Almogavars

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Almogavar-style troops during the conquest of Mallorca.

Almogavars is the name of a class of soldier mostly from the Crown of Aragon and other Iberian kingdoms during the 13th and 14th centuries.[1] Almogavars were lightly clad, quick-moving frontiersmen and foot-soldiers. They were well known during the Christian Reconquista (reconquest) of the Iberian Peninsula. Aragonese crown troops were commanded mainly by Christian officers, or infanzones (low noblemen without money). They hailed from Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia, Castile and Portugal.[2][3] At first these troops were formed by farmers and shepherds originating from the countryside, woods and frontier mountain areas. Later, they were much employed as mercenaries in Italy, Latin Greece and the Levant.[1]

History[edit]

Kingdom of Pamplona and Banu Qasi c. 925
Iberian peninsula in 1031.

Almogavar history begins with early invasions of Iberia by Muslim peoples and battles with northern and western foes. These troops of different faiths were joining to the service of the Christian kingdoms as they once had been under the command of the Muslim kingdoms. The hinterland of Ebro Valley oscillated between two powerful states, Moors of al Andalus and Franks, of the Carolingian Empire, looking to expand the Marca Hispanica.

Ethnic development[edit]

Very early on,[clarification needed] Iberian society was composed of Muslims who were at first ethnically Near Eastern Muslims. Large proportions were also Arabic, Berber, Iberian native converts (muwallads), native Christians, and a Jewish minority. The Jewish minority represented about 5% of the population.[clarification needed] The ethnically Arab were at the top of the social hierarchy; Muslims in general had a higher social standing. Christians and Jews were considered dhimmis and had to pay a specific tax called a jizya. They still enjoyed the possibility of social mobility. Conversion to Islam would translate into a higher rate of social mobility for Christians and Jews alike. Half of the Christians in Al-Andalus are reported to have converted to Islam by the 10th century, with more than 80% by the 11th century[citation needed]. Even Christians that did not accept Islam as their religion, became increasingly Arabized in terms of culture[citation needed]. These Christians became known as Mozarabs or musta’ribs, a word meaning "Arabized." However, after the conquest of the Islamic kingdoms by the northern Christian kingdoms, the population again gradually become Christian for similar reasons.

Rulers commonly became divided and fought amongst themselves. Co-existence and alliances were as prevalent as frontier skirmishes and raids, especially in the eighth and ninth centuries.[4] Blurring distinctions even further were the mercenaries from both sides who simply fought for whoever paid the most. Most were of Muslim descent and custom but not all were. In their war cries they shouted "Awake iron (i.e. sword), kill, kill, Saint George, Aragon..."[5] as stated by chronicler Ramon Muntaner. Next centuries the ranks of the Almogavars were restocked with people from widely diverse backgrounds, including Christians. Several contemporary historians (Jerónimo Zurita y Castro, Bernat Desclot...), mostly from Kingdom of Aragon, identify the Almogavar way of life as this of bandits and thieves. Almogavars called themselves and their chiefs by Arabic names. In their war cries they did not curse against the name of God, as it was referred to by chronicler Ramon Muntaner. Eventually, the ranks of Muslims and pagans Almogavars were increased with people from widely diverse backgrounds. Christian Almogavers were incorporated and increased when the number of peninsular Christians grew.

Socioeconomically, Almogavars generally came from peasant or keep herds people displaced by famine caused by armies' campaigns in reconquista wars. Most of these Almogavars were of Muslim descent and custom but also some were pagan people.[6] The pagan Iberians were a number of inhabitants yet in the mountains and rural areas. Many almogavars were Muslim deserters, originating in the Muslim areas in and out of the Ebro Valley. Many Almogavars did not follow Christian precepts popularly, it including not eating meat on Friday. This horrified the Christian enemies of Almogavars and it was described on numerous occasions in various locations and dates by French and Greeks. They did not fear excommunication by Pope. Some included warriors among almogavars came from the following kingdoms and locales:[citation needed]

The Almogavars also included other Vascon or vasconized people of the Ebro Valley:

And Iberian or European people:

Their ranks even included Germans, who joined the troops of the king of Aragon during the expedition by the Byzantine Empire.[7] [8] [9]

Origins and early history, 7th through 9th centuries[edit]

See also early Al-Andalus history

In 711, Tariq ibn Ziyad, under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I, led a large army from the north coast of Morocco on 29 April 711 CE. The armies of Tariq, composed of recent converts to Islam,[10] landed at Gibraltar. The Muslim armies swept through Hispania. Bandits known as Al-Mogauar were located in the territories of the Al Andalus towards the 10th century.

