Alinari/Art Resources

Napoleon the General

Best known as a brilliant general, Napoleon I was responsible for the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. Though militarily his 1798–1799 campaign against the British in Egypt was a failure, archaeologically it was a great success. An Egyptian laborer building a French fort in the village of Rosetta first noticed the fine-grained black basalt of the Rosetta Stone, which according to different accounts was either lying on the ground or was built into an old stone wall. The laborer’s French captain, recognizing the importance of the find, handed it over to a group of scientists who had accompanied Napoleon’s expedition. In accordance with the treaty drawn up in 1801, when the French forces in Egypt surrendered to the British, the stone was turned over to the British.