A SHORT STROLL THROUGH THE HISTORY OF DUBROVNIK
The astonishing beauty of Dubrovnik, which delights every traveler, seems like an eternal artifact created in a moment of divine inspiration. The completeness of its forms and the similarity between the cities as it actually is and as it is represented by the model on the outstretched palm of the patron saint of the republic, St. Blaise (Sv. Vlaho), seem to confirm this idea. However, if you enter within its walls (the "mire") you will discover a city created by the enduring and persistent love of its inhabitants, who have made it ever more harmonious, ever more peerless, through the centuries, in spite of cataclysms and/unpropitious times. Therefore we must go back to the beginning.
In spite of the efforts of historians through several centuries, due to a lack of sources the time and circumstances in which the city of Dubrovnik was founded remain shrouded in mystery. The failure of scholarship to find the answer has, as in the case of most European cities, opened up the way to legends. According to one of these, refugees from the Roman city of Epidauros, which stood not far from the Cavtat of today up to the time of the incursions by the Avars and the Slavs, founded Dubrovnik. The inhabitants of Epidauros took refuge from the invaders on a small island on which the new city was eventually to rise up. By this legend Dubrovnik assured itself of a classical heritage.
According to another legend, the Slavic King Pavlimir, on his return from exile in Italy, landed on \he east Adriatic coast and founded Dubrovnik. Thus the city obtained the "Slavic" version of its founding.
However, these legends tell us more about the needs of the time in which they arose than about the time they speak of. Today, scientific research results indicate that the Dubrovnik region has been inhabited continuously since prehistoric times. Archeological finds confirm the existence of Rauzia (Ragusium, Raguzius, Rausium), as Dubrovnik is called in medieval sources, which was a large settlement as early as the 6th century. It may be presumed that the see of the late Roman diocese of Epidauros was transferred to Dubrovnik even before the fall of that city.
The lack of historical sources for the period from the 7th to the 12th centuries makes it impossible to reconstruct in detail the development of the city in the early Middle Ages. During this period, Dubrovnik was under the sovereignty of the Byzantine emperor. It is recorded that in 866/7 the city resisted an Arab siege for fifteen months and was finally rescued by the Byzantine fleet.
The strength of 9th century Dubrovnik is also illustrated by the fact that its ships transported the Croatian army to Bari, where it fought with the Norman's against the Arabs. Two centuries later, during the brief Norman rule over the city, ships from Dubrovnik also fought in the Ionian Sea. The citizens of Dubrovnik were ready to take full advantage of the period of economic growth, which prevailed in the Mediterranean in the 12th century. During the previous period they had succeeded in constituting their municipality and reducing the Byzantine rule over the city almost to a purely formal one. The new economic boom during the period of the Crusades, due to the fact that the Adriatic became one of the main routes leading from Europe to the Levant, as well as to the development of the countries of the Slavic hinterland, was to affirm Dubrovnik's trade on an international scale. Trade became the basis of the city's development.
In this period one can already see the permanent communal political conception of the city - the desire to be as emancipated as possible from outside rule. This individualism was formed on the foundation of a long tradition of political and cultural isolation of the city from the countries of the hinterland, the economic interests of the municipality and the social structure built thereon. An additional impulse was provided by the elevation of the diocese to the rank of a metropolis, which apparently occurred as early as 999.
The politically increasingly independent municipality attempted to confirm its status and improve the conditions under which its business was transacted by numerous treaties of friendship with Adriatic and Mediterranean cities. Of special interest is the treaty made with the city of Pisa in 1169 showing the extent of Dubrovnik's trade - from central Italy to Constantinople - as well as the desire to stand up to its main competitor on the Adriatic - the Venetian Republic. The parties to the treaty tried to organize a trade route from Pisa via Ancona to Dubrovnik and then by land to Constantinople. By forming an alliance with the then strongest opponent of Venice, the citizens of Dubrovnik expressed their permanent political orientation.
