Flag of Greece
|Design||Nine horizontal stripes, in turn blue and white; a white cross on a blue square field in canton. |
The origins of today's national flag with its cross-and-stripe pattern are a matter of debate. Every part of it, including the blue and white colours (see below), the cross, as well as the stripe arrangement can be connected to very old historical elements; however it is difficult to establish "continuity", especially as there is no record of the exact reasoning behind its official adoption in early 1822.
It has been suggested by some Greek historians that the current flag derived from an older design, the virtually identical flag of the powerful Cretan Kallergis family. This flag was based on their coat of arms, whose pattern is supposed to be derived from the standards of their claimed ancestor, Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas (963–969 AD). This pattern (according to not easily verifiable descriptions) included nine stripes of alternating blue and white, as well as a cross, assumed to be placed on the upper left.
The stripe-pattern of the Greek flag is visibly similar to that used in several other flags that have appeared over the centuries, most notably that of the British East India Company's pre-1707 flag or the flag of the United States. However, in such cases of flags derived from much older designs, it is very difficult to prove or trace original influences. 
The cross symbolises Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the established religion of the Greek people of Greece and Cyprus. According to popular tradition, the nine stripes represent the nine syllables of the phrase "Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος" ("Freedom or Death"), the five blue stripes for the syllables "Έλευθερία" and the four white stripes "ή Θάνατος". The nine stripes are also said to represent the letters of the word "freedom" (Greek: Ελευθερία). There is also a different theory, that the nine stripes symbolise the nine Muses, the goddesses of art and civilisation (nine has traditionally been one of the numbers of reference for the Greeks).