Hellenic Army


The Hellenic Army (Greek: Ελληνικός Στρατός, romanizedEllinikós Stratós, sometimes abbreviated as ΕΣ), formed in 1828, is the land force of Greece. The term Hellenic is the endogenous synonym for Greek. The Hellenic Army is the largest of the three branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces, also constituted by the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) and the Hellenic Navy (HN). The army is commanded by the chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff (HAGS), which in turn is under the command of Hellenic National Defence General Staff (HNDGS).

Hellenic Army
Ελληνικός Στρατός
Hellenic Army Seal
Hellenic Army Seal
Founded1821 (de facto)
1828 (official)
Country Greece
TypeLand Forces
RoleNational Defence
SizeIn peacetime:
200,000 personnel[1][2]
Wartime strength:
Part ofHellenic Armed Forces
FormationsFormations of the Hellenic Army
PatronSaint George
Motto(s)Ἐλεύθερον τὸ Εὔψυχον
"Freedom Stems from Valour"
ColorsBlue-gray, Khaki & Olive    
MarchThe Army is Coming Through (Περνάει ο στρατός)
Equipment1,365 MBTs
5,813 IFVs & APCs
4,840 Artillery pieces
WebsiteHellenic Army
Chief of the Army General StaffLt. Gen. Georgios Kostidis
Lt. Gen. Theodoros Kolokotronis
Lt. Gen. Panagiotis Danglis
Lt. Gen. Leonidas Paraskevopoulos
Fld. Marshal Constantine I
Lt. Gen. Ioannis Metaxas
Lt. Gen. Georgios Kondylis
Lt. Gen. Nikolaos Plastiras
Fld. Marshal Alexander Papagos
Lt. Gen. Thrasyvoulos Tsakalotos
(see list of generals)
Identification markingΕΣ
Vehicle marking
Regimental War Flag

The motto of the Hellenic Army is Ἐλεύθερον τὸ Εὔψυχον ('Freedom stems from valour'), from Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War (2.43.4), a remembrance of the ancient warriors that defended Greek lands in old times. The Hellenic Army Emblem is the two-headed eagle with a Greek Cross escutcheon in the centre.

The Hellenic Army is also the main contributor to, and lead nation of, the Balkan Battle Group, a combined-arms rapid-response force under the EU Battlegroup structure.[4]



The main missions of the Hellenic Army are the defence of the state's independence and integrity, the safeguarding of national territory, and the decisive contribution to the achievement of the country's policy objectives.[5]

During peacetime, the Army has the following main objectives:

  • The maintenance of high operational readiness for the prevention and effective confrontation of dangers and threats, as well as the ensuring of rapid response capability.
  • The contribution to international security and peace.
  • The contribution to activities of social aid and the support of state services for the confrontation of emergency situations.



Early history: early 19th century


The Hellenic Army traces its origin to the regular units established by the Greek provisional government during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829). The first of these, an infantry regiment and a small artillery battery, were established in April 1822, and were commanded by European Philhellenes (such as Joseph Balestra and others). Lack of funds however forced its disbandment soon after, and it was not until July 1824 that regular units were reformed, under the Greek Colonel Panagiotis Rodios. In May 1825, the first law on conscription was passed, and the command of the entire regular forces entrusted to the French Colonel Charles Fabvier. Under Fabvier, the regular corps expanded, and for the first time came to include cavalry, military music detachments, and, with Lord Byron's aid, military hospitals.

The governorship of Ioannis Kapodistrias (1828–1831) saw a drastic reorganization of the national military: a Secretariat on Army and Naval Affairs and the Hellenic Army Academy were created, the Army engineering corps was founded (28 July 1829), and a concerted effort was made to reform the various irregular forces into regular light infantry battalions. Throughout these early years, French influence pervaded the Greek regular army, in tactics as well as appearance, as most of the instructors were French—at first Philhellenes, and later serving officers of General Maison's Expeditionary Corps.[6]

