Almogávares (in Spanish) or Almogàvers (in Catalan) (from the Arabic Al-Mugavari, a scout), the name of a class of Spanish soldiers, well known during the Christian reconquest of Spain, and much employed as mercenaries in Italy and the Levant, during the 13th and 14th centuries.
The Almogávares (the plural of Almogavar) came originally from the Pyrenees, and were in later times recruited mainly in Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia. They were frontiersmen and foot-soldiers who wore no armour, dressed in skins, were shod with brogues (abarcas), and carried the same arms as the Roman legionaries-two heavy javelins (assegay , Spanish azagaya, Catalan atzagaia, the Roman pilum), a short stabbing sword and a shield.
They served the king, the nobles, the church or the towns for pay, and were professional soldiers. When Peter III of Aragon made war on Charles of Anjou after the Sicilian Vespers--March 30 1282--for the possession of Naples and Sicily, the Almogávares formed the most effective element of his army. Their discipline and ferocity, the force with which they hurled their javelins, and their activity, made them very formidable to the heavy cavalry of the Angevin armies.
When the peace of Calatabellota in 1302 ended the war in southern Italy, the Almogávares followed Roger de Flor (Roger Blum), the unfrocked Templar, entering as the Catalan Company in the service of the emperor of the East, Andronicus, as condottieri to fight against the Turks.
Their campaign in Asia Minor, 1303 and 1304, was a series of romantic victories, but their greed and violence made them intolerable to the Christian population. When Roger di Flor was assassinated by his Greek employer in 1305, they turned on the emperor, held Gallipoli and ravaged the neighbourhood of Constantinople.
In 1310 they marched against the duke of Athens, of the French house of Brienne. Walter of Brienne was defeated and slain by them with all his knights at the battle of Cephissus, or Orchomenus, in Boeotia in March. 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 foundation of the Aragonese duchy of Athens was the culmination of the achievements of the Almogávares. In the 16th century the name died out. It was, however, revived for a short time as a party nickname in the civil wars of the reign of Ferdinand VII.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Morris, Paul N., ' "We Have Met Devils!" The Almogavars of James I and Peter III of Catalonia-Aragon', Anistoriton v. 4 (2000)