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    Founding of Dubrovnik

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    City Walls of Dubrovnik

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Dubrovnik Hills - Did you know ?

Dubrovnik - Maritime trading and roots to success

The very favourable geographical position of Dubrovnik made its development based on maritime and merchant activities very successful through its History. From the entrance to the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is the first port protected by islands on the maritime route to the West, and by way of the Neretva Valley, it has the fastest connection with its hinterland. New archaeological excavations in the foundations of the present City prove that a settlement existed in the 6th century or even earlier.
Dubrovnik was enlarged by Epidaurum refugees and arrival of the Croats after the destruction of the ancient Epidaurum (present Cavtat) in the 7th century. The intensified traffic between the East and the West during and after the Crusades in the 12th and 13th centuries heralded the prosperity of maritime and merchant cent ers in the Mediterranean and Adriatic of which Dubrovnik was one.


Strong blow to Dubrovnik, its economy and development, was occupation by Venice from 1205 which lasted for 150 years as Venice named the members of the Great council (one of the executive political bodies) and was trying to take over the complete reign in Dubrovnik.


Liberation from the Venetian influence which Dubrovnik achieved by the Zadar Treaty in 1358, was crucial for its later successful development. The other Dalmatian towns did not succeed and they finally came under the rule of the Venetian state in 1420.


During the 14th and in the 15th centuries, Dubrovnik, along with Venice and Ancona, became the most significant seafaring and merchant centre at the Adriatic. By agreements and land-purchasing Dubrovnik enlarged its territory from Klek in the north and to Sutorina at the entrance of the Bay of Boka including the islands Mljet, Lastovo, Elaphites and Lokrum.

Patron of Dubrovnik, St. BlaiseIn the 16th century the legal status of the Dubrovnik Republic was completely established which meant the independent election of the rector and councilors, its own currency and the flag with its patron St. Blasius, the independent legislature and the right to establish consulates abroad. On the basis of the aristocratic social order the permanent supreme power was vested in the Great Council, which consisted of members of aristocratic families. It elected members of the Senate and of the Small Council which was the executive body of the Great Council.
The Rector was elected for a period of a month only as a nominal symbol of power.


As early as in the 15th century the Dubrovnik authorities had a very successfully organised transit trade with the Balkans hinterland. Under pressure from the aggressive expansionism of the Turks in the Balkans the Dubrovnik Republic accepted Turkish patronage on payment of an annual tribute in 1525 but, in return it obtained a licence for free trade throughout the entire Turkish Empire with payment of only 2% customs. The small state, deprived of its army, brought its defensive system to perfection by skilful diplomacy and wide consular activities. Non-interference in international conflicts and the patronage of great states, particularly of Spain and the Vatican, enabled the Republic to uphold its sovereignty. The only permanent rival and enemy of the state was the Venetian Republic. The golden age of the Dubrovnik Republic was in the 15th and 16th century.


Dubrovnik of the 16th centuryIn the golden age of the Republic its material riches were based on widespread production and transfer of silver and lead from Bosnian and Serbian mines to the developed areas of Europe where demand for these metals was enormous. The merchants of Dubrovnik traded salt for these precious metals and had indeed concentrated considerable trade with these mineral products in their hands. They leased and even owned some mines, they organized production and transport of metals to the port of Dubrovnik and then re-exported it to Florence, Venice, Spain and France.


In order to promote functioning of these important activities, the businessmen of Dubrovnik organized a number of colonies at key points of the caravan trails. This important activity had ceased completely after the Turkish conquest of Serbia and Bosnia. The same fate was with the production of textile. The trade in silver had enabled purchase of high quality wood from Catalonia, which was used to manufacture and dye cloth of high quality in the workshops in Pile, Rijeka Dubrovačka and Župa Dubrovačka.

The textiles manufactured in these workshops were competitive on foreign markets. However, Turkish conquests made it impossible to continue with this form of trade, and because of immediate Turkish danger, the Republic decided in 1463 to pull down all the workshops outside the city, so that this production came to a standstill.

