Knowledge unlocks a world of possibilities The Robinson Library

Home About The Library Navigation Help Sitemap Terms of Use Contact Information

  American HistoryUnited States: Local History and DescriptionSouth Atlantic StatesVirginiaArlington County
Arlington Memorial Amphitheatre

is located near the center of Arlington National Cemetery, behind the Tomb of the Unknowns (aka Tomb of the Unknown Soldier). The Amphitheatre is the site of the national Easter, Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations; it has also "hosted" the state funerals of several American military heroes, including Army General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing and Air Force General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold.

birds-eye view of the Amphitheatreentrance to the Amphitheatre

The Amphitheatre was the brainchild of Judge Ivory G. Kimball, department head of Grand Army of the Republic, who believed that a place where citizens could assemble to honor American defenders needed to be constructed within Arlington National Cemetery. Congress passed a bill authorizing its construction on March 4, 1913, a ground-breaking ceremony was held on March 1, 1915, and President Woodrow Wilson laid the cornerstone on October 15, 1915; the Amphitheatre was dedicated on May 15, 1920. Kimball did not live to see the building completed, however, as he died on May 15, 1916.

chapel inside the AmphitheatreThe Amphitheatre is constructed primarily of white marble from the Danby quarries in Vermont. A Memorial Display Room, between the Tomb of the Unknowns and the Amphitheatre entrance, houses plaques and other tributes in honor of the four servicemen interred in the Tomb. A small chapel beneath the Amphitheatre stage allows the family of friends of servicemen to pay their respects before final burial in the Cemetery.

The names of 44 battles from the American Revolution through the Spanish-American War are inscribed around the frieze above the colonnade, and the names of 14 Army Generals and 14 Navy Admirals prior to World War I are inscribed on each side of the stage.

The following, from then-General George Washington's June 26, 1775, letter to the Provincial Congress is inscribed inside the apse: "When we assumed the soldier we did not lay aside the citizen."

The following, from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is inscribed above the stage: "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."

"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" (Latin for "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.") is etched above the west entrance.


John J. Pershing
World War I

Questions or comments about this page?

  The Robinson Library > American History > United States: Local History and Description > South Atlantic States > Virginia > Arlington County

This page was last updated on February 08, 2014.

About This Site | Navigation Help | Sitemap | Terms of Use | Contact