The Napoleon Complex

During class on Friday, my class discussed Napoleon and questioned whether or not he contradicted the ideals of the French Revolution. This discussion prompted me to consider a modern idea known as the Napoleon Complex. The Napoleon Complex, or Short Man Syndrome, is the idea that physically shorter people are particularly aggressive and over-domineering. While this “syndrome” is not Scientifically legitimate, I found some truth to that idea when considering Napoleon himself. Napoleon was approximately 5′ 7″ and is an extremely controversial dictator, prompting the heated debate as to whether or not Napoleon was a “good” dictator. While Napoleon’s Civil Code called for religious freedom, abolished privileges based on birth, and freedom of speech, Napoleon violated such rights, as exampled by Napoleon’s censorship of the press and his subjects. Perhaps one of his most hubristic maneuvers was his invasion into Russia in 1812, arriving with 600,000 men and returning with only one third. Nonetheless, this behavior (contradicting revolutionary ideals such as equality and free speech, along with his  hubristic invasion into Russia) reveals that Napoleon was simply a short man with agressive, over-dominance who sought power.

The Napoleon Complex reasons that short people seek such dominance to overcome their shortness and abolish their self-insecurities. While I know little of Napoleon’s personal life, it was discussed in class that his wife, Josephine, treated Napoleon poorly and Napoleon submitted to her demands. Outwardly as a dictator, however, Napoleon oppressed gender equality and treated women as property who belonged to men. In fact, Napoleon once said: “Women are nothing but machines for producing children”. It is here evident that Napoleon was insecure of his lack of power in his own household and therefore established power for himself over his subjects in one example of restricting the rights of women.

By no means am I characterizing all short people to have this “syndrome”nor intend any offense  but am rather relating a modern theory to the French Revolution and its leaders. However, it is interesting to consider that perhaps there is no coincidence that such a short man sought so much military and empirical power.

For more information on the Napoleon Complex, you can visit:

I also found this fascinating article that metaphorically associates Governor Mitt Romney to the Napoleon Complex:


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