This essay offers a reading of “A dung-beetle hunting an eagle,” a commentary by Erasmus of Rotterdam that addresses the tyrannical use of power, the terrorizing character of revolt, and hence the tangled and vicious web of conflict between ruler and ruled. My claim is that Erasmus confronts us with the deeply disturbing and even eerie suggestion that once unleashed, the dark dialectic of tyranny and terror is hopelessly intractable, even as one may continue to uphold an alternative ideal, however awkwardly and certainly precariously, but also necessarily and ironically. This challenge speaks with unsettling effect to perennial features of political life.

You do not currently have access to this content.