b While present in the region even before the establishment of the
Republic, Croatian language, referred to as Slavic at the time, had
not become widely spoken until late 15th century.
Dubrovnik before the 1667 earthquake, Photogravure Kowalczyk 1909
Dubrovnik from 1667
Republic of Ragusa was a maritime republic centered on the city of
Dubrovnik (Ragusa in Italian, German and Latin; Raguse in French) in
Dalmatia (today in southernmost Croatia) that carried that name from
1358 until 1808. It reached its commercial peak in the 15th and the
16th centuries, before being conquered by Napoleon's French Empire and
formally annexed by the
Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy
Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy in 1808. It had a
population of about 30,000 people, out of whom 5,000 lived within the
city walls. Its
Latin motto was "Non bene pro toto libertas
venditur auro", which means "Liberty is not well sold for all the
3 Historical background
3.1 Origin of the city
3.2 Early centuries
3.3 Venetian suzerainty (1205–1358)
4.1 Independence from Venice (1358)
4.2 Ottoman suzerainty
4.3 Decline of the Republic
4.4 French occupation
4.5 End of the Republic
5.2 Relations among the nobility
6 Coat of arms
9 Ragusan literature
10 Ethnic groups
12 See also
15 Further reading
16 External links
Originally named Communitas Ragusina (
Latin for "Ragusan municipality"
or "community"), in the 14th century it was renamed Respublica
Latin for Ragusan Republic), first mentioned in 1385. (It
was nevertheless a
Republic under its previous name, although its
Rector was appointed by Venice rather than by Ragusa's own Grand
Council. In Italian it is called Repubblica di Ragusa; in Croatian it
is called Dubrovačka republika (Croatian
pronunciation: [dǔbroʋat͡ʃkaː repǔblika]).
The Croatian name
Dubrovnik is derived from the word dubrava, an oak
grove; by a folk etymology, the Turks corrupted this into
Dobro-Venedik, meaning "Good-Venice". It came into use alongside
Ragusa as early as the 14th century. The Latin, Italian and
Dalmatian name Ragusa derives its name from Lausa (from the Greek
ξαυ: xau, "precipice"); it was later altered to Rausium, Rhagusium,
Ragusium or Rausia (even Lavusa, Labusa, Raugia and Rachusa) and
finally into Ragusa. The official change of name from Ragusa to
Dubrovnik came into effect after World War I. It is known in
historiography as the
Republic of Ragusa.
Territory of the
Republic of Ragusa, early 18th century
Republic ruled a compact area of southern
Dalmatia – its final
borders were formed by 1426 – comprising the mainland coast from
Neum to the
Prevlaka peninsula as well as the
Pelješac peninsula and
the islands of
Lastovo and Mljet, as well as a number of smaller
islands such as Koločep, Lopud, and Šipan.
In the 15th century the Ragusan republic also acquired the islands of
Hvar for about eight years. However they had to be
given up due to the resistance of local minor aristocrats sympathizing
with Venice, which was granting them some privileges.
In the 16th century the administrative units of the
Republic were: the
City of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), counties (Konavle,
Župa dubrovačka -
Slano - Ragusan Littoral, Ston, Island of Lastovo, Island of
Mljet, Islands of Šipan,
Lopud and Koločep) and captaincies (Cavtat,
Orebić, Janjina) with local magistrates appointed by the Grand
Mljet were semi-autonomous communities each
having its own Statute.
Origin of the city
According to the
De administrando imperio
De administrando imperio of the Byzantine emperor
Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, the city was founded, probably in
the 7th century, by the inhabitants of the Roman city of Epidaurum
(modern Cavtat) after its destruction by the Avars and Slavs ca.
615. Some of the survivors moved 25 kilometres (16 miles) north to
a small island near the coast where they founded a new settlement,
Lausa. It has been claimed that a second raid by the Slavs in 656
resulted in the total destruction of Epidaurum. Slavs, including
Croats and Serbs, settled along the coast in the 7th century. The
Slavs named their settlement Dubrovnik. The Romance ("Latin") and
Slavs held each other antagonistically, though by the 12th century the
two settlements had merged. The channel that divided the city was
filled, creating the present-day main street (the Stradun) which
became the city centre. Thus,
Dubrovnik became the Croatian name for
the united town. There are recent theories based on excavations
that the city was established much earlier, at least in the 5th
century and possibly during the Ancient Greek period (as per Antun
Ničetić, in his book Povijest dubrovačke luke). The key element in
this theory is the fact that ships in ancient time traveled about 45
to 50 nautical miles per day, and mariners required a sandy shore to
pull their ships out of the water for the rest period during the
night. An ideal combination would have a fresh water source in the
Dubrovnik had both, being halfway between the Greek
Budva and Korčula, which are 95 nautical miles
(176 km; 109 mi) apart.
