Beware The Landsknecht.





Landknecht With Wife


Well, you have to be careful what you wish for. Or ask for.  When Byzantine Emperor Alexios asked Urban II  for help rousting Ottoman raiders, he expected about 600 armored knights. What he got was a teeming mass of hungry, illiterate peasants. The middle ages are rife with this sort of cautionary tale.


In 1486, the Holy Roman Emperor asked for skilled mercenary fighters to put to field against the German Lutherans. Many of the mercenaries attracted to this sort of organization were sociopaths who, like some people today, are imbued with the deepest desire to inflict violence upon others. Some were attracted to the pay, to the power and the benefits of being an armed “arquebus for hire.”


The Landsknecht mostly were Germans, some were Scots and they never numbered more than about 12,000 of them. The carried long swords, pikes, and halberds and crossbows and whatever firearms they could afford. One of the problems with them was that they were mercurial. At the Battle of Pavia, they performed wonderfully, and earned their pay. When they defeated the French Army in Italy and were not paid on time an so they went on a rampage. They slaughtered 6000 people and burned entire city blocks.


The Landsknecht were well trained. Usually a phalanx of pike-men would set a battlefield army and the crossbowmen and arquebuses made short work of them. They dressed outlandishly like Swiss  aristocrats with aureate golden cloth and they sported doublets and hats with tall feathers in them.



They also made elaborate mini circular villages defended with logs and pikes. By the mid 16th century they were a thing of the past.


Source: Weapon, A Visual History of Arms and Armor, DK Limited 2006, Wikipedia



Landsknecht Halberd




1 thought on “Beware The Landsknecht.”

  1. As far as I know, Landsknechte were recruited to counter the Swiss, which were the mercenary of choice in the 15th and 16th century, but were also very expensive. There is a saying in german: “Kein Geld, Keine Schweitzer” which roughly translates to : No money, then no Swiss, meaning no army.
    Also there were far more Landsknechte then just 12,000, but not in the same army at the same time. Ealy modern armies, mostly a barely organised rabble, were very hard to provision, and pay, so were, to modern ears and minds, very small, rarely 50,000 all together.
    The Landsknecht were largly replaced by more regularly trained soldiers, like the spanish Tecios, who were more capable on the battlefield because of their training, and also less unruly, as long as they were paid.

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