In the middle of the 12th century, the well-known Arabian travel writer Idrisi wrote that the citizens of Dubrovnik had ships and sailed far, and that the city was the last Croatian city to the south. The rapid development of the Dubrovnik municipality was to be slowed down by its falling into the power of the Venetian Republic in 1205. Venetian rule was to continue until the mid - 14th century. Venice, the greatest Mediterranean power, took advantage of the 4th Crusade to gain control over the entire east Adriatic coast.
The Venetians fettered the maritime activities of Dubrovnic, but land trade developed strongly, so that Dubrovnik gained almost complete control over the flow of commodities in the Balkans. The numerous trading colonies founded by the citizens of Dubrovnik throughout the countries of the hinterland directed caravans towards the parent port, gaining great profits in the process. The monopoly which the municipality achieved also gave it an increasingly prestigious political influence in these countries. In spite of the encroachments of the Venetians, the citizens of Dubrovnik gradually managed to increase their independence. The city's elite achieved control over the Venetian "knez" (rector) imposed on it. The processes of development and the cult of freedom and individuality initiated in the dawn of medieval Europe could not be suppressed even by the leading Mediterranean power.
The most glorious pages of Dubrovnik's history open with the great political change brought about by the Croatian-Hungarian King Louis (Ludovik). After inflicting a military defeat on the Venetians, he dictated the terms of the Zadar Peace Treaty of 1358, according to which the Venetians had to give up their claim to the east Adriatic coast. The Dubrovnik municipality became part of his large and powerful state. The new, continental sovereign freed the fleet of Dubrovnik from the Venetian control, which had fettered it for a century and a half. Now the flag of St. Blaise could freely sail all the seas of the then known world, and the continental trade of Dubrovnik acquired its natural extension.
The citizens of Dubrovnik exercised almost complete control over the mining and sale of Bosnian and Serbian ores, which were important an a European scale. The documents, which have been, preserved show that in the course of only one year, 1422, a quantity of more than 5,672 kilograms of silver, amounting to over 1/5 of the total European production, was exported through Dubrovnik. The extent of Dubrovnik's trade is also illustrated by the fact that only one trading establishment, that of the brothers Kabuzic, managed, within a relatively short period of time (1427-1432), to export about 3,500 kilograms of silver in a value of 100,000 Venetian ducats. Since this was a type of silver, which contains a high percentage of gold, the above-mentioned quantity also contained about 120 kilograms of this precious ore.
The ships of Dubrovnik carried these precious loads from the homeport to the markets of Italy, France, Spain... On the return voyage they brought back wool, which was the raw material of the growing cloth manufacture. After the King of England banned foreigners from buying wool, the merchants of Dubrovnik were unable to carry on their business, and there was consequently a famine in a large part of southern England.
Due to the Turkish conquest of the Balkan countries and the merciless competition, the Republic was unable to maintain itself as one of the leading cloth producers.
Government measures encouraged the development of shipbuilding, and soon ships from the Dubrovnik shipyards became a synonym for high-quality and up-to-date vessels. The greatest seafaring people, the English, thus adopted the word "argosy", derived from the Italian form of the name for Dubrovnik (Ragusa), referring to a first-rate merchant ship. The flag of Dubrovnik connected the most distant trading emporia of the world as it was then known, and its largest vessels sailed for years without calling in at their homeport. Numerous trading establishments did business from British to Indian ports. It is estimated that the fleet of Dubrovnik at that time was a match for the Venetian fleet.
On the political plane, the prosperous municipality managed to emancipate itself completely from its sovereign and become an internationally recognized political subject - the Dubrovnik Republic.
The highest government authority was the Great Council, which included all the aristocrats who were of age. The Senate and the Lesser Council were elected from their ranks. At the head of these three organs was the Knez (rector) of the Republic, whose term of office was only 30 days. This shows the desire of the patricians to prevent any individualization of power. Collective government by the aristocracy remained a permanent characteristic of the state of Dubrovnik until its fall.
The citizens were divided into three classes, the patricians, "good citizens" and the plebeians. The "good citizens" were a class which had grown rich and was economically as strong as the aristocracy, but who were debarred from political power. By its wise and skillful policies, the aristocracy of Dubrovnic succeeded in maintaining this aristocratic republican system, without any significant political crises or social tensions, down to the 19th century.
