My dearest Tray,
Your lavish praise is warmly welcomed. It does me no end of good to know that there are folks out there who appreciate me and my passions - especially when I’m physically separated from so much and so many that I hold dear as right now.
Thanks especially for including my vlogs! I really should get around to making some more. I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing something in my best (read: worst) Churchill impression. Maybe reading one of his speeches? Or, better yet, some Nicki Minaj lyrics!
Kudos for doing it un-anonymously as well! Then again, a man as fierce as you has no need for hiding, am I right?
Vielen Dank, mein Freund!
Napoleon in Egypt, Part V; The Fall of Pharaoh Bonaparte, The Rise of Emperor Napoleon I
To stop the Ottoman counteroffensive against him, Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte tried to do what no western army had done since the Crusades, invade Palestine and Syria. The campaign was almost successful, only to be halted with the Siege of Acre, where impregnable fortifications, British military intervention, and a virulent strain of the plague ended all hopes for victory. It took over a month for the French Army to slowly march back to Egypt. Many of the sick and wounded were forced to be left behind, facing torture and execution at the hands of the Ottomans.
The army returned to Cairo where it found much needed rest. Despite the terrible defeat, Napoleon cast himself and his army as the glorious victors, although he had little to show for it. Recuperation in Cairo was short lived, as word was received that an 18,000 strong Ottoman force landed at Abukir Bay and captured Alexandria. Napoleon quickly marched back to Alexandria with a 11,000 man force and attacked on the 25th of July 1799. The French easily destroyed the Ottoman army, massacring over 11,000 Ottoman troops. Despite the victory, Napoleon knew the end was growing near. The Ottomans and the British had an endless amount of manpower and supplies. Napoleon’s army, on the other hand, was cut off from reinforcements and slowly being ground to dust. Defeat was inevitable.
By August Napoleon received news that the political situation in France was quickly becoming unstable. The government was broke and nearing collapse, the French people were growing rebellious, and the enemies of France were preparing to take advantage of the situation. With word of the the deteriorating state of the French Republic Napoleon decided it was time to cut his losses and move on to greener pastures. On a pretext that he was touring the Nile Delta, Napoleon left Egypt with his top ranking generals in a small sailing boat. They were able to successfully sneak by the British Navy and return home 41 days later. As for the 30,000 French troops left stranded in Egypt, command was left with Gen. Jean Baptist Kleber. The soldiers were outraged with Napoleon, but Kleber convinced them that he would soon return with reinforcements. Napoleon would never again step foot in Egypt.
French occupation continued in Egypt despite continuous raids and counterattacks by the Ottomans, as well as revolts by the people of Egypt. Finally in September of 1801 a combined army of Ottoman soldiers, British regular infantry, and Royal Marines invaded Egypt and forced the French to surrender. Under the terms of surrender the French were allowed to be repatriated, but only on the condition that they never serve in the French military again on the pain of death if recaptured. The thousands of Ancient Egyptian artifacts collected by the French scientific team were confiscated by the British, including the fabled Rosetta Stone. Twenty years later the scholar Jean-Francois Champollion was able to decode the Egyptian hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone, providing a method for historians to translate Ancient Egyptian, and thus building the foundation for modern Egyptology. Today the Egyptian artifacts collected by the expedition can be found at the British Museum.
As for Napoleon, he would certainly be destined for great things. Upon returning to France he was greeted as a national hero. Immediately after his return, Napoleon led a coup against the French government. Upon gaining control of the government, he dissolved the Council of Five Hundred, the main legislative body of the French Republic, and organized his own puppet council staffed by his friends and supporters. With a 99.94% percent of the vote he was named First Consul, the supreme executive authority of France. Though he held a republican title, it was very clear that Napoleon held absolute power as a military dictator. With no opposition, he was essentially an unofficial emperor with a democratic title. In 1804 he made it official by crowning himself Emperor Napoleon I of France, thus founding the First French Empire.
Napoleon in Egypt Part II —- Pharaoh Bonaparte
If you missed Part I, click here
The young French general Napoleon Bonaparte had succeeded in conquering Egypt, a mysterious and exotic land that had been the crown jewel of ancient empires. However Napoleon’s victory turned sour when a British fleet under the command of Horatio Nelson destroyed his support fleet anchored off the Nile Delta. Without his fleet Napoleon and his army was effectively stranded in Egypt, and it did not look like France would be able to mount a rescue expedition any time soon.
