A Brief And Partial History Of Military Flags
Today when we see a state flag or even the flag of our nation, we practically take it for granted. We all know that the American flag, for instance, symbolizes the beginnings of the country, along with its continuing trials and history, and how the flag has been added to through the years, up to the modified standard that we all know today. This can be extended even further to state emblems, such as California. Most people from California are aware that the bear on their state banner represents numerous things, including the early fur trade and the great untamed wilderness that was once that great state.
Yet taking something for granted, such as a flag, does a disservice both to the actuality that is symbolized by that piece of cloth, and to the history that entices so many people, so many lives. One such family of symbols includes military flags.
Flags were used in ancient cultures and countries such as Egypt, Assyria, Persia, and Israel. These were not of a national nature, but stood for individual tribes, and thus are one of the earliest precursors to military flags. As civilizations began to grow and resources such as land or water began to grow scarce, these tribal flags took on a militant purpose.
Tribal flags, now military flags, would be carried with armies of all sizes, to act as identification in some cases, as signaling devices, or even as inspiration for troops in battle. In fact, military flags took on such an important stature that throughout the world, including North and South American cultures such as the Inca, one invading army would steal the military flags of their enemies and prominently display them as signs of their victory.
In Europe, many early flags were of a religious nature. Yet as lords would protect not only the serfs but the smaller chapels and churches, they often would adopt these religious colors, which would then become military flags.
This was not the only way in which flags would change. Originally they were normally attached at one side by a rope and hung from the top of an upright pole or pike. It took many years for military flags and flags in general to take on their exact essence of hanging on a pole from the side as we know today.
Over time many military units would adopt their own individual colors to give each unit distinction, and variety to this type of flag as a whole. Oddly enough, the evolution continued, and as tribes merged; so too did either flags merge in color and emblem scheme, or one of the banners would be thrown to the wayside outright. This trend continued further as tribes gave way to villages and city-states, which themselves gave way to nations. As this process happened, sometimes the emblem of a lord would work its way to the top and emerge as a country抯 flag, the lord himself long forgotten.
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