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Ragusa, Austria

RAGUSA, AUSTRIA (Serbo-Croatian Dubrovnik), an episcopal city, and the centre of an administrative district in Dalmatia, Austria. Pop. (1900) of town and commune, 13,174, including a garrison of 1 1 22. Its situation and its undisturbed atmosphere of antiquity combine to make Ragusa by far the most picturesque city on the Dalmatian coast. It occupies a ridge or promontory, which juts out into the Adriatic Sea, under the bare limestone mass of Monte Sergio. Its seaward fortifications rise directly from the water's edge, one fort, on the north mole, standing boldly on a tall rock almost isolated by a little inlet of the Adriatic. On the landward side a massive round tower dominates the city from a still higher eminence. Beyond the walls and the deep moat, especially on the northward side towards the port of Gravosa, are many pleasant villas, surrounded by gardens in which the aloe, palm and cypress are conspicuous among a number of flowering trees and shrubs. The island of Lacroma lies less than half a mile to the south. Between the seaward ridge and the mountain, the Stradone, or main street, runs along a narrow valley which, until the 13th century, was a marshy channel, dividing the Latin island of Ragusa from the Slavonic settlement of Dubrovnik, on the lower slopes of Monte Sergio. Parallel to the Stradone, on the north, is the Prijeki, a long, very narrow street, flanked by tall houses with overhanging balconies, and greatly resembling a Venetian alley. Despite the havoc wrought by earthquake in 1667, the whole city is rich in antiquarian interest. It possesses one church, of the Byzantine period, which is mentioned in 13 th century documents as even then of great age. Two stately convents of the 14th century stand at the ends of the city; for the Franciscans were set to guard the western gate, or Porta Pile, against the hostile Slavs, while the Dominicans kept the eastern gate, or Porta Ploce. The Franciscan cloister is a fine specimen of late Romanesque; that of the Dominicans is hardly inferior, though of later date. The Dominican church is approached by a sloping flagged lane, having on one side a beautifully ornamented balustrade of the 18th century. Another 14th-century building is the Sponza, or custom-house, from which the state derived its principal revenue. A fountain and a curious clock-tower in the Piazza, which terminates the Stradone towards the east, were erected by Onofrio, the architect and engineer whose aqueduct, built about 1440, supplied Ragusa with water from the neighbouring hills. The Rector's Palace, another noteworthy example of late Romanesque, combined with Venetian Gothic, is one of the masterpieces of Dalmatian architecture. It has a fine facade of six arches, and the capitals of the supporting pillars are very curiously carved. Especially interesting is the figure of Aesculapius, whose traditional birthplace was Epidaurum or Epidaurus, the parent city of Ragusa. The cathedral dates from the 18th century; and to the same period belongs another church, rebuilt after a fire, but originally erected as a votive offering after the pestilence of 1348, and dedicated to San Biagio (St Blaize), the patron of Ragusa, whose name and effigy continually appear on coins and buildings. Among many fine pieces of jewellers' work preserved in the ecclesiastical treasuries may be mentioned the silver statuette of San Biagio, and the reliquary which contains his skull a 17th-century casket in filigree and enamels with Byzantine medallions of the nth or 12th century.

The harbour of Ragusa, once one of the chief ports of southern Europe, is too small for modern needs; but Gravosa (Gruz), a village at the mouth of the river Ombla, on the north, is a steamship station and communicates by rail with Herzegovina and the Bocche di Cattaro. Ragusa has thus some transit trade with the interior. Its industries include the manufacture of liqueurs, oil, silk and leather; but Malmsey, its famous wine, could no longer be produced after the vinedisease of 1852.

