A History of Aragon and Catalonia. The Catalan expedition to the East. Books.book Aragon in English. Spain.

A History of Aragon and Catalonia. The Catalan expedition to the East. Books. book History Aragon Aragon

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The Catalan expedition to the East

[142] The problem of the Almogávares. Needs of the Byzantine empire. Roger de Flor. The expedition at Constantinople. Occupation of Cyzicus. Advance into Asia Minor. Capture of Philadelphia. Defeats of the Turks and advance to Mount Taurus. Recall to Constantinople. Quarters in Gallipoli. Quarrels with the Emperor. Assassination of Roger de Flor. The Catalans declare war on the Emperor. Their victories. They ravage Thrace. Muntaner's defence of Gallipoli. Resolve to occupy Macedonia. Quarrels among the leaders. The Catalans in the service of the Duke of Athens. Foundation of the Sicilian Duchy of Athens.

The peace of Caltabellota, concluded in August 1302, ended the twenty years of struggle known as the War of the Vespers. Fadrique of Sicily was then confronted with the problem of finding maintenance or occupation for the Almogávares who had largely helped him to secure his independence. These troops lived for war and plunder; a menace and a plague in times of peace, like the White Companies in Southern France at a later date, they were a very formidable force of ferocious ruffians whom impoverished Sicily was unable to maintain or employ, and it was a relief to Fadrique, who felt that he owed them a debt of gratitude, when an opening was found for their undoubted capacities in the Byzantine Empire. Relations between Constantinople and Aragon had been begun when Charles of Anjou developed his projects of conquest in that quarter: and such was the position of the Byzantine power at the moment, that the help of the Catalan forces was more than welcome. The prospect which had attracted Charles of Anjou was no novelty: the crusades had familiarized Western Europe with the problems of Byzantine civilization and the Venetians had been especially interested in the commercial advantages enjoyed by Constantinople. The Fourth Crusade was directed by the Venetian Enrique Dandolo against Constantinople, in spite of the remonstrances of Pope [143] Innocent III, and in 1204 he had secured possession of the Byzantine capital. In 1261 the Genoese, the continual rivals of Venice, enabled Michael Paleologus to return, and Genoa became the most influential power at the Byzantine court. Continual attacks by the Turks upon the eastern side and by Bulgars and Serbs on the west, necessitated the maintenance of a strong military force: the danger became imminent in the time of Michael's son and successor, Andronicus II, who recruited mercenaries from the tribes on the Danube and Dnieper, generally known as Alans. The eventual successor of Andronicus, Michael IX, attacked the Turks in 1301 with an army of Byzantine troops and mercenaries and was utterly defeated. The Turks advanced to the Sea of Marmora, and the Byzantine Empire seemed to be on the brink of ruin when Michael received an offer of help from the Catalans.

The proposal was made by the Catalan leader, Roger de Flor, who knew something of the dangers which beset the Byzantine power. He was the son of one Richard Blum, a German falconer to Frederick VI who had married an Italian woman, and was killed in the battle of Tagliacozzo. Rutger von Blum was translated as Ruggero della Fiore and hence Roger de Flor. He had gained high distinction as a sailor or licensed pirate, brought up in the excellent school of Roger de Lauria. With the permission of Fadrique, he went to Constantinople to settle the conditions of service under the Byzantine Empire: his demands as regards payment of his troops were readily conceded, as also was his wish to receive the title of Megaduc and the hand of Maria, the Emperor's cousin. Among other outstanding figures of the expedition, mention must be made of Ramon Muntaner, its historian. His work is excellent reading; he speaks as an eye-witness to hearers in a simple unaffected manner and there is no reason to doubt his veracity: he was no scholar, confuses Thrace with Macedonia and makes Helen of Troy the wife of a duke of Athens; he is inclined to exaggerate numbers, especially of the enemy whom his compatriots defeated, but he remains a chief authority for the narrative of the expedition which the partiality of the Byzantine chroniclers has somewhat obscured.

