Kingdom of Georgia

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Flag of the Kingdom of Georgia

The Kingdom of Georgia was a medieval state in what is now Georgia and beyond that existed from AD 978 to about AD 1403.

Association of Georgia

Caucasus region before the death of Dawit III.

Since the beginning of the Arab rule, the Georgian rulers endeavored to establish the unity of the country. In the 10th century there were four large Georgian states: Egrisi-Abkhazia , Tao-Klardsheti , Kakheti and Heretia . Heretia was conquered by Kakheti after 970. Both kingdoms were united to form Kakheti-Heretia. In addition, there was the Emirate of Tbilisi in Niederkartlien and the Principality of Inner Kartlien as well as other smaller principalities and emirates.

Due to its central location, the possession of Inner Kartliens was of strategic and symbolic importance because it housed the seat of the head of the Georgian Church. It was mostly ruled by a local prince and has been conquered by neighboring states time and again since the end of the 8th century.

However, when Kakheti threatened after the conquest of Heretia to also take Inner Kartlien, its prince asked the king of Tao-Klardschetien, Dawit III. , for help, who then occupied Inner Kartlien without the Kachetier intervening. His son Bagrat III. became king of Georgia (as ruler of Tao-Klardschetiens), Inner Kartliens and 978 also king of Egrisi-Abkhazia in 975. His father remained King of Tao. Thus Georgia was largely united. As Dawit III. 1001 died, according to an agreement, South Tao fell to Byzantium , North Tao was completely absorbed into the Georgian Kingdom after the death of Gurgens of Klardschetien in 1008. In 1008 Bagrat III conquered. also Kakheti-Heretia and thus united all Christian Georgian states.

Struggle for unity and Turkish times

Georgia before the Seljuk invasion

Bagrat's successor, Giorgi I , also wanted to unite South Tao with Georgia and therefore led a campaign against Byzantium, which however failed. The nobles of Kakheti-Heretia took advantage of this and separated this area again from Georgia. Then all the Georgian kings tried to recapture Kakheti-Heretia. Bagrat IV almost succeeded in the 1060s; he occupied the area up to the upper reaches of the Alasani, but then the Seljuks invaded in 1064 and allied themselves with the Kakheti king Aghsatani, who was able to drive out the Georgians again. The Seljuks took Akhalkalaki , but did not penetrate any further into the country because of the great resistance. Nevertheless, there were large flows of refugees from the southern parts of the country to the neighboring areas because the Seljuks from Ani marched through the country several times and plundered. Thereupon Bagrat recaptured Bardawi from the Armenians.

In 1068, when Bagrat IV had conquered almost all of Kakheti again, the Seljuks invaded again and allied themselves with the Kakhetes, the Emirate of Tblisi and the Armenians . The combined army ravaged Kartlien and then advanced west. After the success of the alliance in Imereti , the army had to withdraw because of the harsh winter. On the way back the Seljuks Tblisi and Rustavi took their emir and gave it to Fadlon, the ruler of Ganja . Then, with the help of the Alans, Bagrat first conquered Tblisi, which he returned to the emirs, and then Gandsa as well. The weakened Seljuks only responded with demands for tribute, which Bagrat diplomatically ignored.

When Bagrat IV died in 1072, Giorgi II followed him . Soon afterwards the princes of the empire conspired against him. The Swan Eristawi invaded Egrisi, another allied with the Kakheti and occupied the Ksani area. Niania Kwabulisdse occupied Kutaisi and stole the state treasure. After the king had defeated the insurgents, he did not punish them, but pardoned them and gave them gifts in order to gain support against the Seljuks. But in the next year the princes rose again against the king and in 1074 they also allied themselves with the Seljuks. Thereupon the Kachic king Aghsartani helped Georgi II and expelled the Seljuks after the battle of Parzchisi. He then moved further south and conquered almost all of southern Tao as far as Kari fortress from the Byzantines and the Anakopia fortress in western Georgia and united them with the Georgian kingdom.

