The Almogavars - Spain's elite medieval shock infantry

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,248
Spain
#31
Yes John, you are right and I agree with you. I think there are 3 Medieval Armies (at least in Europe) crashed the Heavy Cavalry:

English longbowmen
Hussites
Almogávares

Lowbowmen stopped the heavy cavalry with their arrow rain... Hussites with their carriots (Boer will do the same 400 years later in the war against Zulu) and Almogávares... that used their knifes to stop the heavy cavalry!... between this three formidable warriors.. only Almogávares crushed cavalry in a hand to hand battle... gutting horses in the short action.

As you are specialist in Spanish Medieval History (as Tulius too) you know the history of Almogaveres.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,663
#33
Yes John, you are right and I agree with you. I think there are 3 Medieval Armies (at least in Europe) crashed the Heavy Cavalry:

English longbowmen
Hussites
Almogávares

Lowbowmen stopped the heavy cavalry with their arrow rain... Hussites with their carriots (Boer will do the same 400 years later in the war against Zulu) and Almogávares... that used their knifes to stop the heavy cavalry!... between this three formidable warriors.. only Almogávares crushed cavalry in a hand to hand battle... gutting horses in the short action.

As you are specialist in Spanish Medieval History (as Tulius too) you know the history of Almogaveres.
I think four. Swiss Pike men?
 
Likes: martin76

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,531
#34
English longbowmen being on that list seems suspect to me unless we are talking about military systems that regularly defeated opposing cavalry heavy armies.

1. Steppe armies/light cavalry armies that moved faster than heavy cavalry and had less logistic requirements
2. Almogávares appeared next in medieval era
2. English armies of the early 100 years war
3. Swiss canton armies and later mercenary armies
4. Hussites using early gunpowder and wagon bergs
5. Tercio adapting several military advances from pikes to gunpowder to light cavalry
 
Likes: martin76

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,248
Spain
#36
English longbowmen being on that list seems suspect to me unless we are talking about military systems that regularly defeated opposing cavalry heavy armies.

1. Steppe armies/light cavalry armies that moved faster than heavy cavalry and had less logistic requirements
2. Almogávares appeared next in medieval era
2. English armies of the early 100 years war
3. Swiss canton armies and later mercenary armies
4. Hussites using early gunpowder and wagon bergs
5. Tercio adapting several military advances from pikes to gunpowder to light cavalry
Yes you are right.. but unfortunately I know nothing about Chinese and Asia History before 16th Century... my shame.

About Almogávares.. they were born, grew and lived in mountains and forest...most of them came from Pyrenees and Iberian system... and from childhood they were customed to fight wolves and bears. They were free men and they didn´t accept the rules for living in villages, towns or cities.

in the shock with the heavy cavalyr. they stand, they held the charges and then with their knifes they killed horses and then the knight/rider.

As infantry... simply the best in those days... they walk average 6 kms an hour for 10 hours a day! they were able to walk a week, to fight and then walk another week... or to be 2 days without food or eating only grass...

For example, they crossed through Sicily... from Palermo to Messina (224 kms in only 3 days = 75 kms a day around 8 kms an hour) and when they arrived to Messina. They rested a day.. and next night.. they storming the French lines!!!

yes, as soldiers they were formidable. As a man.... Well.. I think Johnincornwall and Tulius our specialists in Medieval Spain are right... they were not the kind of men you would invite to your table....I don´t think so they were "bully".. but yes very very much aggressive and with incredible ferocity, due to their way of life in the mountains, fighting against Muslims, animals and wilderness


This would be able to be an almogavar.. the rounded smal shield, leather armor, bare legs and the famous Colltell (Knife).

.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,531
#37
Yes you are right.. but unfortunately I know nothing about Chinese and Asia History before 16th Century... my shame.

About Almogávares.. they were born, grew and lived in mountains and forest...most of them came from Pyrenees and Iberian system... and from childhood they were customed to fight wolves and bears. They were free men and they didn´t accept the rules for living in villages, towns or cities.

This would be able to be an almogavar.. the rounded smal shield, leather armor, bare legs and the famous Colltell (Knife).
I think there are a few threads dedicated exclusively to the Almogávares but they definitely have an interesting reputation. Starting as free men supplementing their income raiding along the border zones then developed into more formal border watch with royal recognition of a commander who was chosen by his comrades. Over time with the success of the early Almogávares more men wanted to participate and many were able to make raiding their full-time occupation. The main equipment was the azcona and javelins but the colltell was universal. The Almogávares developed as light infantry due to raids needing to be quick and navigate rough terrain because the victims of the raids became quite organized and better at defending themselves and men on foot could move faster and more quietly than horses in many terrains. With nearly constant fighting over a century and often against fellow Christians the Almogávares developed into battle-hardened full-time soldiers with strong connections throughout Aragonese lands and many of the men accepted as Almogávares were born outside of Iberia in Italy, Provance, and various Mediterranean islands. The main aspect seems to be a willingness to fight ferociously and without quarter along with some type of fanaticism toward other Almogávares, the House of Aragon, and the Christian Faith.

