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Google Earth Plug-in: Old Town, Dubrovnik

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Dubrovnik was founded by joining two small towns: Laus (name comes from the Latin word for rock) which was on a small island off the southern Dalmatian coast, providing shelter for the Italic refugees from the nearby city of Epidaurum (today Cavtat); and Dubrava (named after the Slavic word dub for oak), a settlement of the Slavic immigrants at the foothill of the forested Srđ hill.

The strip of wetland, built in 1667 after an earthquake destroyed most of the city, was later reclaimed as a landfill, unifying the city around the newly made plaza (today Placa or Stradun). The city was fortified and two harbors were built on each side of the isthmus.

Dubrovnik main streetFrom its establishment in the 7th century AD, the town was under the protection of the Byzantine Empire. After the Crusades, Ragusa/Dubrovnik came under the sovereignty of Venice (1205–135, and by the Peace Treaty of Zadar in 1358 it became part of the Hungarian-Croatian Kingdom.

Between 14th century and 1808 Dubrovnik ruled itself as a free state named Respublica Ragusina (Ragusan republic), also known as Republic of Dubrovnik. The Ragusan Republic reached its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the Dubrovnik thalassocracy rivalled the Venetian Republic and other Italian maritime republics.

The city was ruled by aristocracy that formed two city Councils (Vijeće). They maintained a strict system of social classes, but they also abolished slave trade early in the 15th century and highly valued liberty. The city successfully balanced its sovereignty between the interests of Venice and the Ottoman Empire for centuries.

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