August 16, 2012 cameron

Top 10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes

To celebrate Napoleon’s 243rd birthday (August 15), I thought I’d bring you some of my favourite quotes from the man. Feel free to share yours in the comments section!

  1. “Death is nothing; but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.”

  2. “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.”

  3. “I saw the crown of France laying on the ground, so I picked it up with my sword.”

  4. “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon.”

  5. “He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.”

  6. “Victory belongs to the most persevering.”

  7. “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”

  8. “If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god.”

  9. “Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.”

  10. “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”


Comments (78)

    • Nelson Putram

      And me, I think I would have been or would make a Good Pope :–) xN

  1. stephen

    I feel i missed a lot not to have physically seen the great man Napoleon.
    To me he is the greatest of world leaders and he is second to non besides God’s prophets.
    wao i wish he was a ugandan! any way God created him a french & that is it.
    The day i will visit France, i will consult some one to just take me were Napoleon lived during his time when alive.

      • Rudzleeium

        I think the greatest leader is Alexander the Great, Niccollo Machiavelli and his idea of amoral Pragmatism comes last for he claim great power through powers.

      • Nelson Putram

        Sir Winston Churchhill, was one of the Mighty Leaders,or am I going a bit to modern xN.

        • Tis'me

          The man was a cowardly dog who hated everything but his fat bloated ego. Responsible for the deaths of literally millions

      • Ben franklin

        Maybe you meant Machiavelli was the best WRITER about leadership? He aspired to power and sought an appointment in the politics of Florence, Italy. At one point he controlled the militia of Florence, but that was the highest post he achieved. He studied everything he could about leadership but was exiled from politics by the Medicis in 1513. While in exile he wrote “The Prince” perhaps to demonstrate he was fit for leadership in Florence, that was controlled by the Medicis. If that was his motive, he didn’t succeed…. all he did was create a treatise to help others to achieve power, that he could never use himself to achieve the high office he wanted so badly.

    • jakesteed

      As Yoda said ‘wars make not one great’…. Napoleon ranks among warmonger dictators. If you find war repulsive then do not make a hero out of Napoleon the dictator who forced conscription on civilians in countries the French army occupied, and conscripted 14 year old boys to fight in his ‘glorious’ 1814 campaigns. Napoleon was not born in France btw,- he was born a Corsican. Don’t get me started on Alexander ‘the Great’s’ atrocities and massacres. Quotes of conquest for kids to learn is disturbing and turns them into Cheneys/ Saddams/ Corporation Lawyers/ Wall Street pirates etc etc.

      • Cameron

        Jake, I can’t agree with you that Napoleon was either a ‘warmonger’ or a ‘dictator’. Nearly all of the wars he fought in were defensive.

          • Hayden

            Wow, you sound like a total Marxist poosay. Ease up on the soy. ‘Merica.

      • Jack

        Compassion is a luxury unavailable for the men who must make the hard and necessary decisions for ones country. Though it is desirable but doesn’t stand hand in hand with leadership. Only a few leaders does this negate.

      • Frank

        Corsica was French at this time. What you say is like telling “he was not born in the USA but in New York!”.

      • Denis

        Corsica is French, and don’t tell Corsicans they are not French. And Napoleon was not a dictator!

    • Nelson Putram

      I must agree with you, he was a GREAT AND WISE LEADER, BRAVE AND WITH GREAT DIGNITY. xN.

    • GI Joe

      You are sick. How many good people died following a fool lusting after personal grandiousity. He was an ass a French Hitler.

      • cameron

        Hey GI Joe, Napoleon was defending his country against foreign enemies. As we pointed out many times, he didn’t start the wars against France. He inherited them.

      • Phi

        Most of the european government today are based off the napoleonic code and dont ever compare napoleon to hitler.

  2. Abhishek

    Its a awesome quotes ever by nepoleon.Its impressive for youngsters and if we learn or fallow tis we are good to made a life!!

  3. Katende Arnold

    All great leaders stood a before there words
    But Napoleon’s words were his Arsenal

  4. Harry Drawson

    I agree with the quote No.6 “Victory belongs to the most persevering.”

  5. sachin

    i appreciate napoleon word that is”if you provide me a powerfull army. within 6 min england on my feet

  6. Don

    Napoleon was the Hitler of the 19th century with the exception he had some military talent as a general. His popularity is hugely overblown. Example: in Paris nothing is named “Napoleon. No streets, no nothing. The French of his time became thoroughly fed up with his wars that killed off a significant portion of the young men of his country. And these deaths don’t count the misery and death he causes in other countries.

