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Ioannina Capital of Epirus Page 2

Ioannina under Ali Pasha

ali pasha ioannina - the buggerIoannina's economic 'zenith' was reached under Ali Pasha, a famously savage character born in 1741 in the Albanian village of Tepelini, who alternatively fought against and served the Ottoman Sultan. After helping them in there 1787 war against Austria, he was made Pasha of Trikkala in 1788, and in that year, seized Ioannina, then a town of 35,000 inhabitants (quite large for those times). In 1797 he allied himself with Napoleon, but the following year took the town of Preveza (near the Ambracian Gulf) from the French. In 1803 he subdued the Souliots-- Ipirot warriors known for their fierce resistance to the Turks. From the time that he seized Ioannina, he only payed sporadic tribute to the sultan, and turned the city into his own little despotate from which he ruled for 33 years.

He was visited by the young Lord Byron in 1809, who, though overwhelmed by the hospitality he was given, and by the 'wealth, refinement, and learning' that he witnessed in the city controlled by the 'Lion of Ioannina', he wrote to his mother of the remorselessness and cruelty of this tyrant, known for 'roasting rebels'. 

In fact, he had one famous rebel, Katsandonis, imprisoned in a lakeside dungeon (after finding him hiding in a cave afflicted with smallpox) and later had him executed by breaking all of his bones with a sledgehammer (this method of execution being only one account, however, with another reporting that the rebel was flayed alive). One of his most famous acts of cruelty, however, was to have his son's mistress and seventeen of her companions drowned in the lake in bound sacks, for her crime of refusing his advances.

In 1817, he entered into an alliance with the British, who gave him the seaside town of Parga. The sultan, however, became weary of this upstart tyrant, and had him captured at Ioannina after a siege, executing him in 1822 in his lakeside mansion, where the bullet-holes in the floor are now a much-visited tourist attraction. During the long siege, two years earlier, he had set fire to the town.

In 1878, the Congress of Berlin assigned Ipiros to Greece, but it remained in Turkish hands for another 35 years, until the Greek army entered the city in 1913.

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