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IMAGINING HISTORY AT THE CROSSROADS:


PERSIA, BYZANTIUM, AND THE ARCHITECTS
OF THE WRITTEN GEORGIAN PAST
Volume I

by

Stephen Harold Rapp, Jr.

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment


of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
(History)
in The University o f Michigan
1997

Doctoral Committee:
Professor John V.A. Fine, Jr., Chair
Professor Kevork B. Bardakjian
Professor Rudi P. Lindner
Professor Ronald G. Suny, The University of Chicago

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UMI Number: 9722070

Copyright 1997 by
Rapp, Stephen Harold, Jr.
All rights reserved.

UMI M icroform 9722070


C opyright 1997, by U M I Com pany. All rights reserved.
This m icroform edition is protected against unauthorized
copying under T itle 17, United States Code.

UMI

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Stephen Harold Rapp, Jr.


---------------------------------------- 1997
Copyright, All Rights Reserved

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... Since Dioscurias is situated in such a gulf and occupies the most
easterly point o f the whole sea, it is called not only the recess o f the
Euxine, but also the "farthermost" voyage. And the proverbial verse.
"To Phasis, where for ships is the farthermost run [EIE $AEIN,
ENQA NAYEIN EEXATOE APOMOE]," must be interpreted thus...
Strabo. XI.2.16

And Aneran and Eran will be confounded, so that the Iranian will
not be distinguished from the foreigner, those who are Iranians will
turn back to foreign ways...
Jamasp-namag. Bailey, trans.. p. 56

"Constantinople is a rotten city. Chiaberi and I learned a lot in the


palace o f Caesar Basil. Blinding, burial alive, crucifixion, poisoning,
cutting off both hands, assassination - our Georgian kings were
taught all this in the Byzantine Empire... Constantinople is rotten to
the core, a nest o f dissipation, corruption, and treachery..."
- Monologue o f Shavleg Toxaidze in
K. Gamsaxurdia's historical novel
The Hand o f a Great Master. Eng.
trans. (Moscow. 1955), p. 80

... The people were to forget their past, and in fact the following
generations lost their recollection of it. and the only sign of their being
a distinct nationality which remained was their own language in the
midst o f peoples speaking other tongues. In this, however, lies just
the tragedy o f their existence. What are they? GQrdjis! What is their
past? From where do they come? What is their history? They do not
know and they are not permitted to know...
- M.T., "Georgia," in the newspaper

The Georgian Messenger,


no. 14, 20 July 1919

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For my mother and father,


Gwen M. Rapp and Stephen H. Rapp, Sr.,
and in memory of Cyril Toumanoff.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The intellectual odyssey leading to the completion o f this studs' was lengthy, often overwhelming,
and sometimes erratic. Happily, myriads o f well-wishers friends and strangers alike lined the
pathway at every turn, and in many respects it is a travesty that only my name should appear as that of the
author. But in the end, I was responsible for sifting through the enormous and diverse medieval evidence,
and for incorporating the innumerable comments proffered by my teachers and colleagues. Any
inaccuracies and errors herein are, in no way, a reflection o f the enormous help I have received. To be
sure, it is impossible for me to give special acknowledgment to each person who assisted in this endeavor.
However, I should wish to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to a great many of them: to those I
have overlooked, I offer my sincere thanks here to you en masse.
My quest into Georgian history began at Rose-Hulman Institute o f Technology in Terre Haute.
Indiana, and I am particularly grateful to Peter F.H. Priest for inculcating in me a love of the Russian
language and for leading me for the first time to the Soviet Union and to Georgia in 1987. While
pursuing a M A at Indiana University. I profited from the guidance and friendship o f Herbert Kaplan.
Devin DeWeese, Yuri Bregel, David Spaeder, and Michael Teague. A special debt is owed to the Lilly
Library and its staff. I must single out the efforts o f Dodona Kiziria, my Georgian teacher, under whose
care I studied at T b ilisi University in 1990. The 1990 Kartvelian Summer School in T bilisi was a
grand experiment: its successes far outweighed its shortcomings, and I owe a great debt to its organizers.
I should especially wish to thank Nino Chelidze for her untiring friendship and assistance.
I must acknowledge the generous support rendered by several organizations during my residency
at The University o f Michigan (UM): the UM Rackham Graduate School: the UM Department o f History:
the Alex and Marie Manoogian Foundation: the American Numismatic Society and its wonderful staff:
Dumbarton Oaks: Fulbright-Hays: the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX): and the Social
Science Research Council (SSRC). As a Fulbright-Hays/IREX scholar in the United Kingdom and the
Republic o f Georgia in 1994-1995,1 was assisted and sustained by many kind individuals. In the UK my

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thanks to Robert Thomson, Sebastian Brock, David Barrett, Antony Eastmond (who kindly made a
typescript o f his forthcoming book available to me), Jeff Childers, and Chris Mummery, as well as to the
Oriental Institute o f Oxford University, the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum, and the British
Library/Museum. In Georgia I benefited from the assistance and kindness o f Manana Gegeshidze. Anni
Laghidze, Giorgi Cheishvili, T a m ila Mgaloblishvili and family. Mariam Lort'k'ip'anidze. Giuli
Alasania, T am ar Ot'xmezuri and family, Zaza Sxirt'ladze, Zaza Alek'sidze. M zek'ala Shanidze. Edisher
Xoshtaria-Brosse, Davit' Ninidze, and Gia Ch'xatarishvili and his family and friends, as well as the
Kekelidze Institute o f Manuscripts (MSS), the Central State Historical Archive, the Institute o f History
and Ethnography', the Georgian Oriental Institute, T b ilisi University, and various other libraries and
museums. Other colleagues and teachers have assisted me at various times; in particular. I have received
especially pertinent comments and advice from Robert Hewsen, Nina Garsolan. Jonathan G ra n t and
Leonora Neville. Ken Church, my fellow adventurer in Georgia. Georgian studies, and life has made an
indelible imprint on my understanding o f history and the arguments of this thesis.
I would be remiss not to single out the labors and contributions of my dissertation committee,
without whose direction this thesis would have been less successful. Ronald Suny. now o f The University
o f Chicago, introduced me to the unstable world o f modem Georgian history- and politics, and also serv ed
as my navigator through the perilous seas o f early graduate funding. Kevork Bardakjian taught me
Armenian and wisely recommended that I should study at Oxford; his knowledge o f medieval Armenian
literature, and his willingness to teach me some Classical Armenian on his own time, was exceedingly
beneficial. Rudi Lindner's effective and extraordinary teaching style, and his careful and deliberate
approach to writing and research, proved to be an invigorating force during the prolonged and terribly
intense writing-stage o f this dissertation. My thanks are especially pronounced for John Fine. Jr.. my
friend and mentor. He unhesitatingly took upon himself the challenge o f supervising a future specialist of
medieval Georgian history. His unfailing interest in me. and my subject, cannot be understated, and this
dissertation would simply have not been possible without him and his keen editorial skills. My thanks
also to the frequent hospitality rendered by his wife, Gena, and mother, Elizabeth.
Finally, I must express my deepest thanks to my own family who has endured many years o f my
intense fascination with a far-away, if not alien, country. My mother Gwen, father Steve, and sister Amy,

