A singular chronicle of Greece’s lengthy and proud army historical past from the classical age to trendy occasions.
By Peter Suciu
Whereas not a serious army energy immediately, from the time of the classical age via the Center Ages, Greece was the middle of a number of main army dynasties. A lot of this historical past might be traced on the Athens Struggle Museum, a comparative secret amongst European army museums however a hidden gem for the intense scholar of struggle and its practitioners.
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The Battle of Waterloo
The town of Athens is notable in some ways. Not solely is it the capital of the fashionable state of Greece, however it was additionally one of the crucial dominant and highly effective of the classical period’s Greek city-states. From its earliest origins by means of the Roman period, Athens was the house of proud warrior peoples, but trendy residents of the southern Greek metropolis aren’t obsessed by their army prowess. Right here the idea of democracy was first born and the primary trendy Olympic Video games have been held in 1896. Athens is an interesting metropolis, the place guests can see the sights of historic Greece on the Acropolis (the Excessive Metropolis), which served as a fortress that helped defend the encompassing space, in addition to the newest trendy enhancements, together with the town’s lately accomplished subway system.
The town can also be house to a really positive and little-known army museum. The Athens Conflict Museum is situated a few mile from the Acropolis and simply blocks from Olympic Stadium, on the junction of Vasilissis Sofias Avenue and Rizari Road within the metropolis’s historic district. Different close by places embrace the presidential palace and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At every of those places, guests can see the every day altering of the guards. For the right historic perspective of Greece by way of the ages, from its historic beginnings to the Roman and Byzantine eras, its liberation from the Turks, by means of two world wars and a bitter civil warfare, a go to to the Athens Warfare Museum is a should.
The Making of the Athens Warfare Museum
One of the fascinating details concerning the Athens Conflict Museum, which is at present run by the Greek Ministry of Protection, is that it isn’t actually all that previous, contemplating the lengthy and colourful historical past of Greece. In truth, the museum was established solely in 1975. However in equity, given the wrestle for independence from the Turks, quite a few Balkan wars, and a bloody civil struggle, adopted by a turbulent interval of the Chilly Warfare, it’s protected to say that the Greeks might have been preoccupied with different issues. Nevertheless, for 35 years the Athens Struggle Museum has remained a comparative secret, even for longtime vacationers to Greece. For the army historical past buff, it’s really a museum past examine in southern Europe.
The historical past of the museum is nearly as colourful because the land round it. In 1964, the Greek authorities sought to construct a struggle museum to honor those that had fought for the nation and its freedom. The plot of land the museum now occupies was initially meant for the constructing of a nationwide artwork gallery, nevertheless it was later claimed as a part of a army campus within the interwar years. Throughout Common Nikolaos Plastiras’s tried coup previous to World Warfare II, the campus suffered critical injury, and it was deserted by the Greek army after the struggle.
The choice to construct an artwork gallery was revived, however it took almost 30 years earlier than a museum constructing was lastly accomplished. As an alternative of an artwork gallery, it turned the house of a museum dedicated to Greece’s army heritage. From the surface, the modern-looking constructing doesn’t truly appear to be a standard army museum—at the very least not when in comparison with the extra well-known Imperial Conflict Museum in London or the Musee de L’Armee in Paris—however as it’s surrounded by numerous 20th-century army automobiles and plane, it’s straightforward to acknowledge the chief function of the Athens Struggle Museum. The constructing itself just isn’t of classical design; it has a extra late-modern type to it. The result’s a piquant distinction to the town’s historic previous that additionally offers ample area for a exceptional historic assortment.
A group headed by Professor Thoukidides Valentis of the Nationwide Technical College of Athens undertook the design, and on July 18, 1975, Greek President Constantine Tsatsos and Minister of Nationwide Protection Evangelos Averof-Tositsas oversaw the inauguration of the Athens Struggle Museum and its mission to function as a spot for analysis, research and schooling. Immediately, entry to the museum is freed from cost.
The sq. constructing, which encompasses a middle courtyard, provides ample mild and provides an excellent sense of area to permit guests to admire the artifacts with out feeling that they’re being rushed by means of a maze or a retail showroom. This makes for a pleasing journey by way of time.
The Artifacts of Warfare: From Ottoman Work to Machine Weapons
Most guests would in all probability anticipate to take their museum journey via the years by starting on the pre-classical period. As an alternative, the museum’s floor flooring options gadgets from trendy Greek conflicts, together with World Struggle II, the Korean Struggle, and the battle in Cyprus. To get to the extra distant previous, guests should go up a degree. There, the museum options 17 linear reveals that chronicle the historical past of Greece, from antiquity via the period of Alexander the Nice and the Center Ages. There’s an eclectic mixture of unique items, together with early Bronze Age Grecian helmets and swords, together with replicas. Most of the latter items are fairly nicely crafted, as ought to be anticipated from a area that has for hundreds of years been routinely plundered of its historic treasures. Fashions and illustrations assist put into correct context the historical past and artifacts on show.
The core of the Athens Warfare Museum is discovered within the reveals that target the Nationwide Revolution, the 1821 Greek warfare of independence, the brand new Hellenistic state (1821-1911), the Macedonian wrestle (1904-1908) and the Balkan wars (1912-1913). The wrestle for independence after 4 centuries of Ottoman occupation is displayed in quite a few artifacts, work, and sculptures that showcase the battles on land and sea. These present a story of key historic occasions, which the gathering underscores with a wide array of manuscripts, firearms, scimitars, and different blades showcasing the liberation of the Greek individuals.