While certainly a bitter situation, Napoleon decided to make the best of it. Foreshadowing his future roles as First Consul and later Emperor, Napoleon declared himself the ruler of Egypt, basically setting himself up as a new Egyptian pharaoh. Casting himself as the liberator of Egypt, Napoleon sought to modernize the ancient nation. Working with local leaders, especially the Muslim leader Muhammed Ali of Egypt, he enacted many political and social reforms in Egypt. As a result of these projects many hospitals, libraries, a chemical laboratory, botanical garden, health service, menagerie, and an observatory were built. Napoleon also sought to standardize and update Egyptian currency, economics, and weights and measures. Plans were also drawn up to construct a canal through the Suez region (Suez Canal) and restore many ancient Egyptian monuments such as the Sphinx, however none of these projects came to fruition.
Of all Napoleon’s achievements in Egypt, perhaps the most important were scientific in nature rather than military or political. Among the expedition were a number of naturalists, botanists, chemists, engineers, mathematicians, and historians. It was Bonaparte’s goal to study and increase the scientific and historical knowledge of Egypt, a country which Europeans had almost no knowledge of at the time. Scientists collected specimens of local wildlife, measured ancient monuments, studied the climate, and did surveys of Egypt’s topography.
Perhaps the expedition’s greatest successes were in the field of archaeology. In fact Napoleon’s expedition would provide the basis for modern Egyptology and gave rise to fascination with Egypt throughout Europe and America. Historians investigated sites all over the country, excavating over 5,000 artifacts between 1798 and 1801. Most would be seized by the British when the country was retaken in 1801, and can now be found in the British museum. Among the artifacts was a stone tablet called the Rosetta Stone (pictured above). The Rosetta Stone was important because it had a decree from King Ptolemy V which was written in hieroglyphics, Greek, and Demotic. Discovered by French engineering officer Pierre-François Bouchard, the multi-lingual stone provided a key for linguists and historians to decipher and translate ancient Egyptian. Today it is hailed as one of the most important discoveries in Egyptian Archaeology, providing a firm foundation for the science and leading to two centuries of discovery afterwards.
Despite the many successes of Napoleon’s expedition, the situation in Egypt was growing worse. Many Egyptians were resentful of Napoleon and the French, seeing them not as liberators but as infidels and conquerors. Rebellion was brewing among the people, and Napoleon’s position in Egypt was growing more tenuous.
To be continued…
Napoleon in Egypt Part III —- Jihad, Revolt, and Massacre
“The French people are a nation of stubborn infidels and unbridled rascals… They look upon the Koran, the Old Testament and the New Testament as fables… If it please Allah, it is reserved for you to preside over their entire destruction.”
—- A Manifesto of the Great Lord
After only 4 months in Egypt Napoleon’s position in the ancient nation was growing more tenuous every day. Napoleon cast himself as the liberator of Egypt by commissioning several public works projects to help modernize and improve the country. He even worked with local government and religious leaders to help cement his place as ruler of Egypt. While many Egyptians appreciated the changes, many more saw Napoleon and the French as occupiers, conquerors, and infidels.
When Napoleon tried to impose new taxes on the country, and more importantly level a cemetery near his headquarters, unrest turned to rebellion. Incited by local Sheikhs and Imams, the citizens of Cairo began to take up arms. Religious leaders preached the destruction of the French as Egyptians swore by the Prophet to kill any and all French they met. They even had a manifesto, called The Manifesto of the Great Lord which stated,
“The French people are a nation of stubborn infidels and unbridled rascals… They look upon the Koran, the Old Testament and the New Testament as fables… Soon, troops as numerous as they are formidable will advance on us by land, at the same time ships of the line as high as the mountains will cover the surface of the seas… If it please Allah, it is reserved for you to preside over their entire destruction ; as dust is scattered by the wind, there will not remain a single vestige of these infidels : for the promise of Allah is formal, the hope of the wicked man will be deceived, and the wicked men will perish. Glory to the Lord of the worlds!”
On October 21st, 1798 the citizens of Cairo took to the streets in arms while fortifying positions, setting up barricades, and killing any French who were caught out on the street. Among those killed was the French commander Gen. Dupuy and Joseph Sulkowski, Napoleon’s personal aide-de-camp.
To counter the rebellion Napoleon did much the same as he did when he suppressed an uprising in Paris three years earlier. He set up cannon in the streets loaded with grapeshot, and blew away anyone in open revolt in Cairo. Eventually he surrounded the city with his army, fighting street to street while destroying barricades and cutting down any in his way. His objective was to squeeze the rebels into one key section of the city where he could bomb the rebellion into submission.
His plan worked, and the rebels were forced to take shelter at The Great Mosque. When a rebel leader begged for mercy in the name of Allah, Napoleon showed none, declaring, "He (Allah) is too late — you’ve begun, now I will finish!” Napoleon ordered a massive bombardment of the Mosque, which heavily damaged the holy building. His troops then stormed the gates, massacring 5,000 to 6,000 Egyptians.