During its first centuries the city was under the rule of the
Byzantine Empire. The
Saracens laid siege to the city in 866–67;
it lasted for fifteen months and was raised due to the intervention of
Byzantine Emperor Basil I, who sent a fleet under
Niketas Ooryphas in
relief. Ooryphas' "showing of the flag" had swift results, as the
Slavic tribes sent envoys to the Emperor, once more acknowledging his
suzerainty. Basil dispatched officials, agents and missionaries to the
region, restoring Byzantine rule over the coastal cities and regions
in the form of the new theme of Dalmatia, while leaving the Slavic
tribal principalities of the hinterland largely autonomous under their
own rulers; the
Christianization of the Serbs
Christianization of the Serbs and the other Slavic
tribes also began at this time. With the weakening of Byzantium,
Venice began to see Ragusa as a rival that needed to be brought under
its control, but an attempt to conquer the city in 948 failed. The
citizens of the city attributed this to Saint Blaise, whom they
adopted as their patron saint.
The city remained under Byzantine domination until 1204, with the
exception of periods of Venetian (1000–30) and later Norman
(1081–85, 1172, 1189–90) rule. In 1050, Croatian king Stjepan I
(Stephen) made a land grant along the coast that extended the
boundaries of Ragusa to Zaton, 16 km (10 mi) north of the
original city, giving the republic control of the abundant supply of
fresh water that emerges from a spring at the head of the Ombla
inlet. Stephen's grant also included the harbour of Gruž, which
is now the commercial port for Dubrovnik.
Thus the original territory of the Ragusan municipality or community
comprised the city of Ragusa, Župa dubrovačka, Gruž, Ombla, Zaton,
Elafiti islands (Šipan,
Lopud and Koločep) and some smaller
islands near the city.
The famous 12th century Arab geographer
Muhammad al-Idrisi mentioned
Dubrovnik and the surrounding area. In his work, he referred to
Dubrovnik as the southernmost city of Croatia.
In 1191, Emperor
Isaac II Angelos
Isaac II Angelos granted the city's merchants the
right to trade freely in Byzantium. Similar privileges were obtained
several years earlier from
Serbia (1186) and from
Bosnia (1189). The
Charter of Ban Kulin
Charter of Ban Kulin of
Bosnia is also the first official document
where the city is referred to as Dubrovnik.
Venetian suzerainty (1205–1358)
When, in 1205, the
Republic of Venice invaded
Dalmatia with the forces
of the Fourth Crusade, Ragusa was forced to pay a tribute and became a
source of supplies for Venice such as hides, wax, silver and other
metals. Venice used the city as its naval base in the southern
Adriatic Sea. Unlike with Zadar, there was not much friction between
Ragusa and Venice as the city had not yet begun to compete as an
alternative carrier in the trade between East and West; in addition,
the city retained most of its independence. The people, however,
resented the ever-growing tribute.
In the middle of the 13th century the island of
Lastovo was added to
the original territory. On 22 January 1325, Serbian king Stefan Uroš
III issued a document for the sale of his maritime possessions of the
Ston and peninsula of
Pelješac to Ragusa. In 1333,
during the rule of Serbian king
Stefan Dušan (Stefan Uroš IV, r.
1331–55), the two possessions were handed over to Ragusa. In
January 1348, the
Black Death visited the city.
See also: History of Dubrovnik
Independence from Venice (1358)
After Venice was forced in 1358, by the Treaty of Zadar, to yield all
claims to Dalmatia, the city accepted the mild hegemony of King Louis
I of Hungary. On 27 June 1358, the final agreement was reached at
Visegrád between Louis and the
Archbishop Ivan Saraka. The city
recognized Hungarian sovereignty, but the local nobility continued to
rule with little interference from Buda. The
Republic profited from
the suzerainty of Louis of Hungary, whose kingdom was not a naval
power, and with whom they would have little conflict of interest.
