Seljuk dominance persisted unchecked for almost a decade as the country continued to be devastated by the enemy invasions, internal dissent and natural disasters. King Giorgi II failed to rise to the occasion and the people needed a strong and energetic ruler to lead the struggle. In 1089, a bloodless coup forced the king to abdicate in favor of his 16-year-old son David. The new king faced the daunting challenge of defeating powerful enemy and rebuilding a devastated country. Despite his young age, Kind 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 resettlement of desolate regions. In 1092, he ceased the payment of annual tribute to the Seljuk sultan and, over the next 10 years, he gradually liberated most of eastern Georgia. King David reformed the Georgian Orthodox Church and strengthened the royal authority throughout the kingdom. In 1110-1117, he continued his conquests throughout southern Transcaucasia, defeating the Seljuk invasions in 1105, 1110 and 1116. To strengthen his army, King David launched a major military reform in 1118 – 1120 and resettled some 40,000 Qipchak families (approx. 200,000 men) from the northern Caucasus steppes to Kartli; recruiting one soldier per each family, David raised a 45,000-men strong standing Qipchak army in addition to Georgian feudal troops. The new army provided the king with a much needed force to fight both external threats and internal discontent of powerful lords.

Starting in 1120, King David began a more aggressive policy of expansion. He established contact with the Crusaders in the Holy Land and there is evidence that the two sides tried to coordinate their actions against the Muslims. In 1121, he achieved his greatest victory as the Georgian army routed a massive Muslim coalition in the Didgori Valley, near Tbilisi, on 12 August. The battle is widely known as “dzlevai sakvirveli” (incredible victory) in Georgia and is considered an apogee of Georgian military history. Following his triumph, King David captured Tbilisi, the last Muslim enclave remaining from the Arab occupation, in 1122 and declared it the capital of the Kingdom of Georgia. In 1123-1124, Georgian armies were victorious in neighboring territories of Armenia, Shirwan and northern Caucasus, greatly expanding the Georgian sphere of influence. By the time of King David’s death on 24 January 1125, Georgia became one of the most powerful states in all of the Near East. King David’s successful campaigns inspired the Georgian people and gave them confidence in their own strength. The country enjoyed a revival in agriculture and industry as well as in literature and arts. For his contributions, King David was hailed as aghmashenebeli (reviver, [re]builder) and canonized as a saint.

The reign of King David ushered in the “Golden Age” of Georgian history, which in many ways was facilitated by the Crusaders, whose successful campaigns in Palestine diverted the Muslim resources and enabled Georgia to open a victorious campaign in the north. During the reign of King Demetre I (1125-1156), Georgia continued to dominate southern Caucasia and contiguous territories. Georgian kings established a close relation with the neighboring states though many dynastic marriages. One of King David Aghmashenebeli’s daughters, Kata, was married the Byzantine prince Alexius Bryennius-Comnenus, the son of the famous Anna Comnena, while the other, Tamar, became the wife of Shirwan Shah Akhsitan (Aghsartan). Later, King Demetre secured an alliance with the Kievan Rus through the marriage of his daughter with Prince Izyaslav II of Kiev.

Under King Giorgi III (1156-1184), a new wave of Georgian expansion was initiated as Georgian armies seized the Armenian capital of Ani in 1161 and conquered Shirwan in 1167. However, internal dissent among the nobles grew as the king aged, especially after it became apparent that he would be succeeded by his daughter Tamar. 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 coregnant until his death in 1184. Powerful lords took advantage of the king’s passing to reassert themselves. Queen Tamar was forced to agree to the second coronation that emphasized the role of the nobility in investing her with royal power. The nobility then demanded the establishment of the karavi, a political body with legislative and judicial power. Tamar’s refusal to satisfy these demands brought the Georgian monarchy to the verge of a civil war that was averted through negotiations. In the end, royal authority was significantly limited and the responsibilities of the royal council, dominated by the nobles, expanded.

Despite internal dissent, Georgia remained a powerful kingdom and enjoyed major successes in its foreign policy. In 1195, a large Muslim coalition was crushed in the battle at Shamkhor, and another one at Basian in 1203. The Georgians annexed Arran and Duin in 1203, and, in 1209, their armies captured the Emirate of Kars while the mighty Armen-Shahs, the emirs of Erzurum and Erzinjan as well as the north Caucasian tribes became the vassals. Georgian influence also extended to the southern coastline of the Black Sea, populated by a large Georgian-speaking population. The Empire of Trebizond, a Georgian vassal state, was established here in 1204 and soon turned into a major trading emporium surviving for over 250 years. Georgians then carried war into Azerbaijan and northern Persia in 1208-1210. These victories brought Georgia to the summit of its power and glory, establishing a pan-Caucasian Georgian empire stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian and from the Caucasus Mountains to the Lake Van.

