The ancient Romans invented quite a number of feats of architecture that have been constructed in modern times.
Arches are great examples of monuments that can be found decorating cities around the world today.
Perhaps the most prominent Roman invention is the so-called victory column, a monument that consists of a pillar that is often topped by a monumental sculpture.
In ancient times, these were often erected to commemorate a victory in war. In modern times, these have been erected to commemorate other events as well.
Many triumphal columns stand in the most popular squares in major cities, so let’s check out some of the most famous victory columns in the world.
1. Trajan’s Column – Rome, Italy
Trajan’s Column is arguably one of the most amazing monuments from the ancient world. That’s a big statement but it’s really an incredible victory column that was erected in honor of Roman Emperor Trajan who was victorious during the Dacian Wars in the early 2nd century A.D.
It stands majestically in the middle of Trajan’s Forum, an ancient marketplace that was also commissioned by Trajan. It stands about 35 meters (115 feet) tall and what makes this column so special is the spiraling frieze that depicts 155 scenes and which features an astounding 2,662 figures.
2. Nelson’s Column – London, United Kingdom
Nelson’s Column is one of the dozens of monuments that have been erected in honor of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson. He won the decisive Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars but lost his life during this event in the early 19th century.
The column is the centerpiece of Trafalgar Square in London and is topped with a massive statue depicting the British Royal Navy Officer. The column stands exactly 51.59 meters (169 feet 3 inches) tall which makes it a prominent landmark in this popular square.
3. Colonne Vendôme – Paris, France
The Colonne Vendôme is the centerpiece of the Place Vendôme, an amazing square in the historical heart of Paris. As you can see, it was modeled on Trajan’s Column and the reason why it was erected in the early 19th century wasn’t too much different as well.
Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned it in 1806 to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. It was completed in 1810, stands 44.3 meters (145 feet) tall, and is decorated with 425 bronze plates made of 180 canons captured during the battle. The original column was toppled in 1871 during the Paris Commune but reerected shortly after in 1874.
4. Berlin Victory Column – Berlin, Germany
The Berlin Victory Column is one of the shiniest victory columns on this list. It was commissioned in 1864 to commission the Prussian victory in the Second Schleswig War. What’s remarkable is that by the time it was erected in 1873, the Prussian army had already defeated Austria and France as well.
This magnificent column stands at the “Great Star” in Berlin after it was moved from its original location at the Königsplatz by the Nazis in 1939. The column stands 66.89 meters (219.45 feet) tall and is topped with a gilded sculpture of Victory, the Roman goddess of victory.
5. Columbus Monument – Barcelona, Spain
The Columbus Monument is another monumental victory column that decorates the Spanish city of Barcelona. It stands at the lower terminus of the popular La Rambla avenue and was specially erected for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona which took place in 1888. The column reaches a height of 60 meters (197 feet).
As the name of the monument suggests, it was constructed to commemorate Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, and more specifically, his first journey to the Americas. Why in Barcelona? It’s here that he mentioned his discovery to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V in the late 15th century.
6. Congress Column – Brussels, Belgium
Congress Column is a victory column in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. It stands on Congress Square in the city and was constructed between 1850-1859 to commemorate the most important moment in the country’s history. It’s a prominent monument that stands 47 meters (154 feet) tall.
The creation of the Belgian Constitution by the National Congress happened between 1830 and 1831 shortly after the Belgian Revolution. The monument is topped with a sculpture of King Leopold I, the country’s first monarch. The base is surrounded by 4 sculptures that represent the 4 freedoms mentioned in the constitution.
7. Washington Monument – Baltimore, United States
The Washington Monument is located just north of downtown Baltimore, Maryland in a location where Mount Vernon Place and Washington Place intersect. It was built between 1815 and 1829 and was the first monument that was constructed to commemorate the country’s first president George Washington (1732–1799).
The monument stands 54.46 meters tall (178.67 feet) tall and was designed by American architect Robert Mills (1781–1855). What’s remarkable about this is that Mills also designed the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., the obelisk that stands in the heart of the National Mall.
8. Angel of Independence – Mexico City, Mexico
The Angel of Independence or “El Ángel” is one of the most famous monuments in Mexico City, the capital of Mexico. It stands in the center of a huge roundabout on the Paseo de la Reforma in the heart of downtown Mexico City.
The monument was constructed in 1910 to commemorate the centennial of the start of Mexico’s War of Independence. It stands 45 meters (148 feet) tall and it was later partially repurposed to serve as a mausoleum of some of the most notable people who fought in this war.
9. Pompey’s Pillar – Alexandria, Egypt
Pompey’s Pillar is another ancient victory column that stands in the ruins of the Serapeum of Alexandria in the northern part of Egypt. It was commissioned to commemorate Roman Emperor Diocletian and was constructed between 298 and 302 A.D.
What’s fascinating about this monumental column is that it’s the only ancient monument that still stands in its original location in Alexandria today. The massive porphyry statue of Diocletian that once topped the column has been lost over the centuries, except for part of its right thigh.
10. Independence Monument – Kyiv, Ukraine
The Independence Monument is a magnificent victory column that decorates Maidan Nezalezhnosti or “Independence Square” in the heart of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. It was constructed in 2001 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The column is topped with a female figure that represents Berehynia, a Slav goddess. The column is decorated with white Italian marble which gives it a beautiful appearance. Remarkably, the column stands 61 meters (200 feet) tall and replaced a former monument dedicated to Vladimir Lenin which was dismantled in September 1991.