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The City of Ragusa (Dubrovnik)

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The city-state of Ragusa (or Ragusium in Latin, Dubrovnik being its Slavic name) was founded by founded by Greek refugees of the demolished Epidaurum in the 7th century. It is an important trading port on the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by territory belonging to the Kingdom of Serbia, but in name is an independent city-state and in reality is a vassal state to the city-state of Venice, who came to dominate its trade rival after the Fourth Crusade.

The Populace of Ragusa

The Republican Constitution of Ragusa is strictly aristocratic. The population is divided into three classes: nobility, citizens, and artisans or plebeians. All effective power is concentrated in the hands of nobility. The citizens are permitted to hold only minor offices, while plebeians have no voice in government. Marriage between members of different classes of the society is forbidden.

The nobles of Ragusa differ from nobles elsewhere in Europe mainly in that they are, by and large, not landholders. There is little land to be had, and the nobles are chiefly members of powerful trading families. As Philippus de Diversis wrote:

"I call the nobles the supreme merchants, although some of them live only from incomes [from estates], but those are few...Someone may wonder, why do I call nobles merchants, since nobility contradicts commerce. Let him know that the territory of Ragusium, because of its sterility as much as because of the large number of people, lives off small income, so that nobody could live with his family from his possessions unless he had other riches, and this is why it is necessary to engage in commerce."

The population of Ragusa is quite diverse by Medieval standards. Slavs increasingly outnumber the rest of the population of Dubrovnik. Venetian dominance means that many of the patrician class are of northern Italian descent, and proximity to the Despotate of Eprius predicts a fair number of people of Greek and Albanian heritage can be found. Trade likewise brings many Levantine people to the area. Given the importance of trade to Ragusa, there could be people from almost any culture present at any given time.

Latin (Italian) is the official language of the city, but the most popular speech among the citizens is Serbo-Croatian. Most denizens are bilingual.

The Government of the Ragusan Republic

The supreme governing body of the government is the Grand Council, known as the consilium maius in Latin or the Veliko vijeće in Serbo-Croatian. This group consists exclusively of members of the aristocracy; every noble male takes a seat on this council upon reaching the age of 18.

The discussions in the Grand Council are completely unrestricted. Everybody is free to speak out on a topic, and a secret ballot is then taken. There always has to be two propositions on which to vote, if nothing more than a “yes” and a “no” proposition. All Council members' votes are equal, and the decisions are generally made by simple majority. Once a decision is made, everybody is expected to obey it and act accordingly, even those who had voted against it. By the same token, those patricians or citizens entrusted by the Council with a diplomatic or other mission are expected to carry it out, regardless of the dangers and personal hardships. If a matter under discussion in the Council is of special importance to the security of the state, it will be declared secret and nobody is allowed, under severe penalties, to divulge any information from the Council meeting.

The head of the state is the Comes, or Count, a patrician elected for a term of office for one month. Under the rule of Venice, the Count is always Venetian. A Count is eligible for reelection after two years. The Count lives and works in Rector's Palace but his family lives in their own house.

The Church in Ragusa

Despite a Papal order to submit to the Archbishop of Split, the Catholic Church continues to recognize the Archbishop of Ragusa. The city is predominately Roman Catholic among the Venetian and Croatian populace, though there are many Orthodox residents due to the influx of Serbians, Bosnians and Bulgarians.

There are several churches within the city. Construction has begun on the Cathedral of St. Marija, purportedly built with the financial help of a grateful King Richard the Lionhearted, who was shipwrecked here on the way back from Palestine in 1192. Churches to St. Vlah (St. Blaise) and St. Stjepan occupy the older part of the city, on the island, while churches to Ss. Jacob the Peline (St. James, Jakov) and St. Nikola occupy the northern shore.

The Dominicans, who are quite active in Serbia, are in the process of establishing a monastery here attached to the church of St. Jacob; the Franciscans are sure to follow. On the nearby island of Lokrum, the Benedictines have a small house.

The Bogomil Heresy (also known as the "patarens") is represented in the area, and flourishes in some parts of Bosnia and the Hum region. Pope Honorius III is keen to see these heretics destroyed, but his quarrels with the King of Hungary have precluded an organized response.

Relationship with Foreign Powers


Ragusa's most important relationship is with Venice, which came to dominate Ragusa in 1204. Since that time, Venetians have been installed in the role of Count, and Ragusa has had to modify its trade practices so as not to interfere with Venetian interests. This finds Ragusa relying more and more on overland trade, but this is increasingly lucrative as mining operations in the Balkans are beginning. The relationship with Venice is relatively benign, as there are no Venetian soldiers inside the city to enforce Venetian will. Still, Ragusa can not come to Venice with more than four small ships a year and they are not allowed to do any business with foreigners in Venice. The current Doge of Venice is Pietro Ziani.

The Kingdoms of Hungary and Croatia

The city-state has a large Croatian populace, and indeed beyond the Latin influence on the city, it can be said that the city is mostly Croatian in character. Croatia, of course, is a kingdom ruled by the King of Hungary, which is currently Andrew II. Like all of the city's neighbors, Andrew eyes Ragusa somewhat longingly, but has enough concerns elsewhere to keep him from actively attempting to subjugate the city. Instead, Andrew is currently focusing his efforts on bringing Ragusa's church under Hungarian influence. Although the Catholic Church recognizes the Archbishopric of Ragusa, Andrew is trying to have them submit to Kalocsa, an archbishopric inside Hungary.

The Croatian coast, however, is a wild place, and there are many pirates who ply the waters around Split, raiding Venetian and Ragusan trade. The King's influence here is minimal at best, and several prominent families — including the Kačić and Šubić families — vie for supremacy over these lands.

The Banate of Bosnia

Bosnia is landlocked and looks to Ragusa for most of its sea trade. The current Ban of the Bosnian state is otherwise uninterested in Dubrovnik.Bosnia is predominately Roman Catholic, but like its neighbor, Serbia, Cyrillic is used in documents. The Bogomil Heresy can be found in some areas here, especially around Bjelopolje.

The Kingdom of Serbia (Raška)

Serbia (also known as Raška) desperately wants an important port like Ragusa, and King Stefan the First-Crowned is always vigilant for any opportunities that might increase his influence in the city. Serbia has moved militarily against the city a number of times, but fear of Venetian might has thus far kept Stefan's ambitions in check. Serbia is an Orthodox state and Cyrillic is the primary writing system employed.

The Despotate of Epirus

Theodore, the Despot of Epirus, has little interest in Ragusa at present, instead being focused on conquering Thessaloniki.

The Bulgarian Empire

Bulgaria enjoys a good deal of trade with Ragusa, the overland trade route from Constantinople traveling through Bulgaria to Ragusa and other points west. The current Tsar of Bulgaria is John Asen II. Like Bosnia and Serbia, Bulgaria is an Orthodox land using Cyrillic for writing.

Last modified 6 June, 2003 2:08 PM HomeCovenantCharactersEnvironsMaps