BLGF p. 241: Dubrovnik (Formerly Known as Ragusa)

Dear blog readers may well wonder how self got to p. 241 so quickly.  Well, she has decided that she can best enjoy Black Lamb and Grey Falcon if she takes it in small doses.  That is, if she elects to read only specific chapters.  Otherwise, she might still be lugging around this 1,000-plus page behemoth months from now.  Which would greatly exacerbate her chronic neck and shoulder pain.

If dear blog readers think that’s a crackpot plan for reading a book, self would just like to say that she used that method when she was a graduate student at Stanford, and it never failed her.  Never.

The chapter self is reading today is Dubrovnik, which self began after finishing the chapters Split I, Split II, Split III and Saloniae.

Dubrovnik used to be known as Ragusa until it became part of Yugoslavia.  The name was changed because it was thought that Ragusa “sounded Italian.” (p. 230)  According to RW, “it should be visited for the first time when the twilight is about to fall, when it is already dusk under the tall trees that make an avenue to the city walls . . . ” (p. 231) How self wishes she had decided to approach Venice in the same way.  She got into Venice at mid-afternoon on a scorching hot day, and after taking a bus from Marco Polo Airport, her first sight of the Grand Canal was in bright sunlight, and it had no romance at all.  In fact, the Grand Canal on that unseasonably bright day in April looked much like the main lobby of the Venetian in Las Vegas.  Which self has visited more than once.  And there were masses of tourists.  And self was just so disappointed.

Back to BLGF.  Somewhere in this chapter, self remembers reading that the word “argosy” was derived from Ragusa.  Which makes sense.  But self cannot point to the exact page where she came by this information.  She knows it is here in this chapter somewhere, but the text is so dense and crammed with historical facts that after 10 minutes of looking, she still can’t find it.  Never mind.  You can take self’s word for it:  the word “argosy” derives from the ancient name for Dubrovnik.

There is so much here about rulers and petty negotiations and the class system and social injustice because RW knows everything.  Everything.  She doesn’t bother to cite her sources so you’ll just have to take her word for it.  She’s either a genius or completely cracked.  At least, she writes in a tone of very convincing authority.  :

The Republic was surrounded by greedy empires whom she had to keep at arm’s length by negotiations lest she perish:  first Hungary, then Venice, then Turkey.  Foreign affairs were her domestic affairs; and it was necessary that they should be conducted in complete secrecy with enormous discretion.  It must never be learned by one empire what had been promised by or to another empire, and none of the greedy pack could be allowed to know the precise amount of the Republic’s resources.  There was therefore every reason to found a class of governors who were so highly privileged that they would protect the status quo of the community at all costs, who could hand on training in the art of diplomacy from father to son, and who were so few in number that it would be easy to detect a case of blabbing.  They were very few indeed.  In the fifteenth century, when the whole population was certainly to be counted by tens of thousands, there were only thirty-three noble families.  These could easily be supervised in all their goings and comings by those who lived in the same confined area.

Next chapters:  Dubrovnik II, Sarajevo I, Sarajevo II, Sarajevo III, Sarajevo IV, Sarajevo V, Sarajevo VI, Sarajevo VII, Sarajevo VIII, Belgrade I.

Stay tuned.


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