The island of Rab was inhabited by Illyrian Liburns in the prehistory. It is mentioned for the first time in 360 BC, and the Romans have conquered it under the name of Arba in the 2nd c. BC. After the fall of the Roman Empire the period of insecurity and the time of gradual changes arises. With the division of Roman Empire in the Eastern and Western one, the town and the island of Rab come under the rule of the Western Roman Empire.

St. John the Evangelist St. John the Evangelist St. John the Evangelist
St. John the Evangelist - remains of the complex

With the invasion of German tribes, Western Roman Empire ceases existing in 476 AD, but, nevertheless, Roman government still holds its position on the Adriatic coast. In Dalmatia as well the island of Rab Roman rule exists until the year of 493. After shorter interregnum, during comparatively short-lived rule of Eastern Goths (493 - 544), Rab and whole Dalmatia come under the jurisdiction of Byzantine Empire, whose government leaves strong impact of its longtime presence on the economical strengthening and fortification of the towns, as well as on the building of architectural structures. Except for the remains of an Early Christian substruction in the Romanesque cathedral of Rab dating from that period, there are also preserved fragments of Early Christian layer with floor mosaic in the complex of St. John's basilica. To the later phase of Byzantine period also belong, according to their construction and style characteristics, the finds of the complex of fortification and Church of St. Kuzme and Damjan above Barbat. At that time Rab gained the status of an autonomous district and was organized like a former municipium. From this period on begins for the island very tumultuous and restless time of unexpected shifts and frequent changing of government.

St. Damian
Barbat -ruins of the Church of St. Damian

By the end of the second half of the first millennium the Croats come to our islands. First they inhabit smaller fertile valleys inside the island, especially if they are close to water springs. The fact is proved by the Old Slavic settlement in Supetarska Draga and the document from 1060, which is related to St. Peter's Church in Supetarska Draga. In the course of time first forms of nation-building qualities start to appear within Croatian tribes. Former district prefects become princes whose power reaches beyond the tight tribal borders. In the beginning these princes were Frankish vassals, but in time they become independent, so that in 852 Croatian king Trpimir calls himself "Croatian prince", and already in 880 Croatia is a completely autonomous state under prince Branimir, when, in the second half of the 9th c., the town of Rab pays a tribute to Croatian princes. In the 10th c. Croatian king Zvonimir united Croatia and proclaimed himself a king and Croatia a kingdom in 925. From that time begins the government of Croatian kings over all towns of Byzantine Theme Dalmatia (Split, Trogir, Osor, Rab and Krk), the sovereign rights of the ruler are restrained, for the towns still hold their formerly gained autonomy, the kind they had under the Byzantine jurisdiction. With the integration of Dalmatian towns into the system of the Croatian state, the jurisdiction over their bishoprics changes, so that they come under the domination of the Roman Pope, while before they were under the domination of Constantinople's patriarch. The Pope also confirmed king Tomislav's crown. The town of Rab, like other Dalmatian towns, remains under the Croatian rule with minor intermissions until the death of king Dmitar Zvonimir.

With the decline of the Croatian state the fighting for Dalmatia between Venice, Byzantine Empire and Hungary takes place, and after the Croatian-Hungarian agreement in 1102 Hungarian king Koloman is declared a Croatian king. Rab doesn't stay long under the jurisdiction of Croatian-Hungarian kings but often changes the rulers trying to keep all the privileges that it had during the Byzantine period and the reign of Hungarian-Croatian kings. That condition lasts until 1409 when Venice takes over the island and the town of Rab, which stays under its rule until the fall of Venice in 1797. After Napoleon's short reign, with the decree of Wienna Congress in 1815 the island of Rab shifts to the jurisdiction of Austrian-Hungarian state.

In the new political-territorial community Rab completely lost its significance and status. After the death of the last bishop of Rab, the bishopric of Rab is abrogated in 1828 and it is joined to the bishopric of Krk. Due to these circumstances Rab remains a small and frozen town, only its fortifications and old walls reminding of the former strong medieval town.

With the downfall of Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy by the end of the WW1, a new government - the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes is formed in 1918, which is named the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. The island of Rab entered the new state after the peace in Rapal in 1921. From then until today the island of Rab is a part Croatian land.

THE ISLAND OF RAB: Position, History and Cultural-historical heritage The town of Rab: Position, History and Monumental heritage Kampor Supetarska Draga

Ineco, 1995./2005.