Napoleon and the Great Pyramid: Myth and Reality December 2, 2013Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern , trackback
One of the best WIBT (wish I’d been there) moments in history must have been that wonderful occasion when Napoleon ascended to the royal chamber in the Great Pyramid and asked to spend a minute alone with the pharoahs: perhaps it is so fantastically attractive as history because no one was there and so there is the mystery of just what happened. Here is a typical modern account, and there are several web pages that go into details of Napoleon’s likely vision within.
There is an interesting story about Napoleon on his visit to the Great Pyramid. He asked to be left alone in the King’s chamber. When he emerged, it was reported that he looked visibly shaken. When an aide asked him if he had witnessed anything mysterious, he replied that he had no comment, and that he never wanted the incident mentioned again. Years later, when he was on his deathbed, a close friend asked him what really happened in the King’s chamber. He was about to tell him and stopped. Then he shook his head and said, ‘No, what’s the use. You’d never believe me.’ As far as we know, he never told anyone and took the secret to his grave. (It is interesting to note that there is an unsubstantiated story that Napoleon had hinted that he was given some vision of his destiny during his stay in the King’s Chamber). Alexander the Great also spent time alone in the King’s Chamber like many famous people throughout history.
Now, Beach wrote above that no one was there with the Emperor, but actually, and this is rather embarassing, the Emperor wasn’t there either. Here is an account that deals with Napoleon and the pyramids.
On the 14th of July Bonaparte left Cairo for the Pyramids. He intended spending three or four days in examining the ruins of the ancient necropolis of Memphis; but he was suddenly obliged to alter his plan. This journey to the Pyramids, occasioned by the course of war, has given an opportunity for the invention of a little piece of romance. Some ingenious people have related that Bonaparte gave audiences to the mufti and ulemas, and that on entering one of the great Pyramids he cried out, ‘Glory to Allah! God only is God, and Mahomet is his prophet!’ Now the fact is, that Bonaparte never even entered the great Pyramid. He never had any thought of entering it. I certainly should have accompanied him had he done so, for I never quitted his side a single moment in the desert. He caused some persons to enter into one of the great Pyramids while he remained outside, and received from them, on their return, an account of what they had seen. In other words, they informed him there was nothing to be seen!
Bonaparte partit le 1 4 juillet du Caire pour les Pyramides. Il devait rester trois ou quatre jours sur les ruines de cet antique nëcropolis de Memphis. On verra tout-à-l’heure la cause de son prompt départ. Cette course aux Pyramides, nécessite’e par la guerre, a donne lieu à un petit roman bien arrange. On a voulu qu’il eût assigne rendez-vous au muphti. aux ule’mas, et qu’il se soit e’crie’ en entrant dans la grande pyramide: Gloire à Allah! Dieu seul est Dieu et Mahomet est son prophète. Or, Bonaparte n’est pas entre dans la grande pyramide, il n’en a pas même eu la volonté, ni la pense’e. Certes Je l’y aurais suivi. Je ne l’ai pas quitte une seconde dans ce desert. Il fit entrer quelques personnes dans l’une des grandes pyramides II se tenait devant, et en sortant on lui rendait compte de ce que l’on voyait dans l’intérieur, c’est-à-dire qu’on lui annonçait que l’on n’avait rien vu.
And who is this author? None other than Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Bonaparte’s private secretary in Egypt! The testimony is solid and the image of Napoloen chatting away with the spirit of Cheops has to be unfortunately written off as cobblers. There is though the question of how the legend emerged in the first place. In another passage (in another volume of his memoirs) Bourrienne criticises Sir Walter Scott in the roundest possible terms for claiming that Napoloen embraced Islam: this seems to have been a deliberate British misinterpretation of Napoloeon’s policy of general religious tolerance (we’ll leave Napoleon’s widespread murder and pillage for another occasion). There, in any case, Bourrienne claims that Walter Scott embellished his story with ‘the stupid farce of the burial chamber of the great pyramid’ (‘embellit son roman de la ridicule farce de la chambre sépulcrale de la grande pyramide’ ). It was there that allegedly Napoleon turned around with his ‘Glory to Allah!’ Beach has been unable to find any writing of Walter Scott where this takes place: can anyone help? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com However, even if Bourrienne somehow got his authors mixed up Napoleon did not go in the Great Pyramid.
Worth thinking what lying dogs we humans are. How many writers does it take to get from a British slur about Napoleon and Islam to Napoleon refusing to tell the secret of Cheops’ vision on his deathbed? and note the extraordinary use of ‘unsubstantiated’ in the quote above. No wonder history is a snare of tares.
