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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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Genius loci – climbing at Suli and the Romantic Experience

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According to the classical Roman religion, the genius loci determines the unique and distinctive aspect of a geographical spot, attributing to it a particular, inimitable character. The mountains of Greece, traditionally said to be inhabited by divinities and supernatural forces, surely had some genii. In the case of the Suliote mountains, dealing with the Greek genius loci, as the term is popularly understood, is favored also by the accounts of European visitors, whose imagination populated the abandoned rocks with ghosts and spirits.

In this chapter I intend to grasp Suli’s genius loci based on the accounts of the 19th-century travelers who successfully climbed its peaks. I will argue that the image of the Suliote landscape is molded according to the fashions of Romanticism, particularly its English variety, which is due to the fact that almost all the travelers were Englishmen. The argument starts from some observations on the Romantic interest in the mountain landscape, which conditioned the ascents to Suli. Then, I indicate the aesthetic categories predominant in the descriptions of the Suliote landscape and the travelers’ experiences of the place. Finally, I will list the travelers’ cultural practices that recur in the travelogues. Some attention will be given to the intertextuality of the accounts and the mutual influences between the visions.

The general frame in which Suli’s genius loci may be perceived, and at the same time its most important spirit, is the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, as found in German...

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