The Vergina Sun — also known as the Star of Vergina, Macedonian star, or Argead Star — is the name given to a symbol of a stylised star or sun with sixteen rays. It was unearthed in 1977 during excavations in Vergina, in the northern Greek region of Macedonia, by archaeologist Manolis Andronikos. He discovered it on a golden larnax in the tombs of the kings of the ancient kingdom of Macedon.
Manolis Andronikos described the symbol variously as a "star", a "starburst" or as a "sunburst". He proposed that the larnax on which it appears might have belonged to King Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. Osteological analyses in 2000 have revealed that the tomb may belong to Alexander the Great's half-brother, Philip III Arrhidaeus, although this has since been disputed. The larnax is on display at the archaeological museum in Vergina, where it was found. Another version of the Vergina Sun, with 12 rays, was found on the larnax of the occupant's wife, entombed in the antechamber, identified as Eurydice II of Macedon.
Since its rediscovery, it has taken on a new function as a political symbol associated with modern Macedonia, and has become the object of political conflict between Greece, Cyprus and the neighbouring Republic of Macedonia. Republic of Macedonia used it on its national flag between 1991 and 1995, when it agreed to change its flag under Greek pressure. Greece regards it as an official national symbol and has asserted an exclusive right to its official use.
The significance of the Vergina Sun is unclear. Archaeologists do not agree whether the sun was a symbol of Macedon, an emblem of Philip's Argead dynasty, a religious symbol representing the Twelve Gods of Olympus, or simply a decorative design. Andronikos repeatedly interprets it as the "emblem of the Macedonian dynasty", though Eugene Borza has pointed out that it is widely used in ancient Macedonian art. John Paul Adams cites its long-established use as a decorative element in Greek art and concludes that it cannot definitively be said that it was either a "royal" or "national" Macedonian symbol. Sixteen and eight-pointed suns often appear in Macedonian and Hellenistic coins and shields of that period, however the use of the symbol is attested in Greek art long before that period; depictions of ancient Greek hoplites bearing identical sixteen-pointed and similar eight-pointed symbols on their armours and shields as early as the 6th century BC, as well as coin designs from island and mainland Greece bearing eight or sixteen-pointed sun symbols (Corfu, 5th century BC, Locris, 4th century BC). Before 1977 the symbol had been regarded as a simple ornament. After Andronikos' discovery, the symbol began to be viewed as predominantly associated with Ancient Macedonians, despite its earlier ornamental use in Greek art.
A Vergina sun on Athena's shield. Pithos with the Judgment of Paris, from Athens.
Ancient Greek coin from Campania, Italy. A Vergina sun symbol is depicted above the bull.
Modern usage 
Following the discovery of the larnax, the Vergina Sun was widely adopted by Greek Macedonians as a symbol of continuity between ancient Macedonian culture and modern Greek Macedonia. The Vergina Sun on a blue background is commonly used as an official emblem of the three peripheries, the prefectures and the municipalities of the region of Macedonia. The symbol is placed on the bottom left corner of the Greek driving license, and on Greek passports, it forms the watermark image across pages 22 and 23, symbolising Greece's Macedonian legacy. It is the emblem of the Greek First Army and the 34th Mechanized Infantry Brigade. It is also used by organisations of the Greek Macedonian diaspora, such as the Pan-Macedonian Association, as well as by numerous commercial enterprises and in Greek Macedonian demonstrations.
The symbol was also adopted by another group, the Slav Macedonians, who wished to extract the same symbolic value from it. When Yugoslavia broke up in 1991-1992, as previously mentioned, the Republic of Macedonia designated the Vergina Sun as its national symbol and displayed it on its new flag.
