The Croatian name of the town is derived from the word dubrava, while the Latin name Ragusa – Rausa originated from the name of the island where the first settlement was established (Lave, Lausa).
Dubrovnik was probably founded in the first half of the 7th century, upon the fall of the nearby Epidaurum (today’s Cavtat) during the Avaro-Slavic invasion on Dalmatia. Opposite of that location, at the foot of Srd Mount, developed a Croatian settlement under the name of Dubrovnik, after which, in the course of time, the entire town was named.
The spatial separation was created by levelling and filling up of the present Placa, where the core of an integrated town developed. From its establishment the town was under the protection of the Byzantine Empire (for a certain period, the Byzantine strategist also resided here); during the Crusades it came under the sovereignty of Venice (1205-1358), and by the Peace Treaty of Zadar in 1358 it became part of the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom.
Having been granted the entire self-government (bound to pay only a tribute to the king and providing assistance with its fleet), from that moment Dubrovnik started its life as a free state that reached its peak in the 15th and the 16th centuries.
A crisis of Mediterranean shipping and especially a catastrophic earthquake in 1667 put Dubrovnik in a very difficult economic position. In such a situation Dubrovnik saw the beginning of the Napoleonic wars. The French entered Dubrovnik in 1806; in 1808 Marshal Marmont abolished the Dubrovnik Republic (the name was in use from the 15th c.). Pursuant to the resolutions of the Vienna Congress in 1815, Dubrovnik was annexed to Austria.
During the period of independence of Dubrovnik, the state administration was in hands of the aristocracy; the administrative bodies were the Upper Council and the Lower Council (from 1238) and the Senate (from 1253).
The head of the state was the Duke, elected for a term of office of one month. In the 13th century Dubrovnik gained the island of Lastovo, and in the 14th century also Ston, the Peljesac Peninsula and the island of Mljet. In the course of several centuries Dubrovnik grew into the most powerful economic centre on the eastern coast of the Adriatic, trading both in the Orient and the Occident, developing a powerful fleet of merchant and war ships (shipyards in Gruz, Lopud and in Sudurd on Sipan; an institution for marine insurance from the second half of the 14th c.) and maintaining diplomatic relations with a number of countries and cities.
Dubrovnik had its Statute as early as 1272, which, among others, codified the town-planning and hygienic regulations (organization of quarantines). Medical service was introduced in 1301; the first pharmacy was opened in 1317.
The old people’s home was opened in 1347; the first quarantine hospital ( “lazaret” ) was organized in 1377; the Supreme Medical Council was established in 1424; in 1432 the orphanage was opened; the waterworks was constructed in 1436.
Dubrovnik was an outstanding literary centre in the Renaissance (M. Drzic, I. Gundulic); the centre of the local painting school in the 15th-16th century; the birth-place of several world-famous scientists, such as the physicists Marin Getaldic (1568-1626) and Ruder Boskovic (1717-1787), the economic theoretician Benedikt Kotruljic (1400-1468), the composers Luksa Sorkocevic (1734-1789) and Ivan Mane Jarnovic (1740 or 1745-1804) and other.
Dubrovnik was the cradle of humanism and Latinism on the Croatian coast of the Adriatic.
Science and culture in the town were promoted by scientific and literary societies – academies: the Academy of the Unanimous (second half of the 16th c.), the Academy of the Frivolous (founded around 1690) and other.
Dubrovnik has maintained its important position in the Croatian culture until today.