As you might already know, Iran’s history dates back to thousands of years ago. The first people who can be considered as rulers of Iran were the Medes which date back to seventh century BC. After the Medes, Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Persian Empire in the sixth century BC, which has been one of the greatest empires in the history of time ruling over 44 percent of the world’s population. He seemingly had his share in choosing Iran’s flag. The Parthian Empire was the second greatest empire ruling over Iran in the third century BC. The Sassanid Empire conquered the previous empire in the third century AD and ruled over Iran for 4 centuries until Arab Muslims defeated the Sassanid Empire and Islamization of Iran began and the Abbasid dynasty ruled over the region for almost 2 centuries. They burned Iran’s flag after they won the war. A series of Muslim dynasties appeared over the next centuries such as Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids, Sallarids, Ghaznavids, Seljuk Turks and Khwarazmian. In the 13th century the Il-khanate and then the Timurid dynasty ruled over the region until in the 15 the century the native Safavids established a united Iran once again recognizing an official flag as Iran’s flag. In the mid-18th century, the Afsharid dynasty began, then the Zand dynasty ruled over Iran for almost 30 years and then for almost 130 years the Qajar dynasty was in charge of affairs. During these periods, each house changed Iran’s flag according to their desires. The Pahlavi dynasty, the last royal dynasty of Iran, then took power from the Qajar royal family and ruled over the country for almost 54 years. The 1979, the Iranian Revolution ended the Pahlavi dynasty as a result of which the current Islamic Republic of Iran was established.
As it is obvious, Iran has faced so many different monarchies which clearly has had effects on Iran’s flag since anyone who rules over a country will change the flag according to their own standards and ideologies. Flag of Iran has not been an exception either.
The oldest Iranian flag that can be considered as the first flag of Iran is a square-shaped made of bronze and is said to be dating back to the Bronze Age showing some trees, some animals such as two lions and snakes and 5 humans which seem to be telling a story. This ancient flag of Iran is also one of the oldest flags ever discovered in the world. It is called “Derafshe shahdad” meaning the “Shahdad flag” in Persian which is named after the city of Shahdad where it was first found.
Also, the Zoroastrians religious book, the Avesta, has talked about a flag shaped as a cow to be Iran’s flag. However, with the beginning of the Achaemenid Empire, Iran’s flag probably changed to a golden eagle known as “Shahbaz” in Persian with wings that are widespread being placed on a spear. Some believe that “Derafshe Shahbaz” was used by Cyrus the Great as the official Iran’s flag. Persepolis, located in Shiraz, was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. In 1948, a tile with the same feature on it was found in Persepolis. Aside from all this, Persepolis is one the greatest historical places you will ever see in your life so make sure to visit this ancient place in case you ever travel to Iran.
“Derafshe Kaviani” was the next flag in the list of Iran’s flags. It was made of leather which was covered with a thin layer of silk decorated with jewels. There was a star on Iran’s flag pointing to the four corners of the rectangle-shape leather. There are references to this star in Ferdowsi’s epic book, Shahnameh, where he is talking about Iran’s flag. There were also some tassels in the colors of yellow, magnet and scarlet hanging from Iran’s flag. Derafshe Kaviani which is known to be Iran’s flag in the Parthian empire’s time as well, was destroyed by the Muslim Arabs when they conquered the Sassanids.
sThe Seljuk Turks used various emblems and banners as Iran’s flag. The official flag of Iran in time of their empire was probably a black flag.
It seems that the sun and lion motif was first brought into Iran’s flag by Ghaznavids or the Khwarazmian Empire. Also, this motif has been seen in the flag of Iran recognized by Timurids in the 15th century.
Kings of the Safavid dynasty used different types of flags. The first Safavid king used a green flag with a golden full moon as Iran’s flag. In 1524, the moon was replaced with a sheep and a sun which was recognized as Iran’s flag until 1576. Then a green flag with the already said motif, lion and sun, was considered to be Iran’s flag until the end of Safavid era. During this time, the lion and sun in the flag of Iran stood for two pillars of the society; the state and religion.
Some say the royal flag of Iran in Safavid era and Afsharid era was three-eared and some say it was four-eared and the truth is that we can never be sure of this. The first king of the Afsharids recognized two flags as the official flag of Iran. One of them had red, blue, and white stripes and the other flag known to be Iran’s flag had a yellow stripe added to the other three.
The Zand dynasty chose a white triangle-shaped flag with a green border and a gold lion and sun in the middle as Iran’s flag. Some say the border in Iran’s flag at the time the Zand dynasty were green and red.
Probably you are now thinking about the fact that how many time Iran’s flag has been transformed through time. Let us tell you that we are not even close to the end yet. So, keep reading!
It is worth mentioning that the Qajar dynasty ruled over Iran for almost 130 years which makes it pretty understandable to declare different flag as Iran’s flag. The first king of this house probably chose a red flag with a gold lion and sun inside of a pale, yellow circle as Iran’s flag.
The next king declared three different flags as Iran’s flag. One had the picture of a lion on a plain red field which was considered the war flag of Iran. The main emblem was a lion sitting in front of a sun with a white background which was used as Iran’s flag for diplomatic purposes, when a standing lion holding a sword with a green background was used as Iran’s flag in time of peace.
During the reign of the next king, the two different flags were combined into a single one showing a standing lion holding a sword in front of a sun which was declared as Iran’s flag.
The next king of the Qajar dynasty who ruled over Iran for 50 years, declared a flag with a green border on three sides and the previous lion emblem in the middle as Iran’s flag.
In 1906, after the Iranian Constitutional Revolution took place, the first tricolored flag was represented as Iran’s flag. The flag had the three colors of green, white and red together with a lion and a sun in the center.
In the time of the Pahlavi dynasty, Iran’s flag changed twice and finally it turned into a tricolored flag with the lion and the sun shrunk to fit within the white stripe while the crown was changed into the Pahlavi Crown and the sun had no face.
After the revolution in 1979, for almost two years ran’s flag did not change. Then the Islamic Republic regime declared the following flag as Iran’s flag.
As you can see, the current flag of Iran is tricolored with the emblem of “Allah”, an Arabic word for God, written in red on the white stripe and the takbir, which is a name for an Arabic phrase meaning “God is the greatest”, written 22 times in white at the bottom of the green and the top of the red stripe. The colors of Iran’s flag are traditional and it is believed that green represents religion, white stands for peace and red is for showing courage.