April 11, 2013
0596 GREECE (Attica) - Evzones at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Athens
The word evzōnos (meaning the "well-girt" men) was first attested in Homer's Iliad, being used in the following centuries to describe a type of light infantry with elite status. The military tradition of Greeks reborn after obtaining the independence, more accurate from 1833, when Otto, the first king of Greece, organized the Greek Army along new lines. The Bavarians that had come with him formed the majority of the "European" Line Infantry battalions, among these units being one rifle company, named Skirmisher or Evzone. In addition, ten light Skirmisher battalions were formed from Greeks, dressed in a uniform based on the garb of the klephts of the War of Independence. The first four elite Evzone light battalions were formed in 1867, with the task of guarding the frontier.
In 1868, the Royal Guard detachment (initially named Agema, later the Palace Guard), composed of two Evzone infantry companies and a cavalry troop, was formed. Expanded to many battalions, these units participated in the disastrous 1897 war with Turkey, then in the Balkan Wars, in which they distinguished themselves for their fighting spirit, and as elite shock troops in WWI, the Asia Minor Campaign and the Greco-Italian War. A memorable event occured in 1941, when German Army occupied Athens. The Germans ascended to the Acropolis and ordered the young Evzone who was guarding the flag post, Konstantinos Koukidis, to lower the Greek flag and raise in its place the swastika flag. The soldier did so, but refused to hand over the Greek flag, wrapped himself in it and jumped off the Acropolis. The story is not historically proved, but it is a nice story. A new unusual event took place in 2001, during a demonstration, when an Evzone didn't budge from his guardhouse engulfed in flames until the officer on watch ordered him to move. In nowdays, Evzones (named colloquially Tsoliades) are the members of the Presidential Guard, an elite ceremonial unit that guards the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (in Syntagma Square), the Presidential Mansion and the gate of Evzones camp in Athens.
In 1833, the uniform of the Evzones was in Bavarian style, but in 1837 this was replaced with one created based on the traditional armatoli clothes, preserved, with minor changes, until today (which can be seen on the postcard). It consists of:
• Farion - a scarlet fez with a black silk tassel, with the national emblem on the front.
• Doulamas - a long tunic (in winter navy blue, in summer khaki)
• Foustanella - a cotton kilt with 400 pleats, representing the 400 years of Ottoman occupation
• Ypodetes - a white shirt with very wide sleeves.
• Fermeli - a waistcoat with traditional designs embroidered. The yellow stripes indicate the military rank.
• Krossia - fringes in blue and white, the colors of the Greek flag.
• Epiknemides - garters made of black silk.
• Periskelides - white woollen stockings.
• Anaspastos - inside garter which holds the periskelides in position.
• Tsarouchia - red leather clogs with black pompons.
• A black leather cartridge belt.
They are armed with a M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle, with bayonet.
About the stamps
The first stamp on the left, depicting Palinurus elephas (0.02€), is part of the definitive set Riches of the Greek seas, about which I wrote here. The second stamp, depicting Acheron River (Epirus) is part of the series Touring, about which I wrote here.
Evzones - Wikipedia
Watch the Evzones - Vagabond
sender: Milda Kriukaite (direct swap)
sent from Piraeus (Greece), on 30.11.2012