The Discreet Charm of the ‘Anarchist Sublime’:
Critical Reflections on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer Project
Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, the first of a group of works Italian philosopher and cultural critic Giorgio Agamben was to devote to the questions of sovereignty, law and violence, was originally published in Italian in 1995. Its English translation appeared three years later, when the book was included in the prestigious “Crossing Aesthetics” series published by Stanford University Press. The book’s reception in the Anglophone academic world does not appear to have been exceptional initially. An MLA bibliography search shows a modest two references in 1999, in book reviews undertaken for the journals Modernism/Modernity and Theory & Event. Six more references, all of them in reviews of the book, appeared in 2000. In 2001, the bibliography lists three critical essays that involved Agamben’s book: Steven DeCaroli’s and Brett Levinson’s essays in Philosophy Today and Nepantla, and, more fatefully, Michael J. Shapiro’s “Wanted, Dead or Alive”, which appeared in the “Reflections on 11 September” special issue of Theory & Event, where Agamben himself contributed an essay on “Security and Terror”.
I say “fatefully” because in linking the book to the legal and political questions posed by the so-called war on terror, Shapiro laid the foundations for what was to prove an extremely popular and widespread trend in the Anglophone world, one which rendered Agamben’s conceptual nomenclature (“sovereign power” “state of exception”, “bare life”) well-nigh synonymous with the state of American and global politics in the first years of the twenty-first century. By 2002, the link between Agamben’s book and critical reflection on 9/11 was well on the way to consolidation: an essay on terrorism in Anthropological Quarterly and a special issue on 9/11 in Theatre Journal both make reference to Agamben’s book. 2003 marks something of a threshold for the book’s (and Agamben’s) reception, particularly in the United States: the MLA bibliography lists eleven essays which deal either with Homo Sacer or with the thematically related volumes that had followed it by that time, Remnants of Auschwitz (originally published in 1998), and The Open: Man and Animal (published in Italian in 2002). The attack on the Twin Towers, the Homeland Security act, and the legal implications of US-led counter-terrorism initiatives form the focus of at least five of these—proof that by 2003 the dominant parameters of Agamben’s US reception had been established, and that these parameters derive from a sort of retroactive reading into his work of preoccupations that were to gain center stage only a number of years after Homo Sacer’s original publication and translation into English.
What followed was a veritable flood of Agambeniana, intensified by the publication of yet another sequel to Homo Sacer, State of Exception, in 2005 (Italian original 2003). The MLA bibliography shows that more than a hundred essays, as well as at least three edited volumes, have been published on Agamben between 2003 and the present; without doubt, more were published in disciplines not included in the resources indexed by the MLA database. The period between 2003 and 2009 hence marks something like an Agambenian turn in Anglophone cultural, social and political theory, one which was profoundly interconnected with the explosion of interest in Carl Schmitt and his conception of sovereignty and the state of exception, Michel Foucault and the tangled history of biopolitics and governmentality, and the literary and philosophical explorations of bare life and animality. These terms became constellated into a theoretically hegemonic vocabulary, one that became virtually coextensive with life under the Bush regime, and which aimed at dissecting the interlocked legal, political and historical phenomena associated with the policies of this regime: the increasing curtailment if not outright violation of the civil rights and liberties of US citizens, the abandonment of established norms of civil and international law (including due process and the right to legal representation), the normalization of torture in the interests of “security”, the re-emergence of the specters of the concentration camp (most notably in Guantanamo) and its “Musselmans” (this time, ironically, literally Muslims). In the structure of feeling that dominated these years, the bleakness of Agamben’s brazenly archaicizing understanding of sovereignty in the Roman terms of “authority of life and death” became the equivalent of common sense—reinforced, it would seem, by the baleful media iconographies of the near-nullity of human existence, the scandalous omnipresence of what Antonio Negri, critically appraising Agamben’s perspective, would call “the destinal insignificance of being”.
What this otherwise pedantic chronicle of publishing history suggests, then, is the existence of a concretely historical—which is also to say, ideologically meaninful—logic behind the spectacular popularity Agamben’s work was to enjoy in US academia after 2001. It is a logic that is worth reflecting on in its own right. For what marks the seemingly counterintuitive prominence in the US academic context a theologically trained Italian leftist (a phenomenon that came in the wake of the equally thought-provoking explosion of Anglophone interest in his compatriot Antonio Negri’s similarly singular brand of Spinozist autonomism) is a rather concrete event: the emergence of what one could call a negative form of connectivity between domestic and global experience, a sudden recognition of the fact that first and third-world lives were being brought together under the aegis of shared vulnerability. Homo Sacer and its sequels were works profoundly attuned to the galvanizing synapse 9/11 was to form between “us” and ‘them”, between the long- familiar spectacle of non-western refugees or civil war victims and the sudden revelation of the precarious life of first-world bodies, mass-incinerated in the flaming inferno of the Twin Towers, amputated by mines and ambushes in Afghani and Iraqi battlefields, frisked by police at metropolitan airports, surveilled, questioned or detained by state authorities at home. Indeed, if the immediate popularity of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire (published in English two years after Homo Sacer) was sealed by the affective congruence between its own, exuberant faith in an autonomously engineered revolutionary transformation of global society and the ideological predispositions of a US left that believed itself insulated from the archaic workings of state sovereignty and state violence, the subsequent ascendancy of Agamben’s chronologically earlier work is testimony to the drastic, traumatic inversion of the ideological climate of the last years of the century (and of the Clinton regime).