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have all supported me throughout my academic career, and indeed, all o f my life. Although my transition
at the college level from engineering, to Slavic languages, to Soviet studies, and to medieval Georgia and
Byzantium w as a rocky and at times unpleasant one, my parents unfailingly stood behind me. During the
past five years, my companion and wife Holly Avey has endured my constant absence due to travel, not to
mention m y figurative absence while immersed in historical inquiry. Her interest in m e and my work, and
her gracious understanding o f the need that the subject be satisfactorily introduced to the Englishspeaking world, is a debt which I can never repay fully,

^ 3 3 6 0 */

Stephen H. Rapp, Jr.


Tucson, Arizona and Ann Arbor, Michigan
17 M arch 1997

Research for this project was assisted by grants from the Fulbright Program, the International Research
and Exchanges Board (IREX). and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)/American Council of
Learned Societies (ACLS). The grant from IREX was supported in part with funds provided by the
National Endowment for the Humanities, the United States Information Agency, and the U.S. Department
o f State. The grant from SSRC/ACLS was made possible with funds provided by the U.S. Department of
State under the Program for Research and Training on Eastern Europe and the Independent States o f the
Former Soviet Union (Title VIII). Additional support was provided by The University o f Michigan at
Ann Arbor. None o f these organizations is responsible for the views expressed

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Ta b le

of

Co n t e n t s

Page
Acknowledgments

iv

Introduction

Historical Overview

Note on the Sources

Modem Studies on Medieval Georgian Historical Literature

10

The Texts

12

The Manuscripts

17

Non-Historical Georgian Texts and Non-Textual Evidence

33

Note on Armenian Sources

34

Note on Transliteration

38

General Maps

PART ONE.

41

THE PRE-BA GRA TID PERIOD.

C hapter One. Forging the P re-B agratid Historical Tradition.

45

46

I. The Dawn o f Georgian Historical Writing

46

II. The Corpus of Mok c 'evay k 'art 'lisay

49

vii

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The Original Core

49

Constituent Texts o f the Corpus

50

m . The Corpus o f C'xorebay k'art 'velt'a mep et 'a Traditionally Attributed


to Leonti Mroveli

55

The Ufe o f the Kings: Extant MSS and the Title o f the Text

55

The Identification o f Leonti Mroveli. the Traditional Author o f

59

C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a

IV.

The Components o f the Corpus of C'xorebay k 'art 'velt 'a mep 'et 'a
and a Further Consideration o f the Literary Activities o f
Leonti Mroveli

62

Sources and Influences

69

a. Local Georgian Sources

70

b. Persian Influences

72

c. Greek Sources/Influences Explicitly Cited

81

d. Armenian Influences and Sources

86

e. Unacknowledged Influences: The Deluge Universe!

88

Internal Evidence for Dating The Ufe o f the Kings

101

The Date o f The Ufe o f the Kings

109

The Corpus o f C 'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa Tradi tionally


Attributed to Juansher Juansheriani

1 12

The Title o f C 'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa

11 2

The Author, Date, and Composite Nature o f the Text

113

viii

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The Sources o f C 'xorebay vaxtcmg gorgaslisa


a. The U fe o f Persia

121

b. The Hermetica

122

c. Armenian Influences

124

A The Book o f Nimrod

125

e.

128

Georgian Sources

The Earliest Georgian Reference to the K 'art'velian Bagratids

132

The Dates o f the Constituent Texts

134

C h ap ter Two. T he Algebra of O rigins.


I.

120

The Origin of the K 'art'velians and Post-Diluvian K 'art'Ii

136
136

The Sons of Togarmah and the O rigin o f Caucasia

137

Haos

146

K 'artlos

148

The Immediate Progeny o f K 'art' los

151

Stemma of the Eponymous Ancestors o f Caucasia

153

The Roman Empire in Pre-Bagratid Georgian Historical Texts

155

The Persian Context Admitted: K 'a rt'Ii as Part o f the Persian


Commonwealth

158

Cosmopolitanism Admitted and Explained

176

Intellectual Vandalism: Scribes, Patriotism, and the Legend of


Haos and K 'art'los

185

ix

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The Legacy o f K 'a rt' los and His Progeny in Later Literature
II.

The Mythical Conquest o f K 'art'li by Alexander the Great and the


Establishment o f Indigenous Royal Authority

197

Georgian Sources on Alexander's Invasion o f K 'art'li

197

The Narrative o f the Mythical Conquest o f K 'art'li by Alexander


of Macedon

198

Azon/Azoy and the Two Georgian Traditions o f the Establishment


of Kingship in K 'art'li

203

A Further Consideration o f the Dates o f the Medieval Traditions


of Alexander

210

Alexander in Succeeding Georgian Historiography

213

Chapter Three. Representations o f Pre-Christian Kingship.


I.

193

P'am avaz

219
220

P'amavaz Becomes King

220

P'amavaz as the Patron of the Georgian Language and the


Inventor o f the Georgian Script

223

n. The Secular Image o f Pre-Christian K 'art'velian Kingship

243

Intitulatio

244

Divine Fortune: T he Persian Conception o f Famah

255

Kings as Sasanid Royal Heroes

258

Me' xet' a and the Mobility of Kings

264

Kings as Creators and Pinnacles o f Administration

267

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Kings as Alliance Makers and the Utility o f M arriages

280

Kings as Builders

282

HI. The Traditions o f Pre-Christian Religious Devotion

Chapter Four.

286

The Alleged "Pagan" Pantheon of Pre-Christian K a rt'li

287

The Image o f K 'artvelian Religious Practices at the Tim e of


Alexander

292

Royally Sanctioned Idol Worship

294

Tree and Pillar Worship

299

A Further Consideration o f Astral Worship

304

King and Community Christianized.

