An army (from
Latin arma "arms, weapons" via
Old French armée,
"armed" (feminine)) or ground force is a fighting force that fights
primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based
military branch, service branch or armed service of a nation or state.
It may also include aviation assets by possessing an army aviation
component. In certain nations, the term army refers to the entire
armed forces of a nation (e.g., People's Liberation Army). Within a
national military force, the word army may also mean a field army.
They differ from army reserves who are activated only during such
times as war or natural disasters.
In several countries, the army is officially called the Land
differentiate it from an air force called the Air Army, notably
France. In such countries, the word "army" on its own retains its
connotation of a land force in common usage. The current largest army
in the world, by number of active troops, is the People's Liberation
Army Ground Force of
China with 1,600,000 active troops and 510,000
reserve personnel followed by the
Indian Army with 1,129,000 active
troops and 960,000 reserve personnel.
By convention, irregular military is understood in contrast to regular
armies which grew slowly from personal bodyguards or elite militia.
Regular in this case refers to standardized doctrines, uniforms,
organizations, etc. Regular military can also refer to full-time
status (standing army), versus reserve or part-time personnel. Other
distinctions may separate statutory forces (established under laws
such as the National Defence Act), from de facto "non-statutory"
forces such as some guerrilla and revolutionary armies. Armies may
also be expeditionary (designed for overseas or international
deployment) or fencible (designed for – or restricted to –
Army units and organization
Squad / Crew ●
Platoon / Flight ●●●
Company / Battery / Troop
Battalion / Cohort / Squadron
Brigade / Group / Wing x
Division / Legion xx
Field army xxxx
Army group / Front xxxxx
Region / Theater XXXXXX
Regimental combat team
1.4 Ancient Rome
1.5 Medieval Europe
1.6 Early modern
1.7 Late modern
2 Armies as armed services
3 Field army
4 See also
India has had the earliest armies in the world. During the Indus
Valley Civilization (3500–1900 BCE) however, there was just a small
guard force as they didn't fear invasion at the time.
The first known recorded battles, the
War of the Ten Kings, happened
when a Hindu Aryan emperor Sudas defeated an alliance of ten kings and
their supportive chieftains. During the Iron Age, the Maurya and Nanda
Empires had the largest armies in the world, the peak being
approximately over 600,000 Infantry, 30,000 Cavalry, 8,000
War-Chariots and 9,000
War Elephants not including tributary state
allies.  In the Gupta age, large armies of longbowmen were
recruited to fight off invading horse archer armies. Elephants,
pikemen and cavalry were other featured troops.
Rajput times, the main piece of equipment was iron or chain-mail
armour, a round shield, either a curved blade or a straight-sword, a
chakra disc and a katar dagger.
A bronze crossbow trigger mechanism and butt plate that were
mass-produced in the
Warring States period
Warring States period (475-221 BCE)
The states of
China raised armies for at least 1000 years before the
Spring and Autumn Annals. By the Warring States
period, the crossbow had been perfected enough to become a military
secret, with bronze bolts which could pierce any armor. Thus any
political power of a state rested on the armies and their
China underwent political consolidation of the states of
Han (韓), Wei (魏), Chu (楚), Yan (燕), Zhao (趙) and Qi (齊),
until by 221 BCE,
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇帝), the first emperor of
the Qin dynasty, attained absolute power. This first emperor of China
could command the creation of a
Terracotta Army to guard his tomb in
the city of
Xi'an (西安), as well as a realignment of the Great Wall
China to strengthen his empire against insurrection, invasion and
Sun Tzu's The Art of
War remains one of China's Seven Military
Classics, even though it is two thousand years old. Since no
political figure could exist without an army, measures were taken to
ensure only the most capable leaders could control the armies.
Civil bureaucracies (士大夫) arose to control the productive power
of the states, and their military power.
Spartan Army was one of the earliest known professional armies.
