Carthage had fought hard for 23 years against Rome and, exhausted, finally sued for peace
in 241 BC. Sicily was surrendered to the Romans and the Punic troops stationed there, who
had resisted for so long through fierce battles and exhausting sieges, were withdrawn...
The Varangian Guard in Byzantium is one of the very few mercenary units whose history can
be counted in centuries. The length of their service and the number of battles in which
they fought is perhaps only surpassed by the Swiss in the pay of the French. But while
the Swiss had only to journey into neighboring France...
The history of the Hundred Years War is full of ritualised duels, to which poets and
chroniclers often devoted more attention and paper than the actual war. The most famous
event of this kind occurred in March 1351 in Brittany, between the castle Ploërmel
which had an English garrison and the nearby castle Josselin which had a Breton-French
one. This was to be the scene of the legendary Combat of the Thirty. ...
The Wars of the Roses
An aftermath of the Hundred Years War.
The long dynastic struggle that would much later come to be known as the "Wars of the Roses"
(1455-1487) had its roots far back in the Hundred Years' War.
Many historians consider the masses of defeated mercenaries returning from France to be one of the
main causes of the Wars of the Roses. The unemployed veterans of the Hundred Years War were the
ideal reservoir for anybody looking for experienced and ruthless fighters. ...
Everything changed however with the introduction of new weapon technology, and on October 16, 1590,
a small but well equipped army left Marrakech in the south. It consisted of 1,000 renegades, 1,000
Andalusians, 500 cavalry and 70 Christians from the prisons of the Sultan, all equipped with
arquebuses. The Moroccans themselves provided only 1,500 lancers. The baggage train consisted of
thousands of camels and horses,...
The hunt for runaway slaves and the suppression of smaller revolts make for trivial and sordid
stories. Great armies were not moved for such inconsequentialities and these events are normally
relegated to footnotes by miltary historians. Nevertheless, these fights settled the fate of many
A very vivid account of these small wars was provided by the Scottish mercenary John Gabriel Stedman.
The Great Deceit
The Polish Legion in Haiti.
To gain the freedom of their own country more than 5,000 Poles formed a "Polish Legion" and fought
for Napoleon. Soon the Legion proved its value in grueling battles against Austrians and Russians
in Italy and Switzerland. But the real policies of those in power, as so often, served other interests
and used other means. For the conflict with his most stubborn opponent, Great Britain, Napoleon needed
a compromise with Russia and Austria and here the wishes of the Poles were naturally in the way. So he
found a special task for them. The former freedom fighters would help to re-establish slavery in French
Much has been written about the performance of the Foreign Legion in the First Carlist War in Spain
and some authors have spared no effort in glorifying it as truly heroic. But the writings of
historian Douglas Porch and the memoirs of those involved draw quite a different picture.
The Taiping Rebellion
and the formation of the Ever Victorious Army.
If western history books even mention the great war which devastated China in the
mid-19th Century at all, it's euphemistically referred to as the "Taiping
Rebellion". It was probably the bloodiest war that had afflicted humanity in its
history before the 20th Century and it's estimated that the Taiping Rebellion cost the lives
of 15-20 million people and left more than half of the country's one thousand prospering
cities in charred ruins.
In Francis Ford Coppola's film "Apocalypse Now", the CIA sent Captain Willard far over
the border from Vietnam to secretly dispatch a highly decorated Special Forces officer
who had gone mad. The role that Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" played in the creation
of this Colonel Kurtz is well known, but there are other, more recent references too. The
real reason for transplanting the mad Kurtz from the Congo to the no-man's land beyond
Vietnam can be found in the CIA's covert operations in Laos and Cambodia.
The Islamic Legion
Gaddafi's former Mercenaries.
There has been much talk recently of Gaddafi's mercenaries. False reports have mingled
with rumours and half truths, and yet it is certain that such fighters are used, and that
most of them come from sub-Saharan Africa. Occasionally there are also references to the
Islamic Legion, a Libyan mercenary unit, which was in action between 1972 and 1987 but
little noticed by the world. Given recent events it may be worthwhile to examine its
short history more closely...
Many people who saw the movie "Blood Diamond" learned for the first time something about
the terrible war in Sierra Leone and the trade in blood diamonds, but they were also confronted
with a completely new type of mercenaries represented by a group which, if you hadn't already
heard of them, you would soon be reading about in the reviews: Executive Outcomes.
Despite there aren't any confessions of homosexual mercenaries one finds traces in court
records, and even though one can discover accounts by mercenaries, they are of course always
about others. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to see that, although often concealed,
homosexuality runs like a golden thread through the history of mercenaries.