It is supposed
that in antiquity Eritrea was the place were the kingdom of Punt was
located. The kingdom was famous for its incense and myrrh and it had close
trade relations with Egypt. Well known is the relief in the Deir el-Bahri,
Funerary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (r. 1473-1458 BC). On this relief there
is a portrait of the king of Punt and his fat queen. Both king and queen are
dressed in a way that is not very different from the royal Egyptian dress. We
may be sure that the cultural
influence of Egypt in Punt has been considerable for centuries.
Almost all of
Eritrea belonged from the 4th century B.C. until the 7th century A.D. the the
Aksumite Empire. Its capital was Aksum, now in the province of Tigre in
Ethiopia. Little is known about this empire but that it prospered because of
its location on an important trade route between Egypt and India. For us it
is important that from the 4th until the 7th century A.D. there was an
Aksumite coinage in the Empire which gives us an idea of its political
organisation. There will be a chapter about
the imperial symbolism of Aksum at the end of this article.
The coast barring
Ethiopia from the Red Sea was (partly) Ottoman from 1578 until the middle of
the 19th century.  The
Italians settled there in 1889 and founded a Colony after the Treaty of
Wuchale with the Ethiopian Negus Menelik II. After the conquest of all of Ethiopia
by Italian troops in 1936, Eritrea was incorporated in Italian East Africa
(Africa Orientale Italiana (A.O.I) on the 9th of May.
Administration 1890 - 1941
In its first six years the colony was ruled by a
military commander with the rank of general, of which there were three. On
the five lira / one tallero pieces minted in 1891 there is the achievement of
the Royal Italian Army consisting of the arms with the cross of Savoy on the
breast of an eagle standing on a sceptre and a marshal’s baton in saltire
from which is hanging the collar of the Order of the Annunciation.
Two one tallero-coins.
Left: 1891, from the time of the Military
Administration (1890-1896). Right 1918, from the time of
the Civil Administration (1896-1936).
From 1896 until 1936 the colony was under a civil
administration headed by a governor of which there were fourteen.
this time coins for the trade in Eritrea were minted on which is the Italian
coat of arms on the breast of a crowned eagle which is the smaller royal
achievement. The flag of the governor of Eritrea was white with the crowned
arms of Savoy within a blue bordure. This flag is derived from the flag of
the Italian State, adopted 1861, which was the green, white and red tricolore
with the same arms in the middle. 
Flag of the Governor of Italian Eritrea 1896-1936
By decree of the 3rd of April 1919 a coat of arms
for the colony itself was adopted. It is parted per fess, the first Argent, a
lion passant Gules, on his shoulder a mullet Argent; the second barry wavy of
six Azure and Argent. On the shield is an antique roman crown of nine points.
The white star is the symbol of the Italian armed
From 1936 until 1941 a chief was added “of the
fasces” (del Littorio) which was the symbol of the Italian state of the time.
the Colony of Eritrea, 1919.
Arms of Eritrea in the era of
Italian East Africa (1936-1941).
A chief of the arms of state added: purpure, a fasces per pale within a garland
of olive and oak, proper.
The British in Eritrea, 1941-1952
In 1941, the
Italians were defeated by a British Commonwealth force. The British army
garrisoned the country from this point until independence.
No.39 squadron was
deployed to Eritrea in August 1947 supporting the British Army against the
Shifta groups before moving to Fayid, Egypt in October 1947.
British Military Administration 1948-1949
The 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire
Regiment, moved to Eritrea in April 1948. The battalion
found no emergency upon its arrival apart from the activities of the Shifta. The
battalion deployed patrols to combat the shifta with little to show for their
efforts, although their presence did provide a morale boost to the civilian
population. The battalion was initially based at Sembol Camp but moved to the
airport buildings at Asmara a few weeks later.
THE ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT BADGE
The basis for the badge of the Royal Berkshires was
the China Dragon, a device originally awarded to the Regiment’s predecessor, the
49th (Hertfordshire) Regiment of Foot as a result of its successful campaign
in the 1840-43 Chinese Opium War. It was taken into general use at the time
of the Cardwell army reforms of 1881 when the 49th (Hertfordshire)
amalgamated with the 66th (Berkshire) to form the Berkshire Regiment. The
officers’ badge consisted of a
small metal ‘China Dragon’, upon a ‘pyramidal coil of
rope’, signifying the 49th
Regiment’s service as marines
under Lord Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. Interestingly, a
company of The Rifle Brigade, now also part of The Rifles, was similarly
embarked as marines. After World War Two the officers’ badge was replaced by a metal design,
as shown. The original Other Ranks’
badge was a plain ‘China Dragon’ on a ground with the
scroll ‘Berkshire’ underneath; the ‘Royal’ title was added in
1885 at the express wish of Queen Victoria after the Battle of Tofrek. In
1958, along with the other five regiments comprising the Wessex Brigade
group, the badge was changed to one depicting the Wessex Wyvem.
From the early 1930s a red patch (known as the
Brandywine Flash) was worn behind the badge of the Royal Berkshires in
recognition of an action in which Company of the 49th were engaged during the
American War of Independence. The Light Company of the 49th, in company with
other Light Companies including that of the 46th, later to become the 2nd
Battalion, The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry,
carried out a daring night attack, using only bayonets, against an American
force of 1500 resting in a forest near Paoli, close to Brandywine Creek. The
Americans suffered heavily and, as a result, threatened to give no quarter in
future to the troops who took part in the attack. To prevent innocent British
troops being singled out for such punishment those who took part decided to
dye their green feathers red so that they could be instantly recognised. After
the Second World War the Brandywine Flash was changed in shape to a more
prominent inverted triangle. It was later also worn behind the badge of both
the DERR and the RGBW.
detachment of Tempest F.6 fighters was deployed to Asmara between April and
November 1948 to support the British Army against Shifta groups.