    • Cameron

      Don, that statement is patently ridiculous. Did Napoleon try to systematically wipe out any minority? No. Did Napoleon start any of the wars that the French participated in? No. He fought defensively against the European tyrants who were trying to re-install the Bourbon monarchy. If anything, Napoleon was the complete opposite of Hitler.

    • Jason Black

      I’m sorry Don, but your post makes no sense.
      As far as I know, Napoleon didn’t murder 6.000,000 of any specific ethnic group for their ethnicity or religion alone, didn’t use their body fat to make soap, or their skin to make lampshades. Didn’t carry out all manner of ‘medical’ experiments on them whilst they were still alive, either.
      Napoleon didn’t institutionalize the mass murder of homosexuals or gypsies, either.
      Neither did he require his soldiers to prove the ethnicity of themselves and their proposed spouses for a number of generations before allowing them to wed.
      As far as I know, Napoleon never preferred the destruction of France in defeat since (to paraphrase Hitler) ‘losing was proof that they did not deserve to survive as a nation’.
      Napoleon was ambitious, and certainly single-minded.
      Hitler was simply out of his mind.

    • mary

      Don, you clearly have never been to Paris much less anywhere. ASome of the greatest monuments in Paris are ones that were constructed by Napoleon. Take for example the Arc de Triomphe where now the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies. There are several gorgeous bridges across the Seine in Paris that are named after famous battles(Austerlitz, Iena) and he had the idea for the glorious Pont des Arts. His generals names are used for many of the long boulevards throughout the city. He is buried in the heart of Paris in a most glorious Residence of the Invalides (injured veterans). Just saying…. you can’t swing a dead cat without running into something napoleonic in Paris! And btw, the ‘napoleon’ pastry is called a ‘mille feuille’ in French! Did I mentioned the fact that he was a brilliant military tactician too?? Signals and telescopes, and oh I forgot to mention the Military Academy in Saint Cyr renowned for the cavalry corps and the invention of dressage, the training of military horses for maneouvres (en francais) used in war. The end (but there is more haha).

    • Frank

      Napoleon’s success is not only due to Napoleon. In France you can find statues and streets referring to Napoleon but also to his Generals (Massena and others..). In the other hand you can find the names of Napoleonic best successes written everywhere in France. Even one of the biggest train station in Paris is called ” Austerlitz “. And even if you don’t see Napoleon’s name written, the french don’t have destroyed any of his monuments and they are everywhere.

      The thing people outside France often don’t learn is Napoleon grown in a Freemason family. His father was a mason, his brother was one, his wife was a mason and we suspect him to get initiated during his trip to Egypt. Most of his allied were masons, there were one Lodge per military division in Napoleon’s army, many of the things considered as made by Napoleon like the ” Code Civil ” were made by the French Freemasonry. Then when Napoleon started losing control in France the Freemasonry abandoned him and it highly participated to his anxiety and to the end of is reign.

      As you say Napoleon was not totally famous, some of the greatest French writers didn’t like him much (see Victor Hugo) but even these people were in admiration to his successes. Napoleon belongs to the “Romantisme” movement of french “Littérature”. The problem with french history seen from the outside is that people often have in mind a few names such as Napoleon or De Gaul.. because of that they think these few persons did everything in France and it’s perfectly wrong and a kind of a lack of knowledge regarding French history and its people.. ex: Massena, Foch, Clémenceau (The Tiger), Leclerc, Murat, Ne, Jean Lannes (without this man Napoleon woudl have died in 1796), etc…

    • ajas

      In france thers an airport itself in dedication to him
      known as Ajaccia nepoleon bonaparte airport. That is just an example. He isnt comparable with hitler and..he was against fudalism

    • Dan

      Don, you are totally out of touch with this topic. I have heard other people bring up this same point and it disgusts me. Napoleon did not attempt to eliminate a particular human race. Sure Frenchmen died during his wars, that is part of being in a war. Napoleon rescued France coming out of the revolution and the reign of terror. He gave the country stability.

    • Bird

      You realize Napoleon freed the Jews throughout Europe right? Jewish people were forced in ghettos and treated poorly. Napoleon changed that and is partially credited with creating Zionism.

      You must’ve read a bunch of bullshit British propaganda to call the man that did more for the Jews of Europe in a 300 year period than anyone to the shit bag that led the Holocaust.

    • Travis Bunn

      If you knew anything about the subject, Hitler used racial fear an hate to get into power.
      Once in power, Hitler was an evil dictator.

      Napoleon used the French Revolution to gain power and once in Power, he was a great leader and put an end to the revolution which no one else before him had done since the revolutions start.

      Hitler tried to destroy a whole religious race and minorities such as gays and the disabled in the Holocaust.

