A soldier is a collective definition for a soldier in the army of any country in the world. This is one of the most frequently used words on military-themed resources, in military reports of news agencies.
Often the term “soldiers” is associated with the rank and file of the troops, although at the moment this idea is somewhat erroneous. Soldiers mean virtually the entire army staff, including sergeants, warrant officers and officers, which speaks of the generalization that is generally inherent in the term. Any general – he is, in fact, a soldier too.
There is no person today who does not know the word “soldier” (especially since it sounds almost the same in dozens of languages of the world), but there is a considerable number of people who, due to various circumstances, do not know where the word came from and what it originally meant.
In this regard – a small material on the topic.
So where does the word “soldier” come from?
The word has a Latin root and is directly related to the word “solid”. It is a gold coin that was introduced in the 4th century AD. This Roman coin was minted for several hundred years, and its circulation (in one form or another) in Europe took place many years after the fall of Constantinople.
Solid of Justinian II
So how can a Roman solidus be related to military terminology? It is believed that everything is extremely simple. A soldier began to be called a person who in medieval Italy received a certain salary for military service. Formally – in soldo. Soldo is a medieval derivative of the very Roman coin, which, however, had nothing to do with the face value of the Roman solidus. In other words, a soldier was to be understood exclusively as a professional or, if somewhat more rudely, as a mercenary who receives money for his “craft”.
But here a question may arise: the Roman soldiers received salaries even before the appearance of the solidus (and, of course, before the appearance of the Italian soldo). For example, these were the aureuses introduced during the Second Punic War (III century BC), or the antoninian of the emperor Caracalla. Why, then, the military is not called “aureus” and “antoninians” today?
Here it is necessary to touch upon the question of how the word “solidus” itself is translated from Latin, and why the word was assigned to the soldiers already in medieval Italy, and not in the Roman Empire. The translation of the word sounds like “hard” or “strong”. That is, the term “soldier”, as some historians write, has become established due to the fact that it is “a strong warrior who receives payment for service.”
However, I must say that this is just a romanticization. In fact, the word “soldier” is associated precisely with the Italian soldo, which was a simple bargaining chip. For example, in medieval Venice, 1 soldo was equal to 1/140 of the sequin, which was minted since the end of the 13th century. The weight of the sequin was about 3.5 g. From this it can be concluded that 1/140 of the 3.5-gram gold coin had a very low “bank” value. It is with this that the emergence of the concept of “soldier” is connected. So in medieval Italy they began to call a certain category of warriors, because they invested in this name an understanding of the too little value of their life.
Soldo of Venice
Much less romantic than in comparison with solid, but this is much closer to the true understanding of the term “soldier”, which has become established historically.
It is important to note that, perhaps, the term has nothing to do with military affairs and would not have had in the end if the Italian coin “Soldo” (by its name) had not generated in the languages of Europe the word “soldare” with its variations. This verb can be translated as “to hire”.
That is why mercenaries began to be called soldiers in medieval Europe – moreover, those who received relatively low salaries for their services. And only then, centuries later, the word “soldier” began to acquire a collective meaning, which includes virtually all servicemen and representatives of, shall we say, informal and semi-formal armed formations.
So, over the centuries, the Latin word “solid” was transformed first into the word “mercenary”, and only then, having discarded the “linguistic and financial” roots, it turned into a soldier familiar to everyone. Emperor Constantine today, I think, would have been quite surprised to learn how the term is used, which, during his reign, denoted the name of the coin. True, it is from the Latin solidus that another modern word leads its way – solid, but, as they say, this is a completely different story …