, who were under controlled of the Kingdom of Asturias. The kingdom had at this time an extension of about 15,000 km².[13]

After the death of Sancho Garcés, the crown passed to his son, García Sánchez, underage and mentored by Jimeno Garcés. García's sister Oneca was married by her mother, Sancho's widow, to Alfonso IV of León, establishing further blood relations between the two kingdoms. Urraca Sánchez, a younger sister was married to Ramiro II of León. The political and military expansion of Pamplona continued with the marriage of the Pamplonese king García Sánchez with Andregoto Galíndez, daughter of Galindo Aznárez II, Count of Aragon, linking the eastern county to the Kingdom.

García Sánchez's heir, Sancho II (970-994) set up his half brother, Ramiro Garcés of Viguera, to rule in the short-lived Kingdom of Viguera. During the late 10th century, Almanzor,, the ruler of Al Andalus frequently led raids against the Christian kingdoms, and attacked the Pamplonese lands in at least nine occasions. In 966, clashes between the Islamic factions and the Kingdom resulted in the loss of Calahorra and the valley of the river Cidacos. Sancho II, on an alliance with Castilian militias suffered a grave defeat in the Battle of Torrevicente. Sancho II was forced to hand over one of his daughters and one of his sons as tokens of peace. After the death of Sancho II and during the reign of García Sánchez II, Pamplona was attacked by the Caliphate in several occasions, being completely destroyed in 999,[14] the King himself killed on a raid in the year 1000.[15]

The Kingdom of Pamplona (dark orange) in 1030.

After the death of García Sánchez II, the crown passed to Sancho III, just eight years old at the time, and probably completely controlled by the Caliphate.[16] During the first years of his reign the Kingdom was ruled by his cousins Sancho and García of Viguera, until the year 1004, when Sancho III would become ruling king, mentored by his mother Jimena Fernández. The links with Castile became stronger by the act of marriages. The death of Almanzon in 1002 and his successor Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in 1008 caused the decline of the Caliphate of Córdoba and the progress of the County of Castile south, while Pamplona led by Sancho Garcés III ensured the positions of his kingdom on the borderlands of the Taifa of Zaragoza, controlling the territories of Loarre, Funes, Sos, Uncastillo, Arlas, Caparroso and Boltaña.[17][18]

In the year 1011 Sancho III married Muniadona of Castile, daughter of the Count of Castile Sancho García. In 1016 the County of Castile and the Kingdom of Navarre establish a pact on the future expansion of said territories: Pamplona would get the expansion towards the south and east, the eastern region of Soria and the Ebro valley, including territories that were at the time part of Zaragoza.[19] Thus, the Kingdom of Pamplona comprised a territory of 15,000 km² between Pamplona, Nájera and Aragón with Vassal lords of Pamplonese and Aragonese origin.[18]

Between the years 1021 and 1023 the Kingdom underwent a territorial reorganization which led to the creation of the Viscounty of Labourd in the north,[20] with capital in Bayonne and the Viscounty of Baztan in 1025.[21] By the time of the death of Sancho III in 1035, the Kingdom had reached its largest historical extent. Sancho III wrote a problematic will, where he divided his territory into three kingdoms.

Division of the Kingdom

Division of the Kingdom of Pamplona after the death of Sancho Garcés IV in 1076
  Area occupied by Alfonso VI of Castile
  Area occupied by Sancho Ramírez of Aragon
  County of Navarre, vassal of Castile

Following the traditional succession customs, the first-born son of Sancho III, García Sánchez III received the title and lands of the Kingdom of Pamplona, which included the territory of Pamplona, Nájera and parts of Aragon. The rest of the territory was given to Muniadone of Castile to split between all the legitimate sons: thus García Sánchez III also received the territory at the northeast from the County of Castile (La Bureba, Montes de Oca) and the County of Álava. Ferdinand received the County of Castile. Gonzalo the counties of Sobrarbe and Ribargoza, which were vassals of the kingdom inherited by his older brother. Ramiro, recognised natural-born son received the County of Aragon. The sudden death of Gonzalo allowed Ramiro to get hold of all his lands and titles.[22][23][24]

From that point onwards, the development of the kingdom was tightly related to the relationship between the brothers. García Sánchez III soon found himself struggling against his brothers, especially the ambitious Ferdinand. Sánchez III supported the armed conflict between Ferdinand and his brother-in-law Bermudo III of León, who was ultimately killed in the Battle of Tamarón (1037), which allowed Ferdinand to step up the Leonese throne thus becoming Ferdinand I of León: for several years a mutual collaboration between the two kingdoms took place. The relationship between Sánchez III and his step-brother Ramiro was better, and their alliance with Ramon Berenguer, the Count of Barcelona, was effective to keep the Muslim Taifa of Zaragoza at bay. After the take of Calahorra in 1044 a period peace followed in the southern border, and trade was established between the kingdom and Zaragoza.[25]

The relationship between Sánchez III and Ferdinand I deteriorated over the years over the lands in the Pamplonese-Castilian border,[26] and got to their lowest point in September 1054 in the Battle of Atapuerca, which meant the death of the king of Pamplona and the lost of the lands in La Bureba and the Tirón River.[27]

