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Southern Epirus (Ipiros) Page 7


Arta is 50 km northeast of Preveza to the north of the Gulf, located in a loop of the Arakhthos River as it heads 20km south to the Gulf. Arta is a pleasant provinicial capital, with an old Ottoman bazaar in its center, which includes a covered market. There is also a produce market in town.

A famous legend surrounds the old packhorse bridge (restored in 1993), a legend known in other parts of the Balkans, and told in many folk songs, a fine version of which is sung by the famous Thracian traditional singer Khronis Aidonidhis (and which is on one of his CDs, sold at such outlets at Metropolis and Music Corner on Panepistimiou in central Athens). The legends recounts the repeated washing away of the foundations of a bridge being built with the labor of many expert workers, so that the chief builder is at the end of his rope with frustration. Every day he and his workers build, and every night, their labor is undone. Finally, he follows the counsel of a bird, who tells him to seal up his wife in the foundations, so that the bridge might hold. He does so (sealing her up alive), but the bridge is haunted thereafter by her wailing.

In ancient times Arta was known as Ambracia (Amvrakia) and as such was the capital of King Pyrrhos of Ipiros. There are some remains of a temple of Apollo and and odheion in Arta., as well as the old akropolis and citadel from many successive periods, but it stays locked up. After the 1204 fall of Constantinople, the town was center of the Despotate of Ipiros, which was an independent Byzantine state, which extended from Corfu (Kerkyra in Greek) to Thessaloniki, and was ruled by the Angelos dynasty (the imperial family evicted from the Byzantine capital, sacked by the Venetians in the Fourth Crusade). The despotate lasted until 1449, when the garrison surrendered to the Ottomans.

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