Catalan Grand Company

   Soldier company of Spanish mercenaries hired by Andronikos II (q.v.). They were supposed to halt the Ottoman (q.v.) expansion in what little was left of Byzantine Asia Minor (q.v.); instead, they wreaked havoc on Byzantine territories from 1304-1309. Estimates of their numbers vary; they may have been as few as 2,000. Despite some initial success, relations with Andronikos II soon broke down, and in 1305 their leader Roger de Flor (q.v.) was assassinated. After this, the Catalans went on a rampage that eventually led them into Thrace and Macedonia (qq.v.), where they besieged monasteries on Mount Athos (q.v.), devastated Chalkidike (q.v.), and unsuccessfully besieged Thessalonike (q.v.) by land and sea. In 1309 they attacked Latin territories farther south, and in 1311 they took control of Athens, creating the Catalan duchy of Athens and Thebes (qq.v.), which lasted until 1388. The Catalan Grand Company was hardly unique as a fighting band. The Navarrese Company (q.v.) took over the Principality of Achaia (q.v.) in 1381. In 15th-century Italy such companies, led by professional generals (condottieri), were often employed by city-states, and just as often out of control.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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