1171 THE AGE OF CHARLEMAGNE-THE FIRST CARLOVINGIANS.
to be paid in gold and guaranteed by hostages in lieu of the besieged city. Such an
offer gave him a good excuse for the abandonment of an enterprise which would soon
have had to be given up without even a show of success.
As soon, therefore, as a settlement had
been effected with the authorities of Saragossa, Charlemagne began a retreat out
of Spain. On arriving at Pampeluna, he
ordered the walls of the city to be leveled
with the ground, in order that any future
revolt of the people might be attended with
greater hazard. The king's army then
reentered the passes of Roncesvalles, and
had partly escaped through the defiles when
the Basques, having taken possession of
the heights, began to hurl down upon the
soldiers in the pass huge masses of stone.
The discomfiture of those who constituted
the rear guard of the army was complete.
Very few of the Franks escaped from their
dangerous situation. The Basques fell upon
the baggage train and captured a great
amount of booty. Several of Charlemagne's
captains lost their lives in the engagement.
Eginhard, master of the king's household;
Anselm, count of the palace; and the chivalric Roland, prefect of Brittany, and greatest
knight of his times, were among the slain. (1) Nor was Charlemagne in any condition
to turn upon the mountain guerrillas who
had thus afflicted his army. He was obliged
to continue his march and leave the Basques to the full enjoyment of their victory.
Though Charlemagne was not able to punish the mountaineers of Vasconia for their
perfidy in the affair of Roncesvalles, he failed
not to take vengeance upon the people of
Aquitaine. Duke Lupus, who was thought
to have had a hand in the insurrection, was
1 The defeat of the Franks in the passes of
Roncesvalles gave rise to a cycle of heroic legends,
some of which are still popular in the south of
France. The Song of Roland, reciting the exploits
and tragic death of that hero, became a favorite
with his countrymen, and was chanted by the soldiers as an inspiration to victory. The men of
William the Conqueror sang the hymn as they
marched to the battle of Hastings.