Almogavars (Spanish: almogávares, Aragonese: almugávares, Catalan: almogàvers and Portuguese: almogávares) is the name of a class of soldier from many Christian Iberian kingdoms in the later phases of the Reconquista, during the 13th and 14th centuries. Almogavars were lightly clad, quick-moving frontiersmen and foot-soldiers. They hailed from the Kingdom of Aragon, the Principality of Catalonia, the Kingdom of Valencia, the Crown of Castile and the Kingdom of Portugal. At first these troops were formed by farmers and shepherds originating from the countryside, woods and frontier mountain areas. Later, they were employed as mercenaries in Italy, Latin Greece and the Levant.
There are several theories as to where this name comes from: in Arabic المغاور al-mughāwir (the one who provokes riots) or as المخابر al-mukhābir (the carrier of news), al-Mujawir, "Pilgrims, adjunct [to a holy place], outer marches" and finally a third theory which holds that it comes from the adjective gabar, which translates as "prideful" or "haughty". Similarly the names of their military ranks derive from Arabic.
The term was first used in the 10th century in the territory of Al-Andalus, to refer to small armed groups of Saracens engaged in looting and surprise attacks. The first documented historical reference appeared in the chronicle "Akhbar muluk Al-Andalus" or "Chronicle of the Moor Rasis", the history of the kings of Al-Andalus, written between 887 and 955 by Ahmad ibn Muhammad Ar-Razi, known among Arabs by the name Al-Tarij (The Chronicler) and among Christians as the Moor Rasis. In his chronicle, the historian of Qurtuba describes the territories of Al-Andalus, and upon arrival at the Ebro Valley, cites the existence of some troops called Almogavars present in the city of Saraqusta for the first time in history:
And the city of Saraqusta was the chamber of the Almojarifes for a long time, and was the choice of the warriors. And when they fought the city of Saraqusta, and fought all the alcalles (Moorish chiefs) and Almogavars, they chose for them.— Ahmad ibn Muhammad Al-Razi, Ajbàr mulùk Al-Andalus
The word Almogavar was also used during the last centuries of the Reconquista (reconquest of Spain), at the Granadan border, for designating the groups of Moorish bandits that launched attacks from the kingdom of Granada on the border towns of the kingdoms of Murcia and Valencia.
The Aragonese were the first Christians to adopt those strategies and fight like those groups of Saracens known as Almogavars, which eventually led to them being known by the same name.
Even though there were no contemporary chronicles of the events of the 11th or 12th centuries, the first time that any Christian Almogavars are mentioned is in a testimony by Jerónimo Zurita in his Annals of Aragón, which places the Almogavars in the time of Alfonso I of Aragon reinforcing the fortress of El Castellar around 1105-1110 with visions of the conquest of Zaragoza:
Taking Tahuste. Almogavar guards. From there he was passing downstream and captured the seat of Tahuste next to the banks of the Ebro; which he won through the bravery and great strength of Don Bachalla. And soon after began to set people talking about war and training hard for it, they called them almogavars, in 'el Castellar' who were on the frontier against the Moors of Zaragoza.— J. Zurita, Anales de Aragón, cap. XLI «De las guerras que el emperador don Alonso [por Alfonso I el Batallador] hizo a los moros»
Alfonso the Chaste, loyal to his friendship with the kingdom of Castile, went to besiege al-madinat Kunka in 1177, with a group of foot soldiers identified as Almogavars, to help the Castilian monarch.
Because of the Muslim invasion of the Iberian peninsula, the wars of the Reconquista ("Reconquest") and the military campaigns of Al Andalus, the Christian shepherds of the Pyrenean valleys were left unable to use the valleys in winter because they had been occupied. In order to continue to survive, these shepherds had to organize themselves into bands of outlaws and penetrate the enemy domain in search of what their people needed to survive. During these raids, which usually lasted only a few days, the Almogavars could live off the land and sleep way out in the open. The knowledge required to be able to perform in this struggle was gained in their former life as shepherds, since the majority of them had grown up among the wildest mountains, where the harshness of the climate made it so that the land did not provide many resources and they had to take full advantage of the few that were present.
But after many generations of leading this new kind of life that they had been pushed into by the invaders, it seems clear that a genuine warrior spirit formed in these shepherd communities, so that they ended up not knowing how to live by any other means than making war. In addition, it was much easier to make a living through attacks lasting a few days than by working hard for the whole year. This way of life went on being adopted by the inhabitants of the areas that bordered the Muslim territories as the Christian kingdoms advanced toward the south. Also, the presence of Islamic Almogavars fighting alongside Catholic Almogavars is documented too.
They were characterized as being infantry shock troops that fought on foot, with light arms and baggage, generally with a pair of javelins, one short spear ("ascona muntera" in Catalan, meaning "a hunting spear") and a good knife ("coltell" or "coltell catalanesch", a Catalan knife) . They had full beards and dressed poorly, only in a short gown (both in summer and winter); they wore a thick leather belt and leather sandals. In addition, they always used to carry a good piece of flint with them that they struck their weapons with before going into battle, which gave off enormous sparks, which, together with their terrible cries, terrorized their enemies. Endowed with great valor and ferocity, those from the Crown of Aragon entered into combat to the cry of "Awake iron!! Let's kill, let's kill", "for Saint George!" and "Aragon! Aragon!".
