The Dance of Zalongo (Greek: Χορός του Ζαλόγγου, Horos tou Zalongou) was a mass suicide of women from Souli and their children during the Souliote War of 1803, near the village of Zalongo in Epirus, in the then-Ottoman Empire. It began on 16 December 1803. The name also refers to a popular dance-song commemorating the event.
During the Souliote War in December 1803, the Souliotes began evacuating Souli after their defeat by the forces of the local Ottoman-Albanian ruler, Ali Pasha. During the evacuation, a small group of Souliot women and their children were trapped by Ali’s troops in the mountains of Zalongo in Epirus. In order to avoid capture and enslavement, the women threw their children first and then themselves off a steep cliff, committing suicide. According to the legend, they jumped down the precipice one after the other while singing and dancing, the Dance of Zalongo.
The incident soon became known across Europe. At the Paris Salon of 1827, the French artist Ary Scheffer exhibited two Romantic paintings, one of which was entitled Les Femme souliotes (“The Souliot Women”). Today, the Zalongo Monument on Mount Zalongo in Kassope commemorates their sacrifice.
More recently, studies of the event suggest that the tale of the legendary suicides, as well as the dramatic scene of the dancing, were invented, or at the least of questionable documentation.
There is a popular Greek dance-song about the event, which is known and danced throughout Greece today. The Greek folk song “Dance of Zalongo” has the following lyrics:
Farewell poor world,
Farewell sweet life,
and you, my wretched country,
Farewell for ever
Valleys, mountains and hills
And you, women of Souli
The fish cannot live on the land
Nor the flower on the sand
And the women of Souli
Cannot live without freedom
The women of Souli
Have not only learned how to survive
They also know how to die
Not to tolerate slavery