Sailing The Dubrovnik Way


Dubrovnik ships sailed all “then know” seas around the world.In the English ports they made such a deep impression on their spectators that a new English word was coined – argosy (a distorted version of the Italian name for Dubrovnik, Ragusa) which later came to be used as an expression for a huge sailing-ship or general expression for large merchant ships. Argosy is even mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Merchant of Venice.

The international shipping industry of the 16th century highly valued Dubrovnik shipbuilding and the skill of Dubrovnik shipbuilders because their ships were of excellent construction and were not ravaged by time, lasting thirty or more years. There was a saying of praise for other ships – that they were built “in the Dubrovnik way”.

The Statute of the City of Dubrovnik from 1272 contains articles regulating maritime law. It is the oldest document of its kind in the world.

The most important person on a ship was the captain (exclusively a citizen of Dubrovnik), and in the 16th century there were around 250 captains in Dubrovnik. The next rank of importance following that of the captain was the ship’s scribe, who had to be a Dubrovnik  nobleman. On the smallest Dubrovnik ships, there were two to three sailors, while on the large merchant ships, the crewconsisted of 60 to 80 people. In the late 16th century ships were improved so they could translate up to 1,000 troops and 900 tons of cargo.

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