As a result, the Seljuks invaded Georgia again in 1080, devastating and looting the country. This was the beginning of the “great Turkish era”. The Seljuks invaded Georgia every spring, robbed, murdered and grazed their cattle there until they left in the autumn. The cities fell into disrepair and the economy collapsed. Even after the Georgian surrender in 1083 and tribute payments, the Seljuks did not give up their raids. In 1089 an earthquake made the situation worse. When the princes Giorgi II suggested that the throne be relinquished in the same year, he put the royal crown on his sixteen-year-old son Dawit.

The Golden age"

David the Builder

David the Builder , in his right hand the plan of the Gelati Monastery
Expansion of Georgia under David IV the Builder

David IV. , Also called the builder , gathered armed forces that served him loyally and used them to attack the Seljuks in a guerrilla war. He put the Seljuks hard, so that they could hardly control Kartlien, and so gave the population more courage. Kldekari's Eristawi, Liparit Baghwaschi, planned a conspiracy against him but was captured in 1093. As he regretted what he had done, he was pardoned. When he conspired again two years later, however, he was expelled to Byzantium. After his death, Dawit incorporated Kldekari into his personal property and thereby weakened the princes. He did the same with other opponents. As a result, the princes soon no longer dared to revolt.

Dawit also carried out church reform, clearing it of his opponents and subordinating them to his policy. In return he donated land to the clergy and promoted the building of new churches and monasteries. In addition, the state apparatus was reformed by introducing the office of the Uchezesni (vizier) as the king's minister, renewing the judiciary and establishing a secret service. This informed Dawit of what was going on in his kingdom and abroad. A military reform was supposed to restore discipline in the army and the soldiers received new equipment and better training. Harsh disciplinary measures were also introduced. The army was divided into three units, the King's Guard, the garrison troops of the cities and fortresses, and the actual army. The settlement of 40,000 Khazarian families from the north brought additional mercenaries into the country. Thus the Georgian king had an army of 60,000 men and a guard of 5,000, plus the troops of the princes and mercenaries from the North Caucasus.

After the First Crusade and internal strife weakened the Seljuks, Dawit stopped paying tribute to the Seljuks. Since that time, the Georgian kings no longer bear any Byzantine titles, as Byzantium no longer had any significance in the region after the attacks of the Seljuks and Crusaders. After Dawit's successful attacks on Kakheti-Heretia, the princes of Heretia overthrew their rulers themselves, so that the country was united with the rest of Georgia in 1104 without a fight. In the same year the Islamic states of Georgia united under the Atabeg of Ganja against Georgia. Dawit defeated her army in 1105 at the Battle of Erzuchi. In 1110 Dawit conquered the city of Samschwilde in Niederkartlien, then Dserna and the rest of Niederkartlien, the former emirate of Tbilisi , except for its eastern part and Tbilisi. The Turks then invaded Georgia again, but were defeated. In 1115 Dawit also took the eastern part of Kartlis around Rustavi and expelled the Turks from Tao in 1116.

The Shah of Shirvan allied himself with the Seljuks in 1117, so that Dawit had to wage war against him. First he conquered the fortresses of Kaladzor and Qabala, later he advanced inland and won Derbent as an ally. After the Shah fell in a battle against Derbent, his successor Georgia submitted. After that Dawit wanted to drive the Turks out of Georgia for good and tried to take the last Seljuk fortresses around Tbilisi. He defeated the Turkish army - a superior force of 300,000 men - in the battle of the Didgori. After that, Tbilisi, the last stronghold of the Turks, could also be captured in 1122. Since then, Tbilisi has been the capital of Georgia.

After Sultan Mahmud II conquered Shirvan in 1123, he asked Georgia to pay tribute. Dawit then marched against Shirvan, where the Seljuk army was stationed, and conquered it and, soon after, Derbent, where he defeated an army of Kurds , Khazars and Dagestans in 1124 . Then he captured Birit Castle in Shirvan, which was incorporated into his empire. At the same time, Georgian troops advanced in the south to the Armenian capital Ani , where Georgian troops were stationed. The former Armenian Kingdom of Shirak was annexed to Georgia.

In the north, Dawit conquered the fortifications in the Darial Gorge and built new castles on the Caucasus passes. The influence of Georgia on the peoples north of the Caucasus expanded and their Christianization also advanced. Dawit was tolerant of other peoples and religions, and the Muslim population of Tbilisi was even granted privileges, as they essentially determined trade. However, he also saw himself as a defender of the Christian states against Islam, as he had it minted on coins.

