The term [√©chorcheurs—scorchers of the earth] could also describe the parasitic mercenary bands, or “companies of adventure,” that plagued Italy during the fourteenth century. They operated under fanciful, self-infatuated names like the Company of the Star, the Company of the Hook, and the Company of the Hat, and proudly promulgated graffiti-like slogans such as, “Enemy of God, Pity, and Mercy.” Their camps reminded one observer of “brothels of harlots and the taverns and bistros of gluttons.” One of the most destructive and effective of these bands was led by John Hawkwood, “an Italianized Englishman” famous for his solution of a problem that arose during the plundering of a monastery. While two of his men argued over which would get to ravish a beautiful young nun, Hawkwood plunged a dagger into her heart, thereby, observed an admiring chronicler, at once solving the dispute and preserving the nun’s virginity.

John Mueller, “Band of Brigands: The Criminality of Modern Warfare”, in Lapham’s Quarterly, winter 2008