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German mercenary infantry in the 15th to 17th centuries that served with its own weapons.
The homeland of the lansquenets was Swabia (southern Germany), where the term (Landsknechte) was applied originally to mercenaries from one’s own country, in contrast to foreign mercenaries. In the 16th century the lansquenets began to be hired by other European states as well (France, Austria, German and Italian states, Spain, and others). They were hired for a fixed period (from three months to a year) by a person who had received a license from the monarch. A regiment of lansquenets consisted of ten to 16 colors (400 to 600 men each, including 50 harquebusiers; the rest were armed with long pikes, halberds, and swords), which were the lowest tactical administrative units. In combat the lansquenets moved in large masses in closed formation with one large rectangular column. They were exceptionally brutal, especially toward the civilian population, and carried out mass looting of occupied towns and villages. After the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–48, when the European states made the transition to standing armies, the lansquenets ceased to exist.