Back Home

Dubrovnik Dragomans

    The Seventh lazaretto was also known as the “Dragoman’s lazaretto,” because it often housed Ragusan dragomans, Ottoman Turkish interpreters.

    Dragomans were distinguished members of Ragusan society, for the success of Ragusan diplomatic missions in the Ottoman Empire largely depended on their interpreting skills.

    They were educated at the expense of the Ragusan state, and usually commenced their studies at the age of fifteen.

Love in the Dragoman’s Lazaretto

    Naturally, there were other people in the Dragoman’s lazaretto, such as Ragusan sea captain Ivo Šodrnja, who sailed into the waters of Dubrovnik on November 16th, 1760. He arrived from Modon, having recently traveled to Izmir, Alexandria, Ancona, Venice, and who knows where else. He was away from Dubrovnik for at least a year. The Lazaretto captain placed him in the Dragoman’s lazaretto, and had him quarantined for 39 days.

    As soon as Šodrnja arrived in the Lazarettos, his wife Marija raced into the Office of Health and, we believe, cried:

    “Gentlemen, do realize that when my Ivo leaves the quarantine it will be time for him to set out to sea again. Have mercy, let me see him and be with him.”

    And so she managed to obtain a permit to join her husband in the quarantine. Marija and Ivo were together for two days and two nights, joined afterwards by their maid and two daughters. They were released on December 24th.

Ragusan Social Sensitivity

    The office of Health officials did everything they could to make the isolation easier on the travelers. They were also very considerate towards the Lazaretto patients, and allowed them to be nursed by their mothers and wives. If a patient was a foreigner or his family was away, the officials would send for someone to take care of him.

    The thoughtfulness of the Office fits in with the social sensitivity of Ragusan nobles, leaders of the Republic. By caring for the food supplies, especially grain and meat, they reduced hunger to a minimum. Dubrovnik of the Renaissance made sure its citizens had a water pipeline, a hospital, medical care, an orphanage. A Franciscan Monastery pharmacy was opened, where even today you can purchase traditional medicine made from secret antique recipes.