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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ali Pasha of Ioannina
after Louis Dupré (1821)

Ali Pasha of Tepelena or of Yannina, the "Lion of Yannina", (1740 – January 24, 1822) was an Albanian ruler (pasha) of the western part of Rumelia, the Ottoman Empire's European territory which was also called Pashalik of Yanina. His court was in Ioannina.

His name in the local languages was: Albanian: Ali Pashë Tepelena, Aromanian: Ali Pãshelu[citation needed], Greek: Αλή Πασάς Τεπελενλής Ali Pasas Tepelenlis or Αλή Πασάς των Ιωαννίνων Ali Pasas ton Ioanninon (Ali Pasha of Ioannina) and Turkish: Tepedelenli Ali Paşa.


The rise of Ali Pasha

The statue of Ali Pasha in Tepelene

Ali was born into a powerful clan in the village Beçisht near the Albanian town of Tepelenë in 1740, where his father Veli was bey. Ali Pasha is regarded today as an Albanian national figure, however specific experts dispute his Albanian origin[1] claiming a possible ancestral link with Anatolia.[2]

Ali's family lost much of its political and material status while Ali was still a boy, and following the murder of his father in 1758 his mother, Hanko, formed a band of brigands. Ali became a famous brigand leader and attracted the attention of the Turkish authorities. He aided the pasha of Negroponte (Euboea) in putting down a rebellion at Shkodër. In 1768 he married the daughter of the wealthy pasha of Delvina, with whom he entered an alliance.

His rise through Ottoman ranks continued with his appointment as lieutenant to the pasha of Rumelia. In 1787 he was awarded the pashaluk of Trikala in reward for his support for the sultan's war against Austria. In 1788 he seized control of Ioannina, which would be his power base for the next 33 years. He took advantage of a weak Ottoman government to expand his territory still further until he gained control of most of Albania, western Greece and the Peloponnese.

Ali Pasha as ruler

Fortifications built during Ali Pasha's reign in Butrint, southern Albania.

Ali's policy as ruler of Ioánnina was mostly governed by expediency; he operated as a semi-independent despot and pragmatically allied himself with whoever offered the most advantage at the time. In order to gain a seaport on the Albanian coast, Ali formed an alliance with Napoleon I of France who had established Francois Pouqueville as his general consul in Ioánnina. After the Treaty of Tilsit, where Napoleon granted the Czar his plan to dismantle the Ottoman Empire, Ali switched sides and allied with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1807. His actions were permitted by the Ottoman government in Istanbul for a mixture of expediency - it was deemed better to have Ali as a semi-ally than as an enemy - and weakness, as the central government did not have enough strength to oust him at that time.

The poet George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron visited Ali's court in Ioánnina in 1809[3] and recorded the encounter in his work Childe Harold. He evidently had mixed feelings about the despot, noting the splendor of Ali's court and the Greek cultural revival that he had encouraged in Ioánnina, which Byron described as being "superior in wealth, refinement and learning" to any other Greek town. In a letter to his mother, however, Byron deplored Ali's cruelty: "His Highness is a remorseless tyrant, guilty of the most horrible cruelties, very brave, so good a general that they call him the Mahometan Buonaparte ... but as barbarous as he is successful, roasting rebels, etc, etc.."

Ali Pasha, according to one opinion, "was a cruel and faithless tyrant; still he was not a Turk, but an Albanian; he was a rebel against the Sultan, and he was so far an indirect friend of the Sultan's enemies."[4]" In fact, it was Ali Pasha and his Albanian soldiers and mercenaries who subdued the fiercely independent Souli.[citation needed]

"Ali Pasha hunting on the lake" by Louis Dupré (1825)

His private life has always engaged the popular imagination as well, and a popular biographer typically states: "In his harem were enclosed about 300 Christian, Moslem, Albanian and Circassian cuncubines, while, in the private apartments of the seraglios of both himself and his sons were disposed numerous youthful, goodlooking ganymedes (harem-boys)"[5].



