626 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 4 JULY 2020
ently they sometimes had to survive exposed to the elements. Such shelter as
did exist, at least in the early years of quarantine, could be burnt down, presumably
either when no longer needed or as a means of disinfection.
While Dubrovnik’s was the first quarantine law, it was perhaps not the
first exercise of a quarantine power. In 1348, during the Black Death, it
appears that Venice allowed “a council of three the power to detain ships,
cargoes, and individuals in the Venetian lagoon”.5
Accompanying that portion of Dubrovnik’s law that delayed entry of
incomers were restrictions on the ability of residents of Dubrovnik to interact
with those who were quarantined. Of the 47 councillors present for voting
on the law, 44 “decided that, under the threat of being sent into
quarantine for a month, the residents of Dubrovnik are strictly forbidden to
visit those who arrive from plague-infested areas and who will be confined
on the islet of Mrkan or Cavtat”. The law continued: “Those who dare bring
food or any other necessities to the interned, without the permission of the
officials designated for that function, will have to stay there in isolation for
a month”. The smallest number of votes (29 of 47) was in favour of a monetary
fine for “whoever did not obey the above decisions”. Penalties were
made more stringent over time.
Also ultimately made more stringent was the period of segregation. The
word “quarantine” is derived from the Italian and Latin words for the number
40. Although Dubrovnik’s isolation period was originally set at 30 days
(a “trentino”), not 40, it was later extended to 40 days (to become a “quarantino”).
The 40-day period became sufficiently common to serve as the foundation
for the generic term—“quarantine”—we know today.
Looking from the coast toward the island of Mrkan, off Cavtat