311

I. The Antecedents o f Christianization

311

The Move Towards Monotheism... and Retrogression into


Apostasy

311

King Aderki and the Birth o f Christ

314

Rev I"the Just"

318

II. Two Memories, One King: The Persian Mihran and the Christian Mirian
in the Georgian Historical Tradition

320

The Pre-Christian Mihran of The Ufe o f the Kings

320

The Christian Mirian o f The Conversion o f K'art '// and The Life

326

o f Nino
III. Nino, the Illuminatrix o f K 'art'li
The Earliest Tradition o f the Christianization of K 'a rt'li: Rufinus

xi

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331
332

The Armenian Traditions o f the Conversion o f K 'a rt'li

339

The Earliest Extant Georgian Tradition of Nino: The Conversion

346

o f K'art'li
The Popular Tradition: The Ninth-/Tenth-Centuiy Life o f Nino

348

Notable Metaphrases

356

Ep'rem M e'ire on the Christianization of Egrisi/Ap'xazet'i

357

IV. Early Christian Kingship in K 'a rt'li

359

Kings as the Builder o f Churches

360

"Pagan" Backlashes

362

Early Christian K 'art'velian Monarchs as Sasanid Hero-Kings and


a Further Consideration of the Date o f The Life o f the

364

Successors o f Mirian
V. The Image o f the Early Church in Kart' li

366

Early Church Organization

367

The Apostolic Claim

372

Chapter Five. The Imagined Vaxtang Gorgasali and the Autumn of Pre-Bagratid
K'art'li.
I.

Image o f Realm: Description and Attention to Detail in The Life o f

383

384

Vaxtang Gorgasali
Dialogue and Exaltations o f the Christian God

387

The Military: Troops and Armament

390

Wealth and Money

392

Roads

395

xii

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II.

Image o f the King

399

The Persian/Sasanid Dimension

400

The Byzantine Dimension

4 11

A Biblical Model o f Kingship: The O ld Testament King-Prophet


David

418

The K' art' velian Dimension

420

a. The King as Mediator

421

b. The King as Church Builder

424

c. The Establishment o f Tp' ilisi and Artanuji

425

m . Vaxtang in Contemporary Non-Georgian Sources

428

Ghazar P' arpec' is History o f Armenia

429

Procopius

431

IV. Image o f the Church Under Vaxtang

437

Christian K 'art'li and Zoroastrianism

437

Church Organization Under Vaxtang

446

The Establishment o f the Kat 'alikos-ate: Beginnings o f


Autocephaly?

451

Ecclesiastical Schism with Armenia

465

V. Vaxtang in Subsequent Georgian Historiography


Bagratid-Era References to Vaxtang Gorgasali

xiii

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471
471

[Volume II]
PART TWO. THE BA GRA TIT) PERIOD.

Chapter Six. From K 'art'li to Sak'art'velo: The Inception, Ideology, and


Historiography o f the Early K'art'velian Bagratids.
I.

The Context o f Arab Domination and the Ascendancy o f the


Guaramids

481

481

Abolition o f Royal Authority Reconsidered

481

The Dawn o f Islam According to Medieval Georgian Historical


Sources

483

The Move Towards a Byzantine Orientation: Ps.-Juansher

486

n. Early Bagratid Historical Works

III.

480

492

Sumbat Davit'is-dze

492

The Anonymous Chronicle o f K'art'li

495

Innovations in Early Bagratid Historical Writing

497

a. Nusxuri and mxedruli Scripts

498

b. The K'oronikon: The Medieval K 'art'velian


Calendrical System

500

c. Influx o f Greek Vocabulary

504

d. New Designation Sak'art'velo

505

The K 'art'velian Bagratids Come to Power


The Historical Provenance of the K 'art'velian Bagratids

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507
507

IV.

Surabat Davit'is-dze and the Origin o f the K'art'velian


Bagratids

515

The Legendary Origin o f the Bagratids: The Development o f


Jewish and Davidic Origins

522

Bagratid Royal Nomenclature

535

The Emergence o f Sak' art'velo (Georgia)

541

Davit' of Tao/Tayk' and Two Byzantine Rebellions

542

The Death o f Davit' ofTao/Tayk'

547

Bagrat HI, King o f all-Georgia, and the Theme o f Iberia

548

Giorgi I and the Rebellion o f the Two Nikephoroi in 1022

552

Bagrat IV and the Diminishing Byzantine Threat

556

C hapter Seven. Looking Tow ards Byzantium : Refinement of Rule and Image.
I. Bagratid Royal Titulature

560
560

The Byzantine Dignity o f Kuropalates

560

The Byzantine Dignities o f Nobelissimos, Sebastos. and

566

Caesar
Non-Honorific Accretions Under the Early Kings o f All-Georgia

569

Developments after Rusudan

581

II. Innovations of Early Bagratid Kingship

583

Development o f a Royal Administration

584

Royal Documents, Legal Codes, and Coinage

589

xv

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Development o f a Secular Literature