97 Company, Royal Army Service
Corps, moved to Eritrea in 1948 where it was based at Asmara supporting the
Headquarters of RASC.
On 5th March 1949, the 1st and
2nd Battalions Royal Berkshire Regiment held a Trooping of the Colours parade
as the battalions amalgamated,
No.8 Squadron sent a detachment
of Brigands to Asmara in June 1949, the detachment withdrew from Eritrea in
The South Wales Borderers arrived in Eritrea on 4th
January 1950, and participated in operations against the Shiftas until they
left on 16th September 1952.
1910 Flight was based in Eritrea
at Asmara, Agordat, Barentu, Tessenas between 31/7/1950 to 9/1952.
In consequence of a recommendation of the U.N. of
2nd of December 1950 the British retired from Eritrea and on 15th of
September 1952 the country became a self governing part of Ethiopia.
of Eritrea 1952-1962
A coat of arms, flag and seal were laid down in Art.
21 of the Constitution of Eritrea. The flag was light blue, the color of the
United Nations, and in the middle the national emblem which consisted of a
twig and a crown of olive branches, also inspired by the emblem of the U.N.. The
same emblem was on the seal, surrounded by the legend “Government of Eritrea”
in Tigrinya and Arabic.
Emblem of Eritrea 1952-1962:
A twig per pale, surrounded
by a garland of branches of olive, Vert.
Rule 1962 - 1993
In November 1962 Eritrea was annexed by the negus
Haile Selassie. Arms, flag and seal of 1952 disappeared.
regime of Haile Selassie was not favourable for the Eritreans. Works were
dismantled, the use of the Eritrean flag was forbidden and amharic was
introduced as the official language. This imperialistic policy was the reason
for the foundation of an islam oriented resistance movement, the Eritrean
Liberation Front (E.L.F.). Internal disputes over strategy and tactics eventually led to the ELF's
fragmentation and the founding in 1972 of the Eritrean People's Liberation
Front (E.P.L.F.). By the late 1970s, the E.P.L.F. had become the dominant
armed Eritrean group fighting against the Ethiopian Government.
the fall of Haile Selassie in 1974 the armed resistance developed into an
open war. Asmara and Massawa were captured by the E.P.L.F. and in this time
the war cry of the movement “Never on Your Knees” was
formulated. This war cry was in the first place inspired by the international
opposition the liberation movement met with.
emblem of the E.P.L.F., inspired by the symbols of other marxist oriented
regimes, at first was a red star, charged with a flaming torch and a hammer
and sickle in saltire. When the enthousiasm for marxist doctrine dwindled
down because of the Soviet support of the Mengistu regime and the fall of the
Sovjet Union, the red socialist star was omitted. Instead there came a
garland of a belt of cartridges and a branch of olive, symbolizing war and
peace. Because of the multi ethnic character of the movement its initials
were written in tigranya and arabic. 
Banner of the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front.
Emblem: A star Gules, charged with a torch per
pale and a hammer and a sickle in saltire. The star surrounded by a text in
Tigrinya: ka, qa, ba, ke and ke,
ha, ge, he. 
Emblem of the later E.P.L.F.:
A torch per pale and a hammer and a plow in saltire.
Surrounded by a garland of a chain and a branch of olive. In
base initials in Tigrinya and Arabic. 
Independence 1993 - present
Making the most of the weakness
of Ethiopia after the fall of the communist government, the E.P.L.F. came to
power in 1990. After a referendum
independence was proclaimed on the 24th of May 1993.
The emblem of the independent state of Eritrea of
1993 is a disc with a camel (Camelus dromedarius - Camelidæ) to the
sinister, standing on a steppe like ground. Around the disc is a garland in
the United Nations style and underneath a light blue banner with the name of
the country in tigrinya, english and arabic in white lettering: “the state of ERITREA”.
this form the emblem is on the presidential flag of 1993.
newer version, given by the official website of the government of Eritrea,
shows the emblem on a black circular background, the camel white, the ground
of the natural colors, the garland and ribbon gold and the lettering red. The
version on top of the government building in Aksum shows the emblem all in
gold with black lettering on a blue disc.
The camel has been adopted as the national emblem
for its instrumental role in transporting supplies during the 1961-91 war of
© Hubert de Vries 2008.07.15. Updated 2009.04.21; 2018.10.10
the Ottoman presence in Eritrea Pitcher (A Historical Geography of the Ottoman
Empire, 1972) writes: Twice, in 1557 and 1578, the Ottomans advanced on to te
Eritrean plateau and captured Debaroa, but they were driven out on both
occasions, and peace was made with Abessynia in 1589. Arkiko and Masawwa’
remained in Turkish possession for some years more but by about 1650 Masawwa
was handed over to a local Beja chief, who acted as the Porte’s reperesentative
unde the supervision of the Paşa of Jiddah.
of the Italian army because its flag was a square tricolore with the
arms in the middle.
 Eritrea (Colonia) Troncato: nel
1° d’argento, alla leonessa illeopardita di rosso, ornata d’aoro e caricata
sulla spalla sinistra di una stella d’argento; nel 2° fasciato ondato d’azzurro
e d’argento. Lo scudo timbrato da corona antica romana (decreto
Luogotenenziale, 3 aprile 1919 - RR.LL.PP.
8 Guigno 1919) (Rivista Araldica, 1933, p. 365.)
 Hesmer, K.-H. Flaggen u. Wappen der Welt. Gütersloh 1992 p. 182.
 After a
picture of Frits Eisenloeffel, published in “Onze Wereld” nr. 9. september
From K.-H. Hesmer: Flaggen, Wappen Daten,