Ute Planert

Il «revenant». Il ritorno di Napoleone nella storia della cultura europea ai primi del XIX secolo

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«Scum of mankind», «monster» and «Satan incarnate»—the media battle accompanying the anti-Napoleonic wars 1813-1815 did not lack in attacks on the French emperor. However, the half-life of these attacks was limited. After the return of the monarchs to the thrones of Europe, not only Goethe asked himself if with the banishment of the Emperor, one tyrant had been replaced with many. Supported by his posthumous self-dramatization, Napoleon soon appeared as a Titan to the following generations, whose oversized features contrasted fi ercely with the small-mindedness of his conquerors. Veterans mourned the charismatic soldier emperor; freethinkers chose Napoleon as an icon of liberalism; for the poor, he stood for ideals of political equality; nationalists from Poland to Ireland saw a champion of national unity and freedom in Bonaparte; and many a freshly crowned regent on this and on the far side of the Atlantic was inspired by the authoritarian populism of the Napoleonic regime. The myth of the enraptured hero was as variable as the needs of his worshipers.

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