Diameter: 57.000 mm
Gift of Dr F. Parkes Weber
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Bronze medal of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Battle of the Pyramids, by Jean Joseph Dubois
Paris, France, around AD 1798
Blood on the Nile: Napoleon's great victory in Egypt
Napoleon's campaign in Egypt was marked by tactical innovation and the building of a legend as a military hero. On 21 July 1798 on the west banks of the Nile, his 25,000 strong army faced 40,000 Egyptian troops led by Murad Bey. The spectacular backdrop of the pyramids at Giza flanked the ragged infantry and horsemen of the Egyptians, while the even larger army of Ibrahim Bey watched from the other side of the Nile, unable to join the battle. The presence of the ancient monuments inspired Napoleon to utter the exhortation: 'Soldiers – forty centuries look down upon you'. An innovative arrangement of his troops (in 'divisional squares') allowed the army to repulse the wild attacks of the Mamluk horsemen, to storm the Egyptian camp (suffering few casualties) and to live up to their leaders' sense of history.
The drama of the scene and an idealized portrayal of the heroic general are captured in this medal. The reverse shows Napoleon inspiring his troops, ordering them forward with the pyramids behind. We know little about Dubois, apart from the fact that he was a draughtsman of some repute and an archaeologist.
L. Forrer, Biographical dictionary of m-2, vol. 1 (London, Spink, 1912)