The concept of Retirement

Discussion in 'Research' started by Northern, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. Northern

    Northern Acolyte

    So I'm working on story about a medieval man who in his youth deserted from the local army to make his fortune and glory as a mercenary. The story starts when the man is in his early 50's and he has long given up the life of the sword for many years.

    The issue I'm running into is how to refer to his previous life as a mercenary.

    I was originally just going to go with 'retired mercenary', but then of course the inner editor kicks in and I start to doubt myself.

    Was the concept of being retired from something even a thing in medieval times? The word retired itself sounds to me to be more of a modern invention.

    I'm not sure what other word I could use. 'Former Mercenary' sounds a bit flat but the best I could come up with.

    'Veteran Mercenary' maybe? But that kind of implies a sort of societal structure and respect which I doubt a sell-sword would get.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    How about "former mercenary," perhaps?
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

    Unemployed. Former.

    Retired implies a structure. Roman soldiers were retired--there was a mustering out ceremony and even retirement benefits.

    Soldiers in medieval armies had a variety of roles and relationships. But mercenaries were simply hirelings. They fought for a specific term of service, were paid (or not), and that was that.

    The ones who come closest to the fantasy notion of a sell-sword would probably come from the very late Middle Ages--the condottierri of Italy, the Landsknechten of Germany, the routiers of France, and the Swiss mercenaries (Reislaufen). These guys were all closer to career warriors and all (that's a surmise) aimed to make enough money to settle down somewhere, buy land or a shop. They looked to their captain to gain the contracts, protect their interests, and see to fair shares. I don't know of any captain who tried to settle his veterans, but I wouldn't be surprised if examples could be found. For their part, captains can be found who aimed at not only land but titles. Some succeeded. But I wouldn't call any of them retired.
  4. Northern

    Northern Acolyte

    Wow. Thanks for the detailed information.

    I'll just stick with former then, but it's good to know the reasoning.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

    Former history professor here. It's a twitch. I can't control it. :)
  6. Northern

    Northern Acolyte

    On a semi-related note, what would be the term for someone who has decided to join an army, but has not yet been officially inducted?

    I'm assuming they would just be referred to as a 'recruit' even though they haven't been given any equipment or training yet.

    Prospect may work as well, but that seems like less of a military term.
  7. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

    Inductee, possibly, or maybe recruit. Though I can see prospect working. Also for the mercenary he could be 'Not Dead', which seems to be a good professional achievement.
  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

    slang term for roman legion recruits:


  9. Vaporo

    Vaporo Mystagogue

    While retirement does imply some sort of structure, in modern vernacular it's often just means "quit working" in any context. A successful small business owner may close their shop and call themselves "retired" at age 40, even though they aren't receiving any sort of compensation and are just living off of the money they made while working.

    I don't think many people will bat an eye in a mercenary describes himself as "retired," even though it's not historically correct. Does this take place in the past of our world, or in a fantasy setting? If it's our world, then yes, I'd try to be historically accurate as possible with the wording.

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