Ali Pasha was a leader of brigands in his youth. In 1787 he was appointed as a pasha (governor) to Trikala by the Turks. He managed to extend his power and ruled over a large territory. His ambition was to rule Albania and part of Greece and he was in contact with Napoleon, Nelson and the Tsar. Foreign experts trained his troops and the western powers provided him with modern artillery. He was called the Lion of Janina because he was ruthless and clever. In 1809 Lord Byron visited his court in Janina (Ioannina) and used the experience in his Childe Harold. Ali Pasha had a harem of over 600 women in Janina and was very wealthy.
In 1812 he bought an alchemical laboratory from Venice because he wanted to find a way to become immortal. When his scientists failed to find it after five years of research he had them hanged.
Ali Pasha went too far and his enemies, some of them robbed of their territories, appealed to the Sultan to remove him from power. As Janina was attacked by the Turks his allies and even his sons abandoned him. After he was promised a pardon he ordered the castle of Ioannina to surrender to the Turkish army of 20,000 man. Waiting at the monastery of Pandeleimonos for his pardon to be read he was killed. His body was decapitated and his head was placed on a silver salver and for three days put on view in the city. Then it was sent to Constantinople where it reached the Sultan on February 23 and was put on public display outside the Seraglio. The engagement of the Turkish troops in removing Ali Pasha from power helped the Greeks with their struggle for independence.
The story of Ali Pasha's downfall was fictionalized in The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. In this famous novel, the daughter of Ali Pasha becomes a slave of the Count and helps him take revenge on the man who betrayed her father.