Catalan Company

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Catalan Company
Companyia Catalana d'Orient
Crònica de Ramon Muntaner.jpg
Manuscript of the Crònica of Ramon Muntaner
Active 14th century
Country Byzantine Empire
Type Free company of mercenaries
Peter the Great with his Almogavars in the Battle of the Col de Panissars. Bartomeu Ribó Térriz (1866).

The Catalan Company or the Great Catalan Company was a company of mercenaries led by Roger de Flor in the early 14th century and hired by the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos to combat the increasing power of the Turks. It was formed by almogavars veterans of the War of Sicily, which had remained unemployed after the signature in 1302 of the Peace of Caltabellotta between the Crown of Aragon and the French dynasty of the Angevins.

Arrival to Constantinople. Massacre of the genoese[edit]

Roger of Flor is received by the Byzantine emperor. Entrance of Roger of Flower in Constantinopla (1888). Work of José Moreno Carbonero (Palace of the Senate, Madrid).

The Great Company departed from Messina with 36 ships (including 18 galleys ) transporting a total of 8000 men (1,500 cavalry men, 4,000 almogavars and an indeterminate number of servants and auxiliary personnel), the exact figures are a matter of dispute, for although the numbers provided by Ramon Muntaner are trusted by the historians Francisco de Moncada and George Paquimeres, Nicephorus Gregoras gives a total number of only 1000 men.[1]

After a brief stop at Monemvasia, the Great Company arrived in Constantinople in January 1303, where it was received by the Emperor and housed in the district of Blanquerna, the emperor arranged the wedding of Roger de Flor with his niece, the 15 year old princess, Maria Asanina, daughter of the Tsar of Bulgaria Ivan Asen III and Irene Palaiologina, for that reason Roger was named Megas Doux ('Great Dux', i.e. head of the fleet).[2]

The arrival of this new mercenary contingent convulsed the balance of powers that supported the Byzantine Empire; especially irritated the Genoese, who saw the arrival of the Catalan Company as an intrusion of the House of Aragon in the area of ​​influence of the Republic of Genoa: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Byzantine Empire. The armed conflict was not long in being unleashed, with 3000 Genoese killed (including its captain Rosso del Finar) in what was called the Genoese Massacre (September of 1303).[3][4]

Campaigns in Anatolia[edit]

Battle of river Cizico (1303)[edit]

Following these incidents and the recent defeat of the Byzantines in the battle of Bafea, the emperor ordered Roger de Flor to move as soon as possible to his almogavars to the battle front in Anatolia. Thus, commanded by Admiral Ferran de Aones, Roger de Flor's troops disembarked at the Cape of Artacio, near the ruins of the ancient Cizico, and soon they obtained a great victory against the Turks of the Emirate of Karesi in the so-called battle of the river Cizico (October of 1303). More than a battle it was a new massacre: the almogavars attacked by surprise the Oghuz Turkish camp located in the cape of Artacio, killing about 3000 cavalry men and 10 000 infantry and capturing many women and children,[5] after this victory, Roger de Flor decided to postpone its march on Philadelphia and spent the winter in the cape of Artacio, position that counted on good defenses and an easy supply.[6] During this period Ferran Jiménez de Arenós temporarily left the company by disagreements with Roger de Flor, putting himself to the service of the Duke of Athens.[7] Roger de Flor, on the other hand, took advantage of the waiting to travel with his wife to Constantinople with four galleys, claim the payment to the Emperor and plan with him the next campaigns. Andronikos II comfortably paid Roger de Flor and entrusted him with the liberation of Philadelphia

On his return to Cizico, Roger de Flor found that his undisciplined troops had already spent twice or triple their pay and had been plundered. Greek historians say that the region of Cizico was devastated by the looting of the almogavars, to the point that the sister of the Emperor Andronikos had to go to the city to exhort Roger the immediate withdraw of his troops to Philadelphia.[7] Roger de Flor decided to forgive the debts of his soldiers and give them their corresponding pay.