The first historical reference appears in the Arabic chronicle «muluk Akhbar Al-Andalus», "history of the kings of the Andalus", written between 887 CE and 955 CE by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Razi, known among the Arabs with the nickname Al-Tariji (the Chronicler) and among Christians as the Moor Rasis. In his chronicle, the historian of Qurtuba describes the areas of Al-Andalus, and the Ebro valley. Al Tariji identifies for first time in history the existence of troops called almogavars in the city of Saraqusta, the Islamic Zaragoza.[7]

When Charlemagne destroyed the walls of Pamplona after a failed attempt to conquer the Muslim Saraqusta, the Vascon leaders, allies and relatives of Banu Qasi, a muladi family of Muslim leaders, annihilated the rearguard of Franks in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass: a coalition of Vascon and Muslim troops ambushed the rearguard with great slaughter.

Íñigo Arista of Pamplona was maternal stepbrother of Musa ibn Musa ibn Qasi. In 799, pro-Frankish assassins murdered Mutarrif ibn Musa, governor of Pamplona, perhaps the brother of Musa ibn Musa ibn Qasi and of Íñigo himself. Also in 799, northern Basques, organized in the Duchy of Vasconia, collaborated with the Franks during campaigns such as the capture of Barcelona.

In 806, Pamplona, still under Cordovan rule, was attacked next by the Franks. The Pamplonese led by somebody named Velasco the Gascon pledged allegiance to Charlemagne again, but his hold on power proved feeble. At about 814, an anti-Frankish faction led by Enecco, an ally of the Banu Qasi, seems to have taken over again. A Frankish army was sent to quash the revolt, to little effect. Furthermore, on their way north through Roncevaux an ambush attempt took place that ended in stalemate, due to the greater precautions taken by the Franks, i.e. Basque women and children taken with them as hostages.

After the death of Charlemagne in 814, uprisings started anew. The revolt in Pamplona crossed the northern Pyrenees and in 816 Louis the Pious deposed the Basque Duke Seguin of Bordeaux. Failure to suppress the rebellion started a widespread revolt, led by Gartzia Semeno (who according to late traditions was a near-kinsman of Eneko Aritza, the first monarch of Pamplona, and newly appointed duke Lupus Centullo (c. 820).) Meanwhile, in Aragon the pro-Frankish Count Aznar Galindo was overthrown by Enecco´s allied Count Gartzia Maloith. Aznar Galindo in turn sought refuge in Frankish-held territory. Louis the Pious then received the submission of rebel Vascon lords in Dax, but things were far from settled.[citation needed]

Historian Ibn Hayyan reported that in 816, Abd al-Karim ibn Abd al-Wahid ibn Mugit launched a military campaign against the pro-Frankish "Enemy of God", "Velasco the Gascon" (Arabic: بلشك الجلشقي‎, Balašk al-Ŷalašqī), Sahib of Pamplona (Arabic: صاحب بنبلونة‎). These armies were reported to have united Christian and pagan factions. A three-day battle was fought in which the pro-Córdoba faction routed their enemies and killed Velasco, along with García López, kinsman of Alfonso II of Asturias, Sancho "warrior/knight of Pamplona", and pagan warrior "Ṣaltān". This defeat of the pro-Frankish force appears to have allowed the anti-Franks Íñigo to come to power.

In 820, Íñigo is said to have intervened in the County of Aragon, ejecting a Frankish vassal, count Aznar I Galíndez, in favor of García el Malo (the Bad), who would become Íñigo's son-in-law. In 824, the Frankish counts Aeblus and Aznar Sánchez made an expedition against Pamplona, but were defeated in the third Battle of Roncesvalles.

In 824, the third Battle of Roncevaux ensued. Counts Eblo and Aznar Galindo (also identified as Aznar Sánchez and the latter appointed Duke of Gascony) were captured by the joint Pamplonese and Banu Qasi forces, strengthening the independence of Kingdom of Pamplona.

The type of soldiers in these on-going battles consisted of small groups trained in assault by surprise. Christian Aragonese Crown soldiers will adapt these tactics and come to be known by the name of almogavars.

10th and 11th centuries[edit]

Taifas often hired Christian mercenaries to fight neighbouring realms, both Christian and Muslim. The Banu Hud of Taifa of Saraqusta resisted the Almoravid dynasty. They ruled until they were eventually defeated by the Almoravids in May 1110. The last sultan of the Banu Hud, Abd-al-Malik, and Imad ad-Dawla of Saraqusta, was forced to abandon the capital. Abd-al-Malik allied himself with the Christian Aragonese under Alfonso I of Aragon. From that time the Muslims of Saraqusta became military regulars within the Aragonese forces.