After the revolt, several Sheikhs and Imams were rounded up and executed. Important mosques, palaces, and other buildings were demolished and extremely high punitive taxes were placed on the city. Furthermore Napoleon dissolved the local city government and placed Cairo under martial law. He built forts all over the city, all the while turning Cairo into a large armed camp. It was said that even the dogs of the city were killed, lest they sound warning when a French soldier approached.
Despite the brutal suppression of the Revolt in Cairo, Napoleon’s position in Egypt was continuing to deteriorate. The people of Egypt were as resentful of the French presence as ever. Worse yet the British Navy began to raid ports along the coast. Perhaps worst of all, the Ottoman Empire was organizing a grand army to invade and take back Egypt.
To be Continued…
Napoleon in Egypt Part IV —- The Last Crusade
After brutally suppressing a revolt in Cairo, Napoleon’s hold over Egypt was still shaky at best. Yet things were about to get a lot worse when the Ottoman Empire sent an army in retaliation for the invasion of Egypt. The Ottoman Empire organized a massive army, conscripting troops from all over the Middle East; Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Jerusalem, as well as soldiers from Greece and the Balkans. Altogether, the Ottoman Army totaled over 80,000 men. By contrast Napoleon barely had 20,000 battle ready men. To shore up the numbers Napoleon recruited sailors, leftovers of his doomed fleet destroyed by Adm. Nelson, and retrained them as infantrymen. Napoleon also conscripted native troops from Egypt’s slave populace.
A common theme of the Napoleonic Wars, whenever Napoleon was outnumbered or surrounded, he went on the offensive. On the 5th of February, 1799, Napoleon’s army invaded Palestine. It was the first time a Christian European army had invaded the Holy Land since the Crusades of the Middle Ages. Like the Crusades, the campaign was doomed to failure.
Marching deep into the Levant, Napoleon saw early successes as he occupied Gaza and Jaffa. Though heavily fortified, the Ottoman defenders were no match for the professional French Army. Ottoman counterattacks were swiftly beaten back through Napoleons brilliant tactics. Thousands of Ottoman soldiers were killed, thousands more were executed as Napoleon’s army was in no shape to take and handle prisoners.
Napoleon’s goal was to take the city of Damascus in Syria, one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the Middle East. However the campaign came to a snag when the army reached the ancient fortified city of Acre, located on the coast of what is now Northern Israel. Once a bastion of the Crusaders, Acre was so heavily fortified that it was the last Crusader outpost to fall during the Crusades. Now Napoleon had no choice to besiege it, lest he expose his rear on his march to Damascus. Unfortunately Napoleon only had 80 small cannon.
At first Napoleon attempted to take the city with his infantry, believing that Acre would quickly capitulate. He was very wrong. The French Army was forced lay siege to Acre, a siege that would last over 60 days. Despite Napoleons best laid plans and courageous fighting on the part of the French, the fortifications of Acre were too strong. As the French laid siege to Acre, they also had to contend with Ottoman counterattacks from Damascus, and harassment by local guerrilla forces. Worse yet, the Ottomans in Acre received aide from Britain as the Britain Navy shipped in supplies, cannon, and reinforcements in the form of Royal Marines. Napoleon’s army, however, was far from it’s supply lines and growing weaker by the day. The only relieve came when a French fleet was able to sneak in siege cannon to Napoleon.
As Ottoman forces within Acre grew stronger, Napoleon’s forces grew weaker. Then the worst happened, a virulent strain of the plague swept throughout the French Army. Thousands were sickened, reducing Napoleon’s ranks even further. Eventually it came to the point that Napoleon’s Army could no longer maintain the siege, especially when an Ottoman fleet appeared on the horizon with a large relief force. In May of 1799, after a three month campaign in the Holy Land, Napoleon was forced to call retreat.
To be continued…
Napoleon in Egypt Part I: The Conquest of Egypt,
"Soldiers, from the height of these pyramids, forty centuries look down upon you." ~ Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte
A young general who had just won a major campaign against the Italians and Austrians, Napoleon Bonaparte craved more victories and more glory. While the two powers had yet to face each other in pitched battle, France and Great Britain were at war, and Napoleon had an audacious plan to undermine the British Empire. Egypt was very important to the British both strategically and commercially. The area of what is now the Suez Canal was an important trading route as ships offloaded goods, which where transported by caravan to the Red Sea, where it was eventually shipped through the Indian Ocean to British controlled India. Napoleon intended to conquer Egypt (then a part of the Ottoman Empire), with the intention of cutting Britain’s lifeline to India.
