Battle of Halmyros

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Battle of Halmyros
Brienne Death 1311.jpg
The death of Walter of Brienne, ca. 1480
Date 15 March 1311
Location Halmyros, southern Thessaly; or by the Boeotic Cephissus, near Orchomenos, Boeotia
Result Decisive Catalan victory
Belligerents
Catalan Company Duchy of Athens
Commanders and leaders
Walter of Brienne  
Strength
2000 cavalry, including 1100 Turks; 4000 foot[1] 700 knights and 24,000 infantry (Muntaner);
6,400 cavalry and 8,000 infantry (Gregoras);
2,000 cavalry, 4,000 infantry (Chronicle of the Morea)[2][3]
Casualties and losses
unknown almost total loss of cavalry, including almost all Frankish knights; very heavy losses in infantry[4]

The Battle of Halmyros, known by older scholars as the Battle of the Cephissus or Orchomenos, was fought on 15 March 1311 between the forces of the Frankish Duchy of Athens and its vassals under Walter of Brienne and the mercenaries of the Catalan Company, resulting in a devastating victory for the Catalans.[5]

Background[edit]

Walter of Brienne had hired the Company to aid his Duchy of Athens against the neighboring Greek states: the Despotate of Epirus, the Byzantine Empire, and the Thessalian state of John II Doukas, who had thrown off the previous Frankish tutelage. This they did with great success, but Walter attempted to discharge them, picking 200 horse and 300 infantry from the company and paying them lavishly to remain in his service, while ordering the expulsion of the rest without paying them.[6] The Catalans, surrounded by hostile states, offered to recognize his suzerainty for the places they had conquered, if he would pay them the four months' salary they were due, but Walter refused and threatened to expel them by force.[7]

To this purpose, the Duke of Athens now assembled a large army, comprising not only his own feudatories—among them the most prominent were Albert Pallavicini, Margrave of Bodonitsa, Thomas III d'Autremencourt, Lord of Salona and Marshal of Achaea, and the barons of Euboea, Boniface of Verona, George I Ghisi and John of Maisy—but also reinforcements sent from the other principalities of Frankish Greece.[8] The sources differ on the size of Walter's army: a Byzantine source puts it at 6,400 cavalry and 8,000 infantry, the Aragonese version of the Chronicle of the Morea puts it at more than 2,000 cavalry and 4,000 infantry, while the Catalan chronicler Ramon Muntaner asserts that it comprised 700 knights and 24,000 infantry, mostly native Greeks.[2] The Catalan army on the other hand comprised 3,500 horse and 4,000 foot, many of whom were Turkish prisoners they had taken during their previous campaigns, and whose skill as archers they had come to value.[2]

Battle[edit]

Ramon Muntaner and the Byzantine Nikephoros Gregoras place the site of the battle at the Beotic Cephissus,[9] which resulted in the identification of the battle with that locality in older literature, including the standard history of William Miller,[10] but also repeating in more recent works.[11][12] The various versions of the Chronicle of the Morea on the other hand place the battle at "Halmyros", apparently the town of the same name in southern Thessaly.[13] W. Miller rejected this identification on the basis of the topography described by Muntaner,[13] but the discovery of a 1327 letter by the Venetian statesman Marino Sanudo, which was not published until 1940 and which also places the battle at Halmyros, has altered the situation,[9] so that Halmyros is now the commonly accepted localization of the battle.[14][15]

The Company assumed a defensive position. Their Turkish auxiliaries took up a separate position nearby, thinking the quarrel was a pretext arranged by the Company and the Duke of Athens to exterminate them. To protect their position, the Catalans broke dikes and dug trenches, diverting water from the river to flood the fields lying in front of them.

On the eve of battle, the Catalans in the Duke's service, stricken by conscience, took leave of him and rejoined the Company. This circumstance little disturbed the Duke, who still outnumbered the company, and had at his command the chivalry of the Frankish states in Greece, considered the flower of the French-speaking world. The Duke, with his banner in the vanguard, opened the battle with a cavalry charge against the Catalans, followed by the infantry. In the morass covering the Catalan front, the cavalry soon became hopelessly mired, the Duke and his banner falling in a rain of javelins from the Almogavars. As the lightly equipped Catalans advanced to cut down the wallowing knights, the Turkish auxiliaries descended from their camp upon the Athenian army, panicking and routing what remained of it.

According to Muntaner, only two of the seven hundred knights survived the battle, Roger Deslaur and Boniface of Verona. However, Nicholas Sanudo, later Duke of the Archipelago, also escaped, and a few others, like Antoine le Flamenc, were probably ransomed. Muntaner claims that 20,000 of the infantry were killed, and all of the native horse.

Aftermath[edit]

The battle is sometimes compared[by whom?]to the Battle of Agincourt where light, missile-armed troops were able to defeat heavily encumbered opponents hindered by adverse terrain. The paralyzing charge into the bogs and the slaughter that followed resulted in the near annihilation of the nobility of the Principality of Achaea and its vassal states. The Catalan Company proceeded to occupy the Duchy of Athens, which they placed under the protection of a prince of the House of Aragon and ruled until 1379. This tremendous smash also ended the golden age of Frankish chivalry in the Duchy of Athens. The remaining Latin states would now be largely dependent on external powers such as Naples and Venice for support.

References[edit]

  1. ^ De Vries 1996, pp. 60–61.
  2. ^ a b c Miller 1908, p. 225.
  3. ^ De Vries 1996, p. 61.
  4. ^ De Vries 1996, p. 64.
  5. ^ De Vries 1996, pp. 58–65.
  6. ^ Miller 1908, pp. 223–224.
  7. ^ Miller 1908, p. 224.
  8. ^ Miller 1908, pp. 224–225.
  9. ^ a b Setton 1976, p. 442 (note 3).
  10. ^ Miller 1908, pp. 226–229.
  11. ^ Topping 1975, p. 107.
  12. ^ Fine 1994, pp. 242, 244.
  13. ^ a b Miller 1908, p. 229 (note 3).
  14. ^ Nicol 1993, p. 135.
  15. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 125, 191.

Sources[edit]

Primary[edit]

Secondary[edit]

Coordinates: 39°10.8′N 22°45.6′E / 39.1800°N 22.7600°E / 39.1800; 22.7600