The Kingdom of Georgia (Georgian: საქართველოს სამეფო), also known as the Georgian Empire,[3][4][5][6] was a medieval monarchy which emerged circa 1008 AD. It reached its Golden Age of political and economic strength during the reign of King David IV and Queen Tamar the Great from 11th to 13th centuries. Georgia became one of the pre-eminent nations of the Christian East, her pan-Caucasian empire stretching, at its largest extent, from the North Caucasus to Northern Iran, and eastwards into Asia Minor, while also maintaining religious possessions abroad, such as the Monastery of the Cross and Iviron. It was the principal historical precursor of present-day Georgia.

Lasting for several centuries, the kingdom fell to the Mongol invasions in the 13th century, but managed to re-assert sovereignty by the 1340s. The following decades were marked by Black Death, as well as numerous invasions under the leadership of Timur, who devastated the country's economy, population, and urban centers. The Kingdom's geopolitical situation further worsened after the fall of the Empire of Trebizond. As a result of these processes, by the end of the 15th century Georgia turned into a fractured entity. Renewed incursions by Timur from 1386, and the later invasions by the Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu led to the final collapse of the kingdom into anarchy by 1466 and the mutual recognition of its constituent kingdoms of Kartli, Kakheti and Imereti as independent states between 1490 and 1493 – each led by a rival branch of the Bagrationi dynasty, and into five semi-independent principalities – Odishi, Guria, Abkhazia, Svaneti, and Samtskhe – dominated by their own feudal clans.

Unification of the Georgian State

In struggle against the Arab occupation, Bagrationi dynasty came to rule over Tao-Klarjeti, former southern provinces of Iberia, and established Kouropalatate of Iberia as a nominal vassal of the Byzantine Empire. The restoration of the Georgian kingship begins in 888, when Adarnase IV of Iberia took the title of "King of Iberia". However, the Bagrationi dynasty failed to maintain the integrity of their kingdom, which was actually divided between the two branches of the family with the main branch retaining Tao and another controlling Klarjeti. At the end of the 10th century David III of Tao invaded the Principality of Iberia (Kartli) and gave it to his foster-son Bagrat III and installed Gurgen as his regent, who was later crowned as "King of Kings of the Iberians" (994). Through his mother Gurandukht, sister of the childless Abkhazian king Theodosius III (c. 975-978), Bagrat was a potential heir to the realm of Abkhazia. Through his fortunate bloodlines Bagrat III was destined to sit upon two thrones. Three years later, after the death of Theodosius III, Bagrat III inherited the Abkhazian throne. In 1008, Gurgen died, and Bagrat succeeded him as "King of the Iberians", becoming thus the first King of a unified realm of Abkhazia and Iberia. After he had secured his patrimony, Bagrat proceeded to press a claim to the easternmost Georgian kingdom of Kakheti-Hereti and annexed it in or around 1010, after two years of fighting and aggressive diplomacy. Bagrat’s reign, a period of uttermost importance in the history of Georgia, brought about the final victory of the Georgian Bagratids in the centuries-long power struggles. Anxious to create more stable and centralized monarchy, Bagrat eliminated or at least diminished the autonomy of the dynastic princes. In his eyes, the most possible internal danger came from the Klarjeti line of the Bagrationi. To secure the succession to his son, George I, Bagrat lured his cousins, on pretext of a reconciliatory meeting and threw them in prison in 1010. Bagrat’s foreign policy was generally peaceful and the king successfully manoeuvred to avoid the conflicts with both the Byzantine and Muslim neighbours even though David's domains of Tao remained in the Byzantine and Tbilisi in the Arab hands.

War and peace with Byzantium

The major political and military event during George I’s reign, a war against the Byzantine Empire, had its roots back to the 990s, when the Georgian prince and Curopalates David III of Tao, following his abortive rebellion against Emperor Basil II, had to agree to cede his extensive possessions in Tao to the emperor on his death. All the efforts by David’s stepson and George’s father, Bagrat III, to prevent these territories from being annexed to the empire went in vain. Young and ambitious, George launched a campaign to restore the Curopalates’ succession to Georgia and occupied Tao in 1015–1016. Byzantines were at that time involved in a relentless war with the Bulgar Empire, limiting their actions to the west. But as soon as Bulgaria was conquered, Basil II led his army against Georgia (1021). An exhausting war lasted for two years, and ended in a decisive Byzantine victory, forcing George to agree to a peace treaty, in which he had not only to abandon his claims to Tao, but to surrender several of his southwestern possessions to Basil, and to give his three-year-old son, Bagrat IV, as hostage.