2 Dec 2013: Beach was so busy rottweilering Napoleon that he passed Alexander the Great by. Luckily there was the Count at hand: Your post today quotes the following interesting claim within a passage which is already dubious: Alexander the Great also spent time alone in the King’s Chamber like many famous people throughout history. If I may quote Wikipedia, which nowadays is surprisingly reliable concerning most things: Today tourists enter the Great Pyramid via the Robbers’ Tunnel dug by workmen employed by Caliph al-Ma’mun around AD 820. The tunnel is cut straight through the masonry of the pyramid for approximately 27 metres (89 ft), then turns sharply left to encounter the blocking stones in the Ascending Passage. Unable to remove these stones, the workmen tunnelled up beside them through the softer limestone of the Pyramid until they reached the Ascending Passage. So how did Alexander the Great get in, or indeed any of the other “famous people throughout history” who died prior to the year 820? And was the claim about Napoleon researched with the same degree of exactitude?’ Thanks Count!
4 Dec 2013: Nene has found gold. She writes: I don’t know about Sir Walter Scott – delving through the Life of Napoleon Buonaparte is like trying to digest the indigestible – but in 1823, W.H. Ireland’s Anecdotes of Napoleon recounted the story of Napoleon’s “visit” to the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Right time period, wrong author perhaps?***Beach wonders. What is striking is that this passage is unquestionably favourable to Napoleon: that rather disgusting branch of British adorers of Napoleon. Had Walter Scott spoke somewhere of this anecdote in a negative light? Thanks Nene, the text follows on.
Napoleon’s visit to inspect the Pyramids is supposed to have had a two-fold object, independent of curiosity, it seems probable that he harboured an idea of some great treasures being therein concealed ; be this, however, as it may, the following is the singular conversation which took place upon that occasion, between himself and the three superior Muftis, Sulaman,Ibraham,and Muhammed, the tenor of which gave rise to those erroneous notions of Buonaparte’s having embraced the creed of Mahomet, in order to forward his ambitious views when in Egypt.
Accompanied by his staff and the members of the national institute, Buonaparte hastily surveyed the five inferior Pyramids, and then directed his course to the largest, called, ‘Cheops.’ Having proceeded to inspect the several chambers, he seated himself beneath a flattened vault, on a chest of granite, eight feet long and four feet deep, inviting the muftis, imans, etc. who accompanied him, to be seated also, when he began the following extraordinary conversation with the three muftis.
Buonaparte, God is great and marvellous are his works, but here we have a vast production of the human hand. What was the intention of the being who caused this Pyramid to be raised ?
Sulaman, He was a mighty and a powerful King of Egypt, who was called, as it’ is said, Cheops; and who thereby sought to prevent any sacrilegious hand from troubling the repose of his ashes.
Buon, The great Cyrus commanded, that when dead, his body should be left in the open air, in order that it might return to the elements. Dost thou not think that he did better? Tell me, my friend, what is thy opinion?
Sul, Glory to God! unto whom all glory is due.
Buon. Honour to Allah! who was the calif who caused this Pyramid to be opened, and troubled the ashes of the dead?
Muhammed. Some believe that H was Mahomed, commander of the faithful, who reigned many centuries at Bagdad; others say, it was the renowned Haroun Alraschid (peace to his manes), who conceived that he should find treasures there; but when, by his command, entrance was forced into this apartment, we are told by tradition, that he discovered only mummies there, and this inscription written on the wall: ‘The impious shall commit iniquity without recompense, but not without remorse.’
Buon, The bread stolen by the wicked, filleth his mouth with sand.
Muh, These are the words of wisdom!
Buon, Glory to Allah ! there is no other God, but God: — Mahomet is his prophet and I am his friend.
Sul: The salutation of peace to the envoy of God! salutation to thee also, invincible warrior, the favoured of Mahomet!
Buon. I thank thee, mufti: the Koran delighteth my soul, and is the object of my contemplation. I love the prophet, and I hope, ere long, to see and honour his tomb in the Holy City; but my mission is first to exterminate the Mamelukes.
Ibraham, May the angels of victory sweep the dust from thy path and cover thee with their wings! the Marmelukes hath deserved death.
Buon. He is smitten and delivered over to the black angels, Moukir and Quakir. God, on whom all things depend, hath ordained that his dominion shall be destroyed.
Sul. He hath extended the band of rapine throughout the land the harvests and the horses of Egypt.
Buon. And over the most beautiful slaves, Allah has withered his hand, thrice holy mufti: if Egypt be his portion, let him produce the lease which God hath given him for its possession; but Allah is just and merciful to his people.
Ibra. Ol most valiant among the children of Issa! (Jesus Christ) Allah hath caused thee to follow the exterminating angel to deliver his land of Egypt.
