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Medieval mercenaries methodology, definitions, and problems

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Chapter Summary

The words ?paid? and ?foreign? are the principle characteristics of the traditional definition of the medieval mercenary. And, of course, these characteristics also fit the archetypical medieval mercenary, John Hawkwood, the renowned English condottiere and leader of condottieri in fourteenth-century Italy. This chapter starts with the second term, ?foreign?, first. Of course, it would be ludicrous to suggest that all foreign soldiers fighting in medieval armies be called ?mercenaries?, but what if they are paid foreigners? A chronological scan will show how difficult it is to use the term ?foreign? to define mercenaries during the Middle Ages. Perhaps the most famous single mercenary unit before the late Middle Ages was the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine army.

Keywords: medieval mercenary; Middle Ages



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