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Whether it is the famous three lions of King Richard or the Stars and Stripes, historical flags have represented honor and show allegiance and pride. Flags, banners, standards, call them what you will, they represent countries, militaries, identify territories, honor royalty, and can act as warnings. However, there are some that were infamous as well. Pirates and Privateers of all sorts made flags to instill fear, the most famous being the skull and crossbones.
In antiquity, standards were used in warfare to identify the various factions fighting and reigned over a victorious battlefield. Examples include the eagle carried by the Roman aquilifer, or the dragon standard of the Sarmatians. The latter would fly freely in the wind, carried by a horseman, similar to a kite. Beginning in the Middle Ages and later, flags were used primarily as a symbol of identity in battle, which made it easier to identify a knight than only from the heraldic symbol painted on the shield or tunic. The increasing use of flags during the high medieval period was gradually adopted by city states. During the Age of Sail, especially in the early 17th century, it was common (later a legal obligation) for ships to bear flags designating their nationality; these flags would eventually evolve into present-day national flags. Flags also became the preferred means to convey messages at sea.
Use of flags outside of military or naval context begins only with the rise of nationalism at the end of the 18th century; the earliest have been dated to that period, and during the 19th century it became common for every sovereign state to have a national flag. We feature many iconic pirate flags, US flags and US Civil War flags, plus many historical flags from various countries that are suitable for indoor or outdoor use. All of these are great for display, teaching, home use, or reenacting.
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