Battle of the Pyramids

The Battle of the Pyramids, also known as the Battle of Embabeh, was a major engagement fought on 21st July 1798 during the French Invasion of Egypt. The French army, under Napoleon Bonaparte, scored a decisive victory against the forces of the local Mamluk rulers, wiping out almost the entire Egyptian army. It was the battle where Napoleon employed one of his significant contributions to military tactics, the divisional square. Actually a rectangle, the deployment of the French brigades into these massive formations repeatedly threw back multiple cavalry charges by the Egyptians.

The victory effectively sealed the French conquest of Egypt as Murad Bey salvaged the remnants of his army, chaotically fleeing to Upper Egypt. French casualties amounted to roughly 300, but Egyptian casualties soared into the thousands. Napoleon entered Cairo after the battle and created a new local administration under his supervision.

The battle exposed the fundamental military and political decline of the Ottoman Empire throughout the past century, especially compared to the rising power of Napoleon's France. Napoleon named the battle after the Egyptian pyramids because they were faintly visible on the horizon when the battle took place.


In July 1798 Napoleon was marching from Alexandria toward Cairo after invading and capturing the former. He met the forces of the ruling Mamluks nine miles (15 kilometres) from the Pyramids and only four miles (six kilometres) from Cairo. The Mamluk forces were commanded by two Georgian mamluks, Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey, and had powerful and highly developed cavalry. This fight was known as The Battle of Chobrakit.

Napoleon realized that the only Egyptian troops of any worth on the battlefield were the cavalry. He exhorted his troops, saying, "Forward! Remember that from those monuments yonder 40 centuries look down upon you."[4][5]


Napoleon ordered an advance on Murad's army with each of the five divisions of his army organized into hollow rectangles with cavalry and baggage at the center and cannon at the corners.

Battle of the Pyramids map
A map of the battle.
Francois-Louis-Joseph Watteau 001
The Battle of the Pyramids, François-Louis-Joseph Watteau, 1798-1799

The French divisions advanced south in echelon, with the right flank leading and the left flank protected by the Nile. From right to left, Napoleon posted the divisions of Louis Charles Antoine Desaix, Jean-Louis-Ébénézer Reynier, Charles-François-Joseph Dugua, Honoré Vial and Louis André Bon. In addition, Desaix sent a small detachment to occupy the nearby village of Biktil, just to the west.

Murad anchored his right flank on the Nile at the village of Embabeh, which was fortified and held with infantry and some ancient cannons. His Mamluk cavalry deployed on the desert flank. Ibrahim, with a second army, watched helplessly from the east bank of the Nile, unable to intervene. Chandler asserts that Napoleon's 25,000-strong army outnumbered Murad's 6,000 Mamluks and 15,000 infantry.

At about 15:30, the Mamluk cavalry hurled itself at the French without warning. The divisional squares of Desaix, Reynier and Dugua held firm and repelled the horsemen with point-blank musket and artillery fire. Unable to make an impression on the French formations, some of the frustrated Mamluks rode off to attack Desaix's detached force. This was also a failure.

Meanwhile, nearer the river, Bon's division deployed into attack columns and charged Embabeh. Breaking into the village, the French routed the garrison. Trapped against the river, many of the Mamluks and infantry tried to swim to safety, and hundreds drowned.

Napoleon reported a loss of 29 killed and 260 wounded. Murad's losses were far heavier, perhaps as many as 3,000 of the irreplaceable Mamluk cavalry and unknown numbers of infantry. Murad escaped to Upper Egypt, where he carried on an active guerilla campaign before being run to earth by Desaix in late 1799.


Upon the news of the defeat of their legendary cavalry, the waiting Mamluk armies in Cairo dispersed to Syria to reorganize. The Battle of the Pyramids signalled the beginning of the end of seven centuries of Mamluk rule in Egypt. Despite this auspicious beginning, Admiral Horatio Nelson's victory in the Battle of the Nile ten days later ended Napoleon's hopes for a conquest of the Middle East.

Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798 MET 150804
François-André Vincent's Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798.

The battle was depicted by François-André Vincent in a sketch.[6]

Engulfed by the west bank portion of the city of Cairo, nothing remains of the battlefield today.


  1. ^ Smith The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book. Greenhill Books, 1998. p. 140
  2. ^ Connelly. Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns. Rowman & Littlefield Pub., 2006. 3rd ed. p.50.
  3. ^ a b c Nakoula El-Turk. Histoire de l'expédition des français en Égypte. M. Desgrandes Aîné.
  4. ^ The Campaigns of Napoleon, Volume 1, By David G. Chandler; page 224
  5. ^ Eugène de Beauharnais, Mémoires et Correspondance Politique et Militaire du Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, tome premier, p. 41, Michel Lévy Frères, Paris (1858)
  6. ^ "Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798". The MET. Retrieved 2018-08-31.

