Abraham Lincoln once said that „the world has never truly defined the word „freedom“, but Dubrovnik defined freedom in real life with the help of its diplomacy , trade, city walls, and willingness to sacrifice as it is written on the Rector’s Palace: „Forget your own benefits, attend to the public good.“Praising the freedom of the city is visible on the flag of the Ragusan Republic with the emblazoned Libertas and the slogan on the Lovrijenac fortress which says Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro („Liberty is not sold for all the gold in the world“).


From the very beginning the Ragusan Republic has directed its human, material, commercial diplomatic and artistic potential for the cause of freedom. How is it possible that a small city-state preserved its freedom in the vicinity of the Venetian Republic and Ottoman Empire that were always eager to seize power and control new territories?


Ivan Gundulić, Dubrovnik’s most celebrated poet, is the author of famous verses known as Ode to Liberty which can be found in his pastoral play Dubravka (written in 1628.). The initial words of the ode were blended into the song Miss Sarajevo and recited by Bono Vox on U2’s live performance in Sarajevo 1997. O lijepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo … (Oh beautiful, oh dear, oh sweet freedom). The Ode to Liberty is always recited during the opening ceremonies of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.


Although Dubrovnik’s freedom once fell from the sky, its people had to develop cunning strategies in trade and diplomacy to keep it. Emissaries were sent to Constantinople carrying gold for the peace with the Turks and stayed there for a year until the arrival of a new mission from Dubrovnik. Before leaving for the mission there was a small ceremony; emissaries had spent three days in St James’s monastery and afterwards dressed up to the nines and paraded through the city with people chanting and celebrating their mission. In times of great conflicts the Republic of Ragusa proved to the world that „reason rules over brute strength“.


Besides trade and diplomacy, „the Libertas project“ needed a safeguard and therefore Dubrovnik was encircled by the sturdiest city walls. The ramparts, stretching for more than 2km, were further fortified with several bastions, gates, towers and fortresses. When you walk up there, the view from the city walls over terracotta-topped buildings is almost too perfect to be real.


In 1806 the Russian fleet threatened to conquer the city but the French were there first; troops led by General Lauriston were at the gates and entered the city after the Senate had given them permission to do so. Marshal Auguste de Marmont abolished the Republic of Ragusa in 1808. , after 400 years of negotiating peace, Dubrovnik was conquered by arms.

Text is taken from Dubrovnik – The Riviera and islands by J. Žilić, D. Pek and F.Kozina