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sedition and modernity Arrow vol 6 no 3 contents
About borderlands volume 6 number 3, 2007


Sedition and Modernity: Division as Politics and Conflict as Freedom
in Machiavelli and Spinoza

Filippo Del Lucchese
Université de Picardie 'Jules Verne' (Amiens) and Occidental College (Los Angeles)



The two classical concepts of secession (secessio) and sedition (seditio) define the theoretical field of the relationship between politics and war and, more generally, between law and conflict. This paper analyzes the question of politics and conflict in Machiavelli and Spinoza, contending that their political theories shatter the foundations upon which all the dogmas of modern political thought rely. Rather than constructing a political theory of neutralization of social conflict, like many other early modern philosophers, Machiavelli and Spinoza think about the relationship between politics and conflict as complex and 'recursive'. Outside any dialectical scheme of construction or synthesis, they both think about politics through conflict and resistance, as well as the law as the expression of the conflictual life of societies. Through the argument of the 'citizen' army, moreover, they think about the citizen both as a soldier and as a subject of conflict.


Seditiosissime dicere

1. If the word is Greek, the thing itself is equally Roman. It is true that the Romans did not invent the concept of a 'sedition' that would be at the root of the very idea of the political. This idea is Greek in origin and therefore a part of the Western tradition, in whose legacy we are still moving. What the Romans refer to as seditio, however, does not completely overlap with the Greek concept of stasis. Seditio is a complex and articulated idea, and it reappears across diverse epochs and very different political forms that, though they belong to the same cultural sphere, have completely different significations. It appeared and developed, for example, first in the Roman Republic and then in the Roman Empire (Botteri, 1989).

2. Sedition has to do with 'movement' in politics. The different meanings of the Greek stasis, for example, only appear to be antonyms, as has been demonstrated by various scholars in important historiographical investigations. On the one hand, stasis refers to a stalemate, a conflict between factions in a city in which no solution can be found. But on the other hand, it is also a noun of action deriving from the verb histemi, itself a synonym for kinesis - revolt or movement, particularly from the ground up. In Latin we witness a similar complication, where seditio seems to derive, according to Benveniste, from the Indo-European *swe. This root conveys the idea of distinction, both of a turning back onto oneself and the tension of movement, of separation from the other. [2]

3. The relation between these two terms becomes even more complex when the analysis shifts from the field of philology to that of political conceptuality. This complexity is deepened, moreover, when we consider the inflections these concepts take on in the political philosophy of early modernity. The specific differences between various types of political conflict throughout the history of Rome have been the focus of much historical and philosophical reflection. There are any number of moderate and 'civil' conflicts, such as the plebs' secession to the Aventine in the fifth century B.C. E. But there are also more violent conflicts, much closer to war. These appear, however, to be political abnormalities rather than normal expressions of Roman political life. The difference between secessio (a moderate, 'reasonable' opposition) and seditio (the conditions immediately preceding bellum civile) also corresponds to the different relations between the social forces at work in the political sphere. If secession is merely a suspension of co-operation, a de facto 'political strike', in sedition there is a drive to seize the space of the political itself, a need to exclude one's adversary outright and impose new and different norms for social relations.

4. The concept of sedition brings into play the larger theoretical question of the relationship between conflict and the political in its many forms. Seditio is a recurring and concrete phenomenon characteristic of political activity not only in the classical world, but in modern states from their very beginnings. We will ask ourselves, then, in what sense has philosophy understood this issue? Has it even wanted to? What specific solution has modern political philosophy given to the problem of conflict and sedition, such as it appears during the formation of modern European nation-states? What follows is not simply of historiographical interest. From an analysis of modern political thought, I will argue, it is in fact possible to extract generalizations of great importance for interpreting the phenomenon of revolt and sedition on the theoretical plane.

5. In this article, I will analyze the way the theories of Machiavelli and Spinoza constructs a theoretical model of conflict - indeed, a political theory of seditio - that shakes the foundations upon which all the dogmas of modern political thought rely. What is so exceptional about their political theories is precisely their refusal to privilege, as does modern political thought, order and the neutralization of conflict. What is particularly interesting in their positions are their conclusions concerning the relation between law and conflict. Where modern political thought sees this relationship in terms of mutual exclusion (the law overcomes conflict) or as circular (the law both results from and regulates conflict), Spinoza and Machiavelli see this relationship as complex, non-linear, and not necessarily causal. I want to show this relationship to be recursive, marked by interpenetration and co-existence, a relationship completely exterior to any dialectical scheme of construction or synthesis.

Rule of Law and Conflict: Machiavelli and the Political Theory of seditio

6. Historians of Ancient Greece have recognized a great difference between the two models used to describe the political thought of a community and its actual political life. On one side is a static and iconographic model constructed on the myth of unity of the polis and its citizens. Indeed, it is a myth of immobile time never interrupted by conflict. On the other side there is a more dynamic mode of representation, intent on accentuating difference, fracture, the fervour of political life, and the tears in the social fabric that mark the development and maturing of a community.

7. These are, respectively, the models of the 'anthropologist' and of the 'historian', which Nicole Loraux has masterfully posited and argued (Loraux, 2005). These two historiographical models correspond, in turn, to two coexistent and opposing modes of expression, which the Greeks themselves used to describe their own city and its political life. By omitting conflict from its narrative, the anthropologist's model depoliticises the city's history. That of the historians, on the other hand, recognizes that conflict is inextricable from the very idea of politics. The Greeks themselves present the political life of the polis with this double characteristic in their own works. The Greek city is generally presented in a depoliticised light, which tends to cancel out the conflict inherent in its origin and its politics. For example arkhè, the term for legitimate power, is often preferred to kratos, which indicates superiority, domination, and the victory over an external or internal enemy (Loraux, 1997: 60 ff.).

8. However, one should look beyond the obvious ideological function of such self-representation as peaceful and peace-making and recognize the true significance of words, their conceptual underpinnings, and the semantic fields they come from. As has been shown, the semantic field of seditio and secessio, as well as that of stasis, leads us to a problematic that is first and foremost theoretical and philosophico-political. For this reason the history of these concepts in their formation and articulation, as handed down to us by historians and especially ancient historians, calls into question philosophical modes of investigation. For precisely this reason, thinkers such as Machiavelli and Spinoza dedicate many pages of their works to analysis of historical experience, which they consider privileged territory for conceptual elaboration (Moreau, 1994).

9. Machiavelli uses history as a theoretical Kampfplatz, a battlefield where political forces come into pitched conflict with one another. This is not a metaphorical conflict for him, but rather a real and actual political theory of conflict and revolt. In the Proemium of the Florentine Histories, his most mature work, Machiavelli criticises the great historians of his city. In his opinion they had not adequately examined the issue of conflict and sedition, so present in the city's history. He calls into question the excessively abstract and idealized nature of these works, as well as their uselessness for understanding true politics.