The young child Bagrat IV spent the next three years in the imperial capital of Constantinople and was released in 1025. After George I's death in 1027, Bagrat, aged eight, succeeded to the throne. By the time Bagrat IV became king, the Bagratids’ drive to complete the unification of all Georgian lands had gained irreversible momentum. The kings of Georgia sat at Kutaisi in western Georgia from which they ran all of what had been the Kingdom of Abkhazia and a greater portion of Iberia; Tao had been lost to the Byzantines while a Muslim emir remained in Tbilisi and the kings of Kakheti-Hereti obstinately defended their autonomy in easternmost Georgia. Furthermore, the loyalty of great nobles to the Georgian crown was far from stable. During Bagrat’s minority, the regency had advanced the positions of the high nobility whose influence he subsequently tried to limit when he assumed full ruling powers. Simultaneously, the Georgian crown was confronted with two formidable external foes: the Byzantine Empire and the resurgent Seljuq Turks.

Great Turkish Invasion

The second half of the 11th century was marked by the strategically significant invasion of the Seljuq Turks, who by the end of the 1040s had succeeded in building a vast empire including most of Central Asia and Persia. The Seljuk threat prompted the Georgian and Byzantine governments to seek a closer cooperation. To secure the alliance, Bagrat’s daughter Maria married, at some point between 1066 and 1071, the Byzantine co-emperor Michael VII Ducas. The Seljuqs made their first appearances in Georgia in the 1060s, when the sultan Alp Arslan laid waste to the south-western provinces of the Georgian kingdom and reduced Kakheti. These intruders were part of the same wave of the Turkish movement which inflicted a crushing defeat on the Byzantine army at Manzikert in 1071. Although the Georgians were able to recover from Alp Arslan's invasion by securing the Tao (Theme of Iberia), a frontier region which had been a bone of contention between Georgia and the Byzantine Empire, the Byzantine withdrawal from Anatolia brought Georgia in more direct contact with the Seljuqs. Following the 1073 devastation of Kartli by the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan, George II successfully repelled an invasion. In 1076, the Seljuk sultan Malik Shah I surged into Georgia and reduced many settlements to ruins. Harassed by the massive Turkic influx, known in Georgian history as the Great Turkish Invasion, from 1079/80 onward, George was pressured into submitting to Malik-Shah to ensure a precious degree of peace at the price of an annual tribute.

Georgia during the Byzantine Empire, 1045 AD

George's acceptance of the Seljuq suzerainty did not bring a real peace for Georgia. The Turks continued their seasonal movement into the Georgian territory to make use of the rich herbage of the Kura valley and the Seljuq garrisons occupied the key fortresses in Georgia's south. These inroads and settlements had a ruinous effect on Georgia's economic and political order. Cultivated lands were turned into pastures for the nomads and peasant farmers were compelled to seek safety in the mountains.

The contemporary Georgian chronicler laments that:

Georgian Reconquista

David IV

Watching his kingdom slip into chaos, George II ceded the crown to his 16-year-old son David IV in 1089, who assumed the throne at the age of 16 in a period of Great Turkish Invasions. As he came of age under the guidance of his court minister, George of Chqondidi, David IV suppressed dissent of feudal lords and centralized the power in his hands to effectively deal with foreign threats. King David IV proved to be a capable statesman and military commander. In 1089–1100, he organized small detachments to harass and destroy isolated Seljuk troops and began the resettlement of desolate regions. In 1103 a major ecclesiastical congress known as the Ruis-Urbnisi Synod was held at the monasteries of Ruisi and Urbnisi. By 1099 David IV's power was considerable enough that he was able to refuse paying tribute to Seljuqs. By that time, he also rejected a Byzantine title of panhypersebastos[7] thus indicating that Georgia would deal with the Byzantine Empire only on a parity basis.

To strengthen his army, King David launched a major military reform in 1118–1120 and resettled some 40,000 Kipchaks from the northern steppes to frontier districts of Georgia. Kipchaks were outfitted by the crown and were granted lands to settle. In turn, the Kipchaks provided one soldier per family, allowing King David to establish a standing army in addition to his royal troops. The new army provided the king with a much-needed force to fight both external threats and internal discontent of powerful lords. The Georgian-Kipchak alliance was facilitated by David's earlier marriage to the Khan's daughter.