594

The Royal Standard, the Royal Emblem, and Border Markers

596

Badges o f Royal Authority: Regalia and Coronation

602

Building Activities

612

"Diplomatic" Marriages

615

Immemorialization: Calendrical Dates for Births and Deaths, and


Notices on Burial Places

622

Palaces and Seasonal Residences

626

III. The Georgian Church in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

629

Monastic Foundations Abroad

630

Titulature o f the Ecclesiastical Hierarchs

635

Ecclesiastical Documents and a Further Comment on the


Ecclesiastical Hierarchy

638

Shift in Liturgy

640

Georgian Ecclesiastical Councils

641

Polemic and the Armenian Question

644

IV. Portraits of Two Great Sovereigns: Davit' II and T a m a r

652

The Qualities o f a Good Monarch

653

Solar and Astral Imagery and the Concept o f Sharavandedi

658

Royal Epithets. Metaphors, and Renewal

663

The Saint-King

672

The Cosmopolitan Kingdom

679

xvi

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Georgia Uncompromised

Epilogue

683

689

Excursi
Excursus A: Chronological Table o f K artvelian and Georgian Rulers

707

Excursus B: Further Remarks on the MSS o f K'art'lis c'xovreba

712

Excursus C: K 'art'velian Bagratid Stemma

729

Glossary

733

Bibliography

739

xvii

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INTRODUCTION1

Historical discourse, the technique by which history is approached and studied, is constantly
subject to change. The prevailing discourse, o r really discourses, often infiltrates the works of the time,
though it must be said that more recent methods o f inquiry are not necessarily superior to earlier ones.
There is no strict linear progression in historical understanding. Should this thesis have been written a
hundred years ago, it might very well have been based upon the s tr ia premise o f geographical
determinism, an approach which has its merits as long as it does not stand alone .2 It so happens that
historians o f my own time have set sail upon the vast ocean o f identity, which is currently dominated by
buoys signaling the "truth" about nations, nationality, nationalism, and ethnicity. It might surprise the
reader to find that these four terms, and much o f the elaborate theory accompanying them, have no place
in this study. To be sure, I endeavor to provide a glimpse into the self-perception o f medieval Georgian
historians and elites and how they conceived of, and sometimes created, a shared past for their
community. But suffice it to say that the concepts o f nation, nationality, nationalism, and ethnicity, as
shaped tty scholars like E. Hobsbawm, M Hroch, B. Anderson, and A. Smith, are not strictly applicable to
the pre-modem period, be it to the Georgian o r any other community .3 A basic justification of this
assertion lies in the fact that the pre-modem period lacked the intense forms o f social communication,
interaction, and organization so diligently studied by K. Deutsch.
The contemporary understanding o f nationalism and ethnicity, however, m ay offer some points of
departure but only tangentially for our inquiry'. The insightful study of R. Suny, The Making o f the

Georgian Nation (1988, rev. ed. 1994). advances the idea that nations are constantly being made and
remade by hard intellectual labor, and the author successfully applies this ebb and flow to the experience
o f modem Georgia. Immersing himself in the current discourse, Suny demonstrates that a Georgian

nation may be traced only to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This notion, as one might
guess, has infuriated a great many Georgians, for it seems to deny the well-known antiquity of their

The reader's attention is also directed to the glossary, excursi (including regnal tables), list of
abbreviations, and bibliography (will full references to the works cited) placed at the end o f this thesis
(volume II).
The influence of this approach is readily apparent in W.E.D. Allen, History o f the Georgian People
(1932, repr. 1971).
The concept o f an "imagined community" developed Ity Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections
on the Origin and Spread o f Nationalism (1983), was particularly' useful, though not directly applicable.

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people."* However, the related issues o f nation, nationalism, nationality, and ethnicity essentially boil
down to questions o f terminology and the very nature o f history. Many non-scholars, and some careless
scholars, are willing to regard history as static; thus the concept o f nation, like others, is often applied to
any period indiscriminately. But this obscures and simplifies the dynamic character o f humanity and
history alike, for social organization and conceptualization are regularly being made and remade, defined
and redefined, intentionally or n o t In short, nations are by the current definition m odem organisms, and
I use that last term precisely because they are in a sense alive and changing, both from within and
w ithout In any event the definition o f nations as necessarily m odem does not preclude the existence of
macro-level social bonds and organization in the pre-modem era.
Suny's canvass is enormous. Accordingly, there are certain lacunae especially in the
historiographic, literary, and cultural spheres, but a particularly weak point in his broad argument
concerns the pre-modem period. To be fair, Suny is not a medieval historian, and he does not masquerade
as one. He must be commended for regarding pre-modem Georgian history as essential for understanding
the present His political summary o f pre-modem Georgian history, however, is not well integrated into
his subsequent arguments and its significance for his study is irresolute. Suny is rightly convinced that
the concept o f the nation, as conceived by the current discourse, is not applicable to pre-modem Georgia.
Archaic and medieval forms o f "Georgian" identity existed, for there was a "Georgian" community in premodem times .5 Suny recognizes that "Georgian" communities had existed prior to the formation of a
modem Georgian nation. But he leaves unresolved the nature o f the identity', or really identities, by which
the "Georgians" o f the pre-modem period defined themselves. This circumstance inspired me to examine
Georgian self-identity before the existence of a modem Georgian nation. Who were the ancient and
medieval Georgians?
At this junction it should be emphasized that the question just raised is itself problematic, for the
English term "Georgian" does not exist in the Georgian language. Rather, at present k'art'veli
( ^ 6 0 )3 0 2 5 0 ; lit. "K'art" velian") denotes both a citizen o f the Republic o f Georgia as well as an inhabitant
o f the core Georgian region of K 'art'li. Likewise, k'art'uli

refers to the Georgian language,

that is. literally the language o f the K'art'velians, which is now regarded as the language o f all-Georgia.
Originally, k'art'veli was applied only to the populace of K 'art'li. As for "Georgia," in the modem
parlance the term Sak'art'velo

lit. "[land] where the K 'art'velians live") refers to the

entire Republic o f Georgia, whereas the toponym K 'art'li denotes only the eastern region by that name.

"*E.g., G. Gach'ech'iladze, "Amerikuli dghiuridan: eri istoriuli da politikuri kategoriaa," Komunisti, 5


Aug. 1990, p. 3, and "Amerikuli dghiuridan: es uch'inari mteri dok'trina!," Komunisti, 12 Aug. 1990,
p. 3.
5 Or, more properly, "Georgian"

communities.