Further reading

  • Chandler, David, The Campaigns of Napoleon New York, Macmillan, 1966.
  • Cole, Juan, Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. ISBN 1403964319
  • Herold, J. Christopher, Bonaparte in Egypt - London, Hamish Hamilton, 1962.
  • Herold, J. Christopher, The Age of Napoleon. New York, American Heritage, 1963.
  • Moorehead, Alan, The Blue Nile New York, Harper & Row, 1962.
1798 in France

Events from the year 1798 in France.

Antoine-Guillaume Rampon

Antoine-Guillaume Rampon (16 March 1759 - 2 March 1842) joined the French army as a private soldier and rose in rank to become a general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. He fought in many battles under Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy and Egypt. In one celebrated battle, he rallied his troops to defend the key Monte Negino redoubt against the Austrians. He saw limited service during the Napoleonic Wars. His surname can be found among the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.

Battle of Shubra Khit

The Battle of Shubra Khit (also known as the Battle of Chobrakit) was a battle that took place during Napoleon's campaign in Egypt on July 13, 1798. On their march to Cairo, the French encountered Mamluk cavalry under Murad Bey. Napoleon lined his forces up into infantry squares, a tactic which helped defeat the Mamluk cavalry, largely due to their inability to penetrate them without severe casualties.

Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798 (study)

Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798 is an early 19th century drawing by French painter François-André Vincent. Done in black ink and graphite on washed paper, the study depicts the Battle of the Pyramids. The work is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Campaigns of 1798 in the French Revolutionary Wars

1798 was a relatively quiet period in the French Revolutionary Wars. The major continental powers in the First coalition had made peace with France, leaving France dominant in Europe with only a slow naval war with Great Britain to worry about. The leaders of the Directory in Paris feared Napoleon Bonaparte's popularity after his victories in Italy, so they were relieved when he proposed to depart France and mount an expedition to Egypt to gain further glory.

Fontaine du Palmier

The Fontaine du Palmier (1806-1808) or Fontaine de la Victoire is a monumental fountain located in the Place du Châtelet, between the Théâtre du Châtelet and the Théâtre de la Ville, in the First Arrondissement of Paris.

It was designed to provide fresh drinking water to the population of the neighborhood and to commemorate the victories of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is the largest fountain built during Napoleon's reign still in existence. The closest métro station is Châtelet

François-Louis-Joseph Watteau

François Louis Joseph Watteau (18 August 1758, Lille – 1 December 1823, Lille), known like his father as the Watteau of Lille, was a French painter, active in his birthplace. He was the son of the painter Louis Joseph Watteau (1731–1798) and grandson of Noël Joseph Watteau (1689–1756) – Noël was the brother of Jean-Antoine Watteau, the painter of "fêtes galantes". From 1808 to his death he was deputy curator of the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, which his father had helped to found.

French campaign in Egypt and Syria

The French Campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798–1801) was Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in the Ottoman territories of Egypt and Syria, proclaimed to defend French trade interests, weaken Britain's access to British India, and to establish scientific enterprise in the region. It was the primary purpose of the Mediterranean campaign of 1798, a series of naval engagements that included the capture of Malta.

On the scientific front, the expedition eventually led to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, creating the field of Egyptology. Despite many decisive victories and an initially successful expedition into Syria, Napoleon and his Armée d'Orient were eventually forced to withdraw, after sowing political disharmony in France, experiencing conflict in Europe, and suffering the defeat of the supporting French fleet at the Battle of the Nile.


Ierapetra (Greek: Ιεράπετρα, meaning "sacred stone"; ancient name: Ἱεράπυτνα Hierapytna) is a town and municipality on the south coast of Crete.


Imbaba (Arabic: إمبابة‎ Imbāba, Egyptian Arabic: إمبابه‎, IPA: [emˈbæːbæ]) is a working-class neighbourhood in northern Giza, Egypt, located west of the Nile and northwest of and near Gezira Island and downtown Cairo, within the Giza Governorate. The district is located in the historic upper Nile Delta, and is part of the Greater Cairo metropolitan area.

Imbaba is also the name of an adjacent administrative centre (مركز) in rural Giza Governorate, which has 18 villages in its jurisdiction.

Jean Barthélemy Darmagnac

Jean Barthélemy Claude Toussaint Darmagnac (1 November 1766 – 12 December 1855) became a French division commander during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1791 he joined a volunteer battalion and soon became a captain. He fought with the 32nd Line Infantry Demi-Brigade against the Austrians in Italy. He participated in the French campaign in Egypt and Syria, being promoted to lead the regiment after distinguishing himself at the Battle of the Pyramids. He was badly wounded at Acre and promoted to general of brigade in 1801. Darmagnac fought at Austerlitz in 1805 and led the Paris guard in 1806–1807. Going to Spain, he was wounded at Medina de Rioseco and became a general of division in 1808. After serving as provincial governor, he assumed command of a combat division at Vitoria, the Pyrenees, the Bidassoa, the Nivelle, the Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse. After holding interior commands under the Bourbon Restoration he retired in 1831. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 36.

