A soldier is a combatant serving in a military. Their basic duties are to defend their community and conduct warfare against the enemies of their leaders. Prior to the widespread creation of police forces, civilian enforcers of the law, public order in cities were invariably maintained by soldiers, in which capacity they were commonly referred to as guards.
Because they are almost always necessary to the survival of a people, soldiers have been ubiquitous throughout the history of civilization. In service to a state, in which case they constitute the state's military, they are the individuals entrusted with the legitimate use of force by the government. Not limited to national armies, they have also been recruited, trained, and fielded by unconventional groups with military arms, such as rebel factions and most prominently the transnational secret organizations of the Templar Order and the Assassin Brotherhood. It was not unknown for mercenaries, particularly during the Italian Wars, to form themselves into armies as well.
In response to the diverse demands of war, militaries throughout history have typically organized their soldiers into hierarchies with a clear chain of command along with specialized units suited to different combat situations. Aside from the broader categories of infantry and cavalry, common, narrower specializations prior to the advent of firearms included lightly armored skirmishers like the Athenian peltasts, powerful yet sluggish brutes, frontline pikemen, and professionally trained archers and crossbowmen. For the protection of the most vital people, like the state rulers themselves, special elite units of the highest calibre were frequently established, with infamous examples being the Swiss Guards of the Papal States and the Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire.
- 1 Common classifications
- 2 Military ranks
- 3 Military units
- 4 Appearances
- 5 References
While soldiers across human history have varied immensely in their training, equipment, and technology, certain classifications have been employed almost universally. Among these is the division between infantry, cavalry, and artillery, denoting foot-soldiers, horsemen, and siege weapons respectively. Infantry, in turn, may take the form of close-ranged combatants, such as pikemen or swordsmen, or long-ranged support, such as archers, crossbowmen, and snipers.
Militaries often categorized their infantry units into light, standard, and heavy infantry, but the authors of database entries for the Animus and the Helix, devices which allow users to live the memories of past individuals, usually identify enemy soldiers as falling into the basic generalities of regulars, brutes, agiles, and seekers.
- Main article: Regular
Regulars are the standard unit of infantry in militaries. As the backbone of their forces, they constitute the average in their capabilities without any specialization and are serviced with the most standard equipment of their army, be it a sword, spear, musket, etc.
- Main article: Brute
The aptly-named brutes distinguish themselves with their particularly bulky, sturdy physique. Frequently utilizing heavy weapons like battleaxes or bastard swords, these combatants rely upon their great strength to overpower their enemies at the cost of speed and agility. Brutes are not a uniform type of soldier but constitute a common stereotype of any non-elite, heavy infantry embodying these traits, with units as diverse as Spartan hypatists, Byzantine Almogavars, and British grenadiers falling under this label.
- Main article: Agile
Lightly armored soldiers serving as scouts or trackers are also known as agiles because they forsake standard military equipment for maximum mobility. In combat situations, they are trained to engage foes with flurries of swift attacks and rely on evasive maneuvers to compensate for their little to no protection. Their survivability contingent on their nimbleness, agiles were almost always the most athletic of their forces, with some, as was the case among Borgia guards, even being trained in parkour. While the relatively mundane British scout was a typical example of an agile, ancient warriors like the fearsome Cult of Kosmos scions and the Ptolemaic predators also filled this role to an extent.
- Main article: Seeker
With stealth being a hallmark of Assassin operations, their agents frequently nicknamed enemy soldiers in charge of scouring hiding spots "seekers". Seekers throughout Assassin history shared little commonalities beyond this, varying wildly in their equipment and training. The seekers as classified by the Italian Brotherhood during the Renaissance were armored spearmen while those designated by the Chinese Brotherhood of the Ming dynasty wielded light swords and carried shuriken. The trend continued into the 19th century, where the Parisian Brotherhood recognized experienced fencers equipped with crowd control tools like flash bombs as their enemy seekers. Regardless, seekers have invariably been soldiers of greater martial skill and military authority than regulars, brutes, and agiles.
Archers were a mainstay of human armies prior to their discovery of firearms. These bowmen were vital to the defense of cities and fortresses, as their ability to attack from afar with hails of arrows allowed them to soften invasion forces before direct confrontation. In smaller-scale skirmishes, the principle remained the same: ranged units provided support to their comrades engaged in mêlée with the enemy.
