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November 3, 2011

Heads will roll

On November 3, 1798 six men were beheaded in Cairo, on the orders of General Napoleon Bonaparte.  They lost their heads only months after General Bonaparte landed “The Army of Egypt” to liberate the Egyptian people from the terror of the Mameluke Beys. Now, Napoleon was seen by many as the Mameluke.

So, what happened since June?

It’s true that the men beheaded were involved in an insurrection.  They were labeled “men of violent and intractable character.”* However, Napoleon was coming from the land of revolution, his stated aim was bring the revolution, to bring liberty, equality, and fraternity to Egypt. 

On the 30th day of June, 1798, Napoleon landed just outside of Alexandria to bring civilisation back to its cradle.  In a few years, Monsieur Bonaparte would be remembered as the man who brought tyranny of the Mamelukes to Spain.

Why did Napoleon Bonaparte change?  Did Egypt give him a taste of reality, or a thirst for power?  Or, was the world changing around Napoleon? 

And what really happened in Cairo?

An interesting and entertaining account is given in Paul Strathern’s Napoleon in Egypt.  Does Strathern have the answer?

[to be continued.]

* the English translation of Napoleon’s words here are taken from Stratham’s book.