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"Sak'art'velo" achieved common usage only in the eleventh century when Bagrat III (978-1014) first
succeeded in uniting K 'art'li w ith the western region o f Ap'xazet'i. Simultaneously, k'art'veli began to
be applied to all "Georgian" subjects o f the monarch. Prior to the eleventh century a unified Georgia (i.e..
Sak'art'velo) did not exist 6 Even in this era, during the heyday o f the medieval Georgian kingdom, we
must challenge the nature and extent o f unit}'; to be sure, all Georgia was united under a single political
force, but the degree and type o f political, linguistic, religious, economic, and socio-cultural
standardization that exists today did not exist a t that time. In this study, when referring to the political
and social enterprises, the terms "G eorgia" and "G eorgian" are employed only for the eleventh century
and after, while " IT a rt'li and " K 'a rt'v e lia n " are preferred for the preceding period. However, in an
attempt to limit confusion, I employ the attributive "Georgian" here when referring to the language (even
though this imparts a grossly anachronistic linguistic unity) and to the historical tradition which was. to
some degree, shaped by later Georgian bookmen.
It is worth emphasizing from the outset that in terms of (extant) local historical writing, the
ancient and early medieval history o f "Georgia" is focused upon the region of K 'art'li and its rulers. This
contrasts with Egrisi, the Colchis o f the Graeco-Roman tradition, whose history was documented by
Classical writers. Graeco-Roman influence in "Georgia" was concentrated along the coast, i.e.. Egrisi. In
other words, we know about the history of early Egrisi largely through Classical (foreign) evidence while
K 'art'li, which would later emerge as the core o f "Georgia," is enshrined in local sources. This dichotomy
is particularly evident should the recent study o f D. Braund QGeorgia in Antiquity, written from the
perspective o f Greek and Latin information) be compared with this dissertation. In any event. I believe
that Classical and local sources complement one another, and to discuss one without the other regardless o f the subject of inquiry - yields a contorted image. Be that as it may. from the perspective o f
Georgian texts, which are the focus o f this stud}-, the early history o f "Georgia" is precisely the history- o f
K 'art'li. This distorted picture is partially the result o f the relatively late composition of the local sources
and their anachronistic projection o f unity and predominance back into the remote past.
The term "tradition" is used here in several ways, though not usually in the sense of ritual and
behavior. A "manuscript tradition" (or "MS trad itio n ") refers to the particular MSS (the original and
copies) by which a given text was transmitted. These MSS, as we shall see, were subject to scribal
accretions, deletions, and errors, not to mention damage and deterioration. So the various MSS for any
text often diverge, in some cases quite greatly. But a relatively late MS need not be less reliable than an
earlier one, for the later document may have been copied from a more reliable exemplar. This is
important to keep in mind in the present study, since many o f our extant (or, surviving) Georgian MSS

6 Cf. the implications in D. Braund,

Georgia in Antiquity (1994). Note the problematic use o f "Georgia"

in the title.

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are rather late, and the original versions usually have not come down to us. In a perfect world, we would
wish to have access to the originals o f the texts. But in their transmission through later MSS, how the
texts are or are not deliberately altered to reflect the political and social demands of the moment is an
important consideration. It is argued here that although the MS tradition o f Georgian historical texts is a
relatively late one, nevertheless the received forms o f the sources in question probably reflect for the most
part, the authentic versions. In a general sense, the "G eorgian historical tradition" refers to the
received texts relevant to a given topic. Moreover, the "pre-Bagratid historical tradition" refers only to
relevant pre-Bagratid historical texts. It should be said that in this study a historical tradition is defined as
being based upon written evidence. The pre-modem Georgian oral tradition was almost certainly a rich
one, and although relics o f it are preserved in present-day oral traditions, we shall not base our arguments
upon modem folk-tales. As a consequence, this study proceeds through the lens o f the medieval written
word. That is not to belittle the importance o f oral tradition, for much o f what happened in pre-Christian
"Georgia" was probably transmitted in this manner, perhaps for centuries (and our medieval authors no
doubt tapped into this rich oral tradition). Moreover, innumerable communities like the Maoris of New
Zealand^ did not develop a written tradition (in the Western sense at least) until after their relatively
recent contact with and subjection to European adventurers and colonists.
This thesis began as an examination o f medieval "Georgian" identity. Consequently I nanowed
my focus to the development of a shared Georgian history. The m aking o f a common past by native
historians, and the ways it was reshaped to reflect the political and social needs and realities o f later times,
forms the core o f this study. Just as modem nationalists may be accused o f rewriting history to further
their own ambitions, so too did medieval historians rewrite the past in order to legitimatize their own
times, or a desired future, and to imbue their aspirations with justifications grounded in the perceived
infallible authority of antiquity. The casting and recasting o f identity, and a community's history, is not
only a phenomenon of the modem period, but o f the pre-modem era as well.
The theme common to all the chapters o f this study is how early K 'art'velian historians depicted
and molded the past. As we shall see. these historians made many decisions, both consciously and
unconsciously. What is paramount here is that Georgian history, and the history o f any community for
that matter, should not necessarily be regarded literally. I shall argue that many o f the recollections of
"Georgians past, especially of its pre-Christian period, are images deliberately created considerably later,
though some of these images are based upon oral traditions and perhaps some now-lost intermediary texts,
the fact remains that the descriptions were carefully sculpted at a later time. Myths they may be, but the
historians intended for these myths to be accepted as troth, and modem patriots are acceding faithfully. It
is for this reason that we shall often focus upon the author and his period rather than the era being

^E.g., see J. Belich, Making Peoples: A History o f the New Zealanders (1996).

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described. Arguments made here are on the basis o f medieval texts. However, since many new books and
articles by modem specialists have appeared since the important work o f C. Toumanoff. 1 have been
compelled to provide ample references to this recent literature in the notes and bibliography. It is
unfortunate that a rather large proportion o f these studies view the Georgian past through the lens of
nationalism. I do not deny that m odem Georgians have a rich and ancient heritage o f which they are and
should be justifiably proud. However, one must be careful not to equate modem Georgia with its premodem antecedents, or to transfer m odem conceptions indiscriminately into the p ast In sum, I am
interested in how medieval K 'art'velians and Georgians conceived o f their community, and thus I have
based my arguments to the fullest possible extent on the documents which they produced.

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

It is assumed that the reader is not a specialist in medieval Georgian history, but that he/she is
familiar on a basic level with the actors o f the time, viz. the world-empire o f Alexander the Great and the
various Hellenistic enterprises, Parthia/Persia/Iran, Rome/Byzantium, Islam and the Caliphate, and the
Mongols.
The earliest period of Georgian history, like that o f many communities, is shrouded in mystery
and legend. However, the first medieval K'art'velian historians already attempted to explain the
ethnogenesis o f their community by linking it with ancient events and persons. The mythical foundation
o f K'artTi - the heartland of the later all-Georgian realm is attributed to a certain K 'a rt'lo s (cf.
K art'li) and his sons, who, with their progeny, are called the K 'art'losiani-s. This imagined K 'art'los is
depicted as being one o f Noah's immediate descendants (through Togarmah/T'argam os, whose own
relatives are known in Georgian as the T'argam osiani-s), and thus the establishment o f K 'artTi was cast
in an Old Testament context. For the earliest history o f the world, medieval Christians, including the
K'art'velians. considered the Old Testament (especially Genesis) and related apocrypha to be the ultimate
authority. K 'art'los eldest son and successor. M c'xet'os, was believed responsible for raising, at the
confluence of the Mtkuari (Kura) and Aragwi rivers, the city o f M c'xet'a (Rus. Mtskheta). a center which
served as the royal seat o f the K 'art'velian monarchy until the sixth century AD.
The authors describing the emergence of local royal authority likewise attempted to link K'artTi
with prominent figures in world history. Thus the semi-mythical first K 'art'velian king P 'arn av az (299O

234 BC) is said to have established his rule in response to the tyrannical regime of Azon the

^Regnal dates in this study, unless otherwise indicated, follow those calculated by Toumanoff. A regnal
table is attached to the end of this study. It should be noted that historians in Georgia often subscribe to
different computations, especially for the pre-Bagratid period. E .g, Vaxtangs death, calculated to have
happened ca. 522 by Toumanoff, is placed a decade or more earlier by many Georgian specialists.