Right here, guests can absorb late-19th-century uniforms worn by the Klephts, the formidable mountain bandits and anti-Turk warriors. These individuals lived within the mountains and maintained the Greek faith and tradition from the autumn of Athens in 1458 via the 19th century. A lot of the bands fought within the Greek conflict of independence and later turned the spine of the liberation military. The lads wore the kilt-like garment often known as the fustanella, and one principle is that it advanced from the Roman toga. It’s made up of 400 pleats, to commemorate 400 years of Ottoman occupation.
The galleries for World Conflict I, the Asia Minor marketing campaign (1919-1922), the Greek-Italian warfare (1940-1941), the German invasion, World Conflict II and the occupation-resistance-liberation motion function some excellent collections of Greek army uniforms in addition to some captured enemy gear, though a few of the German invasion gadgets look like postwar replicas. Most impressively, this part of the museum features a main part dedicated to the 1940-1941 struggle with Italy. This consists of an amusing propaganda movie of the interval that pokes enjoyable at Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and the Italian Military, though it in all probability gained’t attraction to some Italian guests.
What is particularly spectacular concerning the trendy galleries is that most of the firearms are literally displayed in roped-off sections as an alternative of being stored utterly behind glass. Whereas guests shouldn’t truly contact any of the gadgets, the power to see them up shut (and in some instances nonetheless odor the gun oil) provides viewers a perspective that may’t be skilled at many different army museums. The combination of firearms consists of U.S.-made .30-caliber machine weapons in addition to a Soviet DP-28 mild machine gun and a French-made World Conflict I-era Chauchat—probably the worst machine gun ever made.
A part of the museum’s everlasting assortment consists of maps and prints that depict historic accounts of Greek army historical past. These embrace scenes from Greek mythology by means of the fashionable day. The museum additionally homes the P.Z. Saroglas Weaponry Assortment, a full gallery on the bottom flooring that’s dedicated to army artifacts from across the globe, together with firearms from the Greek revolution. This assortment consists of numerous items from far-off lands, together with historic Chinese language and medieval Japanese arms and armor. There’s a powerful assortment of Japanese samurai swords and tsuba (the hand guards from the swords), probably one of many largest such collections in Europe. The gallery is additional crammed with ceremonial armor, wheel-lock and flintlock firearms and different notable items from the late Center Ages to the 19th century. Included are 15th-century Persian armor, an Imperial Russian Guard du Corps helmet and breastplate, and a set of bolt-action rifles from around the globe.
Outdoors the museum is an exhibition space that options quite a lot of artillery that was utilized by the Greek army throughout totally different historic durations, in addition to automobiles and plane from the Hellenic Navy and Air Pressure. Among the many notable plane are a Bell OH-13S Sioux, a Canadair CL-13 Mk. 2 Sabre, a Farman MF-7, a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, a North American T-6G Harvard, a Northrop F5A Freedomfighter, and a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak.
Along with what’s on show, the Athens Conflict Museum encompasses a trendy amphitheater for lectures and different packages in addition to a convention room and reception space. Fittingly, the museum’s library is the most important on the earth with reference to Greek army historical past, and it additionally homes an archive of greater than 20,000 pictures on the historical past of the Greek armed forces.
The 4 Branches of the Warfare Museum
It’s onerous to sum up a nation’s complete army historical past in a single museum. Whereas the Athens department is the most important in measurement and everlasting assortment, the Greek Ministry of Protection presently maintains 4 different branches—within the cities of Nafplion and Tripolis on the Peloponnese, Chania on the island of Crete, and one in Thessaloniki.
The Nafplion department of the Conflict Museum is housed in a constructing that served as nation’s first army academy (1828-1934). It options a big assortment of weapons and different historic gadgets which might be related to the Greek warfare of independence via the fashionable day. Additionally it is close to the Bourtzi island fortress, the Akronafplia fortress and Palamidi Fort, providing guests loads of different historic websites to discover.
North of Athens, within the small Peloponnese metropolis of Tripolis, is the Tripolis department, which was based in 2000 and is housed in a constructing previously belonging to the Malliaropoulious legacy that was donated to the museum. Because the area was on the middle of the Greek conflict of independence, the spotlight of this museum is the everlasting assortment dedicated to this battle in addition to the later Balkan wars. The town can also be notable as the house of the 2 largest armed forces boot camps in Greece, one for the Hellenic Military and one for the Hellenic Air Drive.
The Chania department, which was based in 1995, is housed in a constructing that dates to the 1870s and later served as an Italian camp throughout World Struggle II. The everlasting assortment consists of artifacts from numerous durations in Greek army historical past with an emphasis on the Battle of Crete and the next German occupation of the island.
The newest department is the one in Thessaloniki, which was based in late 2000. Situated within the second-largest metropolis in Greece, the Warfare Museum of Thessaloniki is housed in a constructing dated to 1902, which was previously utilized by the Military’s III Corps. It encompasses a multipurpose corridor, together with a library and small amphitheater. It has a everlasting assortment in addition to a particular corridor for short-term reveals specializing in numerous occasions in Greek historical past. The official web site for the Athens Warfare Museum is: https://www.warmuseum.gr/english.