Boys were sent to a barracks at the age of seven or eight to train for
becoming a soldier. At the age of thirty they were released from the
barracks and allowed to marry and have a family. After that, men
devoted their lives to war until their retirement at the age of 60.
Unlike other civilizations, whose armies had to disband during the
planting and harvest seasons, the Spartan serfs or helots, did the
This allowed the Spartans to field a full-time army with a campaign
season that lasted all year. The
Spartan Army was
largely composed of hoplites, equipped with arms and armor nearly
identical to each other. Each hoplite bore the Spartan emblem and a
scarlet uniform. The main pieces of this armor were a round shield, a
spear and a helmet.
A 2nd-century depiction of Roman soldiers on Trajan's column
Roman Army had its origins in the citizen army of the Republic,
which was staffed by citizens serving mandatory duty for Rome. Reforms
turned the army into a professional organization which was still
largely filled by citizens, but these citizens served continuously for
25 years before being discharged.
The Romans were also noted for making use of auxiliary troops,
non-Romans who served with the legions and filled roles that the
traditional Roman military could not fill effectively, such as light
skirmish troops and heavy cavalry. After their service in the army
they were made citizens of Rome and then their children were citizens
also. They were also given land and money to settle in Rome. In the
Late Roman Empire, these auxiliary troops, along with foreign
mercenaries, became the core of the Roman Army; moreover, by the time
Late Roman Empire
Late Roman Empire tribes such as the
Visigoths were paid to
serve as mercenaries.
Armies of the
Middle Ages consisted of noble knights, rendering
service to their suzerain, and hired footsoldiers
In the earliest
Middle Ages it was the obligation of every aristocrat
to respond to the call to battle with his own equipment, archers, and
infantry. This decentralized system was necessary due to the social
order of the time, but could lead to motley forces with variable
training, equipment and abilities. The more resources the noble had
access to, the better his troops would be.
The knights were drawn to battle by feudal and social obligation, and
also by the prospect of profit and advancement. Those who performed
well were likely to increase their landholdings and advance in the
social hierarchy. The prospect of significant income
from pillage, and ransoming prisoners was also important. For the
mounted knight war could be a relatively low risk affair.
As central governments grew in power, a return to the citizen armies
of the classical period also began, as central levies of the peasantry
began to be the central recruiting tool.
England was one of the most
centralized states in the Middle Ages, and the armies that fought in
the Hundred Years'
War were, predominantly, composed of paid
In theory, every Englishman had an obligation to serve for forty days.
Forty days was not long enough for a campaign, especially one on the
Thus the scutage was introduced, whereby most Englishmen paid to
escape their service and this money was used to create a permanent
army. However, almost all high medieval armies in Europe were composed
of a great deal of paid core troops, and there was a large mercenary
market in Europe from at least the early 12th century.
Middle Ages progressed in Italy, Italian cities began to rely
mostly on mercenaries to do their fighting rather than the militias
that had dominated the early and high medieval period in this region.
These would be groups of career soldiers who would be paid a set rate.
Mercenaries tended to be effective soldiers, especially in combination
with standing forces, but in
Italy they came to dominate the armies of
the city states. This made them considerably less reliable than a
standing army. Mercenary-on-mercenary warfare in
Italy also led to
relatively bloodless campaigns which relied as much on maneuver as on
In 1439 the French legislature, known as the Estates General (French:
états généraux), passed laws that restricted military recruitment
and training to the king alone. There was a new tax to be raised known
as the taille that was to provide funding for a new Royal army. The
mercenary companies were given a choice of either joining the Royal
army as compagnies d'ordonnance on a permanent basis, or being hunted
down and destroyed if they refused.
France gained a total standing
army of around 6,000 men, which was sent out to gradually eliminate
the remaining mercenaries who insisted on operating on their own. The
new standing army had a more disciplined and professional approach to
warfare than its predecessors. The reforms of the 1440s, eventually
led to the French victory at Castillon in 1453, and the conclusion of
the Hundred Years' War. By 1450 the companies were divided into the
field army, known as the grande ordonnance and the garrison force
known as the petite ordonnance .