The rise of Georgia as a great power was accompanied by an expansion of its religious and cultural presence throughout Asia Minor. Centralized royal power facilitated the growth of cities and towns and development of trade and crafts. A sophisticated irrigation system in Samgori and the Alazani valleys covered some 53,000 hectares of land. Changes in agricultural technology led to the development of a large “Georgian plough,” which improved cultivation of land and increased productivity. Tbilisi, with a population of up to 100,000, became a center of regional and international trade, with one of the routes of the famous Silk Road, linking China, Central Asia and the West, passing through it. The period also witnessed a renaissance of Georgian sciences and art. Georgian craftsmen, especially Beshken and Beka Opizari, gained fame for their unique goldsmith works. Numerous scholarly and literary works (Amiran-Darejaniani, Abdulmesia, Tamariani, etc.) were produced both within Georgia and abroad, while the art of illumination of manuscripts and miniature painting reached its zenith. Georgian architecture rose to a new level and is well represented in the Gelati Cathedral, the domed church at Tighva, the churches of Ikorta and Betania and the rock-carved monastic complexes of David Gareja and Vardzia. Georgian monasteries were also constructed and flourished throughout the Holy Land and Antioch, including the Gethsemane, Golgotha, Karpana and the Holy Cross monasteries in Jerusalem, the Mangana and Trianflios in Constantinople, the Alexandrian in Kilikia, the Petritsoni in Bulgaria, St. Athanasios and the Iviron on Mt. Athos and others. Georgian philosophers and scholars - Giorgi Atoneli, Eprem Mtsire (Epraim the Letter), Giorgi Mtsire (the Lesser), Arsen Ikaltoeli and others - enjoyed international eminence. Finally, Shota Rustaveli’s epic poem Vepkhistkaosani (The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin) remains the greatest cultural achievement of this age.


Historical Dictionary of Georgia
by Alexander Mikaberidze (Author)
Series: Historical Dictionaries of Europe (Book 50)
Hardcover: 784 pages
Publisher: Scarecrow Press (March 16, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0810855809
ISBN-10: 0810855801

In the late seventh century, a new political and military power appeared on the international scene. United by a powerful religious message, Arab tribes proved to be a force to be reckoned with as they overrun the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire and Sasanid Persia and carved out their own domain. The first Arab raiding parties appeared in Georgia in 642-643 but, following the conquest of Armenia in 652, Arabs arrived in force. In 654, the Arab commander Habib ibn-Maslam negotiated a treaty of protection (datsvis sigeli) with Erismtavari Stefanoz II, who agreed to pay a jizya or protection tax levied on non-Muslim nations. Two years later, Iberian authorities took advantage of the internal dissension in the Caliphate to cease paying tribute. However, Arabs soon returned with a vengeance and began a systematic conquest of eastern Georgia in the 680s. In 685, the Byzantine Empire and the Caliphate agreed to share the tribute from Armenia and Kartli but the local population rose in rebellion in 686 and Erismtavari Nerseh of Kartli defeated the Arab forces in Armenia. Yet, in 697, the ruler of Egrisi, Sergi Barnukis-dze invited Arabs to western Georgia to help him fight the Byzantine forces; Arabs occupied the capital city of Tsikhegoji and other key fortresses but failed to firmly establish themselves in the region and soon withdrew.

Unlike western Georgia, Kartli remained under Arab domination and, starting in 704-705, Arabic coins were minted in Tbilisi. The Arabs treated Armenia and Georgia as a single frontier province and subjected it to heavy tributes. Discontented with new taxes and alien authorities, the local population rose in rebellions and the struggle against the Arabs soon assumed a popular character. In 681-682, Adarnase II of Kartli and Prince Grigor Mamikonian of Armenia held off the Arabs, but eventually perished in this struggle. In 689, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian II forced the Arabs to cede Georgia and recognized Guaram II (684-693) as curopalates of Kartli. In 693, the Arabs recovered their possessions in Kartli and Armenia and the vicious circle of fighting began anew.

