Back in the early '70s while living in Scotland I read a book called "The Catalan Vengeance," by Alfonso Lowe. It stuck in my mind and a few days back I ordered a copy from Amazon and it arrived two days ago. It tells the story of the Grand Catalan Company and their adventures as mercenaries in Asia Minor at the beginning of the 13th century. Most of the soldiers were Almugavars; Spanish light infantry. Their gear and fighting style had scarcely changed since the wars with Rome more than a thousand years earlier. An Almugavar usually carried a couple of javelins and mayby a spear, along with a short sword or a large knife. His only protective equipment was a skullcap helmet and often a smallish shield.He usually wore a tunic, a vest of wolfskin or other fur, leggings and hide sandals. That's it. Despite their light equipment, the Almugavars were regarded as the most fearsome infantry in Europe. Early in the book, Lowe gives the following anecdote to show just how tough these men were. It took place during a war in Sicily, when a band of Almugavars embarked on a ship to leave the island. As they pulled away, they saw one of their number running down to the beach with five mounted men-at-arms pursuing him.
"His officer, another Almugavar, prayed the admiral put him back on shore, but he arrived too late, for his man had been killed when he landed. Desclot describes how he attacked the first horseman with a javelin throw that pierced his coat of mail and drove through the center of his breast and killed him. Leaping aside, he met the next assailant, thrusting his lance through the horse, which fell dead on its rider, so that he could no longer rise. The three remaining Frenchmen, astounded and enraged, now charged him. At the first he cast his remaining javelin, through helmet and skull into the brain, so that he too fell dead. The other two were carried past by their impetus, giving the Almugavar time to go back to the rider pinned under his dead horse and cut his throat. The two survivors now rode to get between him and the sea, whereupon he hurled a stone at the first with such good aim that he hit him in the mouth and broke his jaw, at which the Frenchman turned his horse and made off. The Almugavar then thrust his lance at the last attacker, through hauberk and thigh, then withdrew it and speared the horse. As the shaft snapped the wounded Frenchman had time to get home a blow with his sword, making a wound the size of a handsbreadth. Weak now from loss of blood and reduced to his sword alone, the Almugavar was wading out to sea when he was overtaken by another party of the enemy and killed. 'But dearly was he bought,' says the old chronicler."
Dearly, indeed. A lone footman, lightly equipped, took on and defeated five mounted, armored men. Note that this is not a hero-tale, merely a bald account of the last stand of a nameless, ordinary soldier, who happened to belong to one of the toughest, fiercest peoples on Earth, a people who must have been much like the Cimmerians.
Edited by John Maddox Roberts, 02 September 2012 - 03:16 AM.