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Napoleon Bonaparte as hero and saviour: image, rhetoric and behaviour in the construction of a legend

By Philip G. Dwyer


The media of the day represented three predominant models around Napoleon: the all-conquering victorious general, the virtuous republican who stood above factions, and the man who brought peace to the Continent. These images became the foundation of a ‘hero-saviour’ myth that helped Napoleon take power on his return from Egypt at the end of 1799. However, they sit uncomfortably with the manner in which he represented power in public that, outside France, took on quasi-monarchical trappings. This article attempts to explain not only the origins and evolution of Napoleonic propaganda in the early years of his career, but also the ambiguity between the political imagery and rhetoric used to promote Napoleon in France on the one hand, and the manner in which he behaved in public outside France on the other. The hero-saviour myth was further developed and exploited during the Consulate and the Empire as a means of legitimating Napoleon's accession to power

Topics: Napoleon, hero-saviour myth, Napoleonic propaganda, political imagery, France, Consulate and the Empire, power
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2004
DOI identifier: 10.1093/fh/18.4.379
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