By skilful diplomacy Dubrovnik maintained salt monopoly in the area between the Neretva and the Drin river, which made the Balkan countries dependent. Commerce, sea-trade and shipbuilding became the most important activities after the Turkish conquests of the Balkans.


Credit transactions and naval insurance brought great profits as Dubrovnik passed law on naval insurance as early as 1568.


Old Dubrovnik Sail shipThe shipbuilders of Dubrovnik were far known, so ship built “in the manner of Dubrovnik” meant durable, strong and simple construction. In mid 16th century Dubrovnik owned over 180 large ships with total burden of 36000 “kola”. This fleet was valued at about 700000 ducats.

Dubrovnik built different types of larger ships - galleys, trabacolas and navas - and they sailed on distant and more dangerous journeys along the Mediterranean, Black Sea and to England North sea as well as to India and the Americas. However, discovery of new naval routes to India round Africa severed the trade in spices in Levant. Like other Mediterranean trading republics, Dubrovnik was hit by ever-growing recession caused by the discovery of America and new sea routes to Asia.


That Dubrovnik trade was extensive in spite of recession at the close of the 18th century can be seen from the fact that Dubrovnik had consulates in over 80 cities. The fleet, including the fishing boats, totaled 673 sailing ships, of which 255 larger ships sailed to foreign waters, and 230 were ocean ships. These data show clearly the size and strength of Dubrovnik's commerce and navigation, even in the period of decline. In its most glorious days the fleet of Dubrovnik was equal to that of Venice, but incomparably weaker than the fleet of the Netherlands.


A general crisis in maritime affairs at the Mediterranean in the 17th century struck the Dubrovnik mercantile trade as well. The disastrous earthquake in 1667 forced the Dubrovnik Republic to fight for its existence and the protection of its political sovereignty.


In the 18th century Dubrovnik found an opportunity for economic revival in the sea borne trade under a neutral flag until the arrival of Napoleon and the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic in 1808. At the Congress in Vienna in 1815 Dubrovnik region became a part of Dalmatia and Croatia and it shares the same political destiny with them ever since.


Following the declaration of the independence of the Republic of Croatia and the subsequent aggression of Serbia against Croatia, Dubrovnik was attacked in October 1991 with extreme force by the Serb and Montenegro forces. The Dubrovnik region was occupied and devastated and the City itself was totally encircled for eight months, and brutally bombarded particularly on the 6th of December 1991. Today the cultural and historic heritage of Dubrovnik has been restored. Reconstructed hotels, and the valuable assets of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival as well as the other cultural events are essential elements for the development of modern tourism..

Dubrovnik - Salt Trade

Salt panes in Ston on peninsula Peljesac

Economy life of the old Dubrovnik relied on salt trade. Salt was traded for precious metals in Bosnia and Serbia.

Salt regulations formed a part of the old Dubrovnik statute from 1272 and in the 15th and 16th centuries the government brought many different regulations of salt selling, export, import and salt prices. The manufacture and improvement of salt production in salt pans in Ston was one of the most important objectives of Dubrovnik Republic until the end of Republic in 1808.

Due to salt importance, Dubrovnik Republic had a special “Salt office” (Officium salis”) which consisted of One writer, two clerks and a salt  expert. Almost all citizens of Dubrovnik coast had an obligation of working in salt pans, it was a paid job, but those who would tried to escape from this obligate were punished. The importance of salt pans in Ston was important to the measure that Dubrovnik Republic built the town of Ston and the huge defensive walls that are now recognised as the third longest wall in the world just after the Chinese Wall and the Hadrians wall.

For salt transportation draught animals were in use. Salt season lasted from April until October when the sun was the strongest.. Since the production of salt relied on the sun, the Salt quantity fluctuated from year to year. The biggest quantity of salt produced in Dubrovnik Republic was in 1611. Export of salt was mostly to the square Driva on Neretva river, in Slano from where it was transported inland. Interestingly salt pans in Ston survived the fall of Dubrovnik Republic in 1808 and are working even today. The salt pans in Ston, together with Ston defensive walls are one of the most important tourist attractions of peninsula Peljesac.