10. The stance of these ancient Florentine historians - which for Machiavelli entails not only a historiographical mistake but a considerable political error - has a long tradition. This ignoring of conflict reflects the attitude of many historians of ancient Greece, for whom the concept of sharing at the base of isonomia is, as Nicole Loraux puts it, 'the image that the collective citizenry wishes to give itself, under the sign of interchangeability. Something akin to utopia to mask what the city doesn't wish to see or to think about. That is to say that at the heart of politics one finds conflict, virtually, and at times really, and that the tragedy of conflict is nothing but another face of the beautiful united city' (Loraux, 1997: 42).

11. But this theme in classical literature has a more complex development that might seem at first glance. Plato himself - the father of utopias and thus censured by Spinoza - condemns zoography as a kind of immobilization of the living being. In the Timaeus, he criticizes the abstract description of the polis:

And now, in the next place, listen to what my feeling is with regard to the polity we have described. I may compare my feeling to something of this kind: suppose, for instance, that on seeing beautiful creatures, whether works of art or actually alive but in repose, a man should be moved with desire to behold them in motion and vigorously engaged in some such exercise as seems suitable to their physique. (Plato, Timaeus 19 b-c).

It is at this point that Socrates asks that the conflicts that characterize the city be described: 'that is the very feeling I have regarding the State we have described. Gladly would I listen to anyone who should depict in words our State contending against others in those struggles which States wage' (Plato, Timaeus 19 b-c). Yet it was Foucault who in our time expressed better than any other the conflict that inheres in history, as well as its double significance. On the one hand there is history as an expression of conflict, struggles, revolts between different 'parties'. On the other hand one recognises that historiography is a tool in the theoretical struggle, notable for its omission of the conquest, oppression and massacres upon which modern political organisations are founded. According to Foucault, the works of Boulainvilliers present the birth of counter-history, which illustrates the 'war of races'. The victory of a few within the community is always defeat for others. Counter-history demonstrates the robbery, despoliation and violence that are the true origins of possession, which is in turn presented as obtained through right. [3]

12. The antonymy between war and law therefore begins to dissolve. In modern political philosophy - for example in contractualism - war is considered in opposition to law, a continuous threat to politics and law; like a pathology, sedition interrupts the healthy and normal career of politics. Yet according to Foucault, the counter-history that Boulainvilliers introduces reveals that war continually lurks under the surface of law, just as fire smoulders insistently underneath ashes. In other words, politics and law are merely continuations of war through other means. This ceaseless conflict is manifest in every aspect of social relations. Foucault examined the prison, and at the end of Surveillance and Punishment wrote that 'in this central and centralized humanity, the effect and instrument of complex power relations, bodies and forces subjected by multiple mechanisms of "incarcerations", objects for discourses that are in themselves elements of this strategy, we must hear the distant roar of the battle'. [4]

13. Machiavelli undertakes a profound investigation of history, bringing to the surface and into relief the necessarily conflictual character of the political. He also emphasizes that sedition - and conflict in general - is at the root of liberty.

14. First of all, Machiavelli challenges the value of harmony and well-being of the community, which from Aristotle onwards were at the centre of the Western political tradition. For Aristotle there are natural divisions between the roles in society. Father and mother, husband and wife, master and slave; these are the fundamental binaries that the community is founded upon. Such division is natural and necessary, and its effects are positive, for, as he says, 'one that can foresee with his mind is naturally ruler and naturally master, and one that can do these things with his body is subject and naturally a slave; so that master and slave have the same interest' (Aristotle, Politics, I, 2, 1252a 30 ff ).

15. In this way Aristotle establishes an indissoluble bond between the naturally unequal members of society. Natural inequality does not create conflict between these different individuals; on the contrary it inspires feelings of reciprocal friendship. Justice, in politics, is to be found in the common good, in other words, principally in a concord (omonoia), which excludes any possibility of stasis or sedition (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, IX, 6, 1167a, 22 and ff. See also VIII, 11, 1159b, 27 and ff. and Politics, II, 4, 1262b, 8 and ff).

16. Machiavelli forcefully attacks this idea of the common good, understood as concord and a refusal of sedition inside the state. He sustains that common good is nothing but a fig leaf for power, which hides the oppression that continuously threatens liberty. Machiavelli means to reveal the kratos hidden under every manifestation of arkhè. From behind the ideological veil of the common good, the struggle between groups emerges with force, revealing the natural conflict that marks political relationships.

17. In the Florentine Histories there are numerous accounts that demonstrate how every attempt to serve the city and every attack on the liberty of the republic by oligarchs or tyrants, for example that of the duke of Athens, is always made in the name of the 'common good'. [5] But Machiavelli's critique is even more forceful in its treatment of the role of war and of the relationship between domestic and foreign policy. War against an external enemy, be it in Florence or Rome, has always been used as an instrument in the internal political struggle as well. That is to say, it has been used as an instrument to enrich one segment of society at the loss of another. In other words it is an instrument that regulates power dynamics and builds inner order based on fear and oppression. This is especially evident in the account of the Florentine reaction against Castruccio Castracani, lord of Lucca (Florentine Histories , II, 26), or of the war that set Florence against the Duchy of Milan under the Visconti (Florentine Histories, IV, 4).

18. Machiavelli therefore uses the critique of the common good and Aristotelian 'concord' as a point of departure for his more original and powerful theoretical position: the positive role of political conflict in the production and defence of liberty.

19. In his Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy, Machiavelli argues that Rome became a large and powerful city not because of its 'fortune' as many authors have argued, but rather because of its material constitution, which allowed the political 'humours' of the city (Machiavelli's umbrella term for the different strata of society, that is to say the populace and the nobles) to give vent to their different ambitions. This constitution in no way repressed the conflict between the plebs and the senate - it actually allowed and even favoured it. Machiavelli establishes distinctions between moderate conflicts in which the different groups struggled for 'honours' and certain political objectives, and those harsher and more violent conflicts in which factions combat each other for economic reasons. The latter kind of conflict was especially characteristic of the various struggles following the Agrarian law promulgated by the Gracchi.

20. Even if such conflict, after so many tragic events, led to the end of the republic and the eventual rise of empire, Machiavelli argues that without such struggle liberty would have met an even earlier demise. Nothing less than a continual state of sedition which characterized the history of Rome for three centuries - allowed the city to remain free and powerful for so long. [6] Machiavelli may seem at first glance to argue for the existence of two kinds of conflict, among which the first, moderate and positive, contributes to the sustenance of liberty, while the second, more violent and extreme, provokes crisis in the republican institutions. But he makes no such distinction.