Demetre and Giorgi III.

Dawit's son Demetre was crowned King of Georgia while his father was still alive in order to avoid any doubts about the succession to the throne. This has always been the case in the Kingdom of Georgia ever since. Under Demetre, the Georgian territory was expanded again, but first he had to defend himself against attacks by the Turks and in 1125 to recapture Dmanisi from them. In 1128 he took the city of Chunani. In 1130 the Shah-i Arman of Ahlat led a campaign against Georgia because the king of Ani had converted to the Georgian side, but was repulsed by Demetre. Northern Armenia, which had been independent from Georgia since 1126 under Fadlon IV., Also occupied Ganjah and Dwin , but became a vassal of Demetres. From 1153 to 1154 Georgia therefore also supported Armenia against the Saltuqiden -Emir of Erzurum , who was captured by Georgians in 1161 and was released again for a ransom of 100,000 dinars.

Shirvan, too, had regained its independence, and Demetre wanted to conquer it and Aran again. In 1139 he went against Ganjah in Aran and conquered it. But in 1143, after a war, it went to a Turkish emir as a dowry, as the sultan Demtres had daughter Rusudan as his wife. After a dispute with the Turks from 1129 to 1130 over Shirvan, this was divided, with the western part going to Georgia, the eastern part would have to pay this tribute. Derbent was also still a Georgian vassal, and another daughter of Demetres was the wife of the king there. In 1150 there was an uprising of the princes who wanted to restore their old power when Demetre named his youngest son Dawit as heir to the throne, rather than his youngest son Dawit. Demetre put down the uprising, but five years later a second uprising succeeded under his son Dawit V. When he died six months later, his father became king again, arranged his successor in favor of Giorgis and punished the rebellious princes.

Under him the conflict over Armenia continued, which he reoccupied in 1161. At first he installed the Emir Sadun as governor, but this betrayed him, so that he was executed. Sargis Mchargrdseli was installed as the new governor. The Seljuks then forged an alliance against Georgia with the Ahlat Shahs and the emirs of Erzerum and Diarbekir, but their army was defeated by the Georgians and Giorgi attacked Erzurum and defeated his emir. In 1163 there was also an uprising in Azerbaijan, in which the Shahs succeeded and went against Ani. But then Giorgi invaded Azerbaijan and forced the Turks to come to an agreement. In 1165, Ani became an Islamic state again as a Georgian vassal. But ten years later Giorgi incorporated Ani into his empire, and the Seljuq campaign in response was repulsed. In 1173 Georgia led a campaign against Derbent, which had attacked Shirvan, and gave part of Derbents to Shirvan.

Giorgi reformed law enforcement, introducing harsh penalties but also requiring proof of guilt, and like his predecessors, boosted the economy. He also took the Georgian Church's privilege of tax exemption, but gave it back after an uprising. There was also a prince uprising under Giorgi in 1177. But this was also suppressed and the conspirators were cruelly punished.

Queen Tamara

Georgia at the end of Tamar's government

After Giorgi, his daughter Tamara ascended the Georgian throne in 1184. She had already been installed as co-regent in 1178. Georgia reached its cultural, political and economic heyday under Queen Tamara. She, too, first had to assert herself against the nobility. At first she gave in, but later had individual conspirators arrested and almost provoked a civil war, which she was able to prevent with diplomacy. Yet it left Georgia weakened internally. In 1185 Tamar married Yuriy Bogolyubsky, the former prince of Vladimir-Suzdal . But two years later he was accused of sodomy and banished, and the childless marriage divorced. After the Turks had invaded the country from several sides and were defeated, the Georgians themselves advanced south to Kari and Karnipor. Campaigns to Dwin, Persia, Gelakun and Ganja followed.

