During his rise to power and throughout his reign,
Napoleon not only
benefitted from circumstance but also cultivated his own image through
the use of propaganda.
Napoleon excelled at garnering public support
and capitalizing on his victories to convey a persona associated with
success and heroism. He utilized propaganda in a wide range of media
including theater, art, newspapers and bulletins to “promote the
precise image he desired.” Napoleon’s bulletins from the
battlefield were published in newspapers and were well read throughout
the country. He used these publications to exaggerate his victories
and spread his glorified interpretation of these successes throughout
* 1 Medallions
* 1.1 Five Battles Series
* 2 References
* 3 Works Cited
* 4 Further reading
In addition to more standard methods of propaganda, such as the
Napoleon capitalized on the popularity of medallions for his
own purposes. Specifically,
Napoleon used medallions as tools to
promote his desired image both before and after he became Emperor. In
the end, he commissioned more medals than
Louis XV and Louis XVI
combined. Of particular importance was Napoleon’s first set of
medallions, the “Five Battles” Series, produced to commemorate his
victories during the first Italian campaign .
FIVE BATTLES SERIES
The MILLESIMO-DEGO medallion features
Hercules holding a club and the
Hydra of Lerna’s head. In the other hand
Hercules is holding a torch
of blazing fire, ready to slaughter this beast. Around the borders of
the medals reads “Bataille De Millesimo Combat de Dego.” The
Hercules figure on these coins represents victory but was also a
symbol chosen by the French Republic to represent the nation, thereby
Napoleon to both triumph and France.
The PO-ADDA-MINCIO medal depicts
Napoleon Bonaparte leading his
soldiers across the Adda on the bridge at Lodi . This medallion
glorifies the battle in which most of
Lombardy , an Italian province,
was captured by the French army. Subsequently,
Napoleon was named
Milan , the Lombard capital. The coin celebrates
not only Napoleon’s victory but his ascension to greater power.
The BATTLE OF CASTIGLIONE AND THE COMBAT AT PESCHIERA medallion pays
tribute to Napoleon’s victories in Italy.
Napoleon faced an Austrian
army in both locations and defeated them, strengthening the French
Army’s position in the region. The coin displays three naked
warriors, two locked in combat while the third lies slain on the
ground. Of the two living figures, one, representing Napoleon’s
army, stands ready to strike the final blow to the vanquished
Austrians. In some versions Napoleon’s name is inscribed on the coin
connecting Bonaparte to the victory and promoting his own personal
The CAPITULATION OF MANTUA coin commemorates the capture of the
Northern Italian city by Napoleon. The medal depicts a woman handing
the keys of the city to a Roman warrior. On the reverse, ‘A
L’Armée D’Italie Victorieuse’ is inscribed in addition to
Napoleon’s name on some editions of the coin. Symbols from antiquity
were used throughout the revolutionary period to tie the new French
Republic to the glory of
Ancient Rome . By using Roman soldiers on the
Napoleon not only connects himself to the grandeur of
ancient times, but also promotes his image as a victorious leader of
Revolutionary France .
The TAGLIAMENTO-TRIESTE medallion immortalizes Napoleon’s 1797
crossing of the Tagliomento River and the capture of
Trieste . The
medal shows a god-like figure reclining near a river while a charging
army rushes a fleeing group of men. The attacking army is headed by a
man on horseback, presumably Napoleon. Like the other medallions, one
version has Napoleon’s name inscribed on the side. The medallion
bolsters Napoleon’s image by directly connecting him to yet another
* ^ A B Hanley, The Genesis of Napoleonic Propaganda, 23.
* ^ Hanley, The Genesis of Napoleonic Propaganda, 141.
* ^ Censer and Hunt, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, 141.
* ^ Hanley, The Genesis of Napoleonic Propaganda, 144.
* ^ Laskey, A Description of the Series of Medals, 3.