Napoleon Bonaparte was born to a poor, but aristocratic family in 1769 on Corsica, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea under French domination. In 1785 Napoleon left his island home to become a lieutenant in the French artillery. He returned briefly to Corsica to fight a losing battle for Corsican independence. In 1789, on the heels of the start of the French Revolution he returned to France a stalwart patriot, ready to fight for freedom from the Bourbon monarchy.
At only five feet tall, Napoleon Bonaparte did not look the part of a typical military hero. He had what some would consider an abnormally large head, unruly hair and cold, piecing eyes. His manners were lacking, and he was known for his abruptness. So what made him into one of the most infamous dictators of Western Europe? For one, he had an iron constitution. He never showed fatigue or complained before troops. He also had an overly large dose of self confidence, which inspired confidence and loyalty from his troops. Most importantly, Napoleon was an excellent strategist. He could conceive and execute complicated military campaigns, which resulted in a string of victories, helping Napoleon swiftly work his way up the military ladder.
In 1796 Napoleon was placed in command of troops in Italy and perfected mountain warfare tactics in the Alps. He won his soldiers admiration and loyalty two key factors in his gaining power in the coming years. And he knew how to please a crowd, whether it be soldiers, country peasants or citizens of Paris. Napoleon would take full advantage of that talent in order to seize power from the Directory and declare himself Consul for Life in 1801. Unfortunately Napoleon did not heed the warnings of Julius Caesar, the original first Consul for Life.
Napoleon, like many great men, was vain. He cared not so much for France (he was from Corsica after all) as he did for his own reputation. He was all about fame and glory. Lacking reality TV, Napoleon would have to settle for becoming the undisputed ruler of France and then eventually all of Europe, before his downfall at the Battle of Waterloo.