Did Napoleon’s troops shoot the nose off the Sphinx with a cannonball? Or is only a legend for tourists? I know I heard that somewhere when I was a kid. The story goes that Napoleon and his troops shot off the Sphinx’s nose with a cannon while encamped there with nothing better to do but drink and feast off the booty they had just plundered from Malta, which they had just raided on the way to Egypt. While the latter is true, they looted the island of Malta and they did camp there, they never used the Sphinx for target practice. This fanciful tale was at one time even in the history books and taught to school children as fact. It is now known that the damage to the Sphinx nose was a much earlier occurrence. Encyclopedia Americana states: “Over the centuries the Great Sphinx has suffered severely from weathering…Man has been responsible for additional mutilation. In 1380 A.D. the Sphinx fell victim to the iconoclastic ardor of a fanatical Muslim ruler, who caused deplorable injuries to the head. Then later in the 18th century the figure was used as a target for the guns of the Marmalukes, then rulers of Egypt.”
Despite this many in the Black community still believe the Napoleon myth and hold it up as an example of racism against blacks. Louis Farrakhan at his Million Man March said, ”White folk try to rewrite history and write us out. White supremacy caused Napoleon to blow the nose off the Sphinx because it reminded him too much of the black man’s majesty,” perpetuating this myth, even further.
( artist’s rendering )
It was even the subject of a segment of the U.S. television investigative journalism program “60 Minutes.”
Then just when it was about to be laid to rest, Rapper Nas put it in one of his songs and now the myth lives on.