Editor-in-Chief: V. Shengelia

Tbilisi Ivane Javakhishvili State University Arnold Chikobava Institute of Linguistics

Tbilisi, Universal: 2007 /p. 272/

G. L. Kavtaradze (Tbilisi)

The Problem of Interpretation of Ancient Gem from Paris

Among the unsolved problems of Georgian history of the Late Antique period is the beautiful sardonyx intaglio from the Department of medals, coins and antiquities of the National Library in Paris; the place and time of its discovery is unknown. It shows an image of a man, and a Greek inscription around it with intitulatio of this person: ΟΥCΑC ΠΙΤΙΑΞΗC ΙΒΗΡΩΝ ΚΑΡΧΗΔΩΝ. The gem reveals typical signs of the early Sasanid period. The meaning of only two words of the inscription is quite clear: Vitaxa of Iberia. Nobody knows exactly who this Vitaxa - "Usa" (Οὔσας) was and why Iberia belonged to the Carthaginians. The majority of scholars came to the agreement

that the name Usa could be a shortened form of Arshusha, the name /p. 273/ of the 5th century Vitaxa of Iberia. The use of the name of the Carthaginians on the gem of an Iberian noble is a very embarrassing fact indeed. It is widely believed that this word should be connected with the Armenian word Kark'edovmayec'i by which the 7th century Armenian historian Sebeos actually referred to the Sasanids. Therefore in the opinion of specialists the expression "ιβηρων καρχηδων" could mean that Iberia at that time was under the rule of the Sasanids, i.e. the Persians. Such a political situation had place in the time of the Vitaxa of Iberia Arshusha. In a grave of the turn of the 3rd – 4th centuries which was discovered near the eastern facade of the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral at Mtskheta a pencil-case with a Greek inscription “belonging to Kings Ustamos and Evgenios” was found. This fact gives us an advantageous possibility to connect the name of Usa with the name of King Ustamos. It should be taken into consideration that for the Armenian historical chronicles the King of Iberia and the Vitaxa of Gogarene (i.e. southern Iberia) is sometimes one and the same person. It seems that the last word of the Usa's inscription - "καρχηδων" (the Carthaginians) - manifests a complex meaning: On the one hand, it is the boasting element in Viraxa's intitulatio. It indicates on his origin from Mihrdat, one of the satraps of Darius. According to Moses Xorenats’i, Alexander the Great placed Mihrdat, one of the satraps of Darius, in control of Iberians, once captured by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar when he attacked the land of the Libyans and Iberians and settled them on the right side of the Pontus Sea; the widespread term to designate the Carthaginians was Phoenicians of Libya (Λιβυφοἱνϊκες). On the other hand, bearing in mind that the name of the Carthaginians derives from the Phoenician word Kart H dašt (kart is "city" and h dašt - "new") and that "city" in the Aramaic is kard, it seems presumable that the name "Carthaginian Iberia" implied the part of Iberia (Kartli - in Georgian)

south of the river Kura where "Armazistsikhe" or "Kart-li" is located and where Aramaic was an official language of the royal court, along with Greek. This is exactly the place after which the Georgians call themselves "Kartvels" and it is possible that Usa's gem is the earliest evidence of it. The conversion of the native place names to the more usual forms was a quite frequent phenomenon in the Greek-Roman world and one of its manifestations could be a form Carthago instead of Kartli.

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