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The Lastovo Rebels Of 1602

Nenad Vekarić

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 246 Kb

str. 43-73

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In 1602 the Island of Lastovo witnessed a rebellion against the central government of the Republic of Dubrovnik in which the rebels sided with Venice. Using documentary evidence and genealogical reconstruction, this article explores the causes of the revolt and identifies all of the 36 rebels cited in the sources (10 rebel leaders and 26 supporters) as well as their kinship ties. The analysis has provided us with the following results: 1. The ratio between the nobles and non-nobles among the rebel leaders is 10:0, among other rebels 11:15, and among the families which evidently remained faithful to Dubrovnik the ratio is 20:37. This clearly demonstrates that the revolt was class rooted. 2. Close kinship ties between the 10 leaders (Figure 1) reveal the family and clan background of the rebellion. It was not a general revolt of Lastovo’s nobility, but limited to a group within it. 3. Five out of ten rebel leaders were the descendants of the Desislavić and Siračić nobility, the families whose power and influence had dated back to the times of before the Ragusan rule. 4. The 12:20 ratio between the noble families taking part in the revolt and those who remained loyal anticipates the former’s dead end. 5. Among the rebels there were no ‘new’ entrants to the local nobility (after 1367) from the Dobrićević, DragoševiE or GišljiE family. The Ragusans considered them allies since they had been permitted to join the ranks of the nobility thanks to “the merits and the loyal service to the Ragusan government”. Thus siding with the rebels were ancient noble families who defended their formerly acquired positions. 6. The ratio 12:20 between the nobles who participated in the rebellion and those who did not, along with the 12:37 ratio between the rebels and the loyalists 72 Anali Dubrovnik 43 (2005) in the non-noble ranks indicate that a considerable majority of the non-noble families resented the idea of revolt. An apparent disproportion between non-noble rebels and the loyalists (in favour of the latter) shows that the rebellion was not the product of social discontent. With an aim to strengthen its jurisdiction over the area, Dubrovnik tended to disintegrate Lastovo’s traditional autarchy. In doing so, during several centuries, the Republic government resorted to a variety of methods. From legislative measures to less formal methods involving lobbying and infiltration of the Republic adherents into the Lastovo Council, to extremely cruel but efficient means against some of the rebels (strangulation, poisoning). Yet, Lastovo was to hold a special position within the Republic of Dubrovnik and no other administrative unit enjoyed such a degree of autonomy. Are these Ragusan measures to be interpreted as the Republic’s attempt to restrict the island’s autonomy, especially in the events of 1601-1602? Or was it an effort to prevent the Lastovo oligarchy as a source of instability, with possible impact on Veneto- Ragusan status quo in the Adriatic? Was the wrong step taken when the Senate decided to interfere with Lastovo’s autonomy on 22 November 1601 or was the decision brought too late? The likelihood is that Ragusan authorities failed to foresee the long-term risk of the establishment of the island oligarchy, that is, it lagged well behind the events to be able to make the right move. In the light of the new interpretation of the Lastovo rebellion, one can find it easier to grasp the relative actions of the Venetian Republic. Its reaction during the first days of the unrest in that “it was not the right moment to act, and the Lastovo populace should be pacified” may be interpreted as sincere. The Lastovo rebels then resorted to cunning, and Venice rose to the rebels’ bait. However, the Mediterranean super power soon showed to have other strategic priorities and abandoned the Lastovo cause. Thus this leads the author to the following interpretation of the Lastovo rebellion and its likely cause: within the local political setting and under the leadership of the descendants of the chieftain (župan) Desislav a group of the old noble families rose to political prominence and created a certain form of oligarchy. They were confronted by a group of local noblemen supported by the central Ragusan government which considered the island oligarchy a threat to its sovereignty over Lastovo. Placed under control, the dissatisfied ruling faction tried to restore its positions. The rebels articulated their revolt in the form of resistance against restriction of the island autonomy, trying to arouse 73 N. Vekarić, Lastovski pobunjenici 1602. godine the allegiance of many islanders, in which they partly succeed. Having realised that the framework of the Republic of Dubrovnik offered no prospects of restoration of its oligarchy, the group managed to involve Venice into the conflict, though seemingly uninterested at the time. Given the power constellation in Europe, the rebellion was doomed to failure. Regardless of the military inferiority, the Republic of Dubrovnik managed to retain the island and consolidate its sovereignty over the territory. In practice, this implied the fall of Lastovo’s oligarchy and the limitation of the island’s autonomy.

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