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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 19th-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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Final Remarks


The image of Suli is a creation of the 19th century, the result of philhellenic and Greek historical narrations, travel experiences, Westerners’ fascination with Orient, intellectuals’ interest in Greek folklore, as well as of predilections to certain themes of the Romantic imagination. The Suli that emerges from the 19th-century tradition is built from the trends of European philhellenism, the revolutionary Enlightenment, Romantic Orthodox religiosity, and Greek national formation.

Still, Suli is not only a legendary, heroic past. I would like to conclude my reflection on the image of Suli with an attempt to outline the cultural and political significance of Suli in Greece today. I will argue that the historical memory of Suli (the way in which Suli appears in the Greek collective memory) forms a myth-symbol complex1 that has a visible impact on the functioning of the Greek national community to this day. Therefore, the 19th-century texts and traditions discussed in previous parts of this study are still present in Greek popular culture and political life, and they contribute to the cultivation of the Greek national identity.

First, I will benefit from some aspects of Anthony D. Smith’s inquiries into national ideologies in order to say how the narrations about Suli formed a myth of foundation of a nation. To obtain a fuller image, I will give some space to the narratives referring to the history of Suli after its capitulation, to the motif of nostalgia for the lost fatherland and to the...

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