In 1188 she married Dawit Soslan, the son of the ruler of the Alans. In 1191, however, Yuri Bogolyubsky returned to regain power and the western Georgian princes allied with him. At Getuni the insurgent army was defeated and Bogoljubsky was banished again. After Tamar gave birth to an heir to the throne in 1193, the Georgians undertook several campaigns to Bardawi, Karnu, Qarqar and Ganja. In response to this, the Atabeg of Azerbaijan rallied an alliance against Georgia, which was crushed at Shamkor in 1195. The Georgians conquered Shamkor, Ganja, Bidshnisi and Dwin. When the city of Kari fell, the Sultan of Rum Tamar threatened to invade their land. But in 1203 the Georgians succeeded in defeating the numerically superior army of Sultan Suleiman II .

In 1204 the Georgians took advantage of the weakness of Byzantium, which had been conquered by the Crusaders during the Fourth Crusade , and occupied the Byzantine area south of the Black Sea. There they founded the Empire of Trebizond as Georgian vassals, on the throne they put the Comnene Alexios , who had sought protection in Georgia.

A few years later, an invasion of the Ardabil's troops in the area around Ani was repulsed and Ardabil was occupied. Also in 1210 the Georgians dared a great campaign to Persia , in which they advanced via Tabriz to Gurgan and returned with extensive booty. Then there was an uprising of the Pchower and Didoer, vassals in the north-eastern mountainous country, which was bloodily suppressed. In 1213 Tamar died in her summer residence Agara. At the end of their reign, Shirvan , Alania , Aran , Northern Kashgia, Durdsukia, Didoya and Khundzia were among the Georgian vassals, Azerbaijan , Erzinki and Erzerum were tributaries.

Giorgi IV. Lasha

After Queen Tamara died, her son Giorgi IV. Lasha ascended the throne. Ganja immediately stopped paying tribute. But after a siege of the city, the ruler gave in and again submitted to Georgia. The revolts of the southern vassals in 1219 were also suppressed.

In 1220 there was first contact with the Mongols , who moved south from the Crimea via Azerbaijan. The Georgian army was defeated, but the Mongols moved on to Persia. Even after another defeat of the Georgians, in which the Mongols advanced to Tiblis, the Mongols withdrew from Georgia again. However, the eastern vassal states were subsequently lost. When they tried again to conquer Georgia in 1221, they could not achieve a clear victory and withdrew from Georgia via Derbent to the north. Giorgi IV. Lasha died in 1222.

Mongol period

Georgia ruled by the Mongols in 1245.

After Giorgi's death, his sister Rusudan ruled because his son David was too young. In the first year of their rule, the Khazars, displaced from the North Caucasus by the Mongols, moved south and conquered Derbent and Shirvan. When Rusudan prevented them from settling in Georgia, they successfully marched against Qabala and Ganja and devastated the eastern Georgian border areas. After leaving with rich booty, the Georgians pursued and defeated them. After that, the Georgians tried to consolidate their power again and conquered Bailaqan in 1222, Surmar in Armenia in 1223 and in 1225 they besieged Gandsa unsuccessfully.

After the empire of the Khorezm Shahs had been crushed by the Mongols, his son Jalal ad-Din fled west and conquered Azerbaijan in 1225. Then he went against the rich Georgia, whose army he defeated at the battle of Garnisi in Armenia. After further victories of the Choresmians, the Georgian nobles withdrew behind the Lichi Mountains to western Georgia. In March 1226, Jalal ad-Din conquered Tbilisi and by the end of the year all of eastern and southern Georgia were under his control. After suffering a defeat in Ahlat, the Georgians were able to recapture Tbilisi in 1227, but could not hold it when the Khorezmian troops returned. They could then also take Ahlat. But since the Mongols advanced again from the east in 1228, the power of Jalal al-Din collapsed and eastern Georgia was reunited with the rest of Georgia.