Buon. This land hath been a prey to twenty-four oppressors (rebels against the grand sultan, our ally, whom God turn to his glory), and to ten thousand slaves, from Candia and Georgia. Adriel, the angel of death, hath breathed upon them: we are come, and they have disappeared!
Muh. Right noble successor of Isnnder (Alexander), honour to thy invincible arms, and to the unexpected thunders issuing from thy warriors on horse.
Buon. Dost thou believe thunder to be the work of the children of men? Dost thou believe so? Allah hath placed it within my grasp, by his messenger the genius of war.
Ibra, In thy works we perceive the great Allah, who hath sent thee: couldst thou have conquered had not Allah permitted thee? The Delta and all the surrounding countries resound with thy miracles.
Buon, A celestial cloud will ascend at my command, to the region of the clouds, and the lightning wi11 descend to the earth by means of a metallic wire whensoever I ordain it.
SuL The great serpent which sprang from the base of Pompey’s pillar, on the day of thy triumphant entrance into Scanderisk, and which remained withered at the socket of the pedestal, was not that equally a prodigy effected by thine hand?
Buon. Lights of the age! ye are destined to behold still greater prodigies than these; for the days of regeneration are arrived.
Ibra. May the divine unity regard thee with the eye of predeliction, adorer of Issa! and render thee the support of the children of the prophet. ‘
Buon. Hath not Mahomet said, that every one who adoreth Allah, and performeth good works, be his religion what it may, shall yet be saved?
Whereto Sulaman and his colleagues replied:— Thus hath he said.
Buon, And if by a mandate from the omnipotent I have moderated the arrogance of the Vicar of Issa (the Pape), by diminishing his earthly possessions, to amass for him celestial treasures, was it not rendering glory unto God, whose mercy is infinite?
Muh, The mufti of Rome is rich and powerful, whereas we are but poor muftis.
Bwm. I know ye are poor; be without apprehension, for ye have been weighed in the balance of Balthazar, and ye have been found light. Will this Pyramid then contain no treasure whereof ye know?
Sul. (placing his hand on his heart) None, my lord! we swear to you by the holy city of Mecca!
Buon, Unhappy, yea thrice unhappy such! as seek for perishable riches, and covet gold and silver, which are like unto dust!
SuL Thou hast spared the Vicar of Issa and thou hast treated him with clemency and with goodness.
Buon, He is an old man; and I honour age: may God accomplish that which is ref^ulatied by reason and by truth: but he is blameable in condemning to eternal fire all the Mussulmans. Allah, preserve our race from such intolerance.
Ibra. Glory be to Allah and to his prophet! who hath dispatched thee in the midst of us, in order to rekindle the faith of the weak, and to throw open the gates of the seventh heaven unto the faithful.
Buon. You have declared my wishes, most zealous muftis! be faithful unto Allah, the sovereign ruler of the seven heavens, and unto Mahomet his vizier, who traversed the celestial mansions in a night. Be the friends of the Francs, so Allah, Mahomet, and the Francs shall recompense ye.
Ibra, May the prophet himself cause thee to sit at his left hand, on the day of the resurrection; after the third sound of the trumpet.
Buon, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear: the hour of political resurrection hath arrived for all such as groan under the lash of oppression.
Muftis, Imans, Mullahs, Dervises, and Kalenders! Instruct the people of Egypt, encourage them to unite in our labours, to complete the destruction of the Beys and the Mamelukes: favour the commerce of the Francs in your country, and their endeavours to gain the ancient land of Bramah. Let the Francs have storehouses in your ports, and drive far from you the islanders of Albion, accursed among the children of Issa! for such is the will of Mahomet. The treasures, the industry, and the friendship of the Francs shall be your lot, till ye shall arrive at the seventh heaven, and be seated near the black eyed houris, who are endowed with perpetual youth and virginity. Repose yourselves under the shade of Laba, whose branches of themselves, present to true Mussulmans whatsoever their hearts may desire.
Suh (bending reverentially) Thou hast delivered thyself like the most learned of the mullahs: we place faith in thy words: we will serve thy cause, and Allah hears us.
Buon, God is powerful and the works of his bands are marvellous: the salutation of peace rest upon ye, thrice holy muftis.
18 Dec 2013: Nene wrote back with this. Good news! I think I’ve identified where the mix-up comes in. The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, Emperor of the French, by the Author of “Waverly &tc.” Abridged by an American Gentleman (1827). The volume repeats WH Ireland’s story of Napoleon and the Great Pyramid very closely. Thanks Nene. This book was byWalter Scott and so the mystery is at least partially cleared up. Here is a link to Scott’s work on Bony. It would be interesting to be sure of his source.