The conditions proposed by Roger de Flor were accepted by Andronicus and the expedition sailed from Sicily, reaching [144] its destination in September 1308. Sicily was in too impoverished a condition to offer any financial help, but provided a fleet of transports and some provisions. Roger expended his personal fortune and borrowed 20,000 ducats from the Genoese, a loan guaranteed by Andronicus. The numbers according to Muntaner, whose figures are not contradicted by the Byzantine historians, were 1500 cavalry (who were to be horsed in Constantinople), 4000 foot, 1000 sailors with the women and children of many: in all some 8000 persons. The court gave them a flattering reception and the marriage of Maria with Roger de Flor was celebrated without delay. The Genoese, however, who had long been established in Galata, resented the presence of the newcomers, and a quarrel became a riot in which numbers of Genoese were killed. To avoid trouble with the Republic of Genoa, Andronicus decided to hasten the departure of his new allies as soon as possible. Supported by some Greek and Alan mercenaries, the Catalans set sail for Cyzicus where they established themselves on the isthmus on which the town is situated. The Turkish forces which had been ravaging the district were encamped at no great distance. [145] The Catalans after a night march, surprised and completely defeated them: no quarter was given, women and children alone being spared, and 10,000 of the enemy are said to have fallen, while much valuable booty was captured. Constantinople was thus relieved of fears for the immediate future, but a strong party within the capital, headed by Michael the heir-apparent, were strongly opposed to the policy of Andronicus and regretted the success of those whom they regarded as barbarians in comparison with themselves, the inheritors of Hellenic culture and civilization. This feeling found no open expression for the moment, as the Catalans spent the winter in Cyzicus; the Megaduc, Roger, who had sent to Constantinople for his bride, organized their winter quarters and did his best to preserve discipline among the troops and prevent excesses.

Early in April 1304 Roger de Flor prepared to continue operations against the Turks. He was delayed by a conflict between his own troops and the Alan mercenaries, the outcome of which reduced the mercenary force on which he could rely. When this matter had been settled, he advanced to relieve Philadelphia, which was besieged by the Emir of Caramaria, one Ali Shir, a notable figure among the Turkish chieftains, who then divided Anatolia among themselves. The Catalans completely defeated a force of 12,000 foot and 800 horse with a loss to themselves of less than 200 men: Philadelphia was occupied and Roger then advanced upon Magnesia. His troops were accustomed to live upon the country and were unencumbered with baggage, but Roger wished to keep in touch with his fleet and therefore remained within reach of the coast. The Byzantine Empire was divided into districts governed by strategoi and the governor of Magnesia had declared himself independent. The arrival of the Catalan forces brought him back to a show of allegiance: he went to Constantinople, and while declaring his loyalty accused the Catalans of terrorizing the district and exacting tribute from the populations: he found supporters among the court party who objected to the introduction of the Catalan mercenaries. But Maria, the wife of the Megaduc, made her influence felt, Roger received the Emperor's thanks for his achievements and his opponents were discredited and disgraced. His next advance was to Tyrranim (Tyra), some [146] forty miles from Magnesia; the inhabitants begged him to help them against the Turks who were devastating the country and threatening the town. Here again a complete victory was won, with the loss of Corberan de Alet, an officer of rank who was killed in the pursuit. His place was taken by Bernard de Rocafort, who had arrived at Constantinople from Sicily with 200 horses and 1000 foot and had been ordered by the Emperor to join Roger de Flor. The reinforcements travelled by sea and met the main body at Ephesus, which Roger had already entered. The advance continued southwards as far as Mount Taurus, the Turks retiring before them until a fresh victory at the Cilician Gates scattered them completely. Some members of the expedition wished to continue the advance and to push on as far as Palestine. Roger, however, realized the risk of advancing further into difficult country without guides and with the prospect of facing the winter season. He gave his troops a week's rest and began the return journey. The Byzantine historians assert that the Catalans inflicted more damage upon the country than the Turks had ever caused. Some plundering was certainly committed by the Alan mercenaries, who had been left behind to garrison Magnesia and who revolted in order to secure the rich booty which Roger had stored in the town.

