Napoleon and Caesar
Napoleon Bonaparte's success as a military leader and conqueror can also be seen in
another great leader, Julius Caesar. Both Napoleon and Caesar achieved great glory by
bringing their countries out of turmoil. It was Caesar, that Napoleon modeled himself
after, he wanted to be as great, if not greater than Caesar.
Looking to the past, Napoleon knew what steps to take in order to achieve success
Napoleon devoured books on the art of war. Volume after volume of military theory was
read, analyzed and criticized. He studied the campaigns of history's most famous
commanders; Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Frederick the Great and his favorite and
most influential, Julius Caesar (Marrin 17).
Julius Caesar was the strong leader for the Romans who changed the course of history of
the Greco - Roman world decisively and irreversibly. Caesar was able to create the
Roman Empire because of his strength and his strong war strategies (Duggan 117).
Julius Caesar was to become one of the greatest generals, conquering the whole of Gaul.
In 58 BC, Caesar became governor and military commander of Gaul, which included
modern France, Belgium, and portions of Switzerland, Holland, and Germany west of the
Rhine. For the next eight years, Caesar led military campaigns involving both the Roman
legions and tribes in Gaul who were often competing among themselves. Julius Caesar
was a Roman general and statesman whose dictatorship was pivotal in Rome's transition
from republic to empire (Duggan 84).
Caesar's principles were to keep his forces united; to be vulnerable at no point, to strike
speedily at critical points; to rely on moral factors, such as his reputation and the fear he
inspired, as well as political means in order to insure the loyalty of his allies and the
submissiveness of the conquered nations. He made use of every possible opportunity to
increase his chances of victory on the battlefield and, in order to accomplish this, he
needed unity of all his troops (Duggan 117).
From the time that he had first faced battle in Gaul and discovered his own military
genius, Caesar was evidently fascinated and obsessed by military and imperial problems.
He gave them an absolute priority over the more delicate by no less fundamental task of
revising the Roman constitution. The need in the latter sphere was a solution which
would introduce such elements of authoritarianism, which were necessary to check
corruption and administrative weakness (Grant, Caesar 61).
The story of all his battles and wars has been preserved in Caesar's written account,
Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, originally published in 50 B.C. For this period, Caesar
is the only existent source providing first-hand descriptions of Britain. While no doubt
self-serving in a political sense when written, Caesar's account is nevertheless regarded as
basically accurate and historically reliable (Frere 68).