I couldn’t find another thread about this, but if there is one, I would appreciate a link to it.
There’s a story regarding Napoleon and his encounter with the Great Pyramid in 1798. From this website:
So, cool story, bro, but does it have ANY basis in reality? I’ve scoured the web and have yet to find any “official” source for it.
I’m not really asking if Napoleon actually experienced something mysterious or supernatural in the Great Pyramid. I can believe that at the very least, he was a bit spooked, as I’d imagine it’d spook anybody. What I want is some sort of primary source for the legend itself–maybe the “friend” of Napoleon wrote it down, or something. I just want to make sure that it came from the actual time period itself, and wasn’t just made up by some hack writer in 1925.
Ugh, I’m not even making sense anymore. But when, exactly, did this story emerge?
Well, Napoleon was in Egypt in 1798 and he did later die. After that, it looks weak.
Okay, Napoleon was in the neighbourhood. He fought a battle against the Ottoman Turks within sight on the Pyramids on July 21, 1798. However, I can’t find any credible source that says he went inside any of the pyramids at the time. All the sources that claim this are just repeating the vision story.
Napoleon died on May 5, 1821 on the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. He was being kept there by the British. There wasn’t really anyone at his deathbed who could be described as a close friend. There were some British officers, some doctors, some servants, and a priest. Napoleon’s last words were “France, armee, tete d’armee, Josephine” (France, army, head of the army, Josephine).
You have to remember that during the 19th century Napoleon, whilst greatly admired for his abilities, and not worshipped ( even during his nephew’s empire ) until the 1890s — roughly the centenary — filled the necessary place that Hitler fills for Americans today and Lucifer in the Middle Ages: the most indisputably wicked man who ever existed. Baby-Eating was mandatory, apart from being personally responsible for the death of millions.
In these circumstances there were many tales and rumours about his genius, tailored to a populace both quasi-literate and credulous even more than today’s, and many little books and articles catering for the fortune-predicting crowd were produced, to explain his good luck and cash in on his fame. I should imagine that it was in one of these that the legend you refer to started.
I blogged on one such ‘Napoleon’s Oraculum’, but I have no idea where I packed the book since, it is only a few inches wide and tall, so can’t look it up there.
Napoleon’s Oraculum is a fortune-telling vade mecum of the early nineteenth century imagined to be consulted by le petit caporal — presumably when his little red familar was otherwise engaged.*
They had a whole lot of time in those days, and as we, craved excitement… Still, apart from the fact that his trusting this sort of thing would have contributed to Napoleon’s downfall, it no doubt aided such people as Thomas Hardy’s Conjuror Trendle to keep their clients in awe — in addition to their probably real gifts of white magic.*
Abyss : To dream you are looking over an abyss, is a warning of danger. ( No kidding. )
He almost certainly didn’t. Napoleon did lead a “sightseeing” expedition to the pyramids a month or two after the battle, and members of his entourage both climbed and went inside the Great Pyramid. Several of them wrote about it, especially Savary in his Letters from Egypt. None of them mentioned Napoleon doing either.
The story sound a quite similar to the legend of Alexander the Great at the Siwa oracle in Egypt. Alexander arrived at Siwa(supposedly after being miraculously show the path there by birds) and was lead into the oracle alone. He never revealed what was said (only that he had been given ‘the answer his heart desired’).
I would not be surprised if this was a modern version of that myth in some form or other.
A fun, Flashman-style adventure set around Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign and his visit to the Great Pyramid is Napoleon’s Pyramids by William Dietrich. Great descriptions of the campaign battles and the country and a fair amount of the science and superstitions of the day…
The Coalition that deposed Napoleon in 1814 let him keep his title of Emperor and gave him his own island (Elba), and 400 men for a personal guard. That’s not at all the way Hitler would have been treated had he been captured. Hitler would have been executed in the same fashion Saddam Hussein was. Napoleon was well respected, even by the countries he had occupied.
According to a well-cited Wikipedia article, while in exile on Saint Helena he was held in quite high regard by the British people in general and several members of Parliament in particular. Lord Byron called him a romantic hero. When the Times in 1818 reported a rumor of his escape from the island, many Londoners put candles in their windows as a show of support.
Gaspard, Baron Gourgaud was a French soldier and personal friend of Napoleon and lived with him on St. Helena. He wrote Talk Of Napoleon At St. Helena.
Quoting Napoleon, “All religions since that of Jupiter inculcate morality. I would believe any religion that could prove it had existed since the beginning of the world. But when I see Socrates, Plato, Moses, and Mohammed I do not think there is such a one. All religions owe their origin to man.”
