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A military, usually known as the armed forces as a whole, is a strongly equipped and highly organised organisation that is mainly meant for combat. In most cases, it is approved and maintained by a sovereign state, and its members are distinguished by the distinctive military uniforms they wear. There are many different military branches that may be found in a country. For example, there may be an army, navy, air force, space force, marines, or coast guard. According to conventional wisdom, the primary mission of the military is to defend the state and its interests against external armed threats.

In common parlance, the terms armed forces and military are frequently treated as synonyms, though in technical parlance, a distinction is sometimes drawn between a country's armed forces and other paramilitary forces, with a country's armed forces including both its military and other paramilitary forces. Various types of irregular military forces exist, none of which are affiliated with a recognised state; although they have many characteristics with regular military units, they are less often referred to as simply military.

Depending on the country, the military may function as a distinct social subculture, with its own infrastructure, such as military housing and educational facilities as well as utilities and logistical support. Other resources may include legal and financial services, food production, and banking services. Besides fighting wars, the military can be called upon to perform a variety of other sanctioned and non-sanctioned functions within the state. These include responding to internal security threats and population control; pushing forward a political agenda; providing emergency services and reconstruction; protecting corporate economic interests; and participating in social ceremonies and national honour guards.

Soldiering as a member of a military organisation predates the beginning of recorded history. Power and exploits of ancient antiquity's military commanders are shown in some of the most iconic pictures of antiquity's art history. It was one of the defining moments of Pharaoh Ramses II's rule, and his monuments to the battle of Kadesh, which took place in 1274 BC, memorialise it in bas-relief. Ten centuries later, in order to impress the gods with his military might, the first emperor of undivided China, Qin Shi Huang, had himself buried with an army of clay warriors, known as terracotta soldiers. The Romans placed a great deal of emphasis on military concerns, and they left a large number of treatises and publications on the topic, as well as several magnificently carved triumphal arches and victory columns, to be preserved for future generations.