The Story Behind the First Greek Flag

The first Greek flag was made on the island of Skiathos at the Holy Monastery of Evangelistria in the year 1807.

It was made on a loom and had a white cross woven across it against a light blue background.

The flag was first raised in on the island of Skiathos on September, 1807 after the Armatoloi from Olympus landed on the island’s shores with 70 cruisers following the completion of the Treaty of Tilsit between Russia and Turkey.

They took down the Russian flag and raised the Greek flag.

Many of the well-known Greek fighters of the 1821 Revolution played a big role in how the first official Greek flag came to be created at Evangelistria.

Prominent military leaders in the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829) against the Ottoman Empire, such as Theodoros Kolokotronis and Andreas Miaoulis would gather at Evangelistria.

Greek flag as symbol of faith and bravery

After a meeting between the revolutionary leaders at the Monestary, the monks decided to make the flag as a symbol of the faith and bravery of the Greek people.

The white cross represented the faith of the people and the light blue symbolized Greece, the Greek sea and the brave soldiers who would go on to fight to liberate Greece in the revolution for independence.

As the first ships that joined the revolution departed for the sea, the fighters took down the Russian flags on their ships and proudly raised the first Greek flag on their vessels as they set out to liberate Greece from the Ottomans.

The current Greek flag

The current national flag of Greece, popularly referred to as the “blue and white”, is officially recognized by Greece as one of its national symbols and has nine equal horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white.

There is a blue canton in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white cross; the cross symbolizes Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the prevailing religion of Greece.

greek flag
The current flag of Greece is popularly referred to as the “blue and white”. Credit: Peter Guilliatt/ wikimedia commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The contrast between the rich blue and stark white, symbolizing the sky and sea, instantly calls the country it represents to mind and sparks pride in the heart of every Greek.

The flag’s nine horizontal stripes, five blue and four white, are said to represent the nine syllables in the phrase “Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος (Eleftheria i Thanatos),” the revolutionary phrase translating to “Freedom or Death.”

The utterance was proudly proclaimed by Greeks during the War of Independence, and it embodies their willingness to sacrifice their own lives in the fight for freedom.

However, some say that the nine stripes simply represent the nine letters of Ελευθερία, or freedom.


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