Kingdom of Asturias

Kingdom of Asturias

Regnum Asturorum
Flag of Kingdom of Asturias
Preheraldic Emblem of the Kingdom of Asturias
Motto: Hoc Signo Tuetur Pius, Hoc Signo Vincitur Inimicus
(English: With this sign the pious shall be defended, with this sign the enemy shall be defeated)
The Kingdom of Asturias circa 814 AD
The Kingdom of Asturias circa 814 AD
CapitalCangas de Onís, San Martín del Rey Aurelio, Pravia, Oviedo
Common languagesLatin, Vulgar Latin (Astur-Leonese, Castilian, Galician-Portuguese), East Germanic varieties (minority speakers of Visigothic and Vandalic)
• 718–737
Pelagius of Asturias
• 910–925
Fruela II of Asturias
• Established
718 or 722
• Divided
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Visigothic Kingdom
Kingdom of LeónRoyal Banner of Leon.svg
County of Portugal
Today part of Spain
Part of a series on the
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Kingdom of Asturias, circa 910 AD

The Kingdom of Asturias (Latin: Regnum Asturorum) was a kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula founded in 718 by the Asturian chief Pelagius of Asturias (Asturian: Pelayu, Spanish: Pelayo). It was the first Christian political entity established after the Umayyad conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 718 or 722.[2] That year, Pelagius defeated an Umayyad army at the Battle of Covadonga, in what is usually regarded as the beginning of the Reconquista. Once he had expelled the Moors from the eastern valleys of Asturias, Pelagius attacked León, the main city in north-west Spain and secured the mountain passes, isolating the region from Moorish attack. Pelagius continued attacking those Berbers which remained north of the Asturian Mountains until they withdrew. At his death in 734, the Kingdom of Asturias stretched all through eastern Asturias.

It was not until several decades later, under king Alfonso II (791–842), that the kingdom was firmly established with Alfonso's recognition as king of Asturias by Charlemagne and the Pope. He conquered Galicia and the Basques. During his reign, the holy bones of St. James the Great were declared to be found in Galicia, in Compostela (from Latin campus stellae, literally "the field of the star"). Pilgrims from all over Europe opened a way of communication between the isolated Asturias and the Carolingian lands and beyond. Alfonso's policy consisted in depopulating the borders of Vardulia (which would turn into Castile) in order to gain population support north of the mountains. With this growth came a corresponding increase in military forces. The kingdom was now strong enough to sack the Moorish cities of Lisbon, Zamora and Coimbra. However, for centuries to come the focus of these actions was not conquest but pillage and tribute. In the summers of 792, 793 and 794 several Muslim attacks plundered Alava, and the heart of the Asturian kingdom, reaching up to the capital, Oviedo. In one of the retreats, Alfonso inflicted a severe defeat on the Muslims in the swampy area of Lutos, killing 70,000.[3]

The considerable territorial expansion of the Asturian kingdom under Alfonso III (866–910) was largely made possible by the collapse of Umayyad control over many parts of al-Andalus at this time. Between the years 866 and 881, the western frontier of the kingdom in Galicia was expanded into what is now Portugal. The year 878 saw a Muslim assault on the towns of Astorga and León. The expedition consisted of two detachments, one of which was decisively defeated at Polvoraria on the river Orbigo, with an alleged loss of 13,000 men. In 881, Alfonso took the offensive, leading an army deep into the Lower March, crossing the Tagus River to approach Merida. Then miles from the city the Asturian army crossed the Guadiana River and defeated the Umayyad army on “Monte Oxifer”, allegedly leaving 15,000 Muslim soldiers killed. Returning home, Alfonso devoted himself to building the churches of Oviedo and constructing one or more two palaces for himself.

The Kingdom of Asturias transitioned into the Kingdom of León in 924, when Fruela II of Asturias became king with his royal court in León.[4]

Indigenous background

The kingdom originated in the western and central territory of the Cantabrian Mountains, particularly the Picos de Europa and the central area of Asturias. The main political and military events during the first decades of the kingdom's existence took place in the region. According to the descriptions of Strabo, Cassius Dio and other Graeco-Roman geographers, several peoples of Celtic origin inhabited the lands of Asturias at the beginning of the Christian era, most notably:

  • in the Cantabri, the Vadinienses, who inhabited the Picos de Europa region and whose settlement gradually expanded southward during the first centuries of the modern era
  • the Orgenomesci, who dwelled along the Asturian eastern coast
  • in the Astures, the Saelini, whose settlement extended through the Sella Valley
  • the Luggones, who had their capital in Lucus Asturum and whose territories stretched between the Sella and Nalón
  • the Astures (in the strictest sense), who dwelled in inner Asturias, between the current councils of Piloña and Cangas del Narcea
  • the Paesici, who had settled along the coast of Western Asturias, between the mouth of the Navia river and the modern city of Gijón
Picture of ḷḷagu del Vaḷḷe (Somiedo), showing typical Asturian cottages (called teitos), as already in use in the time of the Astures

Classical geographers give conflicting views of the ethnic description of the above-mentioned peoples. Ptolemy says that the Astures extended along the central area of current Asturias, between the Navia and Sella rivers, fixing the latter river as the boundary with the Cantabrian territory. However, other geographers placed the frontier between the Astures and the Cantabri further to the east: Julius Honorius stated in his Cosmographia that the springs of the river Ebro were located in the land of the Astures (sub asturibus). In any case, ethnic borders in the Cantabrian Mountains were not so important after that time, as the clan divisions that permeated the pre-Roman societies of all the peoples of Northern Iberia faded under similar political administrative culture imposed on them by the Romans.

The situation started to change during the Late Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages, when an Asturian identity gradually started to develop: the centuries-old fight between Visigothic and Suebian nobles may have helped to forge a distinct identity among the peoples of the Cantabrian districts. Several archaeological digs in the castro of La Carisa (municipality of Lena) have found remnants of a defensive line whose main purpose was to protect the valleys of central Asturias from invaders who came from the Meseta through the Pajares pass: the construction of these fortifications reveals a high degree of organization and cooperation between the several Asturian communities, in order to defend themselves from the southern invaders. Carbon-14 tests have found that the wall dates from the period 675-725 AD, when two armed expeditions against the Asturians took place: one of them headed by Visigothic king Wamba (reigned 672-680); the other by Muslim governor Musa bin Nusayr during the Umayyad conquest, who settled garrisons over its territory.

The gradual formation of Asturian identity led to the creation of the Kingdom of Asturias after Pelagius' coronation and the victory over the Muslim garrisons in Covadonga in the early 8th century. The Chronica Albeldense, in narrating the happenings of Covadonga, stated that "Divine providence brings forth the King of Asturias".

Other Languages
aragonés: Reino d'Asturias
asturianu: Reinu d'Asturies
Bân-lâm-gú: Asturias Ông-kok
Արեւմտահայերէն: Աստուրիոյ թագաւորութիւն
Bahasa Indonesia: Kerajaan Asturias
interlingua: Regno de Asturias
Lingua Franca Nova: Rena de Asturias
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kraljevina Asturija