A newly elegiac and mournful tone was settling like dust onto the older, exuberantly subversive esprit predominating in American cultural theory. When, in 2004, Judith Butler followed her 90s classics, Gender Trouble (1990) and Bodies that Matter (1993), with Precarious Life (2004), she was largely registering the impact of disconsolate winds of change: from within the experience of a world order seemingly organized around the globalizable right of states to kill, torture and detain their subjects or the subjects of other states with impunity, bodies didn’t seem to matter in the way they once predominantly did, as sites of transgression and defiance: “each of us is constituted politically in part by virtue of the social vulnerability of our bodies […] Loss and vulnerability seem to follow from our being socially constituted bodies, attached to others, at the risk of losing those attachments, exposed to others, at risk of violence by virtue of that exposure”. Indeed, performativity itself, Butler’s earlier alternately celebrated, maligned and misunderstood foundation for thinking the potentiality of gender and sexual insubordinations, had come to ground the unlimited violence of the state of exception:
My own view is that a contemporary version of sovereignty, animated by an aggressive nostalgia that seeks to do away with the separation of powers, is produced at the moment of this withdrawal [of law, pace Agamben], and that we have to consider the act of suspending the law as a performative one which brings a contemporary configuration of sovereignty into being or, more precisely, reanimates a spectral sovereignty within the field of governmentality […] The future becomes a lawless future, not anarchical, but given over to the discretionary decisions of a set of designated sovereigns—a perfect paradox that shows how sovereigns emerge within governmentality—who are beholden to nothing and to no one except the performative power of their own decisions.”
But in its virtually universal tendency to see in Agamben’s work a diagnostically accurate, if not prophetic, analysis of the circumstances and tendencies of our time, Homo Sacer’s US academic audience has been a little too eager to accept and reproduce its fundamental presuppositions and interpretive emphases. Prominent among these is its diagnosis of the displacement of the site of political dialogue and political antagonism—the polis, in its various national and cosmopolitan metamorphoses—by the lethal spatiality of the camp, the site where all potential for political innovation and creativity is erased, and where death becomes the ultimate horizon and telos of politics. Yet it would be inaccurate to assume that Agamben’s work could be read as an account of an epochal catastrophe, a fatal passage from the polis to the camp. Indeed, though he emphasizes the qualitative import of the shift from a premodern dialectic between norm and exception in the polis to the devastating normalization of their conflation—the diffusion of the permanent state of exception in a camp with no outside—Agamben does not quite read this shift as possessing a historical valence. The largely atemporal nature of Agamben’s argument is made clear when he observes that his inquiry concerns “the hidden point of intersection between the juridico-institutional and the biopolitical models of power”; this hidden point is of course the bare life of homo sacer, the focus of the crucial second part of the homonymous volume’s tripartite structure. Circulating undecideably between the discussion of the “juridico-institutional” foundations of sovereignty in the first section and the investigation of the “biopolitical” realm of the modern camp in the third, bare life opens between them what Agamben would call a “zone” or “threshold” of “indistinction.” Less an account of historical transition than a fold which makes the extremities of archaic and modern collapse onto each other, the book’s middle section signals a threshold in the strict sense in which Andrew Norris glosses Agamben’s use of the term: “a passage that cannot be completed, a distinction that can be neither maintained nor eliminated.”
Inevitably, then, the camp will constitute a sinister phantom, one that always already lurks within the polis, hovering over political space as such. But it will thereby also figure as its secret destiny, the terminal point of a catastrophic teleology that will retrospectively be shown to have informed the constitution of politics from the start: “if in our age,” Agamben remarks during one of his frequent exercises in presentist pathos, “all citizens can be said […] to appear virtually as homines sacri, this is possible only because the relation of the ban has constituted the essential structure of sovereign power from the beginning”. Negri, who is critical of Agamben’s “undifferentiated—either cynical or pessimistic—horizon, where every element is reduced to the empty play of an equivalent negativity” is not far off the mark when he discerns traces of “leftist Hegelianism” in this “catastrophist” conception of the biopolitical.  When Agamben concludes that “the river of biopolitics that gave homo sacer his life runs its course in a hidden but continuous fashion”, it is above all the voice of a Hegelianism-gone-awry that one hears. The labor of the negative through which Spirit shapes history has here been entirely subsumed by the mechanical, unending whirr of the killing machine of sovereign power. Evoking Andreas Kalyvas’ trenchant response to the effective “absence of time” in Agamben’s “almost totalistic, agentless history”, we might say that Homo Sacer assumes that it is camp time all the time. The concentration camp, site of the total and lethal coincidence of a state of exception and the ‘normal’ state of affairs, appears as the inevitable termination point of the western “anthropological machine” long before the onset of modernity. Socrates himself, in Andrew Norris’s Agambenian reading of Plato, “openly accepts that his biopolitics must at the same time be a thanatopolitics”, making The Republic something like an obscenely unconcerned precursor of Mein Kampf.
But the ominous retroactivity with which contemporary biopolitics seems to register itself within premodern political thought suggests that all time has become camp time in a different sense as well. From the standpoint of Agamben’s own vision, historical difference has been overtaken by what the concentration camp most paradigmatically effects: the ontological obliteration of time itself, the utter annihilation of eventfulness, contingency, and change from the horizon of our grasp of the historical past. In a certain sense, and against the Homo Sacer project’s explicitly anti-authoritarian intentions, the historical terrain has been transformed into a stage given over to the pathetic, endless spectacle of denuded, unaccommodated humanity on the one hand and life-annihilating sovereign power on the other. It is a vision which, while viably arguing for the complicity between a biopolitics that privileges “humanity” and the dignity of its political destiny and one that reduces life to a bios perpetually exposed to the violence of abandonment, also dispenses with “the heroic pathos of negation”—a shorthand for Hegelian Marxism as such. What Agamben opts for instead are the oblique, idiosyncratic figures of resistance embodied by the triad of the Musselman, the human being as “what remains after the destruction of the human being”; the animal, as figure for the “‘great ignorance’” that lets life “be outside of being, saved precisely in […] being unsavable”; and Bartleby, as “the extreme figure of the Nothing from which all creation derives”, the self-effacing guarding angel of “the luminous spiral of the possible” that can only emerge out of “the colorless abyss of the Nothing”.