This is the famous description of an Almogavar, written by Bernat Desclot in his chronicle entitled Llibre del rei en Pere d'Aragó e dels seus antecessors passats (Book of King Peter of Aragon and of his past ancestors):
These people who are called Almogavars live for nothing more than the profession of arms. They don't live in the cities or the villages, but rather in the mountains and forests, and fight every day against the Saracens: and enter the Saracens' land for a day or two, pillaging and taking Saracens captive; and that is how they live. And they endure harsh living conditions which others could not endure. They could well spend two days without eating if necessary, eating herbs of the fields with no problem. And the adalids (leaders) who lead them know the country and roads. And they do not wear more than a tunic or shirt, be it summer or winter, and they wear leather breeches on their legs and leather sandals on their feet. And they wear a good knife and a good shoulder strap and a flint steel in their belt. And they each carry a good lance and two spears, as well as a leather shoulder bag, where they carry their food. And they are very strong and very quick, for escape and for pursuit, and they are Catalans and Aragonese and Serrans.— Bernat Desclot, Libre del rei en Pere e dels seus antecessors passats, cap. LXXIX.
However, one has to keep in mind that these descriptions are not complete and that the description of the Almogavars, as much in clothing as in arms or way of life, differs more or less depending on place and time. Thus, the previous description of the Almogavars, which describes them as people living not in villages but in remote areas such as forests and mountains, as well as the description of their weapons, only refers to Almogavars of the time indicated, and probably earlier centuries. The last Almogavars, those who from the second half of the 15th century to the 16th had the border of Granada as their sphere of influence, were residents of the towns there, very knowledgeable about the terrain, who rampaged against the Granadan territory.
Their basic characteristics were lifelong dedication to war, not just as a profession but as a way of life, perfectly adapted to the conditions of the border with the Saracens, remuneration based on looting and the sale or rescue of prisoners, frugality and resistance to fatigue, light weapons and hierarchical organization.
The requirements the Almogavars had to meet were compiled by King Alfonso X in the Siete Partidas, among which were fitness and endurance, as well as agility. Also in this legal code is found the codification of their ranks.
From the Arab word dalid (guide, conductor), was the highest rank in the Almogavar force. The Adalid required wisdom, courage, intelligence and loyalty in order to guide the army on appropriate routes and to avoid danger, as well as knowledge of the land to secure places for shelter, with adequate water, firewood and grazing, and to know how to track the steps of the enemy. Among these functions were to prepare and organise expeditions and sole authority to make all decisions about raids, and he had a status similar to that of a knight (lower nobility). To appoint an Adalid, twelve Adalids or, in their absence, other authorised officials met and swore in the name of the king that the candidate had the necessary talents to perform this duty. After this oath, the king or other official presented him with a sword and baldric. Then he stood on a shield and the king or his representative unsheathed the sword and placed it in his hand. The adalids lifted their new colleague high, facing eastwards, and he made a pattern in the air with his sword, in the form of the cross and said:
-I, N, challenge all the enemies of the faith in the name of God and of my Lord and King and of his land
He then did the same facing the other cardinal points of the earth. The ceremony concluded, the adalid sheathed his sword and the king said to him:
-From henceforth you are an Adalid.
Initially this was a lifelong responsibility, but from the end of the 14th century it became hereditary, which brought the Adalid still closer to the lower ranks of the nobility. They went mounted on horses.
An intermediate grade between the Adalid and the Almocaden is documented in Castile.
From Arabic al-muqaddem, 'the captain', 'he who leads'. He was of a lower rank and a captain of autonomous Almogavar groups; for this he was required to be knowledgeable about war and about leading his group, to have motivation, to know how to motivate his peers and to be light, to be faster and to be able to hide easily in addition to being fair, as set forth in Title XII, Act V of the entries (the Partidas):
They now call Almocadenes those who formerly were usually called leaders of the peons, and these are very advantageous in war; in places they can go in among the soldiers and accomplish things that those on horseback could not do. And so when he has there any peon that wants to be Almocadén has to do this: first to come to the Adalids and show them for what reasons have to deserve to be so, then they should call twelve Almocadenes and make them swear to tell truth if that who wants to be a man Almocadén itself having four things: the first war to be knowing and guiding those with him they belonged; second, it endeavored to undertake the facts and strive to yours: the third to be light, as this is something that should be much the peon to achieve what any soon to take, and for knowing as well garrison when it was great need, the fourth is to be loyal to be a friend of his master and campaigns he leads. And this should be taken into account by the leader of peons.
The Almocaden was an Almogavar of demonstrated experience who was accepted as a leader by the Almogavars of his group. Just like the two previous grades, it also seems to be mounted on a horse, although we only have the reference of two Almocadenes on horse, and we are not sure it has always been the case.
Also called hombres de campo (countrymen) or peones (pawns) in Castile, these were of the lowest rank and the people who formed the bulk of the army. As the Law VI, Title VII established, of the codes (the Partidas), to be elected an Adalid it was necessary to have earlier been an Almogavar on horseback, and to be this, previously to be an Almocaden, and to be an Almocaden, previously an Almogavar.