In the early eighth century, Iberians and Armenians organized several unsuccessful revolts against the Arabs. In 735, the Arab commander Marwan ibn-Muhammad led another punitive expedition into Kartli, sacking Tbilisi and capturing the fortresses of Tsikhegoji and Sukhumi in western Georgia. He left such devastation and desolation in his wake that his nickname Murwan Qru (Murwan the Deaf, i.e. deaf to pleas) still survives in popular tradition. A new Arab emirate led by the amir of Tbilisi was established in Kartli. In addition to jizya and kharaj (tax on land) taxes, Georgians were forced to provide troops for the Arab armies and a labor force for various projects. Conversion to Islam was widely encouraged and Christianity persecuted, producing many Christian martyrs, including Abo Tbileli, Princes David and Constantine of Argveti. As the Arab dominance intensified, the Georgian and Armenian forces often united under the banner of Christianity. The amirs of Tbilisi eventually became powerful enough to defy the Abbasid caliphs for decades. The caliphs finally tried to restore their authority in Georgia and, in 853, a large Arab army led by Bogha al-Kabir (Bugha Turki) ravaged Kartli and sacked Tbilisi on 5 August. However, in 914, another Arab expedition under command of Abu al-Kasim failed in subduing Kartli and proved to be the last such attempt on the part of the Caliphate. With the Abbasid Caliphate gradually declining, several semi-independent principalities emerged on the territory of Georgia. The Kingdom of Abkhazia covered most of western Georgia, the Bishopric of Kakheti and Principality of Hereti rose in the east and Tao Klarjeti dominion in the southwest.

Of the emerging Georgian principalities, Tao (known as Tao-Klarjeti in Georgian sources) proved to be the most important by far. Ruled by the Bagration (Bagrationi) princely family, Tao gradually expanded its sphere of influence. In the second half of the 10th century, during the rule of one of its greatest princes, David Curopalates, Tao turned into a large and powerful principality, whose borders reached Lake Van. The growth and consolidation of this realm contributed to closer cultural and economic ties with other kingdoms and principalities. The might of the new Georgian principality was clearly demonstrated in 979, when the Byzantine Emperor Basil, facing a large rebellion, appealed for help to David Curopalates. A Georgian expeditionary corps under Tornike Eristavi defeated the insurgents and restored authority to the emperor. Throughout his reign, David Curopalates pursued his great design of the political unification of Georgia. Supported by Ioane Marushisdze, a powerful eristavi of Kartli, he succeeded in having his grandson Bagrat placed on the throne of Kartli in 975 and of Abkhazia in 978. Following David’s death in 1001, King Bagrat III inherited Tao and later annexed Kakheti and Hereti in 1008-1010, thereby uniting eastern and western Georgia into a single state with a capital in Kutaisi. The united kingdom of Georgia was born.

The rise of the Georgian kingdom worried the Byzantine Empire. In the 1000s, its Emperor Basil II, despite Georgian military aid in 979, occupied Tao and the Georgian-Byzantine disputes over this region soon escalated into a war. King Giorgi I (1014-1027) initially defeated the imperial army but, once the Byzantine conquest of Bulgaria was completed in 1018, Emperor Basil II diverted his resources against Georgia. In 1021-1022, his forces defeated King Giorgi I and his Armenian allies and occupied the provinces of Tao, Artaan and Javakheti. The new Georgian King Bagrat IV (1027-1072) continued the war but faced powerful opposition of feudal lords who refused to recognize his suzerainty and joined the Byzantine army in 1028; the lords of Kakheti and Hereti were particularly defiant and broke away from the Georgian kingdom. The Georgian-Byzantine war eventually ended in 1029 after the Georgian Queen Mariam visited Constantinople and negotiated a peace treaty with Emperor Romanus III. Bagrat IV then turned to internal problems subduing rebellious feudal lords, including the mighty Eristavis Rati and Liparit Baghvash of Kldekari. Bagrat was preparing for another campaign against the lords of Kakheti and Hereti when a more serious threat thwarted his plans.

In the early 11th century, the Seljuk tribes began massive migration to the Asia Minor and the Caucasus. After founding the Seljuk Sultanate in 1055, they expanded their sphere of influence to Iran, Iraq and Syria. In 1064, the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan led a successful incursion into the southern regions of Georgia and, four years later, he ravaged eastern Georgia, even reaching Imereti in the west. In 1071, the Seljuk victory over the Byzantine army at the crucial battle of Manzikert opened the way for their systematic conquest of the Caucasus. In 1080, the so-called didi turkoba (‘the Great Turkish Troubles’) period began in Georgia when the Turkish tribes arrived in large numbers to settle on Georgian lands and turned the occupied territory into pastures, undermining the local agriculture and economy. King Giorgi II (1072-1089) was forced to recognize their supremacy and paid tribute to the Seljuk sultan.