Starting in 1120, King David began a more aggressive policy of expansion. Muslim powers became increasingly concerned about the rapid rise of a Christian state in southern Caucasia. In 1121, Sultan Mahmud b. Muhammad (c. 1118–1131) declared a holy war on Georgia. However, 12 August 1121, King David routed the enemy army on the fields of Didgori, with fleeing Seljuq Turks being run down by pursuing Georgian cavalry for several days. A huge amount of booty and prisoners were captured by David's army, which had also secured Tbilisi and inaugurated Georgia's Golden Age.[8]

A well-educated man, he preached tolerance and acceptance of other religions, abrogated taxes and services for the Muslims and Jews, and protected the Sufis and Muslim scholars. In 1123, David’s army liberated Dmanisi, the last Seljuk stronghold in southern Georgia. In 1124, David finally conquered Shirvan and took the Armenian city of Ani from the Muslim emirs, thus expanding the borders of his kingdom to the Araxes basin. Armenians met him as a liberator providing some auxiliary force for his army. It was when the important component of "Sword of the Messiah" appeared in the title of David the Builder.

David IV founded the Gelati Academy, which became an important center of scholarship in the Eastern Orthodox Christian world of that time. Due to the extensive work carried out by the Gelati Academy, people of the time called it "a new Hellas" and "a second Athos".[9] David also played a personal role in reviving Georgian religious hymnography, composing the Hymns of Repentance, a sequence of eight free-verse psalms. In this emotional repentance of his sins, David sees himself as reincarnating the Biblical David, with a similar relationship to God and to his people. His hymns also share the idealistic zeal of the contemporaneous European crusaders to whom David was a natural ally in his struggle against the Seljuks.[10][verification needed]

The reign of Demetrius I and George III

The kingdom continued to flourish under Demetrius I, the son of David. Although his reign saw a disruptive family conflict related to royal succession, Georgia remained a centralized power with a strong military. In 1139, he raided the earthquake-ridden city of Ganja in Arran. He brought the iron gate of the defeated city to Georgia and donated it to Gelati Monastery at Kutaisi, western Georgia. Despite this brilliant victory, Demetrius could hold Ganja only for a few years.[11][12] A talented poet, Demetrius also continued his father's contributions to Georgia's religious polyphony. The most famous of his hymns is Thou Art a Vineyard, which is dedicated to Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Georgia, and is still sung in Georgia's churches 900 years after its creation.[citation needed]

Demetrius was succeeded by his son George in 1156, beginning a stage of more offensive foreign policy. The same year he ascended to the throne, George launched a successful campaign against the Seljuq sultanate of Ahlat. He freed the important Armenian town of Dvin from Turkish vassalage and was thus welcomed as a liberator in the area.[citation needed] In 1167, he marched to defend his vassal Shah Aghsartan of Shirvan against the Khazar and Kipchak assaults and strengthened the Georgian dominance in the area. George gave his daughter Rusudan, in marriage, to Manuel Komnenos, the son of Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos. In 1177, the nobles rose in rebellion but were suppressed. The following year, King Giorgi III ceded the throne to his daughter Tamar, but remained coregent until his death in 1184.

Golden age

The unified monarchy maintained its precarious independence from the Byzantine and Seljuk empires throughout the 11th century, and flourished under David IV the Builder (c. 1089–1125), who repelled the Seljuk attacks and essentially completed the unification of Georgia with the re-conquest of Tbilisi in 1122.[13] In spite of repeated incidents of dynastic strife, the kingdom continued to prosper during the reigns of Demetrios I (1125–1156), George III (1156–1184), and especially, his daughter Tamar (1184–1213).

During Tamara's reign, the Kingdom patronized Georgian-built religious centers overseas, such as this Iviron Monastery

With the decline of Byzantine power and the dissolution of the Great Seljuk Empire, Georgia became one of the pre-eminent nations of the region, stretching, at its largest extent, from present-day Southern Russia to Northern Iran, and westwards into Anatolia. The Kingdom of Georgia brought about the Georgian Golden Age, which describes a historical period in the High Middle Ages, spanning from roughly the late 11th to 13th centuries, when the kingdom reached the zenith of its power and development. The period saw the flourishing of medieval Georgian architecture, painting and poetry, which was frequently expressed in the development of ecclesiastic art, as well as the creation of first major works of secular literature. It was a period of military, political, economical and cultural progress. It also included the so-called Georgian Renaissance (also called Eastern Renaissance[14]), during which various human activities, forms of craftsmanship and art, such as literature, philosophy and architecture thrived in the kingdom.[15]

Queen Tamar's reign

Queen Tamar and her father King George III (restored fresco from the Betania monastery)

The successes of his predecessors were built upon by Queen Tamar, daughter of George III, who became the first female ruler of Georgia in her own right and under whose leadership the Georgian state reached the zenith of power and prestige in the Middle Ages. She not only shielded much of her Empire from further Turkish invasions but successfully pacified internal tensions, including a coup organized by her Russian husband Yury Bogolyubsky, prince of Novgorod.

