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Troops who fight on foot. The term applies both to soldiers armed with hand weapons such as the spear and sword in ancient times and to troops armed with automatic rifles and rocket launchers in modern times. Their objective has always been to seize and hold ground and, when necessary, to occupy enemy territory. Apart from the temporary dominance of cavalry in the feudal period, it has been the largest single element in Western armies since ancient times.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on infantry, visit Britannica.com.