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The vexillum of the Roman Empire, emblazoned with S·P·Q·R (senātus populusque Rōmānus), "senate and people of Rome"

A vexilloid is any flag-like (vexillary) object used by countries, organisations, or individuals as a form of representation other than flags. American vexillologist Whitney Smith coined the term vexilloid in 1958, defining it as:

An object which functions as a flag but differs from it in some respect, usually appearance. Vexilloids are characteristic of traditional societies and often consist of a staff with an emblem, such as a carved animal, at the top.

This includes vexilla, banderoles, pennons, streamers, standards, and gonfalons. The first most primitive proto-vexilloids may have been simply pieces of cloth dipped in the blood of a defeated enemy in pre-historic times, and the precursors of all later vexilloids and flags.[1]

The use of flags replaced the use of vexilloids for general purposes during late medieval times between about 1100 to about 1400. However, vexilloids still remain in use for specialised purposes, such as for some military units or to symbolise various organisations such as fraternal organisation in street parades.[2]

Ancient empires[edit]

The vexilloid of Cyrus the Great, Emperor of the Achaemenid Empire
The Vergina Sun was displayed on the vexilloid of Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire.
Illustration of the Ashoka Chakra, as depicted on the National flag of the Republic of India
The Carthaginian Standard
  • The vexilloid of Ancient Carthage most probably consisted of a spear with a disk and crescent (points upwards), symbolising the god Baal (sun = disk) and the goddess Tanit (moon = crescent).[3]

Medieval empires[edit]

Emblem of the Palaiologos dynasty and the Byzantine Empire
  • The tugh of Central Asian and Turkic peoples of the pre-Ottoman and Ottoman periods.
  • The vexilloid of the Mongol Empire, the only vexilloid of an empire to be three-dimensional rather than mostly a flat surface, the "Yöson Khölt tsagaan tug" (Mongolian: Есөн хөлт цагаан туг) or the "Nine Base White Banners", was composed of nine flag poles decorated with nine off-white horse tail hairs hanging from a round surface with a flame or trident-like shape on the top at the centre. The Nine White Banners was a peacetime emblem used by the Khan in front of his yurt. The war flag of the Mongol Empire was the same as the banner at right, except the horse tails were off-black instead of off-white as they were cut from black instead of white horses.

Modern empires[edit]

The NSDAP's Standard for Berlin with the motto "Deutschland Erwache" embroidered upon it.
  • In Nazi Germany, also referred to as the Third Reich, the SS used vexilloids which they marched with in street parades and at the Nuremberg rallies. These vexilloids were topped with an eagle and a swastika and with the name of the particular locale of the SS contingent carrying the vexilloids. Inscribed on them was the slogan Deutschland Erwache, which means Germany Awake.[7][8]


  • Smith, Whitney (1975). Flags Through the Ages and Across the World. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-059093-1.


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