Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Italian Republic of Ragusa

Città vecchia di Ragusa — Old city of Ragusa

In recent years Slavic revisionists have attempted to depict the Republic of Ragusa—one of the famous Italian Maritime Republics—as a slavic state. Although the Republic of Ragusa is widely known as the Fifth Maritime Republic of Italy (after Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi), the revisionists argue that Ragusa was a slavic city and insist on referring to it as the Republic of ‘Dubrovnik’. History shows these claims to be absolutely false. What makes these fantasies even more absurd is the way in which the city of Ragusa was founded. The city of Ragusa was not only not founded by Slavs, it was founded by Romans who were fleeing from the Slavs. In the 7th century, after the ancient Roman colony of Epidaurum was invaded, raided and destroyed by the Slavs and the Avars, the Roman inhabitants of the city fled to the nearby Dalmatian island of Lausa, where they took refuge and founded the city of Ragusa, which developed into a city-state republic—a development common to many other Italian cities after the barbarian invasions of the Middle Ages.

For nearly a millennium Latin was the official language of Ragusa. In the 15th century, after the demographics of the city began to change due to increased Slavic immigration from the Balkans, the Latin and Italian character of the city began to be threatened. As a result, in 1472 the Slavic language was banned in Ragusa in favour of Italian. The Italian language remained the official language of Ragusa until the end of the republic in 1807.

A prominent 19th century author described the history of Ragusa this way:
The old Latin, or Roman, population, however did not disappear, nor did it lose its identity and become merged in the ranks of the Slav conquerors. When the first shock was over in 614 AD, the Romans either returned to their old towns or founded new ones, where they managed to live in a state between independence and vassalage till they became strong enough in time to take care of themselves. "Zara" soon rose again from its ruin, the fugitives from Epidaurus settled on an isolated rock not far from their ancient home and founded the city of "Ragusa"...

In the old Roman cities the old Roman traditions, and no doubt the old Roman stock survived the shock of Slavonic conquest, and though the Croat was lord outside the city walls and beyond the narrow territory claimed by the citizens, within the gates the Dalmatian people retained their old Roman customs, governed themselves by the old Roman law, and spoke the old Latin tongue, which they still speak at the present day in its modern form.

Those who have not acquainted themselves with Dalmatian history are apt to think that the Latin fringe which borders the slavonic province has derived its language and customs from Venice, to which it was so long subject. Nothing can be farther from the truth; Zara, Spalato, Traù and Ragusa were Latin cities when as yet Venice was not existent, and they remained Latin cities throughout the middle ages, with very little help from her influence until the fifteenth century.

The Italian spoken in Dalmatia before that time was not the Venetian dialect; in some parts it had a distinct form of its own, in others it resembled the form into which Latin had passed in the south of Italy or Umbria, and it was only after 1420 that it began to assimilate itself to the Italian of Lombardy and Venetia. At Ragusa it never became Venetian at all, and to this day resembles rather the Tuscan dialect than any other, while the patois of the common people is a curious medley of Italian and Illyric, with traces of rustic Latin, Vlach or Rouman.

It is to the Latins of Dalmatia that we must look for evidences of culture and intellectual progress, and not to the Slavs. ... Ragusa, the Dalmatian Athens, has sometimes been held up as an example of Slavonic culture, but this is only partially the case, for the history of Ragusa is uniformly that of a Latin rather than a Slavonic city. The public acts were recorded either in Latin or Italian, never in Illyric, except in case of correspondence with a Slavonic power; Italian appears as the language of the records and laws as early as the fourteenth century; the pleadings in the law-courts in the fifteenth century were not in Illyric but in a Rouman or debased Latin dialect; the rules of the lay confraternities of goldsmiths carpenters and other trades are drawn up in Italian at least as far back as the year 1306, an incontestable proof that Italian was then the vernacular language of the working classes; and when, in 1435, the little republic set an example which many greater states might worthily have imitated, and instituted public schools, it was from Italy that she invited her professors.
—T. G. Jackson, Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria, 1887