The idea of Bonaparte as devilish despot is well-attested through the 1820s to the 1870s ( when Prussia’s victory over France began the groundwork for fearing Germany over the traditional enemy of European peace, France [ during that war, the British began by supporting Prussia and ended by feeling sorry for the French ] and, perhaps the fact that nearly everyone who’d been in the Napoleonic Wars was very very old if alive ) and can be affirmed by reading books and magazines from the period. Some peoples, such as the Spanish, had no doubt as to his wickedness from the start, although, frankly French occupation was not particularly worse than their own governance by the Borbons.
By the 1890s a great re-evaluation took place with the British in particular pouring out volumes on his genius and his armies ( much the same thing really… ) ( Conan Doyle’s Brigadier Gerard dates from this period adding to the Mythos of The Cult ), although rarely admiring the structure of despotic government. Had his second liberal regime of 1815 stuck ( just as his nephew had to institute a second liberal regime in 1861, and perhaps Hitler, had he won the war, been necessitated by internal party opponents to institute liberal reforms for peace-time government in the 1950s ), there is little doubt that he would have been acclaimed as a statesman for making his position as self-chosen dictator redundant.
Autre temps, autre moeurs: they had less of a taste for executing statesmen at that period. Actually he was not that well-respected even by his own marshals or his own troops at the time; and the Spanish, the Germans and the Russians mostly detested him, but tolerated his rule since there was fuck all they could do about it till the Wars of Liberation began.
Not that everyone considers Saddam got a fair trial anyway. As The War Nerd’s famous essay, ‘Saddam Died Beautiful’, says:
Call him what you want, but Saddam was a man, a real man. One of the last. To me, watching that execution was like watching Planet of the Apes: a bunch of de-evolved primates killing the last man. Saddam looked like the 20th century in that overcoat and hat. He’d lost weight in prison. Never flinched, not once. You try that: going to the gallows with your blood enemies screaming insults at you. See if you can hold your bladder, never mind answer back as fast and calm as he did.
That was mainly a whig aristocratic oppositionist thing at the time: the tory aristocratic government was in power. Much like some British aristocrats and establishmentarians, such as the Cliveden Set, admired Hitler ( ‘Bulwark against Bolshevism’ etc. ) at a later date. And even during the second world war ordinary [ eg: not fascist or mosleyite ] British people were jailed for vocally suggesting Hitler was OK.
History’s Verdicts are subject to variability. And whatever is decided by the contemporary needs of historiographic propaganda.
I’m certain it was in a documentary, but it’s false.
Similar stories have put the blame on Rommel, British soldiers, and even to a 14th century muslim who was upset that the Egyptians were giving offerings to the Sphinx instead of praying to the true god.
All that is known for certain is that there are two sketches that date to 1737, and one shows the Sphinx with a nose and the other shows it without. The one without is a more detailed sketch, and many historians think the one with the nose is taking a bit of artistic license with the image.
If Napoleon had blasted the nose off of the Sphinx then no one would have drawn a picture of it already lacking a nose 50 years earlier.
Wow, thanks for the responses, everyone. I should’ve figured the Dope would be the best place to ask this.
The reason I asked this was because I heard the story in a lecture by a supposed expert on Ancient Egypt. I wasn’t in the best of moods that night, so I wondered if I was perhaps being a bit unfair, but hearing that just…rankled. The entire story just seemed to feed into this whole “craaaaazy pyramids” woo-woo that inevitably leads people to say “oh, by the way, the aliens built them.” He wasn’t necessarily spouting it as truth, but the way he said it sounded like he almost believed it. I was willing to entertain the possibility of some primary source somewhere…but I just couldn’t find anything.
I’d not heard the Alexander the Great version of the legend, though. Interesting.
Meh, didn’t think that would be noticed, people rarely read post-titles…
Just an in-joke on a caption from the original blog-post on the fortune-telling book, showing two clothed girls holding hands. Until the 1960s practically *anything *aroused people in repressed times. Including medical dictionaries and chicken manuals.
Manuals for chicken raising, with pictures of saucy wyandottes and minorca delilahs tempting the lonely farm labourer reading in his kitchen at night. Basically, before free porn on the internet there were fetishes for practically everything, including vacuum cleaners and shop mannequins.
Prolly still happening, but at least they don’t write about it on the walls of public conveniences anymore.
For instance, the Austrian neurologist and logotherapist Viktor Frankl once noted the case of a man with a sexual fetish involving, simultaneously, both frogs and glue.
You’re completely confusing British propaganda and history. You must be the one writing up those English wikipedia pages on the First World War I’ve been reading recently.
Continental Europe views and British propaganda are not interchangeable thing, I know this must come as a shock to you.