History. The name Ragusa is of uncertain origin. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in the 10th century, connects its early form, Lausa, with XaO, a " precipice." Jirecek dissents from this view, and from the common opinion that Dubrovnik is derived from the Slavonic dubrava, " woody." The city first -became prominent during the 7th century. In 639 and 656 the flourishing Latin communities of Salona and Epidaurum were destroyed by the Avars, and the island rock of Ragusa was colonized by the survivors. Tradition identifies Epidaurum, whence the majority came, with the neighbouring village of Ragusa vecchia; but some historians, including Gelcich, place it on the shores of the Bocche di Cattaro. Both sites show signs of Roman occupation. A colony of Slavs soon joined the Latin settlers at Ragusa, and thus, from an early date, the city formed a link between two great civilizations (see VLACHS). In the 9th century it is said to have repulsed the Saracens; in the icth it defended itself against the Narentine pirates, and Simeon, tsar of the Bulgarians. Some writers consider that it submitted to Venice in 998, with the rest of Dalmatia; but this is generally denied by the native historians. During the 11th century an enforced alliance with the Normans drew the republic into war with Venice and Byzantium; and in the 12th century it was attacked by the Bosnians and Serbs. From 1205 to 1358 it acknowledged Venetian suzerainty; its chief magistrate was the Venetian count; and its archbishops, who wielded much political influence, were often Venetian nominees. The constitution took shape during this period, and the first statute-book was published in 1272. Only patricians could hold office in the senate, grand council and lesser council, three bodies which shared the work of government with the count, or, after 1358, the rector. The ancient popular assembly was almost obsolete before the 14th century. Ragusan policy was usually peaceful, and disputes with other nations were frequently arranged by a system of arbitration called stanicum. To refugees of all nations, even to those who had been its own bitter foes, the city afforded asylum; and by means of treaty and tribute it worked its way to a position of mercantile power which Europe could hardly parallel. It was conveniently situated at the seaward end of a great trade route, which bifurcated at Plevlje to Byzantium and the Danube. A compact with the Turks, made in 1370 and renewed in the next century, saved Ragusa from the fate of its more powerful neighbours, Servia and Byzantium, besides enabling the Ragusan caravans to penetrate into Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia, Servia, Bulgaria and Rumania. From 1358 to 1526 the republic was a vassal state of Hungary, and no longer controlled by its greatest commercial rival. It acquired, among other territories, the important ship-building and saltproducing centre Stagno Grande (Ston Veliki), on the promontory of Sabbioncello; and from 1413 to 1416 it held the islands of Curzola, Brazza and Lesina by lease from Hungary. Meanwhile, Ragusan vessels were known not only in Italy, Sicily, Spain, Greece, the Levant and Egypt, but in the more northern parts of Europe. The English language retains in the word " argosy " a reminiscence of the carracks of Ragusa, long known to Englishmen as Argouse, Argusa or Aragosa. In the 16th century the Ragusan merchants went even to India and America, but they were unable to compete with their rivals from western Europe. Many of their seamen took service with Spain; and twelve of their finest ships were lost with the Invincible Armada in 1588. After 1526 the downfall of Hungary left Ragusa free; and about this time a great development of art and literature, begun in the 15th century and continued into the 17th, earned for the city its title of the " South Slavonic Athens." (See SERVIA, Literature.) The earthquake of 1667, which had been preceded by lesser shocks in 1520, 1521, 1536 and 1639, destroyed a considerable portion of the city, and killed about one-fifth of the inhabitants. Only during the Napoleonic wars did the republic regain its prosperity. From 1800 to 1805 it was the sole Mediterranean state remaining neutral, and thus it secured a very large share of the carrying trade. In 1805, however, it was seized by the French; Napoleon deprived it of independence; and in 1814 it was annexed to Austria.

See L. Villari, The Republic of Ragusa (London, 1904), for a thorough description and history, with a full bibliography. T. G.

Jackson, Dalmatia, the Quarnero and I stria (Oxford, 1887), gives tin- IHM account of Kagusan architecture and antiquities. The accurate native history is G. Gelcich (Celtic), Delta Sviluppo civile di Ragusa (Ragusa. 1884). The course of Kagusan trade may be studied in C J. Jire&k, Die Handelsstrassen und Bergwerke von Serbien, Sfc. (Prague, 1879); and Heyd, Histoire du commerce du Levant ait moyen age (Leipzig, 1885).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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