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Andreiomeni: The Female Warrior in Greek Folk Songs Elizabeth Constantinides The activities of women in Greek folk song by and large reflect their traditional roles in society: they are portrayed as faithful or unfaithful wives, as loving or cruel mothers, as maidens who are seduced or abducted or rescued. There are some folk songs, however, which describe a woman in a uniquely male role, that of warrior. These songs may be divided into three groups: 1) the account of the maiden who arms herself, rides into battle, and boldly engages the enemy (usually Saracens). One of them discovers she is a woman and pursues her; she seeks refuge in St. George's church and promises the saint many gifts. St. George at first hides her but then betrays her to the Saracen when he promises to bring still more gifts. The stated or implied purpose of the Saracen is to marry the maiden. 2) the account of the maiden who disguises herself as a man and lives among the klefts for a number of years. Her sex is finally revealed during an athletic contest when her breast is accidentally bared. (The conclusion of this story varies greatly from one version of the song to another.) 3) a handful of short poems describing the bravery of certain women of Souli. They wreak destruction on the Turks and Turco-Albanians or die a heroic death. Unique among the songs about female warriors is the one entitled "Tis Elenis," recorded, as far as I know, only in Crete, and undoubtedly of Cretan origin. It tells the story of Eleni, who disguises herself as a man after the death of her two brothers in Roumeli and like them goes off to fight the Turks. The songs about the women of Souli originated in Epirus and describe events preceding the Greek War of Independence.1 They 1A collection of songs about the Souliot wars is found in A. Passow, Τϕαγοϕδια Ρωμαίικα: PopularÃ-a Carmina Graeciae Recentioris (Leipsig, 1860), nos. 202—16, 150 ff. (hereafter, Passow). 63 64 Elizabeth Constantinides celebrate the almost superhuman efforts of the Souliot community, particularly of the women, in staving off the attacks of Ali Pasha in 1792 and also their final heroic stand after the surrender of Souli in 1803. The most noteworthy heroine of 1792 was, to judge from the songs, Moscho, wife of Lambros Tsavelas, who led an attack of women against the Turks, thus successfully aiding the beleaguered Souliot men.2 ΉκυϕάΜόσχωφώναξε'ττοττάνω'ττοτήνΚιάφα· "ÎσϕστετταιδιάΣουλιώτικακαίσείςolΤσαβελάται; ΜαζϕμουολοιτϕÎ-ξετε,καίαντϕεςκαίγυναίκες, ΤουςΤοϕϕκουςκατακάψετε,σπόϕοναμηναφήστε, Εαμείνουνχήϕαιςκι'οϕφανά,γυναίκεςκαίτταιδιάτους, Εαλεν'στοΣσΰλ'τουςσκότωσανΣσυλιώτισσεςγυναίκες." (Passow, no. 206) And Moscho called, from Kiafa's heights: "O children of Souli, Tsavelas's clan, Women and men, come with me now, Cut down the Turks and leave no seed, Orphan their children, widow their wives. In Souli was this done, they'll say, 'Twas Souli's women killed the Turks." Folk tradition likewise preserves the memory of Leno Botsaris. This remarkable fifteen-year-old fled her native territory with her male kin after the Souliot surrender to AH Pasha in 1803. She fought against the Albanians alongside her brother, and after his death during a slaughter of Souliots, she joined her uncle in forays against the Turks near the Acheloous River. To avoid capture when surrounded she committed suicide by throwing herself into the river.3 From this period also comes the account of Despo Botsis. Barricaded in a stronghold with her daughters, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren, she was unable to drive off the attacking Albanians. Rather than surrender, she and her women-folk blew themselves up:4 "ΣκλάβεςΤοϕϕκωνμήζήσωμεν,τταιδιάμ',μαζίμουελάτε!" καίτάφυσÎ-κιαάναψε,κιολοιφωτιάγÎ-νηκαν. "O come, my children, come with me, We shall not live as slaves of Turks." She touched the powder with the torch— Engulfing flames consumed them all. 2See Passow, nos. 206, 208, 209. 3See comments of N. G. Politis, Έκλογαί αττό τα τϕαγοϕδια τοΰ ελληνικοϕ λαοϋ (Athens, 1914; 6th ed., 1969), on no. 7 (hereafter Politis, Eklogai). 4In C. Fauriel, Chants populaires de la Grèce moderne, vol. I (1824), 302; cf. Passow, no. 214. A. Politis, To δημοτικό τϕαγοϕδι. ΚλÎ-φτικα (Athens, 1973), 44, remarks on the similarity of this account to the kleftic songs. Andreiomeni 65 As with the kleftic ballads the songs about the Souliot women are not significant as a record of historical facts but they are all-important as expressions of...


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