- Jan 2015
- MD, USA
Ah, yes, household troops, such as huscarls early on, or liveried retainers later. Those count as professionals, trained and in more or less permanent employ, but right, not landowners. They might be compared to ancient warbands, such as ran around with Romulus and Remus, but for most of Greek and Roman history I get the impression that such groups were basically illegal. They're a very non-centralized thing, not the kind of personal power base you want in a centralized city-state or nation/empire.They could be, but afaik it was not unheard of for rural landholders to bring a retinue of men with them when they reported for duty, and these men could be free tenants of that lord. Not the bonded dung-farmers that, as you said, are often stereotyped as medieval infantry, but still not landowners in their own right.
The Romans always used a lot of allied troops, for starters. Way back in the Republic, half the army was allied or "Socii", supplied by Italian cities/tribes under Roman rule. But they were raised, equipped, and trained exactly in the Roman style. Beyond that, there would be troops supplied by other allied states outside of Italy--I'm assuming either their ruler was required to do this at his own expense by treaty, or it was a short-term deal of some sort, with money changing hands in some way. (Maybe "I'll send troops, but you have to pay and feed them", etc.?) Under Augustus, many of these groups were regularized as auxiliaries, though by that point they don't seem to have been a lot cheaper than legions. But even after that, Imperial armies often included contingents of foreign troops.Sure, I never tried to say that levies were going to be used as effective front-line professionals. But they did have the benefit of not being nearly as expensive to maintain as a band of knights or professional mercenaries. As you pointed out, they were often required to bring their own gear (or at least gear that was provided by their landlord) and were only raised for a limited period of time. Since this thread was about the cost of armies in ancient times, I got curious what some of the cheaper alternatives to professional legions might have been back then...
BUT, still no sweeping masses of untrained bums with sticks, ha! You really do need to put some money and effort into an army, even the least of your troops. Or your defeat will cost you a LOT more...