Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - History and Facts | History Hit

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Athens, Attica, Greece

Commemorating military casualties of war, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the site of the hourly changing of the guard, a popular spectacle.

Peta Stamper

26 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Protected by Evzones, the presidential guard, the Tomb of the Unknown Solider commemorates Greek soldiers who were casualties of wars. Every hour, you can see the changing of the guard, especially at 11am on Sundays which includes an elaborate procession and marching band.

Tomb of the Unknown Solider history

The decision to construct a monument dedicated to the ‘Unknown Soldier’ was made by Theodoras Pangalos, Greece‘s army general and ‘constitutional dictator’. In his role as Army Minister, Pangalos placed an advertisement in the newspaper, Espera, requesting a submission for the construction of a tomb.

The intention was for the cenotaph to be placed of the Old Royal Palace, the first modern royal palace of Greece situated in the heart of modern Athens. However, the monument was instead built at Syntagma Square, in the city centre, much like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

The request was approved in 1926 and a major study was done by architect Emmanuel Lazaridis. The tomb was sculpted between 1930 and 1932 by sculptor Fokion Rok, who chose the design of a gunner lying on the ground, considered both calm and simple, therefore appropriate for the monument.

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider was unveiled in March 1932, with a ceremony attended by foreign delegations followed by a parade of the monument guard. A torch was brought from the monastery of Agia Lavra, the symbolic birthplace of modern Greece, to light the eternal flame in the centre of the cenotaph.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier today

Today, you can view the tomb designed in the French urban and classical tradition, that combining the modern Art Deco style with symbolic references to Greece’s ancient history. Set within Syntagma Square and framed by the neoclassical Palace, the tomb is fully integrated into its surroundings.

The dramatic sculpture, set within the cenotaph wall, depicts the naked male figure of a warrior lying on the ground, holding a circular shield and wearing an Ancient Greek-style helmet. Visitors can read the names of battles where Greek lives were lost, inscribed around the sculpture, including the First and Second World Wars, the Russian Civil War and Greco-Turkish War.

Getting to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The cenotaph is easily found on foot, in the central Syntagma Square. If using public transport, the nearest Metro stops are Syntagma and Nomismatokopio, under ten minutes walk away.



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