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Mercenaries are combatants in military conflicts who are not associated with a government body, but fighting for personal financial gain. Typically mercenaries are disinterested in the finer points of a conflict (moral concerns, ideology, and so forth) and only fight for those who hire them. Mercenaries normally work in groups to have stronger bargaining positions and for support.

The advantage of using mercenaries is that, when they are available, capable fighting men can be put into action as soon as they have been hired. The disadvantages are their lack of loyalty, the fact that they are usually under looser control than regular soldiers, and their tendency to stop fighting if not outright rebel if their pay is overdue. Naval mercenaries with access to their own ships are known as privateers.

Real World Mercenaries

  • Barbarian mercenaries employed by the Roman Empire in its latter years.
  • The Varangian Guard employed by the Byzantine Empire
  • Condottieri in Italy from the Renaissance to the Age of Enlightenment
  • German Landsknecht
  • Privateers during the Age of Enlightenment
  • Academi and other Private Military Companies (PMCs) in modern times

Mercenaries in Fiction