Associated Press reporter, Nicholas Paphitis presents the famous “Evzones”, the Greek Presidential soldiers standing guard in front of the country’s Parliament in Syntagma Square.
The “Evzones”, as he writes are one of the most popular attractions for tourists in Athens. The members of the Presidential Guard stand out for their white pleated kilts and are made up of conscripts based on their height and posture.
The word Evzonos (Greek: εὔζωνος) is first attested in Homer’s Iliad and derives from εὖ and ζώνη, meaning “well-girt”. The word was used by ancient writers for centuries to describe a type of light infantry of unidentified equipment, probably used as a generic term to denote light infantry.
From the Wahington Post:
It might be the short, pleated kilts, tasseled black garters and pompom-tipped shoes, but there’s something more endearing than intimidating about Greece’s best-known military unit, the Presidential Guard.
Which helps explain why they are one of Athens’ most popular tourist attractions, vying for camera clicks with the millennia-old ruins of Greece’s Golden Age.
All its members are conscripts picked for height and posture — and must demonstrate their godliness by belonging to the Orthodox Church of Greece.
Their function is to stand sentry at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and outside the residence of Greece’s titular head of state, keeping unflinchingly still for hours when not performing a clockwork-soldier routine of ponderous leg and arm swings and crashing presentations of arms.
But during Greece’s years of financial meltdown, the guards have several times been forced to abandon their posts as anti-austerity protests turned violent next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is just in front of parliament, with the sentry posts occasionally burnt down.
Created 150 years ago as a fighting force that distinguished itself in a series of wars, the unit is now purely ceremonial in function, codifying in its dress and routine a popular conception of Greekness that evolved since the modern Greek state was formed nearly two centuries ago.
Its Greek name — Evzones, or well-girt youths — is a 3,000-year-old word reactivated in the 19th century as the fledgling country strove to cement its blood ties with the glories of antiquity.
read more at source: washingtonpost.com
Authour: Nickolas Paphitis