Nations have been holding ostentatious military parades since at least ancient Mesopotamia, when its victorious armies returned from battles fought to expand the empire. It’s safe to say that probably every nation that has fielded an army has held a military parade.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the grandest military parades in history, reviewing a variety of sources. We included military troop estimates participating in these parades for the most recent iteration where possible. The year refers to the first time the parade was held, if it is a recurring event.
Artists in ancient Mesopotamia depicted warrior kings leading triumphant armies in friezes on buildings. Fast forward to the Roman Empire, where the victories of Roman legions were greeted with a parade that went from the Field of Mars — the god of war– to the Temple of Jupiter. Rome was the largest of the mega cities of the ancient world.
As countries coalesced into nation-states, military parades were used to project a nation’s power. Much of the rigorous military choreography — the crisp salutes, the precise spacing between soldiers, the goose-stepping soldiers — can be traced back to the 17th century and army officers from Prussia, a militaristic nation that is one of at least 23 countries that no longer exist.
Democracies hold military parades as well. France’s Bastille Day parade is one of the world’s oldest. The parade so impressed President Donald Trump that he considered holding a parade in the U.S. in appreciation of the military but decided against it citing costs.
Americans tend to be somewhat ambivalent about military parades. This might be a reflection of our keeping the military at arm’s length and under civilian control. Americans have held military parades following victories in the Civil War and both world wars, the most expensive wars in U.S. history.
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