In his Wars of Position, Timothy Brennan speaks of an “anarchist sublime”, a term he does not quite gloss, but which I think is an apt description of the affective and political modality expressed by this triad of privileged figures: a fusion of blanket anti-statism, which, as Brennan correctly points out, has found a particularly receptive audience among the US’s “homegrown individualist anarchism” and the sublime post-humanity that is the banner of a certain nihilism—one which in Agamben’s complex deployment seems to weave together German and French, Benjaminian and Bataillean strands. Hence it is that the seemingly profoundly dystopian tone of works like Homo Sacer, Remnants of Auschwitz, or The Open reveals an obliquely, counter-intuitively utopian kernel, shaped “by an act of sheer hermeneutic controversion”, that turns “negatives into positives”, as Brennan puts it. “Passivity rather than rebellion”, mourning rather than insurgent self-assertion, figures of sur-vival rather than life: these subjective expressions of what Jacques Rancière calls “politics in its nihilistic age” are the constituent elements of what Agamben’s project presents as alternatives to what it diagnoses as the contemporary state of affairs. What remains after the very process of political subjectivation has been exposed as complicitous with what it nominally opposes or challenges—what remains in the wake of the spellbinding image of our universal capture by the sovereign exception—is, after all, ethics, “thinking that tars all thought and all politics with its own impotence, by making itself the custodian of the thought of a catastrophe from which no ethics, in any case, was able to protect us”.
We ought to wonder about the stakes involved in the spontaneous embrace of such a patently baleful vision of resistant subjectivity; for there is something quite telling about the fact that it attained critical legitimacy at a time when, in the US especially, the anti-politics of neoliberal “end-of-history” optimism were rapidly giving way to an equally antipolitical catastrophism. The turn toward a view of political subjectivity as something always already subsumed by the Leviathan of unlimited and illimitable sovereign violence was not as drastic a departure from neoliberalism’s exuberant faith in the post-political “administration of things” as it might otherwise appear. It might instead be understood as an inversion of the affective tone of the hegemonic ideology which nonetheless manages to keep intact the pre-emptive ban on politics as a process of emancipatory subjectivation.  I believe this account can and should be challenged; in what follows, I will undertake to provide an alternative genealogy of our present by revisiting the configuration of bare life and sovereign power in three historical conjunctures—Roman antiquity, early modernity and the industrial era—each tied to a different discursive dominant: historical philology, cultural anthropology, and political economy.
Sacratio Against Sovereignty
“Rome”, Michel Serres was to remark in a work whose propensity to see violence as the primary vehicle of ethical, historical and political indifferentiation reminds one strongly of Agamben’s own tendencies, "is the city of the object; it does not pose the question of the subject”. Yet, I would argue, it is precisely the question of subject—the sudden and scandalous irruption of something that disturbs the hierarchical order of the polis—that is posed by the violent Roman custom of sacratio capitis—the Roman decree that declared one sacer. Since the discussion of sacratio in the middle section of Agamben’s book is pivotal—it is this section which, after all, gives Homo Sacer its title—let us take a more attentive look at its findings. What is one to make of the lessons imparted by homo sacer, this “obscure figure of archaic Roman law” which has haunted such a considerable proportion of contemporary scholarship on sovereignty and the modern State? Founding his discussion of the question on Pompeius Festus’s well-known passage in De Verborum Significatu (On the Significance of Words), where the status of sacer is defined as unsacrificeable and killable with impunity, Agamben moves rather too swiftly from the definition itself to an examination of the import of the topology of sacred man’s placement beyond the pale of both human and divine law. It is on the basis of this double exclusion from the human community and from the realm of the divine that he subsequently argues for a fundamental affinity between the “double exception” involved in Festus’s definition of sacratio capitis and the “structure of sovereign exception.” Hence, Agamben will remark, “the production of bare life is the originary activity of sovereignty.” “The sovereign and homo sacer” are “joined in a figure of an action that, excepting itself from both human and divine law […] nevertheless delimits what is, in a certain sense, the first properly political space of the West, distinct from both the religious and the profane sphere, from both the natural order and the regular juridical order.”
What is striking about the syllogism through which Agamben converts “an obscure figure of archaic Roman law” into the “key” which would make “the very codes of political power” unveil “their mysteries”, is that it barely pauses over the actual practice of a law that it is prepared to invest with effectively transhistorical significance. It is certainly puzzling that a study erudite enough to trace a series of convoluted and heavily attenuated connections between sacratio and such Roman customs as the handling of the surviving devotus or the funerary preparation of a funus imaginarium eschews discussion of the often diverging understandings of sacratio in the retrospective Roman commentaries of Livy, Dionysius of Halicarnassus or Plutarch, not to mention the not insubstantial body of late nineteenth and twentieth-century philological, historical and legal commentaries on these inevitably contestable reconstructions of the unwritten history of early Rome. For one, this means that the potential shifts of emphasis and application that involve this practice as it develops from the years of the early kings (753 BCE-509 BCE) to those of the early Republic (509 BCE-367 BCE) are flattened out. Despite scholarly disagreements over whether sacratio persisted, vanished or was mutated in the legal practice of the Roman republic, however, there seems to be consensus over the fact that in its earliest deployment under the kings, sacratio, “the earliest penalty of Roman criminal law”, was only imperfectly separated from religious practices of sacrifice and was in fact largely subsumed within the auspices of private, family law. Already decreasing in relative significance, it appears, by the beginning of the Republic at the end of the sixth century BCE (509), sacratio was originally tied to an area of particular legal difficulty for the early Romans. This area concerned the problem of caring for subjects that were liminally situated in relation to the patrician ruling class—the clientes and the plebs.