The expansion of the Turks into Europe posed a threat to Dubrovnik's land trade, but the Republic successfully overcame the crisis by restructuring its political relationships and its trade network. Its diplomats obtained permission to trade with pagans from the Council of Basel as early as 1433. Respecting political changes, Dubrovnik paid a tribute to the Turks, but this did not impair its essential sovereignty. The tributary relationship with the Porte was maintained until the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic as an important segment of its independence and the legal basis of its privileged commercial status in the enormous empire.
The Republic managed to convince both East and West of the advantages of its survival. Neutralizing each of these influences by the other, the citizens of Dubrovnik managed to stay out of the wars between the Christians and the Turks, taking full advantage of wartime business opportunities. Close ties were established with the King of Spain, who was then the master of the Mediterranean. In the wake of his ships the Republic gained access to the Atlantic, and it also took part in the expedition of the "lnvincibte Armada". Individual citizens of Dubrovnik managed to achieve great success and influence in countries ruled by the Spanish crown. Thus the respectable merchant Miho Pracat, the only man to whom the Republic raised a monument, even became a creditor of Charles V.
Due to the general recession prevailing in the Mediterranean countries in the early 17th century, the economy of Dubrovnik ceased to grow. The old rivalry between Dubrovnik and Venice was revived and reached its merciless climax. The expansion of Dubrovnik's maritime activities in the previous period had led the Venetian consul in London to complain to his government that even the wine which he served at his table was transported by ships from Dubrovnik. Much wisdom, diplomacy and personal sacrifice was now required to maintain political neutrality in the numerous political intrigues which ensued, since neutrality guaranteed what was most precious - liberty. In the most difficult moments of its history the Republic enjoyed the crucial support of the Roman Curia.
The economic recession, which brought with it a social crisis, was soon interrupted by a terrifying cataclysm. The great earthquake of 1667, which caused irreparable losses in human potential and economic resources, shook the ancient state down to its foundations. Over the burnt and ruined city there loomed a political crisis which threatened it with total destruction. But sufficient courage and vitality was found in Dubrovnik to overcome such apparently hopeless conditions.
The new, 18th century brought with it signs of revival and in its second half an evident growth with a new expansion of sea trade. The neutral flag of the city-state was the most valuable reference of merchants from Dubrovnik. During the numerous crises, owing to the real needs of the parties at war, the skillful patrician government, which had great political sensitivity for the new age towards which Europe was heading, ensured favorable business conditions. However, the second spring of the Dubrovnik Republic was halted by Napoleon's occupation in 1806. The city walls were unable to prevent the establishment of a new European order. The state of Dubrovnik had managed to maintain itself for centuries by skillfully steering a course between opposing powers in Europe and the Mediterranean. When Napoleon succeeded in destroying the political balance, the Republic had to fall. The attempt to restore it at the Vienna Congress failed because Europe no longer needed republics.
For the following 100 years Dubrovnik was relegated to a marginal status in the Habsburg Monarchy. Having lost its political freedom, it seemed to have lost the reason for its existence. However, in time it found its new role.
The heritage of Dubrovnik, primarily its idea of liberty and its centuries-long, uninterrupted culture of European rank became one of the main constitutive elements in the integration processes taking place in the Croatian nation. The proud city of Dubrovnik embraced this new role, recognizing in it a promise of new life.
After World War I Dubrovnik become part of the Yugoslav state. It was then a small and economically neglected city, but conscious of its glorious past. On the foundations of this consciousness and its precious heritage, Dubrovnic grew up into a modern and authentic center of culture and tourism, especially after World War II. The unique intermingling of past and present, the harmony of its forms and the spirit of its inhabitants, make it a place truly unique and incomparable, delighting every visitor.
