History of ancient Dubrovnik

History does not exist until you capture the heart of Dubrovnik in its medieval essence! During the time of 200 B.C. the Illyrians called ancient Dubrovnik "Ragusa" home, which had pristine nature, the sea and the profusion of light. Shortly after the Romans, whom colonized in the nearby town of Epidaurum, Cavtat today, accompanied them. The discovery of history underneath the city revealed stone inscriptions, weapons, ruins and limestone sarcophaguses that bare witness to Dubrovnik's rich past!


The majestic Dubrovnik previously called the Republic of Ragusa (Latin for Rausa – meaning rock) was the maritime capital and a Mediterranean seaport in the 7th century AD. Seafaring always provided the medieval Ragusa with a high income since the Middle Ages, especially with trade and shipbuilding with Byzantine seaman.  

Ragusa continued to prosper in trading with other Mediterranean cities, after the collapse of the Byzantine power in the late middle Ages. The city was connected by Balkan trade routes of land and sea and their riches grew with over 200 merchant ships called Argosy (Roman name for Dubrovnik). Most say that the reason Ragusa was so successful was that they always chose trade instead of war!   

After the Byzantine crusade the town fell into Venetian hands in 1205 and Ragusa was protected and ruled by Venice for the next century and a half. Ragusa broke free from sovereign of Venice in 1358 (Zadar Peace Treaty), and nothing stood in their way to prosper more in seafaring and shipbuilding. New types of sailing ships immersed in shipbuilding such "koka", "kondura", "tarida" and "nava" carrying precious cargo of gold, salt, wine, oil, shoes, cloths, shoes and imported spices. The treaty allowed them for self-government in the city and a duke was only allowed to rule for 30 days from the Rector's Palace.

By the 1430's Ragusa has already constructed one of the first sewage systems in Europe because of the enviromental protecton of the Saltworks in Ston. In 1433 the Catholic Church, under the Pope, allowed trading to the eastern world, the Holy Land and Islamic countries although under the protection of Croatian-Hungarian Kings. Although Ragusa declared itself as a free state during the 14th-19th century they paid tributes to the Turkish Sultan  (12 500 ducats a year) and the Pope for favorable trades on the Balkan.

Due to the unfortunate earthquake that leveled Ragusa in 1667, the city went under considerable reconstruction. The city was built on a prone earthquake area with two tectonic plates that rubs against each other on occasion. The first earthquakes that were recorded in ancient Dubrovnik was in 1520 and 1638, but the most tragic earthquake was on 6 April 1667. The tremble resulted in big waves and winds causing damage to their ships and fires engulfing the city for 20 days. Almost half of the population of the city died that day, due to houses and buildings collapsing on passers-by on Stradun, even the duke and the majority of councilors died in the Rector's Palace. During the chaos someone moved the state treasury to the Rector's Palace and stole a part of the money from the treasury. After that incident the plundering started, and no one was to leave the city walls as the remaining noblemen decided that stealing was to be penalized with death. Dubrovnik rose like a phoenix from the ashes, as the withstanding city walls after the great earthquake left a sense of hope in the hearts of the people.  

The Republic of Dubrovnik peaked in the 15th and 16th century where the city aided all crafts such as goldsmiths, blacksmiths, cloth weaving and leather workings. The saltpans in Ston played an important roll and secured profit in Ragusa's wealth and the "white gold” was stored in several locations in the city. 

When France rose up under the command of Napoleon, the French empire conquered the Republic and ended their freedom on 27 May 1806 until 31 January 1808. This was the end of nobility in the city and wealth and power was only a mere memory. On that very last day the last Frenchman stepped out of the Republic, the city wore black robes. 

The Vienna Congress in 1815 resulted in another siege of the Austro-Hungarian empire controlling Ragusa for more than a century after that. In 1918, Ragusa's name was changed to Dubrovnik (Croatian for Dubrava – meaning oak wood from oak trees surrounding the Dubrovnik in the past) and after the First World War it was part of Yugoslavia forming two parts, monarchist and socialists.  

Dubrovnik was a relatively peaceful city until 1991, when the Yugoslav army bombed Dubrovnik and other parts of Croatia in search for becoming a free nation. Serbian and Montenegrin forces rained down on the beautiful “Pearl of the Adriatic” (named after the whites stones used to build the city of Dubrovnik) from December 1991 until the summer of 1992 when the town was practically under siege. 

Today the sun radiates its warmth over the ancient city and peninsulas from the beauty overlooking from Srd hilltop to the rocky shorelines of the Adriatic Sea. Due to it's unique culture and historical preservation the city was added by UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites in 1979. The rich culture is still to be seen today with its majestic ancient walls and tapered streets in Dubrovnik. War wounds have healed and is a top visited tourist destination from all continents. The ancient city is uncomplicated and unique in the southern end of the independent Republic of Croatia.

Dubrovnik is an openhearted city, eagerly awaiting you to be part of its destiny...















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