Napoleon on the Métro

Napoleon on the Métro
Napoleon knew the value of recognition. A soldier, he said, “will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” The great man sought much grander honors for himself, so he would be pleased to know that posterity remembers him, especially in Paris, and not just in such great monuments as the Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe and the huge bronze column towering above the Place Vendôme. This year, the 200th anniversary of his death, is a good moment to reflect that of the 300+ metro stations in the city, more than 20 have names which are connected to him. Place Vendôme. Photo credit: Giorgio Galeotti/ Flickr He would be proudest of those named after his great battle victories. Taken chronologically, those recalling his Italian Campaign in the 1790s come first and the Battle of Rivoli in January 1797 was a key triumph. Napoleon, still in his 20s and France’s youngest general at the time, demonstrated early brilliance as a military commander by defeating a larger Austrian army and further victories followed swiftly. Both the Rue de Rivoli and the Louvre-Rivoli metro station reference this success. The Campo Formio station (Line 5) is named after the treaty of the same name, signed in October 1797, and giving France victory over Austria in his first Italian campaign. Bonaparte Before the Sphinx (c. 1886) by Jean-Léon Gérôme. Public domain. Pyramides (Lines 7 and 14) recalls Napoleon’s battle victory in Egypt in July 1798. Early in the French invasion of Egypt, he defeated the Ottomans in a battle fought near the village of Embabeh, but Napoleon made sure the battle was named after the pyramids. He had urged his troops to fight valiantly by pointing to the hugely impressive monuments and reminding them that “40 centuries look down upon you.” In fact, after early success, and going on to invade Cairo, his mission lost impetus against British troops, local insurgents and difficult conditions which spread disease among his men. In one of his less glorious moves, Napoleon left his troops under the command of one of his generals and returned to France. Napoleon takes the surrender of General Mack and the Austrian army at Ulm. Painting by Charles Thévenin. Public domain.

Lead photo credit : The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David (1804). Public domain

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.