Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808 is an iconic painting by one of the great masters. The image depicts the execution of prisoners following the Dos de Mayo Uprising in Madrid against Napoleon’s invading forces. The events form part of the Peninsular War. Napoleon was invited into Spain by the Spanish King Charles IV. The pretext was that the two nations would conquer and divide up Portugal. Napoleon had other ideas and the expeditionary force showed no signs of leaving.
On May 2nd, the population of Madrid took to arms. Oddly enough, this is the second painting in a row in this series to deal with an uprising against Napoleonic occupational forces. Once unrest was inevitable, the French gave the order that anyone involved was to be shot. Fighting broke out in the city and the French forces quickly put it down. Some hundred or so French soldiers were killed along with numerous Madrileños.
The revolt of Cairo took place in 1798, shortly after Napoleon Bonaparte and his French forces took the city during their occupation of Egypt. The campaign was fought to destabilize British power in the Near East and India and, ostensibly, to spread the ideals of Republicanism. After taking Cairo without a shot fired in July of that year, tension began to mount. On October 21, in a surprise attack, citizens of Cairo rose up in revolt against the French stationed there, killing French general Dominique Martin Dupuy, among hundreds of others, in the process. Napoleon returned to the city and his response was both swift and brutal. After herding the belligerents into the Great Mosque, which had been fortified and armed by the locals for the days events, he opened fire with his cannon. French forces then massacred the Egyptians who’d taken refuge there, killing or wounding some 5,000.