A Short Overview Of  The History Of Dubrovnik

The history of Dubrovnik is the most outstanding story about a small Mediterranean city state, known under the name of Ragusa.

The successful development of Dubrovnik in the past was conditioned primarily by its favorable geographical position. The city is known for having been an independent state for over six centuries.

How Dubrovnik managed to maintain their independence in over nearly seven centuries? Neither the powerful Ottoman Empire, nor always unfriendly Venetian republic, failed to conquer this city - state.

The development of the Dubrovnik Republic had always been based on a trade and maritime affairs. Dubrovnik had a leading role, as one of important maritime centers. Its merchant fleet numbered in the 16th century from 170 to200 large ships, with over 4000 sailors.

The origin of the name Dubrovnik

Through the history of Dubrovnik, until the 15th century it was known under the Latin name, Ragusa (Rausa). This name derives from the Latin name Lausa, meaning rock where the first settlement was founded.

After the 15th century the name changed in Dubrovnik, that derives from the Croatian word Dubrava, which means oak woods as, in the past, oak trees surrounded Dubrovnik.

Early History of Dubrovnik

There are two theories about the origin of Dubrovnik. According to the first theory (most likely), Dubrovnik was founded by refugees from Greek settlement Epidaurus (present-day Cavtat) after the Slavs invasion in the 7th century.

According to the second theory, there was already a large Greek settlement where Dubrovnik is situated today, as a Byzantium castrum prior to the 7th century was on a rocky island named Laus or Raus (Ragusia or Lave) and that the city in fact has Greek origins and it was enlarged by new refugees from Epidaurus.

I fully support the first version, as history of Dubrovnik has always been influenced by the presence of Slavs. The name of Dubrovnik derives from two words, Dub which means oak and dubrava which means wood (an oak forest).

The Republic of Ragusa (Ragusa in Italian, German and Latin, Raguse in French) in Croatian (Dubrovacka Republika) that existed from 1358 to 1808.

Republic included the old city of Dubrovnik, Zupa dubrovacka (Konavle), Peljesac, Mljet island, Lastovo island, Gruz, Zaton, the Elafiti islands (Sipan, Lopud, and Kolocep) and some smaller islands near the city.

Dubrovnik - Republic Of Liberty

Libertas (Latin word for liberty) is the slogan of the city of Dubrovnik. In the Dubrovnik Republic, freedom is considered one of the greatest life values.

Old Dubrovnik Republic's flag  used to have the inscription 'Libertas'. Today this flag is used during the opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, when raised on Orlando's Column.

Liberty and freedom was always valued in Dubrovnik Republic above all, that was practically demonstrated in introductions of several progressive laws and public institutions.

On January 27, 1416 Dubrovnik is the first in Europe to abolish slavery. It is an extraordinary act that demonstrates recognition of freedom. A century later, England did the same in 1569, while USA in 1865.

Among others signs of progressiveness were the very first pharmacy opened in 1317 (still in use) and 16 years before in 1301 was introduced medical service. From 1347, Dubrovnik had a home for the elderly people and in 1432 was opened an orphanage for abandoned and illegitimate children. 

While Paris and London bathed in its own open sewage, Dubrovnik Republic made in one of the first medieval sewer system, constructing the 20 km long water supply system, making Dubrovnik (Ragusa) one of the first places in Europe to eliminate many diseases associated with open sewage. 

Tragic Dates In The History Of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik during its glorious history had some tragic events  that have heavily damaged not only the cultural heritage of Dubrovnik but also economical development of the city.

he earthquake in Dubrovnik in 1667 was one of the two most devastating earthquakes to hit the area in the last 2,400 years. The entire city was almost destroyed and around 5,000 people were killed and over three quarters of all public buildings were destroyed.

At that time, Dubrovnik was the capital of the Republic of Ragusa. The earthquake marked the beginning of the end of the Republic. Few of Dubrovnik's Renaissance buildings survived the earthquake but fortunately enough remained to give an idea of the city's architectural heritage.

Only the Sponza Palace and the Rector's Palace survived the destruction. The city was reconstructed in the baroque style as you can see it today.

Dubrovnik 1991 shelling

Only a sick mind could come up with the idea to attack the city that wasn't touched through tumultuous history nor by Ottoman conquerors nor Hitler army. It was the attack that shocked the world by glorious Yugoslav Army.

No one thought the Yugoslav forces would dare to attack such an important cultural monument with negligible military value. In fact, Serbian-Montenegrin forces wished to seize Dubrovnik from Croatia and annex it to Serbian-Montenegrin control.

Such a barbarism the world has seen before. To have more info of these tragic days in history of Dubrovnik, I suggest to visit Jeanne Oliver web pages about Dubrovnik bombing and period after the war .

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