Swiss mercenaries and German
Landsknechts fighting for glory, fame and
money at the
Battle of Marignan
Battle of Marignan (1515). The bulk of the Renaissance
armies was composed of mercenaries.
First nation states lacked the funds needed to maintain standing
forces, so they tended to hire mercenaries to serve in their armies
during wartime. Such mercenaries typically formed at the ends of
periods of conflict, when men-at-arms were no longer needed by their
The veteran soldiers thus looked for other forms of employment, often
becoming mercenaries. Free Companies would often specialize in forms
of combat that required longer periods of training that was not
available in the form of a mobilized militia.
As late as the 1650s, most troops were mercenaries. However, after the
17th century, most states invested in better disciplined and more
politically reliable permanent troops. For a time mercenaries became
important as trainers and administrators, but soon these tasks were
also taken by the state. The massive size of these armies required a
large supporting force of administrators.
The newly centralized states were forced to set up vast organized
bureaucracies to manage these armies, which some historians argue is
the basis of the modern bureaucratic state. The combination of
increased taxes and increased centralisation of government functions
caused a series of revolts across Europe such as the
Fronde in France
and the English Civil War.
In many countries, the resolution of this conflict was the rise of
absolute monarchy. Only in
England and the Netherlands did
representative government evolve as an alternative. From the late 17th
century, states learned how to finance wars through long term low
interest loans from national banking institutions. The first state to
master this process was the Dutch Republic. This transformation in the
armies of Europe had great social impact. The defense of the state now
rested on the commoners, not on the aristocrats.
However, aristocrats continued to monopolise the officer corps of
almost all early modern armies, including their high command.
Moreover, popular revolts almost always failed unless they had the
support and patronage of the noble or gentry classes. The new armies,
because of their vast expense, were also dependent on taxation and the
commercial classes who also began to demand a greater role in society.
The great commercial powers of the Dutch and English matched much
larger states in military might.
As any man could be quickly trained in the use of a musket, it became
far easier to form massive armies. The inaccuracy of the weapons
necessitated large groups of massed soldiers. This led to a rapid
swelling of the size of armies. For the first time huge masses of the
population could enter combat, rather than just the highly skilled
The colonels of the French Guards and British guards politely
discussing who should fire first at the
Battle of Fontenoy
Battle of Fontenoy (1745).
An example of "lace war".
It has been argued that the drawing of men from across the nation into
an organized corps helped breed national unity and patriotism, and
during this period the modern notion of the nation state was born.
However, this would only become apparent after the French
Revolutionary Wars. At this time, the levée en masse and conscription
would become the defining paradigm of modern warfare.
Before then, however, most national armies were in fact composed of
many nationalities. In Spain armies were recruited from all the
Spanish European territories including Spain, Italy,
Guards) and Germany. The French recruited some soldiers from Germany,
Switzerland as well as from Piedmont. Britain recruited Hessian and
Hanovrian troops until the late 18th century. Irish Catholics made
careers for themselves in the armies of many Catholic European states.
Prior to the English Civil
War in England, the monarch maintained a
personal Bodyguard of
Yeomen of the Guard
Yeomen of the Guard and the Honourable
Gentlemen at Arms, or "gentlemen pensioners", and a few locally raised
companies to garrison important places such as
Berwick on Tweed
Berwick on Tweed or
Calais before it was recaptured by
France in 1558).
Troops for foreign expeditions were raised upon an ad hoc basis.
Noblemen and professional regular soldiers were commissioned by the
monarch to supply troops, raising their quotas by indenture from a
variety of sources. On January 26, 1661 Charles II issued the Royal
Warrant that created the genesis of what would become the British
Army, although the Scottish and English Armies would remain two
separate organizations until the unification of
England and Scotland
in 1707. The small force was represented by only a few regiments.