The cruelties inflicted by Ali Pasha on his subjects became notorious throughout the region, and have been described in local folksong and poetry. Forty years after the inhabitants of Gardhiq, Albania and Chormovo had wronged his mother (according to the story, she was put in prison and, with her daughter, raped every night by another group of men), Ali wrought revenge by having 739 male descendants of the original offenders murdered. In 1808, Ali captured one of his most renowned opponents, the Greek klepht Katsantonis, who was executed in public by having his bones broken with a sledgehammer[6]. One of Ali's notorious crimes, was the massive murder of arbitrarily chosen young Greek girls of Ioannina. They were unfoundly sentenced as adulteresses, tied up in sacks and drowned in Lake Pamvotis.[7]

Αt 1798 Ali's troops attacked the coastal town of Preveza, which was defended by French troops and local Greeks. When the town was finally conquered a major slaughter occurred against the local people as retaliation for their resistance.[8]

The downfall of Ali Pasha

Ali Pasha's head being presented to the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II.

In 1820, Ali ordered the assassination of a political opponent in Istanbul. The reformist Sultan Mahmud II, who sought to restore the authority of the Sublime Porte, took this opportunity to move against Ali by ordering his deposition. Ali refused to resign his official posts and put up a fierce resistance to Ottoman troop movements, indirectly helping the Greek Independence as some 20,000 Turkish troops were fighting Ali's formidable army. He also made peace with the Souli again, and their leader Markos Botsaris helped him fight the Ottoman soldiers sent to conquer and kill Ali.

Ali's rebellion against the Porte increased the value of the Greek military element since their services were sought by the Porte as well. He contracted the services of the Klephts and Souliots in exile in the Ionian Islands as well as the armatoles under his command.[9]

After about two years of fighting, in January 1822, however, Ottoman agents who had come to Ali's refuge in the Monastery of St. Panteleimon on the island in Lake Pamvotis, deceived him with offers of a full pardon. When asked to surrender for beheading, he famously proclaimed: "My head ... will not be surrendered like the head of a slave" [10] and kept fighting till the end, but was shot through the floor of his room and his head cut off to be sent to the Sultan.

"Kursheed, to whom it was presented on a large dish of silver plate, rose to receive it, bowed three times before it, and respectfully kissed the beard, expressing aloud his wish that he himself might deserve a similar end. To such an extent did the admiration with which Ali's bravery inspired these barbarians efface the memory of his crimes."[10]

Ali Pasha's Grave in Ioannina.

Ali Pasha was buried with full honors in a mausoleum next to one of the two main mosques of Ioannina, which still stands. Despite his brutal rule, villagers paid their last respect to Ali: "Never was seen greater mourning than that of the warlike Epirotes [sic]."[10]

The former monastery in which Ali Pasha was killed is today a popular tourist attraction. The holes made by the bullets can still be seen, and the monastery has a museum dedicated to him, which includes a number of his personal possessions.[11]

Ali Pasha in Popular Culture

In the novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, père, Ali Pasha's downfall was brought about by the treachery of Fernand Mondego, an officer in the French Army. Not knowing of the betrayal, Pasha entrusted his wife and daughter to Mondego for safekeeping but he sold them into slavery. Monte Cristo subsequently located the daughter, Haydée, and helped her take revenge on Mondego by testifying in Paris of his betrayal of Ali Pasha.

Ali Pasha is also a major character in the 1854 Hungarian novel "Janicsárok végnapjai" ("The Last Days of the Janissaries") - translated to English by R. Nisbet Bain, 1897, under the title "The Lion of Janina".


