“The bravery and self-sacrifice of the Souliotes and all those that fought heroically to be free of the Ottoman yoke will always inspire us,” President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in her visit to Souli to commemorate the Kougi holocaust and other events in the long pre-revolutionary struggle of the Souliotes against the Turks.
Memorial events are held each year on the last Sunday in May in the historic village of Souli. President Sakellaropoulou attended a mass at the Church of Sts Constantine and Helen and laid a wreath at the Vouleftirio where a memorial service was held.
She spoke about the heroic events and figures of the Souliotes’ resistance against the Ottoman Turks, which according to local tradition dated back to 1635, culminating in the war against Ali Pasha and the tragic and glorious events that followed, such as the iconic sacrifice of the Souliote women at Dance of Zalongo, the stand at Kougi and others.
“In Souli, men and women gave the deepest meaning to the concept of self-sacrifice. We thank them for their bravery and we are inspired by their vision, the President said.
“In the collective consciousness of the Greeks, Souli is a symbol, a myth and a reality, she added.
Souli and the Dance of Zalongo
The Dance of Zalongo is considered to be a monumental act of bravery and defiance against the Ottoman rulers by the women of Souli, and stands as one of the most colorful pages in Greece’s history.
By the end of 1803, Epirus ruler Ali Pasha wanted to finish once and for all with the Souliotes, the rebel people of Souli who had long been a problem for him and the Sultan. His army besieged Souli and forced them to sign a treaty on December 12.
The basic condition of the agreement, which was not observed, was for the Souliotes, including women and children, to evacuate their villages, and they would not be harmed.
On December 16, the people of Souli divided into three phalanxes, and left their ancestral land behind.
Two days later, the third phalanx, heading south, was attacked in Zalongo by a large body of Turkish-Albanian soldiers. During the violent fight that followed, a group of Souliotes was trapped by the enemy. Among them there were about 60 women, some of them pregnant.
In order to avoid capture, enslavement and humiliation, the women threw their children off a steep cliff and then they held hands and started singing and dancing, with the steps leading to the cliff where they jumped to their death one by one.
The incident soon became known across Europe, with the Dance of Zalongo becoming the ultimate symbol of heroism and self-sacrifice over the years.