Ambracia was a city of ancient Greece on the site of modern Arta.
It was founded between 650 and 625 BC by Gorgus, son of the Corinthian tyrant Cypselus, at which time its economy was based on farmlands, fishing, timber for shipbuilding, and the exportation of the produce of Epirus.
After the expulsion of Gorgus's son Periander its government developed into a strong democracy.
The early policy of Ambracia was determined by its loyalty to Corinth (for which it probably served as an entrepot in the Epirus trade), and its consequent aversion to Corcyra (as Ambracia participated on the Corinthian side at the Battle of Sybota, which took place in 433 BC between the rebellious Corinthian colony of Corcyra (modern Corfu) and Corinth).
Ambraciot politics featured many frontier disputes with the Amphilochians and Acarnanians. Hence it took a prominent part in the Peloponnesian War until the crushing defeat at Idomene (426), which crippled its resources.
In the 4th century BC it continued its traditional policy, but in 338 was besieged by Philip II of Macedon.
With the assistance of Corinth and Athens, it escaped complete domination at Philip's hands, but was nevertheless forced to accept a Macedonian garrison.
In 294 BC, after forty-three years of semi-autonomy under Macedonian suzerainty, Ambracia was given by the son of Cassander to Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, who made it his capital, and adorned it with palace, temples and theatres.
In the wars of Philip V of Macedon and the Epirotes against the Aetolian League (220–205) Ambracia passed from one alliance to the other, but ultimately joined the latter confederacy.
During the struggle of the Aetolians against Rome, it stood a stubborn siege, including the first known use of poison gas against the Romans' siege tunnels. Ambracia was captured and plundered by Marcus Fulvius Nobilior in 189 BC, after which it was declared by Rome a "free city", and gradually fell into insignificance.
The foundation by Augustus of Nicopolis, into which the remaining inhabitants were drafted, left the site desolate.
In Byzantine times a new settlement took its place under the name of Arta. Some fragmentary walls of large, well-dressed blocks near this latter town indicate the early prosperity of Ambracia.
Despite the existence several churches from the 9th and 10th centuries, Arta is first attested only in the late 11th century.
In the Komnenian period, the city flourished as a commercial centre, with links to Venice, and quickly rose to become an archbishopric (by 1157).
By the end of the 12th century, Arta probably formed a distinct fiscal district (episkepsis) within the wider theme of Nicopolis. In 1205, after the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade, Arta became the capital of the Despotate of Epirus.
It continued to prosper under its new rulers, despite repeated attempts by another Greek successor state, the Empire of Nicaea (and after 1261, the restored Byzantine Empire), to subdue Epirus.
As late as the 15th century, the Chronicle of the Tocco attests to the prosperity of Arta and its fertile region, "with many water buffaloes, cows, and horses", and a lively commercial activity in dried meat, lard, ham, furs, and indigo drawing merchants from Venice and Dubrovnik. Archaeological finds also attest to a local ceramic industry.
Fortified in 1227, Arta was briefly occupied in 1259, following the Battle of Pelagonia, by the Nicaeans.
The restored Byzantine emperors continued their assaults, but it was not until 1338 that Andronikos III Palaiologos finally secured control of the city, only for it to be wrested from the Byzantines a few years later by the Serbian Empire of Stephen Dushan.
Serbian rule was followed by Albanian rule (1358-1416), when the city fell to Carlo I Tocco, Count of Cephalonia and Zakynthos.
The city remained in Tocco hands until 1449, when the Ottoman Empire captured it.
Under Ottoman rule, the town was called in Turkish Narda.
It was occupied by Venetians in 1717 and the French in 1797, but the Ottomans retook it in 1799.
The city was eventually taken from the Ottomans and annexed to Greece in 1881 by the Treaty of Berlin.
Edited by: Yallou