Medieval Georgian monasteries in Balkans and Near East.

In 1199, Tamar's armies led by two Christianised Kurdish[16] generals, Zakare and Ivane Mkhargrzeli, dislodged the Shaddadid dynasty from Ani At the beginning of the 13th century Georgian armies overran fortresses and cities towards the Ararat Plain, reclaiming one after another fortresses and districts from local Muslim rulers: Bjni, Amberd and all the towns on their way in 1201 and Dvin in 1203. Alarmed by the Georgian successes, Süleymanshah II, the resurgent Seljuqid sultan of Rûm, rallied his vassal emirs and marched against Georgia, but his camp was attacked and destroyed by Tamar's husband David Soslan at the Battle of Basian in 1203 or 1204. Exploiting her success in this battle, between 1203-1205 Georgians seized the town of Dvin[17] and entered Akhlatshah possessions twice and subdued the emirs of Kars, Akhlatshahs, Erzurum and Erzincan.

Georgian expedition to Iran in 1208 and 1210-1211 years.

In 1206 the Georgian army, under the command of David Soslan, captured Kars (vassal of the Saltukids in Erzurum) and other fortresses and strongholds along the Araxes. This campaign was evidently started because the ruler of Erzerum refused to submit to Georgia. The emir of Kars requested aid from the Akhlatshahs, but the latter was unable to respond, it was taken over by the Ayyubids In 1207. By 1209 Georgia challenged Ayyubid rule in eastern Anatolia. Georgian army besieged Akhlat. In response Ayyubid Sultan al-Adil assembled and personally led large muslim army that included the emirs of Homs, Hama and Baalbek as well as contingents from other Ayyubid principalities to support al-Awhad. During the siege, Georgian general Ivane Mkhargrdzeli accidentally fell into the hands of the al-Awhad on the outskirts of Akhlat and demanded for his release a thirty-year truce. The Georgians had to lift the siege and conclude peace with the sultan. This brought the struggle for the Armenian lands to a stall,[18] leaving the Lake Van region to the Ayyubids of Damascus.[19]

Among the remarkable events of Tamar's reign was the foundation of the Empire of Trebizond on the Black Sea in 1204. This state was established in the northeast of the crumbling Byzantine Empire with the help of the Georgian armies, which supported Alexios I of Trebizond and his brother, David Komnenos, both of whom were Tamar's relatives.[20] Alexios and David were fugitive Byzantine princes raised at the Georgian court. According to Tamar's historian, the aim of the Georgian expedition to Trebizond was to punish the Byzantine emperor Alexius IV Angelus for his confiscation of a shipment of money from the Georgian queen to the monasteries of Antioch and Mount Athos. Tamar's Pontic endeavor can also be explained by her desire to take advantage of the Western European Fourth Crusade against Constantinople to set up a friendly state in Georgia's immediate southwestern neighborhood, as well as by the dynastic solidarity to the dispossessed Comnenoi.[21][22]

As a retribution for the attack on Georgian-controlled city of Ani, where 12,000 Christians were massacred in 1208, Georgia's Tamar the Great invaded and conquered the cities of Tabriz, Ardabil, Khoy, Qazvin[23] and others along the way to Gorgan[24][25] in northeast Persia.[26]

The country's power had grown to such extent that in the later years of Tamar's rule, the Kingdom was primarily concerned with the protection of the Georgian monastic centers in the Holy Land, eight of which were listed in Jerusalem.[27] Saladin's biographer Bahā' ad-Dīn ibn Šaddād reports that, after the Ayyubid conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, Tamar sent envoys to the sultan to request that the confiscated possessions of the Georgian monasteries in Jerusalem be returned. Saladin's response is not recorded, but the queen's efforts seem to have been successful.[28] Ibn Šaddād furthermore claims that Tamar outbid the Byzantine emperor in her efforts to obtain the relics of the True Cross, offering 200,000 gold pieces to Saladin who had taken the relics as booty at the battle of Hattin – to no avail, however.[29]

Nomadic invasion

The Mongols made their first appearance in the Georgian possessions when this latter kingdom was still in its zenith, dominating most of the Caucasus. The first Mongol expedition defeated two Georgian armies in 1221–1222 and left through Inner Caucasus. Georgians suffered heavy losses in this war and the King George IV, the son of Queen Tamar, himself was severely wounded. The Kingdom of Georgia itself was torn by internal dissent and was unprepared for such an ordeal. The struggle between the nobility and the crown increased. In 1222, King George appointed his sister Rusudan as a co-regent and died later that year. Queen Rusudan (c. 1223–1245) proved a less capable ruler, and domestic discord intensified on the eve of foreign invasion.

