History and Duties
The long history of the Presidential Guard begins in 1868, with the establishment of a combatant and ceremonial elite unit of the Hellenic Army, aimed at providing high-level military training to soldiers that have demonstrated bravery and military virtue, thus serving as a model for the rest of the Army. In 1914, after the end of the Balkan Wars, the unit was renamed “Palace Guard”. In 1929, when the construction of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier began, a company of Evzones called the “Guard Company of the President of the Republic” assumed the responsibility of guarding the monument.
In the course of time and following the changes in the country’s regime, the unit underwent several successive name changes: “Royal Guard Company” (1940), “Guard of Honor of the Unknown Soldier” (1941), “Flag Guard” (1942), and “Royal Guard” (1946). Despite the changes in its name, the unit’s honorable mission of guarding the Palace and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has remained unchanged.
Since 1974, when democracy was restored in Greece, the unit has been ultimately named the “Presidential Guard”, retaining a purely ceremonial character. The Presidential Guard is supervised by the Military Office of the Presidency of the Republic.
Mission & Duties
All Evzones are volunteers drawn from the Hellenic Army’s Infantry Corps. Maintaining their status as unswerving guards, the Evzones continue to pay tribute to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier around the clock, under any weather conditions. They also stand guard at the entrance of the Presidential Mansion and at the gate of the barracks of the Presidential Guard.
Furthermore, they serve as honor guards to the President of the Republic, foreign Heads of State, as well as to foreign Ambassadors while they present their credentials to the President.
The duties of the Presidential Guard also include the solemn raising and lowering of the Greek flag on the sacred rock of the Acropolis, which takes place on Sundays and national holidays, as well as the participation of the unit’s detachments in commemorative events in Greece and abroad, most notably during the Greek Independence Day celebrations of March 25.
Every Sunday, at 11:00΄ am, the Grand Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place. For this event, a detachment of Evzones, accompanied by a military band, marches from the Presidential Guard’s barracks to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and backward.
The Evzone Uniform
The Evzone’s uniform has a history that spans over the years and is inextricably linked to Greece’s modern history and national identity. From 1821 onwards, the Evzone’s uniform of the military leaders and combatants who led the nation’s liberation struggles against the Ottomans, during the Greek Revolution of 1821, was adopted as the official national attire.
Today, the Evzone uniform of the Presidential Guard Officers varies slightly from that of privates. However, they share basic features and symbolism. It is worth noting that all uniforms are entirely handmade, and their detailed tailoring requires ample experience, time, and expenses.
The defining characteristic of the uniform includes the Belt, which denotes the “well-girdled” fighter (from Greek eû:“well and zṓnē, “belt”). The Fustanella (a form of kilt) is made of 30 meters of white fabric and consists of 400 pleats, which represents the number of years of the Turkish occupation. Its color is white, like the Ypoditis (shirt), as they both symbolize the purity of the struggles for national independence. The Fermeli (vest) is undeniably the most difficult part of the uniform to prepare, as it is hand-embroidered with artistic designs of cultural and folkloric value, in the white or gilt thread. The red Pharion (cap), which carries the national emblem, symbolizes the sacrifices and blood spilled by the warriors during the nation’s liberation struggles, while its black silk tassel is a symbol of tears and mourning. The blue and white silk fringes across the Evzones’ uniform symbolize the Greek flag.
Lastly, one of the most iconic elements and strongest symbols of the Evzone’s uniform is the Tsarouhi (shoe) which is entirely hand-made of hard red leather. Each pair weighs about 3 kg, with 120 nails and a number of petals attached to the sole. According to tradition, the large black tassel of the tsarouhi was used to conceal blades that could prove useful for close-range combat.
In addition to the official Evzone uniform, the Presidential Guard also wears the following attires:
The winter navy-blue overcoat (doulamas) – Uniform of the Macedonian struggle. It is worn daily by the Evzones during the winter season.
The summer khaki overcoat (doulamas) – Uniform of the Balkan Wars. It is worn daily by the Evzones during the summer season.
The uniform of the Cretans, was worn in parades and official ceremonies.
Moreover, the Presidential Guard’s uniform wardrobe includes specific national traditional costumes, such as the Pontian costume (originates from Pontus), the Thracian costume (originates from Thrace), and the traditional garment of the islanders of the Aegean Sea. The Evzones wear them on special occasions, during Memorial Days and celebrations.
Since its establishment, the barracks housing the Presidential Guard is located at 2, Herodou Attikou Street, close to the Presidential Mansion. It is named after the hero of the Greek Revolution of 1821, George Tzavelas.
Changing the Guard – Presidential Mansion, Athens, Greece
The Presidential Mansion is the place to be to see a Changing the Guard ceremony in Athens, Greece.
Changing of the Guard ceremonies take place at the Presidential Mansion and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is off Syntagma Square below the Hellenic Parliament.
The Changing the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in particular has become a popular tourist attraction in Athens.
The Evzone’s, accompanied by a military band march from their barracks, just behind the Parliament Building, along the Vasilissis Sofias Avenue to the Tomb of the Unknown soldier where a ceremonial change of guards takes place every Sunday at 11:00.
The Evezone’s on Guard in Athens
The Evzone provides a 24-hour honor guard, with an hourly sentry change, which is carried out in slow motion, that some say are to allow the troops’ circulation to resume after standing absolutely motionless.
Many smiles when they see the pompoms on the boots of the guards in Athens but make no mistake these men are part of an elite light infantry unit, the Evzone’s
The ceremonial guard change provides an opportunity to see the three official uniforms of the Evzones.
- The Evzone may appear unusual in their ceremonial uniforms, but make no mistake these are highly disciplined soldiers.
- Their discipline is best portrayed by an incident in 2001 when a molotov cocktail was thrown at a sentry box.
- The Evzone standing there did not blink or move until ordered to do so.
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