The Hellenic Army’s Artillery celebrates St. Barbara as its patroness saint. Agia Varvara, as she is known in Greek, was the only child of the Satrap of Nicomedia Dioskouros and met her death at the hands of her own father, because she would not denounce her faith in Christ.
According to legend as punishment God smote him with lightning, and this Holy Vengeance was the impetus for Saint Barbara becoming the Holy Protector of Artillery, since this punitive lightning is like the fire with which artillery smites the enemy.
In 1829 Agia Varvara was officially adopted as the patroness of the Greek Artillery. On December 4, 1829, the memory of the saint was celebrated for the first time in the newly formed Artillery Battalion.
Even today all weapons belonging to the Artillery bear a bronze icon of Saint Barbara, as can be sen in this image of a vintage 105mm howitzer.
Tradition says that visitors were, at that first celebration, offered a treat of brandy and loukoumades, a Greek delicacy akin to donuts. Their spherical shape was reminiscent of, some say, the then spherical projectiles and was chosen as a treat for the many people who rushed to celebrate with the Artillery. This is a custom to this day when artillery units open camps to visitors for liturgy for the Saint, an epiclesis for the Grace of Agia Varvara, and a doxology for the arm, and treats of loukoumades and coffee (brandy is not a drink and drive beverage).
The emblem of Hellenic Artillery depicts a missile ready for launch between two old cannons seeking to depict the history of the arm that was first led by Colonel Beautie in 1821 (the first artillery formation was established by D. Ypsilantis).
The POWER THROUGH KNOWLEDGE inscription symbolizes the technical nature of the weapon and passes the message to all officers that without the necessary knowledge it is not possible to make full use of the weapon’s capabilities.
Guiding every young man and woman in Artillery today and always is the sacrifice of Major Constantine Versis. The hero Versis died along with his weapons so as not to deliver his guns to the Germans as the capitulation required.
After ordering the destruction of his guns with explosions, and while the ground was being rocked by the explosions, Versis, holding his revolver in his right hand, committed suicide.
The late Manos Katrakis, a leading Greek actor, also served under Major Versis orders, and recounted that the Major’s last words were: “I’m leaving you, proud of you. Long live the motherland, long live liberty!”
Today, Artillery with highly trained and high-level executives sends the message to the Greek people that its weapons systems are in the hands of worthy gunners ready to write if their own golden pages are ever required.