(?-?, 737) Astur leader. The personality of Pelayo has been mythologized over the years to go around the character of an almost superhuman heroic aura. The most reliable sources indicate that he was part of one of the families of the aristocracy of the North of the Peninsula, perhaps of Visigothic origin, settled in the basin of the river Sella.
Following the defeat and death of King Rodrigo, to the Arab invaders, in the battle of the Guadalete (711), there was the sudden collapse of the Visigothic Kingdom and the fall of the Iberian peninsula in the hands of the Muslims. According to Muslim Chronicles, Pelayo was in Córdoba as a hostage. Around 718, in the North organized a revolt against the tax demanded by the new rulers, which led to open warfare.
Taking advantage of his knowledge of the terrain, the rebels harassed the Arab troops, little accustomed to fighting in regions so abrupt and so cold weather. In 722, Anbasa, Arab Governor of the Iberian peninsula, sent an army to crush, once and for all, the revolt. Pelayo and his followers attracted to the expeditionary force, probably consisting of a few thousand troops, which had already achieved several victories, up to the valleys of Covadonga, where Cantabrians and asturians were made strong. Their formidable defensive position could not be conquered by the Berber troops, accustomed to fighting in mountainous terrain, which formed part of the Muslim contingent.
Finally, the attackers were forced to undertake a retreat that became disastrous when Pelayo was launched in his pursuit to harass them relentlessly. At the end, possibly after having reinforced its peacekeepers, he made Frank battle and defeated the Muslims in Olalies (current Proaza), after which he established his capital at Cangas de Onís.
Don Pelayo became for the Spaniards in the first hero of the reconquest, and as such was celebrated not only in Chronicles and medieval romances, but also in extensive poems as Lopez Alonso Pinciano El Pelayo (1605), and in numerous dramas of the golden age, the best-known of which are the latest Goth, of Lope de Vega; The restoration of Spain, Luis Vélez de Guevara, and the Restorer of Asturias, Juan Bautista Diamante. With neoclassicism, figure returned to the honours of the scene in the tragedy in verse and in five acts Pelayo, of Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1744-1811), outstanding piece in the series of neoclassical tragedies that wrote the Spanish writers of the 18th century imitating Corneille, Racine and even to Alfieri. The Gothic hero appeared also in the tragedy in three acts Pelayo, of Manuel José Quintana (1772-1857), represented in 1805. Already in romanticism, José de Espronceda dedicated also a poem, unfinished, entitled Pelayo.