The Macksey Journal


The way in which a society chooses to memorialize war creates what Low and Oliver refer to as a “culture of commemoration” (Low and Oliver, 2012). This paper explores the ethical ideals expressed in The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Cleveland, Ohio from 1894 by analyzing the form, function, impact, and reception of the piece. This monument unites ancient traditions and modern ideals through the combination of a dedicatory column with lists of names and a powerful visual narrative. I will place this war memorial in dialogue with three others: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C, the funerary monument at Adamclisi located in modern day Romania, and the Column of Trajan in Trajan’s Forum, Rome. These monuments utilize similar methods of representation; a list of names in the former two and a columnar form with visual narrative in the latter. When placed in dialogue with these similar monuments, key relationships emerge surrounding the individual and the collective, sacrifice and glory. While the ancient Roman monuments serve to promote the glory of the Empire, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument sets the precedent for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in honoring the lives of individual soldiers. Thus, we can understand not only the message behind this commemorative monument, but the culture that has produced it.