THE NAME OF RAB WAS DERIVED FROM THE WORD ARBA, meaning a dark, green and wooded island

The Kalifront Peninsula, Copo fronte or Zelena glava (The Green Head) is the most forested part of the Adriatic with an indented shoreline. The holm oak and mulberry forests have formed the greatest resources of the Island of Rab. Namely, it is well-known that in the 11th c. Rab was paying his tax to Venetians in silk which is made from the silkworm.

The Kalifront Peninsula, Copo fronte or Zelena glava (The Green Head) is the most forested part of the Adriatic with an indented shoreline. The holm oak and mulberry forests have formed the greatest resources of the Island of Rab. Namely, it is well-known that in the 11th c. Rab was paying his tax to Venetians in silk which is made from the silkworm.

Traces of life on the Island of Rab were found in prehistoric times, but the first settlers are the Liburnians, an Illyric tribe, who settled there in the period between the 9th and the 1st c. BC. On the site of the present-day Town of Rab, a well-developed pre-Roman Liburnian settlement was built, named Arba by the Liburnians. The Liburnian Illyric word arb means dark, green, forested, s the name Arba is to be considered a toponym meaning Crni otok (the Black Island), deriving from the coniferous forests which were much larger in number on the Island of Rab than they are today. The main feature of the holm oak forests on Rab is their typical dark-green colour. The names Arba and Arva were also mentioned in the 1st c. by Greek and Roman geographers, while the medieval Latin manuscripts used the names Arbe, Arbia, Arbiana, Arbitana and the most common one, which was Arbum.

Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus in his manuscript entitled De Administrando Imperio (On the Governance of the Empire) mentioned it in the 10th c., calling it Arbe and the name has remained the same in Italian to this day. The Croatian name of Rab was derived through metathesis (Arb-Rab) from the same word root and was mentioned for the first time in 1446, in the charter of the establishment of the Franciscan monastery of St. Euphemia in Kampor.

The name of Rab was recorded for the first time in 1446, in the deed of donation by the nobleman from Rab Petar Car, granting the Franciscan monks the land for the construction of the Monastery of St. Euphemia (Monastery of St. Bernardino) in Kampor.

The most beautiful, the largest and the most preserved holm oak forest in the entire Mediterranean named Dundo Forest is situated on the Kalifront Peninsula. This unique forest reserve is one of the greatest resources of the Island of Rab, as well as of Europe itself. Holm oak trees (Quercus ilex) which measure up to 1m in diameter, with a volume of 3 m, reaching up to 20 m in height, located in the Dundo Forest, formed lush woods until Second World War, when the most beautiful centuries-old trees were cut down.

THE MUNICIPALITY STATUS – the Peregrine community of Arba became 'A Little Rome'

Unlike the other Illyrian tribes, such as Japodi and Dalmatae in particular who waged constant wars against the Romans, Liburnians maintained peaceful relations with the newcomers, assimilating rather fast and offering no resistance in the 2nd c. BC, they accepted the Roman government, that is, rule. The Roman military settlement was built on the foundations of the Greek military settlement that was formerly a Liburnian settlement named Arba. Soon it got the status of a municipium, that is, a town with the independent local government. Having become an integral part of the Roman Empire, Rab became a military and economic power in the Eastern Adriatic.

The aerial shot of the old town centre shows a high preservation degree of the inherited architecture in comparison to the representation in the image dating back to the 17th c. The image features Stjepan Radić Street leading to the town's watchtower and the former Platea Gospi square that used to be the central part of the public life of the town.


Caesar is the most famous Roman emperor who extended its influence and the rule of the Roman Empire owing to the numerous military conquests. Having conquered Pompey the Great in the Civil War in 46 BC, he became a dictator. His dictatorship posed an end to the supreme rule of the Senate in Rome and the establishment of the Empire. The citizens of Rab fought on his side. His son Octavian Augustus built city walls around the urban settlement of Arba by a Deed of Donation.

The romanised Liburnian tribe must have participated in Roman civil wars in the 1st c. BC (the Triumvirate period) fighting on the Caesar's side and later siding with his successor, his son Octavian. This is confirmed by the battle which took place in the proximity of the islet of Sv. Marko (located between the Island of Krk and the mainland) between the Caesar's and Pompey's fleets in 49 BC in which the Liburnian settlers of Rab participated with their well-known vessels, as well.


The image of Rab with Virgin Mary and St. Christopher was painted at the beginning of the 17th c. It faithfully portrays the town. All the urban elements are visible, including the general spatial distribution and individual sacral and public buildings, as well as fortifications. The painting shows the state of the construction development of Gothic and Baroque periods, with the fourth bell tower , the tower of St. Justine missing. The painting was exhibited at the Sacral Art Museum inside the Church of St. Justine.

In 10 BC, Octavian Augustus, the first Roman Emperor built city walls and fortresses around the urban settlement of Arba by a Deed of Donation. It is evidenced by a fragment of the inscription carved in one of the city wall blocks, located on the western side next to the city gate:

IMP(erator) CAESAR D(ivi) f(ilius)
IMP(erator) XII TRIB(unica) POT(estate) XIII
a Divine son of the Emperor Caesar
Emperor (XII) with the powers of a tribune (rule) (XIII)
Is donating the city walls with fortresses


The Galzigna family tower containing the Church of St. Stephen (sv. Stjepan) from the beginning of the 13th century, associated with the legend of the miracles of St. Christopher and the defence of the city at the beginning of the 14th century was destroyed in 1813. Daniele Farlati, a Jesuit and a historian, witnessed the stone inscription granting the walls to the city in 10 BC on the Tower of St. Stephen as early as the18th century.