      Napoleon did the complete opposite and actually encouraged religion as he realised it’s power.
      When in Egypt he claimed to have been a Muslim, In Europe he was Christian. He lied about his religion to make his subjects comfortable to work with him.

      Hitler claims to have been in want of making Germany great again, yet made Germany suffer under his leadership.

      Napoleon genuinely made France and the French people better of. The only similarity here being to bring both nations out of economic crisis.

      Hitler wanted Germany to expand across Europe and America, to rule the world.

      Napoleon only had French interests at heart and most of his wars were defensive.

      You can not compare an evil dictator to a man that should be idolised and maybe even made a saint on the same level as Joan of Arc.

  7. Chris

    Quite frankly, I think either stance which utterly condemns Napoleonic for supposed warmongering and cruelty or comprehensively defends him, claiming that all of his wars were fought in the defense of his country is lacking in objectivity.

    I’m a big fan of Napoleon’s as a historical figure. Do I admire his values, his morals, his character? Certainly not. He was shrewd, he was cunning, he was a charmer, but he was also incredibly ruthless and pragmatic. In terms of his historical legacy – independent from his moral values and virtues – I think one has to candidly admit that Napoleon’s obsessive Anglophobia contributed greatly to many of his wars, to thousands of deaths, and to his eventual downfall.
    Why did he invade Russia? Why did he seek to invade Portugal and opportunistically place his brother Joseph on Spain’s throne? Heck, why did he launch an expedition to Egypt? Because he selfishly, ambitiously, and without scruple wanted to bring down England.

    Of course what Cameron is saying is also true to some degree. Napoleon is often demonized excessively for warmongering, though many of his wars were indeed fought in defense (though by no means -all- of them). The man also had obvious charisma, led by example, and his troops (and, from my research, the Westphalian troops) absolutely admired and respected him.

    Ultimately, my assessment is mixed. Though I do like what he had to say at the end of his life about the Divinity of Jesus. To me, that is the mark of a changed heart and a changed man.

    • Cameron


      I disagree that Napoleon suffered from “Anglophobia”. Where did he ask to spend his retirement after his final abdication? England! England were the warmongers, not Napoleon. They financed the wars against France, BEFORE Napoleon’s rule as well as during it.

      Was France at peace before Napoleon became consul? NO. He inherited the wars against the monarchs. There is no disputing that.

      When he dispatched one of France’s enemies, did he annex the country? NO. He signed a peace treaty. Did Hitler sign peace treaties??

      Russia – Napoleon tried everything he could to prevent war with Alexander, until Alexander finally cut off all diplomatic communication and started amassing troops heading towards Poland.

      Portugal – This is the one war that I agree with you. I said so on the show. I think David even concurred. While we understand his reasons (the Continental System was the only way he could envision cutting off England’s meddling in European affairs), his invasion of Portugal was still wrong.

      Spain – he was invited to enter Spain by de Godoy and Charles IV. It wasn’t an attack. I think putting Joseph on the throne was a terrible idea, but that’s a different discussion.

      I’ve never claimed Napoleon was perfect, but he definitely wasn’t a warmonger. He inherited the mess.

      He also wasn’t afraid to go to war when required, but he never sought it.

      As for his Christian conversion, nobody really believes that, do they? He spent his life as an atheist. There’s no way he converted on his death bed. That’s pure fiction.

      • Jason Black

        Sorry, I’m afraid that I have to take issue with calling England ‘warmongers’. It was a pragmatic decision in the best self-interest of the British state to fight Napoleon. You can’t blame states for acting in their own best self-interest.

        • Cameron Reilly

          Jason, What makes you a warmonger is a desire to go to war. There is no denying that England was eager to go to war with France to re-establish the Bourbon monarchy. Saying it was in their self-interests is beside the point.

          • Jason Black

            Well that just makes about as much sense as saying that; ‘Since Napoleon was willing to use state violence to settle geo-political disputes, he was a warmonger’, saying that he tried other solutions first is ‘beside the point’.

        • Travis Bunn

          And you can’t state a leader that inherits a mess, a war, the starter of the war he has not started but simply taken over from the last leaders.

          England was at war with France because England wanted the Bourbon monarchy to stay and the revolution put an end to the monarchy for 20 years.

          If anything, in this case we see the English as evil dictators imposing there will on the French people.

    • Bird

      Most wars were declared against Napoleon by the changing coalition’s.

      Napoleon absolutely invaded Spain and Russia though, and they were his two biggest defeats

      • cameron

        Czar Alexander broke off relations and started amassing his army on the border, so Napoleon didn’t make the first move on that one. And he was invited into Spain by the Bourbons. Portugal is the only invasion I think can be fairly laid on his shoulders.

