The following blog entry is part of Battle Castle’s interactive history fiction game, Masters of Constantinople. If you like Battle Castle and want to learn more about fortifications, medieval war and 15th century life, be sure to play at www.mastersofconstantinople.com.
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The first major naval battle of the Middle Ages occurred in 1285 during the Aragonese Crusade. Because of the recent conquest of Sicily by Peter III the Great, King of Aragon, Pope Martin IV launched a crusade to depose Peter for invading a papal fief. Peter, whose father had ceded the kingdom of Sicily to the papacy, did not agree. The French and Genoese forces fighting on behalf of the papacy included a fleet of galleys; however, the Catalan-Sicilian galley fleet soundly defeated them. The Battle of Les Formigues took place in the early morning of the 4th of September.
Ten to sixteen Genoese galleys under John de Orreo fled, leaving about fifteen to twenty French galleys to be capturedIt is said that 300 French prisoners were eventually sent back to France, but only after 299 of them had had their eyes put out. The 300th person, reportedly, only had one eye removed, so that he could lead the others home. The prisoners brought back a chilling message from the Aragonese leader: that not even fish would be able to navigate safely through Mediterranean Sea without the permission of the King of Aragon.
Chaytor, H. J. A History of Aragon and Catalonia. London: Methuen, 1933.
Runciman, Steven. The Sicilian Vespers. 1958.
Jennifer Lynn Jordan is an author and medieval blogger. She is also a doctoral student in medieval history and teaching fellow at SUNY Stony Brook.