Napoleon: a visionary hero or an over-ambitious villain?

If what it means to be a hero is to have unwavering dedication to a cause and an unrelenting will to make it happen, then Napoleon is a great example of a hero. Napoleon’s ever-famous quote and also his motto was “Nothing is impossible”, and it was obvious that he followed this ideal.

Napoleon had a rough and modest start. He was born on Corsica, property of France at the chaotic time of the French Revolution. He was a gifted and a revolutionary leader, quickly rising through the ranks to become a commander of the French army. On top of his talents, he also had a vision: a vision of a united, powerful France, an empire that would span the breadth and width of Europe, not the crumbling and corrupt monarchy of old. His outspoken character and personal drive made him extremely popular with the people and the soldiers he commanded.

After many successful campaigns, Napoleon became a powerful military and political leader in France. With the support he gained, he was able to seize the throne and became the Emperor of France. His many victories over France’s arch-enemies vastly expanded French territory, transforming it from a nation to a mighty empire. Most famous of those was the crossing of the Alpes. At that time, the idea of moving a large army across the murderous mountain was thought all but impossible. However, Napoleon insisted on crossing the mountains, despite the warnings of his advisors. His bold tactics and resolute will allowed the French army to successfully cross the mountains and caught the enemies in complete surprise, resulting in a sounding victory. Such was a testament to his motto: “Nothing is impossible”

Ironically, Napoleon’s greatest asset also proved to be his ultimate downfall. His hunger for conquest, his dream of greatness for France led him into an over-ambition to dominate all of Europe and also Russia. The invasion of Russia, greatly advised against by his lieutenants, was a disaster. Much of the fault was also due to Napoleon’s uncompromising nature to never yield. During his absence and defeat, his enemies seized power in France and succeeded in dethroning him.

Yet Napoleon’s glory wasn’t meant to be over yet. Subsequent political and militaristic upheavals soon allowed Napoleon to regain his popularity and power. Returning to the throne, Napoleon led his army to the final defeat at the battle of Waterloo. Here, an alliance of British and Prussian forces ultimately defeated his army. With his defeat, Napoleon was exiled to a remote island. He died still hungering for his dream to be fulfilled.

From the example of Napoleon, we can see how a strong and dominant will can lead a person to greatness and heroism. Yet that same drive also led him to ambition and ultimate defeat. Such is the fine line between a hero and a villain.

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