After the American Revolutionary
Continental Army was quickly
disbanded as part of the Americans' distrust of standing armies, and
irregular state militias became the sole ground army of the United
States, with the exception of one battery of artillery guarding West
Point's arsenal. Then First American
Regiment was established in 1784.
However, because of continuing conflict with Native Americans, it was
soon realized that it was necessary to field a trained standing army.
The first of these, the Legion of the United States, was established
Until 1733 the common soldiers of
Prussian Army consisted largely of
peasantry recruited or impressed from Brandenburg-Prussia, leading
many to flee to neighboring countries. To halt this trend,
Frederick William I divided
Prussia into regimental cantons. Every
youth was required to serve as a soldier in these recruitment
districts for three months each year; this met agrarian needs and
added extra troops to bolster the regular ranks.
The battle of the Nations (1813), marked the transition between
aristocratic armies and national armies. Masses replace hired
professionals and national hatred overrides dynastic conflicts. An
early example of total wars.
Russian tsars before Peter I of
Russia maintained professional
hereditary musketeer corps (streltsy in Russian) that were highly
unreliable and undisciplined. In times of war the armed forces were
augmented by peasants. Peter I introduced a modern regular army built
on German model, but with a new aspect: officers not necessarily from
nobility, as talented commoners were given promotions that eventually
included a noble title at the attainment of an officer's rank.
Conscription of peasants and townspeople was based on quota system,
per settlement. Initially it was based on the number of households,
later it was based on the population numbers. The term of service
in the 18th century was for life. In 1793 it was reduced to 25 years.
In 1834 it was reduced to 20 years plus 5 years in reserve and in 1855
to 12 years plus 3 years of reserve.[chronology citation needed]
The first Ottoman standing army were Janissaries. They replaced forces
that mostly comprised tribal warriors (ghazis) whose loyalty and
morale could not always be trusted. The first Janissary units were
formed from prisoners of war and slaves, probably as a result of the
sultan taking his traditional one-fifth share of his army's booty in
kind rather than cash.
From the 1380s onwards, their ranks were filled under the devşirme
system, where feudal dues were paid by service to the sultan. The
"recruits" were mostly Christian youths, reminiscent of mamluks.
China organized the
Manchu people into the
Eight Banner system
Eight Banner system in the
early 17th century. Defected Ming armies formed the Green Standard
Army. These troops enlisted voluntarily and for long terms of service.
Indian Army personnel during
Operation Crusader in Egypt, 1941
Conscription allowed the French Republic to form the La Grande Armée,
Napoleon Bonaparte called "the nation in arms", which
successfully battled European professional armies.
Conscription, particularly when the conscripts are being sent to
foreign wars that do not directly affect the security of the nation,
has historically been highly politically contentious in democracies.
Canada also had a political dispute over conscription during World War
II. Similarly, mass protests against conscription to fight the Vietnam
War occurred in several countries in the late 1960s.
In developed nations, the increasing emphasis on technological
firepower and better-trained fighting forces, the sheer unlikelihood
of a conventional military assault on most developed nations, as well
as memories of the contentiousness of the Vietnam
War experience, make
mass conscription unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Russia, as well as many other nations, retains mainly a conscript
army. There is also a very rare citizen army as used in Switzerland
Military of Switzerland).
Armies as armed services
Western armies are usually subdivided as follows:
Corps: A corps usually consists of two or more divisions and is
commanded by a Lieutenant General.
Division: Each division is commanded by a
Major General, and usually
holds three brigades including infantry, artillery, engineers and
communications units in addition to logistics (supply and service)
support to sustain independent action. Except for the divisions
operating in the mountains, divisions have at least one armored unit,
some have even more depending upon their functionality. The basic
building block of all ground force combat formations is the infantry
Brigade: A brigade is under the command of a
Brigadier or Brigadier
General and sometimes is commanded by a Colonel. It typically
comprises three or more battalions of different units depending on its
functionality. An independent brigade would be one that primarily
consists of an artillery unit, an infantry unit, an armour unit and
logistics to support its actions. Such a brigade is not part of any
division and is under direct command of a corps.