Historical Dictionary of Georgia
by Alexander Mikaberidze (Author)
Series: Historical Dictionaries of Europe (Book 50)
Hardcover: 784 pages
Publisher: Scarecrow Press (March 16, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0810855809
ISBN-10: 0810855801

In the fourth century BCE, Georgian principalities found themselves involved in the whirlwind of Alexander the Great’s campaign in the east. There is no historical evidence that Alexander or his generals campaigned in the Caucasus, but Georgian chronicles describe ‘Greek’ troops reaching Iberia/Kartli, which they occupied and placed under the governorship of Azo (Azon). Greek authorities proved to be harsh and uncompromising which caused the local population to rebel. According to Georgian historical tradition, young Parnavaz, a nephew of the last ruler of Iberia who was assassinated by the Greeks, contacted Eristavi Quji of Egrisi and, with his support, launched a successful rebellion against Azo. Parnavaz, who married the daughter of Quji, thus controlled both the eastern and western Georgian principalities. He founded the Parnavazid dynasty and divided the kingdom into seven regions under governorship of eristavis and established Shida Kartli as a special region ruled by a spaspet. Despite the lack of tangible proof, King Parnavaz is often credited with the spreading of the Georgian alphabet throughout the kingdom and introducing the cult of Armazi and the goddess of fertility Zadeni. Archaeological evidence revealed the Iberian capital of Mtskheta as an advanced city with its own acropolis, baths and other amenities.

Under later Parnavazid kings, the kingdoms of Iberia and Colchis/Egrisis found themselves facing major change in the balance of power in Asia Minor. In 190 BCE, the Seleucid Empire fell to the Romans while the weakened Persia was unable to prevent the rise of the powerful Armenian kingdom under Artashes (Artaxias). Armenian rulers greatly expanded their territory that also incorporated some Georgian regions. After the death of King Parnajom of Iberia, the Armenian king Arshak took over his throne, establishing an Armenian hegemony over eastern Georgia. In the first century, Armenia reached its zenith under King Tigran II the Great, who allied himself to his father-in-law Mithradates Eupator of Pontus (111-63 BCE) against Rome. Western Georgians were also allied with Pontus, where Georgian tribes (Laz/Chan, Colchians, Chalybes, etc) constituted a large part of the population and served in the armies of King Mithradates in Greece and Asia Minor. In 65 BCE, the Roman General Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus defeated Pontus and marched against Iberia, where King Artag was forced to recognize Roman sovereignty, sending lavish gifts of gold and his children as hostages. Meanwhile, Pompeius crossed the mountains into Colchis, where he campaigned in search of the mythical Golden Fleece and chained titan Prometheus. Thus, Colchis-Egrisi and Kartli-Iberia were recognized as client states of Rome. The wealth and might of these principalities were attested by famous Greek scholar Strabo, who described eastern and western Georgian lands in his Geography.

Roman power was never firm in eastern Georgia, which remained under the Persian sphere of influence for the greater part of its existence. In 37-36 BCE, Iberians refused to participate in Emperor Marc Antony’s campaigns against Parthia and a large anti-Roman rebellion began in 36. The punitive expedition of Publius Canidus Crassus was the last Roman effort to conquer eastern Georgia. However, the western Georgian principality of Colchis/Egrisi remained under direct Roman administration and struggled for its independence. In 69 CE, a powerful insurrection, led by a former slave Anicetus, succeeded in temporarily driving the Romans out of Colchis but was later defeated. By the second century, several principalities (Lazica, Abasgia, etc.) emerged in western Georgia and recognized the sovereignty of Rome.