The last Venetian conte left, apparently in a hurry.
In 1399, the city acquired the area between Ragusa and Pelješac,
called the Primorje (Dubrovačko primorje) with
Slano (lat. Terrae
novae). It was purchased from Bosnian king Stephen Ostoja. A brief war
Bosnia in 1403 ended with Bosnian withdrawal. Between 1419 and
Konavle region, south of Astarea (Župa dubrovačka),
including the city of Cavtat, was added to the Republic's
In the first half of the 15th century Cardinal Ivan Stojković
(Johannes de Carvatia) was active in
Dubrovnik as a Church reformer
In 1458, the
Republic signed a treaty with the
Ottoman Empire which
made it a tributary of the sultan. Moreover, it was obliged to send an
Constantinople by 1 November of each year in order to
deliver the tribute.[page needed]
When in 1481 the city passed into Ottoman protection, it was to pay an
increased tribute of 12,500 ducats. For all other purposes, however,
Ragusa was virtually independent and usually allied with Maritime
Republic of Ancona.
It could enter into relations with foreign powers and make treaties
with them (as long as not conflicting with Ottoman interests), and its
ships sailed under its own flag. Ottoman vassalage also conferred
special trade rights that extended within the Empire. Ragusa handled
the Adriatic trade on behalf of the Ottomans, and its merchants
received special tax exemptions and trading benefits from the Porte.
It also operated colonies that enjoyed extraterritorial rights in
major Ottoman cities.[page needed]
Merchants from Ragusa could enter the Black Sea, which was otherwise
closed to non-Ottoman shipping. They paid less in customs duties than
other foreign merchants, and the city-state enjoyed diplomatic support
from the Ottoman administration in trade disputes with the
For their part, Ottomans regarded Ragusa as a port of major
importance, since most of the traffic between
Ottoman port in northwestern Anatolia) was carried out via Ragusa.
Florentine cargoes would leave the Italian ports of Pesaro,
Ancona to reach Ragusa. From that point on they would take the land
When, in the late 16th century, Ragusa placed its merchant marine at
the disposal of the
Spanish Empire on condition that its participation
in the Spanish military ventures would not affect the interest of the
Ottoman Empire, the latter tolerated the situation as the trade of
Ragusa permitted the importation of goods from states with which the
Ottoman Empire was at war.
Along with England, Spain and Genoa, Ragusa was one of Venice's most
damaging competitors in the 15th century on all seas, even in the
Adriatic. Thanks to its proximity to the plentiful oak forests of
Gargano, it was able to bid cargoes away from the Venetians.
Decline of the Republic
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With the great Portuguese explorations which opened up new ocean
routes, the spice trade no longer went through the Mediterranean.
Moreover, the discovery of America started a crisis of Mediterranean
shipping. That was the beginning of the decline of both the Venetian
and Ragusan republics.
Charles VIII of France
Charles VIII of France granted trading rights to the Ragusans in 1497,
Louis XII in 1502. In the first decade of the 16th century,
Ragusan consuls were sent to France while their French counterparts
were sent to Ragusa. Prominent Ragusans in France
included Simon de Benessa, Lovro Gigants, D. de Bonda, Ivan
Cvletković, captain Ivan Florio, Petar Lukarić (Petrus de Luccari),
Serafin Gozze, and Luca de Sorgo. The Ragusan aristocracy was also
well represented at the
Sorbonne University in Paris at this time.
Old map of the
Republic of Ragusa, dated 1678
The fate of Ragusa was linked to that of the Ottoman Empire. Ragusa
and Venice lent technical assistance to the
Zamorin alliance that was defeated by the
Portuguese in the Battle of Diu in the Indian Ocean (1509).
On 6 April 1667, a devastating earthquake struck and killed over 5,000
citizens, including many patricians and the Rector (Croatian: knez)
Šišmundo Getaldić. The earthquake also levelled most of the city's
public buildings, leaving only the outer walls intact. Buildings in
the Gothic and
Renaissance styles – palaces, churches and
monasteries – were destroyed. Of the city's major public buildings,
Sponza Palace and the front part of the
Rector's Palace at
Luža Square survived. Gradually the city was rebuilt in the more
Baroque style. With great effort Ragusa recovered a bit, but
still remained a shadow of the former Republic.
In 1677 Marin
Caboga (1630–1692) and Nikola Bunić (ca.
