Almogavars

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The Almogavars (Aragonese: Almogabars, Spanish: Almogávares, Catalan: Almogàvers, from Arabic: al-Mugavari, meaning "scout"[1]) were a class of soldiers from the Crown of Aragon, well-known during the Christian reconquista (reconquest) of the Iberian peninsula. They were much employed as mercenaries in Italy, Latin Greece and the Levant during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Contents

History

The Almogavars came mainly from the mountain regions of Aragon, Catalonia and, to a lesser extent, from Navarre. They were frontiersmen and foot-soldiers who wore no armour, dressed in skins, were shod with brogues (abarcas), and carried the arms similar to those of Roman legionaries: two heavy javelins, or azconas in Spanish language, and a short stabbing sword.

They were professional soldiers, and served kings, the Roman Catholic Church, nobles, or towns for pay; eventually they also hired themselves out to the Byzantine Empire. When Peter III of Aragon made war on Charles of Anjou after the Sicilian Vespers of March 30, 1282 for the possession of Naples and Sicily, the Almogavars formed the most effective element of his army. Their discipline and ferocity, the force with which they hurled their javelins, and their activity, made them very formidable to the heavy cavalry of the Angevin armies. They fought against cavalry by attacking firstly horses instead of knights. Once the knight was on the ground he was an easy victim for the Almogavar.

When the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302 ended the war in southern Italy, the 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, to fight against the Turks. Both kings of Aragon and Sicily agreed with the idea since peace had been reached and it was viable alternative to having the Almogavar standing army unemployed in their realms.

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