NAPOLEON BEFORE THE SPHINX


The most well-known myth about the Sphinx’s missing nose is that it was blasted off by French troops on the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte.

It is simply not true.

By the time Napoleon waded through Egypt during his ultimately unsuccessful campaign, the nose of the Sphinx was already long gone.

I tried to find the earliest source for this myth but have been unable to come up with anything earlier than the beginning of the 20th century. One such account I found is that of a traveller who visited the Sphinx around the time of the First World War. He writes.

How many reams of rubbish have been written about this misshapen block of stone? Napoleon, a practical man, fired a few cannonballs at its face.

Another scholar writes,

The scars, inflicted by Napoleon’s soldiers, who used its mystifying and majestic countenance as a target. That, however, is only a legend for the tourist,

So it seems that the legend of Napoleon’s troops blasting the Sphinx’s nose off started around the beginning of the 20th century when the Sphinx and the pyramids were becoming hot tourist sites,

It is of note to say at this point that there is evidence of the nose being destroyed much earlier in history. Of which one such source points out.

In 1380 AD the Sphinx fell victim to the iconoclastic ardour of a fanatical Muslim ruler, who caused deplorable injuries to the head. It fell victim to the Mamluks.

It’s safe to say that Napoleon was not responsible for the disfigurement of The Sphinx. It was already damaged by the time he got to Egypt.

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