1635–1678) arrived in
Constantinople in an attempt to avert an
imminent threat to Ragusa: Kara-Mustafa's pretensions for the
annexation of Ragusa to the Ottoman Empire. The Grand-Vizier, struck
with the capacity Marin showed in the arts of persuasion, and
acquainted with his resources in active life, resolved to deprive his
country of so able a diplomat, and on 13 December he was imprisoned,
where he was to remain for several years. In 1683, Kara-Mustafa was
killed in the attacks on Vienna, and Marin was soon free to return to
A merchant from the Republic, 1708
In 1683 the Ottomans were defeated in the Battle of Kahlenberg outside
Vienna. The Field marshal of the Austrian army was Ragusan Frano Đivo
Gundulić. In 1684, the emissaries renewed an agreement contracted in
Visegrád in the year 1358 and accepted the sovereignty of Habsburg as
Hungarian Kings over Ragusa, with an annual tax of 500 ducats. At the
same time Ragusa continued to recognize the sovereignty of the
Ottomans, a common arrangement at the time. This opened up greater
opportunities for Ragusa ships in ports all along the Dalmatian coast,
in which they anchored frequently. In the
Treaty of Karlowitz
Treaty of Karlowitz (1699),
the Ottomans ceded all of Hungary, Transylvania, Slavonia, Dalmatia
Podolia to the victorious Habsburgs, Venetians, and Poles. After
this, Venice captured a part of Ragusa's inland area and approached
its borders. They presented the threat of completely surrounding and
cutting off Ragusa's trade inland. In view of this danger and
anticipating the defeat of the Otomans in 1684 Ragusa sent emissaries
to Emperor Leopold in Vienna, hoping that the Austrian Army would
capture Bosnia. Fortunately for the Republic, the Ottomans retained
control over their hinterland. With the 26 January 1699 peace
Republic of Ragusa ceded two patches of its coast to
Ottoman Empire so that the
Republic of Venice would be unable to
attack from land, only from the sea. One of them, the northwestern
land border with the small town of Neum, is today the only outlet of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Adriatic Sea. The
southeastern border village of
Sutorina later became part of
Montenegro, which has coastline to the south. Ragusa continued its
policy of strict neutrality in the War of Austrian succession
(1741–48) and in the
Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War (1756–63).
Ragusan ducat of 1753 with the effigy of the sitting Rector
Flags of the
Republic of Ragusa in the 18th century, according to the
In 1783 the Ragusan Council did not answer the proposition put forward
by their diplomatic representative in Paris, Frano Favi, that they
should establish diplomatic relations with America, although the
Americans agreed to allow Ragusan ships free passage in their ports.
The first years of the French war were prosperous for Ragusa. The flag
Saint Blaise being neutral, the
Republic became one of the chief
carriers of the Mediterranean. The Continental blockade was the life
of Ragusa; and before the rise of Lissa the manufactures of England,
excluded from the ports of France, Italy, Holland, and Germany, found
their way to the centre of Europe through Saloniki and Ragusa.
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz and the consequent peace treaty, having
compelled Austria to hand over
Dalmatia to France, put Ragusa in a
dilemma. The nearby
Bay of Kotor
Bay of Kotor was a Venetian frontier against the
Ottomans. But while France held the land, the United Kingdom and
Russia held the sea; and while French troops marched from Austerlitz
to Dalmatia, eleven Russian ships of the line entered the Bay of
Kotor, and landed 6,000 men, later supported by 16,000 Montenegrins
under Petar I Petrović-Njegoš. As 5,000 Frenchmen under General
Molitor marched southwards and peacefully took control of the
fortresses of Dalmatia, the Russians pressed the senators of Ragusa to
allow them to occupy the city, as it was an important fortress –
thus anticipating France might block the further progress to Kotor. As
there is no way from
Kotor but through Ragusa, General
Molitor was equally abundant in trying to win Ragusa's support.
"Dear as this land is to me," said
Count Vlaho Caboga, "consecrated as
it is to our affections by its venerable institutions, its wise laws,
and the memory of illustrious ancestors, it will henceforth cease to
deserve the name of patria, if its independence be subverted. With our
large fleet of merchantmen, let us embark our wives and our children,
our state treasures and our laws, and ask of the
Sultan an island in
the Archipelago, which may become a new Epidaurus, and the sanctuary
of our time-honoured institutions."
