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History of Dubrovnik

The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, situated on the Dalmatian coast, became an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century onwards. Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Damaged again in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration programme co-ordinated by UNESCO.


Early History of Dubrovnik

The main history of Dubrovnik usually concentrates on a small settlement on the site of Dubrovnik in pre-historic times; this settlement, in fact, was on an island called Laus which was, at that time, separated from the mainland by a marsh. There was also a larger Greek settlement nearby in what was called Epidauros (present-day Cavtat).

An invasion by Slavs in the 7th century destroyed Epidauros and other communities in the area, causing inhabitants to flee to Laus. Laus eventually changed to Raus which in turn became Ragusa – which is the historic name for Dubrovnik. Around this time, Dubrovnik itself was founded by Croats (the name stemming from dub which means oak and dubrava which means wood – unsurprisingly, the settlement was by an oak forest).

Ragusa and Dubrovnik eventually merged when the marshland between them was filled in.

Another theory about Dubrovnik’s history which is gaining weight is that there was in fact a large Greek settlement where Dubrovnik is situated today and that the city in fact has Greek origins.


Growth and prosperity

Dubrovnik expanded considerably from the 9th century onwards and as part of the Byzantine Empire, so by the 12th century it was even considered as somewhat of a threat to Venice and its Republic. It came under attack from Venice, and from 1205 to 1358 fell under its rule.

The old town was completed in the 13th century and remains virtually unchanged to the present day. Tall ramparts surround it and there are only two entrances to the old town which lead to Stradun, the city’s promenade.

In 1358 the Treaty of Zadar saw Dubrovnik cease being under Venice’s rule and instead become Croat-Hungarian, although it had a great deal of independence.

From the 13th century onwards, Dubrovnik experienced a number of important developments which increased its prominence. The Statutes of 1272 laid the groundwork for political and legal life in the city. From the 14th century trade with the local region flourished and the city also prospered industrially and culturally. Dubrovnik had a number of advanced establishments for that time – a pharmacy was opened in 1317 and an orphanage in 1432.

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