Ragusa

century city slavonic inhabitants

RAGUSA (Slavonic Dubrovnik, Turkish Paprovnik), a city on the east coast of the Adriatic, for many centuries an independent republic, now at the head of a district in the province of Dalmatia in Austria-Hungary. It is built close to the sea at the foot of the bare limestone mass of Monte Sergio, on which stands an unfinished Fort Imperial erected by the French. In front lies the island of Lacroma, the traditional landing-place of Cceur-de-Lion. Several ancient stone-built forts - San Lorenzo (11th century), Leverono (16th), &c. - defend the harbour, and the city is fenced in with lofty walls. The main street runs in a narrow valley between the mountain and a seaward ridge ; the valley was up till the 13th century a channel of the sea, and the seaward ridge was the rocky island of Lavve or Ragusa proper, opposite which lay among its pine trees the Slavonic settlement of Dubrovnik. Though still a fine street, this torso is not so imposing as before its palatial mansions were overthrown by the earthquake of 1667. It contains a 15th-century cistern, a church (Del Redentore) erected after the earthquake of 1536 to avert similar catastrophes, and a Franciscan monastery ; and in the piazza off its southern extremity are the Palazzo Rettorale, or residence of the " rectors " of the republic (1435-52), the old custom-house and mint, completed in 1520, and the Torre del Orologio, with its curious clock. The "palace" is a marvellous specimen of late Romanesque influence, especially famous for the six columns of its façade and the alchemist group with which one of the capitals is decorated ; and the custom-house has also a fine Romanesque element in its style. The cathedral (dedicated to the Virgin Mary, though the patron saint of the city is St Blasius, whose effigy perpetually occurs on its coins, fortifications, and churches) is a 'building in the Italian taste of the 18th dentury. Ragusa can never have been a large city. In the 16th century it is said to have contained 30,000 or 40,000 inhabitants ; in 1881 it had only 7245, and its commune, with its fifteen additional villages, 10,936. The harbour, once one of the great ports of southern Europe, is altogether too small for • modern requirements, in spite of the new breakwater constructed in 1873 to protect it from the south-west winds. From 400 to 600 vessels (mostly under 50 tons burden) enter yearly. The neighbouring harbour of Gravosa (Slav Gru'l ; population 677) is the real port of Ragusa as far as steamboat traffic is concerned. The staple trade is that of oil ; but the whole supply is sent to the Trieste market.

Ragusan Malmsey, once famous, has disappeared before the vine-disease since 1852.

The history of Ragusa has been thus summarized by Mr Freeman : - " Those hills, the slopes of which begin in the streets of the city, once fenced in a ledge of Hellenic land from the native barbarians of Illyricum. Then they fenced in a ledge of Roman land from the Slavonic invader. Lastly they still fence in a ledge of Christian land from the dominion of the infidel." The city was founded on a rocky island by Roman Christian refugees from Epidaurus (now Ragusa Vecchia, 675 inhabitants), in the middle, say some, of the 3d century after Christ ; and in the middle of the 7th century it was strengthened by other refugees from Salona, destroyed by the Slays. In course of time a Slavic settlement was incorporated within its walls ; and thus by language and sympathies it became a link between two great civilizations. Ragusal maintained its independence against all comers partly by war but more by diplomacy. In the 9th century it more than once repulsed the Saracens, and in the 10th defended itself against Venice, the pirates of the Narenta, Samuel (czar of the Bulgarians), and the emperor Otho ; in the 11th century it was drawn by its alliance with Robert Guiseard into a war with Byzantium and Venice, and in the 12th century fought with the ban of Bosnia and with Stephen Nemanya of Servia, who twice invested the city. But its policy was generally peaceful. To refugees of all nations, even to those who had been its own bitter foes, it afforded asylum ; and by means of treaty and tribute it gradually worked its way to a position of mercantile power which Europe could hardly parallel. A compact which it made with the Turkish ruler at Broussa in 1370 was renewed by Bajazet in the 15th century and saved the little state from the fate of her most powerful neighbours, Byzantium and Servia. By that time Ragusa had stations at Serai, Bucharest, Tirgovisce, Widdin, Rustchuk, Sophia, and Adrianople ; and her vessels were known not only in Italy, Sicily, Spain, Greece, and the Levant, but in the more northern parts of Europe. Our own language retains in the word " argosy' a relic of the carracks of Ragusa, then known to Englishmen as Argouse, Argusa, or Aragosa. As the world widened the Ragnsan merchants went farther, - to India, even, and America. But the finest vessels of their fleet were compelled to join the Spanish Armada and shared its fate ; and the city, which had felt shocks of earthquake in 1520, 1521, 1536, and 1639, was in April 1667 laid utterly in ruins and lost a fifth of its inhabitants. "The rector of the republic, five-sixths of the nobles, nine-tenths of the clergy, a Dutch ambassador with his suite of thirty-three on his way to Constantinople, and 6000 citizens were buried." Ragusa never quite recovered its prosperity, though it was again a busy trading town of 15,000 inhabitants when Napoleon seized it in 1806. In 1808 it was deprived of its independence ; and by the congress of Vienna in 1814' it was assigned to Austria. This is not the place to describe the remarkable literary development, Latin, Italian, and Slavonic, of which Ragusa was the centre in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, and to which so many of its patricians contributed ; a detailed account will be found in Pypin and Spasovieh's History of Slavic Literatures (German edition, 1880). Gondulie (Gondola) the poet and Boscovich the mathematician are leading names.

See Engel, Geschichte V07/ Barusa (Vienna, 1807); Makusheff, Investigations into the Mstorioal Documents of Ragusa (in Russian, St Petersburg, 1887); Montementa hist. Siavorummeridionaiium (Warsaw, 184); Appendini, Notizie stories- crit. sane antichita, etc., del Bagusei (Ragusa, 1802.3); Sir Gardner Wilkinson, Dalmatia: A. A. Paton, The Danube and Adriatic ; J. A. Evans, Thro' Bosnia and the Herzegovina, 1878; E. A. Freeman, Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice, 1881.

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