Glossary and historical background for Of Sword and Shadow

Amphora: A container with handles and a narrow neck, usually made of ceramic in this novel’s setting, generally used for liquids. (plural amphorae)

Basque: A person from the Basque homelands in present-day Spain and France. At the time of this story, the land was in the Kingdom of Navarre. The Basques have lived there since before the beginning of recorded history and have a distinct culture and language.

Bourrelet: A hat made of fabric rolled and arranged around a light-weight hoop.

Cadmea: The fortified, walled portion of the city of Thebes. Named for Cadmus, the city’s founder and first king.

Castilian: The people or language originating in Castile, which, at the time of this story, was the largest kingdom in what would become Spain. Castilian was the precursor language to the modern Spanish now spoken on the Iberian Peninsula.

Catalan: The people or language originating in Catalonia (part of present-day Spain). Like Spanish and French, Catalan is a romance language. Most of the Catalans involved in this story are descendants of the Grand Catalan Company, whose members settled in Greece in the early part of the fourteenth century as mercenaries for and then rulers of the Duchy of Athens.

Dalmatica: A garment with wide, three-quarters-length sleeves and a roughly knee-length skirt, generally layered over a tunica. Worn by both men and women in the Medieval Greek world. Sometimes called a dalmatic.

De Brienne, Walter: A Frankish noble who inherited the Duchy of Athens from his cousin in 1309. When the Duchy’s neighbors united in an effort to take Walter’s newly acquired territory for themselves, Walter hired a group of mercenaries known as the Grand Catalan Company. They helped him consolidate power, but when he tried to dismiss them without their promised pay, they refused to leave the Duchy. De Brienne and most of his knights were slain when the dispute with the Grand Catalan Company escalated into battle.

Denier Tournois: Small coins used for everyday purchases, minted in French regions and in wide circulation in the Duchy of Athens. It took roughly eighty deniers tournois to equal one hyperpyron or ten deniers tournois to equal one grosso.

Don: An honorific title used for Catalan noblemen.

Donya: An honorific title used for Catalan noblewomen.

Duchy: A political entity governed by a duke. Three Dukes of Athens are mentioned in this story, and all of them had other titles. Walter was Count of Brienne and Duke of Athens. Frederick was both King of Sicily and Duke of Athens and Neopatria. Pedro was King of Aragon, Valencia, and Majorca, Count of Barcelona, and Duke of Athens and Neopatria.

Duchy of Athens: A crusader state established after the Fourth Crusade attacked the Christians in Constantinople instead of the Muslims in the Holy Land. It included the areas of Boeotia and Attica, with a capital of Thebes. Originally ruled by Frankish nobles, then by the Grand Catalan Company.

Euskara: The language of the Basques. Euskara is an orphan language, unrelated to any other known language in the world.

Florin: A gold coin minted in Florence, roughly equal to one Venetian ducat or three Byzantine hyperpyra.

Grand Catalan Company: A group of mercenaries from Catalonia. In the early fourteenth century, they succeeded in driving the Turks from Anatolia on behalf of the Byzantine Emperor, but though they were among the most formidable warriors of the Medieval Age, they were not an easy group to host. They had a pesky habit of looting not just their enemies but also their supposed allies. After the emperor’s son got the company’s leader and three hundred of his men drunk, he had them all slaughtered. As a result, the remnants of the Grand Catalan Company went on a rampage of revenge across Thrace that lasted several years, until Walter de Brienne secured their services. They cleared the Duchy of Athens of all of de Brienne’s enemies but refused to leave when he tried to dismiss most of them without full pay. Despite being outnumbered, the Catalans defeated de Brienne and his Frankish knights in the battle of Halmyros, killing almost all of them. Then the Catalans married the newly made noble widows and took over the Duchy of Athens as their own. Sixty-eight years later, at the time of this novel, their descendants still ruled the Duchy.

Grosso: A silver coin minted in Venice, worth roughly ten deniers tournois, one-eighth of a hyperpyron, or one-twenty-fourth of a ducat or florin. (plural grossi)

Halberd: A long pole weapon with a battle ax and a pike on the end.

Hauberk: A shirt of mail armor, usually mid-thigh length with sleeves.

Houppelande: A garment with a long body and flared sleeves, usually worn over other layers and fastened with a belt.

Hosa: Fitted leg coverings.

Hyperpyron: A gold coin minted by the Byzantine Empire. Worth roughly eighty deniers tournois, eight grossi, or one-third of a ducat or florin. (plural hyperpyra)

Miter: Peaked head covering for an ecclesiastical leader.

Moor: In the context of this novel, a Moor is one of the Muslim inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula or Northwest Africa (or one of their descendants), usually of Berber or Arabic ethnicity.

Navarrese Company: A company of mercenaries that included men from Navarre and Gascony. They fought first for Charles II of Navarre in his war against France, then for his brother, Louis of Evreux, in his attempt to take back Albania for his wife. The company took Durazzo, but Louis of Evreux died, leaving them unemployed. They broke into several companies, most of which made their way to Greece, working with the Knights Hospitaller or Nerio Acioli.

Pithos: A large storage container with a wide neck to allow easier access to its contents. (plural pithoi)

Pourpoint: A thick, quilted garment tailored for the torso, normally fastened in the front with buttons. Originally designed for wear beneath heavy armor.

Senyor: A polite term of address for a Catalan man.

Senyoreta: A polite term of address for an unmarried Catalan woman.

Stola: A long, loose garment worn by women since Roman times, often without sleeves and fastened by clasps at the shoulders.

Surcoat: A long, loose outer garment worn over armor.

Surcote Ouvert: A long, sleeveless outer garment for women, with a low neck and large armholes, worn over a gown.

Tunica: Garment worn by men and women in the Medieval Greek world, with a basic T-shaped cut. Often worn under other layers. Women usually wore tunicas with hemlines at the ankles. Length for men was more varied.

Verguer: A high-ranking Catalan official in the Duchy of Athens, appointed by the king, with judicial, military, and financial duties. In some sources, verguers are called vicars, but verguer is the term used throughout this novel.

Vicar General: The highest-ranking official in the Duchy of Athens, appointed by the king.

*Relative values of coinage are included for curious readers, but it should be noted that not all sources agree on the various values.