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Ancient Persian flags

Last modified: 2006-02-18 by joe mcmillan
Keywords: lion (yellow) | sun | persia | sheep | ram | qajar | herat | writing | shah tahmasb | nader shah | crescents: 9 (blue) |
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XIXth century

I have an old atlas (printed in the term of Chester A. Arthur, so 1881-4) that depicts the flag of Persia as swallow-tailed, but with the angles at the fly sort of curved. It has five equal horizontal stripes: blue, yellow, green, yellow, blue. The green stripe is also the "tongue" of the swallowtail. On the blue stripes are three stars, with "parentheses" around the middle star. The yellow stripes have two red "four leaf clovers" each, and the green stripe has a sword pointing towards the fly and another star in parentheses at the fly.

Josh Fruhlinger, 11 May 1996

Before first World War flags showing the lion and sun on a plain background seem to have served as national flags. I have found no reference to the swallow-tailed flag mentioned above.

Harald Müller, 14 May 1996

[Persian flag, 1876] image by Jaume Ollé

This "Persian flag" is shown on a Japanese flag dated 1876. It was probably not the Persian national flag, but perhaps the flag of a local ruler in Persian Gulf. The flag is also shown in other old plates.

Jaume Ollé, 17 January 2000

Battle of Herat image by Pedram Kian

This flag was used by the Iranian Army during the siege of Herat (west of Afghanistan) in 1838. The Arabic script on the flag [ Natser min Allah wa-fatakh al-karib] means "With the Help of God, Victory is Near," in Arabic language.

Pedriam Kian, 14 October 1999

King Qajar (late 1700's)

King Qajar image by Pedram Kian

This flag has been used around the late 1700's by the Iran king Qajar, who was from a Turkmen tribe, and my evidence is the portrait of him beside the flag.

Pedram Kian, 6 October 1999

Nader Shah

Source: The Imperial Iranian Army from Cyrus to Pahlavi by Yahva Zoka (1971).

  • "Hamway, an English merchant reports: Two large royal standards one with red, blue and white stripes and the other with red, blue, white and yellow stripes. Nader invented two other banners one with red and yellow stripes and one with a yellow background and red border."
    (Zoka suggests that the yellow banner carried the lion and sun motif of previous Iranian rulers).
  • Each regiment had its own distinctive banner of red and white stripes.
  • The naval ships had a white flag with curved red sword.

Note the illustrations show triangular flags with horizontal stripes. Whitney Smith did an article on Persian flags for one of the international vexillological meetings. He used this book and other sources.

Art Etchells, 20 September 2000

XVIth century

[Persian flag 1771 ?] image by Randy Young

Image taken from the 1771 Encyclopedia Britannica: on a green field a golden sheep standing before the rising sun.

Randy Young, 01 December 1998

This flag has been used for 5 decades during the rule of Shah Tahmasb of Persia (1524 - 1576). The reason he had placed a sheep on the official flag, was that because he was born during the month of Aries, and the symbol of that month is a ram. After Shah Tahmasb's death, the sheep was replaced by a lion again.

Pedram Kian, 13 April 2000