The Almogavars were considered one of the best infantries of their era. In an age where the cavalry was the favored weapon of armies and where the model of the chivalric ideal was a continuing myth, the Almogavars used the terrain to their advantage, fought at night and always went on foot without wearing armor, which gave them great mobility. Ramon Llull gave them so much importance as the crossbowmen and heavy armoured knights, and according to his view, the only way to effectively combat Islam and recover the Holy Land was to start the war for the Spanish border, then defeat the Moors of Al-Andalus, go to North Africa, and gradually moving up to the Levant; considering this and their military effectiveness, the Almogavars were a key part of his plan. In the year he wrote his chronicle (1315), the Almogavars were at the height of their fame, and had achieved renown throughout the Mediterranean for their exploits in Tunisia, Sicily, and in the Catalan Company.
When they were carrying out border incursions, the Almogavars usually fought in small, autonomous groups of five to fifteen men since they counted on surprise. In times of open warfare, the groups were made more numerous and we find mention of twenty or thirty comrades per group. Also, very rarely, some Almogavars participated in corsair operations against Granada.
It also must be emphasized that they were not exactly an army, but formed a very hard way of life, and they did not usually have any jobs: They took everything from their raids; so in times of peace, they were a great nuisance for any leader. The primary activity of these groups was to carry out small raids in enemy territory with the objective of taking livestock and captives and then selling them. In times of war, the kings and local nobles encouraged these activities, which yielded the King's fifth of the booty obtained.
They were born during the violence of the frontier between the Islamic and the Christian world, and actually were often the cause of the frontier tensions. The frontier with the Saracen, not very attractive for people who wished for a life of quiet work, was a refuge for adventurers, of people who enjoyed living with risks and who lived by the fist and by looting enemy territory. During the wars they joined the army, most of the time without a salary, but in exchange for rights on the loot, and being fed.
Their mission consisted of exploring the land where the army was advancing, standing at forefront and flanks, harassing the enemy, attacking their garrisons by surprise and intercepting their convoys. They preferred to fight in open order, but if they were in trouble they could form a compact mass to fight off repeated cavalry charges, as happened against the Moors in Alcoll.
Almogavars acted as light infantry and could act in collaboration with the heavy cavalry, but unlike other medieval infantry troops they did not require the support of them. In the mercenary companies, besides Almogavars, there were units of "knights, infantry, archers, scudars, and men guarding the weapons of galleys", each one with a specific mission and that could be coordinated in the battlefield. They always retained their autonomy and were a permanent militia, because their modus vivendi consisted of making raids in enemy border territory. For this reason, they always carried light arms in order to move swiftly during the raids. These could easily last 2 or 3 days before getting to villages with decent booty. For this reason, their long marches proved their ability to endurance, speed and frugality.
In the Europe of those times armoured heavy cavalry was the dominant shock force, so their tactics proved to be an innovation. The Almogavars were uncomfortable riding, and always fought afoot. Acting as light infantry, the first thing they did was throw their spears at the knights, piercing through their armor and shields from a distance, but especially fatally wounding the horses. They also got into the enemy formation to cut the hocks of the animals with their heavy knives, or impaled them with spears. In the melee they did not hesitate to use their heavy knives or maces to disembowel horses, and when the agonized mounts collapsed they rushed at the horsemen with their knives to kill them.
The Almogavars of the Crown of Aragon (originally from Aragonese, Catalan and Valencian origins) are the best known because of their deeds and international protection, both in the Mediterranean expansion, as well as the Catalan Company, an Almogavar unit of great fame.
They formed a numerous host, as Peter III of Aragon (1276-1285) led 15,000 of them in his expedition to Tunisia and Sicily, and they also fought in the Principality of Catalonia during the crusade against the Crown of Aragon, under the leadership of Roger of Lauria, participating in the battle of the pass of the Panizas (Coll de Panissars, in Catalan).
The Catalan, Aragonese, and later, Valencian Almogavars played an important role in the advance of the Crown of Aragon against the Islamic States, participating moreover in countless raids, in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), in the crusade against Majorca (1229-1232) and in the conquest of Valencia (1233-1245). In 1232, Almogovar armies took the strategic enclaves of Ares and Morella, opening the doors to the conquest of Valencia. When the Moorish rebellion in Murcia took place in 1264, and James I went to this kingdom to the aid of his son-in-law, he says in his Chronicle ("Llibre dels Fets") that while he was in Orihuela, studying how to take the capital to end the rebellion, "two Almogavars from Lorca came at midnight and knocked on the door" to alert him that, from Lorca, they had spotted a large contingent of Moors who headed towards Murcia.
On 30 March 1282, Peter III of Aragon waged war on Charles of Anjou after the Sicilian Vespers for the possession of Naples and Sicily. The Almogavars formed the most effective element of his army. Their discipline, ferocity and the force with which they hurled their javelins made them formidable against heavy cavalry of the Angevin armies. They fought against cavalry by attacking the enemies' horses instead of the knights themselves. Once a knight was on the ground he was an easy victim of an Almogavar.
Between 1284 and 1285, the Crusade against the Crown of Aragon was declared by Pope Martin IV against King Peter the Great of Aragon. This crusade was declared based on King Peter's intervention in Sicilian affairs against the papal will. Most of the conflict took place in Catalonia, although the first episode took place in the frontier of Navarre and Aragon. The Almogavars were at the service of King commanded by King Peter or Roger of Lauria.
Roger of Lauria had much more control over his captains than the enemies did. His crews were made up of specialized troops, instead of the more generic types used by his enemies. His archers were used initially, while his oarsmen Almogavars stayed under cover. These Almogavars were much more agile than the heavily armored knights with swords, as his enemies often used, especially on the moving deck of a galley at sea. Roger used trickery to disguise the size of his force. In addition, he sometimes kept some of his galleys hidden, to attack the rear of the enemy after the battle had started.
