Flags of the Ottoman Empire

(Redirected from Ottoman flag)

The Ottoman Empire used various flags and naval ensigns during its history. The star and crescent came into use in the second half of the 18th century. A buyruldu (decree) from 1793 required that the ships of the Ottoman Navy were to use a red flag with the star and crescent in white. In 1844, a version of this flag, with a five-pointed star, was officially adopted as the Ottoman national flag. The decision to adopt a national flag was part of the Tanzimat reforms which aimed to modernize the Ottoman state in line with the laws and norms of contemporary European states and institutions.

The star and crescent flag of the Ottoman Empire, an early 19th-century design officially adopted in 1844

The star and crescent design later became a common element in the national flags of Ottoman successor states in the 20th century. The current flag of Turkey is essentially the same as the late Ottoman flag, but has more specific legal standardizations (regarding its measures, geometric proportions, and exact tone of red) that were introduced with the Turkish Flag Law on 29 May 1936. Before the legal standardization, the star and crescent could have slightly varying slimness or positioning depending on the rendition.

Early flagEdit

Pre-modern Ottoman armies used the horse-tail standard or tugh rather than flags. Such standards remained in use alongside flags until the 19th century. A depiction of a tugh appears in the Relation d'un voyage du Levant by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1718).[1] War flags came into use by the 16th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Ottoman war flags often depicted the bifurcated Zulfiqar sword, often misinterpreted in Western literature as showing a pair of scissors.[2] the Topkapı Museum exhibits a Zulfiqar flag claimed to have been used by Sultan Selim I (r. 1512–1520). Two Zulfiqar flags are also depicted in a plate dedicated to Turkish flags in vol. 7 of Bernard Picart's Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1737), attributed to the Janissaries and the Ottoman cavalry.

The crescent symbol appears in flags attributed to Tunis from as early as the 14th century (Libro de conoscimiento), long before Tunis fell under Ottoman rule in 1574. But the crescent as a symbol also had 14th-century associations with the Ottoman military[3] and millennium-long associations with the city of Istanbul,[4][5] which became the Ottoman capital after its conquest in 1453. The Spanish Navy Museum in Madrid shows two Ottoman naval flags dated 1613; both are swallow-tailed, one green with a white crescent near the hoist, the other white with two red stripes near the edges of the flag and a red crescent near the hoist.[6]

According to Rıza Nur, sultan Selim I (1512-20) had a white personal flag, while the Ottoman Army flag was red (kızıl bayrak). During Süleyman I's reign (1520-66) the janissaries had a white flag while the timariot cavalry had a red flag. It was used as the Ottoman civic and merchant flag from 1793 to 1923.

Star and Crescent flagEdit

Following the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the crescent moon and star symbol started being used on Turkic peoples flags. Ottoman flags were originally commonly green, but the flag was defined as red by decree in 1793 and an eight-pointed star was added.[citation needed] The red version of the flag had become ubiquitous by the reign of Selim III.[7] The five pointed star did not appear until the 1840s.[8]

With the Tanzimat reforms in the 19th century, flags were redesigned in the style of the European armies of the day. The flag of the Ottoman Navy was made red, as red was to be the flag of secular institutions and green of religious ones. As the reforms abolished all the various flags (standards) of the Ottoman pashaliks, beyliks and emirates,[further explanation needed][which?] a single new Ottoman national flag was designed to replace them. The result was the red flag with the white crescent moon and star, which is the precursor to the modern flag of Turkey. A plain red flag was introduced as the civil ensign for all Ottoman subjects.

After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the government maintained the last flag of the Ottoman Empire. Proportional standardisations were introduced in the Turkish Flag Law (Turkish: Türk Bayrağı Kanunu) of 29 May 1936.

Source of the Star and Crescent symbolEdit

It has been suggested that the star-and-crescent used in Ottoman flags of the 19th century had been adopted from the Byzantine. Franz Babinger (1992) suggests this possibility, noting that the crescent alone has a much older tradition also with Turkic tribes in the interior of Asia.[9] The crescent and star is found on the coinage of Byzantium since the 4th century BC[10] and was depicted on Byzantine Empire's coins and shields of Christian warrior saints till the 13th century.[11] Parsons (2007) notes that the star and crescent was not a widespread motive on the coinage of Byzantium at the time of the Ottoman conquest.[12] Turkish historians tend to stress the antiquity of the crescent (not star-and-crescent) symbol among the early Turkic states in Asia.[13]

Imperial standardsEdit

Adopted in 1882, the coat of arms of the Ottoman Empire featured a green flag at left (representing the Rumelia Eyalet) and red flag at right (representing the Anatolia Eyalet and the other Asian eyalets).[14]

The imperial standard displayed the sultan's tughra, often on a pink or bright red background.

The standard used by the last Caliph, Abdulmejid II (between 19 November 1922 – 3 March 1924) consisted of a green flag with a star and crescent in white on a red oval background within a rayed ornament, all in white.

