The Turks with the Grand Catalan Company, 1305-1312

The Turks with the Grand Catalan Company, 1305-1312

By Frances Hernandez

Boğaziçi Üniversitesi Dergisi: Hümaniter Bilimler, Vol.2 (1974)

Introduction: The campaigns of a band of Spanish mercenary soldiers, under the terrifying Roger de Flor, in the Byzantine lands of the early fourteenth century are fully documented by medieval and contemporary historians. Less well know is the story of their former enemies, the Turks, who joined the Grand Catalan Company in 1305 and shared its fortunes for six years until they decided to leave their Latin comrades, who had settled in Athens, and to return to Anatolia.

Francisco de Moncada, a Catalan statesman, undertook to describe this unlikely joint enterprise in his Expedicion de los catalanes y aragoneses contra los turcos y griegos, published in Barcelona in 1620. In this history, based on research in the reports of Pachymeres, Nikepkoros Gregoras, John Cantacuzene, Ramon Muntaner, and other contemporaries to the events, Moncada intended to glorify the remarkable deeds of his ancestors in the Company. He is, of course, biased for them, but able to criticize objectively their barbaric depredations around the Eastern Mediterranean, observing, for example, that “they habitually lived with dissipation and ignored the laws of orderly people.” The book is a minor masterpiece of Spanish literature and significant in the genre of the literaray chronicle in the Western tradition.

Roger de Flor and his army of 6000 men had arrived at the Blachernae Palace on the Golden Horn in September of 1303 to enter the employ of Emperor Andronikos 11 Palaeologus. For two years they had been deployed in the Aegean provinces of Asia Minor to do battle against Turkish chieftains in such cities as Magnesia (Manisa), Philadelphia (Alasehir), and Tire. They penetrated as far east as Kula against Karasi and the Ottomans before returning to winter quarters at Cyzicus (Erdek) on the peninsula in the Sea of Marmara. The they got into scuffle with another group of the Emperor’s hired soldiers: the Alans, or Massagetes, a nomadic people from the Caspian Sea area. In the fraces, the son of Girkon, the Alanic chief, was killed. The consequences of that incident were to occur several months later on April 5, 1305, in Adrianople, now Edirne.

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