The 1667 Earthquake That Devastated Dubrovnik

Lauren Simmonds

350 years ago, Dubrovnik was all but destroyed by a shock earthquake, one of the two most devastating earthquakes to strike Croatia in the last 2,400 years…

350 years is not a long time in the grand scheme of things and although its doubtful you’ll remember the shocking earthquake that rocked Dubrovnik at 08:00am on the 6th of April 1667 (unless you’re the one who has discovered the holy grail of medicine), it’s worth reminding ourselves just what happened on that fateful spring morning.

The earthquake, as mentioned, was one of the two most destructive earthquakes to hit what is now the modern day territory of the Republic of Croatia, the second happened in Zagreb much later in 1880. The entire city of Dubrovnik was raised to the ground and approximately three quarters of the public buildings were completely ruined. More importantly, 5,000 residents, then a massive part of the population of the city, lost their lives in highly unenviable ways to the freak event. One prominent local figure to fall victim to the catastrophic disaster was the city’s much loved Rector, Simone Ghetaldi. Like most natural disasters, the earthquake had somewhat of a domino effect and caused a localised tsunami like occurrence which devastated Dubrovnik’s port, which was then the key to the tiny city’s economy and security. Leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake, the earthquake is considered to be the most significant marker of the beginning of the end of the famed Dubrovnik Republic (Ragusa).

Along with pulling the proverbial trigger on the ruination of the otherwise incredibly successful Dubrovnik Republic, the earthquake struck at a critical point during the conflict between Turkey and the all powerful Venice, which had been a jealous rival of the autonomous Dubrovnik Republic as it posed a threat to its economic power. Both parties, despite their warsome attitudes, had a shared interest in taking over the geographically perfectly positioned Dubrovnik Republic and owing to the convenient result of the shock earthquake – it made the mission look a lot easier. 

The Dubrovnik Republic was very well known and always congratulated for its peace-loving and intelligent diplomats who would regularly be sent all over the world, as well as having to face numerous unpleasant trade situations with the unforgiving Ottoman neighbours at home. Thanks to their negotiating skills, neither Venice or Turkey succeeded in taking over the weakening Dubrovnik Republic, which existed in absolute harmony from 1358 until 1808, when it was finally conquered, occupied and formally annexed by Napoleon and his French Empire.


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