The Imperial Flag of Ethiopia is the National Tri-color, Green (top), Yellow (middle), and Red (bottom) horizontal stripes of equal size. At the center is a Gold Lion marching east carrying a cross and wearing the Imperial Ethiopian crown. This is the Lion of Judah symbol, which is the symbol of the Emperor of Ethiopia. This flag has been adopted by the Ras Taffarian movement which is based on the belief in the divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie, and is widly used in the Carribean and around the world by Rastas as their own colors. Many countries around Africa have also adopted the three colors of the Ethiopian flag for their own flags upon independence, in a show of African unity and as a mark of honor for the oldest flag in independent Africa. Each country has positioned the colors in different positions on their flags and added their own national symbols and elements.
Below is the Flag of the Empire of Ethiopia as it appeared until September 1974. The colors of the Ethiopian flag are Green Yellow and Red in horizontal stripes. They have appeared in different orders during different reigns, and sometimes white was substituted for yello, and blue instead of green. Emperor Yohannis IV also used an additional banner of two red horizontal stripes separated by a yellow stripe. The Zagwe Emperors are said to have used an image of christ on their banners. The present order was formaly established in law by Emperor Menelik II, where the green stripe is always on top. The Lion of Judah, which is the emblem of the monarch has been in use for centuries in Ethiopia.
The Imperial Standard
is the Ethiopian Flag (horizontal Green, Yellow, and Red stripes)
St. George slaying the Dragon on the front of the flag. Surrounded with the chain of the Order of Solomon's seal, and the Lion of Judah on the back. The Ethiopian Star of Solomon (Star of David with a Cross Centered on it)
would appear on each corner of the standard, front and back. The Imperial Standard was draped on the coffin of Emperor Haile Selassie, and can be seen in the pictures of his funeral on the web pages covering this event linked below in the special Funeral section of this page. St. George was one of Ethiopia's Patron Saints, and was associated particularly with the Imperial Family and with the Imperial military forces as well. The Battle of Adwa in 1896 which resulted in a resounding victory of Ethiopia over the colonial forces of Italy took place on the feast day of St. George, and it is this event that inspired both the construction of Addis Ababa's St. George Cathedral (Kidus Giorgis) and the placement of this Saint on the Imperial Standard, and on the Standard of the Imperial Army. A very large mosaic of St. George was part of the facade of the Parliament building in Addis Ababa, but it was painted over by the Derg regime following the revolution of 1974, and it remains painted over today.
Front of Imperial Standard
Back of Imperial Standard
Emperor Haile Selassie used a three point star with three linked rings as a personal emblem. The three point star was known as the Trinity Star, and symbolized the Holy Trinity for whom the Emperor was named (his baptismal and regnal name Haile Selassie means "Power of the Trinity").
During the fascist occupation of Ethiopia between 1936 and 1941, Ethiopia was proclaimed to have been annexed by Italy, and the King of Italy was declaired "Emperor of Ethiopia" by the Mussolini regime. Ethiopia was incorporated into the new entity called "Italian East Africa" or "Africa Orientale Italiana". The Royal Italian flag, the green white and red tricolor with the arms of the House of Savoy centered became the flag of the colony.
With the expulsion of the Italians in 1941, and the restoration of the Emperor Haile Selassie, the Imperial flag was restored also. The King of Italy renounced his Imperial title over Ethiopia in November 1943.
In the immediate aftermath of the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974, the Provisional Military Administrative Council(PMAC) or Derg, removed the crown from the head of the Lion of Judah and replaced the cross with a spear, calling this emblem the "Lion of Ethiopia". In the first few public statements of the millitary junta, lip service was paid to the preservation of the monarchy, with statements made that the Crown Prince would be sworn in as "King" rather than Emperor, and the role of the monarch cut back to a purely symbolic role. This flag was used only briefly between September 11th, 1974 when the Emperor was deposed, to November 1974 when the Derg removed the Lion symbol completely from the flag.
With the formal abolishment of the Monarchy by proclamation a few months later, the lion was completely removed from the flag, and the complex Derg emblem began to be displayed in the middle of the flag as a government banner. (Image of the first Derg era flag coming soon).
Upon the proclamaiton of the Peoples Democratic Republic of Ethiopia by the Derg in 1985, a new complicated official coat of arms was placed at the center of the flag. It depicted the Axum obelisk surmounted by a five point star on a blue field,with a cog wheel at the base, flanked by olive branches. Above appear the words in Ge-ez alphabet, "Hizbawi Democrasiawi Repooblic Ityopia" (Peoples Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) This can be refered to as the second Derg era flag.
Upon the fall of the communist regime and the proclamation of the new Federal Republic in the early 1990's, yet another emblem featuring a yellow pentagram on a blue circular field has replace the Lion at the center of the national tricolor flag. This is the flag presently used by the Federal Republic of Ethiopia.
Emperor Menelik II and Emperor Haile Selassie both used their monograms as personal emblems. Emperor Menelik used the ge-ez letter meh (the first letter of his name) surmounted with a crown. Emperor Haile Selassie usesd the entwined letters Ke Ha and Seh, (for Kedamawi Haile Selassie, or Haile Selassie the First) sometimes surmounted with a crown and sometimes without. He was often refered to as Kehas for short. Emperor Menelik's consort, Empress Taitu's clever monogram was the letter Ta surrounded by sun rays as her emblem. Her name Taitu when translated means "the Sun" and she had the additional honorific title of "Berhan ze Ityopia" or "Light of Ethiopia" so the sun rays played on those connections.
Emperor Haile Selassie used a three point star with three linked rings as a personal emblem. The three point star was known as the Trinity Star, and symbolized the Holy Trinity for whom the Emperor was named (his baptismal name Haile Selassie means "Power of the Trinity").