15th Century Dubrovnik Courage: Health Measures and Negotiation Skills Like Nowhere Else

The period of the late Middle Ages and early modern times in European history was marked by cyclical outbreaks of plague epidemics. Since October of 1481 a horrible plague ravaged Dubrovnik and its surroundings. And to make matters even worse, the army of the Ottoman Empire had surrounded the City plotting and planning their next move.

Exposing themselves to the great danger of a fatal infection, in mortal fear of a disease from which there is no cure, the people of Dubrovnik, both folk and nobles, alongside their soldiers kept watch on the City walls and streets of the Old Town day and night.

On this precise day, in 1482, the Senat held a special meeting where specific “plague” measures were adopted.

As Sebastijan Vukosavić states in his daily radio show Gradoplov, according to the Senat, to help and attend the people, despite the danger, there must be one pharmacist in the City at all times, the pharmacy must be open all day and all night, and five bakers with the help of five women must make and sell bread.

In five years, Dubrovnik plague, which they called pesta, pestilenza, male contagiosa or malatia, took, according to some data, 2600 lives, which is still far less than in other parts of Croatia. With the use of their Lazareti, and various special epidemiological measures, Dubrovnik not only managed to lower the number of casualties, but with their fantastic negotiation abilities they managed to make peace with the Ottomans as well.