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Greece: Army flags - Overview

Last modified: 2002-12-20 by ivan sache
Keywords: colors |
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War flags or colours

The Greek Army has two distinct sets of flags. On the one hand there are the "war" flags. This is a translation of the Greek term, although perhaps the word "colours" is better to describe them. They are the flags carried into battle - or supposed to be carried into battle - by the Greek armed forces.
Of course, in peacetime they are used for ceremonial purposes. As a conscript I was in the Army. Each regiment had its own war flag, although they were all of the same design with no distinguishing feature, i.e. they were all white cross on blue St. George slaying dragon in the middle. When we were sworn in as soldiers (about 3 weeks after we joined) there was a ceremony and the regiment's war flag was paraded.

Yannis Natsinas, 2 August 1999

Unit flags

On the other hand, each "unit" from brigade level above has its own emblem/sleeve badge.
This is in the form of a shield although the top part (the "chief" to use the heraldic term) is taken up by a motto (this of course, is not heraldically correct. The motto should be on a scroll. But then again have limited knowledge of heraldry, which has never really caught on here).

There are such shields for the Ministry of Defence, Joint Chiefs of Staff (Greek initials are: GEETHA), Army General Staff (Greek initials: GES) etc. Those emblems can also be taken as emblems of the whole armed forces (GEETHA) or emblem of the army (GES).

These emblems can also be displayed in the form of a flag. Such flags are horizontally striped. There are three stripes and I think the middle one is almost invariably fimbriated. I don't think there are any particular rules about or reasons behind the choice of colours - they seem decorative to me. The flags incorporate the emblems of GES, GEN (navy general staff), GEA (air force general staff) and GEETHA.

Those flags are used as wall decorations or in the form of desk flags. I have never seen them flown in HQs etc. (of course, the war flag is not flown either - instead HQs, barracks etc. fly the Greek national flag and there are flag raising and flag lowering ceremonies.) I suppose the Ministry of Defence or the General Staff HQs may fly those flags but I've never been there.

Where I was in the Army, we never even saw such a flag, although we knew our division's "emblem", wore it on the left sleeve of our dress uniforms and were supposed to know its description and meaning - especially the motto which was usually some historical quote, especially from Classical Greek texts.

For the record, I have served in the 50th Infantry Brigade - emblem fuchsia pink with golden sphinx - motto The Beginnnig of Victory is Courage which is supposed to be a quote from Pittakos a classical Greek writer of the 7th cent. BC.
Later I was with the 15th Division (which I believe is now defunct) emblem blue shield with white griffin, motto Even this number is sufficient a saying attributed to Leonidas, King of Spartans, when asked how he expected to defeat the Persians with only 300 warriors.
The 16th Division had a yellow emblem with a black twin headed eagle and part of a castle walling and their motto was We shall all die of our own free will. It is an extract from a letter by Constantine Palaeologue, last Emperor of Byzance to Sultan Mehmet III of the Ottomans. The latter had asked Constantine to surrender Constantinople to him and Constantine had said that rather than surrender the city's defender would prefer that they all died of their own free will.

Yannis Natsinas, 2 August 1999

Vexillinfo [vxf] #5/82 reports that:

  • The Armed Forces flag is horizontally divided dark blue-red fimbriated white-light blue with the Armed Forces emblem in the center and the motto To win forever.
  • The Army flag is horizontally divided red-green fimbriated white-red with the Army emblem in the center and the motto The freedom is for the valiants.
  • The Army staff flag is horizontally divided red-green-red
  • The Navy flag is white bordered blue with the Navy emblem in the center and the motto The greatness is for the sea dominators
  • The Air Force flag is horizontally divided light blue-yellow fimbriated red,-light blue with the Air Force emblem in the center and the motto Lord of skies forever.

Jaume Ollé, 1 August 1999

The website of the Greek Armed Forces shows 66 flags, probably all the unit flags of the Greek Army. By clicking on the link below each flag, you can reach another page with a large image of the flag.

All flags have the same general design: Three horizontal coloured stripes, with a fimbriation between them, an emblem in the middle and a golden fringe.

Ivan Sache, 18 February 2002

The mottos in the emblems are mostly from ancient times, therefore in various forms of ancient Greek (e.g. from Homer's Ilias). Transliteration of Greek is according to the rules of transliterating ancient Greek into English, i.e., zeta is transliterated "z", eta "ê", theta "th", xi "x", upsilon "u" or "y", phi "ph", chi "ch", psi "ps", omega "ô", all others are straightforward. The modern pronunciation of Greek, however, is different: especially a whole set of vowels and diphthongs (y, ê, ei, oi) are pronounced as "i" (like "invincible"). If the Greek terms would have been only in Modern Greek, I would have preferred a more phonetic transliteration; for this mixture of ancient and modern Greek I prefer the more traditional transliteration. I left off all the diacriticals (accents, spiritus, iota adscriptum).

Marcus Schmöger, 25 February 2002

List of the units of the Greek Army