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Thread: Turkic Flags and Other Identifiers

  1. #1
    Tunch Khan's Avatar Civis
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    Default Turkic Flags and Other Identifiers


    A tamga, or tamgha (Modern Turkish: damga) is an abstract seal or device used by Eurasian nomadic peoples and by cultures influenced by them. The tamga was normally the emblem of a particular tribe, clan or family. They were common among the Scythians, Sarmatians, all Turkic peoples, including Khazars and Uigurs, and Alans. Neighboring sedentary people sometimes adopted tamga-like symbols; for example, the stylized trident tamga, or seal were used by various peoples of Eastern Europeand Asia: Kushans, Rus', Khazars, Kipchaks, Mongols, Tatars, Lithuanians and Poles.

    "The complex system of Turkish tribal tamghas included animals, tridents and various other symbols, though it is possible that the trident itself was a very simplified bow and arrow. It certainly became a military symbol among the Mongols in the 13th and 14th centuries."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook*)

    The Windsock Banner

    "...The so-called 'dragon' form of wind-sock banner came into widespread use in 4th-century Roman armies. It was closely associated with achery, as it had been among the people of the steppes, and was used as late as the 12th century..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    The illustration below, shows Charlemagne's Windsock banner. The Franks were strongly influenced by, and even related to the Avars (Childeric's burial with his horses is one illustration of such early Steppes influence). Charlemagne's mother was an Avar princess and he eventually took control in Pannonia (later a major Bulgar and Magyar center). (Norman Finkelshteyn)

    "...the so-called 'trousers'-shaped banner of Salah al-Din's nephew Taqi al-Din might have been a windsock banner used by archers of recent Central Asian origin."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    Flags and Pennons

    "In addition to their famous horse-tail standards, the Turks used tos (totemic ensigns) and batraq or beyraq (individual flags or pennons). The latter was originally attached to a spear shaft and would later be known in Othmanli (Ottoman) Turkish as a sanjaq.
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    [In late Roman and early Romano-Byzantine armies, the earlier] "...vexullum form of banner which hung vertically... was gradually replaced by the bandon hung horizontally and may have reflected Germanic or Avar military influence..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    [In the Sassanian Empire] "the terms used for military units and their associated banners was often the same ...the large drafsh or dirafsh unit and its flag, and the small vasht unit and flag. Ordinary flags were shaped like streamers or banderoles whereas the great state banner of the Sassanian Empire ...Drafsh-i Kavyan 'Banner of Kavagh' ...consisted of a decorated leather sheet, seven metres long and five across, encrusted with precious stones, yellow, red and purple brocade, surmounted by a golden sphere or crescent and festooned with streamers."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook) (this banner was said to have been the Apron of the smith Kave - who led the ancient Iranians in establishing themselves)

    "Byzantine, western European, native Slav and various steppe fashions contributed to the flags, banners and heraldic motifs of medieval Russia..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    "...Christian Georgia ...basically Byzantine forms of flag and shield patterns were also amalgamated with powerful Islamic and Persian influence. For example the late 12th--early 13th-century Georgian alami was a large red-and-black royal banner, and the drosha was a long streamer-like flag sometimes used aboard ship."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    [In the Muslim world] "flags came back strongly under the Umayyads. By the 13th century manuscript illustrations showed various types, including a slender form possibly resulting from Turkish or Chinese influence..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    Tugh - Animal Hair Banner

    " Turco-Mongol Central Asia ...the tug (horse-tail banner) also used yak and big-cat tails; five, seven or nine being reserved for a ruler or subordinate khan during the pre-Islamic period. Smaller tugs were also attached to war-drums."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    "...the Central Asian tug or yak-tailed pennant ...entered the Middle East with various waves of Turkish nomads and soldiers. The number of tails indicated rank, and although this device had pagan origins it continued to be used by many Turco-Muslim armies such as that of the Ottoman Empire where... [it] was called tugh. Here six tails were reserved for the Sultan, lesser numbers being used by senior officers. Variations on the tugh were seen in post-Mongol Iran where it was sometimes combined with an ordinary flag, and also among various Anatolian dervish brotherhoods where very simple forms of tugh had tufts of wool instead of animals' tails..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    Images of Animals

    "...Animals and birds were ...important warrior motifs in the earlier centuries, often appearing on helmets in Central Asian wall-paintings; gilded wolf's head-shaped standards were reserved for the supreme khagan or khan of khans. Genghis Khan used a bird's head emblem, and Hulegu is said to have had an 'eagle banner'. There are also references to human as well as animal-shaped helmet crests in Mongol epics."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    "...Surprisingly, perhaps, the double-headed eagle, which became the most important late Byzantine imperial device, was of ancient oriental origin rather than having much connection with the ancient Roman imperial eagle..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    "The double-headed eagle had been a popular pattern on Islamic fabrics since the 10th century and was adopted as an identifying motif by the Turkish rulers of Anatolia and the Middle East from the late 11th century onwards..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    "...lions and leopards are also mentioned as banner devices in late 10th-century Persian literature..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    "Chinese-looking dragons were introduced to the Middle East by the Turks."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    Color Symbolism

    "The colour symbolism of the pre-Islamic Turks reflected Budhist rather than Sassanian traditions, particularly in its association with the four points of the compass. It was also linked to the colours of various types of horse ridden by elite units, or with armies responsible for the defense of certain frontiers. The most senior 'colour' within this Central Asian tradition was gold which was used for the tents of senior rulers in the Turco-Mongol steppes and in Tibet. White was another deeply symbolic colour, representing purity among the Manicheans. It was also adopted by rebels fighting the Uighurs khans and others fighting the Muslim Umayyads in eastern Iran in the 8th century; perhaps hinting that the rebels were undeer Manichean influence. The 'white raiment' rebels led by al-Muqanna' against 'Abbasid rule in Khurasan and Transoxiana in 778/9 also seem to have been a mixture of Manichaeans, followers of the old Persian Mazdaist religion and early manifestations of Muslim Shiism."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    "The colours used in Islamic flags eventually reflected religious or political affiliation... red... became a Sunni colour in India and the Ottoman Empire. Within Muslim Iran there was a revival of the old Sassanian colours and banners in the 10th century..."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    [Russia] " emphasis on scarlet shields, banners and flagpoles in the 12th-13th-century Prince Igor epic may have come from Romano-Byzantine tradition."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    Crescent and Star

    "The crescent and star which later became a widespread Muslim symbol was at first mostly seen in areas where pre-Islamic and Sassanian tradition survived. For a long time the crescent continued to have non-Islamic associations, though it appears to have become popular in Turkish-Muslim areas during the 12th and 13th centuries. A detailed inventory of the ceremonial garments worn by an Ottoman ruler, written in 1348, specifies a red coat decorated with crescents, and a red banner though this had no crescent or star."
    (Nicolle, Sourcebook)

    *"Nicolle, Sourcebook" - David Nicolle, Medieval Warfare Sourcebook: Christian Europe and its Neighbors, Brokhampton Press, London, 1998.
    si vis pacem para bellum

  2. #2

    Default Re: Turkic Flags and Other Identifiers

    Awesome info!

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