After Kapodistrias' assassination in 1831 and in the subsequent internal turmoil over the next two years, however, the regular army all but ceased to exist. The first king of the newly independent Greek kingdom, the Bavarian prince Otto, initially relied on a 4,000-strong German contingent. The royal government re-established the regular army and dissolved the irregular forces that had largely fought the War of Independence.[7] Following the ousting of Otto in 1862, the Army continued relying on the Army Organization Statute of 1833. The Greek royal army in 1860 was approximately 200,000 men. The first major reforms were undertaken in 1877, in response to the Balkan Crisis that eventually led to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. Among other measures, for the first time the Hellenic Army was briefly subdivided into divisions and brigades. Universal conscription was introduced in 1879, and under the premiership of Charilaos Trikoupis, in 1882–1885 major steps were undertaken to improve the training and education of the officer corps: a French military mission was called to Greece, new schools were founded and Greek officers were sent abroad for studies, and efforts were made to make officers on active service refrain from participating in politics and focus on their professional duties. The Army also underwent its first mobilizations, in July 1880 – April 1882 due to the Greek annexation of Thessaly, and again in September 1885 – May 1886, when Bulgaria annexed Eastern Rumelia. The great financial burden of these long periods of mobilization, however, exhausted the public treasury, and stalled the reform process.[8][9] The result was that the Hellenic Army was wholly unprepared for war on the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish War of 1897: plans, fortifications and weapons were non-existent, the mass of the officer corps was unsuited to its tasks, and training was inadequate. As a result, the numerically superior, better organized, equipped and led Ottoman forces pushed the Greek forces south out of Thessaly.[10][11]

Decade of wars: 1912–1922

Field and service uniforms of the Greek Army, 1914.
Parade uniforms of the Greek Army, 1914.
Greek infantry preparing to launch an attack at the Battle of Bizani (1913)
Greek artillery gun at the Macedonian front during WWI
Greek infantry marches through the steppe during the Greco-Turkish War (1919–22)
Unit of the Greek Army during the Italian Spring Offensive during the Greco-Italian war, WWII

The dismal performance of the Hellenic Army in the war of 1897 led to a major reform programme under the administration of Georgios Theotokis (1899–1901, 1903–1904 and 1906–1909). A new Army Organization Statute was issued in 1904 (revised in 1910), purchases of new artillery material (including the 75 mm Schneider-Danglis 06/09 gun) and of the Mannlicher–Schönauer rifle were made, and a new, khaki field uniform was introduced in 1908.[12][13] Reform was accelerated after the Goudi coup of 1909.

The new government under Eleftherios Venizelos brought a French military mission to train the Hellenic Army. Under its supervision, the Greeks had adopted the triangular infantry division as their main formation, but more importantly, the overhaul of the mobilization system allowed the country to field and equip a far greater number of troops than it had in 1897: while foreign observers estimated a mobilized force of approximately 50,000 men, the Army eventually fielded 125,000, with another 140,000 in the National Guard and reserves.[14][15]

After the victorious Balkan Wars, the country doubled its territory. During the WWI, a disagreement between King Constantine and Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos caused a National Schism, but eventually a united Greece joined in 1917 the Allies.

As a winner of the war, Greece annexed Western and Eastern Thrace and landed units in 1919 at Asia Minor, starting so the Greco-Turkish War (1919-22), which was unsuccessful for Greece, in 1922.

World War II


The country joined WWII with the Allies side in October 1940, when dictator Ioannis Metaxas rejected an Italian ultimatum by Mussolini. In the Greco-Italian War, the Hellenic Army pushed back the Italian and occupied large parts of southern Albania, but after a German invasion (Battle of Greece) fell under the Axis domination.

The exiled Greek government, with units of the Army, were transferred to Middle East, where they continued the war with the Allies.

Leo Niehorster's website shows the higher organisation of the Greek Army on 15 August 1940, with the General Staff of the Army directly supervising five corps, three divisions, and the Thessaloniki Fortress.[16]

After the war, Greece incorporated Dodecanese. Soon the political polarization between leftist/communist and anticommunist forces led to a civil war, which ended with communist defeat.

The army was briefly renamed "Royal Hellenic Army" from August 20th,[17] to October 25th, 1964,[18] on the initiative of then Minister of National Defence Petros Garoufalias.



In total, the Hellenic Army has taken part in the following engagements:


Hellenic Army major combat unit locations
Key: red – infantry, green – mech, gold – armour, purple – aviation
large pin – division, small pin – brigade

General Staff

  • Hellenic National Defence General Staff
    • Hellenic Army General Staff
      Γενικό Επιτελείο Στατού (ΓΕΣ)
      • Chief-of-Staff of the Army
        Αρχηγός ΓΕΣ
      • Inspector General of the Army
        Γενικός Επιθεωρητής Στρατού / Διοικητής ΔΙΔΟΕΕ
      • 1st Deputy Chief-of-Staff of the Army
        A' Υπαρχηγός ΓΕΣ
      • 2nd Deputy-of-Staff of the Army
        Β' Υπαρχηγός ΓΕΣ

Combat and support arms

  • Most combat arms are called "Arm" (Όπλον). This term denotes army elements that, more or less, have direct participation in combat.
  • Most support branches are called "Corps" (Σώμα), with some exceptions.

Army units and formations

Greek Army's Leopard 2A6 HEL on MAN 40.633 FX DFAETX (Steyr 40Μ60/S40) tank transporter.

