Napoleon Takes Over in Egypt: He Authorizes the Mission of his Famed Future Spy, Lascaris of Arabia, to Map and Organize Territory Napoleon Hoped to Rule

Lascaris, a descendant of Emperor Lascaris and a Knight of Malta, would advocate for Egyptian independence before going to Arabia as Napoleon's spy

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Napoleon’s venture into Egypt is well known. In May 1798, he headed an invasion force of 25,000 men in an attempt to seize control of the country from the Mamelukes. His aim, apart from Egypt itself, was twofold — destroy the Ottoman Empire and gain access to India via the Red Sea...

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Napoleon Takes Over in Egypt: He Authorizes the Mission of his Famed Future Spy, Lascaris of Arabia, to Map and Organize Territory Napoleon Hoped to Rule

Lascaris, a descendant of Emperor Lascaris and a Knight of Malta, would advocate for Egyptian independence before going to Arabia as Napoleon's spy

Napoleon’s venture into Egypt is well known. In May 1798, he headed an invasion force of 25,000 men in an attempt to seize control of the country from the Mamelukes. His aim, apart from Egypt itself, was twofold — destroy the Ottoman Empire and gain access to India via the Red Sea with the intention of crushing the British there and taking it over as well. This was, after all the man who reputedly said while in Egypt that Europe was not big enough for him.

Napoleon got off to a good start in July, when at the Battle of the Pyramids, he gained a crucial victory that ended centuries of Mamelukes rule in Egypt. Although August brought a defeat at the hands of Lord Nelson at the Battle of Abukir Bay and ended an effort at a quick Middle Eastern conquest, Napoleon set about installing an organization in Egypt and also began a campaign of cultural influence.

Theodore Lascaris de Vintimille, known as Lascaris of Arabia, is a figure of great note and entire novels are dedicated to his exploits. In 1798, he sent Lascaris to Egypt to organize Egypt, and begin outreach to Egyptians he wanted to rule. Lascaris embarked on a campaign to create an independent A decade after the Egypt incursion, Napoleon chose him to un­dertake a secret campaign among the Bedouin tribes, to live among them and learn their ways – over a century before Lawrence of Arabia did the same. This order shows that Lascaris was already working for Napoleon in 1798, and was mapping out and organizing territory.

Order Signed, Cairo, Egypt, November 8, 1798, authorizing that a commission aimed by the general engineer shall honor, “the expenses incurred by “Lascaris, architect, for the establishment of the offices of administration and recording of the territory.”

Napoleon’s dream ended in disaster. His fleet had been destroyed by Nelson at Abukir Bay thus cutting him and his army off. Before long, despite a couple of military victories against Ottoman forces, he slipped back to France, leaving his stranded army at the mercy of the Ottomans and British. In 1801, the remnants of his army were repatriated in British ships.

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