Despite the Mongol conquests, Georgia continued to produce cultural landmarks, such as the frescoes of Ubisi by Damiane.

This offensive, which would prove the ruin of Georgia, was preceded by the devastating conflict with Khwarazm ruler Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, the son of the last ruler of Khwarazm, who was defeated by the Mongols and now led his Khwaras mian army to Caucasus. The victorious Khwarezmid soldiers sacked Tbilisi and massacred its Christian population and terminated Georgia’s "Golden Age". Jalal al-Din continued devastating Georgian regions until 1230, when the Mongols finally defeated him.

In 1235–1236, Mongol forces, unlike their first raid in 1221, appeared with the sole purpose of conquest and occupation and easily overran the already devastated Kingdom. Queen Rusudan fled to the security of western Georgia, while the nobles secluded themselves in their fortresses. By 1240 all the country was under the Mongol yoke. Forced to accept the sovereignty of the Mongol Khan in 1242, Rusudan had to pay an annual tribute of 50,000 gold pieces and support the Mongols with a Georgian army.

Mongol yoke

Map of Kingdom of Georgia during Mongol invasion, 1245 AD.

Following the death of Queen Rusudan in 1245, an interregnum began during which the Mongols divided the Caucasus into eight tumens. The Mongols created the "Vilayet of Gurjistan", which included Georgia and the whole South Caucasus, where they ruled indirectly, through the Georgian monarch, the latter to be confirmed by the Great Khan upon his/her ascension.

Exploiting the complicated issue of succession, the Mongols had the Georgian nobles divided into two rival parties, each of which advocated their own candidate to the crown. These were David VII "Ulu", an illegitimate son of George IV, and his cousin David VI "Narin", son of Rusudan. After a failed plot against the Mongol rule in Georgia (1245), Güyük Khan made, in 1247, both pretenders co-kings, in eastern and western parts of the kingdom respectively, they also carved out the region of Samtskhe and Armenia and placed it under the direct control of the Ilkhanate. The system of dumans was abolished, but the Mongols closely watched the Georgian administration in order to secure a steady flow of taxes and tributes from the subject peoples, who were also pressed into the Mongol armies. Georgians attended all major campaigns of the Ilkhanate and aristocrats' sons served in kheshig.[30]

Western and Eastern Georgia around 1311 AD.

The period between 1259 and 1330 was marked by the struggle of the Georgians against the Mongol Ilkhanate for full independence. The first anti-Mongol uprising started in 1259 under the leadership of King David Narin who in fact waged his war for almost thirty years. The Anti-Mongol strife went on under the Kings Demetrius II (c. 1270–1289) and David VIII (c. 1293–1311).

In the year 1327 there occurred in Mongol Persia the most dramatic event of the reign of the Il-Khan Abu Sa'id, namely the disgrace and execution of Chupan, protégé of the Georgian king George V the Brilliant. Chupan's son Mahmud, who commanded the Mongol garrison in Georgia, was arrested by his own troops and executed. Subsequently, Iqbalshah, son of Qutlughshah, was appointed to be Mongol governor of Georgia (Gurjistan).[31] In 1330–31 George used this loss as a pretext to rebel against the already weakened Ilkhanate. He pursued a shrewd and flexible policy aimed at throwing off the Mongol yoke and restoring the Georgian kingdom. He established close relations with the Mongol khans and succeeded in acquiring authority to personally collect taxes on their behalf. Using Mongol force to his advantage, In 1329, George laid siege to Kutaisi, western Georgia, reducing the local king Bagrat I the Little to a vassal prince. In 1334 he reasserted royal authority over the virtually independent principality of Samtskhe and returned the Empire of Trebizond into Georgia's sphere of influence.

