6. Professional Champions Could Be Hired
In Game of Thrones the dwarf Lannister, Tyrion, hires Oberyn to be his champion in a trial by combat. A move like that is actually quite historically accurate, as Tyrion would have been considered disabled and thus unable to fight. In fact, in some Germanic law systems, even able-bodied men were allowed to hire professional champions to compete in their stead. However, hiring a professional was often viewed as dishonorable. Contemporary writings often referred to the hiring of professional combatants as something done by, “Women, the young, the old, the sick, the crippled, clerics, and Jews.” Medieval anti-Semitism aside, it was clear that society at the time looked down on not fighting for one’s cause.
Professional combatants were similarly disparaged. Although they were able to make good money fighting on behalf of other men, they were viewed as dishonorable and the lowest of society. Oberyn was treated similarly by most of the nobles in Game of Thrones, with few being impressed by his history as a profoundly successful professional champion. Although he was able to defeat a storied knight successfully, he was still a “sellsword,” an honorless mercenary. Much like the later distaste for mercenary companies, men who sold their military skill on behalf of others were viewed with mistrust.