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2004 | 111 | 4 | 5-28

Article title

Mercenaries in Rus' and Neighbouring Countries during the Tenth-Twelfth Century


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Source material containing information about warriors hired by three Ruthenian princes: Igor, Vladimir the Great, and Yaroslav the Wise (two accounts in 'Povest vremennikh let', recorded under the dates 944 and 980, and 'Eymundar pattr Hringssonar') offers an entirely cohesive vision of mercenary armies. Twelfth-century Polish and Bohemian chronicles contained similar depictions of mercenaries. As a rule, the mercenaries and their patrons differed ethnically and, at times, culturally. The sources distinctly confirm mutual distrust, ill will, and animosity. In extremely frequent cases, the hired army and the ruler duped each other. The mercenaries always constituted a separate group within the army with which they co-operated. Just as frequently they distinguished themselves due to their warfare technique. Even in those cases when they loyally fought at the side of their master, they were regarded as alien, evil, and menacing. The sources cite discernible opinions claiming that the ruler should exploit the mercenaries in his own interest and then get rid of them without paying the promised fees. The texts, written from the viewpoint of those who hired the warriors, frequently condemn the greed and outright avarice of the mercenaries, portrayed as men serving only in return for money and attaching greater importance to riches than to their lord. Hence the conclusion that the contract signed by both sides did not break the barrier separating them. The mercenaries constituted a sui generis opposite of the armed squad - the group of warriors closest to the ruler. Members of the squad were remunerated, but their payment was treated as a gift. There remained an essential difference between the wages offered by the lord to the armed squad and those granted to the mercenaries as a result of an earlier contract, sometimes enforced by resorting to blackmail. The squad members fought, at least in theory, predominantly for their commander and were motivated by a life-long bond which presumed their loyalty and devotion.









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  • P. Zmudzki, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Instytut Historyczny, ul.Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa,Poland


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Publication order reference


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