The military training of hereditary warrior castes, barbarians, paid professional soldiers, draftees, militias, and levies have varied. Use these types of training in your stories–or use knowledge of them to stand tropes on their head.

Travis P here. Our last post on this topic looked at the military training for the very best warriors in both fiction in reality–and please note when we say “best” we mean the most capable, especially able to fight no matter the circumstances, and the most able to resist the psychological pressures of war that cause soldiers to fail to perform when they need to do so. (“Best” in this context is definitely not directly equivalent to “most moral.”)

It’s never been true that every warrior has been elite–historically, a great many nations have lacked the time, money, or knowledge to train anysoldier to the highest possible level. And among those nations able to train elite troops, it simply hasn’t been normal to train every last warrior to the highest level. Even the Romans, who hold the record of any historic civilization in terms of the percentage of its population it put in arms, who also adopted a great deal of standardized training in an attempt to make every member of its legions elite relative to other militaries of its time, had its Praetorian Guard. Even the Romans had elite troops who were better than all the rest.

Further posts will build from our base of discussing training to talk about how nations form and supply armies, and how the “supply side” of producing warriors affects how a nation, or a demi-human race, or even an alien species fights battles. We will also talk about types of warriors by weapon and the battle formations they use in more detail, as well as differences between land-centric military forces and those oriented toward naval, aerial, and other domain combat. But for now, let’s stick with observations about types of warriors based on their training. I’d say there are 3 different kinds of warriors by training type with a couple of subtypes each (speaking as generally as I can):

A. Cultural Warriors: Everything they know about fighting they learn from infancy.

Hereditary Warriors. Credit: Travis Perry
  1. Hereditary warrior castes–paid (professional) cultural warriors: Formal military training is passed down from father to son or is arranged by paid professionals or skilled slaves. Note that unlike barbarians, these warriors require other social classes/castes in their same society to provide them with food and material goods. Samurai, medieval knights, and Spartans were all hereditary warriors–though the Spartans have the distinction of requiring every free male to be a hereditary warrior (Spartan helots–slaves–provided labor to grow the food and produce the goods Spartans needed to survive). Note that being a hereditary warrior has often been tied to land ownership in the historic past. A certain parcel of land sufficient to supply the food and equipment needs of the warriors was under the stewardship and control of the same warriors (payment was rarely in currency). A special type of warrior caste were various slave warriors, like the Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire. These slaves would be raised from childhood to fight, but would lack the status in their society that samurai or medieval knights were privileged with (and would not control the land used to meet their supply needs).
Barbarian warriors. Credit: Travis Perry

2. Barbarians (or tribal)–unpaid (non-professional) cultural warriors: Nobody in the society receives any formal military training per se, but everyone lives in a harsh environment, where survival is difficult. Everyday life constitutes a type of training–whereas samurai and knights went hunting largely to practice weapon skills that are useful in combat, barbarians hunt to stay alive. And while Spartans and Starship Troopers might spend time in a wilderness area to pass survival skills training, barbarians live in harsh areas every day. Barbarians do engage in various contests of strength and types of play combat with one another, but their training lacks scientific principles of formal study. Think of the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, our cultural representation of the sea-going Danes and Vikings of Scandinavia, and many Germanic tribes of the Roman era.

Read the rest here.

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Parker J Cole

USA Today Bestselling author, a speaker, podcaster, & CEO of the podcast network PJC Media who enjoys exploring history through the vehicle of romance.