The Troops Have Spoken . . . and are Wrong
In 418 B.C., Sparta invaded its neighbor Argos and Sparta, not for the first time. The two armies deployed for battle at Nemea, with the troops on both sides eager to get at their blood enemies.
But Thrasyllus, the Argive strategos, noticed that his Spartan opponent, King Agis II, had cleverly sited the three divisions of his army so as to cut the Argives off from retreat if it came to a fight. So he consulted Alciphron, the Spartan proxenos at Argos. Now a proxenos was a sort-of ambassador, but rather than being a citizen of the country he represented, he represented that country in his own, having been selected due to business, family, or other ties. Alciphron. arranged for a parley between the two commanders. At the parlay, Thrasyllus more or less hoodwinked King Agis II into agreeing to a four months’ truce.
Naturally this greatly upset the troops, even the Argives, who, not realizing their danger, apparently believed they were about to overwhelm the Spartans. So naturally, as the armies marched away, the troops grumbled like the veterans they were.
Now the Argives had a custom that upon returning home, the army’s first stop was a ritual site called the Charadrus. At this sacred place, all military cases arising during a campaign would be adjudicated before the army disbanded and the troops went home.
As soon as they reached the Charadrus, the Argive troops began stoning Thrasyllus. The general quickly took refuge on the altar, which prevented the men from killing him. So they promptly convened an assembly, and passed resolutions firing the general and confiscating his property.
So although Thrasyllus probably saved their lives, the troops clearly didn’t get it.
"Repent, Ye Sinners!"
As is well known, in 1066 the Duke of Normandy, William the Bastard, engaged in a hostile takeover of England, ruled by his kinsman Harold Godwinson. William’s army, composed of mercenaries and free lancers from all over Europe, attracted by his promise of lands and wealth to be won in England, defeated Harold’s Saxon axmen at Hastings on October 14, 1066. And as the promised, William, now surnamed “The Conqueror,” handed out fiefs with a generous hand. Of course the fief holders had to pay their dues to William, who imposed rather more stringent conditions on his vassals than was the norm across much of Europe.
Now was William the only one making demands of his followers. The Church had some issues as well.
Not long after the dust had settled, the Bishops of England convened a synod to address the thorny issue of sins committed during the conquest.
The good prelates argued that although they “did of right owe military service to William,” having sworn fealty to him, the acts of violence that they committed during the conquest still required absolution. So they
enjoined every knight or military tenant who had been with that monarch at the battle of Hastings, to do penance for one year for every man whom he knew he had slain there, and during forty days for every man whom he knew he had struck; and if he was ignorant of the number whom he had slain or struck, to do penance at the discretion of the bishop of the diocese, one day in every week so long as he lived.
For those who preferred not to spend years at hard prayer, the good bishops also provided a loophole, to wit, that “penances might be redeemed with perpetual alms, by building or endowing a church.”