Thursday 19 February 2009

Sand, Soldiers and the Sphinx

Listen up good people...
this blog is descending into froth and cake crumbs.
I think that an Educational Post is called for. we are going to talk about

Napoleon in Egypt

I am betting that none of you know anything about it.
So we all get educated
but we also get to look at nice pictures.

Napoleon and the Sphinx - Jean León Gérôme

Napoleon decided to invade Egypt
because he wanted to stop British Imperial expansion.
Which was a mistake.

Napoleon at Alexandria

He evaded the British navy in the Mediterranean,
landed at Alexandria and fought the Mamelukes
at the Battle of the Pyramids in July 1798.

Mameluke - check out that style!

It all started so well
but then Admiral Nelson trapped the French fleet
and defeated it at the Battle of the Nile in August 1798.

Battle of the Nile - Thomas Whitcombe

Which left Napoleon stuck among the sand dunes.

And after various horrible sieges and other small campaigns
Napoleon returned to France in August 1799
leaving an army of 8,000 soldiers behind.

Battle of the Pyramids - Antoine-Jean Gros

1n 1801 the French surrendered to the British and went home.
It had been an expensive foray.

However, Napoleon had a sense of destiny
and had taken a group of scientists, engineers and painters.

Interior of a Weaver's Workshop - Nicolas Jacques Conte

And so we have an extraordinary record of the campaign
And the exotic world that they found.

Watercolour - Baron Dominique Vivant Denon

They removed enormous quantities of Egyptian antiquities
into the streets and museums of Paris
and the artistic influence filtered through
into much of European 18th century life.

Sevres Fruit Bowl, 1804

So now you know.

This post was inspired by a visit to L'Institut du Monde Arabe
Which has impressed my colleagues.
Especially when I tell them that
we had meze for lunch in the Institut restaurant.
Oh yes!


M said...

Now, that was fascinating. I am a descendent of one of Nelson's ship commanders - Lt Richard Spencer - I wonder whether he was involved in such exotic battles on the Nile and such. Must look it up.

A lovely raise of tone for the blogging world. My next post on knitting and crochet will be very down at heel by comparison.

Anonymous said...

You eat at the most intellectual of places!

Ali said...

Consider me educated!

Gina said...

So much information so early in the morning! Now I'm feeling educated I'm off for tea, cake and a bit of knitting!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I am reading a novel that takes place in the same time period and this is mentioned in it.

The Coffee Lady said...

how timely, since I have just been reading about Napoleon in my Big Book (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell).

Having said that, I see nothing AT ALL wrong with froth and cake crumbs

Anonymous said...

I needed a break from my day at the office and your last three blogs are just what was needed. Delightful as always!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting history lesson indeed, Alice.

Let me know if you need any help with part two: Napoleon at Waterloo.

Anonymous said...

Wait, I think I know something! Didn't the sphinx lose her nose when napoleon's soldiers used her for target practice? Or perhaps it was someone else. Very nice pictures -- thanks!

dottycookie said...

Lovely history, but I'm an unabashed fan of froth and cake crumbs too!

blackbird said...

Am now rather fond of the Mamelukes.

(And am certainly hoping that no one wanders by my blog looking for such fascinating information.)

BreadBox said...

Interestingly enough, one of the most famous of all mathematicians, Joseph Fourier, was one of the leaders of Napolean's expeditions to Egypt, and is equally famous in the Egyptology community. Very few people in one community know of his fame in the other!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is proper blogging. None of that silly girly stuff about cakes or sewing. To follow up, I hope you will write a piece about Edward Saïd's Orientalism!