By Wiktor Ostasz
Paper given at Between Constantines: Representations and Manifestations of an Empire, Oxford Byzantine Society International Graduate Conference (2011)
Abstract: The hiring of the Catalan Company was an event of central importance in the long reign of Andronikos II (1282–1328). After a textbook combat performance against the Turkomans in Anatolia, the mercenary army almost bled the Empire to death. As most scholars approached the Catalan episode under the impression of its traumatic outcome, the first phase, from the arrival of the Company in 1303 to the assassination of Roger de Flor in 1305, has often been dismissed as a mere herald of the strife to come. While the aims and policies of the emperor and his Latin gambros have tended to be misrepresented as irreparably conflicting, a close reading of the sources reveals a degree of understanding between the two. Roger was quick to enter the role of an imperial official and his ways should be carefully distinguished from those of his recruits. But it is the political and military activities of Roger de Flor on his mission to the Anatolian borderland slipping from Byzantine control that require reconsideration above all, as they offer an extraordinary glimpse of the provincial society deeply discontent with the Palaiologan rule and ready to follow local leaders.