TIn this way, the emperor raised the former Roman settlement to the level of Roman municipium. Rab obtained its independence and had the features of an ancient town, such as palaces, squares, porches, courtrooms, chapels, thermal baths, water supply systems and theatres. It obtained its statute which was very similar to the Roman one. Two duumviri ruled the town, with two aediles assisting them and forming the magistrate (magistratus). The local government was established with the officials named tribunes and the city council was founded, modelled on the Roman Senate (City Council). The two aediles were entrusted with the construction and landscaping of the town and Rab obtained its military officers, city treasurers, tax collectors and priests. Rab became 'A little Rome'.
Today, stone inscriptions and different building, architectural and sculptural artifacts preserved and kept as part of museum collections off the island, confirm the rich historic heritage of the buildings and facilities in Rab.

The Roman inscriptions mention fortresses and porches built in honour of the Roman and local deities, fountains as symbols of drinking water supplied to the town, public monuments and tombstones, with several of them preserved on the island. Some of the remains from that period were used for building churches, bell towers (such as Veli zvonik, the big tower) and palaces built in the Middle Ages. These various artifacts, although not very numerous, indicate that Rab was a significant ad well-organised ancient community with a high standard of living.


Rare Roman remains confirm extensive development and overall prosperity of Rab during the second and third centuries. Testifying to this is the inscription "Felix Arba" (Fortunate Rab) ingraved on a small amphora dating back to the times of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus from the 2nd/3rd century, which is the official city name inscription and a reflection of its prosperity. The title of "felix" (fortunate) was awarded to very few Roman cities. In Italy, alongside Rome, "felix" was awarded only to Ravenna and Aquileia, followed by Carthage in Africa, while in eastern provinces only Cremona, Berit and Heliopol were awarded the coveted title. Rab was the first city in the province of Dalmatia to be awarded such an exalted title, while Salona, as the capital city of Dalmatia, was awarded the "felix" title some time later. The "felix" title was intended to highlight the glory, rise and prosperity of a city or gratitude for special merit. All of the aforementioned indicates that Rab was already a developed city with running water, bath houses, theatres, landscaped streets, public buildings in construction, temples and monuments. Testifying to this are historical records of the slave Gaius Recius Leo who built the city aqueduct in 174 (he brought water to the town and water "such that none of the elders ever had") and had built a nymphaeum, a lavish fountain that none of the inhabitants had seen anything alike before. The stone inscription testifies not only the existence of the aqueduct but of bath houses and a nymphaeum, as well. It is a truly remarkable prosperity almost 2,000 years ago for such a small island. The prosperity of Rab in those times can, most likely, be attributed to trade, livestock farming and Mediterranean agriculture.

The"felix" or fortunate title was awarded to very few Roman cities whereas Rab was the very first of the cities in Dalmatia to receive one during the reign of Septimius Severus (2nd - 3rd century). he"felix" or fortunate title was intended to highlight the glory, rise and prosperity of a city or gratitude for special merit. Roman legionaries and gladiators went to Rab to vacation and to recuperate.

Rab is a significant early Christian centre

St. Marin is the founder of the Republic of San Marino. He died on September 3rd, 301, which is the official Statehood day of the Republic of San Marino, bearing the title of the oldest republic in the world.

As a testament to the significance of Rab as an early Christian centre speaks the fact that the inhabitants of Rab, in the 3rd and 4th centuries, were the founders of the present-day Republic of San Marino and the Republic of San Leo which is today a city in the Republic of Italy.

The island was at the height of its power between 11th and 14th centuries

The largest investment achievement of all time in the island of Rab was the construction of the Rab Cathedral bell tower during the 12th century, the most beautiful edifice of its kind on the eastern Adriatic coast. For the longest time it was the second largest building on the eastern Adriatic coast towering over all the contemporary bell-towers of Istria and Dalmatia and over all the preserved monuments of the Antiquity.

Up until the 11th century Rab was a significant centre during the Byzantine empire, with the greatest revival as a free Adriatic commune from the second half of the 11th century all the way through the 12th and 13th centuries. During the stated period, Rab was alternating between the rule of Croatian kings and the Republic of Venice, which bought the island alongside the entire Dalmatia to rule the entire region until its demise by the hand of Napoleon in 1798.

Ruled by multiple states during the 20th century

After a brief French administration and the first Austrian one, up until the end of World War I, Rab was part of the Austrian province of Dalmatia. After a two-year long Italian occupation it fell under the rule of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, followed by the rule of its home state of Croatia within the federation of Yugoslavia. In 1990, Rab has become part of the Republic of Croatia.

The patron saint of Rab (Diocese of Rab) is St. Christopher, whose skull is kept in the museum of St. Justine as a precious relic. The importance of Rab forests is highlighted in the Coat of Arms of Rab which is depicted as encircled by a branch of the holm oak tree.