This dissertation examines freelance warfare in the ancient world. The "freelancer" needs to be understood as a unified category, not compartmentalized as three (or more) groups: pirates, bandits, and mercenaries. Throughout, I contend that ancient authors' perception and portrayal of the actions of freelancers dramatically affected the perceived legitimacy of those actions. Most other studies (e.g. Shaw 1984, de Souza 1999, Grünewald 1999, Pohl 1993, Trundle 2004, Knapp 2011) focus on 'real' bandits and on a single one of these groups. I examine these three groups together, but also ask what semantic baggage words like latro or leistes had to carry that they were commonly used in invectives. Thus rhetorical piracy is also important for my study. The work unfolds in three parts. The first is a brief chronological survey of "freelance men of violence" of all stripes down to the second century BC. Freelancers engage in, at best, semi-legitimate acts of force. Excluded are standing paid forces and theft by means other than force, vis. In a form of ancient realpolitik, the freelancer was generally more acceptable to states than our aristocratic historians would prefer that we believe. Moreover, states were more concerned with control of these "freelancers" than in their elimination. The second section explains events of the second and first century in greater detail. The observations made in the first section hold true in the second, despite being depicted differently by ancient historians. The third section focuses on the historians, historical accounts and rhetoric employed. The historians make motivations less pragmatic and more idealistic. Additionally, the perception of piracy was affected by triumphal politics, consular authority, and employment of mercenaries Overall, the chief semantic burden of pirate-terms is to convey legitimacy: individuals that possess power that they should not. Condemnation of these figures is not rooted in their actions of plundering (rarely dissimilar from official acts of war) but instead their holding any such power in the first place. In short, this study reveals that the "at-large" soldier was far more complex and far more influential than is normally shown by either ancient or modern historians.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2015. Major: Classical and Near Eastern Studies. Advisor: Andrew Gallia. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 263 pages.
Freelance Warfare and Illegitimacy: the Historians’ Portrayal of Bandits, Pirates, Mercenaries and Politicians.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.