(Greek: "employee" or "receiver of wages")
In Ancient Greece, misthotos, singular. was used to refer to day labourers, working for a wage of normally one drachma per day, whereas the plural, misthotoi, usually meant "mercenaries".
The defense of Greek city-states, poleis, usually relied on the citizen soldier, each citizen being trained in the use of weapons and serving with his own arms and armour. Customarily, the citizenry (meaning, adult males) were bound to provide regular army service until age 50, and placed in reservist status from 50 to 60.
Naturally, such a system provided an incentive to make warfare a career, particularly in poorer regions or in periods with overpopulation or frequent wars. In such circumstances, experienced soldiers, who had been temporarily or permanently exiled from their own communities, could most conveniently make a living as mercenaries.
In the archaic period, Greek mercenaries were generally hired by foreign (non-Greek) monarchs, or by Greek tyrants who did not trust the citizen soldiers of their own poleis. The oldest known example of this practice is a statue of Ramses II in Egypt, which has been scratched with names of Greek mercenaries, around 600 BCE. The most famous example, however, is the army of approximately 10,000 Greek mercenaries, which was hired by the Persian prince Cyrus in 401 BCE, for his campaign against his brother, the Persian Great King. The exploits of this mercenary army has been described by Xenophon in the Anabasis.
In the 4th century BCE, it became more common for the poleis to supplement and even replace their citizen soldiery with mercenaries - under the leadership of professional mercenary commanders, instead of the cities' elected strategoi.
During the Hellenistic period, the military power of kings, following Macedonian ways, came to rely on standing armies of professional soldiers, supplemented during war with hired mercenaries.
Greek misthotoi were often specialised according to their place of origin: Arcadian hoplites, Thessalian cavalry, Cretan archers and Rhodian slingers are the types most frequently mentioned in historical texts.