In the Taifa of Zaragoza, Christian infanzon El Cid (exiled from Castilla with his supporters the Mesnada) offered their services to Yusuf al-Mu'taman ibn Hud. El Cid and his supporters accepted the command of Taifa of Zaragoza and swore allegiance to the Moorish Muslim king of the northeast Al-Andalus city of Zaragoza, Yusuf al-Mu'taman ibn Hud. They served both this Moorish king and his successor, Al-Mustain II. The Muslim ruler given the title of Al Sidi ( El Cid), he served as a leading figure in a Moorish force consisting of Muladis, Berbers, Arabs and Malians.

O'Callaghan writes:

That kingdom was divided between al-Mutamin (1081–1085) who ruled Zaragoza proper, and his brother al-Mundhir, who ruled Lérida and Tortosa. El Cid entered al-Mutamin's service and successfully defended Zaragoza against the assaults of al-Mundhir, Sancho I of Aragón, and Ramón Berenguer II, whom he held captive briefly in 1082. In 1084, El Cid and the Moorish armies defeated Sancho of Aragon at the Battle of Morella near Tortosa. He was then troubled by the fierce conflicts between the Muladis of Badajoz and the Arabs of Seville.

In 1086, the Almoravid invasion of the Iberian Peninsula began. It was started through and around Gibraltar. The Almoravids, Berber residents of present-day North Africa, led by Yusuf ibn Tashfin, were asked to help defend the divided Moors from Alfonso. El Cid probably commanded a large Moorish force during the great Battle of Sagrajas, which took place in 1086, near the Taifa of Badajoz. The Almoravid and Andalusian Taifas, including the armies of Badajoz, Málaga, Granada, Tortosa and Seville, defeated a combined army of León, Aragón and Castile.

Already in 1095 troops named Almogavars served King Sancho Ramírez I of Aragon. These forces took part in the conquest of a Muslim city, which the Chronicles did not identify at the time. However, after the recapture, this city was renamed by King Ramirez as Limousin Mont Són, and later Castilianized as Monzón.[11][12]

12th, 13th and early 14th centuries[edit]

In 1111 or 1115, some Almogavers to Christian's kings service were reported when Christian King Alfonso I of Aragon and Pamplona designated Almogavers as the populace of the "El Castellar" fortress.[13][14][15][16] This fortress was located on the banks of the Ebro near Zaragoza. This reference took place the same year that Aragonese and Navarrese troops conquered Ejea and Tauste and as they prepared to besiege Saraqusta.[17][18][19]

In 1177, Alfonso the Chaste went to the siege of Al- Madinat kunka (Cuenca) with a group armed and identified as almogavers. This effort was in support of the Castilian monarch.

War in Sicily and crusade against the Crown of Aragon[edit]

On 30 March 1282, Peter III of Aragon waged war on Charles of Anjou after the Sicilian Vespers for the possession of Naples and Sicily. The Almogavars formed the most effective element of his army. Their discipline, ferocity and the force with which they hurled their javelins made them formidable against heavy cavalry of the Angevin armies. They fought against cavalry by attacking the enemies' horses instead of the knights themselves. Once a knight was on the ground he was an easy victim of an Almogavar.

Between 1284 and 1285, the "Crusade against the Crown of Aragon" was declared by Pope Martin IV against King Peter the Great of Aragon. This crusade was declared based on King Peter's intervention in Sicilian affairs against the papal will. Most of the conflict took place in Catalonia, although the first episode took place in the frontier of Navarre and Aragon. The Almogavars were at the service of King commanded by King Peter or Roger of Lauria.

Roger of Lauria had much more control over his captains than the enemies did. His crews were made up of specialized troops, instead of the more generic types used by his enemies. His archers were used initially, while his oarsmen Almogavars stayed under cover. These Almogavars were much more agile than the heavily armored knights with swords, as his enemies often used, especially on the moving deck of a galley at sea. Roger used trickery to disguise the size of his force. In addition, he sometimes kept some of his galleys hidden, to attack the rear of the enemy after the battle had started.

Roger was also infamous for the ruthless sackings and the devastation of his actions, often driven only by greed and personal advantage. On the other side, his reputation alone possibly caused some enemies to lose heart during a battle.

The Catalan Company[edit]

In 1302, the Peace of Caltabellotta 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. This company was organized to fight against the Turks. Both kings of Aragon and Sicily agreed with this strategy as a viable alternative to having the Almogavar standing army unemployed in their realms.

