The soldiers wear 7-pound shoes and stand motionless for more than 100 hours a month.

Since 1868, Greece's presidential guards ("Evzones" in Greek) have carried out a couple of key duties. Each day, they raise and lower the flag atop of the rock of the Acropolis and guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

These tasks sound simple. But being an Evzone is no easy feat. The ceremonial military unit guards wear handmade uniforms that include a white kilt (with 400 pleats to represent 400 years under Ottoman occupation) and red leather clogs (which weigh over seven pounds). Putting on the uniform requires two soldiers to help each other.

Michael Palin discovers the routine of Greece's presidential guards in an episode of Around The World in 80 Days (1989)

Evzones also undergo a strenuous training regime. Each presidential guard must be prepared to raise his legs to shoulder height as he marches and to stand motionless for over 100 hours a month. The rigorous preparation is most noticeable when Evzones are under duress from either bad weather or angry demonstrators. Then, they remain unflinching without orders to stand down. 

Reuters photographer John Kolesidis recently documented the daily routine of the guards. He observed that it's "surreal to watch them stand still while a virtual war is raging around them or while little children tease and harass them, often pinching them to make sure they are alive."

Below, Kolesidis's stunning photographs:

Greek Presidential Guards perform a change of shift at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens December 1, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
A Greek Presidential Guard stands at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament in Athens November 29, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Greek Presidential Guards perform a change of shift at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens November 29, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
A soldier checks on Presidential Guard uniforms hanging in a room at the army camp in central Athens November 22, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Simela Terzopoulou, 56, working at the Presidential Guard's army camp, irons the Presidential Guards' uniforms at the army camp in central Athens November 22, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Georgios Dermatas, 44, a shoemaker at the Presidential Guard's army camp, repairs a clog in a workshop at the unit's facilities in central Athens November 22, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Presidential Guards Giorgos Nezos (L), 23, and Chaniotis Dimitrios, 19, put on their uniform in a hall at their army camp in central Athens November 26, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis) 
A Presidential Guard tightens his belt, which is part of his uniform in a room at the army camp in central Athens November 26, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Greek Presidential Guards practice for a parade inside their camp in central Athens November 22, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)
Greek Presidential Guards stand in front of the Parthenon temple during the flag hoisting ceremony at the Acropolis hill in Athens November 21, 2013. (REUTERS/John Kolesidis)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a Tower Records Japan Inc. store in Tokyo, Japan.
    Life

    The Bankrupt American Brands Still Thriving in Japan

    Cultural cachet, licensing deals, and density explain why Toys ‘R’ Us, Tower Records, Barneys, and other faded U.S. retailers remain big across the Pacific.

  2. Perspective

    Why the Car-Free Streets Movement Will Continue to Grow

    In cities like New York, Paris, Rotterdam, and soon San Francisco, car-free streets are emerging amid a growing movement.

  3. Transportation

    How Media Coverage of Car Crashes Downplays the Role of Drivers

    Safety advocates have long complained that media outlets tend to blame pedestrians and cyclists who are hit by cars. Research suggests they’re right.

  4. photo: a commuter looks at a small map of the London Tube in 2009
    Maps

    Help! The London Tube Map Is Out of Control.

    It’s never been easy to design a map of the city’s underground transit network. But soon, critics say, legibility concerns will demand a new look.

  5. Photos

    How Thousands of Headstones Ended Up Under a Philadelphia Bridge

    A surprising tale of a forgotten cemetery, a land grab, and some clever recycling.

×