This text is from the book "This is Dubrovnik" (copyright(c) ITVM LTD. Dubrovnik. Author of the text is Ivica Prlender)
Set on a peninsula jutting into the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is one of the prettiest places in the world. This medieval walled city is 1000 years old and it is an architectural marvel. You can cross a wooden bridge past gate towers, wind your way through the inner gate and enter onto the Placa (or Stradun, as it is also known), the gleaming limestone street that runs straight to the entrance gates at the other end of town. The present structure of the city dates from the rebuilding that followed a devastating earthquake in 1667. After a stroll down the Placa, take a tour of the city walls. Built in the 11th century, the walls are 6 meters thick in places and provide a gorgeous view of the Adriatic as well as an unforgettable glimpse at the city they surround:the tiled roofs, the narrow pathways adorned with window boxes, the small orange grove and field of the monastery. During your walk along the wall, you can enter an interesting maritime museum and small aquarium built within the St. John fortress.
For the most part, the external damage from the siege of 1991-1992 has been repaired, although a map at the entrance to the walls of the old city shows the buildings that were shelled during the siege. More then half the city's structures were hit. As you stand on a high point along the wall, you can tell which buildings have been repaired: The bright new red tile roofs stand out dramatically from the ancient verdigris tiles that escaped damage.
Other sites in the old town include the Dominican and Franciscan monasteries (the Franciscan Monastery contains one of the oldest pharmacies in the world), Rector's Palace, the Bell Tower clock, Orlando's Column and the Rose Square in the Sponza Palace. Take a look at the statue of St. Blaise, the city's patron saint, over the north city wall and the painting of the saint on display in the Dominican monastery.
The origin of the name Dubrovnik
The today's name of Dubrovnik is derived from the Croatian word Dubrava, which means oak wood. In the past, oak trees surrounded the area of todays Dubrovnik. The Latin name Ragusa - Rausa, in use until the 15th century, originated from the rock (lat. Lausa - meaning rock) where the first settlement was established.
The Establishment of the Dubrovnik as a village
Dubrovnik was founded in the first half of the 7th century by a group of refugees from Epidaurum (today's Cavtat). They established their settlement at the island and named it the Laus. Opposite of that location, at the foot of Srð Mountain, Slavs developed their own settlement under the name of Dubrovnik (named by "Dub" - type of wood). The settlements were separated by a channel which was filled in 12th century, present Placa or Stradun, and since than the two settlements have been united. At that time the city walls started to be built as a protection from different enemies ( Arabs, Venetian, Macedonians, Serbs, etc.), who wanted to conquer Dubrovnik.
The Government of Dubrovnik Republic
The Republican Constitution of Dubrovnik
was strictly aristocratic. The population was divided into three classes:
nobility, citizens, and artisans or plebeians. All effective power was concentrated
in the hands of nobility. The citizens were permitted to hold only minor offices,
while plebeians had no voice in government. Marriage between members of different
classes of the society was forbidden. The administrative bodies were the Grand
Council (supreme governing body) and the Small Council (executive power) (from
1238.) and the Senate (from 1253.). The head of the state was the Duke, elected
for a term of office for one month.
The Statute of the Republic of Dubrovnik
The History of the Dubrovnik Republic
From its establishment the town was under
the protection of the Byzantine Empire that helped Dubrovnik in the wars against
Saracens (886.- 887.), Bulgarian and Macedonians (988.), and Serbs (1184.).
After the Crusades Dubrovnik came under the sovereignty of Venice (1205.-1358.),
and by the Peace Treaty of Zadar in 1358. it became part of the Hungarian-Croatian
Kingdom. Having been granted the entire self-government, bound to pay only
a tribute to the king and providing assistance with its fleet, Dubrovnik started
its life as a free state that reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries.
In 1526. Dubrovnik acknowledged the supremacy of the Turkish Sultan (annual
tribute was paid to the Sultan). A crisis of Mediterranean shipping and especially
a catastrophic earthquake on the 6th of April 1667. that killed over 5000
citizens, including the Rector, levelling most of the public buildings, ruined
the well-being of the Republic.
The Territory of the Dubrovnik Republic
The History of Dubrovnik from the End of Republic until today