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Roger de Flor

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Subject: Catalan Campaign in Asia Minor, Catalan Company, Byzantine Empire under the Palaiologos dynasty, 1302, Lordship of Chios
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Roger de Flor

Roger de Flor (1267 – 30 April 1305), also known as Ruggero/Ruggiero da Fiore or Rutger von Blum or Ruggero Flores, was an Italian military adventurer and condottiere active in Aragonese Sicily, Italy and the Byzantine Empire. He held the title Count of Malta.[1]

Life

He was born in Brindisi, in the Staufer Kingdom of Sicily, the second son of a Brindisi noblewoman and German falconer named Richard von Blum (Blume means flower in German) in the service of the Hohenstaufen rulers of southern Italy.

At eight years old he was sent to sea in a galley belonging to the Knights Templars. He entered the order and became captain of a galley. After rescuing wealthy survivors during the siege of Acre by the Mamluk Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil in 1291 to Cyprus, following some intrigues and personal disputes he was accused of robbery and denounced to the pope as a thief and an apostate. This resulted in his relegation from the order. Roger fled to Genoa, where he borrowed a considerable sum from Ticino Doria, purchased a new vessel and began to play the pirate.

The struggle between the Aragonese kings of Aragon and the French kings of Naples for the possession of Sicily was at this time going on; and Roger by then one of the most experienced military commanders of his time, was called to the service of Frederick, king of Sicily, who gave him the rank of vice-admiral. When the Peace of Caltabellotta brought the war to an end in 1302, Frederick was unwilling and unable to keep a mercenary army and was anxious to free the island from troops (called Almogàvers), whom he had no longer the means of paying. Given the political and military situation, Roger found an opportunity to make his services useful in the east in fighting against the Ottoman Turks, who were ravaging the Byzantine Empire.

Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus of the Byzantine Empire was facing siege by the Ottoman Turks, an Islamic tribe approaching the capital of his empire after defeating his armies and ransacking most of his domains. Looking for assistance from the European kingdoms he made Roger an offer of service along with the Almogavar army under his command. In September 1303 Roger with his fleet and army, now known as the Catalan Company, arrived at Constantinople. He was adopted into the imperial family, was married to the emperor's niece Maria Asenina (daughter of Ivan Asen III of Bulgaria),[2] and was made grand duke (megas doux) and commander-in-chief of the army and the fleet.

Facing strong opposition from the powerful Genoese, some weeks passed lost in dissipation, intrigues, and bloody quarrels against the Genoese who were intent on keeping him out of the circles of power, Roger and his men were sent into Asia, and reportedly beat the Turks back as far as Armenia and Iran. After these successful encounters with the Turks they went into winter quarters at Cyzicus. In May 1304 they again took the field, defeated the Turks at Germe along with Byzantine forces under Hranislav and rendered the important service of relieving Philadelphia, then invested and reduced to extremities by the Turks.[3] Given his position of unchallenged military power, he was accused of serving his own interest instead of those of the emperor because he was determined to found in the East a principality for himself. He sent his treasures to Magnesia, but the people slew his Catalans and seized the treasures. He then laid siege to the town, but his attacks were repulsed, and he was compelled to retire.

Being recalled to Europe, he settled his troops in Gallipoli and other towns, and visited Constantinople to demand pay for the Almogàvers. Roger was created Caesar, perhaps in December 1304.

In April 1305, he was assassinated in Adrianople by Andronikos' son Michael.

The Company avenged itself, plundering the country around Gallipoli.

Literature

The early history of the Catalan Company was chronicled by Ramon Muntaner, a member of the company, in his Crònica.

The life of Roger de Flor inspired the fictional character of Tirant lo Blanc, an epic romance written by Joanot Martorell, published in Valencia in 1490. It is one of the best known medieval works of literature in the Catalan language, and played an important role in the evolution of the Western novel thanks to its influence on Miguel de Cervantes.

Roger de Flor is one of the main characters of The Horsemen of Death ("Surma ratsanikud"; 1963), a historical novel by Estonian writer Karl Ristikivi.

References

  1. ^ Charles Cawley and FMC, 2006-10. Cawley, Charles, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, retrieved August 2012 , . Medieval Lands Project: BYZANTIUM, NOBILITY. Chapter 4. ASANES. v2.0 Updated 14 February 2011. Date: 6/5/2011
  2. ^ Пламен Павлов - Бунтари и авантюристи в средновековна България
  3. ^ Dimitri Korobeinikov, Byzantium and the Turks in the Thirteenth Century, (Oxford University Press, 2014), 285-286.
Attribution
  • Moncada, Francisco de, Catalan Chronicle.
  • Ernest Marcos Hierro, Almogàvers: la història, L'esfera dels llibres, Barcelona 2005.
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