“It was actually an unheard scandal. If you look closely, the Macedonians weren’t even Greeks and that’s exactly how the Greeks and Macedonians saw it” writes German PhD historian and author Frank Westenfelder in an article on mercenary troops in ancient times.
As early as the 1990s, the mercenaries caught the attention of Frank Westenfelder, as he says he researched old travel reports and found that most of them were written by mercenaries.
The more he researched, he found that apart from a few lurid books (mostly on Landsknechten and the Foreign Legion) and a few very exotic specialist articles there was nothing on the subject. He has always had a preference for strange, lost characters ignored by great historiography. And so he came to the decision to write such a missing book himself.
A Little History of the Mercenaries: Historical Figures on the Way to Modernity
This work is called “A Little History of the Mercenaries: Historical Figures on the Way to Modernity” (orig. title: Eine kleine Geschichte der Söldner: Historische Gestalten auf dem Weg in die Moderne).
Dr. Frank Westenfelder has also been internationally known for years and also recognized for his website Kriegsreisende (war travelers).
In professional circles it is considered to be the most comprehensive and best source of information on the subject of mercenaries in all aspects. In addition, the PhD historian published one of the best books on mercenaries in 2011 published by Adatia.
‘It was an unheard Scandal’ – Macedonians weren’t even Greeks
From his homepage we quote a short passage from the article “Alexander the Great between Patriotism and Mercenaryism” (orig. title: Alexander der Große zwischen Patriotismus und Söldnertum).
… But what is particularly interesting is the fate of the prisoners, several thousand of whom were now in Alexander’s hands. He had them sent to Macedonia as slaves for forced labor because they had collaborated with the enemy as “traitors to the fatherland”, so to speak. Even the allied Athens’ plea for mercy for its citizens was refused; Alexander wanted to make an example. It was actually an outrageous scandal. If you look closely, the Macedonians weren’t even Greeks and that’s exactly how Greeks and Macedonians saw it. Alexander’s father Philip had only shortly before subjugated part of the Greek states through long wars. An uprising in Thebes had been brutally crushed, Sparta was still independent, and when Alexander moved against Persia, Alexander had left almost half of the Macedonian troops under Antipater to put down any rebellions. The situation was roughly as if Adolf Hitler had conquered Switzerland and then forced its inhabitants to do military service as Germans. Hitler would certainly have been able to do that; the question is what the Swiss would have thought of it.
In any case, the Greek mercenaries didn’t think so. Some families had served the Persians for generations. Most of the time they were well paid and treated decently there. In addition, there were many political emigrants who had fled Greece from the oppression of the Macedonians. Probably only a few of them will have seen a reason why they should suddenly serve this upstart from Macedonia just because he had subjugated their homeland. Alexander theatrically called on all Greeks to take part in a great campaign of revenge for the Persian Wars. But with such transparent arguments one could only get really extremely simple spirits. The great battles of Marathon and Salamis were about 150 years ago, and it had to be clear to everyone that this was either about Macedonian great power politics or an individual’s personal thirst for glory. In addition, one has to see that the Greeks were praised a lot by Alexander, but had little influence on specific questions of power. The Macedonians also liked to treat the Greeks and mercenaries, who fought on Alexander’s side, as second-class soldiers.
Read also: Alexander the Great was not quite a Greek – Bertrand Russell