Roger de Flor and His Catalan Company: From Grand Duke to Caesar – Part II

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Artist’s imagining of the Almogavares at the Battle of Aulax, 1304 and Roger de Flor

Roger de Flor and His Catalan Company: From Grand Duke to Caesar – Part II

Military adventurer and mercenary for hire, Roger de Flor was as shrewd a businessman as he was a skillful sailor and fighter. Through his rich services to kings and the elite, he established a reputation and became master mercenary of a dangerous force, the Catalan Company.

Roger’s new promotion to vice-admiral by Frederick III (Fadrique), king of Sicily, and being given castles were both tremendous gifts that needed to be repaid in his mind. Roger decided to double his efforts and made his way to Messina where he equipped five galleys “and proceeded to scour all the Principality and the Roman shore, and the strand of Pisa and Genoa and of Provence and of Catalonia and Spain and Barbary. And all he found, belonging to friend or foe, in coin or valuable goods, which he could put on board the galleys, he took.” Roger made sure that any wealth taken from his friends would be repaid once the war was over. Roger also went out of his way to spare the lives and ships of his enemies. When Roger returned to Sicily with gold and grain, “all the soldiers, horse and foot, were awaiting him as the Jews do the Messiah.”

[Read Part I]

Roger’s plundering along the Italian coasts would soon end, as King Fadrique made peace with Charles II. King Fadrique was able to keep Sicily, thus ending the war between Aragonese kings of Aragon and the French kings of Naples over the control of Sicily on 31 August 1302 in what became known as the Peace of Caltabellotta. Because of this, Roger and his men were out of job. With no money flowing to Roger’s coffers, the king understandably had no use for the mercenaries. Therefore, Roger sought employment elsewhere and found it in Byzantium.

Land and Titles for the Grand Duke Roger

Roger had a few dilemmas after the Peace of Caltabellotta, the first being that his men were soon to (if they hadn’t already) run out of money. However, this was the least of his worries at the moment. His biggest concern was the peace. While peace cuts the flow of money it also allows those who had issue with Roger to take up arms against him, even though one would think that all sins were forgiven after the war; One can assume this only applied to nobles and their men. Because of this, Roger felt that if he were to stay in Sicily, the king would possibly hand him over to King Charles, the Duke, or perhaps the Master of the Templars, who would turn him over to the Pope. Therefore, Roger decided to head east.

Roger decided to contact Emperor Andronicus II of Byzantium and offer his services against the threat of the Ottoman Turks led by Osman I, who was at this time pushing slowly pushing westward, gobbling up the Byzantine lands of Anatolia (Turkey).

Andronicus II Byzantine emperor (1282-1328)

Andronicus II Byzantine emperor (1282-1328) (Public Domain)

In his discussion with King Fadrique, Roger decided to show his intentions by sending a small force:

I shall send two knights with an armed galley to the Emperor of Constantinople, and shall let him know that I am ready to go to him with as great a company of horse and foot, all Catalans and Aragonese, as he wishes, and that he should give us pay and all necessaries; that I know he greatly needs these succours, for the Turks have taken from him land of the extent of thirty journeys; and he could not do as much with any people as with Catalans and Aragonese, and especially with those who have carried on this war against King Charles.

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