The History Of Flags - Part 01

We’re getting back to the most basic of all basics with this 4 part series. In this BestFlag Feature, we’re taking it to where it all began.

Where did flags come from? Why were they invented?

In this series, we’ll journey into the heart of our company, why we do what we do, and how this thing that is larger than any one entity began.

To begin, and not to be too philosophical, what is a flag? What makes something a flag as opposed to a sign or a banner?

Let’s build a working definition.

A flag is a piece of fabric that is traditionally attached to a support device on it’s shortest side that is used to represent, symbolize, or decorate.

This definition separates a flag from a banner, which are very similar. A banner is almost exclusively secured by it’s longest side, and also usually not a soft fabric. We’re splitting hairs, but its necessary.

As you’ve seen in some of our posts, the study of flags is vexillology. This comes from the Latin word “vexillium” which means flag or banner.

So how did we get here?

As best as historians can tell, flags begin to appear in (you guessed it) war applications. These weren’t flags as we think of now, but were an early predecessor. These flags, flown by armies, were more like longer dragon kites than they were flags that we think of today.

In the medieval period, flags were used to identify the knight with the army. Usually, knights had specific markings on their shields, but that can only be seen from up close (surely you’ve noticed this as you’ve been in several medieval skirmishes), so flags were used to fly high so the army could identify where the knight was in the battle. 

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