Triumphal arches are monumental structures with at least one arched passageway and built to honor an important person or to commemorate a significant event. Although triumphal arches have been built by many nations it was the Romans who started the tradition. It is unclear when the Romans first began building triumphal arches but once the tradition became popular they created many Roman arches that were increasingly elaborate.
The Triumphal Arch of Orange in France was built during the reign of Augustus on the former via Agrippa to honor the veterans of the Gallic War. It was later reconstructed by emperor Tiberius to celebrate the victories of Germanicus over the German tribes. The arch contains an inscription dedicated to emperor Tiberius in 27 AD.
In antiquity, Volubilis was an important Roman town situated near the westernmost border of Roman conquests in present day Morocco. The marble Arch of Caracalla, right in the middle of Volubilis, was erected in 211 AD in honor of the Emperor Caracalla and his mother, Julia Domna. The arch is surmounted by a bronze chariot and with its Corinthian columns remains an impressive monument.
The Gateway of India was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai. Construction started in 1911 and the Gateway was opened 13 years later. Its design is a combination of both Hindu and Muslim architectural styles, the arch is in Muslim style while the decorations are in Hindu style. The last British troops to leave India passed through the Gateway in a ceremony on 28 February 1948.
Located in present day Algeria, Djemila was built in the 1st century AD by the Romans under the name of Cuicul. The city was initially populated by a colony of soldiers, and eventually grew to become a large trading town. During the reign of Emperor Caracalla a new forum was constructed. An arch was built in 216 AD in his honor and his parents Julia Domna and Severe Septime. The Arch of Caracalla was dismantled by the Duc d’Orleans in 1839, ready to be shipped to Paris, but when the duke died 3 years later the project was abandoned. The arch was reconstructed in 1922.
Patuxai is a war monument in the center of Vientiane, Laos, dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. It was built between 1957 and 1968. The monument has 5 towers that represent the 5 principles of coexistence among nations of the world. They are also representative of the 5 Buddhist principles of “thoughtful amiability, flexibility, honesty, honor and prosperity”.
Lucius Septimius Severus was a Roman Emperor born in Leptis Magna, in present day Libya, who reigned 193 until his death in 211. The Arch of Septimius Severus cannot be dated precisely, but it is likely that the citizens of Lepcis started the construction immediately after their fellow citizen had become emperor. The central scene on the arch shows the emperor shaking hands with his sons, Caracalla and Geta. Caracalla is shown as a tall young man and this offers a clue for the moment of completion of the arch, probably in the early 200’s.
Arch of Titus in Rome was constructed in 82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’ victory in the Sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Arch of Titus has provided the general model for many of the triumphal arches erected since the 16th century including the Arc de Triomphe.
Timgad was a Roman colonial town in present day Algeria founded by the Emperor Trajan around 100 AD. At the west end of the town rises a 12 meter (39 feet) high triumphal arch, called Trajan’s Arch (or the Timgad Arch), which was partially restored in 1900. The chief material used in building the arch was sandstone. The fluted columns are of fine white limestone and smaller columns are of colored marble.
Situated in the north of Jordan, Jerash was one of the most important cities in the Roman province of Arabia. The Romans ensured security and peace in this area which enabled its people to achieve great prosperity. Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129-130. The Arch of Hadrian was built to celebrate his visit. This triumphal arch was intended to become the main Southern gate to the city but the expansion plans were never completed.
Situated next to the Colosseum in Rome, the Arch of Constantine was erected in 315 AD to commemorate Emperor Constantine I’s victory over Emperor Maxentius. The battle marked the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. According to chroniclers, Constantine had a vision that God promised victory if his army daubed the sign of the cross on their shields. Although The triumphal arch certainly attributes Constantine’s success to divine intervention it does not display any overtly Christian symbolism.
The white marble Arch of Septimius Severus at the northeast end of the Roman Forum in Rome was built in 203 AD to commemorate the victories against the Parthians of Emperor Severus and his two sons. After the death of Severus, his sons Caracalla and Geta were initially joint emperors until Caracalla had Geta assassinated in 212 AD. Geta’s memorials were destroyed and inscriptions referring to him were removed from the triumphal arch.
This iconic Arc de Triomphe forms the focus of the main east-west road axis of Paris, running between the Louvre and the Grande Arche de la Défense in the west. The monument was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 after his victory at Austerlitz. It was finally completed in 1836, long after his death. Famous victory marches around or under the Arc have included the Germans in 1871, the French in 1918, the Germans in 1940 and the French and Americans in 1944.