mercenaries-msg - 10/4/99
Mercenaries in period.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: jliedl at nickel.laurentian.ca
Subject: Re: mercenaries in period question
Date: 11 Nov 93 12:52:02 -0500
Organization: Laurentian University
Greetings all from Ancarett Nankivellis!
tracker at wpi.WPI.EDU (The Renegade Ranger) writes:
> v276m8gv at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (Eric Frohnapple) writes:
>> I was wondering if anyone has any documentation about mercenaries in
>>period. How big were mercenary companies? How skilled were they? How often
>>were they used? Was it their full time job? What weapons did they use?
>>(The list goes on...)
>> It seemed to me that mercenaries would have been very common throughout
>>history, but I've never heard any answers to questions like these. Thanks,
> I don't have any books on them with me at the moment, but try looking
> for information on the German Landshneckts (That spelling is probably
> wrong.. there are one or two possibles..). They were, from what I
> gather, mercenary companies of high repute.
Landsknechts are good for the end of period, but this seems to be
a broader question.
I suggest you begin with the excellent general source: Philippe
Contamine's _War in the Middle Ages_ (Oxford: Blackwel, 1984)
"Nor can one call every soldier a mercenary from the moment he received
payment in one form or another. It is better to adapt to medieval
circumstances a definition recently proposed by the classicist Y.
Garland, who writes: 'The mercenary is a professional soldier whose
conduct is dictated not by his membership of a political community
but above all by his desire for gain.' In short, the mercenary is
defined by three qualities: being a specialist, stateless and
Later, describing one of the mercenary companies, Contamine state:
"In the fourteenth century, the 'Great Company' was a societas
societatum, in other words the collection of a body of freebooters
who accepted a supreme chief whom they recognized by a sort of
Lots of juicy good stuff in the book! Read on!
Laurentian University, Canada
JLIEDL at NICKEL.LAURENTIAN.CA
From: ua923 at freenet.Victoria.BC.CA (Mark Shier)
Subject: Re: mercenaries in period question
Organization: Camosun College, Victoria, B.C.
Date: Sun, 14 Nov 1993 05:27:49 GMT
If you are interested in period mercenaries,I suggest you read
"chaucer's knight- portrait of a medieval mercenary" by Terry
Jones. It has a pretty good bibliography. Also check out
Contamine's history of medieval warfare. Both are available in
paperback, but any good library should have them.
Mercenaries used the common weapons of there place and
time.(I wish I had a different text editor, so I could correct
my spelling) Some of them were full time soldiers, especially
in such groups as the fourteenth century Companies.See Froissart
for some good stories about them - especially the bio of the
Bascot de Meolean (sp?) The most sucsessful mercenary company
was the Catalan Company, which wound up owning its own country.
For more on them, read Muntaner's chronicle.
Mark der Gaukler
From: DDF2 at cornell.edu (David Friedman)
Subject: Re: mercenaries in period question
Date: 14 Nov 1993 13:35:34 GMT
Organization: Cornell Law School
In article <CGGv6F.GwE at camunx.camosun.bc.ca>, ua923 at freenet.Victoria.BC.CA
(Mark Shier) wrote:
> The most sucsessful mercenary company
> was the Catalan Company, which wound up owning its own country.
On the other hand, the most successful mercenaries were two Norman brothers
(Guiscard d'Hauteville?), who ended up owning their own kingdom--and whose
descendants kept it for quite a lot longer than the Catalans kept Athens.
David/Cariadoc (whose library is still in Chicago)
DDF2 at Cornell.Edu
From: bloodthorn at sloth.equinox.gen.nz (Jennifer Geard)
Subject: mercenaries in period question
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 93 23:04:02 GMT
Organization: Lethargy Inc.
> On the other hand, the most successful mercenaries were two Norman brothers
> (Guiscard d'Hauteville?), who ended up owning their own kingdom--and whose
> descendants kept it for quite a lot longer than the Catalans kept Athens.
Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger, sons of the prolific Tancred de
Hautville, brought Norman rule to Calabria, Apulia, and Sicily. They were a
rowdy family, but when they stopped fighting each other and ganged up on the
rest of the world they were a force to be reckoned with. Robert was based on
the mainland, while Roger took Sicily.
The Norman conquest of southern Italy is a lesson in the dangers of reliance
upon mercenaries: gung-ho bands of young Normans, having worked out that life
on the family farm was dull and constrained, had gone adventuring in search
of money and a fight, and had been employed by many of the factions in the
south of Italy. The people in the various factions thought this was a great
idea, since it allowed them to continue their squabbles for as long as their
money and promises of land lasted, rather than until-they'd-all-killed-each-
other. Eventually, the decisive matter in any battle was whether your side's
Normans were better than their side's Normans.
In this way the Normans got a toehold in the area. A couple of them with
more foresight than most -- like Robert -- looked around and realised that
the most effective fighting troops in the lower half of the Italian peninsula
were all Norman, and that if they fought for *themselves* rather than their
employers, and maybe even fought *together*...
All this from memory, because the books I want are currently at my leman's
Jennifer Geard bloodthorn at sloth.equinox.gen.nz
Christchurch, New Zealand
From: wja1 at engr.uark.EDU (WILLIAM J ADAMS)
Subject: Mercenaries in Period
Date: 11 Nov 1993 17:52:32 -0500
Organization: The Internet
v276m8gv at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (Eric Frohnapple) writes:
> I was wondering if anyone has any documentation about mercenaries in
>period. How big were mercenary companies? How skilled were they? How often
>were they used? Was it their full time job? What weapons did they use?
>(The list goes on...)
> It seemed to me that mercenaries would have been very common throughout
>history, but I've never heard any answers to questions like these. Thanks,
The Heretic says:
Try Contamine's _Warfare_in_the_Middle_Ages_. It has a complete section
on mercenaries and 'free companies.' Another search path might take you
to looking for material on the Italian communes of the 14th to 16th centuries.
Sir John Hawkwood being one of the most famous mercenary commanders.
If you`re in the mood for a movie, watch "Flesh and Blood" with Rutger Hauer.
It's all about mercenaries in Northern Italy around 15xx.
Hope this helps.
William the Heretic
From: maclure at eos.arc.nasa.gov (IanMaclure)
Subject: Re: Mercenaries in Period
Organization: NASA Ames Research Center
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1993 16:41:07 GMT
wja1 at engr.uark.EDU (WILLIAM J ADAMS) writes:
>v276m8gv at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (Eric Frohnapple) writes:
[Yada yada yada]
>The Heretic says:
>Sir John Hawkwood being one of the most famous mercenary commanders.
If you can't find Sir John De Hawkewood under his own name try
"Giovanni Agutta" [ "Acutta" ] the Italianised spelling. He was
English "but nay so bad for aw that".
################ No Times Like The Maritimes, Eh! ######################
# IBM aka # ian_maclure at QMGATE.arc.nasa.gov (desk) #
# Ian B MacLure # maclure at (remulac/eos).arc.nasa.gov (currently) #
########## Opinions expressed here are mine, mine, mine. ###############
From: bull at vaxc.cc.monash.edu.au
Subject: Re: Ya want mercenaries? Ya get mercenaries!
Date: 14 Nov 93 15:26:07 +1100
Organization: Computer Centre, Monash University, Australia
v081lu33 at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (Ken Mondschein) writes:
> Dear Gentles (especially Akryn)
My persona is a Landsknecht, so I'll jump into this conversation.
> I don't know if you could consider a house carl (huscarl) a merc, but
> I *do* know a little about mercenaries from my period. In fact, my Nice Jewish
> Persona learned to fight from them (hey, it's *possible*). Of course, I could
> just tell Akryn this stuff in person, but then I wouldn't have all of you
> checking my facts to make sure I'm accurate...
> The Italian city-states of the Renaissance employed condoterri (sp?)
> to fight their wars for them. "Condoterri," I believe, was a generic term for
> mercenary. The reasons for this are probably that they were rich enough and
> smart enough to get someone else to fight their wars for them (not that the
> Italains didn't participate, of course). The condoterri were, for a large
> part, foreigners.
> Two of the larger mercenary groups were the German Landskenechts (the
> spelling varies) and the Swiss Pikes. Artillery men were also often highly
> paid specialists. These groups were active in the late 15th-16th centuries, as
> far as I know (though condoterri were used back to the 1300s, I believe).
> The Landskenechts (there's one on the Rialto-- hi!) were typically
> brash, flamboyant, and romantic. They wore beautiful fluted armor made in
> Milan and got all the babes. Or at least the officers did. The regular soldiers
> were kept under guard and couldn't leave camp, so they didn't run away from
> the Army life. (Remember, the reasons crossbows and guns became so popular is
> because a malnourished archer is an archer who can't shoot straight). I have
> a feeling that the Landskenechts were a capitalistic venture...
The Landsknechts were established by Emperor Maximillian 1 of the
Holy Roman Empire (this is *NOT* the Roman Empire of Julius Caesar, the Circus
Maximus, feeding Christians to the lions, etc. The "Holy Roman Empire" was
a confederation of Germanic Principalities) in the late 15th C. For political
reasons, Maximillian was unable to finance a large full time army of
professional soldiers. He created the Landsknecht companies and established
regulations as to their structure, rates of pay, chain of command, rules
of conduct, etc. His reasoning was that at times of war, he would recruit
companies of mercinaries to reinforce his small full time army.
A regiment of Landsknechts would be recruited in the following
manner. The Emperor would grant a commission to someone to establish a
regiment. This person was typically a high ranking noble within the Empire
and was granted the military rank of Colonel. The Colonel would then pick
his officers who would go to towns and call for volunteers to enlist. The
volunteers had to provide their own armour and weapons, and had to pass a
physical test. Once the correct number of volunteers had been raised, they
were allowed to elect their own corporals and sargeants amongst themselves.
They would be mustered according to what weapons they had and previous
military experience. The rules of the commission would be read aloud to the
men, including warnings of the types of punishments they could face if they
broke those rules. They then swore an oath of loyalty to the Emperor and
to the Colonel.
Artillery soldiers were a seperate group. They were recruited
by Artillery officers and had their own chain of command. They were
not directly answerable to the Landsknecht officers, and recieved higher
rates of pay than Landsnechts who held comparable rank.
One interesting tradition was that if a Landsknecht broke one
of the rules of conduct and he was able to reach one of the cannons
before the regimental police caught him, he was considered to be under
the protection of the Artillery group for 3 days, as long as he stayed
within a given distence of that cannon (12 paces was common). If the
Shuldtheis (sp? the head of the police group within the regiment)
broke that protection within the 3 days, the commander of the Artillery
group had the right to withdraw all of his men and cannons from the
regiment. I haven't heard or read what happened to the Landsknecht
after those 3 days had past.
That is how Maximillian wanted the recruiting to work. In
practice, the rulers of the principalities were able to raise their
own Landsknecht regiments and hire them out to foreign powers. The French
and the Spanish were the most common employers (apart from the Empire
itself) of the Landsknechts. King Henry VIII of England also hired
Landsknechts. The Landsknechts most common foe were Swiss mercinaries who
are consdidered to have been the finest fighting men in Europe in the 15th
and 16th C's. One particular Landsknecht regiment known as the Black Band
fought for the French, and their commander refused to return his regiment
to the Empire when ordered by Maximillian. They eventually fought with the
French against other Landsknechts and were slaughtered to the last man
for refusing to obey the Emperor's order to return.
> Landskenechts typically used pikes and wore little or no armor (too
> expensive, plus it allows more freedom of movement). The famed "doppelsoldniers"
> ("double-soldiers") used the flamberge to break enemy pikes and defend their
> standard (and probably whack any pikemen who ran away). And I learned all that
> from the Museum Replicas catalogue...