21. This distinction recalls the difference made in classical philosophy between different modes of warfare. The Greeks, as we have seen, distinguish between war (polemos) and discord (stasis). For example Plato argues that it was characteristic of the Hellenes to sustain a certain familiarity and affinity in struggles, as the primary aim of these was a future reconciliation between opposing forces. Against barbarians, on the other hand, a state of war was natural and perpetual. In this case, the modes of warfare were far more atrocious and violent, allowing for even pillage, scorched-earth policies, general devastation and murder; modes not only allowable but even natural in such conflict. [7]

22. The Romans were likewise aware of the theoretical and practical difference between the two modes of struggle. For example Appianus in his Bella Civilia, differentiates between the conflict unleashed by the retreat of the plebs to the Sacred Mount and the war declared by Coriolanus against his own city, which had unjustly exiled him (Appianus, Bella Civilia, I, 1 and I, 3-4). Lucius Ampelius in his Liber Memorialis, dedicates several chapters to sedition, clearly delineating the differences between secession on the one hand - for example in the opposition between the patricians and plebeians - and sedition on the other - which finds its example in the times of the Gracchi ( Lucius Ampelius, Liber Memorialis, 41). Dionysius of Alicarnassus underscores how the Romans, who for centuries had managed struggles without mass bloodshed, endlessly murdered and exiled one another from the city after the Gracchi disrupted the stability of the government ( Dionysius of Alicarnassus, Antiquitates romanae, II, 11, 2). Secessio is a bloodless act, a nonviolent interruption of civil collaboration, and it must be distinguished from seditio, which always ends in bloodshed. This identifies a clear understanding of such difference in the Roman mentality, even though such understanding may reside within unclear and imprecise boundaries.

23. The distinction calls attention to a relevant theoretical problem relating to political space, which will determine the development of the 'geometry' of the modern state, especially regarding the emergence of contractual doctrine. The difference between legitimate and nonviolent struggle of the plebs on one hand and bloody and subversive conflict in the times of the Gracchi on the other, calls into question the legitimate zone of politics and conflict in the city. The plebs, excluding themselves from political participation in their retreat from the city to Sacred Mount, challenge 'from outside' the common sharing of power. Outside the space of the urbs, the plebs mean to establish by absence a new negotiation of power sharing. Stasis and apostasis (stasiazo and aphistemi) are the terms employed, for example, by Dionysius of Alicarnassus to determine the area of plebeian action (which is at the same time semantic and theoretical) in its revolt. The 'apostasy' of the plebs connotes a sense of retreat, renunciation, suspension of action, indeed a willingness to withhold their participation from common political activity (Botteri, 1989). Acts of sedition, on the other hand, demonstrate an outright conflict between two opposing groups inside the city. In these cases, the instrument of struggle is not retreat, absence or suspension; on the contrary it is a violent occupation of the political stage. The 'inside' of this political space becomes territory to be conquered by means of bloody conflict, the stakes of which are no longer in sharing power but rather in seizing it and banishing the opposing party.

24. In his Discourses, Machiavelli is well aware of this distinction dating back to classical historiography that distinguishes between the struggles preceding the Agrarian laws and the sedition that tragically and inexorably led to the rise of empire. Sedition put the Roman republic into crisis, and this progressively compromised its power. However - and this is Machiavelli's audacious and innovative theory - those tumults and occasions of sedition are not to be condemned. Albeit violent and bloody, they have the power to 'brake' the gradual degeneration of freedom caused by the ambition of the nobles and their will to power:

Such, then, was the beginning, and such the end of the Agrarian Law. Elsewhere we have shown that it was enmity between the senate and populace [il popolo] of Rome that kept Rome free, because it was owing to this that laws were made in favour of liberty. And, though with this conclusion the result of the Agrarian Law may seem incompatible, I must confess that I am not on this account inclined to change my opinion, for, so great is the ambition of the greats [i grandi] that unless in a city they are kept down by various ways and means, that city will soon be brought to ruin. Hence, if it was fully three hundred years before the Agrarian Law led to the servitude of Rome, it would, perchance, have led to servitude much sooner, had not the plebs by means of this law and by other demands prompted by their appetites, always kept the ambition of the nobles in check (Discourses, I, 37 ).

25. It is clear that Machiavelli means to distance himself from the historiographical tradition that condemned sedition and the sometimes violent conflict caused by it. A few years later in the Florentine Histories, Machiavelli returns to the relationship between power and conflict. He compares the Roman conflict with that of Florence: if in Rome the struggles were moderate and resolved 'civilly', they were always marked by violence, murder and exile in Florence. The classical juxtaposition between the two modes of conflict returns. Nevertheless, Machiavelli's thesis is that the 'civil' and moderate development of the struggles in Rome progressively strengthened the noble class and inevitably led to the loss of freedom for the plebs. The crisis let loose by such struggles progressively weakened Roman power: crisis and power are in this case juxtaposed linearly, as opposing forces.

26. In Florence on the other hand the sedition of the plebs against the famiglie grandi (great families) progressively 'decapitated' the power of the nobility, creating a social, political and economic situation that favoured the establishment of a virtuous democratic republic. Florentine power was not diminished by this conflict between nobility and populace; on the contrary, such continuous sedition created a crisis which established the proper conditions for a possible new order. Crisis, in its etymological and Hippocratic sense, does not mean a shrinking of power. 'Crisis' is instead a nodal point from which a situation can have diverse and even opposing outcomes. In Florence, sedition created a condition in which crisis and power were continually interwoven and interpenetrating, in a relation of mutual influence and dependence.

27. This complex relationship between crisis and power mediated by sedition recalls the similarly complex relationship between law and conflict. The privilege Machiavelli gives to his conflict-bound model is not limited to just everyday political events, detached from their constitutional and legislative systems. Instead, Machiavelli denies such a distinction, superimposing the political on the juridical, fusing them together instead. Conflict and sedition, Machiavelli argues, have no positive value independent of law; instead it is precisely these things that generate good laws favouring freedom. Discussing Rome, he writes:

In every republic there are two different humours [umori], that of the populace and that of the greats and that all legislation favourable to liberty is brought about by the clash between them. [...] One cannot, therefore, regard such tumults as harmful, nor such a republic as divided, seeing that during so long a period it did not on account of its discords send into exile more than eight or ten citizens, put very few to death, and did not on many impose fines. Nor can a republic reasonably be stigmatised in any way as disordered in which there occur such striking examples of virtue, since good examples proceed from good education, good education from good laws, and good laws from those very tumults which many so inconsiderately condemn; for anyone who studies carefully their result, will not find that they occasioned any banishment or act of violence inimical to the common good, but that they led to laws and institutions whereby public liberty benefited (Discourses, I, 4 ).

