Some of my favorite videos on YouTube are map videos, specifically videos that show how nations change over time. Many of them come from great channels like Ollie Bye, EmperorTigerstar and Geography and Space. One of these videos from Geography and Space chronicles the progression of flags over hundreds of years of human history. After seeing some of these flags for the first time, I fell in love with them and thought some of them were totally bad ass. I decided to do some research on their backgrounds and share what I found! So here are five flags now defunct but are timeless in their style, aesthetic and awesomeness.
1) Qing Dynasty China
There is nothing more badass than a dragon, right? This design was based on an amazing military banner used by the Qing Dynasty, also known as the Manchus.
The dragon was naturally a symbol of imperial strength, ironic considering the recent history of the empire at the time this flag was adopted (Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion, anyone?). The red circle is meant to be the flaming pearl of the three-legged crow, a symbol of the sun bringing good luck and prosperity. Yellow is a royal color, tracing its roots back to the legend of the Yellow Emperor. The design in this flag is spectacular and not something we see in a lot of flags nowadays. The clouds in the banner give off a heavenly vibe, which connects the flag to the concept of the Mandate of Heaven, which was used to justify imperial rule by the major dynasties of China. This flag’s glorious design would not reflect on the outlook of the Qing Dynasty as various problems would lead to the establishment of the Republic in 1912. For being the last dynasty of China, they sure had a kick ass flag.
2) Golden Horde
This one caught my eye because I looked at it and instantly thought, “what the heck is that thing”. The Golden Horde was a Mongolian and Turkic successor state to the dissolved Mongol Empire and was established as a sector of the former empire before becoming its own independent state in 1259.
The flag was recorded in Angelino Dulcert’s 1339 chart as well as the Catalan Atlas in 1375, two of the most important medieval European maps of Eurasia. The piece on the right is a crescent moon while the sign that resembles a square root sign is known as a tamga, equivalent to a stamp or a seal. Such symbols are commonly used in the region by Turkic peoples as well as the Mongolians. I’ll admit, the first time I saw that, I thought it was some kind of a scale. According to New World Encyclopedia, the Horde spanned across parts of modern Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. However, the Horde’s history was marked by conflicts both within and outside its borders. By the 15th Century, it was dissolving into the much smaller Kazakh Khanate, the Crimean Khanate and the Great Horde.
3) Safavid Empire
This one is also pretty bad ass looking, with a lion looking boldly at you while the sun looks on from behind. The Safavids marked an important turning point in Persian and Islamic history, as they were the first to bring Twelver school Shia Islam to Iran. The Sun and the Lion represent the two pillars of society, state and religion. The Sun also connects to Jamshid, whose myth is a staple of ancient Persia. The Lion is a reference to Ali, who is known as the ‘Lion of Allah’ in Shia Islam.
This pair has been a symbol of great importance throughout Persian history. The Lion can also be seen in artwork at Persepolis while Lion and Sun are both on Imperial Coat of Arms of the last Shah and his dynasty before it was overthrown in 1979. This flag can both inspire and intimidate, especially given how some variants, even in future dynasties, had the Lion carrying a sword, which only ups the symbol’s authority in my opinion. This symbol would be washed away after the Revolution due to its association with the Imperial Dynasties of the past.
4) Timurid Empire
While we are on the topic of Persia, let’s look at the flag of one of the Safavid’s predecessors, the Timurid Empire. Or at least what we think it looked like, since the only evidence we have of this flag being used is in the aforementioned Catalan Atlas from 1375. This has led to some to question the validity of the flag’s existence. Even so, this flag is visually imposing thanks to the red on black color contrast.
The Timurid Empire was founded by Timur, also known as Tamerlane, a Turco-Mongol who claimed to be a distant relative of Genghis Khan and saw himself as his heir. The Empire he founded spanned across Persia into modern day Iraq, going up the Caucasus and even dipping into modern Pakistan and India.
Like all the other Empires on this list, Timurid would also fall, collapsing in the early 1500’s. However, a descendant of Timur, named Babur, would found the Mughal Empire and take over India shortly after.
5) Roman Empire
“The Senate, the People and Rome“ is what this acronym stands for and is commonly associated with the Roman Empire. This was less of a flag, and more of a vexillum, which looks like a sail flying on a post. Dating back to 80 BC, this symbol even predates the fall of the Old Roman Republic. Emblazoned with gold lettering and leaves around them on a red background, making this flag the flashiest one on this list. Rather than try to intimidate or impose, this flag is all about the glorification and projection of the Roman state. This symbol has found its way around Europe even after the fall of the Empire, with manholes and even the modern Coat of Arms of the City of Rome featuring ‘SPQR’.
Those are the top five flags that are just too fly to fly anymore. I guess people might have thought so back in their time too, even though some of these flags were from ruthless and brutal empires. Still, dat flag tho. Be sure to keep it here for more historical blogs and other stuff.
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