Georgian Kingdoms in the Late Antique Period


Georgian Kingdoms in the Late Antique Period
(the IV cen. B.C. – V cen.)
There were several early-state creations of Georgian tribes on the modern Eastern territory of
Georgia in the IV cen. B.C. and they had permanent struggles for the leadership. In this struggle
won the union, the center of which was town Mtskheta, existing at the mouth of the Rivers Kura
(Mtkvari in Georgian) and Aragvi. Mtskheta existed on a very useful place – in the junction of the
roads from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, and from the East Europe to Front Asia that helped the
fast development of the town.
At the end of the IV cen. B.C. the representative of Mtskheta aristocracy – Parnavaz, unified the
territory from the Caucasus Range till the source of the River Euphrates, and got the title of King.
Thus was created the unified Eastern Georgian Kingdom – Iberia (Kartli in Georgian). Mtskheta
became the capital of this Kingdom, and the residence of the Kings of Iberia was the citadel on the
high mountain opposite to Mtskheta – Armaztsikhe.
Iberia, or Kartli, was a rich, densely inhabited country. According to the natural conditions, it
consisted of two zones – highland and lowland. 

The population of the highland mainly was
occupied with cattle-breeding, and the population of the lowland – with agriculture. The
highlanders were distinguished by being warriors and played a big role in the military organization
of Iberia.
In the cities of Iberia there lived merchants and handicraftsmen, but the important part of them
was of the foreign origin – mainly Jews and Syrians.
In the religious life of Iberia there were many things remained from the Tribal System Age.
They worshiped the God of Fertility and the Devines of Thunder and Heavenly Bodies. There
existed the remainders of Totemism. From the Parnavaz period at the head of Pantheon stood the
God of Moon – Armazi, the idol of which stood near Mtskheta, on the top of one of the mountains.
Armazi expressed a cruel warrior, with armour and a sword in his hand.
In a Foreign Policy, Parnavaz and his closest inheritors took their bearings to the union with
, but in the II cen. B.C. international condition aggravated for Iberia. In the South, the
country lost several big districts, which were cut off by the new-created Armenian Kingdoms, and
in the West, the neighbour of Iberia became the Ponto Kingdom, the King of which, Mithridate VI,
annexed Kolkhida to his domain. During the Wars of Mithridate, Iberia was his ally against Rome,
that became a reason for invasion of a famous Roman General – Pompey, on its territory in 65 y.
B.C. Pompey defeated the army of Artag, the King of Iberia in a big struggle, but faced a widespread public resistance, which forced him to hasten a conclusion of peace with Artag. According to
the Pax, Iberia became an ally of unequal rights to Rome. After that Romans entered Kolkhida and
conquered this country too.
In the I–II cen. the Iberian Kingdom strengthened again, that was a result of economical rise of
the country. Agriculture, handicraft, trading developed. The territory of Iberia was crossed by a big
trade way from India to Greece.
The strengthening of Iberia at first was profitable for Romans, because in their Eastern Policy
they often used the Iberian Allies. Besides, Iberia controlled the most important Passes of Central
Caucasus, by which it protected the Asian domains of Rome from the invasion of the warrior tribes
from the Northern Caucasus. But the strengthened Iberia gradually began to run its independent

foreign policy. The King Parsman I (the I cen.) used the opposition between Rome and Partia and
possessed Armenia, the King of which became at first his brother and then his son. In the I–II cen.
the territory of Iberia widened. It got back its lost Southern provinces.
In the II cen. the condition in Kolkhida was characterized with the new political realities. In its
sea-coast zone there were created Western Georgian and Abkhazian tribal Principalities – Lazika,
Apsilia, Abazgia, Sanigia, the governors of which recognized the supremacy of Roman Emperors.
In the III cen. the foreign-political situation of Iberia aggraviated again. The main object of the
expency of the dominion in Iran, new Persian dynasty – Sasanides, became Transcaucasus that
forced Iberia to stand firmly with the Rome orientation again and to oppose Iran. The one of the
expression of that was a declaration of Christianity as a state religion of Iberia, which happened
approximately in 337.

 As it appears, in the IV cen. Christianity was established in Kolkhida as well,
where at that time was a tendency of unity. For instance, the principality of one of the Western
Georgian (Zanian) tribes, Lazis – Lazika (Egrisi in Georgian), spreaded its influence on other local
political units and tribes. The strengthened Kings of Lazis quited from submission of Rome too.
In Iberia, development of Christianity gave a strong jerk to the development of Georgian
writing. The oldest Georgian writings, kept until now, which are written by an original script, are
dated the V cen.
In the IV–V cen. there was a process of establishing feudal relations in Georgia. This period is a
difficult foreign-political condition for Iberia. The union with Romans couldn't protect the country
from the aggression of Sasanides, which especially became stronger from the V cen. when Persians
conquerred the neighbouring countries of Iberia – Armenia and Albania and came to the borders of
East Georgia. The Wars between Georgians and Persians began. Especially must be noted the
second half of the V cen. when the King of Iberia was Vakhtang Gorgasal (449–502). The King
Vakhtang was a good warrior, clever and vigorous governor. He tried to unify the people of
Transcaucasus against Sasanides. In this way, he had a success. In his period Iberia strengthened
again and annexed several neighbouring territories. Vakhtang Gorgasal also held a big constructing
activity too. Founding Tbilisi as a city is related to his name, which was only a fortress before3
. But
in the beginning of the VI cen. Vakhtang Gorgasal was killed in the struggle against Persians.

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