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Macedonian, who him self had been set in place by Alexander the Great. The rule ofP'am avaz and his
successors, the P'arnavaziani-s, is poorly understood today. However, the Georgian historical tradition
identifies several short-lived dynasties as P'arnavaziani-s (through marriage links), including the
K'art'velian Nebrot'iani-s (Nimrodids). Arshakuni-s (Artaxiads). and Arshakuniani-s (Arsacids). The
Georgian account o f their tenure was consigned to parchment considerably later in the Christian period,
but the existence o f many o f these individuals and their dynasties is nevertheless confirmed by references
in ancient Classical (Greek and Roman) and Armenian texts, as well as Persian inscriptions.
The K 'art'velian dynasty known as the Chosroid (Georgian Xuasroiani). whose origin can be
traced directly to Persia, began with the rule o f M ihran/M irian H I (284-361). Ironically, although
Mihran himself was alleged to be the son o f the Persian shahanshah ("King o f Kings or Great King), he
was the first monarch o f the K 'art'velians to accept Christianity. According to the late fourth-century
Roman ecclesiastical historian Rufinus, an unnamed non-K 'arf velian holy woman effected the kings
conversion. The Georgian sources for this event survive, and were probably originally written down, only
from the seventh century. In them the holy woman is named Nino. Early Georgian works about Nino,
here collectively referred to as the Nino Cycle, attempt to connect the king's conversion to Constantine
the Great," the first Christian Roman emperor. Therefore, the K 'art'velian monarch is said to have
dispatched an embassy to Constantine at Nino's behest. Soonafter. probably in the second-half o f the
fourth century, at the impetus o f Christian clerics a specifically Georgian script was invented (although
the Georgian tradition attributes it to the first king P'amavaz!). The earliest extant work of Georgian
literature. The Martyrdom ofShushaniki. was composed by the priest Iakob C'urtaveli shortly thereafter in
the fifth century.^ It should be noted that this text is not properly historical, but hagiographical (i.e.. it
relates the life and worics o f a saint). Moreover, no Georgian historical texts, or MSS in any script, from
the pre-Christian period survive today, and in my estimation, such documents never existed.
Later traditions eulogized the rule o f Vaxtang I G orgasali (ca. 447-ca. S22). who was a
Chosroid king in the direct line o f Mihran/Mirian. The life (vita) o f this king was composed two to three
centuries after his death and contains numerous fanciful items. Vaxtang is made to be a model
K'art'velian Christian king, who was simultaneously K'art'velian. Christian, and Persian. Later
historians, and a great many modem specialists, routinely point to his reign as the time when both the city
of Tp'ilisi (mod. T bilisi, Rus. Tiflis) was established as the royal seat and the K'art'velian Church
became autocephalous (i.e independent in its internal affairs, free of administrative interference by other
Churches). The validity o f these opinions will be scrutinized in this study.

% or the possibility that this text was written much later, see C. Toumanoff, "Christian Caucasia Between
Byzantium and Iran," Traditio 10 (1954), p. 170 and footnote 266 (after P. Peeters).

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In the course o f the sixth century, K 'art'velian nobles, seeking greater local autonomy, persuaded
the Persian shahanshah to dissolve the monarchy. K'art'velian kingship fell into abeyance, perhaps as
early as the 530s but certainly by ca. 580; it was restored by the K 'art'velian Bagratids in 8 8 8 The kings
were replaced by a series o f presiding princes, and this extended interregnum is known as the principate.
Some o f these rulers, beginning w ith Guaram I (588-ca. 590), the founder o f the G uaram id princely
dynasty, came to be favored by the Byzantine emperors and were granted high Byzantine dignities. The
reign o f the Guaramids marked the palpable reorientation of the ruling circles o f K 'artT i to Byzantium,
especially following the sacking o f Tp'ilisi by the emperor Heraclius (610-641). The turning of K'artTi
from Persia to Byzantium was enhanced by the rise o f Islam and the Byzantines' desire to use the
Christian realms o f Caucasia (i.e.. Armenia and K 'a rt'li) as a first line o f defense against the Caliphate,
which in the course o f the second-half o f the seventh century had subdued Caucasia. It should also be
noted that the earliest extant G eorgian historical works were composed during this period.
It was in the context o f the Islamic domination o f the Near East that the B ag ratid (Arm.
Bagratuni) dynasty assumed the helm o f Caucasian politics. Having initially arisen in Armenia, a
permanent K' art'velian branch o f the family established itself in the southwestern regions (Tao/Tayk'.
Klarjet'i, Shavshet'i) in the last quarter o f the eighth century (earlier, some Bagratids seem to have been
established at Odzrq'e, but their house eventually disappeared). The first K 'art'velian Bagratid to rule as
presiding prince was Ashot I (813-830). Ashot's murder by the Muslims was a momentous occasion for
the K'art'velians, and this event is among the first to be recorded in texts using the k'oronikon, the native
Georgian calendrical system. The early Bagratids. like their Guaramid predecessors, sought and received
Byzantine dignities and honors. K 'art'velian royal authority was reestablished in 8 8 8 . under Byzantine
tutelage, by A darnase n /IV (888-923).
Only with the reign o f B ag ra t i n (978-1014) may we speak o f a united Georgia (Sak'art'velo).
Bagrat, with the assistance o f D av it' o f Tao/Tayk' (966-1000), became the king o f K 'art'li. Ap'xazet'i
(Rus. Abkhaziia, i.e.. in the far west), and Tao/Tayk' (in the southwest). The united Georgian kingdom
was short-lived, for it collapsed in the thirteenth century when a series o f ineffective monarchs was faced
with the invasions o f the Khwarazm-shah and the Mongols. But prior to this, the Georgian realm was the
most powerful kingdom in the northern part o f the Near East, especially during the reigns o f Davit' O

(1089-1125) and his great grandaughter T 'a m a r (1184-1213).

