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Phrygian Cap: The Paris Olympics Mascot

With every passing month, enthusiasm is building for the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Amongst all this excitement, France has finally revealed its mascot for the games, and it has taken everyone by surprise. It's a Phrygian cap

Paralympic cap illustration
Paralympic cap illustration from the lovely LindenEller

The Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Mascot

This symbol of the past, along with added modern elements, is the mascot for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

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But what the heck is a Phrygian Cap?

A well-loved feature of the Olympics, mascots have come in many shapes and sizes. They bring a certain festivity to the events and also symbolize the concrete spirit of the games. Traditionally, the mascots have been either animals or creative inspirations of the host country. They represent the cultural heritage of the country and spread a cheery atmosphere to fans and athletes alike.

Like any good mascot, the motto for the Phryges is “Alone we go faster, but together we go further.”

Who are the Phryges?

As the French prepare for the games, the two little mascots, known as the “Phryges”, personify liberty. These Phryges are based on a hat dating back to ancient times. These colorful red characters come from the Phrygian cap, a symbol of the French revolution. Featured on several Latin American flags, it is known as the Cap of Liberty and goes back to Roman times.

The Phrygian Cap

Initially, the Phrygian Cap was worn by a freed slave in Phrygia upon his release from slavery, and later on, it was quite heavily used in the iconography of the French revolution. The cap was an essential element of the Scythian uniform in the olden times, and when the Scythian power declined, Athens took in their police and their uniform. When the Romans conquered Greece, they brought the cap to Europe.

In the 18th century, the red cap began appearing in France. In 1790, it became a popular symbol of the French Revolution worn by the sans-culottes and was used to cover the head of the goddess of Liberty and Nation. Men and women who wanted to be citizens of a country rather than just subjects soon began wearing it in public.

In 1792, when the Palace of Tuileries (in the Tuileries Garden) was invaded by the general masses, King Louis XVI was forced to wear the red bonnet. After the fall of the monarchy, the red cap was seen everywhere, and in 1793, it was even compulsory to wear the Liberty Cap in the Paris Assemblies.

The most well-known representation of the Liberty Cap is in the painting by Eugene Delacroix, La Liberte guidant le peuple (Liberty Leading the People). Inspired by the insurrection of 1830 when France Charles X, the last king of France was forced to step down, the painting shows a street barricade with a woman wearing the Liberty Cap in the foreground holding the French tricolor flag.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People. Musée du Louvre, Paris, public domain image.

[If you visit Paris, you can see this painting yourself in the Louvre on the first floor in the Denon wing. Remember, they are limiting the number of visitors in the Louvre, so buy your tickets ahead of time.]

Marianne, the allegorical figure of the French Republic whose carved bust statue is found in all town halls, is also seen wearing the Phrygian Cap with a tricolor cockade embroidered on it.

Would it surprise you that Americans use the Phrygian cap as well?

Yep. It's true! You only have to look at the seal of the United States Senate to confirm. It is also in the state seal of New Jersey, New York, Iowa, Idaho, West Virginia, and my own current home state of North Carolina.

Phrygian Cap in State Seal of New Jersey and North Carolina and the US Senate

What is the Pronunciation of Phrygian?

Very important if you are traveling to the city of light for the games, Paris will be full of these bonnet rouge and you need to know the Pronunciation of Phrygian! Especially if you have plans to buy one as a souvenir!

Phoenitcally, Phrygian is: FRI · jee · uhn

and Phryges is: FRI · jee · uhs

Why the Phryges?

The Phryges have been around for decades, from the construction of Notre Dame of Paris in 1163 to the Revolution and the building of the Eiffel Tower. As a symbol of liberty and freedom, the Phryges lead the movement, celebrate athletes in all arenas, and promote the values of the sport. Even if it is more like revolution through sport!

tony estanguet presents the 2024 Olympic mascot the Phrygian cap
Tony Estanguet (French Olympic president) presents the 2024 Olympic mascot, the Phrygian cap. Copyright Benjamin Boccas from Paris 2024 media site.

Unlike previous ones, the 2024 Paris Olympics mascots have very little difference between the Olympics and the Paralympics. The Olympic Phryge has a regular leg whereas the Paralympic Phryge wears a racing blade; the intentional choice is aimed at promoting inclusion. The Olympic phryge and paralympic phryge are basically the same.

How about you? Had you ever heard of Phrygian cap before? What do you think about it now?

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  1. Thank you for sharing this information. The Olympics will be here before we know it and I can’t wait to watch it on TV.

  2. What a really wonderful and very informative post this is. I learned a lot by reading this article thanks for sharing

  3. This is such a cute and very beautiful Phrygian cap! Plus the meaning it gives is for everyone’s betterment by acting together as one! Totally love it!

  4. I love to learn about the history and how things began, Thanks for sharing this information about the Phrygian Cap

  5. I had no idea that the Phrygian/ Liberty Cap in the painting of Delacroix has deep symbolism and long history but I am happy to see that this is given a different light in the coming Paralympics. Also, it looks really cute. Kudos to those who designed it.