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

"Vexilloid" is a term used tenuously[clarification needed] to describe vexillary (flag-like) objects used by countries, organizations, or individuals as a form of representation other than flags. Whitney Smith coined the term 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.

"Vexilloid" can be used in a broader sense of any banner (vexillary object) which is not a flag (that is, taking only Smith's first sentence into account). Thus it 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 specialized purposes, such as for some military units or to symbolize various organizations such as fraternal organization 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.

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 center. 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]

  • 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]



  1. ^ Vexilloids, Flags of the World .
  2. ^ Smith, Whitney (1975). Flags Through the Ages and Across the World. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-059093-1. 
  3. ^ Vexilloid of the Carthaginian Empire:
  4. ^ Wiesehofer, Joseph Ancient Persia New York:1996 I.B. Tauris
  5. ^ Website honoring Dr. Kourosh Aryamanesh—Depicts images of the Derafsh Kaviani:
  6. ^ Image of the Derafsh Kaviani:
  7. ^ Hitler and the Rise of Nazism (Museum of World War II--Navick, Massachusetts, USA): Archived May 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Image of an SS vexilloid: Archived December 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]