Sancho Garcés, eldest son of Sánchez III, was named Sancho IV of Pamplona in 1054. He was fourteen years old at the time, so his reign was oversaw by his mother Estefanía and his uncles Ferdinand and Ramiro. Ferdinand had recognised him as king of Pamplona in the very same Battle of Atapuerca, after the death of his father. After the death of his mother in 1058, Sancho IV lost the support of the local nobility, and the relations between them got worse after he became allied with Ahmad al-Muqtadir, of Zaragoza.[28] On 4 June 1076, a complot planned by Sancho IV's siblings Ramón and Ermesinda ended with the death of the king. The neighboring kingdoms and the nobility probably had a part in the plot.[29]

Immediately after, the territory of Pamplona was distributed by the neighboring kingdoms. Alfonso VI of León and Castile took control of La Rioja, the Lordship of Biscay, the County of Álava, the County of Durango and part of Gipuzkoa.[30] Sancho Ramírez, son of Ramiro of Aragon, took control of the rest of the territory and was recognised as king of Pamplona by the Pamplonese nobility, beginning a time of personal union between the kingdom of Pamplona and the Kingdom of Aragon.[29] The land around the city of Pamplona, the core of the original kingdom, became known as County of Navarre, and was recognised by Alfonso VI as a vassal state of the kingdom of León and Castile. Sancho Ramírez began in 1084 a renewed military expansion of the southern lands controlled by Muslim forces. In 1084 the city of Arguedas, from which the Bardenas region could be controlled, was taken. After the death of Sancho Ramírez in 1094, he was succeeded by Peter I, who resumed the expansion of the territory, taking the cities of Sádaba in 1096 and Milagro in 1098, while threatening Tudela.[31]

His successor Alfonso the Battler quickly managed to move the Islamic border to the Ebro river. In 1118, the city of Zaragoza was taken by the Aragonese forces, along with the recovery of all the Aragonese and Pamplonese western territories. On 25 February 1119 the city of Tudela was taken and incorporated into Pamplona.[32]

In 1127 the Peace of Támara was signed, a treaty that delimited the territorial domains of Castile and Aragon, and thus avoiding armes conflicts between those two and also Pamplona, who was aligned with the latter. The lands of Biscay, Álava, Gipuzkoa, Belorado, Soria and San Esteban de Gormaz went back to the Pamplonese kingdom.[33]

The death of Alfonso without heirs caused the end of the union between the Aragonese kingdom and Pamplona. While Ramiro II, a brother of Alfonso, became the new king of Aragon, the Pamplonese nobility recognised the claim of García Ramírez, getting the crown back to the Jiménez dynasty. García Ramírez became a vassal of the Castilian king, but his son Sancho VI broke away from Castile and named himself Rex Navarre, or "King of Navarre", giving birth to the Kingdom of Navarre. Sancho VI was the last monarch to hold the title of "King of Pamplona".

See also


  1. Carlos Vilches Plaza. Public University of Navarre. PURESOC. Navarre and the Basque language. P. 40. (in Spanish)
  2. Estudio lingüístico de la documentación medieval en lengua occitana de Navarra. Bilbao. University of the Basque Country (1988)
  3. Collins 1989, p. 49.
  4. Collins, R. 1989, p. 159
  5. Collins 1990, pp. 53–56.
  6. Jimeno Jurío 2004.
  7. Collins, R. 1989, p. 159
  8. In the 15th paragraph, the Carolingian chronicler states, "ipse per bella memorata primo Aquitaniam et Wasconiam totumque Pyrinei montis iugum et usque ad Hiberum amnem, qui apud Navarros ortus et fertilissimos Hispaniae agros secans".
  9. Martín Duque 2002, p. 324.
  10. Martín Duque 2002, p. 404.
  11. Martín Duque 2002, p. 405.
  12. Martín Duque 1993, p. 73.
  13. Martín Duque 1993, p. 327.
  14. Martín Duque 2002, p. 407.
  15. Martín Duque 1993, pp. 73-78.
  16. Martín Duque 1993, p. 78.
  17. Miranda García 1993, p. 82.
  18. 1 2 Martín Duque 2002, p. 408.
  19. Miranda García 1993, p. 83.
  20. Enciclopedia Auñamendi
  21. Martínez Díez 2007, p. 114.
  22. Miranda García 1993, p. 84.
  23. Martínez Díez 2005, p. 715, Vol. II.
  24. Martín Duque 2002, p. 409.
  25. Miranda García 1993, pp. 85-86.
  26. Martín Duque 2002, p. 410.
  27. Fortún Pérez de Ciriza 1993, p. 106.
  28. Miranda García 1993, p. 86.
  29. 1 2 Miranda García 1993, p. 87.
  30. Martín Duque 2002, p. 411.
  31. Fortún Pérez de Ciriza 1993, p. 98 and 102.
  32. Fortún Pérez de Ciriza 1993, p. 104.
  33. Serrano Izko 2006, p. 125.


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