Roger was also infamous for the ruthless sackings and the devastation of his actions, often driven only by greed and personal advantage. On the other side, his reputation alone possibly caused some enemies to lose heart during a battle.
In 1302, the Peace of Caltabellotta ended the war in southern Italy. 4,000 Almogavars, under the leadership of Roger de Flor ("Roger Blum", a former Knight Templar), formed the Catalan Company in the service of the Emperor of the East, Andronicus II Palaeologus. This company was organized to fight against the Turks, defending the Byzantine Empire. Both kings of Aragon and Sicily agreed with this strategy as a viable alternative to having the Almogavar army standing unemployed in their realms.
The Almogavar campaign in Asia Minor to drive back Turks took place in 1303 and 1304, and began with a series of great military victories that drove them back from Philadelphia to Cyzicus and in doing so brought great destruction to the Anatolian landscape. When the Almogavars insisted in receiving the agreed payment, the Byzantine Emperor refused. In 1305, Roger de Flor and his lieutenants were assassinated by orders of the Emperor while meeting to discuss terms on their compensation. This assassination may have been instigated by Genoese merchants, who were conspiring to keep their own position of influence and power.
This betrayal resulted in the surviving Almogavars, who resisted for two years a siege in Gallipoli and concentrated on the region of Thrace, leading off the Catalan Revenge, a war of extermination and systematic looting against the civilian population of the Byzantine Empire between 1305 and 1307 in revenge and retaliation for the murder of Roger de Flor and the attempted annihilation of the Company while it was stationed at Gallipoli.
After a period of internal conflict, the Great Company left the line and moved to Greece where it was hired by the Duke of Athens, who didn't pay what they agreed to; so the Almogavars marched against the Duchy of Athens, under the rule of the French House of Brienne. In March 1310, Duke Walter V of Brienne and all his knights were defeated and slain by the Almogavars at the Battle of the Cephissus, or Orchomenus in Boeotia. They then divided the wives and possessions of the Frenchmen by lot, and summoned a prince of the house of Aragon to rule over them.
The culminating achievement of the Almogavars was the foundation of Aragonese rule over the duchy of Athens. Although the duchy eventually fell, even today the King of Spain still holds the title of 'Duke of Athens and Neopatria'.
The Aragonese Almogavars also distinguished themselves in the war against Castile (1296-1304), where they participated in considerable numbers, but in the 14th century their numbers dropped drastically because of the end of major wars of expansion and because a large number of them went to take part in the expedition of Peter the Great to Sicily, from which many never returned but instead continued fighting in Italy, having enrolled in Guelph armies or in the Catalan Company.
The vacuum left never refilled, but yet were so remarkable in the crusade against Almeria (1309), in the campaigns of Granada (1330-1334), against the king of Mallorca (1343-1344), in expeditions to Sardinia (1353, 1354 and 1367), and yet again against Castile (1356-1369), but in the latter they no longer made up the bulk of the infantry but rather were special units for dangerous and explorers' raids. In 1384–1385 some small groups of 30 to 100 Almogavars participated in the war against the Earl of Ampurias. Shortly after, they defended the Principality of Catalonia against the invasion attempt of the Armagnac count in 1390, and the next attempt of the Foix count from 1396 up to 1397. In the 15th century, there were still groups of Almogavars in the Italian wars of Alfonso the Magnificent.
The presence of Almogavars in Castile, despite being somewhat unknown, is well documented. They had as important a role in the conquest of Andalucia as at the border of Granada. In addition to the aforementioned role in the groups of Alfonso X, they are also mentioned in ballad 374 of said author. There, it is told how a group of Almogavars achieved nothing in their brawls until they decided to hold a vigil in the chapel of Alcazar, after which they came out on horseback and won victory with good booty, offering the Virgin a cloth of purple and gold.
This place was for many years a place of raids by Almogavars of Aragonese, Navarrese and Basque ancestry, especially in places like Pegalajar, Cambil, Huelma and Arenas. To the north of the castle of this locality exists a zone that was known as Campo de Almogavares (Land of Almogavars).
At 1235, the rich men and Hidalgos (low nobility) Adalids and Almogavars (who were on the border of this kingdom) gathered in Andujar and entered into Cordoba lands, where they captured some Moors, who told them how the Cordoba city was very neglected, where no one was controlling or distrusting the Christians.
Before this very favorable news, they gather, Martin Ruiz de Argote, Domingo Munoz, Diego Munoz, Diego Martinez el Adalid, Pedro Ruiz de Tafur, Alvaro Colodro and Benito Banos, and agree to assault the suburbs of Cordoba, giving warning to Don Alvar Perez of Castro.
They arrived in Cordoba on the night of December 23, 1235, with great daring and skill stealth mounted a scale, clambering disguised as Moors seizing the Puerta del Colodro. The first to climb the wall was Álvaro Colodro, then following his comrades. Such was the success achieved, other towers that reached up to the Martos door, stayed Ajarquía conquered, until June 29, 1236 Córdoba surrenders to Ferdinand III.