Excommunicated three different times the Almogávares did not give much credence to the Pope and seem to have seen the political machinations between Aragon, France, Italy, and Byzantines as purely power politics with Aragon being their preferred partner.

There are a few known legal cases of Aragonese citizens complaining that the Almogávares were stealing from them not just the enemies of Aragon and as the borders moved and the area of 'open' raiding grew smaller my feeling is that is probably fairly widespread. Luckily for Aragon, the need for soldiers in areas outside Iberia was high and the pay was good to be a mercenary so most of the full-time Almogávares volunteered to transition into mercenaries without needing to be prompted. Almogávares fought all over the Mediterranean but are most known for the battles in Italy, Anatolia, and Greece. The ill-fated invasion of France into Aragon urged on by the Pope in retaliation for Aragon's intervention in the Sicilian Vespers seems to have inspired even more Almogávares to look for employment and opportunity for war loot.

I think Almogávares and some of the other Great Companies employed in Italy are quite an interesting topic on the case of national identity because there are clear references to English, German, and Almogávares mercenary companies vowing loyalty to their 'distant' Kings- it might have been an issue of authority but it seems due to the captains of several companies acting as ambassadors for their King's that it was a real issue of legal authority.

Also the composition of the Catalan Company was more than just Almogávares even before it left Italy and by the time it was in Greece more than half its members were no longer Iberian as they had been fighting for several years and travel in the Mediterranean was not that difficult- several men left the company and returned to Aragon and it seems a few younger recruits were sent from Aragon to the Catalan Company even after it left Italy. The accomplishments of the Catalan Company in Anatolia are the most impressive to me.
 
Last edited:

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,248
Spain
#38
I think there are a few threads dedicated exclusively to the Almogávares but they definitely have an interesting reputation. Starting as free men supplementing their income raiding along the border zones then developed into more formal border watch with royal recognition of a commander who was chosen by his comrades. Over time with the success of the early Almogávares more men wanted to participate and many were able to make raiding their full-time occupation. The main equipment was the azcona and javelins but the colltell was universal. The Almogávares developed as light infantry due to raids needing to be quick and navigate rough terrain because the victims of the raids became quite organized and better at defending themselves and men on foot could move faster and more quietly than horses in many terrains. With nearly constant fighting over a century and often against fellow Christians the Almogávares developed into battle-hardened full-time soldiers with strong connections throughout Aragonese lands and many of the men accepted as Almogávares were born outside of Iberia in Italy, Provance, and various Mediterranean islands. The main aspect seems to be a willingness to fight ferociously and without quarter along with some type of fanaticism toward other Almogávares, the House of Aragon, and the Christian Faith.

Excommunicated three different times the Almogávares did not give much credence to the Pope and seem to have seen the political machinations between Aragon, France, Italy, and Byzantines as purely power politics with Aragon being their preferred partner.

There are a few known legal cases of Aragonese citizens complaining that the Almogávares were stealing from them not just the enemies of Aragon and as the borders moved and the area of 'open' raiding grew smaller my feeling is that is probably fairly widespread. Luckily for Aragon, the need for soldiers in areas outside Iberia was high and the pay was good to be a mercenary so most of the full-time Almogávares volunteered to transition into mercenaries without needing to be prompted. Almogávares fought all over the Mediterranean but are most known for the battles in Italy, Anatolia, and Greece. The ill-fated invasion of France into Aragon urged on by the Pope in retaliation for Aragon's intervention in the Sicilian Vespers seems to have inspired even more Almogávares to look for employment and opportunity for war loot.

I think Almogávares and some of the other Great Companies employed in Italy are quite an interesting topic on the case of national identity because there are clear references to English, German, and Almogávares mercenary companies vowing loyalty to their 'distant' Kings- it might have been an issue of authority but it seems due to the captains of several companies acting as ambassadors for their King's that it was a real issue of legal authority.

Also the composition of the Catalan Company was more than just Almogávares even before it left Italy and by the time it was in Greece more than half its members were no longer Iberian as they had been fighting for several years and travel in the Mediterranean was not that difficult- several men left the company and returned to Aragon and it seems a few younger recruits were sent from Aragon to the Catalan Company even after it left Italy. The accomplishments of the Catalan Company in Anatolia are the most impressive to me.
Well, I agree with everything you have written but I must add.. next Almogávares, there were others kinds of troops...Turcoples, for example, and from other places as Italy etc.. but almogávares were spaniards... not from other places... most of them from Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia.. and in much fewer proportion from Castile and Galicia.
For example, the German-Italian Roger de Flor (Roger von Blommer) was not an Almogavar...the Friar Roger de Flor (soldier, mercenary, Templar, pirate etc) never was an Almogavar although he was one of the commanders of the Company. He met Almogávares in Sicily.

