“The Evzones of the Presidential Guard are the custodians of our historical memory,” said President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Sunday.
Sakellaropoulou spoke during the ceremony celebrating the Patron Saint of the Presidenctial Guard, the modern-day martyr Agios Georgios, who was from Ioannina.
“The Evzones connect the past with the present and our future. Our heritage, with our dynamic course, towards tomorrow,” stated the President of the Republic.
“We have chosen the day when the patron saint of the Presidential Guard is celebrated to cut our New Year’s vasilopita,” she explained to onlookers at the event.
“This festive moment gives me the opportunity to emphasize, once again, the important mission of our Evzones: the honorary protection of the institution of Democracy,” she added.
“This year marks two hundred years since the Revolution of 1821, and their presence weighs twice. By reminding the fighters of the Revolution, they symbolize the continuity of our nation and history.”
“They are a living reminder of the values we have fought for and defended in every phase of our national path: the values of freedom, democracy, and our national sovereignty,” the Greek President said.
The long history of Evzones
The elite military unit that has the size of a batallion was established by a royal decree on December 12, 1868; the unit was called “Agema.”
Today’s Evzones which form the Greek Presidential Guard are the last unit of Evzones in the Greek Army, the historical elite light infantry and mountain units known for their hard-won victories against the nation’s enemies.
All the men who were members of the Agema ranked one rank higher than their former positions in the regular army. A member of the Agema is the equivalent to a lance corporal, instead of a private.
The Presidential Guard of Greece is also honored as the only military unit which is allowed to raise and lower the Greek flag on Acropolis hill in Athens.
Today, the Evzones guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, the memorial of all the soldiers in Greek history who died in battle since ancient times.
The Evzones guard the monument that stands in front of the Greek Parliament and their “Changing of the guard” maneuvers have become one of the most famous tourist attractions for visitors to the Greek capital.
Their movements are conducted in a very slow and highly stylized manner. The soldiers change out every fifteen minutes; while they are on guard, they stand at full attention, completely motionless. They have come to embody the unconquerable spirit of Greece.