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THE SONG OF ROLAND SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW Charles the Great invaded Spain in the year 778 He had been invited in by the governor of the strategic city of Zaragoza who had promised to turn the city over to him He entered through a pass in the western Pyrenees Mountains and marched through the lands of the Basques a people who had managed to maintain their freedom from Muslim domination and who were not too pleased with the Franks entering their land without even asking permission Charles took care of their objections by seizing hostages and allowing his men to loot and plunder the countryside as the headed east to Zaragoza When he reached his objective however he found that the Muslim governor had changed his mind and that the gates of the city were closed to him After lingering a while to no purpose he and his army began to retrace their steps The Basques were still angry with his earlier treatment of them and as his army went through the pass of Roncevalles attacked his rearguard As Einhard noted in his Life of Charlemagne a few nobles were killed including Hrudoland lord of the Marches of Brittany By the 900s the shrine of Saint James of Compostela located in the northeastern corner of Spain had become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites of western Europe and the main route from France to Saint James lay through the pass of Roncevalles Over time Roland became one of the heroes whose battlefield passing pilgrims were eager to see and eventually he became the protagonist of an epic poem Although historians have argued about when the written version that has survived was composed most now agree that it dates from sometime about 1100 and was written somewhere in northern France It is the most famous of a number of similar tales more or less based upon
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