28. 'Good examples' come from 'good education' - as a result of 'good laws' that emerge from conflict. That is, from something that traditional political philosophy has always refused to recognize not only as the foundation of the political, but as an inevitable phenomenon of human co-existence: conflict. Althusser, speaking of a 'political primitive accumulation', therefore argued that Machiavelli uses the language of force and not of law. But in these pages we in fact find both elements, linked together in an indissociable manner, recursively bound to each other in a spiral that knows no peaceful solution and foreign to any visions of a mythical aetas aurea.

29. Machiavelli does not discard a priori the possibility that one could definitively 'fix' the movement of history in an institutional order. Lycurcus and many other wise 'legislators' similar to him succeeded in exactly this enterprise. By organizing a society with laws appropriate to the social and political structure of a certain period, they succeeded in blocking both development and degeneration, and thus establishing a virtuous sociopolitical situation capable of resisting change - if not for eternity at least for a very long period of time. In the case of Rome, on the other hand, laws and institutions advance in lockstep with history, with the development - necessarily through conflict - of its social and political forces. Laws are the very expression of those changes determined by such things. Since Rome never did in the beginning 'encounter' a wise legislator, it was bound to accept the challenge of history and open itself to change and conflict, in order to escape ruin caused by the natural and necessary expression of political 'humours'.

30. Law and conflict, therefore, uphold and create one another in endless recursiveness. But how is it possible to stop the destructive effects of social conflict? What kind of guarantee do we have that the tumults themselves do not destroy the state and the laws that have allowed their development? The answer is twofold. On the one hand, opening up laws and institutions to change impedes a peaceful and definitive solution to the problem, which could put aside the risk of corruption forever. This - along with the need to actively defend liberty against the perverse effects of corruption - is maintained as the trademark of any sincerely republican point of view, as many of its interpreters have asserted (Skinner, 1979 and Pettit, 1999). On the other hand the discussion of good and bad turmoil plays an important role in Machiavelli's thought.

31. Not all conflict, as we know, produces positive effects within the state. In particular, Machiavelli notes that certain struggles are extremely violent and destructive of the city's political well-being. It was so during the times of the Agrarian Laws in Rome and for the long centuries of struggle in the Communal Age in Florence. In light of this, certain scholars think that the recursive relationship between laws and turmoils must be interpreted in the following perspective: social upheaval justifies the birth of laws but, to avoid destructiveness, one should presume from the outset some institution that can regulate it, and that permits and even favours it, under certain conditions (Berns, 2000 and Baccelli, 2002). A 'virtuous' conflict, according to these scholars, requires some kind of pre-existing social common ground, that will not tolerate the exclusion of the defeated from political participation; in short, a society needs a shared public ethic.

32. However, neither of these two terms - law or conflict - can be posited as the origin or foundation of things. On the contrary it is precisely this disequilibrium, this instability, that is the virtuous motor that keeps alive the causal relationship between conflict and law. This again seems to suggest a nonlinear relationship (but always recursive, to the point that one seems to become the other) between crisis and power, which Machiavelli expresses most forcefully in the most mature passages in The Prince and Florentine Histories. The centaur Chiron, one of the most powerful metaphors of all of Machiavelli's oeuvre, best illustrates this idea of recursivity and interpenetration:

You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second. It is therefore necessary for a prince to know well how to use both the beast and the man. This was covertly taught to rulers by ancient writers, who relate how Achilles and many others of those ancient princes were given to Chiron the centaur to be brought up and educated under his discipline. The parable of this semi-animal, semi-human teacher is meant to indicate that a prince must know how to use both natures, and that the one without the other is not durable (The Prince, XVIII ).

33. It cannot be said that this recursive image in the centaur offers any manner of linear outcome to the tension. As Machiavelli understands it, there is no dialectical solution to this encounter, nor is there any synthesis between law and conflict. On the contrary, one could contend that the law is a 'function' (Althusser, 1999) of the conflict, its expression. The law in turn allows the release of 'humours' in a conflictual but not destructive manner.

34. This does not suggest an affirmation of a public ethics or common virtue that antedates the establishment of justice, nor can it be considered a synthesis of the different positions in the struggle. On the contrary, in law we find, always and necessarily, a mark of an initial victory, a trace of an original fratricide. Nomos in this sense, always follows hybris : 'for it is easy for forces to acquire a title, but not for a title to acquire forces' ( Discourses, I, 34). From this point of view, conflict precedes the law in the recursive relationship. In this sense, interpenetration is at its greatest. But this doesn't lead to (as it does for other thinkers) a denunciation of the dark side of politics and an affirmation of some abstract exhortation to 'live well' (See for example Callicles, in Plato, Gorgias , 483b-484c). Instead it serves to highlight with unparalleled realism that justice is in the end always the success of one side over another, and that the 'common good' is not a superior and transcendent end but merely demonstrates the conflict that is inherent in the movements of history.

35. Machiavelli addresses the necessary instability in the relationship between law and conflict and elaborates on a few mechanisms for resisting the degeneration that politics is continually exposed to. On the one hand, it is true, we see that he is aware of the necessarily recursive nature of the relationship between conflict and law. On the other, we gather that this development is not linear and does not lead to pacification, synthesis, or dialectic between the elements in play. Law and conflict always move on the same plane, interweaving and interpenetrating continuously.

36. For Machiavelli, there is no way to overcome this, nor should one envision a synthesis uniting justice and conflict; one can only 'bend' it and gain experience from it by means of 'virtù'. This is possible only by deviating the two elements - law and conflict - into the necessary union of justice and arms, or more precisely into a citizen army.

37. As shown (to return to the arguments of the republican tradition), Machiavelli maintained in his works, as well as during his activity as chancellor to the Republic, the necessity that a State have its own army, a Militia of faithful citizens ready to resist external attacks. He has no use for mercenary troops (Discourses , I, 21) since, as he says, through the story of David and Saul, 'the arms of others either fail, overburden, or else impede you' (The Prince, XIII).

38. It is important to specify that Machiavelli's preference for civilian militias over hired foreign mercenaries does not mean he adheres to the cult of militarism or war. Though conflict is the soul of politics, this does not mean that war is its necessary outcome. The arming of civilians is another expression of the recursive relationship between law and conflict, and just as importantly, it propagates that relationship. Machiavelli affirms this when he highlights that the goal of a virtuous army is to fight for its own glory and not for another's ambition. Adherence to the values of the republic does not exhaust itself in empty military rhetoric, but in resistance to oppression and in fighting for freedom.

