This takes wearing your heart on your sleeve to a whole new level – this tattoo carries the weight of the right of protection of the wearer.
The Molon Labe tattoo appears in Greek text as μολὼν λαβέ, translating to “Come and Take [Them].” To many, this tattoo may represent as an act of defiance, but to others, this tattoo symbolizes the constitutional right protected by our second amendment.
There are deeper meanings than the translation itself speaks to; each wearer bares their own tale and that’s what makes all tattoos so unique – whether they are choosing to take a political stand or in remembrance of something more personal.
What is the history of the Molon Labe tattoo?
Our journey begins all the way back in 650 BC, when a militaristic group rose to power – Sparta.
Now, Sparta was more than just how it has been depicted in many historical movies, and maybe your history books aren’t able to even capture the true essence and ruthlessness of the Spartan empire.
The phrase Molon Labe comes from an account of the Battle of Thermopylae when Xerxes demanded weapons be handed over and Leonidas responded with, “Molon Labe.”
This was not your typical conversation, however. No, this was a battle of kings – establishing dominance in their territory.
Since the initial utterance of these words, Molon Labe has continued to make an impact, often in war times.
Since the rise of the internet, we have seen patriotic paraphernelia with this inscription on it; these images soon began to been used in tattoos, often paired with Spartan-like imagery.
Molon Labe tattoos continue to be used today to make political and personal statements, especially in the current state of the world with the rise of social movements.
What does Molon Labe symbolize?
Ultimately, at the core of its being, Molon Labe symbolizes patriotism.
Translated to “Come and Take Them,” this act of patriotism is nothing short of heroic.
It means standing your ground against the enemy for the greater good, refusing to put down your weapons and fighting the good fight.
You could also view this as sticking it to the man, so to speak, and the wearer dictates exactly who that man is to them.
Interestingly enough, this Spartan-originated phrase has become popular in the United States but doesn’t seem to have quite the same hold on other nations as a symbol for patriotism.
What do Molon Labe tattoos mean?
Molon Labe tattoos can hold a multitude of meanings.
Defiance – The tattoo may take on a headstrong meaning. Whether yielded by someone in a military fashion or to stick it to the man, the tattoo may be worn to show that the wearer (or their ideals) is better than the force they oppose.
Confidence – The tattoo could be used to show someone overcoming a personal battle. Whether it be standing your ground against a mental battle or a physical battle with the condition of your body – be it weight or disability – it can be used to prove you have surmounted your demons.
To Taunt – The tattoo can also be used to taunt others, in the same way that Leonidas was blunt and bold in his statement, it almost comes across as arrogant and pompous.
Characteristics and Styles of Molon Labe Tattoos
You’ll notice that Molon Labe tattoos are almost always depicted in Greek, not the English form and rarely its translation.
This could be for a few reasons: to serve as a conversational piece or because of the history of the coined phrase itself. The phrase is also often in a block text – bold and empowering.
In a quick Google search, you may find some common similarities in the designs of these tattoos – Spartan helmets, weapons, and flags (and often a combination of these things).
The Spartan helmet is a reference to the origin story of this phrase, but also evokes a sense of strength.
Spartans were known for their power and warrior complex, so pairing their helmet with the phrase Molon Labe speaks for itself.
This phrase often has weapons around it of some kind, whether guns, spears, or swords. Again, referencing the historic background, this phrase was used literally to say, “Come and Take Them” meaning our weapons.
Guns are of course the modern day adaptation to this phrase – being used to reference times of revolution and the constitutional second amendment (the right to bear arms).
Flags, particularly the American flag, may be in the background of the tattoo which has ties to the patriotism that the phrase itself is used to symbolize.
Placement of Molon Labe Tattoos
It could be a coincidence, or it could continue to build depth to its meaning, but either way, the Molon Labe tattoo is most often placed on the arm in some capacity. This is not always the case, but in most instances it is.
Whether located on the forearm or the upper arm’s bicep, this placement could be a literal way to display the “right to bear arms.”
This placement is also one that can be easily concealed but also easily shown, depending on the wearer’s preference.
If someone worked in a profession where tattoos were considered unprofessional and they were required to cover it, sleeves are an easy fix.
On the other end of the spectrum, if someone wanted to showcase their tattoo, this would be an easy location to do that.
Who Wears the Molon Labe Tattoo?
While anyone can get this tattoo (or any tattoo they want), this is a go-to design for military members and veterans.
This is not to say you have to be a certain type of person to wield a certain tattoo, but it is often used to remember war times, battles, and overcoming each of these endeavors. It can be used to inspire strength in these times as well.
Although many years have passed since the origin of this phrase, it still holds the strength of the king who uttered it and represents the power to stand against wrong-doers.