In the first-second centuries CE, the Kingdom of Kartli (Iberia) emerged as a relatively strong state as its rulers took advantage of the struggle between Rome and Parthia. King Parsman (Pharasmenes) actively interfered in the affairs of the neighboring Armenian kingdom, placing his brother Mithradates (35-51 CE) on the Armenian throne in the mid-first century, and skillfully maneuvering between the powerful empires of Rome and Parthia. The Iberian presence in Armenia weakened after the Treaty of Rhandeia of 63 CE between Rome and Parthia allotted the privilege of nomination to the Parthian Arsacids and the right of investiture to the emperor of Rome. The Roman emperors sought to gain the support of the kings of Kartli (Iberia) against the Parthians. Emperor Vespasian (69-79) had a wall erected in Mtskheta with inscription that King Mithridates (Mihrdat) of Kartli (Iberia) was “the friend of the Caesars” and the ruler “of the Roman-loving Iberians.” Another King Parsman (mid-second century) openly defied Rome and refused to pay homage to the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138) during the latter’s visit of Roman provinces in Asia Minor, although the Roman emperor presented him with a war elephant and 500 troops. With the help of the Alans, Parsman attacked the Roman and Parthian vassal states in Albania, Armenia and Cappadocia. Under Hadrian’s successor, Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161), the relations between the Roman Empire and Kartli (Iberia) significantly improved and King Parsman, accompanied by a large retinue, visited Rome where he received a royal welcome; according to the Roman historian Cassius Dio, he was given the special privilege of offering a sacrifice on the Capitol and having his equestrian statue placed in the Temple of Bellona.

The fortunes of Kartli changed with the rise of the Sassanid kingdom in Persia in the third century CE, when the Iberian kings were forced to recognize the Sasanid supremacy; the Sasanid rulers appointed their viceroys (pitiaxæ/vitaxae) to keep watch on Georgian lands. The office of pitiaxæ eventually became hereditary in the ruling house of Lower Kartli, thus inaugurating the Kartli pitiaxæat, which brought an extensive territory under Sasanid control. In the third century, the Roman Empire briefly regained Kartli under Emperor Aurelian (270-275) but lost it a decade later. The Persians placed their candidate Mirian (Meribanes, 284-361) on the throne of eastern Georgia. Mirian’s reign proved decisive since he became the first Georgian ruler to adopt Christianity.

The rise and spread of Christianity, which continued for several centuries, had a profound effect on the Georgian principalities. Georgian tradition holds that two members of the Jewish community of Mtskheta were present at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and brought back a number of holy relics, including Christ’s chiton that was buried near Mtskheta. The Christian tradition also claims the allotment of the “Iberian” lands to Virgin Mary, who is, thus, considered the main protector and intercessor of Georgia. Georgian Orthodox Church credits the introduction of Christianity to Apostles Andrew the First Called, Simon the Canaanite, Mathias, Bartholomew and Thaddeus, who preached in western and southwestern Georgia in the first century.

The Sasanid Empire and its Zoroastrian religion had a firm hold in eastern Georgia and delayed the spread of Christianity for another three centuries. In the early fourth century, Saint Nino of Cappadocia preached the Christian message in Iberia and succeeded in persuading King Mirian and his consort, Queen Nana, to proclaim it a state religion in Eastern Georgia around 337; although technically marking the start of conversion only in Iberia, this event is now considered as the official conversion of all of Georgia. However, Christianity was already well established in western Georgia and Bishop Stratophilus of Bichvinta had attended the first Ecumenical Council held in Nicea in 325. Sixty years later, western Georgian bishops were joined by Bishop Pantophilus of Kartli at the second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381. The Georgian Orthodox Church was initially under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic See of Antioch, but became autocephalous (independent) in 466 when the Bishop of Mtskheta was elevated to the rank of Catholicos of Kartli. Another important development took place in the sixth century, when Georgian church leaders rejected Monophysitism (Armenia accepted it in 506 and the split with the Georgian church was complete by 607) and supported the Chalcedonian creed, drawing Georgia closer to the Byzantine Empire, and later to the Christian Europe, and further from SasanianPersia, that was more tolerant of the Monophysites.

Conversion to Christianity had long-lasting consequences for Georgia. Situated at the crossroads of the West and the East, Georgia now took political orientation towards the West/Europe and firmly tied its future and culture to Western civilization. The introduction of Christianity stimulated a vigorous development of arts and letters. Although pre-Christian Georgian literature seems to have been destroyed in the process, Georgia underwent a cultural transformation. Monasticism flourished and many important religious works were translated into Georgian. One of the earliest surviving examples of Georgian original hagiographic literature re the fifth century Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik and Life of Saint Nino. The widespread construction of churches promoted rapid improvement in architecture and gradually a unique cruciform style of church architecture was developed, evident in the basilica-type churches of Bolnisi and Urbnisi (fifth century) and the cruciform domed Jvari Church (late sixth century).

