Mavro Orbin

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Mavro Orbin
Born mid-16th century
Ragusa (now in Croatia)
Died 1614
Nationality Ragusan
Other names Mavro Orbini, Mauro Orbin, or Mauro Orbini
Occupation a writer, ideologue and historian
Known for works that influenced Panslavist ideology

Mavro Orbin (also Mavro Orbini, Mauro Orbin, or Mauro Orbini) (mid-16th century – 1614) was a writer, ideologue and historian from the Republic of Ragusa. His work The Realm of the Slavs influenced Slavic ideology and historiography in the later centuries.

Orbini was born in Dubrovnik (now in Croatia), capital of the Republic of Ragusa, a Slavic populated merchant city-state on the eastern shore of the Adriatic sea. His family drew origin from Kotor in the Bay of Kotor. After becoming a Benedictine monk, he lived for a while in the monastery on the island of Mljet, later in Ston, and in Hungary, where he was the abbot of the monastery in Bačka for a couple of years. Then he returned to Dubrovnik, where he spent the rest of his life.

Like most Dalmatian intellectuals of his time, he was familiar with the pan-Slavic ideology of Vinko Pribojević. He made a very important contribution to that ideology by writing The Realm of the Slavs in Italian, a historical/ideological book published in Pesaro in 1601. This uncritical history of the Slavs was translated into Russian by Sava Vladislavich in 1722, with a preface by Feofan Prokopovich. From then on, the book exerted a significant influence on the ideas of Slavic peoples about themselves and on the European ideas on Slavs.

Like Pribojević, Orbin unifies the Illyric and Slav mythic identities and interprets history from a pan-Slavic mythological position. Since Orbin lived on the very edge of the Croatian and Slavic free lands, he glorified the multitude of Slavic peoples (primarily Russians and Poles) to counteract the aggressiveness of the Germanic, Italian (Venice) and Turk empires.

Orbin also published a book in "Illyric" (meaning "South Slavic" or "Serbo-Croatian"), Spiritual Mirror (Zrcalo Duhovno, 1595), which was essentially a translation of the Italian work by Angelo Nelli. This text, translated into the "Dubrovnik language", as Orbin calls it (again, an early form of Croatian), has cultural and historical importance as an example of Croatian prose of the 16th century.

Aside from its ideological background, Orbin's main work was used for a long time as one of the few sources for segments of late medieval history of the South Slavs, from Carinthia and the Slovene Lands to Serbia and Bulgaria. Even today's historiography is often uncertain about how much truth there is in some of his writings and claims.

Orbin's work The Realm of the Slavs was also the main source used by Paisius of Hilendar to write his Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya, the most influential work of early Bulgarian historiography, in 1762. He is referred to in the book as "a certain Mavrubir, a Latin", and is generally discredited despite being often cited.


  • Zarcalo dvhovno od pocetka i sfarhe xivota coviecanskoga : razdieglieno, i razreyeno u petnaes razgovora, a u stoo, i pedeset dubbia, alliti sumgna poglavitieh. Vcignenieh meyu mesctrom, i gnegoviem vcenijkom. / Istomaceno iz yezikka italianskoga u dubrovacki po D. Mavru Orbinu Dubrovcaninu Opattu od S. Marie od Backe, od Reda Sfetoga Benedikta. (Spiritual Mirror...), 1595 (published later in 1621 in Venice and in 1703)
  • The Kingdom of the Slavs - Il regno degli Slavi, Pesaro, 1601.

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