Modern Greek History

History of the Traditional Greek Evzone Uniform

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History of the Traditional Evzone Uniform

The origins of the traditional uniform that the Evzones wear are closely tied to Greek military history. In fact, the term can be traced all the way back to Homer’s time, which indicates that the Evzone soldiers were present in some capacity in Ancient Greece.

Today, the Evzones take on a ceremonial role. One of their main duties is to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens. In many ways, their role is a symbolic one and their uniform is the very embodiment of Greece’s military legacy. Here’s more information:

Origin of the Word “Evzone”

The first mention of the word “Evzone” (or back then, the Ancient Greek term was “evzonoi”) can be traced to Ancient Greece. However, back then, the word didn’t refer to a uniform of any kind. The word first appears in Homer’s Iliad and is an adjective that means “well-belted.” Literally, it was a reference to an “elite man” and not necessarily a soldier of any kind.

Now, the word simply refers to the soldiers whose purpose it is to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It can also reference the traditional uniform itself.

Tsolias – Colloquial Word for the Evzone Soldier

Evzone isn’t the only word that is used to describe the soldiers themselves. As a side note, Evzone soldiers are often referred to as Tsolias colloquially. However, the term “Tsolias” is usually reserved for members of Greece’s modern military. Though, these soldiers could take on the ceremonial duties, such as becoming a member of the Presidential Guard. In that case, they would become “Evzones” and would wear the traditional Evzone uniform.

Uniform During Turkish Occupation

The uniform can be found in some form during the time when the Ottomans occupied Greece. However, it is important to note that the uniform was in existence before then. During these four hundred years, the Evzone uniform underwent some changes.

The Klephts, who were the soldiers that fought against Turkish rule during the war, wore the uniform. It was during this time that the foustanella, or kilt, was added to the uniform. In today’s design, the foustanella is said to have four hundred folds, one for each year that the Turks were in Greece. This is also the time when the tsarouchia, or clogs, was added to the uniform.

Bavarian Style Uniform

After the Greek War for Independence concluded, King Otto of Bavaria became King of Greece. Though it lasted for thirty years, his reign was a turbulent one. He was never fully embraced by the Greek people, especially since he and his wife were considered outsiders.

During this time, even the Evzone’s manner of dress underwent some changes. In 1833, a Bavarian-inspired Evzone uniform was introduced. It featured blue trousers, a tailcoat, and a shako, a type of military helmet. It was changed in 1837 to something that more closely resembles today’s uniform.

The Evzone Uniform of Today

Today’s Evzone uniform is complicated. It has around twelve parts, and each needs to be in place. The Evzones form the Presidential Guard, a prestigious discipline for the soldiers. Their main function is to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but they also march in official parades, as well. Note that there are also some differences depending on which part of Greece the uniform originated.

The uniform is highly symbolic and it can change slightly at different times of the year. In addition to the typical Evzone uniform, they could wear the traditional Cretan Evzone dress and Ponti Evzone uniform. The Cretan design doesn’t include a foustanella, but rather dark blue trousers. The soldiers often wear different uniforms to honor different aspects of Greek military history.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com