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The Atlanta City Flag’s Meaning

by
Jul 19th, 2021

Nearly every city in the United States has a flag, even Atlanta! 

Here’s a little bit about the history of flags, what elements go into making a good flag and, of course, all the details about Atlanta’s city flag! 

The Atlanta city flag’s meaning

A bit about flags

Flags have long held great importance to kingdoms, nations, groups and movements throughout the course of human history. Their use dates back nearly three thousand years to ancient times when rulers were preceded by flags wherever they went.

The Zhou Dynasty in ancient China as early as 1046 B.C. were some of the first recorded users of flags as royal standards. According to historians, the dynasty’s founder always had a white flag carried in front of him whenever he travelled. This practice spread to ancient India, where flags were displayed on chariots, in palaces and at royal processions.

Flags became a powerful symbol of rulership and authority. Each nation and ruler displayed their own unique flag, often embroidered with intricate patterns and laced with gold thread. These flags came to hold such importance to the ideal they symbolized that if a flag fell in battle, the battle was deemed lost. 

Of course, flags still hold immense reverence and authority today— just take the flag of the United States of America, for example! Children face the flag and recite the pledge of allegiance each school day for twelve years straight, and many military bases require all personnel to stand at attention toward the flag twice or three times each day. There is a long list of guidelines pertaining to how the flag should be displayed in different locations, and an equally long list of what not to do with the flag. 

Despite the passage of millennia since the first flag, these waving symbols continue to be the standard for symbolizing their owners. The colors, patterns and placements have meanings deeply rooted in the history and culture of the place it represents, and as these places evolve and change, so do their flags. 

What makes a good flag good?

Looking at a flag is kind of like looking at modern art; we think “Wow, that’s so simple. I even could have come up with that,” and then we wonder how it came to hold such a place of importance when it’s Just. So. Simple. 

Simplicity, though, is one of the key ingredients to making a really good flag. According to vexillologists (people who study flags), great flags have five defining characteristics.

Great flags:

  1. Are simple. A middle-schooler should be able to draw it from memory.
  2. Have meaningful symbolism. Shapes, colors and patterns can hold great meaning if done right!
  3. Have no more than three colors. The simpler the color, the better.
  4. Don’t have letters or seals. If you’ve gotta write on it, then it’s not doing its job.
  5. Are either unique or are in a flag family. They either stand on their own, or they are related to other flags.

Now that we know all about flags, let’s dive into the flag that represents the City of Atlanta!

The Atlanta flag

The city of Atlanta has a fairly simple flag, but it follows a common pattern for many city flags: a plain blue background with the city seal smack-dab in the center. 

We know, we know, flags shouldn’t have seals on them, but there are so many city flags with seals that it blends right in among the rest. After all, either be distinctive or be related to other flags, and the Atlanta flag does this well.

The seal is where it gets interesting, though, as that’s where all the symbolism resides. 

The seal is centered around a grand depiction of a majestic bird rising from a great fire. If you know your mythology (or your "Harry Potter"), then you’ll recognize this bird as a Phoenix, a creature from Greek mythology that is constantly being reborn from the ashes of its burned self. 

Around the Phoenix are two dates, 1847 and 1865, with the word “Resurgens” in between them. There are also the words “Atlanta, GA” at the bottom. 

The dates also represent significant events in the history of Atlanta. The date 1847 represents the year the city was first incorporated, upgrading from a humble train station to a real metropolis. The 1865 date is the year the Civil War ended. 

So yeah, maybe the flag for the city of Atlanta isn’t technically the most ideal of flags based on all the criteria of a quote/unquote good flag, but it's still a good flag that does a decent job representing some of Atlanta’s history. 

If you live in our luxury Atlanta apartments, keep an eye out for this flag next time you go on a stroll through a park, visit a museum or pass by a courthouse or city building!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/ericstokley

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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