The Almogavar campaign in Asia Minor took place in 1303 and 1304. It began with a series of military victories, but also saw widespread looting of Byzantine civilians. When the Almogavars insisted in receiving the agreed payment, the Byzantine Emperor refused. Thereafter the Almogavars turned to violence, making their presence intolerable to the Byzantine population.

In 1305, Roger de Flor and his lieutenants were assassinated by orders of the Emperor while meeting to discuss terms on their compensation. This assassination was presumably on the instigation of Genoese merchants, who were conspiring to keep their own position of influence and power. This betrayal resulted in the Almogavars ravaging the neighborhood of Constantinople.

The Aragonese Duchy of Athens[edit]

Subsequently the Almogavars marched against the Duchy of Athens, under the rule of the French House of Brienne. In March 1310, Duke Walter V of Brienne and all his knights were defeated and slain by the Almogavars at the Battle of the Cephissus, or Orchomenus in Boeotia. They then divided the wives and possessions of the Frenchmen by lot, and summoned a prince of the house of Aragon to rule over them.

The culminating achievement of the Almogavars was the foundation of Aragonese rule over the duchy of Athens. Although the duchy eventually fell to the Ottoman Empire, even today the King of Spain still holds the title of 'Duke of Athens and Neopatria'.

Late Period[edit]

As time passed, Muslim Almogavars became less numerous. In 1502, violating the 1492 peace treaty Ferdinand II of Aragon forced all Muslims in Castile and Aragon to convert to Catholicism or be expelled. Nevertheless, King Ferdinand, ruler of the Kingdom of Aragon, continued to tolerate the large Muslim population living in his territory. Since the Crown of Aragon was independent of Castile, their policies towards Muslims were more tolerant. Historians have suggested that the Crown of Aragon was inclined to tolerate Islam in its realm because the landed nobility there depended on the cheap, plentiful labor of Muslim vassals.[20] However, the landed elite's exploitation of Aragon's Muslims also exacerbated class resentments. These Aragonese troops were subjected mainly by Christian nobility.

In the 1520s, Valencian guilds rebelled against the local nobility in the Revolt of the Brotherhoods. The rebels "saw that the simplest way to destroy the power of the nobles in the countryside would be to free their vassals, and this they did by baptizing them."[21] The Inquisition and monarchy decided to prohibit the forcibly baptized Muslims of Valencia from returning to Islam. In 1609, nominally converted Christian Moriscos were thereafter expelled.

Cultural and linguistic legacy[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Like most Iberian words beginning with the prefix "al-", it is derived from the Arabic language, from Arabic: al-maghāwīr‎, "scout"[1]

Al-Mogawer المجاور, means "beside" or "neighbor". Other sources claim that the word Almogavar may come from the Arabic "al-muqafir," a "raider" or "devastator". Some sources claim that the Catalan word "Almogàver" is based on the name al-mughawwar, meaning «els que provoquen algarades» ("the ones wreaking havoc") given to them by the Saracens. When they made brief incursions, lasting one or two days, of about twelve men into Muslim-controlled territory. The name and also the presence of these Muslim mercenary troops is earlier, in other Iberian kingdoms.

The Almogavars were led by the "Adalí", from Arabic ad-dalla, "guide". The captain of a large squadron was known in Catalan as "Almogaten", from Arabic al-muqaddam, "captain".[22]

Negative connotation of Almogavars[edit]

Almogavars were also known as "catalans" in Byzantine Empire territories. The presence of the company left its mark on the folklore and the popular legend of the different regions where they spent, including as far as the Balkans and Greece. Devastation caused by Almogavars troops has created a negative connotation in some locales.

In the regions of Attica and Boeotia, a popular saying included: may the revenge of the Catalans fall on you. In Bulgaria, the expressions "Catalan" and "Son of Catalan" mean "wicked man, soulless, torturer". This negative connotation reached beyond the boundaries of folklore to influence poets such as Ivan M. Vazov in the poem Pirates, first published in 1915. Vazov includes the Catalans with the Turks as the greatest oppressors of the Bulgarian nation. In the region of Parnassus, the following saying is popularised: "I will flee from the Turks to fall into the hands of the Catalans".

Currently, in Albania the word "Catalan" means "ugly and wicked man." Likewise, "Catalan" or "Katallani" is designated in Albanian folklore as a monster with one eye, reminiscent in many ways the Cyclops Polyphemus. This cyclops is represented by a wild blacksmith who feeds on human flesh. He also has no knees, so he can not bend, and long legs like masts of a ship. He faces a young hero named Dedaliya. This tradition, in various versions, is usually called by the title of Daedalus dhe Katallani, Daedalus and Catalan.

