The traditional ancient Roman flags were basically military standards for the respective military legions and were not national flags. The first flag of ancient Roman Republic was the vexillum (plural vexilla), the standard of the Roman cavalry.

Ancient Roman Flags

The word is derived from the Latin word ‘velum’ which means sail, which is indicative of flag-like standards. The banner cloth was square-shaped hung on a horizontal rod which was fastened to a pole. The horizontal rod had tassels and ribbons with fringes hanging on either side of the banner cloth.

SPQR Flag Meaning

The terminal end of the pole was spear-headed. This spear tip was leaf-shaped. The bearer of the vexillum was known as vexillarius. The color of the traditional flags of the Classical Roman Era was dark red with the letters SPQR emblazoned on it in golden yellow. It was in the Christian era later that the cross was added to the ancient Roman flag.

SPQR is an acronym which initiated from the Latin phrase Senatus Populusque Romanus meaning ‘The Senate of The People of Rome’.

Ancient Roman republic flag

This was in reference to the government of the ancient Republic of Rome. It was the motto of the people of ancient Roman Republic which appeared on coins, on inscriptions of stone and metal, on state monuments as well as on the standards of the ancient Roman military legions.

Ancient Roman Flags

Though there was slight variation in the flag used by the ancient Roman troops depending upon the Emperor who ruled at a particular period in those times. For instance, Suetonius wrote that the general, Marcus Agrippa received a blue-colored from Augustus.

Ancient Roman Flags

The flag of ancient Rome was not only used as a standard for the Roman military legions but also the purpose of sending out signals. An alphabetical system based on two groups of five flags enabled them to send messages, letter by letter.

The ancient Roman people also had a peculiar but clever coded system which made it feasible to send fixed messages, one at a time, depending on the duration for which they showed the flag.

The ancient Roman flags were basically used as standards of the Roman military in times of war. Many public buildings and state monuments had inscriptions with SPQR on their facades, in order to convey to the citizens that whatever they had belonged to The Senate of Rome