We have the Ramón Muntaner´s Chronicle... as you know here it is the English version. On page 401 (page 379 in the original version)..... we can allow the old soldier speaks instead of us:

- Doch senyor, dix frare Roger (he is refering to Roger de Flor) , ab vostra licencia yo trametre dos cavallers ab una galera armada al Emperador de Constantinoble, e fer li ha saber que yo som aparellat danar a ell, ab tanta companya de cavalle e de peu, tots Cathalans e Aragonesos con el vollare quens do accoriment, e sour que yo sé que el ha gran mester aquest secors, quels Turchs li han toltes mes de XXX jornadas de terra, ceb ab nules gens no faria tanto ab Cathalans e Aragonesos , e majorment aquestes qui han menada aquesta guerra contra lo Rey Carles.

(English version)

-
Then, Lord,” said Frey Roger, “by your leave, 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.”

No source says Almogávares were from other European place.. as Muntaner well said.. We are from Spain from the land of Catalonia...

But you are right.. together Almogávares.. there were people consisted other units (and in this units there were foreigners). but not in Almogávares. For example: Turcopoles.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,531
#39
Well, I agree with everything you have written but I must add.. next Almogávares, there were others kinds of troops...Turcoples, for example, and from other places as Italy etc.. but almogávares were spaniards... not from other places... most of them from Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia.. and in much fewer proportion from Castile and Galicia.
For example, the German-Italian Roger de Flor (Roger von Blommer) was not an Almogavar...the Friar Roger de Flor (soldier, mercenary, Templar, pirate etc) never was an Almogavar although he was one of the commanders of the Company. He met Almogávares in Sicily.

We have the Ramón Muntaner´s Chronicle... as you know here it is the English version. On page 401 (page 379 in the original version)..... we can allow the old soldier speaks instead of us:

- Doch senyor, dix frare Roger (he is refering to Roger de Flor) , ab vostra licencia yo trametre dos cavallers ab una galera armada al Emperador de Constantinoble, e fer li ha saber que yo som aparellat danar a ell, ab tanta companya de cavalle e de peu, tots Cathalans e Aragonesos con el vollare quens do accoriment, e sour que yo sé que el ha gran mester aquest secors, quels Turchs li han toltes mes de XXX jornadas de terra, ceb ab nules gens no faria tanto ab Cathalans e Aragonesos , e majorment aquestes qui han menada aquesta guerra contra lo Rey Carles.

(English version)

-
Then, Lord,” said Frey Roger, “by your leave, 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.”

No source says Almogávares were from other European place.. as Muntaner well said.. We are from Spain from the land of Catalonia...

But you are right.. together Almogávares.. there were people consisted other units (and in this units there were foreigners). but not in Almogávares. For example: Turcopoles.
I agree that the original Almogávares were entirely Catalans and Aragonese but particularly in the case of the mercenary companies which were active over 20 years they allowed the sons and relatives of wives that Almogávares took on their journies who were born outside of Iberia. So while there is a strong link to usually by blood to an original Almogávares by the time the company was in Greece large parts of the men serving even as Almogávares (obviously not the Turcopoles and Alans who provided light horsemen to the company as the original jinetes were lost) were not born in Iberia but the sense of loyalty still existed a bit though pledging the lands to the Crown of Aragon in Sicily was for protection/legitimacy as much as loyalty. Almogávares clashed with the Crown on a few occasions throughout the years.
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,248
Spain
#40
I agree that the original Almogávares were entirely Catalans and Aragonese but particularly in the case of the mercenary companies which were active over 20 years they allowed the sons and relatives of wives that Almogávares took on their journies who were born outside of Iberia. So while there is a strong link to usually by blood to an original Almogávares by the time the company was in Greece large parts of the men serving even as Almogávares (obviously not the Turcopoles and Alans who provided light horsemen to the company as the original jinetes were lost) were not born in Iberia but the sense of loyalty still existed a bit though pledging the lands to the Crown of Aragon in Sicily was for protection/legitimacy as much as loyalty. Almogávares clashed with the Crown on a few occasions throughout the years.
Ok thanks for clarification. Yes, Almogávares came from Spain but their relatives and sons born in Italy, Greece and Anatolia. In the campaign in Turkey, all the Almogavares chiefs were Spaniards: (save Roger de Flor, a German-Italian but this man was not an almogavar) but Roger de Flor was their natural Lord: "los almogávares lo esperaban como los judíos al Mesías" (Almogávares expected him as the jews to the Messiah)

Berenguer de Rocafort (from Valencia), Berenguer de Entenza (from Aragon), Ferrán Jiménez de Arenós (from Valencia), Ramón Muntaner (From Catalonia)... I can see all of them were from Spain... save Roger de Flor (German-Italian) and Roger de Lauria (Italian)...but any of both were technically "almogávares".

When they arrived to Byzantium they were 4.000 almogávares (we should add their wifes and sons), 1.500 cavalliers and jinetes and 1.000 peones (militiamen).