Roger had begun the siege of Magnesia when he was recalled by an urgent message from Andronicus, who wished him to support his nephew Michael in a war against the Bulgarians. The legitimate heir to the Bulgarian throne, John Assan III, who was the father-in-law of Roger de Flor by his recent marriage, had been deprived of his inheritance by a usurper, Teter. Michael was the son of the dethroned Assan and consequently the brother-in-law of Roger, and was prosecuting his claim, with the result that Thrace was menaced by a Bulgarian force. The quarrel was eventually ended by a marriage between Teter's son and one of Michael's daughters, and it has been suggested that Andronicus machined an unimportant dispute into an excuse adequate for recalling the Catalans. There is no doubt that, like every one else, he was astonished by their amazing success and began to fear that the new ally might become a positive danger to himself, suspicions no doubt fomented by the Genoese in [147] Constantinople. The Catalans rejoined their fleet at Anea, and disembarked on the Thracian Chersonese, making the town of Gallipoli their centre and finding excellent winter quarters in the Gallipoli peninsula. Muntaner speaks of it as the most fertile country in the world, there being bread, wine and fruit of every kind, while the towns provided good houses and other amenities of life. When Roger de Flor had settled his troops in their winter quarters he went to Constantinople and was warmly received by the Emperor Andronicus. The emperor's satisfaction was somewhat damped by a demand for arrears of pay which he had not expected, as he supposed that the Catalans would be satisfied with the booty they had collected in Anatolia. The Catalans were at that moment joined by Berenguer de Entenza who arrived at Gallipoli with 100 horse and 1000 foot. This leader was descended from a family in Ribagorza which had divided into an Aragonese and a Catalan branch, to the latter of which he belonged. He had already gained a considerable military reputation and was received by Andronicus with an outward show of satisfaction. There were some inward misgivings at this addition to the forces of an ally whom the Emperor had begun to regard as a possible menace to himself. Roger had not forgotten the kindness that he had received from Entenza in his early years and was prepared to resign his title of Megaduc and his position to the new arrival. After some discussion Entenza agreed to accept the position, but Andronicus, anxious not to offend Roger, conferred upon him the title of Cæsar, a dignity which had not previously been given to any foreigner. Relations, however, between the Greeks and the Catalans remained in a state of tension which was brought to a head by the question of pay. Andronicus was eventually induced to pay the arrears in depreciated coinage which may then have been current in his own kingdom but was regarded by the Catalans as a fraud. A great uproar broke out as soon as they realized the manner in which they were being cheated. Entenza threw the insignia of his office into the sea and Roger de Flor, to pacify the troops, was obliged to sacrifice his personal property and his wife's jewels. The Catalans considered themselves at liberty to reimburse themselves at the expense of the local population, and, while Greek historians probably exaggerate [148] the excesses they committed, they were no doubt an oppressive burden to the inhabitants. Andronicus, therefore, reopened discussions with Roger in order to relieve the situation and it was eventually agreed that the Asiatic provinces should be held by the Catalans in feudal obligation to the Byzantine Empire. The Catalans were to render military service when the Emperor desired it and the Emperor should be relieved of responsibility for their payment with the exception of a certain annual subsidy payable at the beginning of each year. Roger persuaded his men to accept this composition which was advantageous to both sides. Andronicus was relieved of financial responsibility for the Almogávares and could keep them at a distance from Constantinople, while Roger, as a vassal of the Empire, could exploit Anatolia to his heart's content.

News which he received in the spring made it clear that further operations were necessary. The Turks were besieging Philadelphia and had also occupied the island of Chios. The Catalans were preparing to cross the Hellespont when the course of events was completely changed by a wholly unexpected incident. Roger thought it was necessary before departing to present his respects to the Prince Michael, who made no secret of his dislike for the whole of the Catalan force. Princess Maria, who appears to have been deeply in love with her husband Roger and who suspected some plot against his safety, begged him not to visit Adrianopolis where Michael was stationed with the army with which he had been fighting against the Bulgarians. Roger declined to listen to this advice, and went to Adrianopolis with an escort of 1000 foot and 300 horse. He sent his wife to Constantinople and left the army at Gallipoli under the command of Entenza and Rocafort. Roger was received by Michael with a great show of amiability and a series of banquets and entertainments; but on April 4, 1305, a treacherous attack was made upon the Catalans in the course of a banquet. Roger and all the Catalan leaders who were taking part were assassinated and the Byzantine mercenaries attacked and killed the escort with the exception of two or three who escaped to Gallipoli. The loss to the expedition was irreparable. Roger enjoyed a respect and admiration which no other leader could acquire; his subordinates, Entenza and [149] Rocafort, were rather rivals than friends and their animosity eventually wrecked the prospects of the expedition. The tragic event has been recorded more than once in Spanish literature. The Catalan novel of chivalry, Tirant lo Blanch, was partly inspired by recollections of this expedition and in the last century the play by García Gutiérrez, Venganza Catalana, obtained a considerable success in 1865.

