Ingress Into Egypt: Napoleon, Tipu Sultan And Their Battles To End The ‘Iron Yoke’ Of England
Once celebrated as ‘the temple of the whole world’, Egypt was the repository of infinite knowledge in myriad disciplines that marked the apogee of humankind’s accomplishments over millennia. Like a beacon, the northern African nation disseminated the fundamentals of literature, art, architecture, science, medicine, religion, and kingship far and wide.
Mother Egypt lovingly embraced all those who sojourned to her glistening shores, braving the dangerous oceans and unsparing deserts. Endless was the list of commoners and kings forever entranced by the country’s infinite allure; each one transformed by his or her unrivalled experience in this crucible of myth, magic, and mysticism.
Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1874) Milwaukee Art Museum. (Public Domain)
Vignettes of a Timeless Land
While early travelers and scholars perceived the vast country as a fount of immaculate knowledge, Egypt was also renowned as a treasure chest of unimaginable riches; as the Greek poet Homer noted in Book 9 of The Iliad ‘… in Egyptian Thebes the heaps of precious ingots gleam, the hundred-gated Thebes’.
With the mystique of this ancient country flourishing unabated down the ages, the Egyptians themselves knew their homeland as Kemet, meaning ‘the black land’ in reference to the black alluvial soil of the Nile floodplains, in contrast to Djeseret, or ‘the red land’ denoting the forbidding areas of the vast deserts. The Greeks named the country Aegyptos, their vocalization of ‘ Het-Ka-Ptah’ (Mansion of the Spirit of Ptah), after the cult center of Ptah at Memphis, Egypt’s first capital and a renowned religious and trade center.
Statue of Ptah. Third Intermediate Period (ca 1070–712 BC) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Public Domain)
The cynosure of all eyes, Egypt was reduced to a mere Roman province in 30 BC after Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus, defeated his rivals Mark Antony and Pharaoh Cleopatra VII Philopator, deposing her and annexing her Ptolemaic Kingdom to the Roman Empire.
Most likely a posthumously painted portrait of Cleopatra with red hair and her distinct facial features, wearing a royal diadem and pearl-studded hairpins (First century AD) Roman Herculaneum, Italy. (Ángel M. Felicísimo/CC BY-SA 2.0)
With the last of the native god-like monarchs now gone, the socio-political landscape of Egypt encountered a series of rapid geo-political changes that spanned the following few centuries: the introduction of Christianity by the Apostle St. Mark (c. First century AD), the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire (c. Fifth century AD), and the advent of Islam (c. Seventh century AD).
Narratives of travelers during the Middles Ages (Fifth to 15th centuries AD) recorded the astonishing sights they beheld in the strange and exotic land. Subsequently, scholarly European visitors began to take an interest in Egyptian history by the 16th and 17th centuries.
For the price of a cup of coffee, you get this and all the other great benefits at Ancient Origins Premium. And - each time you support AO Premium, you support independent thought and writing.
Top Image: Napoleon Crossing the Alps. Oil on canvas by Jacques-Louis David, (1801 and 1805). Unteres Belvedere (Public Domain) and Tipu Sultan, known as the Tiger of Mysore, firing at his adversaries during the siege of Seringapatam, (1791). (Public Domain); Deriv. Design by Anand N. Balaji
By: Anand N. Balaji
Baedeker, K. 1914. Egypt and the Sudan - Handbook for Travellers. Leipzig: Baedeker.
Dicey, E. 1902. The Story of The Khedivate. London: Rivingtons.
Fagan, B.M. 1975. The Rape of the Nile: Tomb Robbers, Tourists, and Archaeologists in Egypt. New York: Scribner.
Ludwig, E. 2009. Napoleon. Ishi Press.
Monbiot, G. 2012. ‘ Deny the British empire’s crimes? No, we ignore them’. The Guardian. 23 April, 2012.
Nehru, J. 1946. The Discovery of India. Calcutta: The Signet Press.
Norris, P.K. 1934. Cotton Production in Egypt. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture.
Narasimha, R. 1985. Rockets in Mysore and Britain, 1750-1850 A.D. Bangalore: National Aerospace Laboratories.
Reid, D.M. 2003. Whose Pharaohs? Archaeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Smith, V.A. 1919. The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the end of 1911. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
Thompson, J. 2015. Wonderful Things, A History of Egyptology 1: From Antiquity to 1881. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.
Tharoor, S. 2016. An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India. New Delhi: Aleph Book Company.