Napoleon and Ancient Rome: The Models of the Republic and the Empire, 1779-1815

Federico Santangelo


The aim of this paper is to offer an historical account of the references that Napoleon made to ancient Rome in various passages of his biographical and political life, to assess them against the background of his education and his intellectual life, and to understand how those references to antiquity allowed him to reflect more deeply on his political project. The basic problem is therefore Bonaparte’s historical culture and the role it played in shaping his political outlook and his strategy of self-representation. Some authors and texts, both ancient and modern, are central to the discussion; iconographic sources will only be handled cursorily. The starting point is necessarily his early youth, since the encounter with Greek and Latin authors during the years spent at the military school of Brienne (1779-1784), while the endpoint will be the surrender to the British in July 1815; at Saint Helena Napoleon’s reflection on ancient history and classical literature intensifies and becomes more precise, but in an altogether different biographical and historical context.

Parole chiave

Napoleon Bonaparte; Napoleon I; Ancient Rome; Julius Caesar; Augustus; Latin epigraphy; Plutarch; Tacitus.

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