Battalion: Each battalion is commanded by a
Colonel or sometimes by
Colonel who commands roughly 500 to 750 soldiers. This
number varies depending on the functionality of the regiment. A
battalion comprises 3–5 companies (3 rifle companies, a fire support
company and headquarters company) or its functional equivalent such as
batteries (artillery) or squadrons (armour and cavalry), each under
the command of a Major. The company can be divided into platoons, each
of which can again be divided into sections or squads. (Terminology is
nationality and even unit specific.)
A field army is composed of a headquarters, army troops, a variable
number of corps, typically between three and four, and a variable
number of divisions, also between three and four. A battle is
influenced at the Field
Army level by transferring divisions and
reinforcements from one corps to another to increase the pressure on
the enemy at a critical point. Field armies are controlled by a
General or Lieutenant General.
Standard map symbol for a numbered Army, the 'X's are not substituting
the army's number
A particular army can be named or numbered to distinguish it from
military land forces in general. For example, the First United States
Army and the
Army of Northern Virginia. In the
British Army it is
normal to spell out the ordinal number of an army (e.g. First Army),
whereas lower formations use figures (e.g. 1st Division).
Armies (as well as army groups and theaters) are large formations
which vary significantly between armed forces in size, composition,
and scope of responsibility.
In the Soviet
Red Army and the Soviet Air Force, "Armies" could vary
in size, but were subordinate to an
Army Group-sized "front" in
wartime. In peacetime, a Soviet army was usually subordinate to a
military district. Viktor Suvorov's Inside the Soviet
War era Soviet military districts were actually composed of a
front headquarters and a military district headquarters co-located for
administration and deception ('maskirovika') reasons.
First world war
List of armies
List of armies by country
List of numbered armies
List of countries by number of military and paramilitary personnel
Wikimedia Commons has media related to army.
^ History of
India By Dr Malti Malik, Pg.84 
^ The Great Armies of Antiquity By Richard A. Gabriel Pg.218 
^ Roy 2004, pp. 28–31.
^ In the twentieth c.,
Mao Zedong (People's Republic of China),
Vo Nguyen Giap
Vo Nguyen Giap (Viet Nam), General
Douglas MacArthur (United
States), and in medieval Japan,
Takeda Shingen (1521–1573) have
drawn inspiration from the work
^ "who wishes to fight must first count the cost" —Sun Tzu, The Art
^ "You conquered the empire on horseback, but from horseback you will
never succeed in ruling it." —Lu Chia, as quoted by Joseph Needham,
Science and Civilisation in China. vol 7, part II.
^ Carruthers, Bob (2013). Medieval Warfare. Pen and Sword. p. 10.
^ Vale, M.G.A. (1992). Charles VII. Berkeley: University of California
^ Mackinnon, Daniel. Origin and services of the Coldstream Guards,
London 1883, Vol. 1, p. 368, note 2
^ Clark, Christopher (2006). Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of
Prussia 1600–1947. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard. p. 97.
^ Koch, H. W. (1978). A History of Prussia. New York: Barnes &
Noble Books. p. 88. ISBN 0-88029-158-3.
^ Napoléon a réinventé l’art de la guerre Archived 2016-03-03 at
the Wayback Machine.. lecavalierbleu.com
^ a b Jerome Blum (1971) "Lord and Peasant in Russia: From the Ninth
to the Nineteenth Century", ISBN 0-691-00764-0, pp. 465, 466
^ "Subdivisions of the army". Archived from the original on
2006-11-16. Retrieved 2007-01-21.
Air defense force