What is a Mercenary?

Ken Black

A mercenary is a person who is a professional soldier for hire, and will work for nearly any side willing to pay him or her. Most mercenaries are not concerned about the issues involved in a war; they simply are in it for the money. Though the hiring of a mercenary may not be the first option for many armies, it can provide extra soldiers for those who are otherwise outnumbered going into battle. Countries and armies have used mercenaries since at least the first millennium before Christ, and the practice continues to this day on a somewhat more limited scale.

A mercenary is a solider that will work for any side, as long as they're willing to pay him or her.
A mercenary is a solider that will work for any side, as long as they're willing to pay him or her.

Though the exact timeline on when mercenaries came into existence remains unclear, it is known that such people existed as far back as the Bronze Age, from 1,300 to 700 BC. Then, Greek soldiers fought with the Syrians and Egyptians for money. The Greeks, who at that time were some of the most skilled warriors in the world, were especially valuable as mercenaries. In some cases, mercenaries may have been used to fight smaller battles, where the loss of other troops may have been deemed as unacceptable.

Blackwater USA is a private security firm with ties to the Iraq War that some have called a mercenary organization.
Blackwater USA is a private security firm with ties to the Iraq War that some have called a mercenary organization.

Though the use of mercenary soldiers continued to flourish, the practice became more widespread during the Middle Ages. During this period of world history, companies of mercenary soldiers formed to fight for anyone who would hire then. These companies were called free companies or free lances. Those who worked for them were called free lancers. This term, is common today as a the compound word freelancer, and refers to anyone who is independently contracted to provide a service.

Mercenary soldiers also fought on behalf of England during the American Revolutionary War. Then, it was German soldiers called Hessians who were used to fight against the Americans trying to secure their freedom. These soldiers were considered very skilled, and as many as 22,000 may have been employed by the king to bolster British forces. Germans were often used as mercenaries, dating back to the Roman times when they were paid a share of taxes or land rights.

The use of mercenaries is still in use in many locations around the world, even by Western nations. For example, Xe Services, formerly Blackwater USA, is a private American company that supplied security forces to Iraq on a contractual basis. In most cases, mercenaries today are no longer called soldiers for hire, but rather called private security forces.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@chrisinbama - Your brother-in-law can look on the internet and find several companies that employ mercenaries. Most of them allow you to apply online. There are very thorough background checks done. Former military personnel or police officers are highly looked upon for employment. Former military applicants must fill out a form called a DD-214, Record of Separation. That is used to verify your military service.


@chrisinbama- Many private security companies have mercenaries on their payroll. They might not necessarily put an ad in the paper that says “mercenary needed” but there are ways that you can find out who is hiring.

The fact that your brother-in-law already has military training would look good for him. Most companies that hire mercenaries prefer that the applicant have a military background. They also have training facilities as well. One thing to look at when considering mercenary work is that, as a mercenary, you are not considered a lawful combatant so you are offered no protection under the Geneva Conventions.

The pay is pretty good as a mercenary. Most make anywhere from $600 - $1000 per day depending on the assignment.


How would a person go about getting a mercenary job? My brother-in-law just retired from the military and is interested in that type of work.

Post your comments
Forgot password?