Detail from the Nautical chart by Angelino Dulcert, depicting Georgian Black Sea coast and Tiflis, 1339

In 1334, Shaykh Hasan of the Jalayir was appointed as governor of Georgia by Abu Sai'd.[32] However, George soon took advantage of the civil war in the Il-Khanate, where several khans were overthrown between 1335 and 1344, and drove the last remaining Mongol troops out of Georgia.Having restored the kingdom’s unity, he focused now on cultural, social and economic projects. He changed the coins issued by Ghazan khan with the Georgian ones, called George’s tetri. Between 1325 and 1338, he worked out two major law codes, one regulating the relations at the royal court and the other devised for the peace of a remote and disorderly mountainous district. Under him, Georgia established close international commercial ties, mainly with the Byzantine Empire, but also with the great European maritime republics, Genoa and Venice.

Black Death

One of the primary reasons of Georgian political and military decline was the bubonic plague. It was first introduced in 1346 by the soldiers of George the Brilliant returning from a military expedition in south-western Georgia against invading Osmanli tribesmen. It is said that the plague wiped out a large part, if not half of the Georgian populace.[33][34] This further weakened the integrity of the kingdom, as well as its military and logistic capabilities.

Georgia 1450th

Final disintegration

There was a period of reunion and revival under George V the Brilliant (1299–1302, 1314–1346), but the eight onslaughts of the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur between 1386 and 1403 dealt a great blow to the Georgian kingdom. Its unity was finally shattered and, by 1490/91, the once powerful monarchy fragmented into three independent kingdoms – Kartli (central to eastern Georgia), Kakheti (eastern Georgia), and Imereti (western Georgia) – each led by the rival branches of the Bagrationi dynasty, and into five semi-independent principalities – Odishi, (Mingrelia), Guria, Abkhazia, Svaneti, and Samtskhe – dominated by their own feudal clans.

Government and Society

Georgian monarchs followed a policy of religious tolerance and their Christian, Muslim and Jewish subjects could feel quite comfortable. Medieval Georgia, in its political and cultural development and social structure, resembled Europe, "all the familiar terms of Western feudalism had their equivalents in the social system of medieval Georgia"[35] obviously influenced by Byzantium. In the medieval period, Georgian feudalism or "Patronqmoba" went through three distinct phases. In the first period, taken to have lasted from the 8th to the 11th centuries, Georgian society was organized as a network of personal ties, tying the king with the nobles of various classes. By the early 9th century, Georgia had already developed a system in which homage was exchanged for benefices. Unlike the countries of medieval Europe, where the three elements of political compromise – towns, feudal lords and the church – divided power among themselves and consequently promoted the development of strong centralized nation-States, in Georgia the towns were too weak and were deprived of rights, the feudal lords were too strong, and the church was nominally subjugated to the crown and politically less active.

The aristocratic élite of this period was divided into two major classes: an upper noble whose dynastic dignity and feudal quality was expressed in the terms Tavadi and Didebuli, respectively; both of these terms were synonymous, from the 11th to the 14th centuries, with Eristavi, and all three terms referred to one of the upper nobles, "a Prince". Lesser nobles, the Aznauri, were either "nobles of race" or "of patent" who acquired their status in specific charters issued by the king or a lord. The power of the feudal nobles over the peasantry also increased and the cultivators began to loss a degree of personal freedom they had formerly enjoyed.


Eristavi (governors of provinces) were in charge of local governing. The frontier regions were granted exceptional privileges and autonomous rights, and were governed by monapire eristavi (frontier governor). For their part, Saeristavo were divided into Khevi ruled by Khevistavi (in mountainous regions - Khevisberi). Towns were governed by Amiri, while large cities by Amirt-amiri. All these arrangements were codified and systematised in special legislation - Regulations of the Royal Court - and codes of laws. Tamar provided the bishops and the churches with endowments, exempting churches of quitrents and duties.

At the time of reign Tamar, the Eristavis in western Georgia, beyond the mountains of Likhi, were Baram Vardanisdze in Svaneti, Kakhaber Kakhaberisdze in Racha and Takveri; Otagho Sharvashidze was in Tskhumi, Amanelisdze in Artgveti, Bediani in Odishi. In eastern Georgia on this side of the Likhi Mountains, in Kartli was Rati Surameli, Bakur "the Younger", son of Dzagama, in Kakheti and in Hereti was Asat, son of Grigol, who took the post by force from Saghir Kolonkelisdze; a little later he handed it over to his son, Grigol, because he obtained for himself Arishiani, and the right to sit on a cushion. Botso Jaqeli was appointed Eristavi and Spasalar in Samtskhe.

Administrative division of the medieval Kingdom of Georgia in Georgian golden age.

