Originally Posted by purpleguy89
By the way, what was the purpose of the samurai? What role did they serve?
The samurai developed out of the provincial warrior clans of the Heian period (9th-12th centuries AD) and initially served purely as a warrior caste. In time, they developed into the de facto ruling and aristocratic class of the country, relegating the Emperor and his court nobles to just ciphers. Scholars of Japanese history will usually distinguish between the buke
(military) class, which usually refers to the samurai, and the kuge
(aristocratic) class, which refers to the Kyoto-based court aristocracy.
In time, the samurai became codified as a social class rather than just a military caste, and gained certain rights and restrictions. Amongst those rights was the right to carry the twin long and short swords (daisho, meaning "big and small") and to cut down commoners. Equally, they were not allowed to participate in other professions, such as farming or being merchants. By the Edo period, samurai acted as administrators and scholars, and other menial roles in addition to their traditional jobs as soldiers and bodyguards - those who could find a job, that is. Not all samurai were so lucky, as there were far more of them than there were jobs.