The town of Orange was founded in 35BC by soldiers of the Second Gallic Legion under Julius Caesar. North of Orange is a Roman Triumphal Arch which, according to a relief of a coat of arms on a foot soldier’s shield, may have been built during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14AD).

photo by Michel Haour

The Arch is decorated with Corinthian columns and reliefs of military themes of infantry battles, cavalry battles, maritime battles, trophies of land armies, maritime armies, prisoners, and men and women in chains. The structure measures 19,57 metres in length, 8,40 metres in width, and 19,21 metres in height. It has three arches, with the middle one larger than the two flanking arches.

The town of Orange is considered to have been built as a settlement for veteran soldiers, and its Arch of Triumph on the Via Agrippa was also believed to honour these veterans of the Gallic wars. It bore a first inscription with the Roman name of Orange: the Colonia Firma Julia Secundanorum Arausio.

The Arch is thought to have been later renovated under Emperor Tiberius to celebrate the victories over the German tribes. On the north façade of the Arch, you will find cramp holes on which bronze letterings used to be. It is thought to be a second inscription, a dedication to Tiberius. The letterings have since been lost and attempts to guess what this inscription might be have been unsuccessful so far.

There are three rows of reliefs: The top row panel on the north and south main façades is a sculpture of arms, and on the east and west smaller façades, the reliefs represent trophies of arms; on the middle row, the panels depict naval scenes; and the bottom larger panels depict battle scenes.

It is believed that the Triumphal Arch at Orange was used as a model for the Arches in Rome dedicated to Septimus Severus and Constantine.

Information sources:

Unesco World Heritage Sites
Athena Review
Heritage Key

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