Louis André Bon

Louis André Bon (25 October 1758 in Romans-sur-Isère, Dauphiné – 19 May 1799 in Acre) was a French general of the French Revolutionary Wars, best known for his participation in the 1798 French invasion of Egypt.


Mamluk (Arabic: مملوك mamlūk (singular), مماليك mamālīk (plural), meaning "property", also transliterated as Mameluke, mamluq, mamluke, mameluk, mameluke, mamaluke or marmeluke) is an Arabic designation for slaves. The term is most commonly used to refer to slave soldiers and Muslim rulers of slave origin.

More specifically, it refers to:

Ghaznavids of Greater Khorasan (977–1186)

Khwarazmian dynasty in Transoxiana (1077–1231)

Mamluk Dynasty (Delhi) (1206–1290)

Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) (1250–1517)

Bahri dynasty (1250−1382)

Burji dynasty (1382−1517)

Mamluk Dynasty (Iraq) (1704–1831)The most enduring Mamluk realm was the knightly military caste in Egypt in the Middle Ages, which developed from the ranks of slave soldiers. These were mostly enslaved Turkic peoples, Egyptian Copts, Circassians, Abkhazians, and Georgians. Many Mamluks were also of Balkan origin (Albanians, Greeks, and South Slavs). The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior class, was of great political importance; for one thing, it endured for nearly 1000 years, from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries.

Over time, Mamluks became a powerful military knightly caste in various societies that were controlled by Muslim rulers. Particularly in Egypt, but also in the Levant, Mesopotamia, and India, mamluks held political and military power. In some cases, they attained the rank of sultan, while in others they held regional power as emirs or beys. Most notably, mamluk factions seized the sultanate centered on Egypt and Syria, and controlled it as the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517). The Mamluk Sultanate famously defeated the Ilkhanate at the Battle of Ain Jalut. They had earlier fought the western European Christian Crusaders in 1154–1169 and 1213–1221, effectively driving them out of Egypt and the Levant. In 1302 the mamluks formally expelled the last Crusaders from the Levant, ending the era of the Crusades.[1]

While mamluks were purchased as property, their status was above ordinary slaves but they were not allowed to carry weapons or perform certain tasks. In places such as Egypt, from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be "true lords" and "true warriors", with social status above the general population in Egypt and the Levant. In a sense they were like enslaved mercenaries.

Murad Bey

Murad Bey Mohammed (c. 1750 – 22 April 1801) was an Egyptian Mamluk chieftain (Bey), cavalry commander and joint ruler of Egypt with Ibrahim Bey. He is often remembered as being a cruel and extortionate ruler, but an energetic courageous fighter.

Philippe-Auguste Hennequin

Philippe-Auguste Hennequin (Lyon, 10 August 1762 — Leuze-en-Hainaut, near Tournai, 12 May 1833) was a French history painter and portraitist.

A student of the Swede Per Eberhard Cogell (1734–1812) in Lyon, then in Paris a student of David, he then went to Rome thanks to an English patron, but was forced to leave the city due to the anti-French riots of 1793. Under the First French Empire he produced large historical compositions, such as A Distribution of the Légion d'Honneur at the Boulogne camp (1806), A Battle of the Pyramids (1806) and the 4m by 6m The Triumph of the French people on 10 August (1799, won the first prize at the Paris Salon that year but was cut up and split between the museums of Rouen, Angers, Le Mans and Caen in 1820). Under the Bourbon Restoration, he went into self-imposed exile in Belgium, where he was director of the Académie de Tournai, though he later died in poverty. Many of his drawings are held at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.

Place des Pyramides

Place des Pyramides is a public square in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, France. It is located in the middle of the Rue de Rivoli, at its intersection with the Rue des Pyramides and Avenue du General Lemonnier, at the western end of the Tuileries Garden.

The square was named for the street, Rue des Pyramides, and the street was named for the Battle of the Pyramids, a Napoleonic victory achieved in Egypt in 1798.

Place du Châtelet

The Place du Châtelet (French pronunciation: ​[plas dy ʃatlɛ]) is a public square in Paris, on the right bank of the river Seine, on the borderline between the 1st and 4th arrondissements. It lies at the north end of the Pont au Change, a bridge that connects the Île de la Cité, near the Palais de Justice and the Conciergerie, to the right bank. The closest métro station is Châtelet

Pyramides (Paris Métro)

Pyramides is a station of the Paris Métro. It is named after the Rue des Pyramides, which commemorates the victory in 1798 of Napoleon Bonaparte's Armée d’Orient over the Mamluks of Murad Bey in the Battle of the Pyramids in Egypt. The line 7 station opened in 1916 and the line 14 station was opened at the line's inception in 1998.

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