Michael was not content with the massacre of Adrianopolis but dispatched his Alan mercenaries to attack the Catalans in Gallipoli. They were speedily repulsed and the Almogávares ravaged the peninsula and exterminated the whole of the inhabitants. They now found themselves reduced to some 3500 men and confronted by the army of Michael, which was said to have amounted to 30,000 foot and 10,000 horse. The peninsula was, however, easily defensible and Entenza raised a rampart across the narrowest point, and with a respect for the laws of war which the behaviour of the Byzantines hardly justified, sent ambassadors to Constantinople to declare war upon the Empire. The ambassadors delivered their message but were assassinated on their return journey and the Catalans prepared for a desperate resistance. At that moment Don Sancho of Aragon, a natural son of Pedro III, arrived at Gallipoli with ten Sicilian galleys and was received with great satisfaction by the besieged who had been roused to fury by the news of the assassination of their ambassadors. They decided to send messengers to the King of Sicily, and Don Sancho undertook to enlighten him upon the situation. The Catalan fleet then proceeded to ravage the shores of Thrace and of the Hellespont and a continual stream of terror-stricken refugees arrived at Constantinople, to the surprise of Andronicus, who had hoped that the Catalans were well on the road to Sicily. In the course of these depredations Entenza with four ships met a squadron of eighteen galleys emerging from the Dardanelles and prepared for battle, expecting to be cut off from Gallipoli. The squadron, however, was discovered to be Genoese, and the leader of it, one Andrea Doria, declared his friendship for the Catalans. As we have said, hostilities between Catalans and Genoese had begun from the moment of their arrival in Constantinople and the Genoese, in the hope of currying favour with Andronicus, now detained Entenza as a prisoner and destroyed his [150] small squadron, though at considerable loss to themselves. The disaster of Adrianopolis was thus repeated and while the Catalan forces showed themselves invincible in war they appear as mere children in fathoming the designs of a treacherous and implacable enemy. Andronicus did his best to purchase Berenguer de Entenza from his captor. The Catalans also attempted to ransom him, but the Genoese took him back to Italy with the expectation that they would gain a larger ransom at home.

Rocafort now assembled a council of war which resolved not to abandon Gallipoli and to sink the remaining vessels in order to prevent any reversal of this decision. Twelve councillors were chosen to support Rocafort in his command of the 2500 men to which they were now reduced. In front of them was a Greek force of some 10,000 men and the Catalans resolved to make a big sortie and to relieve the situation or die in the attempt. The Byzantine forces were surprised and thrown into complete confusion. No reliance can be placed upon the numbers of slain given by either Muntaner or the Greek historians, but there is no doubt that the Catalans utterly defeated a considerable force with very slight loss to themselves. After this victory they returned to their quarters in Gallipoli and the historian Muntaner, who was in general command of the camp and its arrangements, sent out spies to Adrianopolis and Constantinople to discover the intentions of the Greeks. He was informed that an enormous army was being collected to crush the Catalan forces once and for all. The Catalans again resolved not to wait behind their fortifications but to advance. They met the enemy near the town of Apros and once again the Greeks were completely defeated and the town was captured in July 1305. The inhabitants of all open towns in the neighbourhood took refuge in Constantinople, and such was the general panic that, if Muntaner can be believed, a shout of "Francs" was enough to produce a general flight in any quarter. The extraordinary victories gained by this handful of men over numbers which, however exaggerated by the historians, were certainly very much larger than their own, give the narrative of their exploits an almost fabulous character; but it must be remembered that in the first place the Catalans introduced methods of war [151] to which the Eastern Empire was wholly unaccustomed, and secondly that the Byzantine armies consisted of the dregs of a decadent population devoid of patriotic feeling and more anxious to escape from the enemy than to risk their lives. The real strength of the Byzantine forces depended upon their mercenaries who were already beginning to waver towards the Catalan cause, and the Greeks were without any leader who possessed any kind of military prestige. The situation then was that Andronicus was shut up in Constantinople and Michael in Adrianopolis; Thrace was open to the incursions of the Catalans and there was no safety for the inhabitants except behind the walls of a fortified town, while the only answer which the Byzantine rulers could give to the lamentations and complaints of their subjects was the pious reflection that they must patiently bear what was doubtless a punishment from heaven for their past sins.

