How did European emperors and kings celebrate their victories? They built an arch, and sometimes the building took so long that the victor died before the arch was completed. This is the case of one of the most visited arches in Europe, the Arc de Triomphe, or Arch of Triumph, in Paris:
Started in 1806 at the request of Napoleon after the victory at Austerlitz, construction was only completed in 1836, 15 years after Napoleon’s death.
The source of the design is the Arch of Titus in Rome, which was built in 82 to honor all of Titus’s victories. Like Napoleon, Titus did not live to see the arch, which was commissioned shortly after his death:
What Napoleon did see is the Triumphal Arch of the Louvre Carrousel, a smaller arch also designed in 1806 but completed by 1808:
Photo from Zia Mosaic
This arch is also inspired from an Ancient Roman design, the Arch of Constantine, built in 315, during Constantine’s lifetime, to commemorate his previous victories:
Ironically, the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Constantine are not only the inspiration for Napoleon’s arches, but also the models for the two arches built in London to commemorate Britain’s victories against Napoleon:
Wellington Arch (built 1826-1830) – Photo by Carlos Delgado
Marble Arch (built 1827-1833)
So when you come across one of those triumphal arches in Europe, especially in Rome, Paris, or London, take a look at the sculptures and details. These monuments are not just ornate gates. They do not refer to myths or legends, but to actual events — the kind that shaped an entire continent.