  8. Felix

    The following snippet is from an English newspaper: “In his white raincoat, surrounded by his generals, Hitler stood for a long time gazing down at his hero, his cap removed in deference.”

    This other link provides a photo of Hitler and his entourage visiting Napoleon’s tomb.

    I doubt, that one can conclude from this, that both men are comparable. They lived in different times.

  9. Alex

    Well said Cameron. Also, I’m sorry but this line ‘Example: in Paris nothing is named “Napoleon. No streets, no nothing.’ suggests to me you’re unaware of what you’re discussing. Have you ever looked at a map of any town or city in France?

  10. Garðar Breki

    Many prominent streets are named after his military victories (Rivoli, Castiglione, Iena bridge, Austerlitz, Friedland, Wagram

  11. Blair

    “He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.” Where can i find where he says this quote in French?

  12. Rashid Mehmood

    Please compare. Alexander was the son of a king — the best instructors taught him how to ride a horse, he had tutors like Aristotle and was offered the throne at the age of twenty. On the other hand, Umar Farooq (rh) did not have any royal ancestor even in his seven previous generations, grew up minding herds of goats and sheep and had not got trained in the art of war from anyone. Alexander had conquered 1.7 million square miles of land in ten years with an organized army — Umar Farooq (rh), in ten years, conquered 2.2 million square miles of land including the Roman and Persian super powers with an un-organized army. Even in these days of satellites and missiles and submarines, no ruler has a domain as vast as that of Umar (rh) which he had not only got conquered on mere horseback but had also managed and ruled it. Alexander got many of his own generals killed during his conquests, many generals and soldiers deserted him, there were rebellions against him and his army even refused to proceed in India, but no companion of Umar (rh) ever had the courage to disobey him. He was the commander who deposed the strongest general of Islam, Khalid bin Waleed (rh) right in the battleground and no one dared to disobey. He removed Saad bin Abi Waqas (rh) from the governorship of Kufa, fired Harith bin Kaab (rh) as a governor, confiscated the wealth of Amro bin al Aas (rh) and recalled the governor of Hamas and assigned him to grazing the camels. No one dared to disobey.

  13. Rashid Mehmood

    I am muslim and I have read about all the great men of the world including Napoleon, Ceaser and Alexander etc, No doubts they all were great leader with some special God gifted qualities. Please Go through the history of islam and read about the the Generals of Islams and the achievements.

    • Tom

      You compared land mass to territory conquered? Why not mention Genghis Khan? Bet your Islamic guy only had a few rocks compared to Genghis Khan. Who cares about land conquering.

  14. MK

    Territorial expanse and imperialism can certainly be attributed to Napoleon just as your Arabic generals but the difference with Napoleon is the plight for democracy and reform of the institutional powers.
    Napoleon reigned for only a short period but the winds of freedom had already become so manifest that there was no way
    that yoke of serfdom and class inequality would ever return.

    Despite Napoleon’s regard as a consummate master of war, an engineer and gifted mathematician .. he legacy will like live forever by virtue of his gift to a free and democratic France – and the call of other countries that he unselfishly liberated:
    Poland, Italy and Spain of its inquisitions.

  15. mandy

    I like his statement of history is a set of lies agreed upon .. the historians were and still are given patronage by the dominant ruler of that particular society/nation/región state… So histry is written/ moulded bu the will of ruler…had the hitlor been been successful the history of europe/ germany would have been different …

  16. Caledoni

    Why do some sites give the quote as “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.” and others give it as “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”?

    Is there some confusion as to the translation or what was actually said?

    • Cameron

      Thanks a good question. Someone needs to find a primary source for the translation of the original quote. I’ve got a few books that contain translations of his letters, etc, and it’s probably in there. Unfortunately they are paper books, not digital, so are time consuming to search. I’ll have a look when I get a chance.

  17. [Conversation, December 1815, reported by Las Cases] Napoleon told how, after one of his great battles of the Italian campaign (1796-97) he and two or three others crossed the battlefield which had not yet been cleared of corpses. “We were alone, in the profound solitude of a beautiful moonlit night. Suddenly a dog leaped out from under the cloak of a corpse, came running toward us, and almost immediately afterward ran back to its shelter, howling piteously. He licked his master’s face, ran back to us, and repeated this several times: he was seeking help and revenge at the same time. I don’t know whether it was the mood of the moment, or place, or the time, or the action in itself, or what – at any rate, it’s a fact that nothing I saw on the battlefield ever produced a like impression on me. I stopped involuntarily to contemplate this spectacle. This man, I said to myself, has friends, perhaps. He may have some at the camp, in his company–and here he lies, abandoned by all except his dog. What a lesson nature was teaching us through an animal!
    “What a strange thing is man. How mysterious are the workings of his sensibility. I had commanded in battles that were to decide the fate of a whole army, and I felt no emotion. I had watched the execution of maneuvers that were bound to cost the lives of many among us, and my eyes remained dry. And suddenly I was shaken, turned inside out, by a dog howling in pain.”