When the Mongols conquered Ganjah in 1235 and marched against Georgia, the king and nobility fled again to Kutaisi in western Georgia. The east fell into the hands of the Mongols almost without a fight, but Rusudan continued to rule in the west. In 1242 a peace treaty was signed between the Mongols and the Georgian Queen Rusudan. Eastern Georgia was still part of the Georgian Kingdom, but it was also occupied and controlled by the Mongols. Western Georgia was obliged to pay 50,000 perpera annually and had to support the Mongols in military campaigns. The princes, however, kept their land and were privileged by the Mongols, the court moved back to Tbilisi and Dawit was recognized as Rusudan's successor. Within the Mongolian Empire, Georgia was the "Wilayet Gurdshistan", and Arghun Agha was at the head of the Mongolian administration in Georgia. The Mongols imposed high taxes and obliged one fifth of the men capable of military service to serve in their army. The economy collapsed and there was great poverty and discontent. After Rusudan's death in 1245, no king followed, the Mongols ruled the country themselves. In 1246 they installed Dawit Ulu and Dawit Narin as kings. As early as 1246, the princes made their first attempts to shake off Mongol rule, but they failed because of the Mongols' quick reaction. In 1249 a second uprising was prepared with the participation of Dawit Ulu, but the Mongols were also able to prevent this.

From 1254 Georgia belonged to the Ilkhanate . In 1259 another uprising began under Dawit Narin . Since this uprising also failed, Dawit Narin fled to Abkhazia , where the princes proclaimed him king of Abkhazia. The uprising of his brother Dawit Ulu in the following year was also put down, despite initial successes. Dawit Ulu was able to stay in Samtskhe for another year and then followed his brother to Abkhazia. As a result, however, western Georgia completely withdrew from Mongolian influence. However, Dawit Ulu soon returned and became King of Georgia as a vassal of Il-Khan. In the following time there were numerous wars between the Il-Khanat and the Golden Horde in the north, in which Georgia was badly affected. During Mongolian raids, the population mostly fled to nearby caves, in which shelters had already been created in Turkish times. The state treasury was also stored in these.

An uprising under Dawit VIII (1293-1311) also failed, but the Il-Khanat was already beginning to lose its power over Georgia at this time. Giorgi V. (1314-1346) finally succeeded in 1327 in shaking off Mongol rule and reuniting Georgia. The Empire of Trebizond also became a Georgian vassal again. From 1386, however, there were renewed incursions by Turks and the Mongols under Tamerlane , which annihilated the kingdom, so that it went down in anarchy around 1453.

Later three kingdoms ( Imeretia , Kakheti and Kartli ) and five principalities (Abkhazia, Guria , Mingrelia , Samtskhe , Svaneti ) emerged from the Georgian kingdom .

Society, culture and economy

After the fall under the Seljuks, a lot of building activity unfolded for the first time under Dawit the builder. He also had an academy set up in Gelati Monastery, where Ioane Petrizi and Arsen Iqaltoeli worked, among others. Theology, grammar, philosophy, rhetoric, astronomy, arithmetic, geometry and music were taught. Many other churches, monasteries, bridges and roads were also built.

Under Demetre, the border areas and rural regions that were devastated by the Seljuks were promoted. Many farmers were also resettled.

The Kingdom of Georgia was in the period of high feudalism, there were almost no free peasants left, and almost all of them were very dependent on their princes. The technical conditions of agriculture, however, were good, in many regions the fields were irrigated with canals, grain, wine, fruit and vegetables were grown. In the heyday of the kingdom, handicrafts and trade experienced an upswing, which made the cities more important. The main exports were wheat, wine, wool, horses, textiles, jewelry and pottery.

In some regions of the country there were water pipes that supplied monasteries or villages with water.

The offices of Uchezesni introduced by David the builder, comparable to ministers, were retained even after his reign. There was a police minister (Mandaturt-Uchuzesi), a finance minister (Metschurtschlet-Uchuzesi) and a majordomo (Msachurt-Uchuzesi). The severity of the judgments of the courts varied widely; were under Giorgi III. The usual punishments for blinding and maiming were very rare under Tamar. There were no death sentences under her. The Mzire Sdshulis Kanoni by Eptwime Mtazmidelis was introduced as a long-standing code of law at the beginning of the 11th century. As a condition of punishment, it also requires that a person committed the act “culpably”. Torture is not known and since Bagrat IV. Legal experts have also been consulted in trials.