After a major reorganization which occurred in the last decade, which included the transformation of most Infantry formations into Mechanized Brigades and a parallel reduction of personnel, the Hellenic Army's higher command is the Hellenic Army General Staff.

There are four major military commands which supervise all army units,

Although divisions still exist, having the role of forward commands, the Army is mainly organized in brigades, that follow the typical NATO standards consisting of five battalions, three manoeuvre, one artillery, one support and some other company sized formations. According to the latest developments, up to 2015, all active divisions will dissolve, but all brigades will acquire one more manoeuvre battalion, largely eliminating the distinction between mechanized and armoured formations, thus creating a new type brigade, which will be named Strike Brigade.[19]


Greek personnel wearing M17 gas masks
Army officer in ceremonial uniform
M901 ITV (Improved Tow Vehicle)

There are three classes of personnel in the Hellenic Army, namely professional, volunteer and conscript. There are currently 90,000 personnel on active duty, of which 30,000 are conscripted. The Hellenic Republic has mandatory military service (conscription) as of March 2021 of 12 months for all males between the ages of 18 and 45. Citizens discharged from active service are normally placed in the Reserve and are subject to periodic recall of 1–10 days at irregular intervals. Greek males between the age of 18 and 60 who live in strategically sensitive areas may also be required to serve part-time in the National Guard. During a mobilization the amount of conscripts may exceed 180,000.[20]

Conscript enlisted men and non-commissioned officers wear special rank insignia to differentiate them from volunteers.

Professional officers graduate from the Evelpidon Military Academy in Athens (Στρατιωτική Σχολή Ευελπίδων, ΣΣΕ), the Corps Officers Military Academy in Thessaloniki (Στρατιωτική Σχολή Αξιωματικών Σωμάτων, ΣΣΑΣ) and the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy (Σχολή Μονίμων Υπαξιωματικών) in Trikala. Unlike what the title of the latter suggests, ΣΜΥ graduates do comprise a large part of the officer corps and are able to advance to the rank of lieutenant colonel, starting at the rank of corporal, while their ΣΣΕ and ΣΣΑΣ counterparts graduate as second lieutenants and could, theoretically, attain flag officer ranks.

Thus, in the chain of command, graduates of the two military academies in Athens and Thessaloniki are considered higher in seniority compared to professional officers of the same rank who graduated from Trikala. The latter officers are followed in seniority by volunteer and finally conscript staff.

During war, the Hellenic army battalions are commanded by either a ranking officer major general or if in a combat mission by another state which in agreement with the Greek state will be commanded by a ranking General of their own.



Commissioned officer ranks


The rank insignia of commissioned officers.

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
  Hellenic Army[21]
Δόκιμος Έφεδρος Αξιωματικός
Dokimos efedros aksio­matikos

Other ranks


The rank insignia of non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel.

NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
  Hellenic Army[22]
                    Arm/corps insignia only


ELVO Leonidas-2

The heavy equipment and weaponry of the Hellenic Army is mostly of foreign manufacture, from German, French, Italian, American, British and Russian suppliers. A notable exception is the indigenous Leonidas armoured personnel carrier which was built by the Hellenic Vehicles Manufacturer Industry ELVO, such as the ELVO Kentaurus fighting vehicle.

Equipment runs the gamut from state-of-the art to obsolete Cold War inventories; the latter are gradually being retired.[23]

Uniforms and ranks


The structure of Hellenic Army ranks has its roots in British military traditions and follows NATO standard rank scale. The rank of Stratarchis (Στρατάρχης, equivalent to Field Marshal or General of the Army) though, has been historically used, but is no longer extant. It was first awarded to King Constantine I for his leadership in the Balkan Wars. The rank was subsequently assumed by his successors upon accession, until the abolition of the monarchy. The only regular officer to have been awarded the rank was General Alexander Papagos on 28 October 1949, after he had won the Greek Civil War.



  1. ^ Greece has only one level of Warrant Officer. According to the current issue (2021) of STANAG 2116, the Greek Warrant Officers are included in OR-9, however they are afforded the privileges of an officer. See STANAG 2116 note 29, page D-9