On July 1st, 1798 Gen. Bonaparte landed in Alexandria with an army of 35,000 men. After a two week march across the desert, Bonaparte’s army reach Cairo, the capitol of Egypt. There to meet them were 50,000 fierce Mamluk warriors. Then the rulers of Egypt, the Mamluks were a ancient tribe of warriors whose martial tradition can be traced back to the Crusades. While the Mamluks had some muskets, they mostly used the same tactics they had used during the Middle Ages, fighting from horseback in massed charges while armed with sabers while infantry fought with swords, shields, and spears. Unfortunately for the Mamluks this was the age of modern warfare, and the French were no Crusaders.
The French and Mamluk forces met at the foot of the Great Pyramids of Giza, a spot Napoleon personally chose because he wanted the fame of having won a battle at the foot of the Great Pyramids. The Battle of the Pyramids began with a Mamluk charge of 10,000 horsemen. While such tactics had devastated light infantry in the age of the Crusaders, the Mamluks had little knowledge of modern tactics employed by European armies. Napoleon ordered his units to form square, a basic defensive infantry tactic against cavalry, with his own cavalry in the center and artillery placed at the corners which created devastating inter-lapping fields of fire. While the Mamluk charge was courageous, courage was of little use against the wall of lead and grapeshot fired by the French Army. The charge was a bloodbath as Mamluk horseman only made convenient targets for musketeers and artillerymen. 3,000 Mamluk horsemen were instantly obliterated, and the charge quickly morphed into a retreat. On Napoleon’s signal, the French cavalry counterattacked, driving off the surviving Mamluk horsemen. The remaining 40,000 Mamluk infantry, mostly peasants armed with shields and spears, only served as cannonfodder as French muskets and guns made a bloody mess of the dated medieval army. By the end of the Battle of the Pyramids, 20,000 Mamluk warriors lay dead in the Egyptian sands, while Napoleon’s army suffered a scant 29 losses.
For Napoleon the conquest of Egypt was one of his greatest achievements. He had accomplished his goal and conquered an ancient and exotic land that was the crown jewel of mighty empires. To Napoleon, life couldn’t get any better, but one of the common themes of the early Napoleonic Wars was that Napoleon would win some major victory or achieve some crowning achievement, only to have an equally audacious and brilliant military commander named Admiral Horatio Nelson sour his success.
While Napoleon and his men celebrated the conquest of Egypt, a French support fleet was anchored off the Nile River delta. Ten days after the Battle of the Pyramids, a British fleet under the command of Horatio Nelson ambushed and annihilated the French fleet. Without his fleet, Napoleon was effectively trapped in Egypt with no means of regular communication, no supply lines, and no way of returning home to France. Stranded in Egypt, Napoleon’s great dream had turned into a terrible nightmare.
To be continued…
La Estatua de la República. 1929.
"Seasons greetings from Officers and men of the 1st United States Engineers, North Africa Dec.25, 1942"
Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria, father of King Ludwig III.
Image by Franz Hanfstaengl. Late 1850s.
Kresilas, Pericles with the Corinthian Helmet, ca. 429 BCE, marble copy of bronze original, High Classical Greece
Greece was ruled by the teenage Pericles during the majority of the High Classical Period, and he aimed to make Athens the most beautiful city in the world. He took the initiative to turn the Acropolis into a symbolic monument for Athen’s new political and economic dominance after the victory over the Persians. Unfortunately, he paid for the enormous cost to decorate the Acropolis with the money that was originally meant to improve the city.
Kresilas made this portrait of Pericles using bronze, but only marble replicas remain because almost none of the bronze sculptures from this time period have survived. In the original, he is depicted in heroic nudity to show that he is a mortal human. In basically every single one of Pericles’ portraits, it shows him wearing a helmet. Some people think it’s because of his deformed head. Kresilas tried to hide Pericles’ abnormally out-of-proportioned head by poking two eye slots near the top of the helmet resting on Pericles’ head. But indeed, the real reason for the helmet is to show that he was a great general, as he was elected for the position fifteen times. It’s a good thing Pericles was displayed in heroic nudity because Kresilas was known for making people appear godlike and perfect.
Unknown, Kouros, Ca. 600 B.C.E., Marble, The Archaic Period
This ‘Kouros’ is one of the earliest life-size statues. In Greek, Kouros means ‘young man’, which is a general term that refers to a sculpture of young man and is also the idealized male form; therefore it is not a god.
This sculpture is nude as the taking off of the clothes represents the perfection of the human body and to focus on the ideal young male form.
The Kouros comes from an Egyptian influence which is seen in the posture and stance. There is no constrapposto in this, as the left foot is stepping forward and the knees are locked, and even though he’s stepping forward the weight is balanced perfectly over both feet. The hair dress also looks Egyptian.
However, this statue would not be mistaken for an Egyptian statue because of the nudity and naturalism of the posture. The statue is still slightly geometrically rendered but there is a development of how it’s becoming more lifelike. The “Archaic smile” is also seen in this sculpture, giving it a sense of life.