Law, King of All: Schmitt, Agamben, Pindar

Law and Humanities, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2019, pp. 198-222

26 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2019 Last revised: 12 Jun 2020

See all articles by Lukas van den Berge

Lukas van den Berge

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law; Utrecht University

Date Written: September 25, 2019


Both Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben draw on the ancient Greek concept of nomos as an important element underpinning their legal theories. Aiming to restore that concept to its pre-sophistic meaning, they grant central weight to a piece of poetry in which Pindar famously proclaims that ‘law (nomos) is king of all’, guiding both mortals and immortals while ‘justifying the utmost violence with a powerful hand’. For Schmitt as for Agamben, this means that the Pindaric fragment exposes the violent origins of law that normativist jurisprudence typically shields from view. For one thing, I will explain in this article why Schmitt’s and Agamben’s use of the fragment is at odds with any acceptable interpretation of it in its wider literary and historical context. More importantly, perhaps, my aim is ultimately to reconstruct a Pindaric jurisprudence as it should actually be preferred to that of both Schmitt and Agamben.

Keywords: Nomos, rule of law, violence, fragment 169, legal philosophy

Suggested Citation

van den Berge, Lukas and van den Berge, Lukas, Law, King of All: Schmitt, Agamben, Pindar (September 25, 2019). Law and Humanities, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2019, pp. 198-222, Available at SSRN:

Lukas Van den Berge (Contact Author)

Utrecht University ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Janskerkhof 3
Utrecht, 3512 BK

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