There were several frontier (sanapiro) marches estabelished specifically on southern districts:

  1. Count of Gagi
  2. Count of Lore
  3. Count of Javakheti
  4. Count of Artaani
  5. Count of Panaskerti
  6. Count of Gachian
  7. Count of Kari

Muslim vassal states: Arran, Nakhchivan, Erzerum and Shah Armens.

Tribute extracted from the neighbors and war booty added to the royal treasury, giving rise to the saying that "the peasants were like nobles, the nobles like princes, and the princes like kings."[36][37]

Religion and Culture

Archangel of Kintsvisi, complete with scarce natural ultramarine paint, evidenced the increasing resources of the realm

Between the 11th and the early 13th centuries, Georgia experienced a political, economical and cultural golden age, as the Bagrationi dynasty managed to unite western and eastern halves of the country into a single kingdom. To accomplish that goal, kings relied much on the prestige of the Church, and enrolled its political support by giving it many economical advantages, immunity from taxes and large appanages. At the same time, the kings, most notably David the Builder (1089–1125), used state power to interfere in church affairs. Notably, he summoned the 1103 council of Ruisi-Urbnisi, which condemned Armenian Miaphysitism in stronger terms than ever before, and gave unprecedented power, second only to the Patriarch, to his friend and advisor George of Chqondidi. For the following centuries, the Church would remain a crucial feudal institution, whose economical and political power would always be at least equal to that of the main noble families.

During the Middle Ages, Christianity was the central element of Georgian culture. Specific forms of art were developed in Georgia for religious purposes. Among them, calligraphy, polyphonic church singing, cloisonné enamel icons, such as the Khakhuli triptych, and the "Georgian cross-dome style" of architecture, which characterizes most medieval Georgian churches. The most celebrated examples of Georgian religious architecture of the time include the Gelati Monastery and Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi, the Ikalto Monastery complex and Academy, and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta.

Outstanding Georgian representatives of Christian culture include Euthymius of Athos (Ekvtime Atoneli, 955–1028), George of Athos (Giorgi Atoneli, 1009–1065), Arsen Ikaltoeli (11th century), and Ephrem Mtsire, (11th century). Philosophy flourished between the 11th and 13th century, especially at the Academy of Gelati Monastery, where Ioane Petritsi attempted a synthesis of Christian, aristotelician and neoplatonic thought.

Tamar's reign also marked the continuation of artistic development in the country commenced by her predecessors. While her contemporary Georgian chronicles continued to enshrine Christian morality, the religious theme started to lose its earlier dominant position to the highly original secular literature. This trend culminated in an epic written by Georgia's national poet Rustaveli - The Knight in the Panther's Skin (Vepkhistq'aosani). Revered in Georgia as the greatest achievement of native literature, the poem celebrates the Medieval humanistic ideals of chivalry, friendship and courtly love.

Missionary activities

From the 10th century, Georgians had started to play a significant role in preaching Christianity in the mountains of the Caucasus. "Wherever the missions of the patriarchs of Constantinople, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem failed, the Georgian Church succeeded in bringing Jesus's Cross and preaching His Gospels". This is corroborated not only by old written sources, but also by Christian architectural monuments bearing Georgian inscriptions, which are still to be seen throughout the North Caucasus in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria. The golden age of Georgian monasticism lasted from the 9th to the 11th century. During that period, Georgian monasteries were founded outside the country, most notably on Mount Sinai, Mount Athos (the Iviron monastery, where the Theotokos Iverskaya icon is still located), and in Palestine.