Almogavars had a relevant presence at the border of Granada, where their ranks were made up of neighbors of the border localities and adventurers looking for booty in the kingdom of Granada. Other times, the reason leading them to become Almogavars was revenge. The brutal raids of Benimerines and Zenetes coming from North Africa, which especially affected the western area of the border, caused the destruction of entire towns and the enslaving of its inhabitants, which led the survivors, without hope and with their lives broken, to join Almogavar groups commanded by Almocadenes, turning their new life into a continuous feeling of revenge. This was the case of many of the neighbors of Vejer, Alcala de los Gazules, Medina-Sidonia and Lebrija, who after an attack in 1293 where the North Africans kidnapped over 200 captives to sell them as slaves, enlisted in the Almogavar ranks.
Besides the looting, they were engaged in other activities. When groups of bandits from Granada were detected going into in Christian territory, Almogavars hid by the roads they used or by their water sources, in order to surprise them as they passed by these places. Grateful municipalities across the border, such as Murcia or Orihuela, rewarded this activity.
When Almogavars deployed throughout the border, it was very difficult for any potential enemy to pass, unless it was a large contingent of troops or someone who knew the area very well and passed through fields at night. In April 1309, when the war between Castile and Granada had already begun and before the Crown of Aragon also declared war on Granada, the roads of the kingdom of Murcia were so full of Almogavars that Pedro López de Ayala, who ruled the kingdom, advised against the move of the ambassadors of the king of Granada returning from the court of James II, saying that they would surely be captured, even if they had a guide.
Almogavars also used to work for intelligence services and surveillance, which depended on the municipalities or the royal officers, and were vital to the defense of the border with the Saracens. The surveillance of the border was based on two fixed networks of lookouts in the mountains with good visibility, in the administration of Orihuela and another in Valencia procurement "beyond the Júcar" on the former border of kingdom of Valencia, i.e., in the area close to the line Busot - Biar. The mission of the Almogavar scouts was to observe possible entries of enemies and warn of this fact by smoke signals during the day and fire by night. These signals were transmitted from one scout to another, so that, after a little while the whole country could be warned. Other monitoring points were located on the main roads, where the mission was to stand guard against the numerous robberies of foot traffic. They also guarded mountain passes and river fords, especially the Cañaveral del Segura ford, near Cieza, where the guerrillas or armies used to cross the river.
Sometimes municipalities required services of Almogavars to track Granadian robbers, that they knew well how to spot because they knew how to be quiet when they entered a Christian land; they used to replace iron horseshoes with esparto horseshoes, which left some footprints and often unique pieces of this clothing material.
Free activities of Almogavars originated numerous diplomatic conflicts with Granada, because they didn't respect the signed peace. Valencian Almogavars were also a source of friction with the Crown of Castile, because of frequent Granadian reprisals after a raid of Valencian Almogavars, exercised against Murcian border populations, because Almogavars from Valencia or Murcia had caused damage to the neighboring territory.
Adalids played an important role in this conflict, as were those who knew the territory better and how to combat Granadians because they were familiar with them. They commanded hosts of Hidalgos (noblemen) from Oviedo. They are also described by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza in "War of Granada:
"They call Adalid in Spanish to the guides and heads of country people, who came to take land of enemies and these people called Almogavars formerly was rated the post of Adalid; were chosen by their Almogavars (...) on the trail they knew footprints of any wild animal or person so quickly and do not stop to conjecture; solving for signs (...) ".
The first Almogavars acting here were those of the Crown of Aragon, especially those under the reign of Peter III the Great and led by Roger de Lauria made several raids on the coast of Tunisia. Ramon Muntaner recounted some of these battles, such as the occupation of the island of Djerba.
John I, coming to the battle of Aljubarrota against Portugal, requested the rapid advent of "those Almogavares". Also hosts of Murcian Almogavars intervened in the early reign of the Catholic Monarchs against aristocratic opposition led by the Marquis of Villena in his advocacy of the rights of the daughter of Henry IV.
There are abundant references to the existence of Almogavars in the Kingdom of Portugal, who played an important role in the African campaigns in which they were immersed in the 15th and 16th centuries, where Almogavars and Almocadenes guarded the borders of the Portuguese possessions in North Africa. Their military rank, exactly the same as their Castilian and Aragonese counterparts, is collected in Alfonsine Ordinances, and the Chronicle of King Manuel states "They sent Almogavars to run (...) to attack the Moors".
The end of the great wars of expansion in the Iberian Peninsula, with only the Kingdom of Granada resisting, meant the gradual decrease in the number of Almogavars. While the Granadian border offered good opportunities of profit, penetrating it was not as profitable as before, since most of the captured Moors ended up being slaves and their price did not justify the risk of crossing the border to catch them. Moreover, in peacetime royal officials closely watched these activities, so it was very difficult to sell those captives as slaves.
This had several implications. On the one hand, the figure of Almogavars was transmuted to the Ballestero de monte (mountain crossbowmen) and head hunters, who held mainly defensive functions against frequent attacks from Granada. On the other, it meant drift of some Almogavars to banditry.
When these activities were illegal in peacetime, some Almogavars from Orihuela soon discovered that it was much safer to make raids in their own territory, where there were also Moors; the Islamic communities at the time of the conquest had accepted Christian domain. Almogavars took members of these communities as prisoners, hid them in caves and demanded ransom or sold them far away as captives. Often these Almogavars were acting not in their own territory, but in the neighboring one, to better ensure their impunity and further complicate the chase. To do so, they found moral justifications based on the suspicions against the Moors of the Murcian kingdom, accused of helping fellow Granadians in raids on Christian territory. At a popular level, in addition, the distinction between enemy Moors and Moors who were not was not very clear. Almogavars practicing this crime of kidnapping or "collera", consisting of taking a free person to sell as slave, were called Collerats. Almogavars were so often dedicated to this activity that the word Almogavar eventually ended up becoming synonymous with Collerat.
