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This blog presents my different wargames armies, after action reports, campaigns which I have run, some scenarios and a presentation of some of the different rules I play. The pages at the top of the blog contain historical information on the periods that interest me. They are an aid to my poor memory, and not in any way exhaustive nor necessarily correct. As I am an Englishman living in France, some pages are in English and others in French...sorry, I am too lazy to translate...

I hope this blog offers you much enjoyment and some inspiration !

mardi 21 août 2012

Catalan Company (1282-1388)

If a blind eye is turned to the armour worn by my Aragonese knights (whose style belongs more to the end of the 14th century), this army can represent not only the Catalan Company proper, but also the Aragonese army during the war of the Sicilian Vespers.

The fierce-looking Almughavars are the backbone of the army. Their name is the transformation into Catalan of an Arab word, al-mogauar, which means "one who devastates". Mountain shepherds or forest-dwellers, these were the men who carried war to the Arab taïfa, a war made up of raids, pillaging and unstable frontiers. The almughavars were the heart of the army with which James I conquered Murcia and Valencia.

These independantly-minded volunteers were gradually structured by the royal army. They were regrouped into units which were simultaneously electoral bodies - for the almughavars elected their own almogaten (sergeants) and adalil (captains).
The cohesion that this gave them is evident from the history of the "Catalan Company". Almughavar who enlisted for royal service during the aftermath of the War of the Sicilian Vespers ended up leaving Aragonese service under the banner of Roger de Flor, and serving the Emperor of Byzance as mercenaries against the Turks. When the Byzantines refused to pay them, the Catalan Company wreaked a trail of havoc in the Balkans, ending up in Greece where they ruled the Duchy of Athens until 1388.

The Almughavars of the Catalan Company proper were not only Aragonese, but men of other origins who joined it during its many adventures - Basques, Navarrese, or even Turks or Greeks. A babel of tongues, reunited in the war-cry of the almughavars : "Desperta ferres !" : let the steel awake !

Aragonese knights
The feudal regime of Europe was only partially imported into Spain : in 1300, the King of Aragon was the direct owner of 60% of the land of his kingdom (against roughly 2% for the King of France).  The nobles of Catalonia were few and far between in 1400, the rich coastal cities having devoured much of their land.  As for the kingdom of Valencia, its heartland was dominated by a handful of vast estates.  Most of my knights are therefore Aragonese nobles.  In the front rank are the ricoshombres (the upper nobility) and behind them, the caballeros.  Aragon did not have the famous hidalgos, rural nobles prevalent in Castille who were often as poor as they were proud.
Although mostly on foot, the Catalan Company included a (few) mounted knights.

One of my knightly elements represents the urban militia of Barcelona - the city was so rich that part of its militia fought heavily armed on horseback, and with great skill.

From their very creation, the military orders were implanted in Spain. In the 12th century, however, the sources of foreign knights, who were mostly Burgundians, began to dry up. In response, some specifically Spanish orders were founded, and their constitution approved by the Pope. The earliest was that of Calatrava (1157), followed by the Order of Santiago in 1170 and that of Alcantara in 1176. These knights fought not only in the wars of Spanish powers, but also to protect the pilgrim trail leading to the shrine of St. Jacques, at Compostella.  Elements of them can be found in my army, although they are not mentioned as participating in the wars of the Catalan Company itself.

Jinetes and Adalides
Any noble worthy of the name had jinètes or adalides in his company. The role of these light horseman, copied on the Arab model, was to serve as scouts or hassle and wear down the enemy. "Adalides" were generally the descendants of Muslim families who, after the Reconquista, converted to Christianity; "Jinètes" were Spanish Christians who adopted the fighting techniques of their ancient enemy.
The Catalan Company also drew on the light horse of several allies, such as Alans or Turks.

A corollary of the resistance of Aragon to feudalisation is that its peasants are freeholders, forming structured and autonomous rural communities. The farmers of the county of Aragon, dwelling in mountain valleys that they know like the back of their hand, are thus ferociously independant, and used to bearing arms. Aragonese society is even sufficiently mobile that a peasant can acquire noble status by exceptional feats of arms on the field of battle.

Amongst the Aragonese, wielding bow and crossbow, are mingled slingers from the Balearic Islands, in particular from the kingdom of Majorca.
Peasants from the county of Barcelona, or from the kingdom of Valencia, would be best represented by MI, since they lived in regions where feudal traditions were stronger.

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