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Napoleon Bonaparte, or Napoleon I (1769-1821) first rose to prominence as an artillery officer under the French First Republic in the late 18th century. A native of Corsica, he came from an influential Italian family. After a quick rise throught the military ranks, he ascended to the leadership of France as First Consul following a successful coup d'etat in 1799. He later declared himself the emperor of France and set about expanding the French realm in a manner similar to the Roman Empire. The turning point in Napoleon's career came when he decided to invade his former ally, Russia, in 1812. His badly beaten army retired southward, where it was later defeated at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, forcing Napoleon to abdicate the throne. After being exiled on the island of Elba, Napoleon escaped and returned to organize another powerful army, but it was defeated at the monumental Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He was then permanently exiled to the island of St. Helena, where he died (probably of stomach cancer or, possibly, poinsoning) in 1821. A tyrant yet superb military strategist, Napoleon's greatest vice was probably his extreme egocentricity and overconfidence.
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