The Sun of Vergina is a symbol that was widely used by Ancient Greeks. It became famous due to the Macedonians who were using it as Symbol of the Argead Dynasty.

–The Royal house of Macedon:

vergina sun philip

The typical Sun of Vergina is a 16-pointed Sun. It can also be found in other styles: 12-pointed or 8-pointed. What was the meaning of this symbol?? –In the typical 16-pointed Sun , the 4 rays represent the 4 elements: Earth-Ocean-Fire-Air. The other 12 rays represent the 12 Gods of Olympus.You can see the explanation in the following animation :

–In every form, the Sun of Vergina symbolized Virginity:

Goddess Athena was a Virgin, so this Sun was associated with her. We can also find this symbol associated with Apollo. –All the versions (16,12 and 8-pointed Sun) are associated with another famous Greek symbol, the “Delphian Epsilon”, symbol of Apollo:

The Sun of Vergina became common art design in coins, craters, wall-drawings etc LONG BEFORE the Macedonian royal house (the Argead Dynasty) used it. After the unification of the Greek (Hellenic) nation under the leadership of Alexander the Great, the Sun of Vergina became the symbol of the Hellenic Ethnogenesis.

In the following replies, you will be able to see some pieces of Ancient Greek art containing the Sun of Vergina, BEFORE THE RISE OF THE GREEK KINGDOM OF MACEDONIA. These sun symbols are found in various Greek places, apart from Macedonia. Moreover, there will be a small historical flashback, in order to see the evolution of this symbol throught the ages :

2000 BC:

This is the time where ancient Greeks first started using the Sun symbol. It was not standardized yet, it was a early form of the Sun of Vergina:


The Sun of Vergina has been standardized. The following art work shows the destruction of Troy. We can clearly see the Sun symbol in the warrior’s hump. It was found in Mykonos island :

The following images are just a small sample, showing the wide usage of the Sun of Vergina in Greek Art:

Spartan Hoplite – 780 BC:

Spartan Amphoreus –

It dates from the 6th century BC, that is, well before Macedonia’s later dominance in the Greek world. In this fine example of ancient pottery, the Sunburst here is not just an incidental decorative motif but rather constitutes the central theme. Its appearance on this household item from distant Sparta, at such an early date, is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for the panhellenic nature of this ancient symbol. In addition, this item perhaps alludes to a more specific connection between Sparta and her Dorian cousin of the north.

This vase can now be found in the Louvre Museum, Paris. 6th Century BC:

An amphora from the Pontus region (the southern shore of the Black Sea) dating from the second half of the sixth century BC. Priam and the god Hermes lead Hera, Athena and Aphrodite to Paris whose task will be to decide which of these goddesses is the most beautiful. According to the legend each of these goddesses made offers to Paris so that they might win the contest. Hera promised to make him ruler of the world, Athena vowed that he would never be vanquished in battle. Paris eventually chose Aphrodite as she promised him the love of Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman in the world. The Trojan War was a direct result of this fateful contest:

Exekias was a famous vase-painter and potter of ancient Athens. The scene on this page, from an amphora of the third quarter of the 6th century BC (now at the National Museum of Athens), is one of his most famous works. It is considered one of the finest surviving examples of ‘Black Figure’ vase painting.

Achilles and Ajax, two major Greek heroes of Homer’s Iliad are depicted here relaxing over a game of dice during a lull in the fighting. Achilles has just won; he has just thrown a ‘four’ while Ajax has to accept a ‘three’:

Third Quarter of the 6th century BC:

Achilles and Ajax

The cloaks of both these Homeric figures are studded with numerous 8-ray Sunbursts.

The return of Hephestus– 560 BC:

Below is a pyxis (box-like vase) from the second half of the 6th century BC signed by the prolific Athenian potter Nikosthenes. It depicts the hero Herakles with the Gods of Olympus. The seal on the lid of this vessel features the familiar 16-ray Sunburst. Like the garments of Achilles and Ajax on the Exekias vase, the clothes of one of the figures on the front of the pyxis is also adorned with sunbursts:

Athena and Hermes– 540 BC

heracles olympians pyxis Athena and hermes

Heracles and Lernaia Hydra- 525 BC:

Odyseus blinds the Cyclop, Magna Grecia- 520 BC:

Greek Amphoreus, Magna Grecia– 500 BC

Heracles- Olympia- 500 BC:

Goddess Athena– 5th century BC:

Hades-the Greek underworld– 5th century BC:

An Athenian citizen-soldier of about 450 BC. He is wearing a linen cuirass (body armour), a style which had largely replaced cuirasses made of bronze by about the middle of the 6th century BC:

The shoulder pieces of his cuirass are decorated with 8-ray Sunbursts. The grotesque face of the Gorgon Medusa, a very common Greek symbol and one of the attributes of the goddess Athena, hangs on his chest.

