Nubian mercenaries from 11th Dynasty Egypt
October 2016 - Mercenaries (MURR-sinn-air-eez) are paid volunteer
soldiers: they are soldiers who are fighting as a job, not in order
to save their country or for the glory of God.
They only fight if they are paid, or for the booty they will get if
they win. Often they will change sides if the other side offers more
Many ancient and medieval governments hired mercenaries to fight their wars. Greek men seem to have been especially skilled mercenaries. We know that Greek men fought as mercenaries for the Egyptians and the Syrians as early as the Late Bronze Age, and other Greek men fought as mercenaries for the Egyptians against the Persians in the 500s and 400s BC. In the 300s, Greeks fought for the Persians, in a civil war. It's likely that the Lydians first invented gold and silver money in order to pay mercenary soldiers who were fighting for them.
In the 300s AD, the Romans hired many Germans as mercenary soldiers, often paying them in land and a share of the taxes (though we don't understand very well how this worked). The Visigoths and the Ostrogoths both worked as mercenaries for the Romans. Chinese T'ang Dynasty emperors hired Sogdians as mercenaries too, leading to An Lushan's revolt. In the 600s AD, some Arabs worked as mercenaries for the Romans, and others worked for their enemies the Sassanians.
Once the Arabs had founded the Islamic empire, they too hired mercenaries: the Abbasid caliphs hired the Seljuk Turks as mercenaries. Medieval European kings also hired a lot of mercenaries, and then the British empire hired Sikhs as mercenaries in Northern India. Today there is less fighting than ever before, but even the United States army still hires contractors and subcontractors when there is a war.
Learn by doing: talk to somebody who's fought in a war about what it was like
More about war
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