Since I'm already thinking about Greece (see previous post), I thought I'd post this picture of Nicolas Sarkozy taken yesterday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square in Athens. I love the uniforms the guardsmen - or Evzones - wear. It's hard not to stare at the little red slides (tsarouhi) with enormous pompoms, and the calf tassles (kaltsodetes). The white skirt is called a fustanella and is apparently the cultural equivalent of a kilt. According to the very scholarly source Wikipedia, the fustanella has "400 pleats, commemorating the 400 years of Ottoman occupation." Aside from the pleats, the uniform has many details that hail Greece's amazing and ancient history.
Tombs to unknown soldiers are such somber symbols of nationalism, history and gratitude. Dozens of countries have them to commemorate their lost. It seems to me that the guardsmen chosen to watch the monuments, aside from adding to the pomp and circumstance, would also be cloaked in uniforms that complement the gravity and symbolism of the tombs.
The intricate and rich uniforms of the Greek Evzones make me a little disgruntled about my own country's uniforms. I realize that the history of the United States is just a blip compared to the history of Greece - we don't have such a vast culture to draw from - but there's nothing remotely historical represented in the uniforms or ritual of the guards at Arlington. Certainly there is an aura of stateliness, but not a real sense of place (especially when the actual monument is a rather bleak block of a sarcophagus).
Maybe I've fixated on something that shouldn't be fixated upon - I wouldn't put it past me - but does anyone agree with me? Does anyone care to educate me on the uniforms or commemorative rituals of other countries?
Photo from Reuters