Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of Slovenia. During antiquity, it was the site of a Roman city called Emona. It was under Habsburg rule from the Middle Ages until the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.

Situated at the middle of a trade route between the northern Adriatic Sea and the Danube region, it was the historical capital of Carniola, a Slovene-inhabited part of the Habsburg Monarchy, and it has been the cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative center of independent Slovenia since 1991. Its central geographic location within Slovenia, transport connections, concentration of industry, scientific and research institutions, and cultural tradition are contributing factors to its leading position.

Ljubljana triple bridge (Tromostovje) and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation reflected in Ljubljanica River, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Europe
Ljubljana triple bridge  and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

Name and symbol

The origin of the city’s name is unclear. In the Middle Ages, both the river and the town were also known by the German name Laibach. This name was in official use as an endonym until 1918, and it remains frequent as a German exonym, both in common speech and official use. The city is called in Italian Lubiana and in Latin: Labacum or Aemona For most scholars, the problem has been in how to connect the Slovene and the German names. The origin from the Slavic ljublyoob “to love, like” was in 2007 supported as the most probable by the linguist Tijmen Pronk, a specialist in comparative Indo-European linguistics and Slovene dialectology, from the University of Leiden. He supported the thesis that the name of the river derived from the name of the settlement. The linguist Silvo Torkar, who specializes in Slovene personal and place names,argued at the same place for the thesis that the name Ljubljana derives from Ljubija, the original name of the Ljubljanica River flowing through it, itself derived from the Old Slavic male name Ljubovid, “the one of a lovely appearance”. The name Laibach, he claimed, was actually a hybrid of German and Slovene and derived from the same personal name.

 The main desk in the Ljubljana town hall features the symbol of the city.

The symbol of the city is the Ljubljana Dragon. It is depicted on the top of the tower of Ljubljana Castle in the Ljubljana coat of arms and on the Ljubljanica-crossing Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most). It symbolizes power, courage, and greatness.

There are several explanations on the origin of the Ljubljana Dragon. According to a Slavic myth, the slaying of a dragon releases the waters and ensures the fertility of the earth, and it is thought that the myth is tied to the Ljubljana Marshes, the expansive marshy area that periodically threatens Ljubljana with flooding. According to the celebrated Greek legend, the Argonauts on their return home after having taken the Golden Fleece found a large lake surrounded by a marsh between the present-day towns of Vrhnika and Ljubljana. It was there that Jason struck down a monster. This monster has evolved into the dragon that today is present in the city coat of arms and flag.

It is historically more believable that the dragon was adopted from Saint George, the patron of the Ljubljana Castle chapel built in the 15th century. In the legend of Saint George, the dragon represents the old ancestral paganism overcome by Christianity. According to another explanation, related to the second, the dragon was at first only a decoration above the city coat of arms. In the Baroque, it became part of the coat of arms, and in the 19th and especially the 20th century, it outstripped the tower and other elements in importance.