When going into battle, the first row of Landsknechts was called
the "folorn hope". This was made up of men who had committed a serious crime
and were given the option of facing immediate punishment (typically
execution) or joining the folorn hope to "redeem" themselves. The chances of
surviving a battle in the folorn hope were slim (hence the name folorn hope).
Dopplesoldnier were experienced fighting men who recieved a higher rate of
pay than normal and had 2 tasks, to cut the polearms of the other side and
to stop members of their own side from running away from the battle.
One feature that the Landsknechts were particularly noted for was
their outrageous clothing. One practice of dress was to wear large codpieces
that were decorated in ways that drew the observer's attention to the
codpiece. Some cities made this sort of behaviour an offence and regularly
jailed Landsknechts for this sort of thing until Maximillian passed a
decree giving Landsknechts the right to dress as they pleased.
According to one source I have, some Landsknechts went so far as
to dress with "thong" style pants that left the buttocks completely bare.
[ I would suggest you check the "public indecency" laws in your
area before wearing "thong" style garb in public. I have not been able to
find a second source to verify this last particular garb tid-bit, so *I*
would not attempt to try it and say it definately was period. If I do find
a verification, I might do it. Also, other SCA-dians may object, regardless
of it (possibly) being period ]
> The Swiss Pikes were just that: Pikes. They were mostly footmen and
> seemed to be a bit more egalitarian than the Landskenechts. They also had
> crossbowmen, of course. All I know of them is that they were very good and
> active up to the 30 Years War, when they got PO'ed, began following a
> chaplain named Zwingli, became Protestant, and moved back to Switzerland,
> where they spent the rest of their lives becoming Calvinists and making cheese.
> (Zwingli was the guy who gave Calvin many of his ideas).
I really don't know that much about the Swiss, Italian or Spanish
mercinaries (some Spanish men joined the Landsknechts, and the Spanish had
a very strong influence on Landsknecht clothing in the 16th C).
Convent of St Monica, Barrony of Stormhold,
Principality of Lochac, Kingdom of the West.
From: v081lu33 at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (TRISTAN CLAIR DE LUNE/KEN MONDSCHEIN)
Subject: Re: Condotterie
Date: 28 Mar 1995 04:38:46 GMT
Organization: University at Buffalo
In article <1995Mar27.211742.2481 at news.vanderbilt.edu>, turrimj at vuse.vanderbilt.edu (mike) writes:
> Please tell me anything you can about it and how prevalent
> is this persona type in the sca.
> -Batista Sforza
I did about three days ago... *sigh* here we go again.
First off, I dunno if the College of Arms would like your name so
much, because it's saying you're a member of one of the most prominent
families in Italy. It is, for instance, if I were to be Tristan D'Medici, or,
worse, Tristan of Hapsburg.
As for the prevalance of condottiere in the SCA, I guess I could say
that I'm one, as part of the ongoing series of tales I (Ken) am writing
about Tristan concerns serving under Cesare Borgia, then going over to save
Italy from him. Besides that, we do find a number of 15th century Italians
around, though many people signed up for the clothes and fence or don't
fight, or just don't have the resources to do the armor was well as can be
Anyway, condottieri were, simply put, Italian mercenaries of the 14th
and 15th centuries. For a brief view, I suggest Osprey's _Italian_Medieval_
Armies. For a longer treatment anda history, check out Guiccardini's _History_
of_Italy, and look up the matter in your local library.
From: eherring at mindspring.com (Evan L. Herring)
Subject: Re: Condotterie
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 1995 11:18:47 -0400
Organization: MindSpring Enterprises, Inc.
In article <3l83sm$884 at azure.acsu.buffalo.edu> v081lu33 at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (TRISTAN CLAIR DE LUNE/KEN MONDSCHEIN) writes:
>From: v081lu33 at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu (TRISTAN CLAIR DE LUNE/KEN MONDSCHEIN)
>Subject: Re: Condotterie
>Date: 28 Mar 1995 04:38:46 GMT
>In article <1995Mar27.211742.2481 at news.vanderbilt.edu>, turrimj at vuse.vanderbilt.edu (mike) writes:
>> Please tell me anything you can about it and how prevalent
>> is this persona type in the sca.
