The history of Dubrovnik began in the 7th century, around the year of 614. A group of refugees from Epidaurus (present-day Cavtat), while fleeing from the Avars who devastated and destroyed their town, established a settlement on the small islet called Laus (which in Greek means rock).

According to ancient historians, the Greeks founded Epidaurum already in the 7th century BC. It became a well known trade centre during the time of the Roman Empire. More information about the Roman Empire on Wikipedia

Archaeological findings suggest that an even older Epidaurum perished in an earthquake in the 4th century, parts that are believed too have sunk under the sea have been found and are currently being investigated.

Even in the 9th century Dubrovnik was already a fortified town, able to endure a fifteen 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. (charter of the Bosnian Ban Kulin), and the same name can be seen in the Chronicle of Priest Dukljanin in the 12th century.

Dubrovnik's Strategic Importance

Dubrovnik's importance was realised by both Venice and Byzantium. Venice considered Dubrovnik to be a strong competitor, especially on sea, while Byzantium managed to controlled maritime traffic from Dubrovnik port. Under the pressure of there two powers, Dubrovnik was able to show it's diplomatic skills by recognising their authority in turns.

The Byzantine rule was recognised until the beginning of the 13th century and between 1205 and 1358 it 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, crafts and maritime affairs of Dubrovnik.

The Treaty of Zadar (1358): Dubrovnik's Liberation and Integration

It was in 1358. and the famous Treaty of Zadar when Dubrovnik was liberated from the domination of Venice and included within the Croatian-Hungarian state. The sovereignty of the Croatian-Hungarian state was recognised by Dubrovnik until 1526. It was during this period that the free and independent Dubrovnik attained it's 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 Žudioska Ulica (Jewish Street).

Dubrovnik's Inclusive Republic from 1407

From 1407. Jews were recognised by 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 Dubrovnik state. The peak of the Dubrovnik Republic occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries, marking an era of unparalleled economic prosperity and remarkable culture. Read more about the Golden Age of Dubrovnik.

The Rector, Great Council, Small Council, and Senate

The Rector (similar to today’s Mayor) reigned for one month only. The Great Council (Consilium majus) had legislative power and consisted of all nobleman above 18 years of age. The Small Council (Consilium minus) mostly had executive power and consisted of 11 members elected for one year period.

However, the real power lay in the Senate (Consilium rogatorum) wich had 45 senators with a one-year mandate.

Dubrovnik Republic Core Value: Freedom

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:


(Freedom cannot be sold for all the gold)

Everything was subject to public good, therefore the inscription at the entrance to the Rectors Palace saying


(Forget private things, take care of the common good)

Citizens of the Dubrovnik Republic were extremely proud of their state, living and dying for it, treason was severely punished.

Ships from Dubrovnik sailed across distant sees and shores, trading in rich ports, bringing back richness from all over the world. Maritime trade and ship building became the most important economic branches of the Republic.

When the Turks occupied the Balkans Dubrovnik was paying a tribute to the Sultan of 12,500 ducats annually.