Flag of the European Union

How many stars can be found on the Flag of the European Union?

And the answer: twelve.    

Also known as the European flag, the Flag of the European Union features a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. The circle of stars has nothing to do with the number of member countries, but rather is a symbol of unity.

Photo credit: public domain. 

As a signifier of the unity and identity of Europe, the stars on the European flag stand for ideals of unity, solidarity, and harmony among the people of Europe. In 1955, the Council of Europe — which defends human rights and promotes European culture — chose the present design for its own use. In the years that followed, it encouraged the emerging European institutions to adopt the same flag. By 1985, it was adopted by all EU leaders as the official emblem of the European Communities, later to become the European Union. The symbolic and heraldic descriptions of the flag state:

"Against the background of blue sky, twelve golden stars form a circle representing the union of the peoples of Europe. The number of stars is fixed, twelve being the symbol of perfection and unity ... on an azure field, a circle of twelve golden mullets, their points not touching."

Why twelve stars, you ask? Well, simply put, twelve is considered to be an ideal number. The number twelve provided the foundation of the Babylonian numerical system (called duodecimal for that reason). There are also 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 months of the year, 12 hours of the day, 12 hours of the night, 12 Egyptian gods, 12 Olympian deities who formed the Greek pantheon, 12 laps in the chariot races of ancient Greece, 12 labors of Hercules in Greek mythology, 12 tables making up the first codification of Roman law, 12 knights of King Arthur’s Round Table in Celtic tradition, and 12 gates of Paradise in Scandinavia. Dare we go on?

We dare not. Learn more about the European flag here.

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