Christianity in Georgia was put to severe tests from the very beginning. Sasanian Persia promoted the teachings of Zoroaster and helped spread Mazdaism throughout eastern Georgia. Shah Yazdegerd II (438-457), convinced that a single religion would enhance the unity of his empire, endeavored to convert Georgians to Mazdaism and dispatched Zoroastrian magi to Kartli to take charge of the conversion. Many Georgian nobles submitted, but their commitment to the new faith proved shallow. Efforts to convert the common people were less successful since Christianity appeared to have struck deep roots among them.

In the fifth-sixth centuries, Christian Kartli (Iberia) struggled against Persian domination. This period produced King Vakhtang Gorgasali (452-502), one of the most colorful personalities in the history of Georgia. The son of King Mihrdat V, he was nicknamed Gorgasali (“wolf headed,” from the Persian Gorg-a-sar) because of the shape of his helmet. Married to a Persian princess, he extended his authority to the Byzantium-held Egrisi (Lazica) and Abasgia, subdued the warlike tribes of Alans (Oss, Ossetes) and secured the autocephalous status for the Georgian Orthodox Church. Married to an Iranian princess, Vakhtang participated in the Persian campaigns against the Byzantine Empire between 455 and 458 but later grew irritated with the Persian interference in his affairs. In 482, he, in alliance with the Armenians, led an uprising against Persia, but internal dissension and the failure to secure help from Byzantine Emperor Justinian doomed the rebellion; Georgia was ravaged by the Persian punitive expeditions in 483 and 484. In 502, Vakhtang led another uprising that proved to be more successful. The Georgians defeated Shah Kavad’s army on the Samgori Plains in Kartli, but King Vakhtang himself was mortally injured when one of his renegade servants betrayed him and wounded him through an armpit defect of his armor. One of his lasting legacies was the transferring of the capital from Mtskheta to the nearby small fortress of Tbilisi.

The death of King Vakhtang seriously weakened Kartli (Iberia) and exposed it to Persian encroachment. In 523, King Gurgen rose in rebellion but was defeated; Kartli was occupied and the Iberian monarchy was later abolished. Persian officials introduced heavy taxation and Mazdaizing policies. Having subdued Kartli, Persia moved into Western Georgia, where it clashed with the Byzantine Empire. In the mid-520s, King Tsate of Lazica broke his alliance with Persia and supported the Byzantine rulers, who deployed their forces at Tskhisdziri (Petra). The rulers of Egrisi/Lazica tried to use the hostility between Byzantium and Persia to their own advantage, but the war devastated western Georgia. Persia invaded Lazica several times but the alliance between the rulers of Lazica and Constantinople endured. However, in 554, King Gubaz of Egrisi was assassinated by Byzantine officials on the Khobistskali River. In response, the dismayed population of Egrisi summoned a national assembly, where two notables, Aietes and Phartazes, gave their famed speeches on whether to continue supporting Byzantium or turn to Persia. In the end, Egrisi sided with the Byzantine Empire, feeling cultural and religious affinity with it. By 562, the joint efforts of Egrisi and Byzantium culminated in the expulsion of Persia from western Georgia. Lazica became a province of the Byzantine Empire.

The Byzantine-Persian rivalry had serious consequences for Iberia. Sasanid rulers held eastern Georgian under their suzerainty while local princes led by mamasakhlisi (prince-regent) of Kartli/Iberia) ran the government. When the Byzantine Emperor Maurice attacked Persia in 582, Georgian nobles supported him in hopes of restoring the kingdom of Iberia. Iberian autonomy was restored in 588, but Emperor Maurice appointed a curopalates (presiding prince) instead of a king. The first curopalates, Guaram (588-602) and his heirs were caught between the warring Persia and Byzantium. In 591, Constantinople and the Sasanid Empire agreed to divide Iberia between them, with Tbilisi remaining in Persian hands and Mtskheta, the old capital, under Byzantine control. In the early seventh century, the truce between Byzantium and Persia collapsed and Erismtavari Stepanoz I of Iberia (ca. 590-627) succeeded in reuniting the eastern Georgian territories. As the war between the Byzantine and Sasanid empires continued, Georgian principalities were often turned into battlegrounds. In 627-628, the campaigns of Byzantine Emperor Heraclius ensured Byzantine predominance in western Georgia and significantly weakened Iberia/Kartli, exposing it to the arrival of the new conqueror.


Historical Dictionary of Georgia
by Alexander Mikaberidze (Author)
Series: Historical Dictionaries of Europe (Book 50)
Hardcover: 784 pages
Publisher: Scarecrow Press (March 16, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0810855809
ISBN-10: 0810855801