Rocafort now remained the leader of the Catalans. If his political insight had been one quarter as great as his military prowess he might easily have founded a separate estate in Anatolia or in Gallipoli itself with which Andronicus would have been glad to negotiate. In Gallipoli he held an excellent strategical position and could menace any part of the Byzantine Empire without difficulty. But the Catalan forces were swayed merely by military instincts and a desire for revenge, and devoted themselves to ravaging the countryside without consideration for the future. If they were not to remain as an organized community, their better plan would have been to demand a fleet and a heavy indemnity from Andronicus for the purpose of return to their own country, and the Emperor would probably have been glad to get rid of them at any price. As it was, they preferred to extend their raids further afield. The town of Rodosto, for instance, nearly half-way to Constantinople on a northern shore of the Sea of Marmora, was stormed by them and every one of the inhabitants was put to death. Some part of their forces was permanently installed in the town, and such was their confidence in their own prestige that they left less than 200 men for the defence of Gallipoli, which was entrusted to the historian Muntaner.

The Catalans were then joined by Fernando Jiménez de Arenos, who had begun the expedition with Roger de Flor, [152] but had left him for a time to take service under the Duke of Athens. He now appeared with some small reinforcements and joined the raiders on the north coast of the Sea of Marmora. As he did not care to settle in Gallipoli near Rocafort, with whom he was on bad terms, he attacked Modico, or Maidos, a fortified town on the narrows of the Dardanelles. This was captured in July 1306 after a somewhat lengthy siege and Arenos then made it his headquarters. Rocafort and his forces usually occupied the northern end of the peninsula while Muntaner was in command of the central position where were established the warehouses and stores of the company, the hospitals and the market where booty was sold and a considerable slave trade went on. Muntaner acted as the quartermaster-general for the army and was also military governor of Gallipoli, where resided a considerable number of non-combatants, old men, women and children in some sort of relationship to the Catalans. Rocafort and Arenos united their forces and attacked Stenia, which was the imperial arsenal about eight miles to the north of the Golden Horn. Making a great circuit they avoided Constantinople itself and advanced to the shore of the Black Sea, leaving devastation behind them, until they reached the arsenal; they burnt some 150 ships in course of construction or completed, seized four of their galleys which the Greeks had captured at the time of the assassination, set the town on fire, broke down the dykes which kept out the sea-water, loaded their galleys with booty and sailed home in front of Constantinople. Andronicus attempted to open negotiations with his enemies but without success. Their next business was an attack upon the Alan mercenaries. These had been the chief instruments in the assassination of Roger de Flor. The Catalans heard that they were leaving the service of the Emperor and returning home through Bulgaria, and resolved to catch them before they crossed the Balkans. They were obviously a more formidable enemy than the unwarlike Greeks, and the Catalan leaders therefore resolved to strip Gallipoli of its defenders and leave Muntaner in charge of the women, the children and the sick. He was, however, given some 200 foot and about 20 horse, a force reduced to about 140 by deserters who wished to follow the main expedition. The Catalans appear to have caught up the [153] Alans somewhere in the neighbourhood of Mount Hemus, but it is impossible to follow their route with any exactitude. They defeated a force of some 9000 men and are said to have killed nearly all of them and to have captured enormous booty. The losses to themselves, though not considerable, were greater than those they had suffered in their combats with the Greeks.

Meanwhile Andronicus appears to have received news of this expedition and to have thought that the opportunity was favourable for attacking Gallipoli. A fleet of eighteen Genoese galleys had arrived at Byzantium under the command of Antonio Spinola. They were to bring back to Italy Theodore, the son of Andronicus, and his second wife Yoland Irene, whose father William V, Marquis of Monferrat, had died, Theodore thus inheriting his possessions. The King's commander agreed to join in an attack upon Gallipoli, on condition that Theodore should marry the daughter of a relative of his own. Spinola then sailed to Gallipoli and ordered Muntaner to surrender in the name of the Genoese Republic. Muntaner gained time by pointing out that Genoa and Aragon were not at war, and threatened him with the vengeance of Aragon if he persisted. Spinola none the less retired to prepare for an attack upon Gallipoli. Muntaner armed all his women and stationed them upon the rampart in squads under the command of such men as he had. He brought up supplies of food and drink that the defenders might not be obliged to leave their posts and the women showed themselves worthy wives of famous warriors. Many were wounded but refused to quit their posts and kept up such a shower of darts and stones upon the heads of the attackers that they were rapidly beaten off. Spinola disembarked with 800 chosen men and attacked in person, but Muntaner collected his own men and made a sudden sortie which threw the Genoese into confusion, in the course of which Spinola himself was killed. The Catalans pursued the enemy to their ships, who retired without delay, and Rocafort, who had heard of the attack upon Gallipoli and was hastening back by forced marches, was relieved to find that the bravery of the defenders had been successful.