39. The matter of civilian militias does not concern military efficiency and war alone, but also bears on the issues of politics and law. A civilian army is not only a safeguard against enemy forces; according to Machiavelli it is also clearly an instrument for freedom. Machiavelli openly declares his aversion to an 'aristocratic' understanding of war by expressing his preference for infantry over cavalry. Indeed the latter was extraordinarily expensive in Machiavelli's time, used because it kept control of the battle in the hands of the 'greats' and nobility. In contrast, Machiavelli maintains that the infantry is the foundation for an effective army. [8]

40. This conclusion bears directly on the political sphere. In the sixth chapter of the first book of the Discourses, Machiavelli addresses the question of the Roman constitution and the possibility to re-establish peace between the people and the senate. Sparta and Venice, which traditionally are understood as two models of stability, succeeded in halting turmoil and sedition by refusing to amplify their domains. Rome, in contrast, could not have nor should have followed the Spartan or Venetian model, simply because the latter were weak states. On the one hand Rome had used the plebs in war, on the other it had opened the possibility of citizenship to outsiders; both actions challenge the foundations of the Spartan and Venetian ways of doing things. This is the reason 'which gave the Plebs strength and increased power and infinite opportunities for tumults' (Discourses , I, 6). No middle ground is practicable. Rome was both a great power and a republic rife with sedition for the same reasons. To eliminate the cause of conflict would also bring about the decline of the causes of its greatness and power, such as those of freedom and the rule of law, understood by Machiavelli as in rapport with conflict.

41. The conflictual Roman institutions contrast sharply with the peaceful Venetian or Spartan counterpart. Liberty, power, law, order, sedition - all these meld together for Machiavelli in a single theoretical nucleus. Again, these elements favour an understanding of the relation between crisis and power as a superimposition that bars any illusory 'solution' to the problem of conflict. It is once again clear how the language and theory refer to one another. Machiavelli discusses the issue of the citizen army in terms of support of the freedom of the republic. This he does not in the sense of arkhè but kratos . The army of the republic is what frightens the nobles the most. [9] But the very definition of bellum civile, civil war, appears already in the time of the conflict between Marius and Silla, when an army of citizens entered in the city in 88 B.C.E., using arms against other citizens. This action takes on the characteristics of an invasion against an enemy city (See again Appianus, Bella Civilia, I, 269, 60 ). And according to Machiavelli, all this is the consequence of the sedition sparked in the times of the Gracchi.

42. Nevertheless, there is another example of internal warfare that is of fundamental importance in the eyes of Machiavelli: the tribe of Levi, reunited by Moses to repress those worshipping the golden calf. [10] This is not an actual army, but perhaps it makes the example even more salient. Moses transforms part of the populace into an army - a seditious army - to use it against another part. Arms are raised brother against brother, friend against friend, family against family. The nature of the Jewish state finds its origin in violence and sedition, which establishes a new use for force within a society, and which demonstrates once again how laws and conflict influence one another. This is an example whose value Machiavelli does not overlook, as he highlights not the destructive aspect of Moses's actions, but rather those aspects that lead to the foundation of the state. The practical essence of this seditious event demonstrates to Machiavelli that Moses is an 'armed prophet'. [11]

Spinoza, Indignation and the Origins of Politics

43. Moses's coup d'état represents a fundamental historical and theoretical moment for Spinoza as well. In chapter XVII of his Theologico-Political Treatise, Spinoza deconstructs the myth of the legislator, who founds the community's political system on his own rationality and wisdom. It is precisely this example of Moses and the Levites that demonstrates to Spinoza how the legislator's action is always inscribed into the historical fabric of acts of force, internal struggles, conflict and sedition, just as Machiavelli had already shown (Morfino, 2005. See also Montag, 1999).

44. Spinoza's thought ties metaphysics both with politics and with history. His understanding of right as power (jus sive potentia) guides his entire construction of political and juridical theory, and, in consequence, also his opinions on the relationship between law and conflict, which is in no way less original and subversive than Machiavelli's.

45. Étienne Balibar in his introduction to Spinoza's political thought explains how Spinoza identifies right and power as one and the same, a conflation that commands a new perspective on the meaning of these two terms. Established in chapter XVI of the Theologico-Political Treatise, and developed in detail in the Political Treatise, Spinoza's theory argues for the priority of power (potentia) over right (jus). Spinoza's goal is to affirm that the right of an individual is co-existent with his power. On this basis, Balibar rightly sustains that Spinoza excludes both the idea of a transcendent juridical order (such as divine law), as well as a law as manifestation of the free and rational decisions of human beings.

46. Thus right by definition falls back on relations of force and, finally, conflict (Balibar, 1985: 75), bringing Spinoza's thought close to Machiavelli's in an interesting way. Nevertheless in this field, Balibar does not intend to align the thoughts of these two philosophers. If the category of jus maintains its originality in Spinoza, his understanding of conflict shows how distant he is from Machiavelli. Indeed Balibar considers conflict a characteristic exclusive to the state of nature. This is the same argument of the philosophers of natural law, who condemn in any way possible resistance to a sovereign, as well as sedition.

47. However, by bringing Balibar's reasoning to its necessary (though unintended by its author) conclusion, one ends by drawing a connection between Spinoza and the contractualists, and in so doing implicitly underestimating Machiavelli's possible contribution. It is precisely Spinoza's understanding of the conflictual relationship between politics and law that suggests innovative elements in his thought when compared to the natural law and contractualist theories, not to mention the abstract, rigid, and utopian conceptualizations of law that derive from them.

48. There is nothing abstract in Spinoza's state of nature. Just as in Machiavelli, political conflict influence law and the entire juridical system of a state can have nothing to do with the state of nature as Hobbes understands it. Balibar's reading seems to reduce the phenomenon of conflict to a limited situation, a kind of pathology that needs to be regulated, if not totally overcome, by law.

49. However, just as Spinoza refuses all moral finality and every transcendent image of a God capable of governing the world through laws as if he were its monarch, he also questions the idea that the law can be a superior and transcendent norm. 'The word 'law' has but one meaning: the law of nature is not a rule of duty but rather the norms of a power': this statement carries in it the entire force of this understanding (See Theological-Political Treatise, XVI and Political Treatise, II, 5 ).

50. Laws can never pretend to dominate in a transcendent way the concrete and sometimes conflictual dynamics of composition and interaction among men. Laws qua laws simply don't have the power, intended as authority (potestas) - as they have neither power, intended as might and force (potentia) nor right (jus) - to guide human actions. Similarly, the mind (idea corporis) hasn't the potestas , the potentia , and thus the right to guide the body.

51. This concept suggests a relationship between law and conflict that very strongly recalls Machiavelli's thesis. If Spinoza suggests the idea that rights, the jura communia, are the 'soul' of the state, he does so to underscore that they do not guide politics from on high in a transcendent way, just as the soul itself has no true power to guide the body. Instead, just as any other right, they consist of a power composed of other rights and other powers, formed in a reticular and necessarily conflictual manner.

