The Landsknechts were mercenary warriors primarily of German or Austrian extraction who served Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V in the late 15th into the 16th centuries. Originally recruited by Maximilian in his wars with France and Italy, the Landsknechts were infantry pike men whose skills with their pikes virtually relegated the mounted knight formations to obsolescence. The Landsknechts were also early adherents to the new arquebusier weapons.
These outlandishly-costumed and fierce soldiers were the ultimate warriors of 16th C Europe. Their demise in the last half of the 1500s was the result of several factors, not the least of which was decline of the discipline necessary to focus their military efforts. Without a strong monarch like Maximilian I or a general like Georg von Frundsberg, the Landsknechts often regressed to a band of disorderly brigands rather than the soldiers of a hired national army.
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