While the bow was the weapon of choice for this role through much of human history, advancements in technology eventually led to them being superseded by those that could deliver greater firepower. The crossbow saw widespread usage among Crusaders in the 12th century, but the Chinese, who invented the repeating crossbow, had already implemented it as early as the 4th to 3rd century BCE. Although it was heavier and had a shorter range, it boasted superior penetrating power. It did not phase out the bow, however, which was an eventuality that came with the advent of firearms.
In conjunction with archers and crossbowmen, the Ming dynasty fielded handcannon guards while the Papal States at the beginning of the 16th century introduced arquebusiers. With longer range and greater lethality, these marksmen were the precursors to snipers, whom the French and British Assassins later nicknamed "watchers". Even when ranged weapons became the norm of all military units due to the indisputable superiority of modern firearms to mêlée weapons, the role of ranged support did not disappear; the distance between enemy combatants in engagements only widened. Snipers who could fire from distances far in excess of their archer predecessors have come to fulfill this position in modern warfare.
Soldiers are normally organized into hierarchies within their militaries which define the chain of command.
European and Saracen armies from the 12th century to at least the 16th century were roughly divided into four ranks signifying an increasing level of combat training and experience. Invariably, the higher-ranking soldiers were more heavily armored and better equipped than their subordinates regardless of the state fielding them. Even officers of the top tier, however, fell under the command of the noble, official, or private individual who either recruited them or that they were tasked to defend.
The vast majority of regular soldiers fighting in the Crusades lacked any commanding authority and were therefore commonly referred to simply as "soldiers" without qualification. To avoid confusion, these soldiers were also called "Militia" by the Italian Brotherhood of Assassins during the Renaissance. In essence, their rank was in not truly bearing one, and their inexperience and lack of discipline meant that they were especially vulnerable to deception and low morale. It was not uncommon for Militia to be led astray from pursuit or battle by the sight of loot on the ground, a weakness that was sometimes exploited by the Assassins.
Given their low status, regular soldiers were provided with only the minimum standard of protection. Every Crusader soldier was equipped with chain-mail armor and a surcoat while their Saracen counterparts protected themselves with lamellar armor. Likewise, European soldiers of the late 15th to early 16th century donned brigandines, yet in none of these cases were these regulars afforded helmets.
Moderately better trained, sergeants were of a rank above regular soldiers and were normally not placed in charge of large operations. Instead, they might assume leadership of squads. Nonetheless, in one occasion during the Third Crusade, a Templar sergeant led a force of at least several dozen soldiers to sack a village by Alep.
In addition to basic equipment, sergeants were serviced with light helmets, and it was by these that they could be identified. While more disciplined than the average soldier, sergeants were still often susceptible to breaking ranks at the sight of superiors being slain. Historically, the Assassins sometimes referred to soldiers of this rank as "Elites" despite them bearing a low rank and never constituting an elite force.
Commanders, also known generically as Leaders, were among the most seasoned of soldiers. As the lieutenants of captains, they were entrusted with positions of command in their absence, and their presence could be vital for maintaining morale and discipline among their troops. For identification, their enhanced armor was characterized by a fully enclosed helmet, such as the iconic Crusader great helm.
In the Middle Ages, captains were the officers with the greatest authority absent elite forces such as the Papal Guard and the Janissaries. At other times, they were themselves synonymous with the elite units of their military. Although still subordinate to the individual they rendered service to, be that a state official or even a private individual, they comprised the highest command of armies and could be called to a council of war by their commander-in-chief.
Among Crusader armies in the 12th century, the role of captain was filled by full-fledged knights. Such was the case among the armies of the Knights Templar. These knights were by far the most exceptional warriors of their society, having honed their swordsmanship through a lifetime of training, and could prove a match for even elite Assassins.
Similarly, guard captains of the Italian city-states and Iberian kingdoms in the late 15th century were trained to be an indomitable force. Selected for their colossal stature, these soldiers were deployed by the Spanish Inquisition and the Spanish Rite of the Templar Order to lead campaigns, defend their palaces, and hunt their enemies with impunity. They clad themselves in full plate armor in the manner of knights and conventionally wielded greatswords. The Emirate of Granada also employed captains of this caliber, many of which protected the Alhambra, though their armor was comparatively light.