Civil ensignsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lors des campagnes, la marche du Grand Vizir (1er ministre nommé par le Sultan de Constantinople) est précédée par trois Étendards ou Queues de cheval terminées chacune par une pomme dorée, ils sont l'enseigne militaire des Othomans appelée Thou ou Thouy. On dit qu'un Général de cette nation, ne sachant comment rallier ses troupes qui avaient perdu tous ses Étendards, s'avisa de couper la queue d'un cheval et de l'attacher au bout d'une lance; les soldats coururent à ce nouveau signal et remportèrent la victoire... cited after Marc Pasquin, 22 November 2004, crwflags.com; c.f. also a facsimile image hosted at the website of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
  2. ^ For example: Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, Tableau des pavillons que la pluspart des nations arborent à la mer (1756).
  3. ^ Ramchandani, Indu (2000). Hoiberg, Dale (ed.). Students' Britannica India. Vol. 1 A to C (Abd Allah ibn al-Abbas to Cypress). Encyclopaedia Britannica (India). p. 373. Retrieved 18 March 2020. [...] the crescent [...] appeared on the standards of [Ottoman] infantry under Sultan Orhan (1324-1360)
  4. ^ Chwalkowski, Farrin (2016). Symbols in Arts, Religion and Culture: The Soul of Nature. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 85. ISBN 9781443857284. Retrieved 18 March 2020. The city of Byzantium, also known as Constantinople and, in modern times, as Istanbul, was dedicated to Diana, goddess of the hunt, and the crescent was the symbol of Diana. In 330 AD, the Emperor Constantine rededicated the city to the Virgin Mary whose star symbol was added to the previous crescent. When the Turks took possession of Constantinople, they found many crescent flags and adopted the crescent as a symbol of the Ottoman Empire in about 1453 AD.
  5. ^ Bordeleau, André G. (2013). "Moon-Bearing Flags". Flags of the Night Sky: When Astronomy Meets National Pride. SpringerLink : Bücher. New York: Springer Science & Business Media. p. 233. ISBN 9781461409298. Retrieved 18 March 2020. The city of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople and then Istanbul) adopted the crescent moon as its symbol long before the birth of Islam. [...] When the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, they adopted the city's existing flag and symbol.
  6. ^ Nozomi Karyasu & António Martins, 8 October 2006 on Flags of the World.
  7. ^ İslâm Ansiklopedisi (in Turkish). Vol. 4. Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı. 1991. p. 298.
  8. ^ Marshall, Tim (2017-07-04). A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-5011-6833-8.
  9. ^ "It seems possible, though not certain, that after the conquest Mehmed took over the crescent and star as an emblem of sovereignty from the Byzantines. The half-moon alone on a blood red flag, allegedly conferred on the Janissaries by Emir Orhan, was much older, as is demonstrated by numerous references to it dating from before 1453. But since these flags lack the star, which along with the half-moon is to be found on Sassanid and Byzantine municipal coins, it may be regarded as an innovation of Mehmed. It seems certain that in the interior of Asia tribes of Turkish nomads had been using the half-moon alone as an emblem for some time past, but it is equally certain that crescent and star together are attested only for a much later period. There is good reason to believe that old Turkish and Byzantine traditions were combined in the emblem of Ottoman and, much later, present-day Republican Turkish sovereignty." Franz Babinger (William C. Hickman Ed., Ralph Manheim Trans.), Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time, Princeton University Press, 1992, p 108
  10. ^ Nigel Wilson (2013). "Byzantium". Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece. Routledge. p. 136.
  11. ^ Piotr Grotowski (2010). Arms and Armour of the Warrior Saints: Tradition and Innovation in Byzantine Iconography (843–1261). Brill. pp. 249, 250.
  12. ^ John Denham Parsons, The Non-Christian Cross, BiblioBazaar, 2007, p 69: "Moreover, the question is what the symbol of Constantinople was at the time it was captured by the Turks. And an inspection of the coins issued by the Christian rulers of that city during the thousand years and more it was in their hands, will reveal to the enquirer that though the crescent with a cross within its horns appears occasionally upon the coins of the Emperors of the East, and in one or two instances we see a cross of four equal arms with each extremity piercing a crescent, it is doubtful if a single example of the so-called "star and crescent" symbol can be found upon them."
  13. ^ "It is clear, however, that, whatever the origin, the crescent was used by Turkish states in various regions of Asia, and there is absolutely no reason to claim that it passed to the Ottomans from Byzantium" Mehmet Fuat Köprülü, Gary Leiser (Trans.), Some Observations on the Influence of Byzantine Institutions on Ottoman institutions, Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1999, p 118
  14. ^ Sosyal Medyada Şeriat Bayrağı Diye Paylaşılan Bayrağın Aslında Rumeli'den Gelmesi (in Turkish)
  15. ^ "Ottoman Empire: Standard of the Sultan" at Flags of the World.
  16. ^ "The Caliphate Ensign of the Yacht Söğütlü". Naval Museum Command.

External linksEdit