The first decades of the 9th century saw the rise of a new Georgian state in Tao-Klarjeti. Ashot Courapalate of the royal family of Bagrationi liberated from the Arabs the territories of former southern Iberia, including the Principalities of Tao and Klarjeti, as well as the Earldoms of Shavsheti, Khikhata, Samtskhe, Trialeti, Javakheti and Ashotsi, which were formally a part of the Byzantine Empire, under the name of “Curopalatinate of Iberia”. In practice, however, the region functioned as a fully independent country with its capital in Artanuji. The hereditary title of Curopalate was kept by the Bagrationi family, whose representatives ruled Tao-Klarjeti for almost a century. Curopalate David Bagrationi expanded his domain by annexing the city of Theodossiopolis (Karin, Karnukalaki) and the Armenian province of Basiani, and by imposing a protectorate over the Armenian provinces of Kharqi, Apakhuni, Mantsikert, and Khlat, formerly controlled by the Kaysithe Arab Emirs.

First King of United Georgia Bagrat III from the Royal House of Bagrationi


The first united Georgian monarchy was formed at the end of the 10th century when Curopalate David invaded the Earldom of Kartli-Iberia. Three years later, after the death of his uncle Theodosius the Blind, King of Egrisi-Abkhazia, Bagrat III inherited the Abkhazian throne. In 1001 Bagrat added Tao-Klarjeti (Curopalatinate of Iberia) to his domain as a result of David’s death. In 1008-1010, Bagrat annexed Kakheti and Ereti, thus becoming the first king of a united Georgia in both the east and west.

The second half of the 11th century was marked by the disastrous invasion of the Seljuk Turks, who by the end of the 1040s had succeeded in building a vast nomadic empire including most of Central Asia and Persia. In 1071, the Seljuk army destroyed the united Byzantine-Armenian and Georgian forces in the battle of Mantsikert. By 1081, all of Armenia, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and most of Georgia had been conquered and devastated by the Seljuks. In Georgia, only the mountainous areas of Abkhazia, Svanetia, Racha, and Khevi-Khevsureti remained out of Seljuk control and served as a relatively safe havens for numerous refugees. The rest of the country was dominated by the conquerors who were engaged in destroying the cities and fortresses, looting the villages, and massacring both the aristocracy and the farming population. In fact, by the end of the 1080s, Georgians were outnumbered in the region by the invaders.

Although they were subsequently beset by various other invaders, principally Arabs, Mongols, Persians, and Turks, the Georgians retained a greater or lesser degree of independence for over 1,000 years. Thus after 1008, all Georgian principalities were united into the unified Kingdom of Georgia (1008-1466) under the Bagrationi dynasty, which had been established by Ashot I (Ashot the Great) in the end of the 8th century.