A standardized system of ordinals for K'art'velian/Georgian princes and monarchs does not exist. The
various dynasties, branches w ithin dynasties (this accounts for this Adarnase being reckoned as either the
second or the fourth), and the long rule o f presiding princes has complicated matters. Toumanoff s
genealogical work is by far the most detailed and successful on this subject. Therefore, I have usually
followed his numbering in this study.

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For much of the twentieth century, specialists have regarded the extant medieval Georgian
historical texts as products o f the Bagratid period, and especially, from the eleventh through the thirteenth
centuries, that is, from the time o f the apogee of the medieval kingdom. Some scholars, particularly M.
Tarchnishvili, P. Ingoroqva. and C. Toumanoff, have already demonstrated that the texts describing the
earliest periods o f Georgian history were actually composed just prior to the establishment o f the
K 'art'velian Bagratids. When I embarked upon this study, I was unconvinced that this was the case.
Rather, I was tempted to believe that the Bagratids, under the influence o f Armenian and Byzantine
civilization, had been responsible for introducing the Georgians to the art o f historical writing. This. I
thought, could be explained by the fact that the Bagratids had migrated from Armenian lands, and the
Armenians had been familiar with the genre from the fifth century AD. Moreover, the K 'art'velian
Bagratids owed some o f their achievements to direct Byzantine support, an d the Byzantines, as is well
known, had a long tradition of historical writing extending back to Roman times. Having carefully
examined the contents o f the relative texts, however, I found myself compelled to consign some o f them to
the pre-Bagratid period. That is to say, I am now convinced that the Georgian texts describing the earliest
period o f K'art'velian/Georgian history up through the establishment o f the K 'art'velian Bagratids at
the end o f the eighth century represent a pre-Bagratid Georgian historical tradition which differs
substantially from the subsequent Bagratid tradition. Instead o f simply verifying the research o f others. I
have grounded my arguments in a careful reading of the medieval texts, an d have painstakingly attempted
to provide contemporary or near-contemporary evidence for each assertion.
The goals o f this study are: to establish and describe the two earliest periods of medieval
Georgian historical writing (i.e pre-Bagratid and Bagratid); to demonstrate the conscious reorientation
by the K 'art'velian Bagratid elite (especially contemporary historians and the ruling families) from Persia
towards Byzantium; and, in the process, to establish the heterogeneity o f the pre-modem K 'art'velian and
Georgian communities. Moreover, this study, in tandem with the works o f Javaxishvili and Toumanoff. is
envisaged to serve as a commentary for the historical corpus o f K'art'lis c'xovreba (i.e.. The Georgian

Royal Annals, discussed infra).


This study differs from previous ones in that it focuses primarily upon the internal evidence of
the Georgian texts. The assertions made here are based upon a careful reading and consideration of the
medieval sources themselves. The identification and existence o f the pre-Bagratid Georgian historical
tradition is considered in the initial five chapters. The dating o f the sources which describe the earliest
period o f Georgian history is paramount, and this question forms the crux o f the first chapter. From the
beginning, I shall place special emphasis on the Persian context o f early K 'art'velian history, a situation
which persisted even among the early Christian K 'art'velian monarchs and historians. In chapter two, the
mythical and semi-mythical story written down only ca. 800 in my estimation about the ethnogenesis
o f the K 'art'velians is examined. It should be emphasized that much o f the received early history of
K 'art'li/G eorgia is a considerably later creation and is mythical, yet we shall see that the invention of this

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myth was far from haphazard or even ahistorical. The establishment o f K 'art'velian kingship and the
successive pre-Christian monarchs of K 'a rt'li are addressed in chapter three. Chapter four describes the
transformation of a skeletal legend o f the Christianization o f K 'art'li. evolving from the activities o f an
unnamed holy woman to a series o f detailed accounts of an identified woman named Nino. Perhaps more
than any other topic considered here, the development o f the Nino Cycle dramatically shows how
historical traditions could be shaped and reshaped in the pre-m odem era. K ing Vaxtang. allegedly the
greatest o f pre-Bagratid Christian K 'art'velian monarchs, is the subject o f chapter five. The era o f
Vaxtang is extremely significant, for although his later vita projected back certain issues and inventions
from the author's own time (ca. 800), the text did fictionally display the potential o f ByzantineK a rtv elian cooperation made possible by K 'art'li's Christianization two centuries earlier. The final two
chapters examine the earliest Bagratid histories. It is impossible to render a comprehensive treatment of
this relatively well-documented period in two chapters, but my goal is to demonstrate more fully the
existence o f two distinct historical periods and traditions an d not to provide a narrative o f the political
history o f this aurea aetas.
It must be emphasized that much o f the early history o f K' art' li/Georgia, in its received form, is
legendary. For example, the account o f the ethnogenesis o f the K 'art'velians was written only ca. 800
AO, well over a millennium after the fact. To be sure, earlier sources were plundered (especially the Old
Testament) so that the provenance o f the K'art'velians might be plausibly interpolated, but the fact
remains that this tradition is relatively late. Some historians may be tempted to disregard this mythical
period. This study is not so much interested in analyzing the actual events and individuals of ancient
Georgia, nor in establishing any "truth" about ancient Georgian history by comparing the later Georgian
information with the near-contemporary evidence of Greek an d Latin texts, but rather in understanding
how later medieval (i.e eighth-century AD and later) K 'art'velian/Georgian writers comprehended,
sculpted, and on some counts created, a common past for their community. As we shall see, the
information they provide about the period from the mythical eponym K 'art' los up through the
Christianization of the monarchy, and beyond, is almost certainly the result o f later productions. I would
argue, however, that the image o f K 'art'li's earliest history', formulated ca. 800, is historical for the period
of the authors, for it reflects what they deemed as the K 'art'velian community's understanding whether
accurate or not o f their own past. Because of the relatively late composition of our sources, and the late
MSS in which they are now preserved, we shall constantly be forced to consider the author/scribe and his
time, at times neglecting the reputed antiquity o f a given account.

NOTE ON THE SOURCES

It is assumed that the reader has no background in medieval Georgian literature; therefore, a
brief overview o f the major medieval texts examined in this study will be provided here. The date and

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10

authorship o f a great many o f the Georgian texts are passionately debated today, and a comprehensive
examination o f those offered here, and the justification for my own views, are presented when they
become relevant in this thesis. Here I shall merely provide a succinct introduction and reference guide,
noting only the most controversial points which themselves w ill be discussed in greater detail in the main
te x t F irst I shall turn to the modem study o f medieval Georgian historical literature.

