All About Flags
Flags have been used since ancient times to symbolize generals, kings, emperors and nation states. Where they originated is always disputed; some believe the first real flags came from ancient china, while others believe flags truly developed as symbols of standards used by Roman legionnaires in battle. No matter what, flags have been used as one of the simplest and most elegant forms of communication throughout the history of the world. Whether using a flag on the high seas as a battle ensign to formally declare readiness for a flight, or using flags of two nation states to symbolize an accord, these elegant and beautiful symbols have maintained their important through time.
While the oldest flags were used to communicate between ships when radios weren’t available, and to coordinate battalions on ancient battlefield, or to signify special individuals, now flags are used for advertising, decoration, messaging and for showing spirit to a club, team or allegiance to a country. One thing to note, among vexillologists, is that many of these “flags” of today are merely cloth banners or symbols, rather than official “flags”.
National flags are really the best known flags of the modern day. Each flag brings in colors, shape, symbolism and history and these emblems act as national unifiers all over the world. One of the first issues of business within any new nation is to develop a meaningful symbol for the populace and a national flag is that symbol.
Some national flags are also used as war flags, or military flags, but many nations, especially older nations have specific war flags and symbols. These war flags, originating with ancient wartime cultural standards, like the Roman eagle of Caesar, can act as unifiers within a battalion or army forging into battle. Some war flags were also associated with the monarch or leader at the time to inspire loyalty and passion when going into battle.
War and National flags at sea are actually called ensigns. Some countries, like the United Kingdom, have specific sea faring ensigns for their naval fleet, while other countries like the United States will fly the same national flag on the high seas or from flagpoles throughout the country.
Nowadays, flags are also used in sports, on the field to denote various plays and stages of the game, and by fans to show spirit and support of their home team. In auto racing, the checkered flag is a symbol of victory for the winner and of the completion of the race. Many of these sporting symbols have also been pulled into homes, businesses and residences as well.
Throughout the world, you’ll also find swimming and weather flags, indicating wind force, ocean conditions and heavy surf. You may find flags symbolizing no lifeguards, no swimming, sharks, riptides and even tsunami.
As you can see, flags today are used for an incredibly wide variety of communication and reasons, from national unity to simple signal and communications.