Evzone: Threading in Greek Valiance
The Evzones are a special unit of the Greek Army. For over a century, they have been the most recognizable symbol of the Greek Presidential Guard.
The image of the Evzone is deeply significant to the Greek people. They stand as a symbol of national pride, as well as triumph over great tribulations. Hundreds of thousands of people have come from around the world to watch as Evzones stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square.
The word evzonas (Greek: εύζωνας) means “well-girt” and was first mentioned in Homer’s Iliad to describe the well-made armor of the warriors during the Trojan War. Today, the word is used to describe the light infantry units of the Greek Army.
The costume also connects Greeks to the War of Independence against the Ottoman Turks (1821-1830). The characteristic costume of the Evzones is derived directly from the uniform of the Klephts, the legendary guerillas of the Greek Revolution.
The Evzone uniform worn today took its final form in 1868 and is comprised of:
- Farion: A cap made of red baize with a long black silk tassel. The cap also bears the Greek coat of arms and the officer’s rank. As a soldier salutes, he points his two fingers towards the coat of arms.
- Fermeli: The most intricate and decorative piece of the Evzone uniform. It is made of wool and bears intricate embroidery, as well as discrete stripes at the back of the tailcoat that indicate a soldier’s rank – one for a Corporal and two for a Sergeant. The Fermeli of an officer is royal purple.
- Ypodetes: A full-sleeved white shirt worn under the vest. The sleeves have 200 pleats each. A standard long sleeve white dress shirt is worn under this garment.
- Foustanella: The Greek kilt. It is made from almost 100 feet of material and has 400 pleats, representing the 400 years of occupation by the Ottomans.
- Krossia: Blue and white braided fringes worn over the foustanella. The blue and white represent the colors of the Greek flag.
- Telamonas: The ammunition belt. Soldiers also have a bayonet scabbard on the belt.
- Periskelides: Woolen stockings worn under the foustanella. Two pairs are worn at a time.
- Epiknemides: Silk black garters worn to hold the Periskelides in place. On officers, they are blue.
- Tsarouchia: The iconic shoes worn by the Evzone. They are made of hard red leather with a full black pom-pom on the toe. The sole of the shoe is embedded with 60 nails, and as the Evzone march, the sound of the nails on the ground simulate the sounds of battle.
The image of the Evzone threads together a past and the present. It is emblematic of Modern Greece, its trials, tribulations, and rich history.