Serious as the dilemma was, the senators were unprepared for so
desperate a remedy. A large majority were for opening the gates to
Russia; however, that would expose them to the vengeance of Napoleon,
then in the zenith of his ambition and military power, so the
occupation of the city was assigned to the French under General
Jacques Lauriston. Soon thereafter, the Russian force moved to besiege
the city, accompanied by the Montenegrins which was equipped to the
standards of the Russian army, but the officers and generals of the
army quite hated the Ragusans for their betrayal of
Šćepan Mali's rule. The environs, thick with villas, the results of
a long prosperity, were plundered, including half a million sterling.
The city was in the utmost straits; General Molitor, who had advanced
within a few days' march of Ragusa, made an appeal to the Dalmatians
to rise and expel the Russian–Montenegrin force, which met with a
feeble response. Only three hundred men joined him, but a stratagem
made up for his deficiency of numbers. A letter, seemingly
confidential, was despatched to General Lauriston in Ragusa,
announcing his proximate arrival to raise the siege with such a force
of Dalmatians as must overwhelm Russians and the vast Montenegrin
army; which letter was, as intended by Molitor, intercepted and
believed by the besieging Russians. With his force thinly scattered,
to make up a show, Molitor now advanced towards Ragusa, and turning
the Montenegrin position in the valley behind, threatened to surround
the Russians who occupied the summit of the hill between him and the
city; but seeing the risk of this, the Russians retreated back towards
the Bay of Kotor, and the city was relieved. The Montenegrin army had
followed the order of Admiral
Dmitry Senyavin who was in charge of the
Russian troops, and retreated to Cetinje.
End of the Republic
Marshal Auguste de Marmont, Duke of Ragusa during French rule
Around the year 1800, the
Republic had a highly organized network of
consulates and consular offices in more than eighty cities and ports
around the world. In 1806, the
Republic surrendered to forces of the
Empire of France to end a months-long siege by the Russian fleets
and the Montenegrin army (during which 3,000 cannonballs fell on the
city). The French lifted the siege and saved Ragusa. The French army,
led by Napoleon, entered Ragusa in 1806. In 1808, Marshal Marmont
Republic of Ragusa and amalgamated its territory into
the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, himself becoming the "Duke of Ragusa"
(Duc de Raguse). In 1810 Ragusa, with all Dalmatia, went to the newly
created French Illyrian Provinces. Later, in the 1814 Battle of Paris,
Napoleon and was branded a traitor. The word
ragusade was coined in French to signify treason and raguser meant a
Ragusan nobility were disunited in their ideas and political
behavior. Article "44" of the 1811 Decree abolished the centuries-old
institution of fideicommissum in inheritance law, by which the French
enabled younger noblemen to participate in that part of the family
inheritance, which the former law had deprived them of. According to
an 1813 inventory of the
Dubrovnik district, 451 land proprietors were
registered, including ecclesiastical institutions and the commune.
Although there is no evidence of the size of their estates, the
nobles, undoubtedly, were in possession of most of the land. Eleven
members of the Sorgo family, eight of Gozze, six of Ghetaldi, six of
Pozza, four of
Zamagna and three of the Saraca family were among the
greatest landowners. Ragusan citizens belonging to the confraternities
of St. Anthony and St. Lazarus owned considerable land outside the
Regardless of the events taking place in the City, it was besieged by
a Habsburg force under Todor Milutinović helped by the British Royal
Navy, who had enjoyed unopposed domination over the Adriatic sea.
William Hoste joined the siege in late January 1814 with his
ships HMS Bacchante and HMS Saracen. They hauled cannon up the
hill and after a two-day bombardment the French with 500 troops under
General Joseph de Montrichard settled the surrender of the City under
honorable terms. With the aim of avoiding greater conflict, the
Austrians agreed to the French conditions. General Milutinović
promised that the victorious Montenegrin, Austrian, and British armies
would not march into the city before the last Frenchman had left the
city by ship.
The Great Council of the
Ragusan nobility (as the assembly of 44
patricians who had been members of the Great Council before the
Republic was abolished by France) met for the last time on 18 January
1814 in the Villa Giorgi in Mokošica, Ombla, with the efforts to
Republic of Ragusa eventually failing.
On 27 January, the French capitulation was signed in
ratified the same day. It was then that
Biagio Bernardo Caboga
Biagio Bernardo Caboga openly
sided with the Austrians, dismissing the rebel army in Konavle.