Battle of Germe[edit]

The campaign of 1304 began with a month of delay due to continuous disputes between almogavars and Alans, that caused 300 dead in the side of the seconds. Finally, in early May, Roger de Flor began the campaign with 6,000 almogavars and 1000 Alans with the aim of liberating Philadelphia, which at that time was suffering the siege of Yakup bin Ali Şir, governor of the mighty emirate of Germiyan-oğhlu, after a few days, the almogavars arrived at the Byzantine city of Achyraus and they descended by the valley of the river Kaikos until arriving at the city of Germe, a Byzantine fortification that had fallen previously in the hands of the Turks. The Turks who were there tried to flee as fast as possible, but their rearguard was massacred by the troops of Roger de Flor ( Battle of Germe ).[8]

Battle of Aulax and liberation of Philadelphia[edit]

After the victory in Germe, the Company resumed its march crossing Chliara and Thyatira, entering the valley of the river Hermos in the direction of Philadelphia, on their way, they stoped in various places, behaving harshly with the Byzantine governors for their lack of courage. Roger de Flor even planned to hang some of them, having received the name of the Bulgarian captain Sausi Crisanislao who finally obtained the pardon.

Upon learning of the imminent arrival of the Great Company, the bey Yakup bin Ali Şir, head of the coalition of the Turkish troops of the emirates of Germiyan-oğhlu and Aydın-oğhlu, decided to raise the siege on Philadelphia and to face the Great Company in a suitable battlefield, with 8000 cavalry men and 12,000 infantry.

Roger de Flor took command of the cavalry, dividing it into three contingents (Alans, Catalans and Romans), while Corbarán of Alet would do the same with the infantry, obtaining a great victory over the Turks in the battle of Aulax, where only they managed to escape alive 500 infantry and 1000 cavalry men. After this battle Roger de Flor entered triumphantly in Philadelphia, being received by its magistrates and the bishop Teolepto.[8][9] Having already accomplished the principal mission entrusted to him by the emperor, Roger de Flor decided to consolidate the defence of Philadelphia by conquering the nearby fortresses which had fallen into the hands of the Turks. Thus, the almogavars marched north towards the fortress of Kula, forcing the Turks who were there, to fly away, the Greek garrison of Kula received Roger de Flor as a liberator, but this one, not understanding how a seemingly impregnable fortress had fallen into the hands of the Turks without presenting battle, beheaded the governor and condemned the commander to the gallows. The same hardness was applied when, days later, the almogavars took the fortification of Furnes, located even more to the north, after that, Roger de Flor returned with his troops to Philadelphia to claim payment of his war contributions.

Occupation of Magnesia[edit]

The captains of the Company then resolved to attack the maritime provinces of the Ottomans. Thus, from Philadelphia the Company retreated through the valley of the river Hermos and entered the prefecture of the city of Magnesia ad Sipylum, the only territory of Anatolia that remained under control of the Byzantines. Magnesia ad Sipylum counted on solid walls and was to few miles of the island of Chios, where the company fleet was anchored to the orders of Ferran d'Aunés. Given the circumstances, Roger de Flor decides to occupy the Byzantine city to establish it as headquarters, to transfer there the spoils of war and to canton his troops, for the Greeks, Roger de Flor began to act not so much as a mercenary or military leader, but as the governor of all Anatolia, thus winning the enmity of the prefect Nostongos Ducas and the governor of the city of Magnesia, Demetrios Ataliota. Nostongo Ducas traveled to Constantinople to denounce the facts before the emperor, causing consternation in the capital.

Battle of Tira[edit]

After leaving the loot and a small garrison of almogavars in Magnesia, the troops of Roger de Flor arrived at the city of Nif, receiving there the request of aid of two inhabitants of Tira; in fact, the surviving Ottoman troops of the battle of Aulax united to those of the Emirate of Menteşe-oğhlu had begun a joint attack on Tira. Roger de Flor then separated half his troops and ordered the other half to return to Magnesia from the Sipilos, the troops under Roger de Flor began a march with great speed arriving at the walls of Tira in full night, from where they entered the city without the Turks discovered its presence. The so-called battle of Tira began the following morning, when the Turks assembled on a plain near the city to prepare the assault, hoping to find in Tira only a small garrison of Greek soldiers.

