The Great Seal of Georgia is a device that has historically been used to authenticate government documents executed by the state of Georgia. The first Great Seal of Georgia of the state was specified in the State Constitution of 1777, and its current form was adopted in 1914. Its specifications are currently spelled out by statute. The obverse (main face) of the State Seal of Georgia features the state’s coat of arms (which also appears on Georgia’s state flag).
The three pillars are symbols of the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government. The man standing with a drawn sword defends the Constitution and its principles of “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation” (Georgia’s state motto). 1776 is, of course, the year the United States declared independence. In 1902, the Georgia legislature mandated that the coat of arms (the central portion of the obverse) be included in the state flag of Georgia. Either the coat of arms or the state seal has appeared on every state flag since that date.
In 1857, the University of Georgia constructed a cast iron representation of the architectural elements featured on the obverse of the Great Seal of Georgia. It stands at the north entrance of the campus and has become known as The Arch. Fashioned from existing material, The Arch is a representation but not an exact replica of the elements of the Seal. Originally serving both symbolic and practical functions, it was connected to a barrier which kept cows from roaming over parts of the campus, and was initially known as The Gate.
Today, The Arch is an important symbol of the University. According to legend, it is bad luck for freshmen (or, in some versions, any undergraduate student) to walk under the arch. Legend suggests that any student walking through the arch prematurely will never graduate. In 1914, the date on the Seal of Georgia was changed by legislative action from 1799 to 1776 to correspond with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The device on one side is a view of the seashore, with a ship bearing the flag of the United States riding at anchor near a wharf, receiving on board hogsheads of tobacco and bales of cotton, emblematic of the exports of this State; at a small distance a boat, landing from the interior of the State, with hogsheads, etc.