[Napoleon once said,] “The reading of history very soon made me feel that I was capable of achieving as much as the men who are placed in the highest ranks of our annals.” …There is little doubt that that he was a precocious and prodigious reader, drawn at an early age to history and biography. [His mother] Letizia told a government minister that her son “had never partaken of the amusements of children his own age, that he carefully avoided them,” and found himself a little room on the third floor of the house in which he stayed by himself and didn’t come down very often, even to eat with his family. Up there, he read constantly… I do not doubt that the very power action of his early readings on the inclination and character of his youth,“ his brother Joseph later recalled… Later in life, Napoleon urged his junior officers "to read and re-read the campaigns of Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Gustavus Adolfus, Prince Eugene and Frederick the Great. That is the only way to become a great captain.” Ancient history provided him with an encyclopedia of military and political tactics and quotations that he would draw on throughout his life. This inspiration was so profound that when posing for painting he would sometimes put his hand into his waistcoat in imitation of the toga-wearing romans… For Napoleon, the desire to emulate Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar was not strange. [It] opened to him the possibility that he might one day stand alongside the giants of the past.
— Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts