During the Revolution, Napoleon held several commands in the French army, earning praise and fame for lifting the British siege of Toulon and putting down several revolts against the National Convention. When a new government called the Directory was created in 1796, Napoleon was promoted to Commander of the French Army in the Italian Peninsula, and married his long-time love, Josephine de Beauharnais.
Napoleon won many victories on the Italian Peninsula. By 1796, Austria had become France’s chief enemy. Napoleon started his attack on Austria, his first big campaign. Napoleon defeated four armies larger than his own.
Napoleon knew he needed more influence to gain control. Concentrating on improving his military reputation, Napoleon sailed off for Africa (specifically Egypt) with 38,000 men in May 1798. Napoleon won on land, but lost his fleet to British Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. Though Napoleon’s army was now stranded in Egypt, he left his troops and went back to France. Napoleon had returned before news of his disaster in Egypt was known, so his reputation was saved. Once back in France however, he joined the plot to topple the Directory.
Also, though it wasn’t realized at the time, Napoleon’s soldiers discovered an old stone tablet of laws with Greek and Egyptian written on it. This tablet, later called “The Rosetta Stone”, would allow the world to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Admiral Horatio Nelson Napoleon “Freeing” Egypt from England