The kingdom of Aragon was a major naval power in the Middle Ages. Its sailors skills at seacraft gave it power – and that power was used to carve out a maritime empire in the western Mediterranean.   Indeed its influence was felt in the eastern half of that sea as well. At its height it comprised in addition to its heartland on the southern side of the Pyrenees: Catalonia, Sardinia, Corsica, Athens, Sicily, Naples and the bit of Italy near to Naples and the Balearic Islands. Naples was no mean possession at the time. It was the largest port in the Western Mediterranean. There were several notable people of aragonese extraction who important figures in the late Middle Ages.

Medieval Empire of Aragon

The Borgia popes were from Aragon.  Had they stuck around in the Vatican longer who knows what might have happened. Everybody in UK to this day knows the name Catherine of Aragon, one of the unluckier of Henry VIII’s six wives. Its eclipse came about mainly due to the merger for dynastic reasons with its slightly stronger neighbour Castile.  The difference in punching power between these two states was not that big – certainly not as big as between Scotland and England which came together in a similar way just over a hundred years later. And yet Scotland has remained very much a country in its own right, while Aragon has had a chequered history and although it is still a recognisable administrative unit it has become basically a province of Spain.


It’s lack of interest to Modern people is probably explained by the fact that much of mediaeval Aragon is now occupied by people with their own.National Identity full stop catalans are mainly interested in being Catalan.  Italians are all about Italy. And the Greeks certainly have a national narrative into which Aragon doesn’t fit.


The reality is that Aragon was  just as valid as a starting point for a modern state as many of the ones that have survived.  Spain and Portugal both obtained great influence as a result of their naval prowess. Who’s to say that the much more sea facing kingdom of Aragon might not of done even better. Perhaps it would even have given the Dutch and English a run for their money in the race for control of the worlds seaborne trade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *