Mercenaries were a common feature throughout most of Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, and had been known far earlier. But nowhere did such a sophisticated system of hiring, payment and organisation of mercenaries develop as it did in Italy. The condottiere – whose name came from the condotta or contract between himself and his employer – was the result. Whether commander or humble trooper, the condottiere was a complete professional. His skill has never been doubted, but his loyalty and dedication to a particular cause often has. David Nicolle provides a fascinating exploration of the condottiere; his roles, arms and equipment.