Some Almogavar groups also committed abuses against the Christian population of the neighboring kingdoms, as in May 1296 when a Christian boy of five along with some Saracens had been captured by Almogavars in Murcia and sold as a Moorish captive. Also in May, James II ordered the return of some prisoners robbed and sold by Almogavars which belonged to three Catalan knights. In June, the king commanded that some Saracens be released, and returned their cows, mares and all other livestock that belonged to them, which were stolen by Almogavars. These criminal practices made Almogavars to fall into great disrepute.
Almogavars were also known as "Catalans" in Byzantine Empire territories. The presence of the company left its mark on the folklore and the popular legend of the different regions where they went, including as far as the Balkans and Greece. Devastation caused by Almogavars troops has created a negative connotation in some places.
In the Greek regions of Attica and Boeotia, a popular saying included: may the revenge of the Catalans fall on you, while in the region of Parnassus, the following saying was popularized: "I will flee from the Turks to fall into the hands of the Catalans".
In Bulgaria, the expressions "Catalan" or "Aragonese" and "son of Catalan" mean "evil man, soulless, torturer". Ivan M. Vazov in the poem Pirates, first published in 1915, includes the Catalans with the Turks as the greatest oppressors of the Bulgarian nation, while in Albania the word "Catalan" means "ugly and wicked man." Likewise, "Catalan" or "Katallani" is designated in Albanian folklore as a monster with one eye, reminiscent in many ways the Cyclops Polyphemus. This cyclops is represented by a wild blacksmith who feeds on human flesh. He also has no knees, so he can not bend, and long legs like masts of a ship. He faces a young hero named Dedaliya. This tradition, in various versions, is usually called by the title of Daedalus dhe Katallani, Daedalus and Catalan.
In addition to having been rescued from the past to be represented in numerous parades, Almogavars have inspired some works of fiction:
«Et la cibdad de Zaragoza fue mui grand tiempo camara de los Almojarifes, et fue escogida de los guerreadores. Et quando combatian la cibdad de Zaragoza, y se combatian todos los alcalles et Almogavares, et para si la escogian.»
Year 1302 (MCCCII) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.Adalid
Adalid ("champion"; Arabic, dalíl (دليل), means "guide") was a military officer rank in Castile. The position, second to the commander, was akin to that of captain.Amoghavarsha (disambiguation)
Amoghavarsha (800–878 CE) was an emperor of the Rashtrakutas in India.
Amoghavarsha is also the name of:
Amoghavarsha II (reigned 929–930)
Amoghavarsha III (reigned 934–939)
Khottiga Amoghavarsha (reigned 967–972 CE)
Amoghavarsha JS, Indian wildlife photographerAssegai
An assegai or assagai (Latin hasta, cf Arabic az-zaġāyah, Berber zaġāya "spear", Old French azagaie, Spanish azagaya, Italian zagaglia, Middle English lancegay) is a pole weapon used for throwing, usually a light spear or javelin made of wood and pointed with iron or fire-hardened tip.Awake iron!
Awake iron! (Catalan: Desperta Ferro!, IPA: [dəsˈpɛɾtə ˈfɛru]; Medieval Catalan: Desperta Ferres!) was a battle cry of the Middle Ages employed by the Almogavars. It was shouted on entering the fight, to frighten the enemy and invoke the presence of iron in the battle.Other Almogaver war-cries were Aragó, Aragó!, Via Sus! Via Sus!, Sant Jordi! Sant Jordi!. However, of these Desperta Ferro! has emerged as the most famous, as it was unique to those forces. The cry was given as the Almogàvers struck the earth with their lances and darts, causing sparks to fly up from the stones.
Nowadays, it is still used as a motto for the Spanish Army 6th Paratroopers Brigade "Almogávares".Battle of Malta
The Battle of Malta took place on 8 July 1283 in the entrance to the Grand Harbour, the principal harbour of Malta, as part of the War of the Sicilian Vespers. An Aragonese fleet of galleys, commanded by Roger of Lauria, attacked and defeated a fleet of Angevin galleys commanded by Guillaume Cornut and Bartholomé Bonvin.The Angevin ships arrived in Malta first, and proceeded to relieve the Angevin garrison, which was besieged within the walls of the Castello del Mare. The galleys were followed in close pursuit by an Aragonese fleet. Roger of Lauria easily out-maneuvered the Angevin-Provençal fleet, and destroyed almost all of Cornut and Bonvin's vessels. Lauria then sailed back northwards, making a demonstration off Naples, raided the neighbouring coast, attacked and then garrisoned Capri and Ischia. The crushing defeat forced Charles I of Naples to postpone his plan to invade Sicily.Battle of the Cyzicus
The Battle of the Cyzicus (Catalan: Batalla del riu Cízic) was fought in October 1303 between the Catalan Company of the East under Roger de Flor, acting as mercenaries on behalf of the Byzantine Empire, and the Karasid Turks under Karesi Bey. It was the first of several engagements between the two sides during the Catalan Company's Anatolian Campaign.
