The history of the island of Rab dates back to history – even 228 years before Christ. Rab has a rich history that makes this island today specific. Mixing cultures, civilizations and authorities has led to diversity in architectural styles, custom, and many other aspects that the people of Rab proudly emphasize today.
At the Archaeological Museum in Zadar the traces of the earliest age, ie tools, weapons and equipment made of stone are kept. These remains were found in northern Dalmatia and Kvarner. In the Archaeological Museum, among the stone ax, knives, arrows is a fishing hook found on Rab, which confirms the population of Rab from the earliest times.
The first reliable data are found in ancient Greek records in traveler’s and sailing guidebooks. The Greek geographer-traveler Skilaks Kariandon wrote in his writings about his knowledge of the islands of Liburnia, among them Rab. The Greek and Roman geographers mentioned the island of Arba in the geographical references, which was apparently Rab itself. The root of the name Arba comes from the Illyrian tribe Liburnians. In the position where the city of Rab is today, there was a pre-Roman settlement that the Liburnians called Arba. The age of the name Arba is difficult to determine, but it is known that it appeared at the beginning of the Iron Age because the remains of the settlement from that period were found. The Liburno-Illyrian name Arb carries the meaning of green, wooded, dark, which was interpreted as “the Black Island”, and this name most likely signified the evergreen forests that can be found on the island of Rab. In the Latin scriptures of the 1st century AD, there are the names Arbe, Arbiana, Arbitana and the most common Arbum. The Arbum was changed by the Slavic Croats in the spirit of the Old Croatian into Rab, according to the scriptures, this happened already in the 7th century after Christ, when the first Croats came to Croatia. The oldest reliable record in which the name of Rab is officially mentioned for the first time is the Latin document on the founding of the Franciscan monastery of St. Euphemia in Kampor, and it dates back to the 15th Century. Rab in its earliest known history was under the control of the Roman Empire and the Slavs.
In the 9th century, under the rule of Prince Branimir, Croatia became an independent state. At that time the island of Rab paid a hundred gold coins to the prince Branimir, as an independent ruler. The Christian faith was already accepted among the Croats, since Cyril and Method had already spread Christian faith through church books written on the Glagolitic script. After Branimir, the coastal towns and islands, including Rab, fell under the rule of Byzantium . They were ruled by Byzantium up to the first Croatian king Tomislav, which was crowned in 925.. After his arrival, Rab became an autonomous municipality that independently led the city, had its own statute, and independently concluded trade agreements. At that time, on the west coast of the Adriatic there is a new force – Venice or the Venetian Republic. Croatian rulers have made great efforts to prevent the arrival of the Venetians into the Croatian part of the Adriatic. In the 11th century, the Venetians occupied Rab and the Dalmatian islands twice. At the time of the most powerful Croatian king – Petar Krešimir IV, Rab and the entire Dalmatia became an integral part of the Croatian Kingdom. In the year 1059, the Bishop of Rab, Drago, invited the priests of the Benedictine Order and gave them a great possession in Supetarska Draga. They built the churches of St. Peter and St. Peter Ciprian. The gift of Bishop Drago was confirmed by Petar Krešimir IV. Benedictines have contributed to the spread of culture to Rab, for which there are records and architectural remains that are preserved today in churches and monasteries throughout Rab.
After the extinction of the Croatian dynasty, the territory of Croatia was dominated by the kings of Arpad and later by the Anjouinnian families. The most famous Arpad was Koloman. He has confirmed the rights of Rab, which were made by Petar Krešimir IV by the Declaration made in 1111 and donated the expensive cross to the Rab church. Bela IV, from the Arpad dynasty, in 1241. fleeing from Mongolians, came to Rab. In 1358, Ljudevit the Big, from the Anjouin dynasty, liberated Dalmatia and the Kvarner Venetian authorities. After the death of Ljudevit the Big, the Venetians again went to Dalmatia and Kvarner, and again conquered the area. They ruled it until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. During the Venetian Republic, Rab became an important trading center between the east and the west. Rab possessed a strong trading navy, developed economically and culturally, and the inhabitants lived in abundance and prosperity. During this time, about 10,000 people lived in Rab, and about half of that population in the town of Rab. Discovering the way to India, the Mediterranean loses importance in trade, and Rab, along with most of the Adriatic cities, slowly begins to deteriorate and collapse.
In 1456, Rab was causing a great plague-epidemic of plague. The southern part of the city of Rab – Kaldanac was most affected, and since the inhabitants moved to nearby land or nearby islands, this part was never fully recovered. Rab was under the rule of the Venetians until May 12, 1797. when Napoleon came. After the fall of Napoleon, Rab fell into the hands of Austria, under whose authority it was until 1921., when it was merged with the then Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
Between the world wars, the island of Rab was developing neither tourism or the industry. The population of Rab mainly worked in agriculture. A large number of young people emigrated to the mainland in search of education and work. At that time, the people of Rab were more prone to antifascism. After Germany attacked Czechoslovakia, anti-fascism grew. During the Second World War, Rab was occupied by the Italians. In Kampor, they founded a notorious concentration camp whose remains are still standing in the vicinity of Kampor today. On March 19, 1944, Italy capitulated, and Rab became free for a short time. The Germans and the Ustashas kept full control of the island by air, ships and infantry. At that time, tourism was weakening as the whole of Europe suffered from the effects of war. The majority of the population continued to work in agriculture and fishing, but they built roads, schools and other infrastructure. With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and the proclamation of Croatia as an independent state, on 25.1.1991, Rab became a part of the Republic of Croatia and remains part of it today.