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The Greek Flag: Its meaning and the two versions (video)

I am sure you have been seeing a lot of Greek flags on public buildings and private balconies and yards, roofs and windows on the occasion of the celebrations for the Greek War of Independence 1821. You may have noticed, however, that the flags handing outside private houses may differ form the official flag. Did you know that the official Greek flag had two versions, the sea’ and the ‘land’ flag and that the land flag is still in use by citizens?

Image result for greek flag gif

The flag of Greece the country’s national symbol.

The origins of the Greek flag that we know today can be traced back to the Hellenic Revolution in 1821 during which the Greeks declared their independence from the Ottoman Empire. The First National Assembly at Epidaurus adopted the current design, the “sea” flag, differing from the land flag (a white cross on a blue backdrop) and the merchant marine flag (a blue cross on a white background).

[Ensign 1828]

The National Flag since 1978, the Sea Flag

Until 1978, Greece had one flag in two versions: one to be used at sea and on the coast, and one to be used on land.

According to the book Hellenic flags  Greece had from 1828 to 1970 had two national flags. The cross and stripes flag was used outside the country, including at the coast, whereas the plain cross flag was used inside.

[Flag 1828]

The Greek Flag used on land 1822–1969 and 1975–78

In 1978 the sea flag was adopted as the sole national flag.The flag is used on both land and sea is also the war and civil ensign, replacing all other designs surviving until that time. No other designs and badges can be shown on the flag.

To date, no specification of the exact shade of the blue colour of the flag has been issued. Consequently, in practice hues may vary from very light to very dark.

The old land flag is apparently still flown at the Old Parliament building in downtown Athens.

The origins of the Greek flag’s two components, a cross and stripes, are difficult to trace. Both elements have ancient historical connotations, but there are no records from the National Assembly at Epidaurus explaining the exact reasons for the flag’s key features.

The flag is based on a pattern of nine equal horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white.

There is a blue canton in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white cross. The cross symbolizes the Greek Orthodox Christianity, the official religion of the country.

The blazon of the flag is Azure, four bars Argent; on a canton of the field a Greek cross throughout of the second. The official flag ratio is 2:3.

The shade of blue used in the flag has varied throughout its history, from light blue to dark blue, the latter being increasingly used since the late 1960s.

The Greek flag was officially adopted by the First National Assembly at Epidaurus on 13 January 1822, a year after the Greek War of Independence of 1821.

Popular revolutionary flag

The Flag during the revolution of 1821, used 1770-1822. Blue Cross over a white field.

This design appeared in the 1769 uprising, based on older patterns. Used among others by the Kolokotronis family, this flag, with variations, was the most widely used throughout Greece during the initial stages of the 1821 revolution.

Construction sheet of the Greek National Flag

According to popular tradition, the nine stripes represent the nine syllables of the phrase “Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος” (“Freedom or Death”), the five blue stripes for the syllables “Έλευθερία” and the four white stripes “ή Θάνατος”.

The nine stripes are also said to represent the letters of the word “freedom” (Greek: Ελευθερία).

The colors Blue and White have many interpretations, symbolising the colors of the famed Greek sky and sea (combined with the white clouds and waves), traditional colors of Greek clothes in the islands and the mainland.

There have been dozens of versions of the Greek flag since the early 19th century, but the cross has always been a central feature. Many versions of the Greek flag feature only a cross (no stripes), sometimes with a coat of arms or crown at the center of the cross displaying allegiance to a particular leader.

The cross on today’s Greek flag occupies the region in the top left corner, and is a white cross with a blue background, much like a mini-version of the old Greek land flag.

The video below shows some historical flags of Greece but also flags of provinces, war symbols,etc. From the Byzantine times to today.

@Nickmariostories who made the video notes that “not including are Ancient Greek flags because they are not flags with the today’s definition.”

sources: wikipedia, crwflags, flags

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  1. The land flag as a motif also appears on the back of military vehicles next to the registration plate. I have often wondered what it was and why.

  2. This was really interesting, thank you! As a sailor my yacht has a ‘house flag’ which happens to have an eagle on it (it’s a long story). Many years ago I was shouted at by a local Greek man in Lefkas who insisted that on Greek people can fly flags with eagles on them in Greece. I suspect this has something to do with the double-headed eagle flag of the Orthodox church. Does anyone know whether it is illegal for non-Greeks to fly flags with an eagle on it in Greece? I have no wish to inadvertently break the law.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      honestly, I have no idea but … i don’t think it is illegal – except in the minds of fanatics. you could ask port authorities