what does the Greek flag symbolize?
Why is the Greek flag blue and white? Why does it have nine stripes? When was it adopted as the official flag of the Greek state?
Throughout the period of Turkish occupation, there were many revolutionary movements by the enslaved Greeks. In all these revolts, a flag was raised as an improvised invention of each leader since there was no single state that could enforce a common emblem. Most of the flags had some common features (Byzantine purple, double-headed or single-headed eagle, etc.) with the cross being the most important of all because the Church was the main factor that united the Greeks during the Turkish occupation.
The cross was soon enforced as the religious and political emblem of the subjugated nation, to such an extent that the clergy became the leaders of the revolts with the sacred banners of their churches as flags.
At the beginning of the Revolution of 1821, many flags appeared with different representations, depending on the imagination of each leader, based on his hatred of the Turks, his historical knowledge, his family traditions, and his religious piety. Immediately after the occupation of Tripolitsa (September 1821), Papaflessas cut off a piece from the inside of his robe and at the same time asked the chief Panagiotis Kefalas to tear two strips from his white clothes.
With these pieces, a makeshift flag (blue with a white cross) was made by the Greek warriors on the former Turkish rule of the city. This was the first design of the official flag of the Greek state after the liberation. The historiography of the first post-revolutionary years also gave the flag a romantic dimension, resulting from the collaboration between soldier and priest, saying that the bravery of the warrior based his hopes on the Christian faith
On January 1, 1822, the National Assembly met in the square of Epidaurus. Among the many issues discussed was the question of adopting a single revolutionary flag to end the confusion that had previously been caused by the appearance of dozens of flags. An article of the Provisional Government of Greece defined the single flag as a symbol of “the wisdom of the God Father, liberty and the fatherland” and stipulated to have the cross as a symbol and the colors blue and white. On 15 March 1822 in Corinth, the Executive Body specified the details of the above decision.
The flag was to be square, blue, with a white cross in the center. The naval flag was distinguished into military and commercial. The military one was divided into nine horizontal rectangles. In the upper inner corner was a blue square with a white cross in the center. The above order was approved and ratified by the Political Constitution of Greece at Troizina (May 1827), stipulating that Greeks do not use other flags both on land and at sea. The above order was initially applied generally, as it clashed with the strong localist spirit of the revolutionaries.
Gradually, however, blue and white prevailed, and this put an end to the confusion caused by the variety of colors and shapes. On July 30, 1828, Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias issued a resolution stating that “Greek warships and merchant ships want to have the same flag, the current battle flag”, thus restoring a great injustice to the Greek merchant fleet which had lifted the weight of the Independence Struggle.
Regarding the justification of the choice of colors (white and blue), the series and the symbolism aimed at, there are different views that still lead to a disagreement among historians today. In particular, the following views and versions have been supported, although most are romantic views and lack evidence
The versions that have been heard
* The blue and white combination came from the colors of the veil of the goddess Athena.
* The specific colors were taken from the blue and white flags of Alexander the Great’s army, or the blue and white formal clothes of Byzantine officials, or from the imperial flag of the Paleologians.
* The colors and shape are borrowed from the flag of the famous chief Ioannis Stathas.
* The white color symbolizes the purity and good purpose of the Greeks who strove for independence. The blue color symbolizes the sky of Greece, the heavenly power that helped this unequal struggle end favorably for the Greek nation (this is also the prevailing view).
* The colors symbolize the sky (blue) and the foam of the ocean waves (white).
* The colors are the combination of the navy blue breeches and the white traditional clothes.
* The nine blue and white horizontal stripes were included in the imperial flag of Nikiforos Fokas, which were retained by the Kallergidas family in their coat of arms and flag, believing that they derived their origin from the emperor.
* The nine horizontal stripes symbolize the nine Muses.
*The parallel repeating stripes symbolize the sea and its waves.
* The horizontal stripes were chosen to follow the standards of the American flag (this view is not serious).
* The nine stripes are one, for each syllable of the phrase “Liberty or Death”.
In the book entitled “History of the Greek Army 1821-1997”, published by Greek Army, it says: “The choice of blue, the color of the sky, points to the divinity of the struggle, as God inspired the nation with the “Megali Idea”(the romantic idea of the Greater Greece), though weak and unarmed, to undertake this unequal struggle and bring it to a happy end.
White indicates the pure, innocent, and pure intention of the Greeks, whose only aim was the liberation and independence of the nation and its deliverance from many years of cruel tyranny. Finally, according to the prevailing version, the nine blue and white stripes represent the nine syllables of the phrase “Liberty or Death”, which was also the oath of the warriors of the Revolution “.
What is certain is that there is no justification for the specific color choice and shape in any of the official government documents that established this flag. It seems that the blue and white still keeps its secrets well hidden. Yet, it continues to inspire.