By Victoria Loutas
The Presidential Guard is a ceremonial infantry unit that guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Presidential mansion in Athens, Greece. The Presidential Guard, also known as the Evzones, was established on this day in 1868 and has proudly withheld the test of time.
In 1868, a combatant and ceremonial elite unit of the Hellenic Army was established, which aimed to provide high level military training to soldiers that have demonstrated bravery and military virtue. These selected soldiers were intended to act as a role model to the remainder of the Hellenic Army.
The first Presidential Guard was established by Royal Decree as an independent battalion-sized unit, called the Agema. This unit consisted of staff, two evzone infantry companies and one cavalry company.
Under the reign of King George I (from 1863 to 1913), the structure and composition of the presidential guard remained unaltered. However, his successor, King Constantine, who ruled from (1913-1917, 1920-1922), made several changes to the guard. Under his Royal Decree, it was changed to a ‘Palace Guard’ and consisted of just two platoons, one of Evzones, and one of Cretans. Later in 1916, due to National Schism, this structure was abolished.
Afterwards, the guard returned to its original format and remained a consistent institution while Greece underwent hardship and havoc, particularly during the 1941 Battle of Greece.
Today, the Presidential Guard is purely a ceremonial unit, representing the rich political and national history which Greece possesses. The unit has the responsibility of providing permanent ceremonial guard detachments of two Evzones, each for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the entrance to the Presidential Mansion.
The guards on duty do a ceremonial performance every hour, on the hour, which consist of small movements in a slow and civilised manner. While guarding, the soldiers have to remain completely still.
The Greek Presidential Guard is highly regarded and represents the social and cultural pillars of Greece.