In the autumn of 1306 the Catalans received some reinforcements of Turkish mercenaries. These were probably troops [154] employed by the Byzantine Empire, who saw greater opportunities of booty and profit with the Catalans. They do not appear to have amounted to more than 1500 men, who were given separate quarters to themselves, with half the pay allotted to an almogávar, and were at liberty to leave the service when they pleased. Muntaner gives them a good character as loyal and obedient troops.

Entenza, as we have said, had been taken prisoner by the Genoese, who took him back to their own republic, the government of which, far from disowning this act of aggression against Aragon, imprisoned the Catalan leader. James II of Aragon was then approached by messengers from the East, explaining the state of affairs in Thrace, and asking him to procure the release of Entenza. They also suggested that he should accept the homage of the Catalan expedition and regard them as his vassals. James was prepared to deal with Genoa, but he considered that the question of feudal obligation was rather one for the King of Sicily. The Genoese Republic agreed to release Entenza, and went so far as to offer to indemnify him for any loss he had incurred. The Republic was particularly anxious to secure the evacuation of the Catalans from the East, as they were damaging the Genoese trade. The Catalan ambassadors then proceeded to Rome, and asked the Pope to give their undertaking the character of a crusade. The papacy was not upon friendly terms with the House of Aragon; its sympathies lay rather with the family of Anjou, and their request was, therefore, declined. Entenza was able to recruit some 500 men at his personal expense, with which he returned to Gallipoli.

His arrival became the occasion of a quarrel which had serious consequences for the future of the expedition. Entenza claimed the position of commander-in-chief, but was reminded that the enterprise which had ended in his imprisonment had been undertaken by him against the opinion of the majority, and might have led to the loss of Gallipoli. The supporters of his opponent, Rocafort, could point to the successes obtained under his leadership, the advantage derived from the help of Turkish mercenaries, and the fact that he was the master of almost the whole of Thrace. The result was the formation of two definite parties, and the difference between them was not diminished by the [155] fact that Entenza was a ricohombre of high nobility, while Rocafort could lay no claim to any such qualification. Entenza's party was smaller than that of Rocafort, but contained the most competent and energetic members of the expedition. For some time the bands operated independently of one another, and during the winter carried out various raids in the interior of Thrace. Andronicus sent out emissaries to propose a peace, but without result. He sought for allies, and could find none. The Genoese secured a promise from the Catalans that their commerce should not be interrupted, and the Turks recovered their lost ground in Asia Minor. It only remained for the Catalans to attack the capital of Constantinople, but they were well aware that such an enterprise required greater forces than they possessed, and that it would be difficult to hold the town, even if they captured it. But Constantinople and its Emperor were in constant terror of an assault. Religious processions passed daily through the streets, and fugitives from the country increased the existing panic, while the Catalans dealt with the surrounding districts much as they pleased.

In March 1307, Fadrique of Sicily signed a compact with Don Fernando, the son of the King of Mallorca, in virtue of which Fernando was to go to the East and take command of the Catalan expedition, and govern the country in the interests of Sicily. Fernando undertook to observe an offensive and defensive alliance with Sicily, and not to marry without Fadrique's approval. The latter, on his part, was to support the expedition with money and men. Fernando appears to have arrived at Gallipoli in the summer of 1307, bearing letters to the leaders, who were asked by the King of Sicily to receive him as his own representative. Both the leaders and the rank and file welcomed the arrival of Fernando, with the exception of Rocafort, who held aloof and eventually wrecked a situation which might have put the expedition upon a permanent footing, and have more closely united the Houses of Aragon and Sicily.