The churches and monasteries played a major role in the spiritual life of the country, so many monasteries also had their own schools. The main subjects taught in these were theology, hymn and Georgian script, which were important subjects for clergymen. Home schooling was offered for aristocratic children. There were also several universities, the most important of which was Gelati Monastery. The Iqalto Academy was later set up, and there may have been a third university in Gremi. Geometry, arithmetic, music, rhetoric, grammar, philosophy and astronomy were taught at the universities. Medicine was also taught in Gelati, for which a special hospital was set up. Furthermore, many Georgian monasteries abroad were supported, for example in Cyprus, Syria, Palestine and on the Sinai. These contributed in particular to the Georgian literature, especially through translations. The monastery on Mount Athos under Giorgi Mtazmideli was the most important monastery outside of Georgia. After the conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187, Queen Tamar successfully campaigned for the return of the possessions and lands of the Georgian monasteries in Palestine. There are also numerous written finds from the time of her reign, which prove that the knowledge of the writing was widespread in the cities and was no longer a privilege of the upper classes.

In the 11th century, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral was rebuilt in Mtskheta, one of the most important church buildings in Georgia. It was the seat of the Catholicos, head of the Georgian Church. Other important church buildings from the time of the Georgian Kingdom are the Samtawissi Cathedral , the Alaverdi Cathedral near Telavi and the Bagrati Cathedral in Kataissi. Gelati Cathedral and many other smaller churches were later added, some of which were built by nobles who retreated there. Cave monasteries emerged in Dawit Gareja, Wahaniskwabi and Wardsia.

A large number of new fortresses and castles were built, mostly in topographically favorable locations.

Painting was mainly cultivated in the churches and was initially oriented towards Syria and Palestine, after the 11th century more towards Byzantium. The 11th and 12th centuries were marked by monumentality. The figures were larger than life, but the proportions were natural. Several regional schools emerged: The school of Tao-Klardschetien, which is known for its church frescoes, stands out for its festivity in the style of painting. In contrast, the painting of Dawit Garedscha (Dawit Garedschi) mainly depicts simple aspects of life, especially of the monastery founder Dawit. The painting school of Svaneti and Ratscha preferred the warriors Giorgi and Tewdore as motifs. Towards the 13th century, more time is devoted to decoration and the background, and depictions of historical personalities also appear.

The new building and the promotion of churches also led to an upswing in handicrafts and goldsmithing. More and more calligraphers and book illustrators were also employed in the monasteries.

Important writers and poets of the Georgian kingdom were Giorgi Mtazmideli, Eprem Mzire , Nikolos Gulaberisde and Ioane Schawteli. Moses Choneli wrote in the 12th century the romance of chivalry Amirandaredshaniani , the major influence on subsequent works had. Wisramiani , a romance novel by Sargis Tmogweli, whose original Persian version was written by Gorgani around 1050, was also written in this century . The warrior in a tiger skin (also The warrior in panther skin ) by Schota Rustaweli was created around 1200 . Many other novels and songs were written at this time, as well as works of historiography such as Sumbat Dawitisdese's The Life of the Bagratids . However, only a few of them have survived.

Two currents arose in Georgian philosophy that began to develop in the kingdom. The one represented by Eprem Mzire and Ioane Petrizi viewed the world in the dualism of heaven and earth, while the other, represented by Arsen Iqaltoeli among others, understood the phenomena in their unity and respected the value of the earthly and human. Important philosophical works are Eprem Mzire's translation of the source of knowledge by John of Damascus and Ioane Petrizi's ladder of virtues, as well as the Dogmaticon , a summary of translations of Byzantine writings by Arsen Iqaltoeli.

During the Mongol period, many monasteries were abandoned and fell into disrepair, and many writings were lost during this period. The only work from the Mongol period that has survived is a description of the history of Georgia from Giorgi Lascha to Giorgi the Shining.

See also


  • Heinz Fähnrich: History of Georgia from the beginnings to Mongol rule. Shaker, Aachen 1993, ISBN 3-86111-683-9 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Fähnrich, 1993, p. 122 ff.
  2. a b c d Fähnrich, 1993, p. 124 ff.
  3. a b c d e f g Fähnrich, 1993, p. 129 ff.
  4. a b c d e Fähnrich, 1993, p. 137 ff.
  5. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Fähnrich, 1993, p. 142 ff.
  6. a b Fähnrich, 1993, p. 168 ff.
  7. a b c Fähnrich, 1993, p. 171 ff.