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Imaging Suli

Interactions between Philhellenic Ideas and Greek Identity Discourse

Ewa Róża Janion

Suli is a mountainous land in Epirus in northwestern Greece. This book collates its Greek 19 th -century vision with the European view in the works of English, French, Italian, and Polish philhellenes. Investigating the interactions between various images of Suli, it analyses its functioning in different European cultures: the first historical mentions of Suli, the role of Byron’s poems in shaping its image, Greek folk songs about female fighters from Suli, and the mass suicide of Suliote women known as the Dance of Zalongo. Especially the legend about the bravery of the Suliotes has been important in Greek national discourse and the study follows the threads of the legend formed by Greek intellectuals and the European Philhellenes.
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Imaging Suli. Introduction


Suli or Souli (both: soo’lyē), small mountainous district, N Greece, in Epirus. Its inhabitants, the Suliotes, who lived in fortlike villages in the mountains, remained independent during most of the occupation of Greece by the Ottoman Turks. They fought successfully (1790–1802) against Ali Pasha, the Turkish governor of Ioánnina. In 1803, however, Ali Pasha massacred many of them after concluding a false truce. The Suliotes were again decimated in a new rebellion in 1820, when many fled to the Ionian Islands.

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Concept and historical background

From the turn of the century to the Greek Revolution

The weakness of the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries brought forth a new political question of creating new states on Turkish territory, states more or less dependent on the European great powers. At this point the traditional, literary interest in Greece that Europe had developed from the very beginnings of the modern era was updated and became a current affair in international politics. This development brought about the philhellenic movement.1

The transfer of information between Greece and Western Europe contributed to this process. Travelers from the West described Greek topography, as well as the features and customs of the Greek people, but also they asked about the future of the territories they visited. Already in the last years of the 18th century a project to...

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