When David Petraeus formally retired from the Army on Wednesday, it marked the end of more than just an acclaimed 37-year military career. Instead, it signaled a more far-reaching event: the twilight of the celebrity general.

Petraeus leaves the military as one of the best-known officers of the past 50 years and with a public profile higher than that of any recent predecessor other than Colin Powell. Like Powell, Petraeus faces unrelenting speculation about a future career in politics, potentially as a Republican presidential candidate. Publishers believe his future memoirs will fetch a multimillion-dollar advance, and those who know the academically-minded Petraeus well speak of him one day taking the helm of a prestigious university like Princeton, where he completed his doctorate.