Not all captains of this era were of this archetype, however. Those in service to the House of Borgia were more standard, being of average size and strength. Though professionally trained, they did not eclipse their subordinate comrades in martial might to the extent that Templar knights and Inquisition captains did, posing a little challenge for Master Assassins.
When not commanding army divisions in battle, captains could be assigned to other duties, such as overseeing the defense of a military zone in a city. Under the rule of the Borgia during the papacy of Alexander VI, Rome was divided into twelve districts, each under the supervision of a Borgia captain. Historically, the Templars were known to even deploy their captains as independent agents on covert operations.
Classical Greek militaries
In the 5th century BCE, hoplites formed the backbone of the Athenian and Spartan armies.  These citizen-soldiers were heavily armored in breastplates and greaves; donned helmets with grand, distinguishing plumes; and were always equipped with a spear and a large shield. Their gear served to facilitate their signature phalanx formation that demanded strict cohesion as a collective fighting unit.  Greek warfare in this era principally revolved around clashes between phalanxes,  but once these formations broke, the fighting could devolve into chaotic skirmishes between groups of enemies dispersed across the battlefield. In this environment, other units, such as skirmishers, swordsmen, and mercenaries would become more significant.
During the Peloponnesian War, both the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League utilized light infantry that were less skilled than their professionally trained hoplites. The Athenian peltasts and the Spartan phalangites were two examples of such basic soldiers, but they differ markedly in their equipment and tactics. Peltasts were provided with helmets, linothoraxes, pteruges, and a round shield for protection and a short sword as a weapon. In contrast, phalangites received little more than a long thrusting spear, a helmet, and greaves; they were typically entirely bare from the waist up and had little means in terms of defense.
Although their light infantry differed, both factions fielded hypaspists and ekdromoi. The former was essentially the Greek iteration of brutes, for they were invariable of bulky build and relied on heavy battleaxes in battle. The ekdromoi, however, were swordsmen that were fully-clad in armor like regular hoplites. Despite this, they were trained to be swift, operating as light hoplites.
Archers and cavalry
The Greeks made use of archers, but they had little in the way of cavalry before the rise of Makedonia.  In terms of archery, the Athenians were superior to the Spartans, for their elite marksmen were capable of performing incredible feats with the bow. A single marksman could accurately target an area with a rain of arrows by firing a cluster of arrows in the air all at once. These archers were well suited for the Athenians' greater focus on defensive warfare in the Peloponnesian War.
While the Spartans could not match the Athenians in ranged warfare, theirs was a wholly militaristic society. Without exception, the Spartans reared all male citizens from birth to devote their entire lives to being soldiers, for which they developed a reputation as the greatest warriors in all of Greece.  Whereas Athenian strategoi were popularly elected commanders-in-chief who played the dual roles of general and statesmen, Spartan strategoi were veteran generals who always partook directly in campaigns.
The Greek poleis in the time of the Peloponnesian War made prolific use of mercenaries. Coming from unfathomably diverse backgrounds and skill-sets, the only trait all of these mercenaries had in common were their willingness to sell their services as soldiers to the various peoples and factions across Greece in the midst of their turmoil. Unlike the much later Italian mercenaries of the Renaissance era, these mercenaries did not form themselves into their own armies but operated more as roving bands or individuals which, depending on the jobs they performed, could be likened to vigilantes, assassins, bodyguards, saboteurs, privateers, or even bandits. Notwithstanding this, they frequently doubled as bounty hunters which tracked down and killed individuals with prices on their heads. At times, these may even be fellow mercenaries. Among the most renowned mercenaries of this age were Exekias the Legend, a secret Sage of the Cult of Kosmos, and Kassandra, a Spartan exile who fought for Sparta at the Battles of Pylos and Amphipolis and was responsible for destroying the Cult of Kosmos.
When serving in state armies, mercenaries were at their peak in the chaotic mêlée which occasionally occurred near the end of battles when formations broke down. In these moments, free to act without the constraints of military command, mercenaries displayed their full potential as warriors.