Already inside Tira, Roger de Flor ordered his seneschal Corberán of Alet to prepare a detachment formed by 200 men on horseback and 2000 almogavars. When the Turks approached the walls, the troops led by Corberan of Alet rushed out of the city and attacked the terrified Ottoman troops, who in a short time suffered the loss of 700 men on horseback and even more infantrymen. Prisoners of panic, the rest of the Turks on horseback fled to the mountains while being chased by the almogávar cavalry.

Corberan of Alet decided to keep the persecution against the retreating Turks when they began to climb the mountains, for which he ordered his cavalry men to dismount and continue the ascension; in response, the Turks harassed the almogavars by throwing stones and firing arrows, one of which killed Corberán of Alet, striking his head, for at that moment his helmet had been removed. The almogavars troops, shocked by the death of the seneschal of the Company, interrupted the persecution and they retreated to Tira carrying the corpse of Corberán of Alet, thus allowing the escape of the surviving Turks.[10]

When the troops returned to Tira, they immediately informed Roger de Flor of the death of his seneschal, ordering that Corberan of Alet be buried with all honors in the Church of San George, located two leagues from the city of Tira, and that his tomb was beautifully decorated, the Company remained stationed for eight more days in Tira.

Arrival of Bernat of Rocafort[edit]

While fighting the battle of Tira, Bernat de Rocafort arrived at Constantinople coming from the Kingdom of Sicily. Bernat had not joined the Society the previous year for refusing to accept the terms of the Peace of Caltabellota that forced him to return two castles he had conquered in the Kingdom of Naples. Finally, in July of 1304 decided to join the Company and weighed anchors for Constantinople with 200 cavalry men, 1000 almogavars and 2 galleys. There he was received by Andronikos II, who informed him that the Great Company was on the island of Chios. Bernat then settled for Chios, where he met the fleet captained by Ferran de Aones, and together they sailed to Ania. Once in Ania is received by Ramon Muntaner, who led him to Ephesus, where he met Roger de Flor, he named Bernat a new seneschal of the Company (replacing the late Corberan of Alet), married his daughter (who had been previously engaged to Corberan) and provided him with 100 horses and money. Roger de Flor and Bernat de Rocafort then marched to Ania, not without first asking for new war contributions in Ephesus, where George Paquimeres once again reported numerous abuses and looting by the almogavars.

When Tira remained without protection after his departure, Roger de Flor determined to entrust his protection to the Aragonese Diego de Orós with 30 cavalry men and 100 infantrymen.[11]

Battle of Ania[edit]

For their part, the surviving troops of the Emirate of Aydin managed to regroup around Ania, frightening its population; in front of this provocation, the almogavars decided to charge immediately against them, in complete disorder and without receiving orders from any of their captains, in spite of the disorder, they obtained a new victory, killing 1000 cavalry men and 2000 Turkish infantry.

After this new victory, the captains decided to return to the eastern provinces, seeking a great confrontation with the Turks in the interior of Anatolia, since the scarce number of soldiers of the Company did not allow a war of occupation.[12]>

Battle of Kibistra[edit]

In July 1304 the Company had begun to march through the regions of Caria and Lycaonia, linking up with the road which the Crusaders had followed two centuries earlier on their way to the Holy Land.

Finally, the Company reached the Cilician Gates at the foot of the Taurus Mountains, which separated the region of Cilicia from the Christian kingdom of Armenia.

As the cavalry advanced to recognize the land, it discovered in a valley a large contingent of Ottoman troops (20,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry), remnants of previous defeats, regrouped in order to ambush. Once discovered, the Turks went to the plain and both armies prepared for a great battle in the open field (August 15, 1304).