The decision caused controversy both within the republic and outside it in its relations with Greece. The republic's large Albanian minority complained that it was an ethnic symbol of the ethnic Macedonian majority and was not suitable for a multi-ethnic state. Greek opposition was even more vehement. The Greek government and many Greek people, especially Greek Macedonians, saw it as the misappropriation of a Hellenic symbol and a direct claim on the legacy of Philip II. A Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman said in January 1995 that "the symbol is Greek and has been stolen." Nationalists on both sides subsequently associated the symbol with the (much later) Star of Bethlehem and have argued that their respective communities have used the symbol for sacred purposes before the Vergina discovery. The Greek position on the symbol has been supported by some abroad, such as the former United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who reportedly told a questioner:
|“||I believe that Greece is right to object and I agree with Athens. The reason is that I know history, which is not the case with most of the others, including most of the Government and Administration in Washington. The strength of the Greek case is that of the history which I must say that Athens has not used so far with success.||”|
Speaking on the BBC World Service's The World Today programme, archaeologist Bajana Mojsov from the Republic of Macedonia said that "the symbolic weight attached to the Vergina Star was archaeologically absurd - but politically inevitable," arguing:
|“||The star of Vergina applies to the 3rd century BC northern Greece - a very different situation, not related to the 21st century AD. I think it's modern politics, and we're witnessing the use of an archaeological symbol for history that it's really not related to.||”|
At the same time, Demetrius Floudas, Senior Associate at Hughes Hall, Cambridge, and one of the leading analysts of the Macedonia naming dispute, claimed that:
|“||what prompted the adoption of the Vergina Star was a desire from Skopje's part to advance maximalist objectives in order to barter with them for other concessions at the negotiating table when the time comes.||”|
Although the authorities in Skopje denied any ulterior motives, the flag became a major issue in the wider political dispute between the two countries of the early 1990s (see Foreign relations of the Republic of Macedonia). Greek objections led to the flag being banned from use in a variety of places, including the United Nations, the Olympic Games and offices of the Republic of Macedonia in the United States and Australia.
The symbol was introduced in Greece as a regional symbol and popular imagery from the mid-1980s and, after 1991, increasingly so in many new contexts in Greece. It was depicted on the obverse of the Greek 100 drachmas coin of 1990-2001, and appeared on the arm patches of police in Athens. The Thessaloniki based Makedonia television station used it to replace the letter omicron in its logo and the Bank of Macedonia-Thrace adopted it as its symbol, as did some Greek military units. In February 1993 the Greek parliament passed a bill designating the Vergina Sun as an official Greek national symbol. In July 1995, Greece lodged a claim for trademark protection of the Vergina Sun as an official state emblem under Article 6ter of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Republic of Macedonia lodged an objection against it in October of the same year. The dispute was partially resolved in October 1995 under a compromise brokered by Cyrus Vance at the United Nations. The symbol was removed from the flag of the Republic of Macedonia as part of an agreement to establish diplomatic and economic relations between the two sides, and it was replaced by a stylised yellow sun with eight widening beams on red ground. The symbol was not referred to as the "Star of Vergina" in the agreement as signed, although the Greeks described it as such in correspondence with Vance.
Despite the change of the national flag and the WIPO registration of the symbol, some ethnic Macedonians continue to use the Vergina Sun as an unofficial symbol. In the Republic of Macedonia, the municipality of Makedonska Kamenica in the still displays it on its municipal flag. According to Macedonian press reports from 2005, a similar choice was made by the municipality of Liqenas in neighbouring Albania, which has an ethnic Macedonian population. The symbol is also used by other ethnic Macedonian minority groups in neighbouring countries and by diaspora organisations. The Aromanians in the Republic of Macedonia use an eight-pointed Vergina sun as their symbol. In Canada a Macedonian advocacy group called United Macedonians Organization uses a stylized version of the sun as part of its logo and makes extensive use of the red vergina sun flag.
See also 
- Danforth, L. M. The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World, p. 163. Princeton University Press, 1997
- Not Philip II of Macedon
- Bartsiokas, Antonis, "The Eye Injury of King Philip II and the Skeletal Evidence from the Royal Tomb II at Vergina", Science, 21 April 2000: Vol. 288 no. 5465 pp. 511-514. DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5465.511
- W. Lindsay Adams and Eugene N. Borza, eds. Philip II, Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Heritage, p. 82. University Press of America, 1982
- Macedonian miniature shield
- Adams, J.P. The Larnakes from Tomb II at Vergina. Archaeological News. 12:1-7
- Νικόλαος Μάρτης (January 10, 1999). "Γιατί ο τάφος της Βεργίνας ανήκει στον βασιλέα της Μακεδονίας Φίλιππο Β'" (in Greek). Το ΒΗΜΑ.
