The current flag of Iran (Persian: پرچم ایران, Parcham-e Irân) was adopted on 29 July 1980, and is a reflection of the changes brought about by the Iranian Revolution. Its field is a tricolour comprising equal horizontal bands of green, white, and red.
Flags, standards, and banners have always been important national and imperial symbols for Iranians, both in war and peace. Xenophon reports that Cyrus the Great's standard was a golden eagle with spread wings, mounted on a long shaft.
The best-known symbol of Iran in recent centuries has been the Lion and Sun motif, which is a graphic expression of the astrological configuration of the sun in the sign of Leo, although both celestial and animal figures have long and independent histories in Iranian heraldry. Late in the nineteenth century the Lion and Sun motif was combined with an earlier scimitar motif and superimposed on a tricolour of green, white, and red. With minor modifications, this remained the official flag until the revolution.
During the Achaemenid era, especially at the time of Cyrus the Great, the Persian imperial flag was square in shape, divided kite-like into four equal triangles alternating between two colors.
In the excavations at Persepolis archaeologists found a standard depicting a golden eagle (oghabe talaii) or shahbaz with open wings. The current belief is that this was the official symbol of Iran under Cyrus the Great and his heirs.
In Sassanid times the imperial flag was a leather rectangle covered with a thin layer of silk ornamented with jewels, with a four-pointed star at the centre, indicating the four corners of the world. This is the same star referred to as Akhtare Kaviani ("the Kaviani star") by Ferdowsi in the epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings). The flag was larger than the original Derafshe Kaviani apron and suspended from a lance, the point of which appeared above it. Attached to the lower edge were tassels of yellow, magenta, and scarlet, with large pendant jewels. The flag was destroyed by invading Muslim Arabs after their decisive defeat of the Sassanids.
The Sassanid state collapsed on the emergence of an Islamic empire in the Middle East. Since Islam strictly prohibited figurative and expressive symbols as idol worship, all the traditional emblems used in Iranian flags were eliminated. Throughout this period there was no flag specific to Iran, although the use of Islamic banners was common.
Mahmud of Ghazni (998–1030) reinstated the use of symbolic expressions on the Iranian flag; the version he developed displayed a golden moon on a black background. A second flag has been attributed to the Ghaznavid empire, with a silver crescent moon and a peacock on a green field.
The first version of the modern Iranian tricolour was adopted in the wake of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906. The Supplementary Fundamental Laws of 7 October 1907 described the flag as a tricolour of green, white, and red, with a lion and sun emblem in the middle.A decree dated September 4, 1910 specified the exact details of the emblem, including the shape of the lion's tail ("like an italic S") and the position and the size of the lion, the sword, and the sun.
During this period, the colours of the flag were very pale, with the red appearing closer to pink in practice. There were three variants of the flag in use. The state flag was a tricolour with the lion and sun emblem in the centre. The national flag and civil ensign was a plain tricolour with no emblem. The naval ensign and war flag was similar to the state flag, but the emblem was surrounded by a wreath and surmounted by a crown. All three flags had a 1:3 ratio.
The flag was modified twice during the Pahlavi era. In 1933, the colours of the flag were darkened and the design of the emblem was changed. The sun's facial features were removed and the Kiani Crown on the naval ensign was replaced with the Pahlavi Crown. In 1964, the ratio was changed from 1:3 to 4:7 and the emblem on the naval ensign was shrunk to fit entirely within the white stripe.
Following the Iranian Revolution, the Interim Government of Iran removed the crown from the naval ensign. The old state and national flags remained unchanged until 29 July 1980, when the modern Iranian flag was adopted.
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