Đivo Natali and his men were still waiting outside the
Ploče Gates. After almost eight years of occupation, the French
troops marched out of
Dubrovnik on 27 and 28 January 1814. On the
afternoon of 28 January 1814, the Austrian and British troops made
their way into the city through the Pile Gates, denying admission to
the Ragusa rebels. Intoxicated by success, and with Caboga's support,
General Milutinović ignored the agreement he had made with the
nobility in Gruž. The events which followed can be best epitomized in
the so-called flag episode.:141
The Flag of
Saint Blaise was flown alongside the Austrian and British
colors, but only for two days because, on 30 January, General
Milutinović ordered Mayor Sabo Giorgi to lower it. Overwhelmed by a
feeling of deep patriotic pride, Giorgi, the last Rector of the
Republic and a loyal francophile, refused to do so "for the masses had
hoisted it". Subsequent events proved that Austria took every possible
opportunity to invade the entire coast of the eastern Adriatic, from
Venice to Kotor. The allies did everything in their power to eliminate
the Ragusa issue at the Congress of Vienna. Ragusan representative
Miho Bona, elected at the last meeting of the Great Council, was
denied participation in the Congress, while Milutinović, prior to the
final agreement of the allies, assumed complete control of the
At the Congress of Vienna, Ragusa and the territories of the former
Republic were made part of the crown land of the Kingdom of Dalmatia,
ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy, after 1868 known as the
Austria-Hungary, which it remained a part of until 1918.
After the fall of the
Republic most of the aristocracy died out or
emigrated overseas; around one fifth of the noble families were
recognized by the Habsburg Monarchy. Some of the families that were
recognized and survived were the Ghetaldi-Gundula, Gozze, Kaboga,
Sorgo, Zlatarić, Zamagna, Pozza,
Gradi and Bona.
Location of the
Republic of Ragusa within present-day Croatia
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Rector's Palace (the seat of the Rector, the Minor Council, the
Senate and the administration of the
Republic from the 14th century to
1808), behind it the Sponza Palace
The Republican Constitution of Ragusa was strictly aristocratic. The
population was divided into three classes: nobility, citizens, and
plebeians, who were mainly artisans and peasants (serfs, coloni and
freemen). All effective power was concentrated in the hands of the
aristocracy. 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 organization of the government was based on the Venetian model:
the administrative bodies were the Grand Council (Great Council,
Consilium maius, Maggior Consiglio), the Small Council (Minor Council,
Consilium minus, Minor Consiglio) (from 1238) and the Senate
(Consilium rogatorum, Consiglio dei Pregadi) from 1253. The head of
the state was the Rector.
Ceremonial sword of the Rector of Ragusa, donated 1466 by King
Matthias Corvinus as a sign of his judicial authority
The Grand Council consisted only of members of the aristocracy; every
noble took his seat at the age of 18 (from 1332 when the council was
"closed" and only male members of Ragusian noble families had seat in
it - Serrata del Maggior Consiglio Raguseo). It was the supreme
governing and legislative body which (after 1358) elected other
councils, officials and the Rector.
Every year, members of the Small Council were elected by the Grand
Council. Together with the Rector, the Small Council had both
executive and ceremonial functions. It consisted first of eleven
members and after 1667 of seven members.
The main power was in the hands of the Senate, which had 45 members
over 40 years of age, elected for one year also by the Grand Council.
First it had only consultative functions, later (during the 16th
century) the Senate became the real government of the Republic. In the
18th century the Senate was de facto the highest institution of the
Republic and senators became "nobles of the nobility".
Republic was under the rule of Venice (1204–1358), the
duke was Venetian; but after 1358 the elected Rector was always a
person from the
Republic of Ragusa chosen by the Grand Council. The
length of the Rector's service was only one month, and a person was
eligible for reelection after two years. The rector lived and worked
in the Rector's Palace.
This organization was designed to prevent any single family from
gaining absolute control, such as the
Medici had done in Florence.
Nevertheless, historians agree that the Giorgi and Sorgo families
generally had the greatest influence (especially during the 18th
Until the 15th century, judicial functions were in the hand of the
Small Council, then a separate civil court and criminal court were
established, leaving the Small Council and the Senate only supreme
appellate jurisdiction. Judges of the criminal and civil court were
Ragusan patricians elected annually by the Grand Council.
