Crown jewel of Croatian architecture, tourism and culture. Historically, town of Dubrovnik in Croatia, or Republic of Dubrovnik, is a worldwide phenomenon in terms of diplomacy and trade since ancient times, and today they are a world-renowned and recognized must-see tourist destination. Let us look into the past to try to understand what Dubrovnik people have achieved through history and how it went.
Legend says that present-day Dubrovnik (then Ragusa) was founded in Roman times by a refugee colony from Epidurar (present-day Cavtat), although we know that the remains of various cultures from the Iron Age (5th and 6th century BC) were found on the site of the present City. Therefore, it is more logical to conclude that it was not created in an instant but has been created through the centuries. We know for sure that the ancient Greeks also visited him on their travels in the Mediterranean.
Even today in modern Dubrovnik, in the middle of the square in front of St. Vlaho’s Church stands a stone monument called the Orlando Pillar. So who was Orlando then? History says that for several centuries Dubrovnik fell under Byzantine protection, of which Constantine Porphyrogenetus writes in his work On the Management of the Empire.
At that time, the Saracens roamed the Mediterranean, and according to a legend believed to be untrue, Dubrovnik, together with the Byzantine Empire, liberated a Franco named Orlando in whose honor the Orlando pillar was later erected. Historically more accurate and arguable than this legend, historians believe that a theory about the erection of a monument during the Emperor Sigmund of Luxembourg’s stay in Dubrovnik, after his defeat at the Battle of Nikopol in 1396, is more likely. The new pillar was erected in 1418 and was carved by the Italian Gothic sculptor Bonino da Milano, while some believe it was carved by a local master, Antun Dubrovčanin.
Although Dubrovnik was under Byzantine protection at the time, the great distance from the patron showed little protection for the people of Dubrovnik, so the cunning inhabitants of the city had to make sure that they protect themselves from the many aggressive peoples in the immediate vicinity. It is precisely this situation that has most likely led the Dubrovnik people to become so skilled in diplomacy, to the point that, in modern times, diplomatic moves and achievements in this field are being studied in the political faculties of today. In the 11th century, Venice emerged as an important player in the political field and became an ally of Byzantium, and thus of Dubrovnik.
Also with the beginning of the 13th century Venice invaded Constantinople and further weakened the protection of Dubrovnik, and eventually subjugated the people of Dubrovnik and bent them under their rule. Despite the fact that Dubrovnik was placed under Venetian rule, it continued to develop vigorously militarily, commercially and politically, to which the autonomy enjoyed within the empire was greatly enhanced by the increasing rebellion against the occupying power.
Initially, Venice served as an ally to the Byzantine Empire primarily in defense of their Italian possessions. Over time Venice gradually took over most of the Dalmatian cities and islands under its control. In this campaign, they tried to put Dubrovnik under their control, but the brave people of Dubrovnik resisted such an endeavor, and therefore a hundred-year war between Dubrovnik and Venice began.
Their efforts have succeeded to such an extent that in 1272 they passed their own Statutes. At the beginning of the 14th century Venice enters into conflict with Hungary and has less time to devote to Dubrovnik, which uses a moment of weakness and manages to escape Venice but falls into the hands of Hungary. Under Hungarian rule, Dubrovnik is further empowered to the extent that it is expanding territorially and electing its Prince ( Knez ). It is here that one can see how skilled diplomats were in Dubrovnik. During the Hungarian rule of Dubrovnik, it became a Republic and entered its Golden age.
The Golden age from 1422 until 1667 when Dubrovnik was struck by a terrible earthquake which, in combination with the resulting fire, devastated the city to unprecedented proportions. We will say a bit more about this event later, and it is now more important for us to emphasize that at that time the Turkish invasion of Europe was in great swing and Dubrovnik was threatened by the attack of the Turkish invaders. Again with skillful diplomacy, the people of Dubrovnik avoided the worst, which is the destruction of the city and human losses. They pay tribute to the Turks and in turn spare them.
One of the reasons is that at that time, the people of Dubrovnik had a strong intelligence service that skillfully balanced among Turks and Western European powers such as Spain and sold its services to both sides, thus preserving peace. It is almost inexplicable how Dubrovnik has managed to gain so much influence and power on the global map despite its military and territorial inferiority. At one time it even had the largest naval merchant-navy in the world of over 200 ships. One can only think of the fact that it was the people of Dubrovnik who were at the forefront of the Armada leading the Spanish attack on the Englishmen in their conflict.
At that time, Dubrovnik also developed its own type of special merchant-military vessel, which was one of the larger ships of that time and was called (Dubrovačka Karaka). Karaks are vessels that carry expensive cargo. They also had weapons for up to 40 cannons to defend against pirates. Crews comprised up to 140 people. The Dubrovnik karaka had three masts, the middle one being the highest. He has two cross sails. The mast on the bow has a cross core and the stern has a Latin core.
The sails were heavy and raised with the help of a hand winch. The stern is high, which is a feature of ocean liners. In the central area of the karaka, there was a ceiling with paintings by the master painters. Some had blacksmith and carpentry workshops, a well with water and a garden, even housing for domestic animals. Karaka was improved at the end of the 16th century to the extent that it was able to carry up to 1000 soldiers and 900 tons of cargo.
Now, let us return to the 1667 yeae that marks the beginning of the end of the Dubrovnik Republic as well as its Golden age. The earthquake, followed by a terrible fire, killed more than half of the city’s population. In addition to the human casualties, many houses and buildings were destroyed as well as many invaluable works of art. Just a year earlier, the plague devastated the city and, combined with natural disasters, Dubrovnik fell to the lowest population level in its history.
We can hardly imagine what that horror was then. Even though the Republic was able to recover from such horrific events to the extent that it adapted to the discovery of America and the shifting of trade routes from the Mediterranean to the oceans and the fact that Dubrovnik was one of the leading powers of the 18th century seafaring trade, yet fate meant something else to them.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon was the most powerful person in Europe. Expands his empire all the way to Russia. French troops abolish the Venetian Republic on their way to Dubrovnik (1797). The Russians and their allies, the Montenegrins, seem not to be far from the east.
In this game of poker, the Dubrovnik Republic concludes that it is more correct to be on the side of the French against the Russians, which once again proved to be the right decision. The French ruled the city for only seven years and built many forts. With the fall of Napoleon, Dubrovnik was attributed to Austria, which devastated it quite a bit and reduced it to the present state, which, even in its most modest form, is still imposing and captivating to the numerous visitors of today, about one million and three hundred thousand annually.
Dubrovnik’s most interesting destination is certainly its City Walls, which were built to protect the city from the 8th to the 17th century. Even the aforementioned earthquake, followed by a fire, did not significantly harm them. Dubrovnik is widely known for its beauty. The beautiful City Walls proudly preserve the Old Town as well as the popular Stradun Square, while the surrounding islands and beaches such as Banja, Plati, Veliki Žali, Cavtat, Lopud Koločep, Lokrum and others offer many opportunities for enjoyment throughout the year. Also the most luxurious Croatian hotels and restaurants with Michelin star are located right here which also gives this place an extra dimension of stay.
The Old City port with a modern ACI marina for mooring boats as well as mega-cruisers in the port of Gruz, airport in Čilipi also offers many benefits of visiting the city under Srđ. Dubrovnik is one of those places that you really have to visit and you should definitely put it on the wish list of future travel destinations.
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