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A Discontented Notary: from a Late Ragusan Transcript of Giovanni Conversini’s Historia Ragusii

Relja Seferović ; Zavod za povijesne znanosti HAZU u Dubrovniku, Dubrovnik, Hrvatska

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 509 Kb

str. 131-170

preuzimanja: 567



Humanist Giovanni Conversini alias Ivan Ravenjanin (1343-1408) spent his life in seeking a specifi c teaching or high-ranking state post – that is, he could not decide between family happiness on one side and retirement into seclusion and contemplation on the other. His personal meanderings prevented him from achieving his life goals: for years he remained at the court of the Carrara family in Padua, despite hostile intrigues against him, yet the fall of this dynasty after the Venetian invasion forced him to look for shelter elsewhere. He accepted an offer from Dubrovnik, where he worked as a public notary in the 1380s. He described his Dubrovnik experience in a writing today known as Historia Ragusii, composed in the form of a letter addressed to an unnamed friend on the inner Venetian territory. While the Ragusan Commune was still constructing its independent administrative apparatus, in the fi rst decades following the end of Venetian rule, an expert such as Conversini (who attended a specialised course in Bologna, obtained a notary degree, in addition to twenty years of work experience) was more than welcome. Unfortunately, he found the work diffi cult for a number of reasons: the daily routine was wearing him out, he was not accustomed to frequent contacts with the clients and showed little understanding for the specifi c political system in Dubrovnik, in which a new rector was chosen every month. Monarchy was more to his liking, and he looked back nostalgically to the days spent in Padua where he served a single lord, as contrasted to the work of the Ragusan councils and their incessant discussions during the sessions to which he was offi cially appointed as notary. In his text he recurrently emphasised how frustrated he was with the backward environment he found himself in, considering that his contribution to the community was not credited accordingly. He regretted not having given proper consideration to the Ragusan offer before taking it, allowing himself to be driven “among the barbarians”. Conversini’s complaints may be viewed as justifi able since they do refl ect a marked difference between the humanistic circle of the Italian north, to which he himself belonged and prided with his acquaintance with Petrarch, and Dubrovnik of the day.
His discontent spilt over into general social issues, notably those related to religion and moral. Grounding his conclusions on a succession of selected works, from classical authors of the Antiquity to the Old and New Testament and patristic literature, Conversini came forward with his ethical principles based on pagan Neoplatonic and Stoic, but also Judaeo-Christian views. However, his writing provides some concrete data on the Ragusan everyday life of that time. From the past, he touched upon the legend of the founding of Epidaurus, while he gave more space to the story of the tyrant count Damjan Juda, deposed in a conspiracy in the early thirteenth century. His service in Dubrovnik ended successfully, and several years later he received another offer by the Ragusan authorities, this time for the post of a high offi cial of the Commune. This offer he refused, as he found the conditions in north Italy more acceptable. However, as witnessed by Conversini’s autobiography written in his last days, his reminescences of Dubrovnik were awarded a fairly warmer tone. A prolifi c writer, Conversini has left several works of refl exive nature, resembling autobiography in terms of genre. His work was in the focus of his younger contemporaries and has attracted scholarly attention ever since. They should be credited for the critical editions of his texts, but also for the thorough reconstruction of his biography. The writing entitled “The History of Dubrovnik” has not yet been fully published. The excerpts given in this article are drawn from a late transcript, held in the State Archives in Dubrovnik. This work was mentioned by the classical Ragusan authors Filippo Diversi in the fi fteenth and Jakov Luccari in the seventeenth century. Yet, Conversini’s hostile attitude towards the Ragusan society, his latent advocacy of the monarchical political system and his moral-theological style strawn with quotations contributed to his isolated literary position in Dubrovnik. Similarity with the Memoriale of the Zadar patrician Pavao Pavlović has been established, a kind of an historiographical account in which he chronicled the events in Zadar from 1371 to 1408. The name of Giovanni Conversini and his work Historia Ragusii have become the symbols of criticism of the late medieval Ragusan society. Although not fully grounded, they still represent a welcome contrast to the typical humanistic praises which abounded in the later periods.

Ključne riječi

Humanism, Dubrovnik, historiography, Giovanni Conversini, Ivan Ravenjanin, notary offi ce, moral philosophy, autobiography, Damjan Juda

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