Unfortunately, the role of ignorance and jealousy combining to breed fear and hatred is a recurring theme in history ultimately exhibiting itself in the form of prejudice. As demonstrated through the altering of historical events in The Song of Roland, the conflict between the Christian and Islamic religions takes precedence over the more narrow scope of any specific battle and is shaped, at least in part by the blind perception of a prejudice born of the ignorance and envy Christian Europe had for representatives of the non-Christian world. To fully see this prejudice and its effect on the participants, it is necessary to recognize the circumstances of the "real" battle along with the altering characters and settings attributed to its later writing, understand the character and beliefs of the participants, and carefully examine the text itself to see how prejudice comes into play.
The historical battle described in The Song of Roland, took place on 15 August 778 and involved the ambush and slaughter of Charlemagne's rearguard by Basques (Burgess 9). Victims of treachery, those killed included Roland of Breton (Burgess 10). This battle was a part of the fighting to create the Spanish March which served as a buffer zone between Spain and the Franks of Charlemagne (Koeller). While this particular ambush was relatively insignificant, the incident was transformed into a rallying cry for the Christian armies of Europe when taken and reworked by a later poet.
External evidence indicates the epic poem was written no earlier than 1060 and no later than the second half of the twelfth century with the generally accepted time begin 1098-1100 which coincides with the time of the First Crusade (Bur...
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...tions for them. Just as the Christians fought the Muslims fueled by this prejudice and greed, the historical pattern has been shown to recur frequently throughout history -- whether the slave issue of the nineteenth century United States or the Nazi treatment of Jews in the twentieth century -- man takes the unknown and distorts it into hatred rather than seeking enlightenment. This is the true tragedy of The Song of Roland and man's unwillingness to learn from history.
Burgess, Glyn trans. The Song of Roland. NY: Penguin Books, 1990.
Koeller, David. Lectures on Western Civilization to 1500. Phillips University. Enid, Fall 1992.
Perry, Marvin, et al. Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics and Society. 4th ed. Vol. I. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.
Southern, R.W. The Making of the Middle Ages. London: The Cresset Library, 1967.
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