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Dante in Exile by an anonymous artist.

Exile means to be away from one's home (i.e. city, state or country), while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened by prison or death upon return. It can be a form of punishment.

It is common to distinguish between internal exile, i.e., forced resettlement within the country of residence, and external exile, deportation outside the country of residence.

Exile can also be a self-imposed departure from one's homeland. Self-exile is often practiced as a form of protest, to avoid persecution, an act of shame or repentance, or isolating oneself to be able to devote time to a particular thing.

Personal exile

Exile was used particularly for political opponents of those in power. Governments sometimes find exile to be a politically useful option for punishments since it prevents the exiled person from organizing in his or her native land or from becoming a martyr. People feared exile and banishment so much because it effectively meant that he or she was going to die. In European history, at a time prior to Roman invasion, people subsisted in farm towns.

Internal Exile

Where the state controls a vast territory, it is possible to put great distance between offenders and their families or associates and still fix the location of the exile. Normally this will be in a culturally or economically backward region. Ovid was made to live on the Black Seamarker, the very periphery of the Roman Empire. In imperial China the island of Hainanmarker, viewed as the "end of the world", received many exiles. Other victims of imperial displeasure (Galeote Pereira, Vasco Calvo) were made to live in places well within the bounds of "civilization".

Mikhail Bakunin and Prince Menshikov were made to live in Siberiamarker, Russia's "Wild East". Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent years in Communist Russia's vast interior, in what he was to term The Gulag Archipelago, before finally being properly deported to "a life in exile" beyond Moscow's purview. See sybiraks for more information on people exiled to Siberia. Of course in this system and in modern China's analogous Laogai Archipelago there is not much difference between "internal exile" and simple Incarceration.

Personal Exile in Literature

Dante describes the pain of exile in The Divine Comedy:

«. . . Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta
più caramente; e questo è quello strale
che l'arco de lo essilio pria saetta.
Tu proverai sì come sa di sale
lo pane altrui, e come è duro calle
lo scendere e 'l salir per l'altrui scale . . .»

". . . You will leave everything you love most:
this is the arrow that the bow of exile
shoots first. You will know how salty
another's bread tastes and how hard it
is to ascend and descend
another's stairs . . ."

Paradiso XVII: 55–60

Exile has been softened, to some extent, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as exiles have received welcome in other countries and have either created new communities within those countries or, less frequently, returned to their homelands following the demise of the regime that exiled them.

Government in exile

During a foreign occupation or after a coup d'état, a government in exile of a such afflicted country may be established abroad. One of the most well-known instances of this is the Polish government-in-exile, a government in exile that commanded African armed forces operating outside Africa after German occupation during World War II. Another example was the Free French Forces government of Charles De Gaulle of the same time.

Nation in exile

When large groups, or occasionally a whole people or nation is exiled, it can be said that this nation is in exile, or Diaspora. Nations that have been in exile for substantial periods include the Jews, who were deported by Babylonianmarker king Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 BC and again in the years following the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalemmarker in the year AD 70.

After the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, and following the uprisings (like Kościuszko Uprising, November Uprising and January Uprising) against the partitioning powers (Russian Empiremarker, Prussia and Austro-Hungary), many Poles have chosen – or been forced – to go into exile, forming large diasporas (known as Polonia), especially in France and the United States.The entire population of Crimean Tatars (200,000) that remained in their homeland Crimeamarker was exiled on 18 May 1944 to Central Asia as a form of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment on false accusations. At Diego Garciamarker, between 1967 and 1973 the British Government forcibly removed some 2,000 Chagossian resident islanders to make way for a military base today jointly operated by the US and UK.

Tax exile

A wealthy citizen who departs from a former abode for a lower tax jurisdiction (a "tax haven") in order to reduce his/her tax burden is termed a tax exile.

Exile in Greek tragedy

To wander away from the city-state (the home) is to be exposed without the protection of government (laws), friends and family. In the ancient Greek world, this was seen as a fate worse than death. EuripedesMedea–because of her actions (both in Iolcus and Corinth)-made herself and her family (including Jason) exiles in Corinth. She talks of her exiled state in Corinth: 'I, a desolate woman without a city... no relative at all'. Jason justifies his marriage, to a Corinth royal family member, as an attempt to better this situation: 'When I moved here from the land of Iolkos... what happier godsend could I have found than to marry the king's daughter, poor exile that I was... that I should bring up our children in a manner worthy of my house, and producing brothers to my children by you, I should place them all on level footing'.