Book II of Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s Roman Antiquities identifies the clientes with the plebs, suggesting that king Romulus, seeking to redress the fact that the plebeians had no voice in public affairs, “placed” them “as a trust in the hands of the patricians, by allowing every plebeian to choose for his patron any patrician he himself wished”. Other views suggest that the clientes were a group distinct from the plebeians, bereft of any freedoms and reduced to the status of passively represented elements of the populus romanus of patricians. In this interpretation, they were originally immigrants who went to Rome in search of peace and security or employment, or inhabitants of neighboring towns who were conquered without being turned to slaves. It was therefore their being perceived as ethnic aliens that deprived them not merely of access to political office, as was the case with the plebeians, but also of citizenship, civil rights and recourse to the law. Whether their distinction from the plebeians is to be maintained or not, the case remains that for early Roman law, they formed a category of social subject at once included in and excluded from the populus romanus: excluded politically, they were included through private—and hence, sacred—law. The hospitium privatum, which made a citizen responsible for the guardianship of a client (rendering the citizen a patronus) was considered as sanctified by religious and customary authority. It also produced mutual rights and obligations between the parties of patron and client. “The patron”, Fustel de Coulanges would note, “was obliged to protect his client by all the means and with all the power of which he was master; by his prayers as a priest, by his lance as a warrior, by his law as a judge”. The breach of fides, of the duty to be faithful in one’s representation of the client in legal and juridical affairs (even at the cost of acting against one’s own blood relatives), and of the sacred obligation never to undertake action against the client or bear witness against him, was considered treason or perduellio and was among the earliest and most principal wrongs punished by the terrible pronouncement of sacratio capitis. Indeed, after Dionysius’ reference to Romulus’s law, which punished the violation of patron-client fides by decreeing that the culprit should be put “to death by any man who so wished as a victim devoted to the Jupiter of the infernal regions”, the best-known early reference to sacratio is that immortalized by the Twelve Tables. Written in the early years of the republic (451-450 BCE), largely as attempt to respond to the plebeian pressure for increased civil rights and protection from patrician abuse, the Tables stipulated that “Patronus si clienti fraudem fecerit, sacer esto”: the patron, if he defrauds his client, is to be decreed sacer.
Clearly, the relationship between sovereignty, the state of exception and bare life in this instance is dramatically different from what Agamben is predisposed to make of the historical archive in his work: the threat of reduction to bare life hangs over the head not of the individual who is caught in “inclusive exclusion” in relation to the community—for that would in fact be the client—but over that of his legal guardian and representative—the patron. The fall into a condition of bare life, in other words, is at once the sign of the absolute abandonment of one theretofore fully included in the political community and of the hyperbolic care the community exhibits towards one it has otherwise excluded. It is as if the state of exception through which the client is both excluded from and captured in the juridico-political order of the city posits a demand for a corresponding and mirroring state of exception, through which the Roman state seeks to redress a fundamental asymmetry of power that it nonetheless maintains. What this early application of sacratio illustrates is thus emphatically not the unlimited exercise of sovereign violence; it is rather a principle of violent containment targeted specifically against the abuse of the quasi-sovereign power of the patron—against, more precisely, the patron’s violation of the constraints of a moral economy of codependence and loyalty.
As I have already suggested, some historians have cast doubt on the reliability of Dionysius’ conflation of clientes and plebs, suggesting instead that the former constituted a third group, besides those of patricians and plebeians. What is more certain, however, is that the ground of protection from patrician abuse was in both cases the proclamation of the sacrosanctitas of the legally and politically endangered party. This in turn dictated that he who would seek to abuse these groups by exploiting their precarious position was to be decreed sacer. Though some have suggested that the shift from monarchy to republic entails not merely a loosening of the bonds of patronage, but also an increase in the father’s sovereign power over life and death (the patria potestas), this does not mean that the threat of sacratio in the Republic ever lost its connection to its earlier role as a means of protecting the socially or economically weaker from abuse of established power and authority. It was so for the plebs, the group that replaces the clients at center-stage in the years of the Republic, partly due to the gradual decline of the patron-client institution, and partly due to the fact that the latter share the former’s exclusion from personal and civic rights, perhaps in an even more radical form. Responding to the demands posed by that eminent victory of ancient class struggle, the second plebeian secession of 450 BCE, the Leges Valeriae et Horatiae of 449 BCE accordingly declared that any man who violated the sacrosanctitas of a plebeian tribune (tribuni plebis) was to be decreed sacer, forfeiting his head to Jupiter, while his possessions were to be sold at the temple of Ceres, Liber and Libera: “ejus caput Jovi sacrum esset, familia aedem Cereris Liberi Liberaeque venum iret”. Livy further notes that the plebs demanded as a condition for their return to the city that those who “should declare the election of any magistrate without appeal, and that he who might so declare”, should “be put to death without offence to law or religion and that such a homicide should not be held a capital crime.” Agamben himself briefly refers to the similar stipulations of the earlier Lex Sacrata—a reference which occasions his momentary admission that sacratio was capable of founding “a political power that in some way counterbalanced the sovereign power”. Yet instead of elaborating on the reasons for making such an awkwardly counterfactual concession, he hurriedly moves the clock forward, to “the end of the old republican constitution and the birth of the new absolute power” of Augustus, who assumed the potestas tribunicia and declared himself sacrosanctus in perpetuum.