The officials known as provveditori supervised the work and acts of
the councils, courts, and other officials. Known as the "guardians of
justice", they could suspend decisions of the Small Council,
presenting them to the Senate for final deliberation. Provveditori
were annually elected by the Grand Council among patricians above 50
years of age.
The government of the
Republic was liberal in character and early
showed its concern for justice and humanitarian principles, but also
conservative considering government structure and social order. An
inscription on the Council's offices read: Obliti privatorum publica
curate (Manage the public affairs as if you had no private interests).
The Republic's flag had the word Libertas (freedom) on it, and the
entrance to the Saint Lawrence fortress (Lovrijenac) just outside the
Ragusa city walls bears the inscription Non bene pro toto libertas
venditur auro (Liberty can not be sold for all the gold of the world).
The slave trade was forbidden in 1416. The
Republic was a staunch
opponent of the
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church and only Roman Catholics could
acquire Ragusan citizenship.
Ragusan nobility and List of Ragusans
The city was ruled by the aristocracy, and marriage between members of
three different social classes was strictly forbidden. The Ragusan
aristocracy evolved in the 12th century through the 14th century.
It was finally established by statute in 1332. New families were
accepted only after the earthquake in 1667.
The Ragusan archives document, Speculum Maioris Consilii Rectores,
lists all the persons that were involved in the Republic's government
between September 1440 and January 1808. Of 4397 rectors elected, 2764
(63%) were from "old patrician" families: Gozze, Bona, Caboga, Cerva,
Ghetaldi, Giorgi, Gradi, Pozza, Saraca, Sorgo, and Zamanya. An 1802
list of the republic's governing bodies showed that six of the eight
Small Council and 15 of the 20 Great Council members were from the
same 11 families.
Because of the decrease of their numbers and lack of noble families in
the neighborhood (the surroundings of
Dubrovnik was under Ottoman
control) the aristocracy became increasingly closely related, and
marriages between relatives of the third and fourth degree were
Relations among the nobility
The nobility survived even when the classes were divided by internal
disputes. When Marmont arrived in
Dubrovnik in 1808, the nobility was
divided into two blocks, the "Salamankezi" (Salamanquinos) and the
"Sorbonezi" (Sorboneses). These names alluded to a certain controversy
arisen from the wars between Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and King
Francis I of France, which happened some 250 years previously. After
the 1667 earthquake killed many nobles, some plebeians were introduced
into the noble class. The "salamanquinos", those in favor of Spanish
absolutism, did not treat these new nobles like equals; but the
inclined "sorboneses", who sided with the French and to a certain
liberalism, accepted them. Both sides retained their status and were
seated together in the Council, but they did not maintain social
relations and did not even greet each other in the streets; an
inconvenient marriage between members of both groups was as striking
as if it occurred between members of different classes. This social
split was also reflected in the plebeians, who were divided into the
rival brotherhoods of Saint Antony and Saint Lazarus, which were as
unfriendly in their relations as the "salamanquinos" and "sorboneses".
Coat of arms
See also: Coat of arms of Dubrovnik
Today the coat of arms of Ragusa, in its red and blue version, can be
seen in the coat of arms on the Croatian flag as it constitutes a
historic part of Croatia.
Records that date back as far as 1605 show that there was a numerous
Vlach population. In
Dalmatia the inhabitants of such cities as Split,
Zadar, Trogir and Ragusa long continued to use the
Latin speech. In
order to destinguish between themselves and the mountain sheperds
(Aromanians, Kutzo-Vlachs or Macedo-Romanians) they took referring to
the latter as Black Vlachs/Morlachs
Vekaric (1998) used tax evidence from the
(Croatian: Dubrovačko Primorje) and a census to find that the
Dubrovnik (Ragusa) had a population of nearly ninety
thousand by 1500. From then to 1700 the population declined: in the
first half of the 16th century it had more than 50,000 inhabitants; in
the second half of the 16th century, between 50,000 and 60,000; in the
1630s, about 40,000; and in 1673–74, only 26,000 inhabitants. In the
second half of the 15th century, due to Turkish expansion, Dubrovnik
received a large number of Christian refugees from
Herzegovina, offering them the less fertile land. Numerous epidemics,
Candian War of 1645–69, the 1667 earthquake, and emigration
greatly reduced the population levels. The population of the republic
never again reached its previous levels.