  1. ^ Fishta Gjergj, Elsie Robert, Mathie-Heck Janice. The highland lute: (Lahuta e malcís) : the Albanian national epic. I.B.Tauris, 2005. ISBN 9781845111182, p. 402.
  2. ^ Ahmet Uzun. Ο Αλή Πασάς ο Τεπελενλής και η περιουσία του.. [Ali Pasha from Tepeleni and his fortune] (Greek).
  3. ^ ♠Lord Byron's Correspondence - John Murray, Editor.
  4. ^ The Ottoman Power in Europe by Edward Augustus Freeman
  5. ^ P. J. Ruches. Albanian historical folksongs, 1716-1943. A survey of oral epic poetry from southern Albania, with original texts. Argonaut, 1967, p. 19
  6. ^ Merry Bruce. Encyclopedia of modern Greek literature. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. ISBN 9780313308130, p. 231.
  7. ^ Fleming (1999): p. 168.
  8. ^ Fleming (1999): p. 99.
  9. ^ Brigands with a Cause, by John S. Koliopoulos, p. 40
  10. ^ a b c Ali Pacha: Celebrated Crimes by Alexandre Dumas, père
  11. ^ (Greek)Νήσος Ιωαννίνων. (2009). "Μουσεία". Retrieved November 12, 2009. 

See also


  • Brigands with a Cause, Brigandage and Irredentism in Modern Greece 1821-1912 by John S. Koliopoulos. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1987. ISBN 0198228635
  • Fleming Katherine Elizabeth. The Muslim Bonaparte: diplomacy and orientalism in Ali Pasha's Greece. Princeton University Press, 1999. ISBN 9780691001944.
  • "Ali Pasa Tepelenë." Encyclopædia Britannica (2005)
  • "Ali Pasha (1744? – 1822)". The Columbia Encyclopedia (2004).
  • Rough Guide to Greece, Ellingham et al. (2000)

Further reading

  • Brøndsted, Peter Oluf, Interviews with Ali Pacha. Edited by Jacob Isager, (Athens, 1998)
  • Davenport, The Life of Ali Pasha, (London, 1837)
  • Dumas père, Alexandre, Ali Pacha, Celebrated Crimes
  • Fauriel, Claude Charles: Die Sulioten und ihre Kriege mit Ali Pascha von Janina, (Breslau, 1834)
  • Fleming, K.E., The Muslim Bonaparte: Diplomacy and Orientalism in Ali Pasha's Greece, Princeton University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-691-00194-4.
  • Jókai, Mór: Janicsárok végnapjai, Pest, 1854. (in English: Maurus Jókai: The Lion of Janina, translated by R. Nisbet Bain, 1897).
  • Ibrahim Manzour Effendi, Mémoires sur le Grèce et l'Albanie pendant le gouvernement d'ali Pacha, (Paris, 1827)
  • Dennis N. Skiotis, "From Bandit to Pasha: First Steps in the Rise to Power of Ali of Tepelen, 1750-1784", International Journal of Middle East Studies 2:3:219-244 (July, 1971) at JSTOR
  • Francois Pouqueville Voyage en Morée, à Constantinople, en Albanie, et dans plusieurs autres parties de l'Empire Ottoman (Paris, 1805, 3 vol. in-8°), translated in English, German, Greek, Italian, Swedish, etc. available on lineat Gallica
  • Francois Pouqueville Travels in Epirus, Albania, Macedonia, and Thessaly (London: Printed for Sir Richard Phillips and Co, 1820), an English denatured and truncated edition available on line
  • Francois Pouqueville Voyage en Grèce (Paris, 1820–1822, 5 vol. in-8° ; 20 édit., 1826–1827, 6 vol. in-8°), his capital work
  • Francois Pouqueville Histoire de la régénération de la Grèce (Paris, 1824, 4 vol. in-8°), translated in many languages. French original edition available on Google books[1]
  • Francois Pouqueville, "Notice sur la fin tragique d’Ali-Tébélen" (Paris 1822, in-8°)

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|235x|Ali Pasha of Ioannina
after Louis Dupré (1821)

Ali Pasha of Tepelena or of Yannina, the "Lion of Yannina", (1741 – January 24, 1822) was an Albanian ruler (pasha) of the western part of Rumelia, the Ottoman Empire's European territory which was also called Pashalik of Janina. His court was in Ioannina.

His name in the local languages was: Albanian: Ali Pashë Tepelena, Aromanian: Ali Pãshelu, Greek: Αλή Πασάς Τεπελενλής Ali Pasas Tepelenlis or Αλή Πασάς των Ιωαννίνων Ali Pasas ton Ioanninon (Ali Pasha of Ioannina) and Turkish: Tepedelenli Ali Paşa.


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