The leaders had already resolved to leave Thrace and advance into Macedonia, their final objective being Salonica. Nearly two years had passed since the assassination of Roger de Flor, and the neighbouring country had been so completely devastated that it could no longer support the troops, [156] for whom an additional supply of provisions was necessary, as their numbers had been increased by the coming of the Turks. They proposed to march along the north coast of Macedonia and, if necessary, to proceed into Thessaly. The project of a sea-voyage was abandoned, owing to the difficulty of providing and provisioning ships in sufficient force to withstand the possible danger from pirates. The expedition therefore dismantled its quarters in Gallipoli, leaving the peninsula one complete desolation, and set out in two bands, one commanded by Rocafort, while with the other were the Infante, Entenza and Arenos. It was agreed that they should always keep a day's march from one another. Muntaner undertook to convoy the women and the sick to the town of Christopolis, opposite to the island of Thasos, with the thirty-six vessels that they had at their disposal.

Such a march, through difficult country, with one flank continually exposed, was dangerous enough, but the first hostilities occurred between the two bodies. The column of Rocafort was caught up by that of Entenza, and, assuming that an attack was intended, flew to arms and charged upon them. In the resulting conflict 750 men are said to have been killed, among them Entenza himself, and only the arrival of the Infante, Fernando, put an end to the conflict. This disaster broke up Entenza's party. Arenos threw in his lot with the Emperor of Constantinople, who received him kindly, gave him a title and a princess as his wife. The Infante declined to continue with the expedition, as Rocafort had refused to recognize his powers, and went across to the island of Thasos, where he found Muntaner, who had been unable to land at Christopolis, as the Catalans were not in possession of the town. Fernando explained the situation to Muntaner, and suggested that he should accompany him home to Sicily, which Muntaner was willing to do after he had discharged his duty to the Catalans with regard to the sick and women and the supplies under his charge. When this had been done, he sailed with the Infante, leaving the island of Thasos at the end of July 1307.

Fernando and Muntaner sailed southwards until they reached the island of Eubúa, and followed the Straits as far as Chalcis, which was then under the influence of the Venetians. The leading figure in the district known as [157] Negroponto, as the island was then called, was one Thibaut de Chepoy, who was in the service of Charles of Valois, the brother of the French King. He was one of the many people who had remained behind in the course of the crusades, and settled in one of the ports of the Levant. Charles of Valois, who had claimed the crown of Aragon and of Sicily, had also designs upon that of Byzantium, and Chepoy represented his interests in Northern Greece and in the provinces where the Republic of Venice had signed a treaty of alliance with Charles. The Infante disembarked after receiving assurances of a safe conduct, but Chepoy attacked the Catalan galleys and captured the whole of the little expedition. The Infante was taken with his chief retainers to Thebes, and the Duke of Athens, Gui II de la Roche, imprisoned him until he could learn the intentions of Charles of Valois. However, the mediation of his father, the King of Mallorca, secured his freedom, and he was eventually enabled to return to Roussillon.

Meanwhile, Rocafort's forces were advancing upon Christopolis. They eventually made their way to the peninsula of Chalcidice, and captured the town of Cassandra, the ancient Pallene, where they received a visit from Chepoy, who brought with him as prisoner Muntaner and one Palacín, whom Rocafort immediately executed as being a friend of Entenza. Muntaner, however, was well received, and his popularity among the Almogávares secured him many rich presents. Chepoy explained his anxiety to secure the help of the expedition on behalf of Charles of Valois, and Rocafort, who had refused to do homage to the King of Sicily, agreed to swear fidelity to a French prince who was hostile to the House of Aragon, and against whom probably some members of the expedition had fought in Italy. Muntaner remained for some time in Cassandra, well aware of the insecurity of his position He was able to embark at length upon a Venetian ship, on which he finally reached Messina, and informed the King of Sicily of the fate of the expedition. He also asked for permission to return to Catalonia. The King, however, made him Governor of the island of Gerbes or Jerba, where he remained until 1315. He then lived for some time in Valencia, and finally in the Balearic Islands, where he died in 1336, at about the age of seventy. He is certainly the most [158] attractive figure among the leaders of the expedition. He was loyal to his leaders, self-sacrificing in the interests of the enterprise, and gave proof in his defence of Gallipoli, and upon other occasions, of considerable military skill and powers of organization.

