The history of Dubrovnik
The history of Dubrovnik began in the 7th century (around the year 614). A group of refugees from Epidaurus established a settlement on the small islet called Laus (in Greek means rock). These refugees were fleeing from the Avars who destroyed their town. According to ancient historians, the refugees from Epidaurus founded Epidaurum (now known as Dalmatia) and it became a well-known trade center during the time of the Roman Empire.
Archeological findings suggest that an even older Epidaurum perished in an earthquake in the 4th century. Parts were believed to have sunk under the sea and have since been found are being investigated.
In the 9th century, Dubrovnik was a fortified town, able to endure a 15-month siege by the Saracens. The town stayed under Byzantine rule until the end of the 12th century. Dubrovnik is first mentioned in a written document in 1189 and the same name can be seen in the Chronicle of Priest Dukljanin in the 12th century. Dubrovnik’s importance was realized by both Venice and Byzantium.
Venice considered Dubrovnik to be a strong competitor, especially on the sea, while Byzantium managed to control maritime traffic from the Dubrovnik port. Under the pressure of these two powers, Dubrovnik was able to show its diplomatic skills by recognizing their authority. Byzantine rule was recognized until the beginning of the 13th century, between 1205 and 1358 and was under the sovereignty of Venice. Venice tried to prevent the economic development of Dubrovnik, especially regarding maritime trade, while Byzantium did not limit the trade, craft, and maritime affairs of Dubrovnik.
In 1358 Dubrovnik was liberated through the Treaty of Zadar from the domination of Venice and included within the Croatian-Hungarian state. The sovereignty of the Croatian-Hungarian state was recognized by Dubrovnik until 1526. It was during this period that the independent Dubrovnik attained its peak in maritime affairs, also extending and completing the area of the Republic.
The aristocracy was the moving force behind the economic and cultural life in Dubrovnik. All governing positions were held by them, while other wealthy citizens were prevented from obtaining any influence regarding government. Instead, they formed brotherhoods, the Antunini being the most respected one. The brotherhood Lazarini were merchants, craftsmen, ship owners, and other educated persons. The Jewish community, mainly consisting of bankers, physicians, and merchants, also had a special position, living in their own quarter, the present-day Zudioska Ulica (Jewish Street).
From 1407 Jews were recognized by the Dubrovnik Republic, allowing them to perform religious rites in the synagogue, one of the oldest in Europe and the only non-Christian place of worship within the Dubrovnik state.
The basis and most important value for the development of Dubrovnik was freedom. It was guarded, fought for, written on the Dubrovnik Republic flag and documents, sang about, and engraved in the stone of Fortress Lovrijenac: Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro (freedom cannot be sold for all the gold). Citizens of the Dubrovnik Republic were extremely proud of their state, living and dying for it, and treason was severely punished.