Resident macrophages densely populate the normal arterial wall, yet their origins and the mechanisms that sustain them are poorly understood. Here we use gene-expression profiling to show that arterial macrophages constitute a distinct population among macrophages. Using multiple fate-mapping approaches, we show that arterial macrophages arise embryonically from CX3CR1 + precursors and postnatally from bone marrow-derived monocytes that colonize the tissue immediately after birth. In adulthood, proliferation (rather than monocyte recruitment) sustains arterial macrophages in the steady state and after severe depletion following sepsis. After infection, arterial macrophages return rapidly to functional homeostasis. Finally, survival of resident arterial macrophages depends on a CX3CR1-CX3CL1 axis within the vascular niche.