  1. ^ Ελληνική Άμυνα και Τεχνολογία, Ετήσια Ανασκόπηση, Ισορροπία Δυνάμεων 2016–2017, Εκδόσεις Δυρός
  2. ^ a b "Defence Data Portal". Default. 30 November 2023.
  3. ^ Ελληνική Άμυνα και Τεχνολογία, Ετήσια Ισορροπία Δυνάμεων 2019–2020, Εκδόσεις Δυρός
  4. ^ Official Greek Defence Staff PR (18MB).
  5. ^ Υπουργείο Εθνικής 'Αμυνας (2004) – Ένοπλες Δυνάμεις.
  6. ^ Οι πρώτες προσπάθειες οργάνωσης τακτικού Στρατού (1821–1831) [The first efforts towards organizing a regular Army (1821–1831)] (PDF) (in Greek). Hellenic Army General Staff. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  7. ^ Ο Στρατός επί της βασιλείας του Όθωνα (1833–1863) [The Army during the reign of Otto (1833–1863)] (PDF) (in Greek). Hellenic Army General Staff. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  8. ^ Ο Ελληνικός Στρατός από το 1864 μέχρι τον Ελληνοτουρκικό Πόλεμο του 1897 [The Hellenic Army from 1864 until the Greco-Turkish War of 1897] (PDF) (in Greek). Hellenic Army General Staff. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  9. ^ Tsoukalas, Konstantinos (1977). "Η ανορθωτική προσπάθεια του Χαριλάου Τρικούπη 1882–1895" [The recovery effort of Charilaos Trikoupis 1882–1895]. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους, Τόμος ΙΔ′: Νεώτερος Ελληνισμός από το 1881 ως το 1913 [History of the Greek Nation, Volume XIV: Modern Hellenism from 1881 to 1913] (in Greek). Ekdotiki Athinon. pp. 8–87.
  10. ^ Erickson (2003), pp. 14–15
  11. ^ Pikros, Ioannis (1977). "Ο Ελληνοτουρκικός Πόλεμος του 1897" [The Greco-Turkish War of 1897]. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους, Τόμος ΙΔ′: Νεώτερος Ελληνισμός από το 1881 ως το 1913 [History of the Greek Nation, Volume XIV: Modern Hellenism from 1881 to 1913] (in Greek). Ekdotiki Athinon. pp. 125–160.
  12. ^ Η αναδιοργάνωση του Στρατού μετά το 1897 και η μεγάλη εθνική εξόρμηση 1912–13 [The reorganization of the Army after 1897 and the great national assault 1912–13] (PDF) (in Greek). Hellenic Army General Staff. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  13. ^ Oikonomou, Nikolaos (1977). "Η αναδιοργάνωση του στρατού από την κυβέρνηση Θεοτόκη" [Reorganization of the army by the Theotokis government]. Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους, Τόμος ΙΔ′: Νεώτερος Ελληνισμός από το 1881 ως το 1913 [History of the Greek Nation, Volume XIV: Modern Hellenism from 1881 to 1913] (in Greek). Ekdotiki Athinon. pp. 186–192.
  14. ^ Erickson (2003), p. 70
  15. ^ Fotakis (2005), p. 42
  16. ^ Niehorster, Leo. "Hellenic Army, 15 August 1940". niehorster.org.
  17. ^ Royal Decree No. 541 On the supersession of the title of the Army (lit. Land Army), Government Gazette Issue (ΦΕΚ) A 156/1964
  18. ^ Royal Decree No. 677 On the recall of the 541/1964 R. Decree "on the supersession of the title of the Army", Government Gazette Issue (ΦΕΚ) A 203/1964
  19. ^ Ιωάννη Α. Ραγιέ. "ΣΤΡΑΤΗΓΙΚΟ ΔΟΓΜΑ – Προς ένα ρεαλιστικό αποτρεπτικό δόγμα". ΣΤΡΑΤΗΓΙΚΗ: ΕΘΝΙΚΗ ΑΣΦΑΛΕΙΑ, Ιούλιος 2008, pp. 118–121 Archived 2009-03-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ http://www.armedforces.co.uk/Europeandefence/edcountries/countrygreece.htm#Greek Army
  21. ^ "Επωμίδες Φ/Π Στολών" [Shoulders for PV Uniforms]. army.gr (in Greek). Hellenic Army. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  22. ^ "Διακριτικά Φ/Π Στολών Υπαξιωματικών Αποφοίτων ΣΜΥ" [Badges F / P Uniforms of Non-Commissioned Officer Graduates]. army.gr (in Greek). Hellenic Army. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  23. ^ Nedos, Vassilis (31 October 2019). "Turkish violations surge in 2019". Ekathimerini. Retrieved 17 September 2020.


  • Michalopoulos, Dimitris. "The Evolution of the Greek Army (1828–68)". War and Society in East Central Europe, Vol. XIV, Brooklyn College Press, 1984, pp. 317–330, ISBN 0-88033-043-0.
  • Η ιστορία της οργάνωσης του Ελληνικού Στρατού, 1821–1954 [The history of the organization of the Hellenic Army, 1821–1954] (in Greek). Hellenic Army Historical Directorate. 2005. ISBN 960-7897-45-5.
  • Hellenic Ministry of Defense – Official Site
  • Hellenic National Defense General Staff – Official Site
  • Hellenic Army General Staff – Official Site