In spite of the numerical disproportion between both forces, Roger de Flor did not avoid the combat, putting himself to the front of the cavalry. Bernat de Rocafort and Marulli did the same with the almogavars, who showed great optimism celebrating the victory before engaging the combat and uttering his famous war cry " Awake Iron, Awake! " While they hit the ground with the end of their spears.

At last the troops of the Great Company rushed to meet the Turkish troops, and the battle begun, asserting at first the Turks their numerical advantage, but when the battle seemed decisive in favor of the Ottomans, the Almogavars charged again against their enemies with the cry: " Awake Iron, Awake! " and, with renewed energy, they managed to breach, isolating their enemies and annihilating the rival army. The battle continued until the twilight, and the remains of the Ottoman army, fled away, which were chased by the cavalry until almost the dawn, the almogavars spent the night with their weapons in hand waiting for a counter-attack of the Turks, which never occurred.

The following morning Roger de Flor proceeded to reconnoiter the battlefield, surprised by the magnitude of his victory: no less than 6,000 cavalry men and 12,000 Turkish infantrymen were killed in the battle, the almogavars then began to cry out to continue the march through the Taurus mountains, to arrive at Armenia and to recover in a short time what the Byzantine Empire had lost in many centuries, but the captains judged reckless their desires.[13]

Byzantine betrayal (1305)[edit]

Siege of Magnesia[edit]

Following the important victory of Kibistra, the Company decided to return to Ania and spend the winter there, as the lack of experts recognized the terrain made the advance very reckless, during this retreat, crossing squares previously conquered by the Turks, Greek historians report numerous samples of looting, abuses and cruelty by the soldiers, superiors according to them to those suffered under the Ottoman yoke.

Arriving at Magnesia of Sipilos, however, the Company was informed of a terrible event: the local population, with its captain Ataliote at the head and with the support of the Alans, had beheaded the garrison of the Company in the city and plundered its treasures. Informed of this, Roger de Flor immediately has put siege to the city.

But the siege had to be lifted shortly after by order of the Emperor Andronikos, who requested the aid of the Company to defend the prince of Bulgaria (Roger0s brother-in-law) of an uprising led by his own uncle, the historian Nicephorus Gregoras, however, denounces the impossibility of the Company to break the resistance of Magnesia, that used the Emperor's call as a pretext. At that time, the 500 Alans who still remained on the side of the Company, deserted.[14]

Battle of Skafida[edit]

Murder of Roger of Flor and massacre of Adrianópolis[edit]

After two years of victorious campaigns against the Turks, the indiscipline and the character of foreign army in the heart of the Empire were seen as a growing danger, and on April 30, 1305 the emperor's son ( Michael IX Palaiologos ) ordered mercenaries Alans the murder of Roger de Flor and the extermination of the Company in Adrianópolis while they attended a banquet offered by the own Emperor, thus perishing about 100 cavalry men and 1000 infantry.[15] Later the Emperor would attack Gallipoli, that was defended by the rest of the Company under the command of Berenguer de Entenza, which had arrived shortly before with 9 galleys of the crown, the attack proved unsuccessful but decimated the Company. Berenguer was captured by the Genoese and released soon after, after these events the Company had only 206 horsemen, 1256 infantrymen and did not have a clear leader, but still managed to defeat the Emperor's forces in a new battle in Apros (1305).

Battle of Gallipoli[edit]

The almogavar revenge[edit]

In spite of the death of its leader and of a large part of its troops, the Company managed to survive and became strong in Thrace and Macedonia, devastating for two years the Byzantine territory in what was called the Almogavar Revenge, the memory of this devastation would last in the memory of the towns of the zone during centuries, in such a way that the monks of Mount Athos came to prohibit the entrance to Catalan citizens until the year 2000.[16]

Siege of Gallipoli[edit]

Byzantine troops, consisting of 14,000 cavalry men and 30,000 infantry, between Greeks, Alans and Turcopolos, surrounded Gallipoli.

