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1798-9: Napoleon in Egypt

The Aftermath

Despite success at the Battle of Aboukir, Napoleon was conscious that his expedition had not transformed the situation in Mediterranean in France’s favour. With the French Mediterranean fleet destroyed, there was no hope of receiving substantial reinforcements. Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile had effectively doomed his expedition to failure. Napoleon knew that attrition would only force his army to dwindle over time until there was virtually nothing left.


Meanwhile, news reach Egypt of the War of the Second Coalition. France was losing ground in Italy and Germany. Napoleon decided his military prowess would be of more use in France, and that the weak French government (the Directory) was likely to be in a position to fall. He therefore decided to return to France, abandoning his army in Egypt. After a short stop in Corsica, Napoleon arrived back in France on the 9th October and captivated the French with stories of exotic battles against a savage enemy. His cultural expedition had the desired effect of heightening Napoleon’s status as great leader, soldier and explorer, and the streets of Paris rang with stories of Napoleon’s success. His failures, and his abandonment of his army, were conveniently ignored.

Napoleon during the coup of 18 Brumaire

By Francois Bouchot

The Directory kept a close eye on Napoleon yet did not punish him for his “desertion” in taking his army on an unapproved adventure into Syria. A political group known as the “Revisionists” were quick to contact Napoleon after his arrival in Paris and explain to him their plan to ‘revise the constitution’. This was the beginning of the coup d’état of 18-19 Brumaire (9-10th November 1799 in non-revolutionary calendar terms).


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