On This Day: Republic of Ragusa outlaws slavery - 27th January 1416

The Republic of Ragusa is a place that I must admit I had never heard of before I started researching this blog post (largely because it’s not called that anymore) but it had an absolutely fascinating history until it’s final absorption into the vast Napoleonic Empire in 1808. Today we remember it for it’s landmark decision to become the first European State to outlaw slavery. Whilst it took us Brits until the shockingly recent date of 1833 to fully abolish slavery, Ragusa made this bold step into a fairer future as early as 1416 and enjoyed many prosperous centuries until the unstoppable Napoleon. Prioritising the freedom of all people above greed certainly doesn’t seem to have done them any harm. 

Map of the Republic of Ragusa from the 18th Century
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Far from regretting this step, the people of Ragusa seem to have been determined to shout their pride in their decision to the skies, boldly emblazoning their motto across the city and remembering it to this day - ‘NON BENE PRO TOTO LIBERATES VENDITUR AURO’ - 


This inspiring motto was taken from a rather lovely story from Aesop’s fables - “Of the dog and the wolf” - in which a wolf is jealous of the easy lifestyle of the dog until he sees the horrible scars under the dog’s collar. Freedom offers much more than material wealth. Like the wolf, the people of Ragusa preferred freedom and that defiance against the easy comfort of wealth is something that we should never forget. 

Stema Raguseo

Coat of Arms of the Republic of Ragusa
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

As the boats continue to brave the treacherous seas of the Mediterranean they carry other people who have made that difficult choice. Leaving behind them all they had of material value, leaving their jobs, their once beautiful homes, their jewellery, their bank accounts and goodness knows how many other daily riches which we, in our easy comfort, take for granted. They leave behind their material lives to search for a place in which they may be allowed to remain free. For all of mankinds sake let us allow them that freedom and not collar them in another type of slavery. The evil from which they flee threatens the human right of freedom and that that insult should not be faced by them alone. We have plenty of material goods to share. Let us stand up together for the right to remain free, for once the riches of life have been stripped away we are all equal - conscious bodies of life that laugh together under the beautiful blue skies. 


Ragusa in 1667 - a city of free people sharing the earth under beautiful blue skies
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

© Isla Robertson 2017