Art and Images in Psychiatry
May 2006

Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Plague-Stricken at Jaffa

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Copyright 2006 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2006

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63(5):482-483. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.63.5.482

During the Egyptian campaign all those whose imagination was struck by fear died of it [the bubonic plague]. The surest protection, the most efficacious remedy, was moral courage.—Napoleon Bonaparte1(p151)

On March 21, 1799, 29-year-old Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) felt it incumbent to visit his troops who had contracted bubonic plague when they took the fortress at Jaffa, Palestine (modern-day Tel-Aviv, Israel), by storm. His goal was to dispel fear about a disease that had caused panic among his troops.2 René-Nicolas Desgenettes, the chief physician, and his general staff accompanied him. Dr Desgenettes recorded the visit as follows:

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