The massive rear terrace wall of the broad, rectangular Parliament Square (Plateia Voulis) on busy Vasilissis Amalias avenue opposite Syntagma Square, forms the monument called The Monument of the Unknown Soldier was decided on in 1928 and designed by the architect Emmanuel Lazaridis in 1929/30. The main element of the monument is a large bas - relief representing a dying Greek heavily armed soldier (hoplite, in the Archaic and Classical periods) by Kostas Demetriadis (1881 - 1943). This is based on the dying nude hoplite in the east pediment of the early 5th - century BC temple of Aphaia on the island of Aigina in the Saronic Gulf. On either side of the relief is the ancient Greek text of Perikles funeral oration given in 431/30 BC (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, II, 34 - 46): The bronze shields on other walls commemorate military victories since the Greek War of Independence (1821). The monument was unveiled on 25 March 1932 (Greek Independence Day) during the last government of Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos (1928 - 1932). It is guarded 24 hours a day by two Evzoni (or Tsoliades), members of the Presidential Guard (Proedriki Phroura), an elite, specially chosen unit of the Greek Army. The Evzoni (meaning well-dressed) were created by King Othon to serve as the personal guard of the royal family. Their uniform is based on a traditional 19th - century style costume form southern Greece. The red Ottoman - style felt cap symbolizes the blood shed in the revolution against Ottoman occupation, or the Struggle. Its black tassels stand for the tears of the Greeks shed during 400 years of Ottoman rule. The 400 pleats of the kilt (foustanela) equal the number of years the Greeks were enslaved. The pigskin shoes (tsaroukhia) with pompoms are a traditional form. The Evzoni now serve as an honorary guard for this monument and the presidential palace, as with a more formal changing of the guard ceremony occurring every Sunday at 11:00 am accompanied by military band.
The monument is used as a backdrop for two important holiday parades each year in Athenian and in Greek life. First occurs on March 25th, the national birthday of the country. On this day in 1821, Bishop Germanos of Patras, at the Aghia Lavra Monastery in Kalavryta, in the mountains of northern Peloponnesos, officially declared the start of the revolt of the Greek people against the Ottoman rule, by raising the flag. The President of Greece, the prime Minister and other dignitaries review the collective military might of the Greek armed forces marching up Vasilissis Amalias avenue, and then down Panepistimiou Street. Jets and helicopters fly overhead. The second national holiday falls on October 28th, the so called NO Day, when unending squads of elementary and high school pupils, as well as girl guides and boy scouts, along with marching bands and a military honour guard troop pass in front of the Minister of Education, following the same route. In 1940, on this day, in response to the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s ultimatum that Greece surrender or face invasion by his troops from Albania, the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas responded with a simple, but clear, NO! Thus, started the tragedy of the World War II for Greece. For many in the tourist industry, the 28th of October marks the end of a long season. Both are impressive parades to observe first - hand! Thank you Merja for this lovely cover.