The result was a crushing Catalan victory. The almogavars of the Catalan Company made a surprise attack on the Oghuz Turkish camp located at the Cape Artake, killing about 3000 cavalry and 10,000 infantry and capturing many women and children.Catalan Company
The Catalan Company or the Great Catalan Company (Catalan: Gran Companyia Catalana, Latin: Exercitus francorum, Societatis exercitus catalanorum, Societatis cathalanorum, Magna Societas Catalanorum) 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 almogavar veterans of the War of the Sicilian Vespers, who had remained unemployed after the signing in 1302 of the Peace of Caltabellotta between the Crown of Aragon and the French dynasty of the Angevins.
Effectively leaderless for most of their early history, during that period the Catalan Company still faced and defeated armies made up of Turkish, Caucasian, Genoese, Thracian, Macedonian, Athenian, Byzantine, Burgundian, and French soldiers. In doing so they captured large amounts of land, dominating and ruling most of Greece throughout much of the 14th century.Catalan campaign in Asia Minor
In 1303, the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus hired 6,500 Catalan mercenaries under Roger de Flor to campaign against the Turks in the spring and summer of the same year. Their costly service came with success, driving back the Turks in parts of Asia Minor. At Philadelphia, 18,000 Turkish soldiers (possibly those of Aydinids) were left dead, the work of the Catalans.However, the Byzantines got more than what they bargained for; the mercenaries were difficult to restrain and consequently much of the reconquered territory was laid to waste. When their leader Roger de Flor was assassinated in Gallipoli on 3 April 1305 by Michael IX Palaeologus followed by a massacre of 1,300 Catalans, the mercenaries began a two-year pillage in revenge and crossed over to Thrace and Macedonia under the command of their new leader, Berenguer d'Entença, where further raiding occurred. As a result of this brutality, the Company got excommunicated by Pope Clement V. Eventually the Catalan mercenaries claimed the Duchy of Athens for themselves in 1311 and would remain there until 1379, leaving behind a devastated Byzantium. After this, the Turks found much support amongst those who suffered and reoccupied land that had been lost.
Thus, the Catalans' campaign was a short-term Byzantine victory, but benefited the Turks in the long term.Estado Aragonés
Estado Aragonés ('Aragonese State' in English) was a small Aragonese left-wing political party, and the first regarded as fully nationalist. It was founded in Barcelona in the winter of 1933, during the Second Spanish Republic. Many of their members came from Unión Aragonesista and had their origins in the north-east Aragonese region of Ribagorza. The president was Gaspar Torrente.
The youth wing of the party, Los Almogávares ('The Almogavars'), headed by Luis Porté, supported the declaration of the Catalan Republic by Lluis Companys in 1934, what lead to their headquarters being closed down. The organization was quite inactive until 1936, when they opened a new head office and Miguel Alcubierre was elected as the president of the youth wing. He started a campaign for self-government in Aragon which aroused the interest of the rest of left-wing Republican parties.
Those actions led to a Congress taking place in Caspe (Saragossa) at the beginning of May in 1936, with Torrente as the chairman. The result was the draft of a Statute of Autonomy for Aragon, which would not come to the light due to the onset of the Spanish Civil War. By 1939 the party had ceased to exist.
Renacimiento Aragonés ('Aragonese Revival') was the party's official publication. The party was in good relations with the Catalan party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya.Hugh, Count of Brienne
Hugh, Count of Brienne and Lecce (c. 1240 – 9 August 1296) was the second surviving son of Count Walter IV of Brienne and Marie de Lusignan of Cyprus.Military history of Catalonia
The military history of Catalonia began in the thirteenth century, with the first exploits of the armies under the orders of Catalan rulers and lasting until today, where Catalan soldiers are integrated into international forces.Peace of Caltabellotta
The Peace of Caltabellotta, signed on 31 August 1302, was the last of a series of treaties, including those of Tarascon and Anagni, designed to end the conflict between the Houses of Anjou and Barcelona for ascendancy in the Mediterranean and especially Sicily and the Mezzogiorno.
The peace divided the old Kingdom of Sicily into an island portion and a peninsular portion. The island, called the Kingdom of Trinacria, went to Frederick III, who had been ruling it; the Mezzogiorno, called the Kingdom of Sicily contemporaneously, but called the Kingdom of Naples by modern scholarship, went to Charles II, who had been ruling it. Thus, the peace was formal recognition of an uneasy status quo.
The treaty also stipulated that Trinacria would pass to the Angevins on Frederick's death, but until then, Charles paid a tribute of 100,000 ounces of gold in exchange to Frederick. Immediately, in exchange, Frederick handed over all his possessions in Calabria and elsewhere on the mainland and released Charles' son Philip, Prince of Taranto, from his prison in Cefalù. As well, the marriage of Charles' daughter Eleanor to Frederick was arranged.
