The Lion and Sun or Shir-o-khorshid (Persian: شیر و خورشید) is one of the better-known emblems of Iran, and between 1423 and 1979 was an element in Iran's national flag. The motif, which combines "ancient Iranian, Arab, Turkish, and Mongol traditions", became a popular symbol in Iran in the 12th century. The lion and sun symbol is based largely on astronomical and astrological configurations: the ancient sign of the sun in the house of Leo, which itself is traced backed to Babylonian astrology and Near Eastern traditions.
During the Safavid era, the lion and sun stood for the two pillars of society, the state and the Islamic religion. It became a national emblem during the Qajar era. In the 19th century, European visitors at the Qajar court attributed the lion and sun to remote antiquity; since then, it has acquired a nationalistic interpretation. During the reign of Fat'h Ali Shah and his successors, a crown was also placed on the top of the symbol to represent the monarchy. Beginning in the reign of Fat'h Ali Shah Qajar, the Islamic aspect of the monarchy was de-emphasized. The emblem remained the official symbol of Iran until the 1979 revolution, when the "Lion and Sun" symbol was removed from public spaces and government organizations, and replaced by the present-day Coat of arms of Iran. (more...)