52. In the following passage, Spinoza emphasizes that the effectiveness of laws cannot depend solely on reason, but requires what he calls the 'common sentiment' of the multitude - it depends, that is, just as much on affects:

If any state can be everlasting, it must be one whose constitution, being once correctly established, remains inviolate. For the constitution is the soul of the state; if this is preserved, the state is preserved. But a constitution cannot stay intact unless it is upheld both by reason and by the common sentiment of the people; otherwise, if for instance laws are dependent solely on the support of reason, they are likely to be weak and easily overthrown (Political Treatise, X, 9).

The phrase 'common sentiment' here suggest the real dynamics of societies, which includes conflict just as much as cooperation. In a word, the multitude must undertake a collective struggle in defence of the laws; without this struggle, the laws are reduced to nothing more than charta et atramentum , spots of ink on a sheet of parchment.

53. There is another passage, however, in which Spinoza states this relationship between law and conflict more explicitly, having recourse to the language of common struggle, collective demands and popular resistance. This radical conception has its roots in the idea of jus sive potentia - right as power - that Spinoza develops throughout all of his major works. This conception leads Spinoza to recognize, as does Machiavelli, that conflict is an irreducible dimension of the defence of the laws and the maintenance of their effectiveness:

as long as human natural right is determined by the power of each single individual and is possessed by each alone, it is of no account and is notional rather than factual, since there is no assurance that it can be made good. And there is no doubt that the more cause for fear a man has, the less power, and consequently the less right, he possesses. Furthermore, it is scarcely possible for men to support life and cultivate their minds without mutual assistance. We therefore conclude that the natural right specific to human beings can scarcely be conceived except where men have their right in common and can together successfully defend the territories which they can inhabit and cultivate, protect themselves, repel all force, and live in accordance with the judgment of the entire community [sibi vindicare, seseque munire, vimque omnem repellere, et ex communi omnium sententia vivere possunt ] (Political Treatise, II, 15).

54. Adequately understanding laws, therefore, means that they be understood in relation to a right conceived as power. This requires, in turn, that they necessarily be understood in relation to conflict - that they at once arise from, express and require conflict. Not only does conflict play a crucial role in the production of such laws, it is also conflict which ensures that laws are not reduced to scraps of paper, empty signs of impotence.

55. Machiavelli's understanding of the recursive relationship between laws and conflict has already been shown, from which derive good outcomes, which at the same time express that conflict. Or, alternately, it can be said that 'good laws' and 'good arms' proceed simultaneously. A nearly identical idea emerges in the writings of Spinoza, in his elaboration on the semantic significance of indignatio, conatus and jura communia. The law of nature exists only 'where men have common rights', and such men are allowed to vindicare and repellere, thus affirming their autonomy and integrity.

56. On the one hand this means that the law itself in a certain way expresses the idea of conflict, and that this in turn directly produces effects of liberty and autonomy within a community, both towards the inside and the outside. Law and conflict again refer to one another in a recursive manner, they create and express each other in turn in the course of political events. The degree of rationality within a political community is proportional to number of people involved in the process - the more democratic activity, the higher the degree of rationality. Yet such activity cannot be understood exclusively in terms of cooperation and agreement between rights and individual powers, for this would presuppose an extrinsic rationality already working from outside the society, from above, transcendently. The only possible collective rationality, indeed, is that which is forged within and through democratic activity, by means of conflict, just as Machiavelli envisions it.

57. The jus sive potentia comes before laws and institutions. This would explain why rights can be both the soul of the state (anima imperii), and also mere ink on paper. One needs an understanding analogous to Machiavelli's on the recursivity of law and conflict to break this ambivalence. Freedom and law are established and defended through cooperation but also through resistance and conflict.

58. Such activity demonstrates the rationality inherent in institutions: 'an ontogenetic point of view of the law of nature and not human laws, of potentia and not potestas ' (Bove, 1996). In his fundamental study on the strategy of conatus in Spinoza, Laurent Bove underlines how such conclusions were already evident to Antonio Negri in The Savage Anomaly, but he also explains how this reading is based on the assumption of a priority and anteriority of potentia over potestas , of constituent power over the formalities of law (Negri, 1981 and 1992). Instead it must be understood that the law itself is the 'necessary mediation of the might of the multitude in its affirmation just as it is a symptom of the present state' (Bove, 1996).

59. The idea of recursivity, analogously to Machiavelli, confirms the meaning of law as a 'mediation' and at the same time as a 'symptom' of the masses. 'Mediation', does not mean 'dialectic', sublimation, overcoming, in any way but rather 'real activity'. And as this is a real thing, it is activity at the same time cooperative and conflictual, without either of these two aspects taking the foreground definitively over the other. The 'symptom', on the other hand manifests the degree of rationality of the 'present state', that is the degree to which those institutions and the laws can sustain critique, emendation, and change in order to make the conflict productive.

60. It is not surprising then that Spinoza follows Machiavelli to his final outcome on the relationship between law and conflict, that is to say to the binary of 'justice and arms' and to the issue of a citizen army. His condemnation of mercenary militias and his recommendation for a national, popular, army shows how alike the two authors are to one another, and it also stands for a common conclusion to their respective understandings of rights and law.

61. Spinoza explicitly insists that citizens are 'more powerful and therefore more autonomous', the more they are capable of defending themselves and resisting the aggression of 'external and internal' enemies (Political Treatise, VII, 16). This is the defence of liberty, in Machiavelli's words the 'guardia della libertà'. For this reason militias must not consist of foreigners but rather of a state's own powers, just as Machiavelli argued ( Political Treatise, VII, 16-17 ).

62. For Spinoza a popular army contributes to create the grassroots basis for resistance, the conflict that defends freedoms and common rights. Again, these are concrete only if they are defended. They are the anima imperii only inasmuch as the multitude desires them and makes them their own, manu militari, against the threat of corruption and oppression. A popular army, therefore, is a guarantee against oppression and tyranny, an instrument in defence of the law. However at the same time it naturally represents an open door to sedition. Seditio, for both Machiavelli and Spinoza is inherent in politics and in the principles of a good state. It is indeed the soul of liberty.

63. Indignation is one of the elements that primarily contribute to the existence of sedition, in Spinoza's theory of affections. In an article from a few years ago, Alexandre Matheron argued strongly for the importance of indignatio in the evolution of Spinoza's thought from the Theologico-Political Treatise to the Political Treatise (Matheron, 1994). Matheron's analysis begins with this passage by Spinoza, dedicated to the origins of States:

Since men, as we have said, are led more by affections than by reason, it naturally follows that a multitude will unite and consent to be guided as if by one mind not at reason's prompting but through some common emotion, such as (as we have said in Section 9, Chapter 3) a common hope, or common fear, or desire to avenge some common injury ( Political Treatise, VI, 1).