The consequences of this treaty meant that Roger de Flor and his Almogavars of the Catalan Company had to seek pay elsewhere. They took up service with the [[Byzantine emperor] Andronicus II Palaeologus. One Bernat de Rocafort, an Almogàvar, did not want to return to Charles his two castles in Calabria until he was compensated with pay. He was captured and left to eventually die in an oubliette of Robert the Wise, Charles' successor, in 1309.Ramon Muntaner
Ramon Muntaner (Catalan pronunciation: [rəˈmom muntəˈne]) (1265 – 1336 ) was a Catalan mercenary and writer who wrote the Crònica, a chronicle of his life, including his adventures as a commander in the Catalan Company. He was born at Perelada.Roger de Flor
Roger de Flor (1267 – 30 April 1305), also known as Ruggero/Ruggiero da Fiore or Rutger von Blum or Ruggero Flores, was an Italian military adventurer and condottiere active in Aragonese Sicily, Italy, and the Byzantine Empire. He was the commander of the Great Catalan Company and held the title Count of Malta.Siege of Córdoba (1236)
During the reconquista, the siege of Córdoba (1236) was a successful investment by the forces of Ferdinand III, king of Castile and León, marking the end of the Islamic rule over the city that had begun in 711.In capturing the city, Ferdinand certainly benefited from the rivalry between the two main competing taifa rulers following the dissolution of the Almohad authority, itself triggered by the battle of Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. The siege however began in unusual circumstances, with little preparation.
Upon receiving information that part of the inhabitants of the eastern quarter of Cordoba—called Ajarquia—were disaffected with their rulers, a handful of almogávars led by knights acting on their own initiative scaled a tower during a rainy winter night of 1235–1236, and after meeting their contacts inside, they eventually seized control of the neighborhood. The almogávars, some of whom spoke Arabic, were most likely employed as Castilian border guards in the Andújar region, because this is where they assembled before mounting their daring operation. The whole episode has been subject to varying interpretations. The Primera Crónica General highlighted the heroic act of the leading knights, while later Spanish historian Julio González emphasized that help from within city walls must have been a significant factor in the success of this takeover, for it met with little opposition in Ajarquia. After the city fell to Ferdinand, a tower and nearby gate in Ajarquia were named after Alvaro Colodro, a knight who the chronicles record as having led the climb. The precise date of this coup de main is also a bit unclear; it is most likely it happened in last week of 1235.The Christian soldiers certainly killed a number of the Muslim inhabitants of Ajarquia, and some survivors took refuge in the better-off Al Medina quarter, the sociopolitical center of the city. Because an inner wall separated the two quarters, a bloody standoff followed, with significant losses on both sides, but with neither being able to make significant progress. The Christians however immediately sent word to neighboring border forces, most notably those of Álvaro Pérez de Castro, who reinforced them, and they also asked king Ferdinand for help.What is more certain is that the event took Ferdinand by surprise, as he had concluded a truce with Ibn Hud. Throwing caution to the wind, Ferdinand rode with a small band of knights to, no more than 100, although they may have been as few as 30 at one point. He arrived at Córdoba on February 7, 1236, after traveling through rainstorms and a flooded country.Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or bronze. The most common design for hunting or combat spears since ancient times has incorporated a metal spearhead shaped like a triangle, lozenge, or leaf. The heads of fishing spears usually feature barbs or serrated edges.
The word spear comes from the Old English spere, from the Proto-Germanic speri, from a Proto-Indo-European root *sper- "spear, pole".
Spears can be divided into two broad categories: those designed for thrusting in melee combat and those designed for throwing (usually referred to as javelins).
The spear has been used throughout human history both as a hunting and fishing tool and as a weapon. Along with the axe, knife and club, it is one of the earliest and most important tools developed by early humans. As a weapon, it may be wielded with either one hand or two. It was used in virtually every conflict up until the modern era, where even then it continues on in the form of the bayonet, and is probably the most commonly used weapon in history.Taifa of Zaragoza
The taifa of Zaragoza was an independent Arab Muslim state in Moorish Al-Andalus, present day eastern Spain, which was established in 1018 as one of the taifa kingdoms, with its capital in the Islamic Saraqusta (Zaragoza) city. Zaragoza's taifa emerged in the 11th century following the destruction of the Caliphate of Córdoba in the Moorish Iberian Peninsula.
During the first three decades of this period (1018–1038), the city was ruled by the Arab Banu Tujibi tribe. They were replaced by the Arab Banu Hud rulers, who had to deal with a complicated alliance with El Cid of Valencia and his Castilian Masters against the Almoravids, who managed to bring the Taifas Emirates under their control. After the death of El Cid, his kingdom was conquered by the Almoravids, and by 1100 they had crossed the Ebro into Barbastro, which brought into direct contact with Aragon.
The Banu Hud stubbornly resisted the Almoravid dynasty and ruled until they were eventually defeated by the Almoravids in May 1110. The last sultan of the Banu Hud, Abd-al-Malik, and Imad ad-Dawla of Saraqusta, was forced to abandon the capital. Abd-al-Malik allied himself with the Christian Aragonese under Alfonso I of Aragon and from the time the Muslims of Saraqusta became military regulars within the Aragonese forces. They were known as Almogavars.Thessaly
Thessaly (Greek: Θεσσαλία, Thessalía; ancient Thessalian: Πετθαλία, Petthalía) is a traditional geographic and modern administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia (Greek: Αἰολία, Aíolía), and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey.
Thessaly became part of the modern Greek state in 1881, after four and a half centuries of Ottoman rule. Since 1987 it has formed one of the country's 13 regions and is further (since the Kallikratis reform of 2010) sub-divided into 5 regional units and 25 municipalities. The capital of the region is Larissa. Thessaly lies in central Greece and borders the regions of Macedonia on the north, Epirus on the west, Central Greece on the south and the Aegean Sea on the east. The Thessaly region also includes the Sporades islands.