Cult of Kosmos
The soldiers of the Cult of Kosmos were the deadliest warriors in Greece at the time of the Peloponnesian War, superior to even the Spartan forces in combat expertise. All were uniformed in armor, complete with the grotesque mask moulded in the visage of a fearsome man. Unlike state militaries of this age, their ranks were not limited to men. However, men and women were segregated between the three units of guardians, vanguards, and scions, where the latter was reserved exclusively for women but the former for men.
These three units were analogous to the general classifications of regular soldiers, brutes, and agiles respectively and were standardized in their equipment. Guardians were of average stature and each wielded a sword and a large shield while vanguards were quite large and wielded a heavy battleaxe and a large shield. The petite scions were the only ones who did not carry a shield, for they specialized in twin daggers, which they were trained to swing in mad, acrobatic frenzies. None of these units had bows, nor did their forces have regular archers among them.
Due to the secretive nature of their organization, the Cultists of Kosmos rarely engaged in battles. They were deployed instead on covert operations typically consisting of raids, abductions, and assassinations, striking swiftly and suddenly before withdrawing back to their bases. When not sent out for these missions, they were posted as guards for the Cult's leaders or garrisoned at the Cult's forts and camps.
Greek and Roman militaries in Egypt
Ptolemaic and Roman soldiers stationed in Egypt all carried short bows as side-arms but varied in their combination of other equipment. The most basic soldiers only had a simple sword and their bow while others either carried the sword in conjunction with a small shield, replaced the sword with a spear, or wielded a spear with a shield.
The range of weapons utilized by their militaries' brutes was also fairly wide although they always carried a kind of heavy weapon, typically a battleaxe. Like the average soldiers, a regular brute was provided with a short bow as a secondary weapon, but brutes of greater stature were given javelins instead. While the former had no means of protection aside from their armor, the latter wielded enormous, rectangular shields which they were trained to use offensively if need be.
Because every soldier had a bow, every unit could function as archers, but their militaries also deployed dedicated archers with long-ranged bows and little else. Two sub-classes of their archers were trained in the art of rapid fire with a close-combat light bow and in the use of fire arrows respectively.
Predators and supers
Two special units bolstered the power of the Ptolemaic and Roman forces in Egypt. These were the predators and the supers.
Operating with guerilla-like tactics, predators shrouded themselves in hoods and masks and were exceptionally agile. All wielded twin sickle swords which they swung at their enemies in chaotic flurries during direct engagements, but the better trained and equipped predators were more prone to stalking their targets from afar with their bows and bombs. The most elite among them were entrusted with destructive firebombs while those of a more intermediate calibre utilized smoke bombs instead.
The colossal supers encased themselves entirely in layers of heavy armor, sealing their faces in great helmets and metal masks. They formed themselves into two distinct types: one which wielded a greatsword, a short bow, and a medium-sized shield and another which wielded a greatsword, javelin, and a massive shield instead. Their numbers were small in comparison to the other units in the military, often being stationed at forts and palaces, but they were imposing juggernauts which could overwhelm their enemies through their ferocity, sheer might, and virtually impenetrable armor. Nevertheless, they were not invincible and ultimately could not live up to the skill of the Medjay Bayek and his wife Aya, founders of the Hidden Ones.
The Assassin state that emerged in 1090 under the leadership of Hassan-i Sabbāh established several conventional military units even though the average Assassin was trained from birth to serve as covert operatives. These soldiers would be charged with defending their homes with their lives in the event of a frontal assault against the Assassin citadels, as was the case during the Siege of Masyaf in 1176.
Among these guardsmen were the Ceremonial Guard, who wielded glaives, and the heavy infantrymen, who wielded swords. The latter were fully clad in armor. first a hauberk over their robes, then a breastplate of scale armor with corresponding shoulder guards for added protection. A Persian-style spangenhelm complete with a firmly-sealed, plated visor masked their entire face. In contrast, the Ceremonial Guard donned little more than the typical robes and beaked hood of their people, only wearing a red-rimmed cloak and a face veil for distinction. Aside from these two units, other Assassins would serve as common soldiers when forced into open battle. Crossbowmen and archers manned their walls and lookout posts.
- Assassin's Creed
- Assassin's Creed II
- Assassin's Creed: Unity
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- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
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- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China – Database: Crossbow
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- Assassin's Creed: Official Game Guide
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- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey – The Wolf of Sparta
- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey – We Will Rise
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey: Official Game Guide
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- Assassin's Creed: The Essential Guide