But this was already the dawn of the empire, when sacratio had almost beyond doubt vanished as a practice. In the era of the Republic, Augustus’ usurpation of tribunicial authority would have most likely constituted a capital offense, rendering him not sacrosanct but sacer. For by the time of the second plebeian secession (449 BCE), sacratio had become the fundamental means of safeguarding the inviolability of the civil rights embodied in the plebeian tribune. Note that Pompeius Festus, whose definition of sacer Agamben is ironically inclined to privilege, plainly says that the proclamation of sacratio belongs to the powers of the “plebiscite”, the plebei scito forged out of the class struggles of the fifth century. Having shed its regal prehistory as a patriarchal institution intended to regulate the virtually unlimited power of citizens over aliens from within, sacratio was transformed into a republican weapon, an active means that republican subjectivity deploys against the predations of elite authority. It is such from as early as 509 BCE, the first year of the republic, when Valerius, as Livy tells us, proposed that any man who would plot for the return of the monarchy was to be decreed accursed (“sacrandoque cum bonis capite eius qui regni occupandi consilia inesset”) to as late as the mid-first century BCE, when Antonius, according to Appian’s Civil Wars, was to help legitimate the assassination of Julius Caesar by suggesting that if the latter had indeed usurped sovereign power, he thereby placed himself beyond the pale of the law: “if our decision is that he was an upstart who ruled by force, his body is cast out unburied beyond the borders of his country and all his acts are invalidated”. Sacratio against sovereign authority: this formula, in which the decree that renders one sacer figures as the violent precursor of a number of subsequent struggles for the salvaging of political rights from the rapacity of absolute power, underpins a crucial recasting of what Agamben calls “the secret tie uniting power and bare life”—one that refuses to “identify with the perspective of sovereign power” at the expense of attentiveness to “popular political practice”. In this politically heterodox version, bare life is not the indication of an abject surrender to the power of law and the State. It is rather the means through which a certain kind of power—the power, frequently, of the disempowered—opposes itself to the authority of social elites. This means that the “and” Agamben interposes between sovereign power and bare life does not necessarily mark the distribution of unlimited, law-exceeding power and killable zōe along the securely discrete positions of sovereign and victim. Rather, it indicates an internal fracturing within the concept of sovereignty, a self-division that occurs within the body of sovereign power, against the premises of sovereignty’s indivisibility or illimitability. If for Agamben, who in turn evokes Nancy, “sovereignty is […] ‘this law beyond the law to which we are abandoned’”, the Roman record invites us to think of an exceptional “law beyond the law” to which sovereignty is itself absolutely exposed so that the vulnerability of others “normally” abandoned by the rule of law may remain less than absolute. The threat of a death ignominiously reserved for those who would play sovereign at the expense of the community-sustaining but not juridically translatable imperative of fidelity, and, inversely, the protection of those excluded from the provisions of normal juridicopolitical arrangements, constitutes a different, oppositional take on the import of inclusive exclusion. After all, what are the plebeian secessions themselves if not means of turning the position of the outcast and excluded into one that generates oppositional power, pronouncing its own interdictio against those who would retain a population in impotent, internal political exile?
The exodus of the plebeians, going out of the city, beyond the boundaries of the city, means revealing the boundary of the patrician dominated power relations at the same time […] the exodus, the withdrawal through departure, is a means of pressure and threat to express political demands for rights […] Without sufficient political rights and without any representation of interests, the plebeians invented themselves in a sense independently from the existing patrician order and rulership structures as capable of political action. Their strategy for this consisted primarily in a self-empowerment that I would like to consider with the term constituent power.
It is to the extent that he forgets or represses the political import of this “other” trajectory that Agamben can cast the relationship between sovereign and homo sacer in terms of a fatal complementarity at “the two extreme limits of the order” of sacratio: “The sovereign is the one with respect to whom all men are potentially homines sacri, and homo sacer is the one with respect to whom all men act as sovereigns.” But the forgetting or repression of what is resistant to the reductive character of such formulations is not without its symptoms of reactive return: for no sooner has Agamben introduced the initially binary schema of the sovereign and the homo sacer than he begins to collapse the two terms onto each other. Hence, the discussion of the religious ritual of imperial funus imaginarium and its parallels in medieval burial custom leads the chapter on “Sovereign Body and Sacred Body” toward the idea that there exists “a darker and more uncertain zone…in which the political body of the king seemed to approximate—and even to become indistinguishable from—the body of homo sacer.” But this is a discussion that involves nothing more politically consequential than the similarity between the emperor’s colossus and the one used in the iconic burial of the surviving devotus. It is not the logic that authorized the killing of the king that Agamben is concerned with; it is rather his natural death which, in and of itself, is said to make apparent sovereignty’s “supplement of sacred life”, an “excess that seems to be as such inherent in supreme power”. Such skirting around the difficulties posed by the historical deployment of sacratio against the abuse of sovereign power leads to a rather awkward handling of one of the vital political questions Roman history bequeathed to European early modernity: that of the existence of conditions that make regicide an act that is neither punishable by law nor considered a sacrifice.
When it finally broaches this question, Homo Sacer will argue for the existence of “analogies and correspondences” between the “apparently distant bodies” of the sovereign ruler and the homo sacer on the basis of their shared impossibility as objects of homicide. The problem with such a comparison, of course, is that, unlike the killing of bare life which is infinitely less than murder, regicide was under “normal” circumstances infinitely more. For Agamben, the difference simply “does not matter,” since “what is essential is that in neither case does the killing […] constitute an offense of homicide”. From the perspective of the killer, of course, it makes a world of difference whether his act is conceived as unpunishable or as punishable with all the excess of sovereign cruelty Foucault immortalized in the opening of Discipline and Punish. But it is even more troubling that Agamben maps this particular version of a “zone of indistinction” by reading the statutes proclaiming the emperor “sacred and inviolable” in a manner that makes his inviolability interchangeable with the unsacrifecability of bare life: in Agamben’s account, the sovereign collapses into homo sacer only because the royal claim to absolute protectibility from violent intent is conflated with the condition of a person against whom the law considers no amount of violence to be enough. Inviolability becomes synonymous with the lack of any right to claim oneself as a victim of violence.
But to stop at the rather sophistical nature of this argument is to entirely miss the nature of its significance, which rests not in what it says but in what it allows Agamben’s work not to say: namely, that both the Roman and the early modern political tradition make allowances for an exceptional situation wherein the sovereign does not impressionistically resemble the sacred man but is one, to the degree that he is declared killable without sanction and without the ritual staging of a sacrifice. That exceptional situation is tyranny—a term as conspicuously absent from the premodern vision of the Homo Sacer project as it is central in the republican tradition that made Brutus and Cato prototypes for the regicidal pathos of the English Civil War, not to mention the French Revolution. The long history of evoking a right to tyrannicide not only converts the otherwise merely speculative analogy between the sovereign and the sacred man into a fundamental political synapse; it also allows us to rethink the afterlife of sacratio within the much longer history of popular resistance against the caprices of absolute sovereignty. To put it in lapidary fashion: it makes a world of difference whether one places sacratio on the path that leads to Auschwitz or on that which gave us the Putney Debates and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.
 I would like to thank my research assistant, Andriana Kossyva, for her help in locating a number of relevant sources for this essay. I also want to thank the audiences at the University of Cyprus, the University of California, Santa Cruz and Stanford University for their valuable feedback on earlier versions. My special thanks go to W.J. Veraart, whose work and input first alerted me to the problems posed by Roman legal tradition, and to Daniel L. Selden, who provided expert research advice on matters of Roman legal and poltical history.
