The Fähnlein (in Swedish: Fänika) was a military unit approximately equivalent to the company or battalion which was used in parts of Europe during the Middle Ages. The Fähnlein, meaning "small banner", consisted of foot soldiers that were organized under a single banner, hence the unit's name. The size of the unit varied, originally a Fähnlein could consist of as many as 1,000 soldiers, but numbers were generally less, around 500. In the 17th century, some Fähnleins or fänikor would have only 100 to 200 men, and it was at this time that the designation company came into widespread use.
In Germany, the Landsknechts were organized in Fähnleins, which were then organized into regiments. Approximately the same organization was used in Sweden, where each province raised a number of fänikor, which were organized into a provincial regiment. Many of the regiments of the Swedish Army of today traces their origins back to the fänikor of the 16th century. The Fähnlein was led by a Hauptmann and the fänika was led by a Kapten, both equivalents of a Captain.
The military rank of Fähnrich (Germany) or Fänrik (Sweden) was held by the low ranking officer who carried the banner (German Fahne, Swedish Fana) of the Fähnlein or fänika. The Spanish army has a similar formation called a Bandera (flag, banner).
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