- Greek Shield Patterns: ca. 590 BC - 540 BC
- Greek Shield Patterns: ca. 540 BC - 500 BC
- Greek Shield Patterns: ca. 475 BC - 430 BC
- Greek Shield Patterns: ca. 430 BC- 400 BC
- Greek Shield Patterns: ca. 400 BC - 350 BC
- Greek Shield Patterns: post 350 BC
- "Perseus:image:1990.26.0214". Perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- "Perseus:image:1989.00.0174". Perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- "Perseus:image:1990.26.0218". Perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- Greek Ministry of Infrastructure
- First Army emblem, Hellenic Army General Staff
- 34th Mechanized Infantry Brigade emblem, Hellenic Army General Staff
- Pan-Macedonian Association website
- Danforth, L. M. The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World, p. 166
- The dispute was exacerbated by clauses in the Republic of Macedonia's constitution that Greeks saw as a territorial claim on the Greek region of Macedonia
- "Henry Kissinger: An Analysis of the Global Geopolitical Environment", Nikolaos Martis: MACEDONIA, 1995, Accessed 12 May 2007
- "When archaeology gets bent". BBC World Service (BBC News). 2004,. Retrieved 2006-10-12.
- Floudas, Demetrius Andreas; ""A Name for a Conflict or a Conflict for a Name? An Analysis of Greece's Dispute with FYROM",". 24 (1996) Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 285. 1996. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
- Bank of Greece. Drachma Banknotes & Coins: 100 drachmas. – Retrieved on 27 March 2009.
- Gounaris, Basil C. (2003): "The Politics of Currency: Stamps, Coins, Banknotes, and the Circulation of Modern Greek Tradition", in The Usable Past. Greek Metahistories, Keith S. Brown and Yannis Hamilakis (eds.), Lexington Books, p. 77. ISBN 0-7391-0384-9
- "File:100 drachma-coins-front.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". En.wikipedia.org. 2007-01-14. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- Borza, Eugene N. "Macedonia Redux", in The Eye Expanded: life and the arts in Greco-Roman Antiquity, ed. Frances B Tichener & Richard F. Moorton, p. 260. University of California Press, 1999. See also: Greek military: 1st STRATIA and -34 Μ/Κ ΤAX.
- Article 6ter, Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
- "Greece petitions for int'l rights to Vergina Star", ANA, 31 July 1995.
- "Interim Accord (with related letters and translations of the Interim Accord in the languages of the Contracting Parties)". UN Treaty Series (New York: United Nations) 1891 (I–32193): Article 7.2 and Related Letters pp.15–18. 13 September 1995. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- WIPO Protection of State Emblems (Article 6ter) database
- "Makedonska Kamenica" municipality(Macedonian)
- "Makedonskosonce.com" (PDF). MAKEDONCITE NA BALKANOT. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- “ON THE STATUS OF THE MINORITIES IN THE REPUBLIC OF ALBANIA”, Albanian Helsinki Committee with support of the Finnish Foundation ‘KIOS’ and “Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights”.
- Finally, Albania recognizes a Greek and a Macedonian minority - Partly or Fully Unrecognized National Minorities: Statement to the UN Working Group on Minorities, 7th session, Geneva, 14-18 May 2001, Greek Helsinki Committee
- e.g. United Macedonians Organization website
- Cowan, Jane K. Macedonia: The Politics of Identity and Difference, p. 124. Pluto Press, 2000
- United Macedonians Organization website
- Philip II, Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Heritage, ed. W. Lindsay Adams and Eugene N. Borza. University Press of America, 1982. ISBN 0-8191-2448-6
- The Larnakes from Tomb II at Vergina. Archaeological News. John Paul Adams
- In the Shadow of Olympus: The Emergence of Macedon, Eugene N. Borza. Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-691-05549-1
- "Macedonia Redux", Eugene N. Borza, in The Eye Expanded: life and the arts in Greco-Roman Antiquity, ed. Frances B Tichener & Richard F. Moorton. University of California Press, 1999. ISBN 0-520-21029-8
- Macedonia: The Politics of Identity and Difference, Jane K. Cowan. Pluto Press, 2000. ISBN 0-7453-1589-5
- The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World, Loring M. Danforth. Princeton University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-691-04357-4
- Macedonia and Greece: The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation, McFarland & Company, 1997. ISBN 0-7864-0228-8
- Schell, Dorothea (1997). "Der Stern von Vergina als nationales Symbol in Griechenland". In R. W. Brednich and H. Schmitt, Münster et al. Symbole: Zur Bedeutung der Zeichen in der Kultur. pp. 298–307, p. 301. ISBN 978-3-89325-550-4.
- Image of gold box with Vergina Sun in Thessaloniki Museum
- Flags of Greek Macedonia - Flags of the World
- Macedonia National Flag 1992-1995 - Flags of the World