See also


  1. ^ Kakabadze 1920: 40; Jaoshvili 1984: 49. "At the beginning of the 13th century, according to the most likely estimates, the population of the realm, which in those days was almost equal in size to England and Wales, was 2400000-2500000. Of these, 1800000 lived in the area of modem Georgia (Jaoshvili 1984: 50).
  2. ^ Paghava, Irakli; Novak, Vlastimil (2013). GEORGIAN COINS IN THE COLLECTION OF THE NATIONAL MUSEUM-NÁPRSTEK MUSEUM IN PRAGUE. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  3. ^ Chufrin, Gennadiĭ Illarionovich (2001). The Security of the Caspian Sea Region. Stockholm, Sweden: Oxford University Press. p. 282. ISBN 0199250200. 
  4. ^ Waters, Christopher P. M. (2013). Counsel in the Caucasus: Professionalization and Law in Georgia. New York City, USA: Springer. p. 24. ISBN 9401756201. 
  5. ^ Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994). The Making of the Georgian Nation. Bloomington, IN, USA: Indiana University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0253209153. 
  6. ^ Ronald G. Suny (1996) Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia DIANE Publishing pp. 157-158-160-182
  7. ^ Since the Bagrationi dynasty established the Tao-Klarjeti principality under the Byzantine protectorate in 813, representatives of the dynasty had been granted various Byzantine titles such as kouropalates, magistros, sebastos, etc. David was the last Georgian monarch to wear a Byzantine title.
  8. ^ (in Georgian) Javakhishvili, Ivane (1982), k'art'veli eris istoria (The History of the Georgian Nation), vol. 2, pp. 184-187. Tbilisi State University Press.
  9. ^ Chatzidakis, Nano. Byzantine Mosaics, Volume 7. Athens, Greece: Ekdotike Athenon, 1994, p.22
  10. ^ Donald Rayfield, "Davit II", in: Robert B. Pynsent, S. I. Kanikova (1993), Reader's Encyclopedia of Eastern European Literature, p. 82. HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-270007-3.
  11. ^ Rayfield, Donald (2013). Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia. Reaktion Books. p. 100. ISBN 978-1780230702. 
  12. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander (2015). Historical Dictionary of Georgia (2 ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 259. ISBN 978-1442241466. 
  13. ^ Eastmond, Antony (2010). Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia. University Park, Pennsylvania, USA: Penn State Press. p. 71. ISBN 0271043911. 
  14. ^ Brisku, Adrian (2013). Bittersweet Europe: Albanian and Georgian Discourses on Europe, 1878-2008. NY, USA: Berghahn Books. p. 134. ISBN 0857459856. 
  15. ^ van der Zweerde, Evert (2013). Soviet Historiography of Philosophy: Istoriko-Filosofskaja Nauka. Berlin, Germany: Springer Science & Business Media. p. 140. ISBN 9401589437. 
  16. ^ Kuehn 2011, p. 28.
  17. ^ Lordkipanidze & Hewitt 1987, p. 150.
  18. ^ Lordkipanidze & Hewitt 1987, p. 154.
  19. ^ Humphreys 1977, pp. 130–131.
  20. ^ Tamar's paternal aunt was the Comnenoi's grandmother on their father’s side, as it has been conjectured by Cyril Toumanoff(1940).
  21. ^ Eastmond (1998), pp. 153–154.
  22. ^ Vasiliev (1935), pp. 15–19.
  23. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander (2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1. Santa Barbara, California, USA: ABC-CLIO. p. 196. ISBN 1598843362. 
  24. ^ Yar-Shater, Ehsan (2010). Encyclopaedia Iranica, Volume 2, Parts 5-8. Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 892. 
  25. ^ Brosset, Marie-Felicite (1858). Histoire de la Géorgie depuis l'Antiquité jusqu'au XIXe siècle. France: imprimerie de l'Académie Impériale des sciences. p. 468-472. 
  26. ^ L. Baker, Patricia; Smith, Hilary; Oleynik, Maria (2014). Iran. London, United Kingdom: Bradt Travel Guides. p. 158. ISBN 1841624020. 
  27. ^ Antony Eastmond. Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia. Penn State Press, 1998. p. 122
  28. ^ Pahlitzsch, Johannes, "Georgians and Greeks in Jerusalem (1099–1310)", in Ciggaar & Herman (1996), pp. 38–39.
  29. ^ Antony Eastmond. Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia. Penn State Press, 1998. p. 122-123
  30. ^ C.P.Atwood- Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, p.197
  31. ^ D. M. Lang - Georgia in the Reign of Giorgi the Brilliant (1314-1346). Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 17,No. 1 (1955), p.84
  32. ^ Ta'rfkh-i Shaikh Uwais (History of Shaikh Uwais), trans. and ed. J. B. van Loon, The Hague, 1954, 56-58.
  33. ^ IBP, Inc. (2012). Georgia Country Study Guide Volume 1 Strategic Information and Developments. Lulu.com. p. 44. ISBN 1438774435. 
  34. ^ West, Barbara A. (2010). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. New York City, NY, USA: Infobase Publishing. p. 229. ISBN 1438119135. 
  35. ^ David Lang (1966: 116)
  36. ^ Suny, Ronald Grigor, The Making of the Georgian Nation. Indiana University Press: 1994, p. 40
  37. ^ Toumanoff, Cyril. "Armenia and Georgia," The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 4, pp. 593–637. Cambridge England: Cambridge University Press: 1966, p. pp. 624–625.

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