Lorraine Pangle: Xenophon and Ambition

Lorraine Pangle’s “Xenophon on the Psychology of Supreme Political Ambition,” is forthcoming in American Political Science Review.

Abstract: This study illuminates Xenophon’s teaching about the underlying psychological motives of the most fully developed political ambition. An analysis of what the Cyropaedia portrays as the interplay among Cyrus’s spiritedness, justice, benevolence, piety, and cultivation of an aura of divinity leads to an unveiling of supreme ambition’s deepest root: not the desire for power as such, nor the love of justice, but the desire to be a quasi-divine benefactor. The article traces the development of this ambition from its earliest manifestations in the young Cyrus’s puppylike spiritedness, through his hope-filled rise to power, to his grim mature rein and his death, showing how a shadowy concern for immortality drives him in ways he is reluctant to see or acknowledge.