The republic was a polyglottic society. The official language until
1472 was Latin. Later, the Senate of the
Republic decided that the
official language of the
Republic would be the Ragusan dialect of the
Romance Dalmatian language, as opposed to the Slavic vernacular
(Serbo-Croatian or Croatian), which was also forbidden for use in
senatorial debate. The aristocracy (gospari) slowly lost their
Dalmatian language over the centuries.
Latin was in official use until 1492, by the end of the 14th
century inhabitants of the republic were mostly native speakers of
Croatian. Dalmatian was also spoken in the city. Italian,
official since 1492, as spoken in the republic, was heavily influenced
Venetian language and Tuscan dialect. Italian took root among
the Dalmatian Romance-speaking merchant upper classes as a result of
There is still some debate over whether
the oldest vernacular in Ragusa. The oldest Slavic documents and the
earlier prose was Shtokavian, while 16th-century poetry was
When Ragusa was part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, between 1808
and 1810, the
Italian language was still in official use.
See also: Croatian literature
Tears of the Prodigal Son, cover of the 1622 edition by Ivan
Ragusan literature, in which Latin, Italian and Croatian languages
coexisted, blossomed in the 15th and 16th centuries.
According to Graubard:
Renaissance era, Venetian-ruled
Dalmatia and Ragusa gave
birth to influential intellectuals – mostly minor aristocrats and
clergymen, Jesuits especially – who kept alive the memory of Croatia
Croatian language when they composed or translated plays and
books from Italian and
Latin into the vernacular. No matter that the
Dubrovnik were different from each other ...
and both these dialects were somewhat different from the dialect of
Zagreb, capital of the Habsburg-ruled north. They still thought of it
as Croatian. ... The
Dominko Zlatarić (1555–1610)
explained on the frontispiece of his 1597 translation of Sophocles'
tragedy Elektra and Tasso's Aminta that it had been "iz veće tudieh
jezika u Hrvacki izlozene," "translated from more foreign languages in
Croatian was normally spoken among lower classes, Italian among the
upper. Ragusans were in general bilingual, speaking Croatian in common
day-to-day duties and Italian in official occasions or mixing both.
Literary works of famous Ragusans were written in both Croatian and
Italian. Among them are the works of writers Džore Držić, Marin
Držić, Ivan Bunić Vučić, Ignjat Đurđević, Ivan Gundulić,
Šišmundo (Šiško) Menčetić, and Dinko Ranjina.
Croatian language works from the
Republic of Ragusa had a large
role in the developing of
Croatian literature and the modern Croatian
language. Writers from the 16th to the 19th century (before the Age of
Romantic National Awakenings) that were explicit in declaring
Croats and their language as Croatian included Vladislav
Menčetić, Dominko (Dinko) Zlatarić, Bernardin Pavlović, Mavro
Vetranović, Nikola Nalješković, Junije Palmotić, Jakov Mikalja,
Joakim Stulli, Marko Bruerović, Peter Ignaz Sorgo, Antun Sorkočević
Franatica Sorkočević (1706–71).
The inhabitants of the
Republic of Ragusa were[when?] Catholics and
spoke the local variant of the
Shtokavian dialect, the same dialect
upon which modern Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin and Serbian are all
based. Among the modern South Slavic nations, Ragusans are mostly
attributed to Croats. However, discussions on the subject of
Ragusan ethnicity are mainly based on revised concepts which developed
after the fall of the Republic; in particular, the time of Romantic
Nationalism resulting from the French Revolution. Before this, states
in general were not based on the contemporary unifying concepts such
as nation, language or ethnicity; loyalty was chiefly to family, city,
and (among Catholics such as the Ragusans) the Church. There was a
Serb-Catholic movement in Dubrovnik. Vlachs, also named Morlachs were
dwelling iside the walls of Ragusa but majority of them were sheperds,
guards or carters living inside Dalmatia.
The great cartographer
Muhammad al-Idrisi in 1154 considered Dubrovnik
a part of
Croatia (Grwasiah) and mentions it as the last Croatian
coastal city in his book Nuzhat al-Mushataq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq
(English: Joy for those who wish to sail over the world).
Republic of Ragusa used various currencies over time and in a
variety of systems, including the Artiluc, perpera, dukat and
List of notable Ragusans
Walls of Dubrovnik
Republic of Poljica
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