Those Gloating Romans: the Arch of Orange

Triumphal Arch of Orange, Arc de triomphe d’Orange, Orange, France

If you walk out of the main heart of Orange, going north, you’ll get to what I thought was the most interesting place in the town.  It is the oldest surviving triple Roman Arch that still has some of its decoration visible.  Though maybe not as impressive or as dense with imagery as those in Rome, it is a wonderfully impressive structure and it was fun to explore the remaining details.

The exact date of construction isn’t known, but current ideas are that it was created under Augustus.  It was built on the via Agrippa to honour the veterans of the Gallic Wars and specifically the Legio II Augusta whose veterans were settled in town.  Tiberius had it reconstructed to celebrate the victories of Germanicus over German tribes, and the arch has an inscription dedicated to the Emperor in 27 AD.

The arch is decorated with various reliefs of military themes, including naval battles, spoils of war and Romans battling Germans and Gauls. A Roman foot soldier carrying the shield of Legio II Augusta is seen on the north front battle relief.

The arch was built into the town’s walls during the Middle Ages and used to guard the northern entry points of the town.  The marks in the marble which look like they were made by arrows are indeed said to have been made by medieval crossbowmen who used it for target practice.

The Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Top panel of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Detail of fighting Romans and barbarians on the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Pretty remnants of decoration, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Side arch of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Detail of the war booty, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Frieze showing fighting soldiers, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

War booty on the other side of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Naval booty depicted on the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Amazing coffered ceiling vault the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

More war booty shown on the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Relief depicting a battle, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

The north facade of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Details of naval instruments, including a hoist, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Remaining faces in the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

The amazing coffered vault on the inside of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

The edge of the inside decoration of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

So much detail on the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Magnificent Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Angles on the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Detail of ropes, a hoist and the ship’s wheel from the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Remains of two men and Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Image of a woman (a nereid?),Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Spoils of war above defeated Celts, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

A piggy amongst the spoils depicted on the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Detail of a frieze of soldiers, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Spoils of war with two defeated Celts, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Triton depicted on the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Top of the eastern side of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

The better preserved eastern side of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Naval scene with a relief of objects, Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Detail of an anchor and a ship from the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

The western side of the Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

Detail of two men and Triumphal Arch of Orange, Orange, France

So In Summary

While Orange is not worth visiting to see this arch alone, if you are visiting the city for the theatre, definitely visit this too.  Personally, this was my favourite thing about Orange, and made the trip worthwhile.

Further Information

The arch stands in a small, neat park-like area and is free.

How To Get There

Even on a hot day it’s a ten/fifteen minute walk to the arch from the centre of Orange.  I couldn’t find a map to post a link to here, but the theatre’s website has one you can check out: www.theatre-antique.com

Buses are around, but I didn’t bother using them so can’t vouch for their ease of use.

To get to Orange by train, check out the SNCF site: www.sncf.com

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