The Monument of the Unknown Soldier, situated in front of the Greek Parliament, is one of Athens’ most significant and enigmatic landmarks. Its mystery lies not in the identity of the soldier, but in the seemingly random arrangement of names etched into the stone. Many visitors are left puzzled by the lack of apparent order or consistency. However, the explanation is often simpler than one might think, saving the effort of racking one’s brain for an answer.
Everyone who resides in Athens or has visited the city has likely witnessed the changing of the guard at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. This ceremony, which occurs at specific times, captivates onlookers as they watch the guards, known as ‘tsolias’, remain as still as statues, regardless of the activity around them. It’s uncertain whether Theodoros Pangalos, who decided to construct this monument on March 3, 1926, during his dictatorship, could have foreseen its future significance as a tourist attraction.
In all likelihood, he also did not imagine or would not have imagined that over time it would be necessary to engrave other names besides those carved on the stone when the construction of the monument was completed. But it was needed. It was needed because Greece lost more unknown soldiers or sailors in battle. Because this is the answer to "what the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier says."
The names of battles, points, inside or outside the country, where Greek soldiers lost their lives. Greek soldiers or sailors, whose bodies were never found in order to be given the honors they deserved. These honors, therefore, are attributed to the monument and the recording of the names of the areas. A list that unfortunately had to be updated more than once and it is not excluded that this will be necessary in the future.
Following the presentation and location of the inscriptions, it’s clear that the monument is divided as such: To the left, as we face the monument, are the battles of the First and Second Balkan Wars, along with the Asia Minor Campaign.
Conversely, on the right, the battles involving Greek soldiers in the First and Second World Wars, the Russian October Revolution, and even conflicts in Korea are inscribed. Naturally, the invasion of Cyprus by Attila in 1974 is also included due to its significance, and its name was subsequently added. Additionally, a decision was made, albeit delayed, to pay appropriate tribute to the sailors who lost their lives during the Second World War.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: How we got to the Presidential Guard
In essence, this is the history of the inscriptions on the Unknown Soldier’s monument. Since its unveiling on March 25, 1932, it has had its own garrison, initially made up of a special military Unit from the Guard of the President of the Republic. This Unit was designated as the Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and was later renamed the Royal Guard in 1935, following the return of George II.
However, in 1974, due to significant political and military changes, the name was once again altered to the Presidential Guard, as it is known today. Those unfamiliar with it learn about it when they choose to stand in front of the monument, waiting to see if the guard will remain statue-like or not.