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Roger de Flor

Roger de Flor , a military adventurer of the 13th and 14th century, was the second son of a German falconer surnamed Blum (flower) in the service of the emperor Frederick II, who fell at Tagliacozzo (1268).

At eight years old he was sent to sea in a galley belonging to the Knights Templars. He entered the order and became commander of a galley. At the siege of Acre by the Saracens in 1291 he was accused and denounced to the pope as a thief and an apostate, was degraded from his rank, and fled to Genoa, where he began to play the pirate.

The struggle between the kings of Aragon and the French kings of Naples for the possession of Sicily was at this time going on; and Roger entered the service of Frederick, king of Sicily, who gave him the rank of vice-admiral. At the close of the war, in 1302, as Frederick was anxious to free the island from his mercenary troops (called Almogávares), whom he had no longer the means of paying, Roger induced them under his leadership to seek new adventures in the East, in fighting against the Turks, who were ravaging the Byzantine Empire.

The emperor Andronicus II accepted his offer of service; and in September 1303 Roger with his fleet and army arrived at Constantinople. He was adopted into the imperial family, was married to a grand-daughter of the emperor, and was made grand duke and commander-in-chief of the army and the fleet.

After some weeks lost in dissipation, intrigues and bloody quarrels against the Genoese, Roger and his men were sent into Asia, and after some successful encounters with the Turks they went into winter quarters at Cyzicus.

In May 1304 they again took the field, and rendered the important service of relieving Philadelphia, then invested and reduced to extremities by the Turks. But Roger, bent on advancing his own interests rather than those of the emperor, determined to found in the East a principality for himself. He sent his treasures to Magnesia, but the people slew his Catalans and seized the treasures. He then formed the siege of the town, but his attacks were repulsed, and he was compelled to retire.

Being recalled to Europe, he settled his troops in Gallipoli and other towns, and visited Constantinople to demand pay for the Almogávares. Dissatisfied with the small sum granted by the emperor, he plundered the country and carried on intrigues both with and against the emperor, receiving reinforcements all the while from all parts of southern Europe. Roger was now created Caesar, but shortly afterwards the young emperor Michael Palaeologus, not daring to attack the fierce and now augmented bands of adventurers, invited Roger to Adrianople, and there contrived his assassination and the massacre of his Catalan cavalry (April 4, 1306). His death was avenged by his men in a fierce and prolonged war against the Greeks.

This entry, as Roger di Flor, was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.