Berenguer de Entenza, the new leader of the Company, being besieged, sent ambassadors to Sicily to ask for help. Entenza planned a raid against Constantinople and departed for Recrea with 5 galleys, leaving in Gallipoli a garrison formed by 206 horsemen and 1,256 infantry men, captained by Ramon Muntaner (as captain of Gallipoli), Bernat de Rocafort (Seneschal) and 6 cavalry men ( Ramon Muntaner quotes Guillem de Siscar, Ferran Gori, Joan Peris, Guillem Peris de Caldes and Eixemen de Albero).[17]

Internal confrontations. Duchies of Athens and Neopatria. End of the Company

Coat of arms of the Duchy of Neopatria.

Subsequently the Catalan Company would suffer a period of internal confrontation provoked by the disputes and interests of the foreign powers, eager to control it. Thus, Frederic III of Sicily assigned the infant Ferran de Mallorca to Gallipoli as captain of the Company , but this decision was contested by one of the leaders, Bernat de Rocafort, while the others as Berenguer d'Entença and Ferran Ximenis d'Arenós accepted the appointment of the infant. The fight ended with the march of Ferran and the infant, leaving Bernat de Rocafort as head of the Company, the administrator Ramon Muntaner also would leave the Company, writing later a chronicle about its history.

After this period of internal struggles, Bernat de Rocafort offered the services of the Company to Charles of Valois to strengthen his aspirations to the Byzantine Empire. In 1309, Thibault de Chepoy, representative of Charles of Valois, ordered the arrest of Bernat de Rocafort and sent him to Naples, where he would starve the same year.

In 1310, the new leader of the Company Roger Deslaur offered his services to Walter V of Brienne, Duke of Athens, cleaning up in less than a year the duchy of all his enemies, the Duke, however, did not agree to pay the amount agreed upon by his services, unleashing the wrath of the Society, which decided to declare war on the duke and kill him at the Battle of Halmyros on March 15, 1311. In a short space of time, the Company assumed not only the control of the Duchy of Athens but extended its dominions to the city of Thebes and Thessaly, converting the latter into the Duchy of Neopatras, where they established themselves as feudal lords. By taking possession of these duchies in the name of the Crown of Aragon and refusing to return them to their legitimate heir, the Pope urged the Company to return the territory, excommunicating its members when they denied to return it in 1318.

Both duchies remained in the hands of the Great Company as vassals of the Crown of Aragon until 1388-1390, when they were defeated by the Navarrese Company commanded by Pedro de San Superano, Juan de Urtubia and the Florentine troops of Nerio I Acciaioli of Corinto. The descendants of the latter controlled the duchies until 1456, when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire. By that time, the Great Company had ceased to exist.


  1. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.VII.
  2. ^ Aura Pascual, Jose Jorge (2008). Los Almogavares. Desde sus origenes a su disgregación. Filá Almogávares de Alcoy. ISBN 9788470398131. 
  3. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.VIII.
  4. ^ Goodenough, Lady (1921) 1921, p. 486.
  5. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.X.
  6. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.XI.
  7. ^ a b Moncada 1777, p. chapter.XII.
  8. ^ a b Moncada 1777, p. chapter.XIII.
  9. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.XIV.
  10. ^ Goodenough 2000, p. 497.
  11. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.XV.
  12. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.XVI.
  13. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.XVII.
  14. ^ Moncada 1777, p. chapter.XVIII.
  15. ^ Goodenough 2000, p. 517.
  16. ^ Antonio Rubió y Lluch; Maria Teresa Ferrer i Mallol (2001). Diplomatari de l'Orient català (1301-1409): col·leció de documents per a la història de l'expedició catalana a Orient i dels ducats d'Atenes i Neopàtria. Institut d'Estudis Catalans. pp. 50–. ISBN 978-84-7283-612-9. 
  17. ^ Muntaner's Chronicle-p.435, L.Goodenough-Hakluyt-London-1921

See also[edit]


External links[edit]