64. Here Spinoza clearly abandons the language of the social contract, asserting that men unite naturally and without any reference to an original pact. Also affections have a determining role in the formation of the state and in co-existence. This is the meaning of the reference in article VI, 1 to the text of III, 9, which is a text dealing with the concept of 'indignatio'. It is by invoking the affect of indignation, then, that the process leading from fear to resistance and sedition can be elaborated. It is on the basis of this indignation, and the resistance it gives rise to, that a political community - and therefore a State - can emerge. Because of this, Spinoza can ultimately conclude that those things that cause 'general indignation' are not in the sovereign's 'right'.

65. Indignation, as Matheron points out, is not merely 'sad passion', as suggested by the definition in Ethics III, 22 scholium and of the first corollarium of Ethics III, 27. It is rather a constitutive and foundational element of communal living. This dimension of politics' origin is tied closely to that of conflict and resistance.

66. Here, Spinoza's refusal to consider anything as sin or natural vice returns. Conflict cannot be reduced to a simple pathology of political life. It is rather one of its manifestations, which dates back to the very beginning of social life. The sedition of the multitude in confrontation with sovereign power - just as in Machiavelli - is not just a remote hypothesis, but rather one of the principal elements manifest in politics itself. Indeed no private citizen but only the sovereign has the right to judge if some measure is more or less in keeping with the common good. Only he who has power (potestas) is the legitimate interpreter of those measures, while citizens are bound to respect the laws. Indeed if those laws

Are such that they cannot be broken without at the same time weakening the commonwealth - that is, without at the same time turning into indignation the common fear felt by the majority of the citizens - then by their violation the commonwealth is dissolved and the contract comes to an end. Thus the contract depends for its enforcement not on civil right but on right of war (Political Treatise, IV, 6).

Thus Spinoza, like Machiavelli, establishes that the right to war, resistance and conflict are at the heart of politics. The philosophy itself becomes, in his own words, 'seditious' (Del Lucchese-Morfino, 2005. See also Del Lucchese, 2004).

Seditio sive jus

67. Like resistance, sedition questions the entire juridical program of the state. But a single term - here, 'right' - can carry different, even opposing, meanings. According the Machiavelli and Spinoza, sedition can understood as a right. But a right understood in strictly Spinozan terms, that is, as a jus sive potentia . Sedition represents a point of fusion between rights and conflict, between preservation and change. A point, then, at which the recursivity of their relation is activated. Here, Machiavelli and Spinoza's anomalous modernity returns to revive a configuration of theoretical issues already present in the mentality of classical Greece and Rome.

68. The recursivity between rights and conflict, for example, finds its equivalent in the identity between citizen and soldier in Greece. Citizenship in the ancient city was determined by the capacity to bear arms (théstai ta hopla. See Loraux, 1997 and Finley, 1973). But this effaces the difference between the citizen and he who, at least potentially, is the subject of conflict, the author of stasis . In the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.E., the cities entered into deep crises, caused by the growth of economic and social conflicts that involved more and more strata of the population. These changes were directly affected by the transformation of armies and warfare. Individual conflict - the aristocratic 'duel' - was progressively being replaced by group conflicts in which, ultimately, masses of peasants would form into a phalanx of thousands of soldiers. This was likely pioneered by the Spartans (See Gehrke, 1997). The kinds of armour and protection used in those times favoured social cohesion and solidarity as the determining factor in military efficiency. Captains fought alongside their soldiers, in a single, unified body and - in a Spinozan turn - as if of one mind (una veluti mente). [12] This also contributed to the formation of terrifying war machines, both externally and internally, formed in the resistance to aristocratic power and tyranny. In this way, the citizen is first and foremost a soldier, but he is also at the same time a stasiotes , not just in deed but by right.

69. The recursivity between rights and conflict forcefully reappears in Solon's famous law on stasis. Solon, the famous Athenian legislator, is a hero to Aristotle, inasmuch as he put an end to the stasis between the rich and the poor. [13] Yet he also posited laws making it the obligation of every citizen to take up arms in the case of conflict. [14] Even the Romans are shocked and dumbfounded by the radical nature of this law and its potential implications. Plutarch calls the law 'astonishing' (idios kai paradoxos) and 'paradoxical' (paralogotaton) as well as 'embarrassing or stupefying' (aporesei kai taumazei. See Jal, 1973. See also Plutarcus, Vitae parallelae, Solon, 20 and Moralia, 4, II). And yet, before the degeneration of sedition lead to the rise of empire, in the time of 'good' conflicts between the plebs and the senate, war and politics were already inextricable knotted together. The Aventine secessio is a manifestation of the concitata multitudo, of the plebs who refused to wage war against the Equi (See again Botteri, 1989). Being obliged to bear arms, and refusing to do so: sedition here brings out the co-presence and recursivity between right or law and conflict.

70. We can now see clearly that the idea of recursivity I have proposed indicates a possible escape from the mechanism mediating between law and conflict. Sedition should be thought as internal to and co-existent with law and the state and can for this reason be conceived of outside every dialectical mechanism. It should therefore be understood as taking place outside every dialectical mechanism. Examining Machiavelli's and Spinoza's philosophies of conflict allows us to see how sedition can neither be opposed to state violence nor viewed as an overturning of the paradigm of sovereignty. It is, instead, the very expression of a free people undertaking the autonomous movement that constructs as much as it challenges the legal and political order: libera multitudo as libera seditio. The theoretical challenge Machiavelli and Spinoza pose is, for the received political tradition, a monstrous one, since it explodes the very boundaries describing the essence of the political. And this is, in fact, the real battlefield. Here the challenge to classical modernity is laid down: Hic rhodus, hic salta.

English translation by Zane Mackin.


Filippo Del Lucchese (PhD. University of Pisa, Italy) is Marie Curie Fellow at the Université de Picardie 'Jules Verne', Amiens (France) and at Occidental College, Los Angeles. He has published several articles in Italian and French on the history of political thought and history of philosophy, as well as the volume Tumulti e indignatio . Conflitto, diritto e moltitudine in Machiavelli e Spinoza (Milano: Ghibli, 2004), French translation forthcoming (Paris: Ed. Amsterdam). He is now working on a project on 'Political Teratology. The monster as a political concept in the early modern period'.


[1] I wish to thank the Max-Planck-Institut für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt/M (Germany) for its support during my stay there in December 2006.

