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Manuscript of the Crònica of Ramon Muntaner.
The Catalan Company of the East (Catalan Companyia Catalana d'Orient), officially the Company of the Army of the Franks in Romania, sometimes called the Grand Company and widely known as the Catalan Company, was a free company of mercenaries founded by Roger de Flor in the early 14th-century. De Flor recruited soldiers left unemployed with the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302 by the Crown of Aragon who opposed the Frenchmarker dynasty of Anjoumarker.

In 1303 de Flor offered the services of his Company to the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus and his son the Basileus Michael IX Palaeologus. The Byzantine Empire was under threat by the Turks who were invading Anatoliamarker.

Roger de Flor's offer was accepted by both Byzantium and by the Aragonese, rulers in Sicily and southern Italymarker, who were quite eager to rid themselves of unemployed and unruly soldiers. Roger de Flor departed with 39 galleys and transports carrying around 1,500 knights and 4,000 Almogavars, special foot soldiers employed by Christian armies mainly during the Reconquista, especially by the Crown of Aragon.

Roger de Flor arrived in Constantinoplemarker (modern Istanbulmarker) with the help of king Frederick III of Sicily in 1303, and married the niece of Andronicus, daughter of the Tsar of Bulgariamarker, and was named grand duke (head of the fleet). Roger de Flor campaigned with his Company in Anatoliamarker and defeating the Turks was given the region without the cities as his fiefdom.

The unruliness of the Almogavars and the growing distrust of the Byzantine Emperors who saw themselves with a foreign army in the heart of their empire marked the end of Roger de Flor. On the 30th April 1305, he was slain along with 300 cavalry and 1,000 infantry by the Alans, another group of mercenaries at the service of the emperor. Roger had been in in Adrianopolis (modern Edirnemarker) attending a banquet offered by Emperor Michael. The emperor later attacked Gallipoli attempting to conquer the city from the remnants of the Company under the command of Berenguer de Entença who had arrived with 9 Catalan galleys. The attack was unsuccessful, but it largely decimated the Company. Berenguer de Entença was captured by the Genoesemarker shortly after, and later liberated. The Company had only 206 horsemen, 1,256 foot soldiers left and no clear leader when emperor Michael, trusting in his numerical superiority attacked, only to be defeated in Apros in July 1305.

The treachery of the emperor unleashed what became known as the Catalan Revenge against the Byzantine Empire. Following the rules of chivalry, they challenged the Emperor himself whose only answer was to kill their embassies, and ended up ordering the massacre of all Catalan and Aragonese living in Constantinoplemarker. The Company answer was to devastate the regions of Thrace and Macedonia for the next two years. Including an attack on Mount Athos. Untill recently no Catalans were allowed on the Athos peninsula by the Athonite monks. However in the past few years and following the payment of reparations by the Catalan government this situation has changed.

The Company was a powerful asset in the political arena and Frederick III of Sicily tried to gain control over it. He assigned the Infante Ferdinand of Majorca to Gallipoli to become its Captain. However one of the leaders of the Company, Bernat de Rocafort opposed this move, and faced Berenguer de Entença, Ferran Ximenis d'Arenós, and others who had accepted the Infante. The struggle ended with the departure of both the Infante and Ferran, and with Bernat de Rocafort becoming leader of the Company.

The administrator, Ramon Muntaner also left and later wrote a chronicle about exploits of the Company.

Bernat de Rocafort offered the Company's services to Charles of Valois to strengthen his claim to the Byzantine Empire and whom the Count of Barcelona had expelled from Sicily before founding the Company in a dynastic war for the Crown of Aragon. In 1309, Thibault de Chepoy, the deputy of Charles of Valois, ended the leadership of Rocafort, arresting him and sending him to Naplesmarker where he died of hunger the same year.

In 1310 Roger Deslaur then offered its service to Walter V of Brienne Duke of Athens and within a year it freed the duchy of its enemies, only to be betrayed by Brienne who refused to pay for is services. The Company avenged itself, defeating and killing Brienne in the Battle of Halmyros on the March 15 1311, taking control of the duchy of Athens. Around this time, the Company also conquered the city of Thebesmarker.

No longer under control of the French the new Aragonese lands expanded into Thessaly and became the duchies of Athens and Neopatria.The Catalan rule was to last uninterruptedly until 1388–1390 when they were defeated by the Navarrese Company under Pedro de San Superano, Juan de Urtubia, and allied with the Florentinesmarker under Nerio I Acciaioli of Corinthmarker. His descendants controlled them until 1456 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire. By that time, like many military enterprises, the Great Company had faded out of history.

Notes

The early history of the Catalan Company was chronicled by Ramon Muntaner, a former member of the company, in his Crònica.

Sources and references

  • Setton, Kenneth M. (general editor) A History of the Crusades: Volume III — The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. Harry W. Hazard, editor. University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, 1975.
  • Setton, Kenneth M. Catalan Domination of Athens 1311–1380. Revised edition. Variorum: London, 1975.
  • Catalan Company (1302-1388 AD), by David Kuijt and Chris Brantley
  • History (14th century). Aragon



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