Heracles and Athena, 480 BC:

Another Attic vase (dated c. 480 BC), shows a warrior wearing an ΅Attic’ helmet and carrying a large, decorated shield. A sixteen-ray sunburst adorns the shoulder piece that is visible:

– c. 480 BC:

The shoulder pieces of yet another hoplite from an Athenian vase of 450 BC above), are likewise decorated with 8-ray Sunbursts. This scene captures the solemn mood of the hoplite warrior’s departure for battle. He is shown clasping his father’s hand while his wife (or mother) carries a phiale (cup) which will be used for the ritual libation of farewell:

450 BC:

Inside the temple of Nemesis in Thamnous– 436 BC:

Ancient Greek hoplites, Museum of Napoli, 400 BC:

The Legent of godess Dimitra-400BC:

Canos Vase –400 BC:

Detail of Canos Vase- The Persian king Darius, seated on his throne, holds a Council of War and decides to invade Greece. Below him are Persians bearing tribute. Above Darius are the Gods of Olympus. Among them, flanked by Zeus and Athena, is a female figure, a personification of Greece [Hellas] herself. Athena has placed her arm on Greece and together with Zeus appears to be consoling her in view of her impending struggle and tribulations (see Canosa vase detail below):

Two 16-ray Sunbursts complete the line-up of Greece and the Hellenic pantheon while a further two Sunbursts appear in the top-most scene of the vase.

400 BC:

Greek Hoplite vs Persian Soldier, 4th century BC:

Greek Hoplite vs Persian Soldier, 4th century BC:

The Greek hero Perseus:

Fourth century BC

Athena Promahos

Three youths in battles one of whom carries a shield emblazoned with the Sunburst:

An epaulette depicting a sunburst.


On Greek Shields and Helmets

The shields of ancient Greek hoplites (heavy infantry) invariably bore a symbolic design known as the episema, which had a ritual or heraldic significance. Surviving representations of these devices attest to a vast diversity of design and inspiration. Although often unique to the individual, (a phenomenon resulting in a plethora of emblems: roosters, lions, tripods, gorgons, birds, bulls, serpents, boars etc), whole armies often presented a uniform design. Such was the case of SpartaΆs soldiers who were easily recognizable by the legendary Lambda (‘Λ’: the Greek ‘L’, the first letter of ‘Lacedaimonia’, the land of the Spartans) on their shields, in addition to their scarlet cloaks.

At least two of the hoplites competing in the armed foot-race from a Greek amphora of the 4th century BC (below), carry shields featuring a solar episema. Athletic contests were held in honour of the gods at Greek festivals. The armed foot-race was a very popular event, so much so, that 25 shields were on hand at Olympia for the use of the contestants. A Panathenaic amphora by Nikomachos from the same period (not shown) likewise depicts three nude warriors racing, two of whom carry shields emblazoned with Sunbursts.

An early krater from Magna Graecia from the last quarter of the fifth century BC painted by the so-called Sisyphus Painter incorporates a number of different scenes. Horse riders are apparently engaged in a race in the top-most scene. Women are shown playing musical instruments in the middle, while the bottom scene has the legendary battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths as its theme. One of the Lapith warriors is carrying a large shield with a distinct 16-ray Sunburst episema:

Nudity in battle, as depicted on this late classical Athenian wine-jug (below), was an artistic convention designed to distinguish Greek from barbarian. Greek warriors never actually fought without body armour; nor did they hunt in this way as the famous painting by Gnosis of Alexander hunting would have us believe. A Greek hoplite is here engaged in battle against three Persians (not all of whom are visible). This scene reflects the growing confidence felt by Greeks in the wake of their defeat of Persia in the early 5th century and XenophonΆs successful Persian venture in the early 4th century BC. The Greek hoplite proudly carries a shield adorned with the evidently quite common Sunburst episema:

An Attic red figure krater now in the Antikenmuseum (in Basle, Switzerland; not shown) depicts a scene from the Amazonomachy, the mythical battle between Theseus and his Athenians against the invading Amazons. Significantly, one of the Athenian warriors engaged in the melee, who is also fighting in ?heroic nudity?, holds a shield with a 16-ray Sunburst. The ‘Polygnotos’ stamnos (445-430 BC; below) dealing with the same theme, shows Theseus himself carrying a shield decorated with a Sunburst. [A combat scene from an amphora painted by the so-called Suessula Painter (c. 400 BC; not shown) likewise depicts a Greek soldier carrying a shield decorated with a somewhat faded yet still discernible Sunburst].