Napoleon's Rise to Power

by Jacob Olson

Early Military Life

Napoleon went through military school at an early age of 16, he passed France's military academy in 1785, where he learned strategy and how to fight. He became a second lieutenant in the artillery regiment of the French army. Napoleon was full of ambition and skill, which would help him conquer Europe in years to come.

Rising Through The Ranks

Napoleon quickly rose through the military ranks during the French Revolution and sooner or later found himself commander of the French republican forces at the Siege of Toulon in 1793. The city was held jointly by Royalist and British forces within the city, and Napoleon led the successful assault - being shot in the leg in the process - reclaiming the strategic port for France. For his successful raid and his heroism in battle, Napoleon was immediately promoted to the rank of brigadier general, and less than two years later, he was appointed Commander of the Army of the Interior in October of 1795.

Napoleon's Territorial Gains for France

Since 1792, France’s revolutionary government had been engaged in military conflicts with various European nations. In 1796, Napoleon commanded a French army that defeated the larger armies of Austria, one of his country’s primary rivals, in a series of battles in Italy. In 1797, France and Austria signed the Treaty of Campo Formio, resulting in territorial gains for the French.

The Directory of France

The Directory, the five-person group that had governed France since 1795, offered to let Napoleon lead an invasion of England. Napoleon determined that France’s naval forces were not yet ready to go up against the superior British Royal Navy. Instead, he proposed an invasion of Egypt in an effort to wipe out British trade routes with India. Napoleon’s troops scored a victory against Egypt’s military rulers, the Mamluks, at the Battle of the Pyramids in July 1798; soon, however, his forces were stranded after his naval fleet was nearly decimated by the British at the Battle of the Nile in August 1798.

The Siege of Acre

In early 1799, Napoleon’s army launched an invasion of Ottoman-ruled Syria, which ended with the failed siege of Acre, located in modern-day Israel. That summer, with the political situation in France marked by uncertainty, the ever-ambitious and cunning Napoleon opted to abandon his army in Egypt and return to France. The picture is of present day Acre now called Akko.


In November 1799, in an event known as the coup of 18 Brumaire, Napoleon was part of a group that successfully overthrew the French Directory. So they could try and establish a new government to gain more control over France. The Directory was then replaced with a three-member Consulate, and Napoleon became first consul, making him France’s leading political figure. In June 1800, at the Battle of Marengo, Napoleon’s forces defeated one of France’s perennial enemies, the Austrians, and drove them out of Italy. The victory helped cement Napoleon’s power as first consul.

Napoleon and Post-Revolutionary France

Napoleon worked to restore stability to post-revolutionary France. He centralized the government; instituted reforms in such areas as banking and education; supported science and the arts; and sought to improve relations between his regime and the pope (who represented France’s main religion, Catholicism), which had suffered during the revolution. One of his most significant accomplishments was the Napoleonic Code, which streamlined the French legal system and continues to form the foundation of French civil law to this day.

Napoleon Crowns Himself Emperor of France

In 1802, a constitutional amendment made Napoleon first consul for life. Two years later, in 1804, he crowned himself emperor of France in a lavish ceremony at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. By 1807, Napoleon’s empire stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.

Why Napoleon was so Important

Napoleon Bonaparte is a figure of world-historical importance because his policies most particularly his wars ended up transforming Europe and the wider world irreversible. What the Revolution did in France, he did in the wider globalized world. Without his actions, Europe outside of France likely would have remained rather more traditional and conservative than was actually the case, with huge implications for the future balance of power.

Quotes From Napoleon

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

- Use your enemies' mistake to your advantage.

A leader is a dealer in hope.

- Being a leader, you provide hope

He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.

- If you are afraid of being conquered you will be defeated when conquered.

Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.

- Living defeated and without glory is as if you are dying daily, live everyday in glory and be undefeated.

#Leader #Conqueror #Powerful