The battle cry of the Almogavars in Catalan[edit]

Aur! Aur! Desperta ferro!
Deus aia!
...
Veyentnos sols venir, los pobles ja flamejen:
veyentnos sols passar, son bech los corbs netejen.
La guerra y lo saqueig, no hi ha mellors plahers.
Avant, almugavers! Que avisin als fossers!
La veu del somatent nos crida ja a la guerra.
Fadigues, plujes, neus, calors resistirem,
y si'ns abat la sòn, pendrèra per llit la terra,
y si'ns rendeix la fam carn crua menjarem!
Desperta ferro! Avant! Depressa com lo llamp
cayèm sobre son camp!
Almugavers, avant! Anem allí a fer carn!
Les feres tenen fam! [23]

Meaning: Listen! listen! Wake up, O iron! / Help us God! / [...] / Just seeing us coming the villages are already ablaze. / Just seeing us passing the crows are wiping their beaks. / War and plunder, there are no greater pleasures. / Forward Almogavars! Let them call the gravediggers! / The voice of the Somatent[24] is calling us to war. / Weariness, rains, snow and heat we shall endure. / And if sleep overtakes us, / we will use the earth as our bed. / And if we get hungry, we shall eat raw meat. / Wake up, O iron! Forward! / Fast as the lightning / let us fall over their camp! / Forward Almogavars! Let us go there to make flesh, / the wild beasts are hungry!

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Joseph F. O'Callaghan (2004). Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-8122-1889-3. 
  2. ^ Enigmas y misterios de los almogávares. Guillermo Rocafort. p. 31. 
  3. ^ Enigmas y misterios de los almogávares. Guillermo Rocafort. p. 35. 
  4. ^ McKitterick, Rosamond; Collins, R. (1990). The New Cambridge Medieval. History 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 289. ISBN 9780521362924. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Los almogávares".  (Spanish)
  6. ^ http://www.cliohworld.net/onlread/6/06.pdf
  7. ^ a b Bolea 2010, pag. 14

    Además, y corrigiendo trabajos literarios aparecidos en los últimos años, se debe recordar que estos mercenarios hablaban y se comunicaban exclusivamente en aragonés y en catalán medieval. De ninguna manera lo hicieron en castellano, lengua en ese tiempo extraña para ellos [...] y así lo atestiguan documentos como los transmitidos por Johan Ferrández de Heredia o la corte de Pedro IV [de Aragón]

    —loc. cit. Chusé L. Bolea
  8. ^ Rufino Blanco-Fombona y, «Motivos y letras de España. II. La epopeya bizantina de los almogávares», en Rafael Ramón Castellanos (ed.), Ensayos históricos, Caracas, Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1981, pág. 333. ISBN 978-84-660-0003-1.
  9. ^ José Hinojosa Montalvo, Jaime II y el esplendor de la Corona de Aragón, San Sebastián, Nerea, 2006, pág. 232. ISBN 978-84-89569-99-7.
  10. ^ Arnold, Thomas Walker, The Preaching of Islam: a history of the propagation of the Muslim faith, originally published in 1912, ISBN 1-143-05978-6 ISBN 978-1143059780 (Nabu Press, 2010); p. 259.
  11. ^ History of the Mallorca Region (in Spanish); Ramon Muntaner
  12. ^ Historia y Vida; n.º 432
  13. ^ http://aracultural.com/assets/almugavares_via_sus.pdf
  14. ^ http://www.rolde.org/content/files/magazine_40_03_rolde%20134.4-15.pdf
  15. ^ http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Castellar_%28Torres_de_Berrell%C3%A9n%29
  16. ^ http://almogavarescalatayud.blogspot.com.es/
  17. ^ http://matmor.unam.mx/~drini/data/al-mutaman.pdf
  18. ^ http://www.torresdeberrellen.net/investigaciones/investcastellar/ocupacioncastell.pdf
  19. ^ http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_de_Miranda_%28Zaragoza%29
  20. ^ Henry Kamen, Spanish Inquisition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997, p. 216 ISBN 978-0-300-07880-0) and Yale University Press Review of Kamen book
  21. ^ Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 216.
  22. ^ Ferran Soldevila: "Els Almogàvers"
  23. ^ "Los pirineus : obra dramàtica en un prolech y tres actes" – Victor Balaguer
  24. ^ An ancient Catalan paramilitary organization

Further reading[edit]

  • Morris, Paul N., ' "We Have Met Devils!" The Almogavars of James I and Peter III of Catalonia-Aragon', Anistoriton v. 4 (2000)[1]
  • Moreno Echavarría, José María, '"Los almogávares"', Círculo de Lectores.
  • ALMOGÁVERS [2]
  • This article is partly based on the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica entry.