Fresco of Shota Rustaveli in the Monastery of the Cross, an Eastern Orthodox monastery near the Nayot neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel
Early Georgian literature was influenced by two distinctive civilizations-medieval Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the civilization of Persia. From the 6th to the 10th cent. the literature, produced primarily in monasteries, was ecclesiastical; translations of the Bible were the principal works. From the end of the 11th cent. to the early 13th cent., classical old Georgian poetry, secular in nature and strongly influenced by the Persian epic, enjoyed its greatest flowering. The masterpiece of this period was the epic poem by Shota Rustaveli, The Man in the Panther's Skin (tr. 1912). Nationalistic in feeling, it is distinguished by a remarkable metrical pattern of fluent rhymes and subtle alliterations. In this same period, the poet Chakrudkhadze wrote 20 odes, titled Tamariani, and Ioane Shavteli completed Abdul Messiah.
After the 13th cent. Mongol invasion there was little important literature over the next few centuries.
In the 17th cent., King Teimuraz I and King Archil Sulkhan contributed extensively to the evolution of Georgia's modern prose, and Saba Orbelian wrote the outstanding Book of Wisdom and Lies.
In the 18th cent. the foremost writers were David Guramishvili, author of The Woes of Kartli, and the lyric poet Bessarion Gabashvili. Throughout these years troubadour literature also evolved.
In the 19th cent., romanticism was the dominant style, as seen in the writings of Alexander Chavchavadze, Nikoloz Baratashvili, and Grigol Orbeliani. The outstanding representatives of classical Georgian poetry were Ilia Chavchavadze and Alaki Tsereteli.
In the early 20th cent., A. Abashili and S. Shanshiashvili were the leading writers of the pre-Soviet period. Major Georgian literary figures, including the poets Paolo Iashvili and Titsian Tabidze and the novelist Mikheil Javakhishvili, were victims of Stalin's purges. In the post-Stalin period, Georgian writers such as the novelist Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, the playwright Shalva Dadiani, and the poet Ioseb Grishashvili, reflected Soviet literary trends, styles, and topics.
More recent writing, such as the novels of Nodor Dumbadze and the poems of Ana Kalandadze, has emphasized nationalist themes anticipating national independence.