The anatomy of a mercenary : from Archilochoas to Alexander
Xenophon. who marched so many perilous Persian parasangs as a soldier-of-fortune and survived. has probably penned the most exciting, if not the best, memoirs by a mercenary to date. Moreover, for the military historian wishing to inquire into the human as well as the political aspects of hoplitemercenary service, the Anabasis is the only in depth eye-witness account of an ancient Greek mercenary venture available. Of course the Anabasis is partisan and, at times, the contemporary reader cannot help but think that Xenophon's imagination is running away with him a bit. Nevertheless, his inside view of the complex relationships between mercenary-captains, the employers who employ them, the troops who follow them, the Spartans who use them, and those who mistrust them, has much more than just a passing value. Throughout mercenary history the balance between these groups has always been delicate, and, needless to say, the vicissitudes tend to follow the same pattern. Mercenary service was, and still is, a rather uncertain and dangerous vocation. We only have to read, for example, Colonel Mike bare's Congo memoirs to realise this. Apart from Xenophon himself and the mercenary-poet, Archilochos, the ancient literary sources generally supply little by way of data on such matters as recruitment, conditions of service, and the basic hopes, fears, and habits of those many individual hoplites who took up the mercenary calling as a way of life. And so, in order to capture the spirit of mercenary soldiering and thus pursue more closely the pertinent questions of motives, money and the military value of professional hoplitemercenaries, this thematic inquiry also draws upon first-hand testimonies afforded by more recent mercenary soldiers. In so doing, the inquiry has aimed at a synthesis of the available material, both ancient arid modern, and thus, one hopes, has achieved a net positive result in which not only the mercenary-captains are better illuminated, but, also, the rank and file of a mercenary army are partially rescued from obscurity and given a voice.