 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998). A translated section of Homo Sacer (“The Camp as the Nomos of the Modern”) had already appeared in the previous year in Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber, ed., Violence, Identity and Self-Determination (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997).
 Stephen E. Lewis, Book review of Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Modernism/Modernity, 6.3 (1999): 163-166; and Davide Panagia, “The Sacredness of Life and Death: Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer and the Tasks of Political Thinking”, Theory & Event 3, no.1 (1999), http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/theory_and_event/v003/3.1r_panagia.html (accessed 10 June 2009).
 Steven D. DeCaroli, “Visibility and History: Giorgio Agamben and the Exemplary”, Philosophy Today 45, no. 5 (2001): 9-17; Brett Levinson, “Three Meditations on Our ‘Millennihilisms’: Accents, Racism, Anti-Semitism”, Nepantla: Views from South, 2, no.1 (2001): 41-62; Michael J. Shapiro, “Wanted, Dead or Alive”, Theory & Event 5.4 (2001), http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/theory_and_event/v005/5.4shapiro.html (accessed 7 June 2009).
 Begona Aretxaga, “Terror as Thrill: First Thoughts on the ‘War on Terrorism’” Anthropological Quarterly 75, no. 1 (Winter 2002): 139-150; Diana Taylor et al., “A Forum on Theatre and Tragedy: A Response to September 11, 2001”, Theatre Journal 54, no.1 (March 2002): 95-138.
 Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (Homo Sacer III), trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (New York: Zone Books, 2002); The Open: Man and Animal, trans. Kevin Attell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). Paradoxically, Leland de la Durantaye’s Anglophone review of The Open seems to have been published in 2003, before the book was published in English. See Durantaye, “The Suspended Substantive: On Animals and Men in Giorgio Agamben’s The Open”, Diacritics 33, no. 2 (Summer 2003): 3-9.
 Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005). The copyright page characterizes Homo Sacer as a “prequel” of State of Exception.
 Andrew Norris, ed., Politics, Metaphysics, and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); Matthew Calarco and Stephen DeCaroli, ed., Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty and Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007); Justin Clemens, Nicholas Heron and Alex Murray, The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law, Literature, Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008).
 Schmitt’s Poltical Theology was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2006; Telos Books published The Nomos of the Earth in 2006 and Theory of the Partisan 2007; The Concept of the Political was republished in an “expanded edition” by the University of Chicago Press in the same year; the same press published The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes in 2008; Duke published Constitutional Theory in the same year; Hamlet or Hecuba was published by Telos Books in 2009; and Dictatorship is due by Polity in 2010. In short, seven of Schmitt’s books have been translated in English in four years (while one was republished in an expanded edition)—a veritable Schmittian renaissance. In Foucault’s case, the publication in English of his lectures from 1976-77 (Society Must Be Defended, Picador 2003) 1977-78 (Security, Territory, Population, Picador, 2008), and 1978-79 (The Birth of Biopolitics, 2008) led to multiple critical volumes and special journal issues on the questions of biopolitics and governmentality, ones that frequently involve a comparative discussion of Agamben. Finally, there was a flood of literature on animality, especially on its relationship to philosophy and politics published in the same period. See, for instance: Alasdair Cochrane, An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Matthew Calarco and Peter Atterton, Animal Philosophy: Essential Readings in Continental Thought (Continuum, 2004); Jacques Derrida, The Animal that Therefore I am (Fordham University Press, 2008); Stanley Cavell et al, Philosophy and Animal Life (Columbia University Press, 2009). I omit reference to the several publications dealing with the state of exception dealing with the US context specifically.
 See Judy E. Gaughan, “Killing and the King: Numa’s Murder Law and the Nature of Monarchic Authority”, Continuity and Change 18, no. 3 (2003): 340.
 On Agamben’s place within postwar Italian leftism see Antonio Negri, “Giorgio Agamben: The Discreet Taste of the Dialectic”, trans. Matteo Mandarini, in Calarco and DeCaroli, ed. Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty and Life, 124. Timothy Brennan examines the issue of Agamben’s proximity to the “new Italians” (including Negri) in “Agamben and the New Italians” in Wars of Position: The Cultural Politics of Left and Right (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006) 188-195.
 As the publicity for his forthcoming The Sacrament of Language (Polity, 2010) puts it: “The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben is one of the mostly widely read and influential philosophers and cultural theorists of the last decade.” The Wiley-Blackwell Preview (Oct.-Dec. 2010): 3.
 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000). In the words of the website of the French journal Multitudes: “The book by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri can look back on sales figures like no other radical book could in decades” (http://multitudes.samizdat.net/The-discussion-about-Empire, accessed 10 May 2010).
 Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London and New York: Verso, 2004), 20. More recently, Butler has argued that “minimizing the condition of precariousness in egalitarian ways” is a vital task for Left politics. See her Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (London and New York: Verso, 2009), 54.
 Butler, Precarious Life, 61, 65 (emphasis mine).
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 6.
 See, for instance: Homo Sacer, 90, 109.
 Andrew Norris, “Introduction: Giorgio Agamben and the Politics of the Living Dead”, in Norris, Politics, Metaphysics, and Death, 4.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 111; emphases mine.
 Negri, “The Discreet Taste of the Dialectic”, 118, 124.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 121.
 Andreas Kalyvas, “The Sovereign Weaver: Beyond the Camp”, in Norris, ed., Politics, Metaphysics and Death, 112-113.
 See Agamben, Homo Sacer, 168-170; and Remnants of Auschwitz, 49.
 See Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal, 37-38.
 Norris, “Giorgio Agamben and the Politics of the Living Dead”, 8.
 See Agamben, Homo Sacer, 83: “The sacredness of life, which is invoked today as an absolutely fundamental right in opposition to sovereign power, in fact originally expresses precisely both life’s subjection to a power over death and life’s irrepearable exposure in the relation of abandonment”. See also Homo Sacer, 121-122, 124, 127, 133.
 Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, ed. and trans. Daniel Heller Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 256.
 Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz, 134; The Open, 91; and Potentialities, 253, 257.
 Brennan, Wars of Position, 148.
 Brennan, Wars of Position, 194.
 Negri, “The Discreet Taste of the Dialectic”, 123. Slavoj Žižek has similarly criticized Agamben by casting him as the contemporary embodiment of a Left which accepts “the futility of all struggle, since the framework is today all-encompassing, coinciding with its opposite”. See In Defense of Lost Causes (London and New York: Verso, 2007), 337-338. Yet both Negri and Žižek can be said to have outdone Agamben in making of Melville’s Bartleby a privileged instance of a contemporary politics of “refusal” (Hardt and Negri in fact come quite close to replicating the underpinnings Agamben’s analysis—which they cite—despite the otherwise vast differences of their respective conceptions of “biopolitics”. See Hardt and Negri, Empire, 203-204; and Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View (Cambridge, Mass., 2006), 381-385.
 Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, trans. Julie Rose (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 135; For other instances of Rancière’s trenchant critique of a discourse which elides the scandalous incalculability of political subjectivation by replacing the subject of politics with “the moan of naked suffering” of the victim, see Disagreement, 125-127, 133-134, 136-137. Like Rancière, Badiou strongly criticizes the reduction of philosophy to an instrument of the ethical thinking of genocidal catastrophe and the subsequent elevation of “animal humanism” into a norm. See Alain Badiou, Manifesto for Philosophy, trans. Norman Madarasz (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999), 27-32; The Century, trans. Alberto Toscano (Cambridge: Polity, 2007), 165-178; and Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (London and New York: Verso, 2001).
 My understanding of this process derives from both Rancière, Disagreement; and from the work of Alain Badiou, particularly Theory of the Subject, trans. Bruno Bosteels (London and New York: Continuum, 2009), 243-274. This does not mean that there are no important disagreements between their views of its presuppositions and its consequences, particularly vis-à-vis the role of the State; on this, see Badiou’s critical remarks on Rancière in Metapolitics, trans. Jason Barker (London and New York: Verso, 2005), 107-123.
 Michel Serres, Rome: The Book of Foundations, trans. Felicia MacCarren (Stanford: Stanford University press, 1991), 160. Serres tends to read Roman violence in light of an ethics that effectively abolishes the Left-Right distinction itself, reducing rebellious negation to the familiar Nietzschean impulse of ressentiment: “Friend, enemy. A value on the left, an identical value on the right, as if in symmetry. Wolf, lamb. Nothing can equal the lamb’s hatred but the wolf’s, except that the lamb’s hatred also compensates for its lack of fangs” (197). His philosophical hypostatization of multiplicity—which is precisely that which in, his view, is threatened by the indifferentiating work of violence (199-200)—places him, I believe, squarely within the canon of “democratic materialism”: a discourse for which, as Badiou puts it, there are only bodies and languages, and hence no space for the subjectivizing process of a (political) truth. See Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, trans. Alberto Toscano (London and New York: Continuum, 2007), 1-9.
 I am thankful to W. J. Veraart for sharing with me the findings of his unpublished paper “Homo Sacer Reconsidered: An Alternative Genealogy?”, presented at Canterbury, Kent, in September 2005. A version of Veraart’s essay appeared in Dutch in Krisis: Tijdscrift voor Empirische Filosofie 2 (2004), 53-69.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 8.
 “Homo sacer is est quem populus iudicauit ob maleficium; neque fas est eum immlari, sed qui occidit parricidi non damnatur” (“The sacred man is the one whom the people have judged on account of a crime. It is not permitted to sacrifice this man, yet he who kills him will not be condemned for homicide”); quoted in Agamben, Homo Sacer, 71. Benveniste cites the same source in his entry on “the sacred”, noting both the “ambiguous character” of the term “sacer” and its difference from “sanctus”, which simply means “that which is defended and protected from human suffering”. See Émile Benveniste, Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européenes. 2. Pouvoir, droit, religion (Paris: Minuit, 1969), 187-192. Dumézil, finally, casts the meaning of sacer within the religious context, defining it as “that which is reserved and kept apart for the gods, whether by nature or by human agency”. Georges Dumézil, Archaic Roman Religion, Vol. 1, trans. Philip Krapp (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 130.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 82.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 83.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84; emphasis mine.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 8.
 Indicative of the difficulties created by these shifts is Harold Bennett’s remark concerning Marcus Verrius Flaccus, whom Pompeius Festus, Agamben’s main source on sacratio later epitomized in De verborum siginificatu: “Verrius Flaccus […] “was not writing the whole history of the term sacer homo, but was merely defining its later, and current meaning”—one it had come to obtain after the separation of religious and legal practice, after, that is, executions with a ritual axe had ceased and the axe itself was symbolically removed from the fasces of the magistrate. See Harold Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 61 (1930), 10, 9.
 W.D. Aston suggests that “sacratio itself was extinct by the time of Verrius Flaccus” [55 BCE-20 AD], having been effectively replaced by the “aquae et ignis interdictio”, the prohibition against offering water or fire to a condemned outlaw. See W.D. Aston, “Problems of Roman Criminal Law”, Journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation, 13, no. 2 (1913), 215. Bennett’s later study disagrees, arguing that “sacratio capitis…was still possible in Rome in the last century of the republic” (the first century BCE). See Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 16.
 Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 5.
 See Nikolaos Dimaras, Historia tou Dēmosiou Rōmaikou Dikaiou kai tōn Pēgōn [History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources], 3rd ed. (Athens: Palligenesia, 1896), 75-76; Aston, “Problems of Roman Criminal Law”, 214-215; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 9; Alan Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”, The Journal of Roman Studies, 62 (1972), 101-103; Gaughan, “Killing and the King”, 336.
 Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Books I-II, trans. Earnest Cary (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001), II. 8. 2 (335-337) and II. 9.2 (339). Fustel de Coulanges differentiates the two groups, arguing that the plebeians were originally “below the clients themselves” in the Roman social hierarchy and adding that the plebeians who seceded to the Sacer Mons were “completely distinct from the clients.” See Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome, trans. Willard Small (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 221-222. Mommsen appears initially evasive on the matter, speaking of the “‘listeners’ (clientes)” in parallel with the “‘multitude’”. He later adds: “out of the clients arose the Plebs […] In law there is no difference between the client and the plebeian, the ‘dependent’ and the ‘man of the multitude.’” Theodore Mommsen, The History of Rome, Book I: The Period Anterior to the Abolition of Monarchy, trans. William Purdie Dickson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905), 106, 110.
 See Dimaras, History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources, 77, which cites a number of sources supporting this second interpretation.
 “Neither at Rome nor at Athens could a foreigner be a proprietor. He could not marry; or, if he married, his marriage was not recognized, and his children were reputed illegitimate. He could not make a contract with a citizen; at any rate, the law did not recognize such a contract as valid. At first he could take no part in commerce. The Roman law forbade him to inherit from a citizen, and even forbade a citizen to inherit from him.” Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 188-189. De Coulanges later describes the original plebs in terms of similar legal deprivations, including the lack of a right to marriage, property, paternal authority, citizenship, political rights, and even the right to a hearth, a domestic altar (224-225).
 See Plutarch, Plutarch’s Lives, trans. John and William Langhorne (Baltimore: William and Joseph Neal,1835), 18; Dimaras, History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources, 75.
 Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 108. On the responsibilities of clients towards patrons (contributing to the dowry of the patron’s daughters, paying fines for lawsuits relating to the patron, helping the patron pay ransom for family members), see Watson, “Roman Private Law”, 100.
 Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”, 102.
 See Aston, “Problems of Roman Criminal Law”, 214; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 6; and Dimaras, History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources, 76.
 Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, II.10.3 (343).
 See Dimaras, History of Civil Roman Law and its Sources, 76; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 5; Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”, 101-103.
 “The patron could take possession of the soil the client cultivated, and the money which he possessed, as the lord cold do in the case of the serf […] The patron was not only a master; he was a judge; he could condemn a client to death […] The client bent under this authority, at the same time material and moral, which held both body and soul.” Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 249.
 Discussing the Leges Valeriae et Horatiae, for instance, Livy notes that they “revived the sacrosanctity” of the plebs (“plebem […] sacrosancti viderentur”). He remarks, shortly after, that though the aediles were not regarded as sacrosanct, “the tribunes are sacrosanct in consequence of the ancient oath taken by the plebs, when they first created [the] magistracy”. See Livy, History of Rome, Books 3-4, trans. B.O. Foster, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), III. LV. 6; III. LV.10.
 See Watson, “Roman Private Law and the Leges Regiae”; Gaughan, “Killing and the King”, 338.
 On the quite enigmatic and unrecorded character of the decline of the patron-client institution, see Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 247-248.
 On the class character of the conflict between patricians and plebs which led to the plebeian secession, see Theodore Mommsen, The History of Rome, Book II: From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy, trans. William Purdie Dickson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905), 26-42; and Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 261-270, 275-308.
 In her study of Ceres, Spaeth characterizes Ceres, Liber, and Libera as “the plebeian triad”, arguing for their strong connection to plebeian culture, particularly in the period of the Middle Republic. See Barbette Stanley Spaeth, The Roman Goddess Ceres (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), 15, 81-102.
 Livy, History of Rome, III. LV. 7. See also Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 6; William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1875), 701; Dumézil, Archaic Roman Religion I, 195.
 Livy, History of Rome, III. LIV. 5-6. Let us not forget that in his commentary on Livy’s discussion of the plebeian secession, Machiavelli praises the “multitude’s” taking up arms against tyrannical abusers of sovereignty and extols the role of class antagonism between plebs and patricians as “the primary cause of Rome’s retaining her freedom”. See Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses, trans. Leslie J. Walker and Brian Richardson (Hardmondsowrth: Penguin, 2003), 107, 111, 113, 115.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84.
 See Agamben, Homo Sacer, 71; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 10.
 Livy, History of Rome, Books 1-2, trans. B.O. Foster (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2002), II. VIII. 2; Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 6. Spaeth argues for the existence of strong similarities between the law against the violation of tribunician sacrosanctitas and that against attempted tyranny, citing Plutarch’s remark on Valerius Publicola’s law “providing to kill without trial the person wishing to be a tyrant” and establishing “that the slayer be cleansed of murder”. See Spaeth, The Roman Goddess Ceres, 71.
 Appian, The Civil Wars, trans. John Carter (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996), II.128 (138); see also Bennett, “Sacer Esto”, 17.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 6.
 James Holstun, Ehud’s Dagger: Class Struggle in the English Revolution (London and New York: Verso, 2000), xi.
 Of course, sacratio was not always limited to the protection or self-protection of the dispossessed. Anna J. Clark argues that there is significant evidence that the plebeian tribune Tiberius Gracchus was murdered by a faction of rich landowners who considered him to have violated his sacrosanctitas and consecrated him “to Jupiter as a homo sacer.” “Nasica and Fides”, Classical Quarterly 57, no. 1 (2007), 126. Significantly—given the earlier establishment of the sancrosanctity of fidelity to the client—the murder was performed by a group that inverted the customary procession to the shrine of Fides, by walking away from it. The reversal does not just seem to associate the act with death, as Clark observes (128), but also with the denunciation of the traditional link between sacratio and the protection of the clients and plebs. See also Spaeth, The Roman Goddess Ceres, 73-79.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 59.
 “The [original] plebs were a despised and abject class, beyond the pale of religion, law, society, and the family.” Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, 226.
 Isabell Lorey, “Attempt to Think the Plebeian Exodus and Constituting as Critique”, trans. Aileen Derieg, http://transform.eipcp.net/transversal/0808/lorey/en (accessed 3 January 2008).
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 84.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 94; emphasis mine.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 100-101.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 102.
 See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans.Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 3-6.
 Agamben, Homo Sacer, 102.
Εικόνα: Vincenzo Camuccini, "The Death of Caesar", 1798.