Nietzsches Napoleon: A renaissance man

History of Political Thought 33 (2):305-347 (2012)


The article examines the formation of Nietzsche's view of Napoleon as a Renaissance man, and its importance for Nietzsche's thought. Stendhal, with his image of Napoleon, exercised a crucial influence on Nietzsche, who was, thanks to Burckhardt, already full of admiration for the Renaissance. Special attention is given to Stendhal's Vie de Napoleon, which provided Nietzsche with a key to Napoleon as the continuator of the Renaissance and the man who again revived antiquity, a hero of Plutarchian proportions. Taine's influence is also analysed, for he provided the final stimulus for Nietzsche's concluding conception of Napoleon as a Renaissance man, as well as helping Nietzsche to realize the closeness between the Ubermensch and Napoleon. The significance of Napoleon for Nietzsche's conceptualization of historical greatness is emphasized, as well as the features of the Corsican hero that make him the embodiment of Nietzsche's emulative understanding of history: the mirror image of a model active man from the second Untimely Meditation

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