The Catalans were deeply irritated by the action of Rocafort in espousing the cause of the House of Anjou, and, as Chepoy suspected him of entertaining designs upon the province of Thessalonica, he was able to make arrangements with the Catalans for the deposition of their leader. Rocafort, with his brother, was taken prisoner and handed over to the King of Naples, Robert, who had a private quarrel with one of them which he avenged by confining them in one of his castles and leaving them to die of hunger. Thus the original leaders of the expedition had all disappeared, and the last of them was probably the worst, a man without providence for the future or political sense, and continually irritated with his superiors by a feeling of his own social inferiority, a man too, whose ambitions were purely selfish, and the complete antithesis of such a character as Muntaner.

The Catalans then chose governors among themselves, and remained for some time in Cassandra, devastating the province until they were induced to take service with the Duke of Athens. After an attack upon Thessalonica they resolved to return to Thrace, but Andronicus had barred their way. They therefore marched upon Thessaly, descending from the mountains of Olympus in 1310. Thessaly was then governed by John Angelo, who had married a natural daughter of the Emperor Andronicus. He made no effort to oppose the Catalans, but gave them a safe-conduct through his country. The Duke of Athens, Walter de Brienne, wished to extend his influence in Thessaly and took the Catalans into his service; in six months they captured a number of fortresses for the Duke, who then wanted to be rid of them. The Catalans refused to go and the Duke determined to drive them out. In the spring of 1311 a battle was fought on the banks of the Cephissus; the Catalans converted the battle-field into a marsh by diverting the river, so that the cavalry of the enemy was unable to operate and the Duke was utterly defeated. Thebes and Athens were then attacked by the Catalans, who took possession of them without [159] difficulty, and their leader, Roger Deslaur, became Governor of the province. Some time afterwards, either because he had died or had become tired of his position, the adventurers sent an embassy to Sicily asking the King for a governor. Fadrique sent them his second son Manfred, with a Catalan knight as his guardian, Manfred being then of tender years, who was called Berenguer de Estanyol. Upon his death Fadrique sent out his other son Alfonso Fadrique, and with his arrival the expedition may be said to have ended. The Sicilian duchy of Athens, which was thus founded, lasted until the year 1387.

The political effects of this extraordinary venture were of no account, nor could any other result be expected. The expedition was begun for no other purpose than to relieve Sicily of a formidable body of unoccupied mercenaries. Aragon had no intention of founding an eastern state or of competing with the Italian republics to secure a trade monopoly. Had the Catalan mercenaries possessed a glimmer of political sense or any capacity for self-government, circumstances might have enabled them to form a separate state in Gallipoli or Anatolia, but the Almogávares and their leaders, after the murder of Roger de Flor, which made them the deadly enemies of the Byzantine Empire, had no thoughts except for war and plunder. It may, therefore, be considered that this chapter belongs more properly to the history of the Byzantine Empire than to that of Aragon; but no Catalan writer will ever forget the fact that a few thousand warriors from his country became for six years the terror of Asia Minor, of Constantinople and of Greece, marching as and where they pleased, routing armies, destroying fleets and desolating provinces, from the Taurus Mountains to the Acropolis of Athens; and the tale of their adventures, well-attested as it is, resembles rather the fantastic legends of some fabulous generation than the comparatively sober and pedestrian course of European history.

This work was originally published by Methuan Publishing Ltd. in 1933.
Pagination of the original edition is indicated set off in brackets, as in [19].

Ample your information on Aragon

If you want to extend your information on Aragon you can begin crossing another interesting route is the Mudejar, Patrimony of the Humanity, also you can extend your cultural knowledge on Aragon examining its municipal and institutional heraldry without forgetting, of course, some of its emblematics figures as Saint George Pattern of Aragon also book of Aragon.

Also Aragon enjoys a diverse and varied Nature where passing by plants, animals or landscapes we can arrive at a fantastic bestiario that lives in its monuments.

The information will not be complete without a stroll by its three provinces: Zaragoza, Teruel and Huesca and his shines, with shutdown in some of its spectacular landscapes like Ordesa, the Moncayo or by opposition the Ebro.

Also you can dedicarte to the intangible ones: from the legend compilation that also does to universal Aragon you can persecute the presence of del Santo Grial in Aragon.

Huesca | Teruel | Zaragoza | Aragon | Maps |
Fauna | Flora | Geology | Fungi |
Tourism | Mudejar | Goya | Alphabetical Index | Thematic

A History of Aragon and Catalonia. The Catalan expedition to the East. Books.

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