[2] See É. Benveniste. Vocabulaire des Institutions indo-européennes (Paris: Éd. de Minuit, 1969) I, 332, English translation by E. Palmer, Indo-European Language and Society (Coral Gables (Fl.): University of Miami Press, 1973) 271: 'the proper sense of Indo-European *swe [...] implies both disinctiveness from all else, the isolation of the 'self', the effort to separate oneself from everything which is not *swe, and also, within the exclusive circle thus marked off, the close relationship with those who form part of it. From this comes the double heritage. [...] This duality survived, as is revealed by the etimology, in two forms se of Latin, which have become independent; the reflexive se, indicating the "self", and the separative se- , sed 'but', marking distinction and opposition'.

[3] Cfr. Foucault, 1997. Notwithstanding Foucault's reticence on this point, the convergence with Machiavellian realism is very clear. See Florentine Histories III, 13: 'If you only notice human proceedings, you may observe that all who attain great power and riches make use of either force or fraud; and what they have ac quired either by deceit or violence, in order to conceal the disgraceful methods of attainment, they endeavor to sanctify with the false title of honest gains. Those who, either from imprudence or from want of sagacity, avoid doing so are always overwhelmed with servitude and poverty; for faithful servants and honest men are always poor; nor do any ever escape from servitude but the bold and faithless, or from poverty, but the rapacious and fraudulent. God and nature have thrown all human fortunes into the midst of mankind; and they are thus attainable rather by rapine than by industry, by wicked actions rather than good. Hence it is that men feed upon each other, and those who cannot defend themselves must be worried'.

[4] M. Foucault, commenting on which Deleuze writes '[he] shows that the law is no more a state of peace than the result of a successful war: it is war itself, and the strategy of this war in action'. See Foucault, 1975: 315. See also Deleuze, 1988: 30.

[5] See Florentine Histories, III, 11 on the repression of the Ciompi revolt, II, 34-35 on the subversive tyranny of the Duke of Athens; VII, 11-12 on the struggles between the great noble families against the house of Medici; III, 25-26 on the confrontation between the Albizzi and the Medici.

[6] Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy, I, 37: 'Such, then, was the beginning, and such the end of the Agrarian law. Elsewhere we have shown that it was enmity between the senate and populace [ plebe ] of Rome that kept Rome free, because it was owing to this that laws were made in favour of liberty. And, though with this conclusion the result of the Agrarian law may seem to be incompatible, I must confess that I am not on this account inclined to change my opinion, for, so great is the ambition of the great that unless in a city they are kept down by various ways and means, that city will soon be brought to ruin. Hence, if it was fully three hundred years before the Agrarian law led to the servitude of Rome, it would, perchance, have led to servitude much sooner, had not the plebs by means of this law and by other demands prompted by their appetites, always kept the ambition of the nobles in check'.

[7] See Plato, Republic, V, 470 b-e - 471 a-b: 'In my opinion, just as we have the two terms, war [ polemos ] and faction [ stasis ], so there are two things, distinguished by two differntiae. The two things I mean are the friendly and the kindred on the one hand and the alien and foreign on the other. Now, the term employed for the hostility of the friendly is faction, and for that of the alien is war. [...] I affirm that the Hellenic race is friendly to itself and akin, and foreign and alien to the barbarian. [...] We shall then say that Greeks fight and wage war with barbarians, and barbarians with Greeks, and are enemies by nature, and that war is the fit name for this enmity and hatred. Greeks, however, we shall say, are still by nature the friends of Greeks when they act in this way, but that Greece is sick in that case and divided by faction, as the word is now used, and a state is divided against itself, if either party devastates the land and burns the houses of the other such factional strife is thought to be an accursed thing and neither party to be true patriots. Otherwise, they would never have endured this to outrage their nurse and mother. But the moderate and reasonable thing is thought to be that the victors shall take away the crops of the vanquished, but that their temper shall be that of men who expect to be reconciled and not always to wage war. [...] They will not, being Greeks, ravage Greek territory nor burn habitations, and they will not admit that in any city all the population are their enemies, men, women and children, but will say that only a few at any time are their foes, those, namely, who are to blame for the quarrel'.

[8] Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy, II, 18: 'Among the sins committed by Italian princes who have made Italy the slave of the foreigner, there is none more grave than that of having held this arm of small account and of having devoted all their attention to mounted troops. This mismanagement is due to the perversity of captains and to the ignorance of ministers of state, for the Italian militia having lost all official status during the last 25 years and becoming like soldiers of fortune, it occurred to the former one fine day that their reputation would be made if they had armed forces, but the princes had none'.

[9] See for example the account of Francesco Vettori, Viaggio in Alamagna [Voyage in Germany, 1523]: 'I do not know how we Florentines will be secure; nor do I know in what manner armed and organized men will want to obey those that are unarmed and untrained. I also do not doubt that they think to become lords, having been subjects at one time. And believe me (for I intimately understand them), they love us not, nor have thay cause to love us, because we do not merely dominate them, we tyrannize them. And if we fear insults from without, it is better to hire soldiers who would come once every four to six years, then to fear those who could come at any day. Even if we can congregate these soldiers quickly, they can likewise do so on their own to harm us. And if with them we can put fear in our neighbours, in ourselves we put fear and injury'.

[10] Exodus 32, 26-29: 'Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, "Who is on the Lord's side? Come to me." And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. And he said to them, "Thus says the Lord God of Israel, 'Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbour.'" And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, "Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day."'

[11] Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy, III, 30: 'He who reads the Bible with discernment will see that, before Moses set about making laws and institutions, he had to kill a very great number of men who, out of envy and nothing else, were opposed to his plans'.

[12] See Heredotus, VI, 112: 'Their battle being arrayed and the omens of sacrifice favouring, straightaway the Athenians were let go and charged the Persians at a run. There was between the armies a space of not less than eight furlongs. When the Persians saw them come running they prepared to receive them, deeming the Athenian frenzied to their utter destruction, who being (as they saw) so few were yet charging them at speed, albeit they had no horsemen nor archers. Such was the imagination of the foreigners; but the Athenians, closing all together with the Persians, fought in memorable fashion; for they were the first Greeks, within my knowledge, who charged their enemies at a run, and the first who endured the sight of Median garments and men clad therein; till then, the Greeks were affrighted by the very name of the Medes'.

[13] Aristotle, Athenian Constitution, 8, 5: 'as he saw that the state was often in a condition of party strife, while some of the citizens through slackness were content to let things slide, [Solon] laid down a special law to deal with them, enacting that whoever when civil strife prevailed did not joing fores with either party was to be defranchised and not to be a member of the state'.

[14] Solon is here presented as a politician who embraces the shield and 'occupies' the center of the scene, edging other parties out of the conflict. Like a 'wolf' in the middle of a 'pack of dogs' he occupies the space between two armies (metaikhmion) rather than a peaceful meson or agora. This is a role that N. Loraux rightly claims (La thagédie d'Athènes) comes in sharp contrast with the image of moderation handed down to us through tradition.


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