>> -Batista Sforza
> I did about three days ago... *sigh* here we go again.
> First off, I dunno if the College of Arms would like your name so
>much, because it's saying you're a member of one of the most prominent
>families in Italy. It is, for instance, if I were to be Tristan D'Medici, or,
>worse, Tristan of Hapsburg.
> As for the prevalance of condottiere in the SCA, I guess I could say
>that I'm one, as part of the ongoing series of tales I (Ken) am writing
>about Tristan concerns serving under Cesare Borgia, then going over to save
>Italy from him. Besides that, we do find a number of 15th century Italians
>around, though many people signed up for the clothes and fence or don't
>fight, or just don't have the resources to do the armor was well as can be
> Anyway, condottieri were, simply put, Italian mercenaries of the 14th
>and 15th centuries. For a brief view, I suggest Osprey's _Italian_Medieval_
>Armies. For a longer treatment anda history, check out Guiccardini's _History_
>of_Italy, and look up the matter in your local library.
Condottieri refers to any mercenary companies active in Italy in the
fourteenth and fifteenth century, doesn't it? For example, the Englishman Sir
John Hawkwood took his White Company into the Italian wars and ended up a
major player in the history of Northern Italy (fighting primarily for
Florence, I seem to remember, or was it Milan? Anyway, he's buried in one or
the other of the cities he fought for in the late fourteenth century). Many
French free companies went south after the close of major hostilities in
France after the death of the Black Prince and Edward III, when the French
crown finally found the breathing space to get their house, and kingdom, in
order. As turmoil increased in Italy in the Quintecento (Sp?), many
mercenaries of many nationalities enlisted in the various city armies that
were formed...or such was my understanding, anyway. I believe that's when the
Popes Swiss Guards first came into being, for example.
From: kellogg at rohan.sdsu.edu (C. Kevin Kellogg)
Subject: Re: Mercenary Persona
Date: 9 Oct 1995 17:50:46 GMT
Organization: San Diego State University Computing Services
Craig Levin (clevin at ripco.com) wrote:
: Normans were found fighting as mercenaries as far away from home
: as Italy, Spain, and for the Eastern Roman Empire, which had
: hired soldiers for years, usually from Scandinavia (the fabled
: Varangian Guard).
Not just Scandinavia. There were other specialized ethnic
units, like the Bucelariaii (sp?) or "Biscuit-eaters", primarily
of slavic descent. They also hired various steppes horsemen, like
From: afn01747 at afn.org (Steven W. Brooks)
Subject: Mercenary Persona
Date: 11 Oct 1995 19:59:45 GMT
Just a little note on Norman mercenaries: In 1084, Pope Gregory VII
sought out the aid of Robert Guiscard to break a siege of Rome by Holy
Roman Emperor Henry IV. The Norman army of 36,000, mostly Muslims
recruited by the Normans, managed to break the siege, but then turned
around and sacked the city themselves. They burned, pillaged, massacred
thousands, and took thousands more as slaves.
Ooooh, those wacky Normans!
Syr Terrell (a Norman knight)
Subject: ANST - Mercenaries Inn Mailing List
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 99 14:40:38 MST
From: "Duncan Macathal" <house_of_ishee at geocities.com>
To: <Ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG>
Greetings unto all from Donnchad "Duncan" Macathal and the House of the Ishee!
Lords and Ladies, have you ever needed a good mercenary, but had trouble
locating them? Well now I, Duncan, have provided you with a
means to do so. The Mercenaries Inn is a mailing list provided to you by
myself and the House of the Ishee to establish contact or discussions with
others of the mercenary nature. Interested parties can find out more by
contacting myself, or visiting
Remember that the
content of the list is provided by the list, so it will be slightly slow
going in the first few days. Spread the message to the far reaches of your
companions and join us at the Inn!
Yours In Service (for a price),
Donnchad "Duncan" Macathal
House of the Ishee Seargent-at-Arms/WebMinister