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By 1492, the Spaniards, united under Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, had emerged victorious over their Muslim foes with a highly professional tough fighting machine. This formed the Spanish tercio (Spanish: "third") formed the backbone of the most successful army in the world. Armed with pikes and arquebusiers, and for a time with swords, the tercio was also nourished by an efficient organisation for recruiting from its own provinces and keeping these units "topped up" resulting in a body of professional soldiers with superior discipline and fighting spirit, and were well known on the European battlefield for their near-invincibility in combat during the 16th and 17th centuries. Near-endless campaigning in Italy and the Low Countries made them formidable troops, with high confidence and esprit de corps.

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