Greek Tsolias - Evzones
In Athens today, the Tsolias is a soldier that serves in the Presidential Guard. Although their role is mostly ceremonial, such as guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they are usually selected from the Greek special forces and are therefore skilled fighters too.
The Evzones, or Evzoni, was a name used for several historical figures of the Greek Army who used to fight on the mountains. Today, it refers to the members of the Presidential Guard, an elite ceremonial unit that guards the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. The Evzones are also known, colloquially, as Tsoliades. Generally a tsolias is a Greek soldier wearing a modern military uniform based on a traditional Greek guerrilla outfit from the 19th century's Greek War of Independence. The unit is famous around the world for its unique traditional uniform, which has evolved from the outfits worn by kleftes who fought the Turks during the Turkish occupation in Greece. The most visible item of this uniform is the fustanella, a kilt-like garment based on the ancient Greek tunic called a chiton. The fustanella is supposed to have over 400 folds, one for each year that Turkey occupied Greece. The red fez hat is a vestiage of Turkish occupation. The first King of Modern Greece, Otto wore this uniform often in public. Today, many Greek boys dress up as tsoliades on Greek Independence Day. Their proven valour and peculiar dress turned them into a popular image for the Greek soldier, especially among foreigners.
The name Evzone is first found in Homer and it is referring to well-girt men, implying an elite status. For young men at least six feet tall, it is a great honor to become one of the Evzones, the primarily ceremonial Greek National Guard.
Every Sunday at 11:00, tourists gather in front of the Parliament building in Syntagma Square to watch the ceremonial changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guards (Evzones) wear their traditional suits, red and black caps and red clogs with pompoms only that day or on special occasions. On every other day, the Evzones wear regular khaki uniforms and the changing of the guard takes place every hour, 24 hours a day. The guards are tall and well-trained soldiers. They belong to the Presidential Guard meaning they are the guards of the President of Democracy. It is a high honor for every Greek soldier to be chosen as an Evzone. Each soldier mounts guard for one hour at a stretch, 3 times every 48 hours. They work in pairs in order to perfect the coordination of their movements. Originally founded as a royal guard in 1868, this elite corps has about 120 members and enjoys much better accommodations and conditions than the typical Greek army conscript.
The Greek Tsoliades are the most photographed figures in Greece. They stand still no matter what you say to them and it is not allowed to touch them.