Bridge of Arta
The Bridge of Arta (Greek: Γεφύρι της Άρτας) is a stone bridge that crosses the Arachthos river (Άραχθος) in the west of the city of Arta (Άρτα) in Greece. It has been rebuilt many times over the centuries, starting with Roman or perhaps older foundations; the current bridge is probably a 17th-century Ottoman construction.
The folk ballad "The Bridge of Arta" tells a story of human sacrifice during its building. From the ballad, a number of Greek proverbs and customary expressions arose, associated with interminable delays, as in the text of the ballad: "All day they were building it, and in the night it would collapse."
According to the Epirote chronicler Panayiotis Aravantinos, the bridge was first built under the Roman Empire. Some traditions say it was rebuilt when Arta became capital of the Despotate of Epirus, possibly under Michael II Doukas (1230–1271). The current version is Ottoman, probably from 1602-1606 or perhaps 1613. From 1881-1912, the highest point of the bridge was the border between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Greece.
According to the folk ballad of the acritic songs family, 45 masons and 60 apprentices, under the leadership of the Head Builder, were building a bridge, but its foundations would collapse each night. Finally a bird with a human voice informed the Head Builder that, in order for the bridge to remain standing, he should sacrifice his wife. As she is being buried alive in the foundations of the construction, she curses the bridge to flutter like a leaf, and those who pass it to fall like leaves also. She is then reminded that her brother is abroad and might pass the bridge himself, so she changes her curses so as to become actual blessings: "As the tall mountains tremble, so shall the bridge tremble, and as the birds of prey fall, so shall passers fall".
The idea that a major edifice can not be built without a human sacrifice ("building in" of a person) was also common in the folklore of other Balkan peoples such as Bulgarians, Albanians, Serbs and Romanians; for example, the Romanian legend of Meşterul Manole. A masterbuilder being forced to sacrifice his wife in this way is a common theme in folk songs. A recurring plot element is the masterbuilders' decision to sacrifice the woman who comes first to the building site to bring them food. All but one break their promise and tell their wives to come late, and it is the wife of the only honest one that is sacrificed.
One of the legends associated with Merlin is that Vortigern, the King of England, was building a tower to defend himself from Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon. Like the Bridge of Arta, whenever they finished one day's work on the tower it would collapse in the night and Vortigern's advisors recommended that sacrificing a child and mixing his blood with the mortar would prevent the collapse.
- Leontis 1999
- Моллов, Тодор (14 August 2002). "Троица братя града градяха" (in Bulgarian). LiterNet. Retrieved 2007-05-19.
- БЪЛГАРСКО НАРОДНО ТВОРЧЕСТВО В ДВАНАДЕСЕТ ТОМА. Том VІІІ: Трудово-поминъчни песни. ЕИ "LiterNet" Варна. Второ издание, 2006 
- Српске народне пјесме. Скупио их и на свијет издао Вук Стеф. Караџић.Технологије, издаваштво и агенција Београд, 11. октобар 2000 
- Artemis Leontis, "The Bridge between the Classical and the Balkan", The South Atlantic Quarterly 98:4:625-631 (1999) at MUSE On understanding the place of the Bridge of Arta in the literary landscape.
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