The tutor in Medea further reminds us of how selfish men are. Euripides likens all women's position to exile; in their having to leave home to serve their husbands. So Medea was doubly in exile, both in the ordinary sense, as a non-Greek foreigner, and as a woman. In the same speech, Medea talks of her status as 'a foreigner [falling] in the city['s ways]' and, on being married, 'we come to new behaviour, new customs'.

The theme of exile also appears in Euripedes The Bacchae when Dionysus sends Agave and her sisters into exile. Dionysus: 'With your sisters you shall live in exile' and later Agave laments: 'Farewell my city…show us the way Asian women, show us the way to bitter exile'.

From the Bacchae:


All foreign lands now dance to his [Dionysus's] drum.


That is why they are foreign and we're not.

Notable people who have been in exile

Fictional characters in exile

  • Omnius, an artificial intelligence, is banished forever to an alternate universe in the final novel in the Dune series of science fiction works.
  • Yoda went into self exile after the Great Jedi Purge in Episode III of Star Wars.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, after defeating Sir Leopold, the player's party are blamed by Captain Marcello for an attempted assassination of the Lord High Priest, causing High Priest Rolo and the player's party to be subsequently banished to Purgatory Island.
  • In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is exiled to Mantua after killing Tybalt.
  • He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named goes to self exile in Albaniamarker after losing his physical form in Godric's Hollow in 1981.
  • Ender Wiggin is exiled from Earth after winning the Bugger War in the Orson Scott Card book Ender's Game.
  • In the book The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, Aragorn is the heir in exile to the throne of Gondor.
  • In the television series Avatar: The Last Airbender, Prince Zuko is exiled from the Fire Nation by his father, and tasked with finding the Avatar.
  • Chancellor Sutler is in self-exile in the film V for Vendetta.
  • In the British sci-fi TV series Doctor Who, The Doctor was exiled to Earth by his own people, the Time Lords for interfering in the affairs of other planets. He was also forced to regenerate in order to help conceal his identity. All this happened in the 1969 story The War Games. This was the last Doctor Who story to feature Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. He was eventually forgiven by his own people and allowed to roam the Universe again in the 1972–73 adventure The Three Doctors, by this time starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor.
  • In the TV series 24, Jack Bauer went into self-exile, after being threatened with being extradited for torture in a Chinese prison camp following the events of Season 4. He eventually fled to the fictional African Nation of Sangala in 24: Redemption. The original title for Redemption was actually Exiled, but was changed to Redemption because the crew too hastily named it.
  • Oedipus went into self exile after finding out that he had killed his father and slept with his mother (Sophocles)
  • Medea sent herself into exile to follow Jason into Corinth (Euripedes).
  • Agave went into self exile after killing her son Pentheus (Euripedes)
  • Thyestes was sent into exile after raping his brother's wife (Aeschylus)
  • Orestes was sent into exile by his mother Clytaemnestra but returned to kill her in the garb of a stranger (Aeschylus)
  • Simba, shortly after his father's death went into exile from the Pridelands for much of his childhood and teenage life in The Lion King. He later returns to avenge his father's death and take his rightful place as king of the Pridelands.
  • A Dwarven Clan Chief in Brisingr was exiled from the Dwarven Land when he attempted to assassinate Eragon.
  • Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock is depicted in several stories as being branded a pirate and exiled from Earth by the government; most notably in Arcadia of My Youth.
  • Fictional former Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent Detective Mike Logan (portrayed by Chris Noth) was exiled by the NYPD after publicly assaulting fictional New York City councilman Kevin Crossley in the 1995 Law & Order episode Pride. The 1998 TV Movie Exiled: A Law & Order Movie shows Logan at the "NYPD Graveyard" in Staten Island, New Yorkmarker in both in a personal (feelings of resentment, isolation, and anger) and professional exile (demoted to lowest possible job; no longer considered "a real detective'.)
  • Prince Nuada went on an exile after his father merged with the human race in Hellboy II:The Golden Army.

See also


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