In 1798, a vast armada left the French port of Toulon on a mysterious military expedition. Some 40,000 soldiers and 10,000 sailors were accompanied by 167 scholars, most of them young, who had been called upon by the brilliant general Napoleon Bonaparte, then aged 29. One week before they sailed, their destination was finally revealed to them: Egypt, land of the pharaohs, which had captivated the imagination of the Europe of the Enlightenment, particularly its scholars.
The Directoire had ordered Napoleon Bonaparte to threaten English assets in the Indies by planning a lasting occupation of Egypt. But the country had many surprises in store for all on the mission.
We follow this military expedition through the eyes of two young scientists, Villiers and Jollois, an inexperienced pair who spent three long years enthusiastically trying to spread the ideas of the Enlightenment.
We relive the experience of these scholars as they marvel at the splendors of ancient Egypt, whilst suffering the disdain of the soldiers who accompanied them. This docu-drama details the incredible adventure of this unprecedented expedition. Between the cultural shock, the divergence of interests between the military and scientific communities, the epic combat with Mamelukes and Ottomans, popular uprisings, and outbreaks of the plague, this was an expedition to remember. It ended in stinging military defeat, but would always remain a great scientific triumph, marking the birth of a new science: Egyptology.
Direction: Fabrice Hourlier
Production: DOCSIDE/ZED and ARTE France
With the support of Creative Europe - Media Programme of the European Union