Samurai (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: The samurai enabled feudal barons to wage war on and gain power over other barons.
During the tenth and eleventh centuries in Japan, powerful aristocrats came to control most of the country’s wealth. Lower ranking aristocrats dissatisfied with the monopoly would assume posts in the provinces where they were free to acquire land and broaden their power base. Armed conflicts were commonplace as armies of highly trained soldiers vied with each other to amass power and property. The nucleus of these armies were warriors, known as samurai (meaning “one who serves”), who fought in armor on horseback. As retainers of the daimyo (feudal barons), samurai were totally dependent on their lord for a meager allowance.
During the centuries of almost continual warfare, the samurai evolved into a distinct and revered caste characterized by physical courage, immense prowess, and a strong sense of honor. A great gulf separated the samurai from the common castes of farmers, artisans, and merchants; peasants who did not show great respect to a samurai could be cut down on the spot.
The samurai followed a rigid code of ethics known as bushido. It stressed honor, moral virtue, bravery, benevolence, politeness, sincerity, self-control, and unswerving loyalty to the daimyo. The warrior recognized the impermanence of life and always presented a quiet submission to the inevitable—stoicism in...
(The entire section is 347 words.)
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