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The Egyptian Campaign

Updated: Nov 1, 2023


DW | Ancient Egypt

1.5 - The Egyptian Campaign


With an introduction to Ancient Egypt, we must first explore how we regained our knowledge of this time after the collapse of the Roman Empire. This began with Napoleon Bonaparte, and his Egyptian campaign of 1798-1801.

This French expedition to Egypt under his leadership not only had military objectives, but also encompassed an ambitious scientific endeavor. Bonaparte assembled 150 artists and scientists who landed with the army and began what we now call Egyptology - the study of anything and everything Egypt!


Napoleon's Mission

One of the primary goals of Napoleon's expedition was to gather knowledge about the land of ancient Egypt, its history, culture, and civilization. The French sought to study and document Egyptian monuments, ruins, and artifacts, aiming to unveil the mysteries of this ancient civilization.

Napoleon's expedition had a multidisciplinary approach, encompassing scholars from various scientific fields, including archaeology, architecture, engineering, botany, zoology, geology, and cartography.

The mission aimed to study Egypt's flora, fauna, topography, geology, and other natural phenomena. This scientific approach aimed to enhance the understanding of Egypt's natural history and contribute to broader scientific knowledge.

Napoleon's Motives

The expedition to Egypt was also driven by political and military motives. By establishing a French presence in Egypt, Napoleon aimed to challenge British influence in the region and control the important trade routes to India.

The scientific exploration served as a pretext for the military expedition, allowing Napoleon to secure support from scientists, intellectuals, and the French public.

The Final Result: The Description de l'Égypte

One of the most significant achievements of Napoleon's expedition was the production of the "Description de l'Égypte" (Description of Egypt).

This 10-volume publication comprised numerous volumes and included detailed surveys, measurements, drawings, and descriptions of ancient Egyptian monuments, temples, and artifacts. It became a seminal resource for Egyptology and had a profound impact on the study of ancient Egyptian history and archaeology.


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