Presidential guards, called Evzones, march in central Athens. (AFP)
Already dressed in white leggings and black garters, Greek presidential guard Christos Lialis stands absolutely still so his watch mate can affix his many-pleated fustanella skirt, the unit’s world-renowned symbol.
He is used to standing still — it’s required of the Evzones, the all-male guard symbolising the epitome of Greek valour, who are also a tourist highlight in Athens attracting countless selfies every day.
The Evzones turned 150 this year and while they are now ceremonial, when founded in 1868, in the early years of the modern Greek state, they were a crack light infantry.
They fought with distinction in the Balkan Wars, World War I, the Asia Minor Campaign and the Greco-Italian War.
Today, there are around 100 Evzones in a small compound in the National Gardens, a short distance from their guard duties at the Presidential Mansion and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Syntagma Square, Greece’s foremost military monument to the fallen.
They also raise the Greek flag on the Acropolis after sunrise every day and form a guard of honour during official visits by foreign heads of state.
An elite force still officially part of the Greek army, the Evzones are carefully selected each year from among the tallest and toughest of young Greeks on infantry conscript duty.
Applicants must be between 1.87 and 2.10…