  18. Thanks, Cameron. There’s an excellent book out there called, ‘Mind of Napoleon’ by Christopher Herold. The entire book details the different things that Napoleon said and wrote during his life about all sorts of things. Most of his quotes are more ‘official’ than others as per who was in the vicinity when Napoleon spoke.

    Whenever I get the chance, I’ll post up some of my favorites.

    On a different note, I was at a local used-bookstore recently when I found a published book about Napoleon’s last living will that he made before his death. Translated from the French with photocopies of the original writing. The will itself is not very long and Napoleon goes on about dividing his fortune among friends and family but one thing I found particularly interesting is that Napoleon openly admitted in his will that his physically incapacities must be the result of being poisoned by an English assassin.
    Well, it wasn’t until much later that the autopsy did reveal arsenic as the cause of death and not any kind of natural causes.

      • Pittbull

        Cameron you are obviously a WORSHIPER of Bonaparte. I Kind of liked him too, but he bathed the world in an ocean of blood and was totally amoral and ruthless (witness his massacre of prisoners in Egypt).

        By the way, as he was sneaking back to France at night on a frigate after Nelson had destroyed his fleet at the Battle of the Nile, Napoleon was listening to his officers discussing Voltaire and Roussau. They all agreed that the two philosophers were right in saying that there was no God. Napoleon put an end to their nonsense by gesturing above to the star filled sky… “You can say what you like, he said, but who made all those?”

        Napoleon’s biographers now say that he was NOT an Atheist but a ..”Bad Catholic”. And that he very well MAY have said those things about Christ in the last year of his life according to the WRITTEN record of one of his generals who shared his exile. The quotes are certainly long winded enough (and brilliant enough I must admit) to match his style of declaiming to his audience.

        • cameron

          Hey Pittbull, I wouldn’t classify myself as a “worshipper” at all. I’m happy (and do constantly on the show) to call out his faults. I don’t agree that the handling of the prisoners in Jaffa was amoral. We discussed this episode at length on the show. What else should he have done with them? Where did you get the quote about “who made all those” from? Whether or not he was an atheist is up for discussion and I’ll ask Andrew Roberts what he thinks when he comes on the show in a couple of weeks.

  19. Tim

    At the beginning of this thread the author prefaces several of Napoleon’s famous quotes by saying: “I thought I’d bring you some of my favourite quotes from the man. Feel free to share yours in the comments section!” Despite interesting discussion on a wide variety of contentious subjects, most contributors seem to have gone a little off track. Here’s one I always liked and use frequently to encourage people who are fighting an illness or personal challenges:

    “Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.”
    ― Napoleon




    I appreciate napoleon he was a most powerful leader and the same time the quote six inspires me for sure.

  22. nat@

    We should not judge Napoleon’s charactr wth the current politics in mind. People should bear in mind that things hv changed absolutetly. It shld be noted that during the rym of Napoleon war waz the ordèr of the day. I agree with Cameron hu sys that Napoleon inherited a France wc was alredy in a warlike mood. as witnessed by the 3rd coalition agnst the directors wc Napoleon overthrew.

  23. Tom Thomas Pulikkattu

    Napoleon the greatest as an Emperor,I always believe
    The true leader the world has ever produced is Napoleon. He was both an administrator and a warier beside being an altruist until the last moment of his life.His extra ordinary qualities like determination and perseverance raised him from the position of a little son of the destitute mother -Latisha. His teacher Mr. Marlov predicted what the little ‘Nap’would become in future while he was in the forth grade. Though world has produced a lot many world leaders down the centuries, none of them have displayed greatness as Napoleon did.According to his biography, he had to face odds in life and saw both end of life, living through hardship since the childhood. Finally, he left behind an open book in the form ‘Emperor’s life story’ which would inspire generations ahead. With him grew, like his own shadow, right attitude, aim, determination and perseverance. Hence I consider his life itself is a message to humanity at all time.


    Napoleon is indeed one of the greatest leaders of all times, he fought more of defensive than being offensive

  25. Napolean Great Quote: “Amateurs soldier discuss tactics,…. Professional soldiers study logistics.”

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