Modem Studies on Medieval Georgian Historical Literature

In 1943 C. Toum anoff published "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature (Vllth-XVth


Centuries) in Traditio, a prestigious journal o f medieval studies. It remains, until now, the only such
comprehensive scholarly treatment in English. * * Subsequently, Toumanoff expanded upon and modified
some o f his earlier views in his monumental Studies in Christian Caucasian History (1963). ^
Toum anoffs hypotheses were not completely original, for he had benefited from the research of several
generations o f Georgian scholars. L Javaxishvili, perhaps Georgia's most famous historian, first
published his Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba (V-XVUJ ss.), or Old Georgian Historical Writing (5th-

17th Centuries) in 1916; it was recently reprinted in 1977 as part o f his Collected Works. Although
several important MSS have been discovered since its initial publication, Old Georgian Historical Writing
still remains valuable today. Javaxishvili's hypothesis were incorporated into his K'art'veli eris istoria,

^Toum anoff, "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature (Vllth-XVth Centuries)." Traditio 1 (1943). pp.
139-182; Toumanoff summed up his views, with some modifications, in his Studies in Christian
Caucasian History (1963), pp. 20-27 et sqq; see also idem., "The Oldest Manuscript o f the Georgian
Annals: The Queen Anne Codex (QA), 1479-1495," Traditio 5 (1947), pp. 340-344. Brief considerations
are offered by R.P. Blake, "Georgian Secular Literature, Epic, Romantic, and Lyric (1100-1800)," HSNPL
15 (1933), pp. 25-48; P. Ingoroqva, "The Path o f the Development o f Georgian Literature and Rust'hveli."
in the introduction to Shofha Rust'hveli. The Knight in the Tiger's Skin, trans. M.S. Wardrop with E.
Orbelyani and S. Jordanishvili, pp. x-xxiv; R.W. Thomson. " K 'a rtlis c'xovreba," in DMA, vol. 7. pp.
222-223; idem., "Georgian Literature," in DMA, vol. 5 (1982), pp. 416-419; and idem., "The Writing of
History: The Development o f the Armenian and Georgian Traditions," in SSCISSM, vol. 43a (1996), pp.
493-520. My views were first published in the brief survey in R.G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw
It: A Survey o f the Non-Muslim Sources Relevant to Early Islamic History (1997), excursus five. The
analysis o f historical literature by D. Rayfield, The Literature o f Georgia: A History (1994), is dependent
upon earlier work (although he fails to cite Toum anoff on this subject!); it does not, on the whole, offer
any new insights on this theme. Although Rayfields chapters on "chronicles" (pp. 49-57 and 92-97) do
not reflea the intense controversies enveloping Georgian historical writing, they remain an adequate
general introduction. O f original works in other Western languages we have only the various
introductions and commentaries o f M.-F. Brosset and J. Karst, Litterature georgienne chretienne, esp.
"Historic," pp. 102 - 110 , which is now outdated.
^T o u m an offs magnum opus essentially constitutes a pan-Caucasian (i.e., it addresses both Armenia and
"Georgia") precursor to Adontz, Armenia in the Period o f Justinian: The Political Conditions Based on
the Naxarar System, trans. with additions by N.G. Garsolan (1970).

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11

or A History o f the Georgian People, which has been reprinted and reedited on numerous occasions; ^
Toumanoff was indebted to many o f the ideas developed in i t This book was the first modern, critical
history of the "Georgian community in any language. Javaxishvili's immense contributions were
recognized by the naming o f both the History Faculty o f T b ilisi University and the Institute o f History and
Ethnography in his honor.
Javaxishvilis works have been venerated as holy writ by successive generations of Georgian
scholars, though his views were expanded, updated, and on some points corrected, by K. Kekelidze.
Kekelidze zealously studied historical, hagiographical. liturgical, and secular texts, and an annotated
bibliography o f all his works would constitute a small book . 14 His contributions to the study o f Georgian
literature were recognized by the nam ing o f the Georgian Academy of Sciences Institute of MSS in
T b ilisi in his honor. ^

Perhaps the most renowned o f Kekelidze's published works is a comprehensive,

detailed, and still unsurpassed, study o f pre-modem Georgian literature, K art 'uli literatures istoria, or A

History o f Georgian Literature. This massive work, the standard guide on the theme, has been reprinted
and reedited several times. The version published in 1987, edited by A. Baramidze, is usually cited
here. ^ Unlike Javaxishvili's study, Kekelidze's K'art'uli literaturis istoria was partially translated into a
Western language, forming the basis o f M . Tarchnishvili's Geschichte der kirchlichen georgischen

Uteratur (1 9 5 5 ).^
Had Toumanoff and Tarchnishvili not published their studies in English and German
respectively, many Western scholars would have been hopelessly denied any meaningful knowledge o f
medieval Georgian historical writing. The obstacle o f reading Georgian is a formidable one. and it is a
sad reality that many o f the works o f the handful o f great modem Georgian historians will never be known
to Western scholars. Yet even the publication o f research about Georgia in Western languages does not

1
X

I. Javaxishvili, K'art veli eris istoria. 2nd ed. (1928). is the edition usually cited in this study. It should
be noted that the use of the term "Kart'veli" in the title is rendered here as "Georgian" and not
"K 'artvelian," for his history is one o f all-Georgia.
I'h lis collected works now number thirteen volumes; they do not yet include all o f his publications. Sec
Kekelidze. Etiudebi dzveli k'art'uli literaturisistoriidan (1956-1974).
15The Institute o f MSS houses the great majority o f medieval Georgian MSS to be found in the Republic
of Georgia. The earliest recensions o f the medieval historical corpus K'C' (The Life ofK'art'li, or The
Georgian Royal Annals) are to be found at the Institute.
^^The editions used in this study are; Kekelidze, K'art'uli literaturis istoria, 2 vols. (1941 and 1958); and
Kekelidze with A. Baramidze. Dzveli k'art'uli literaturis istoria (V-XVIIIss.) (1969), most recently
published in 1987.
17
'T h e notes o f the famous Georgian historian N. Berdzenishvili on early Georgian historical literature are
also insightful (published posthumously): Sak'art'velos istoriis sakit'xebi, 1st ed., vol. 9 (1979).

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12

guarantee Western notice. The studies o f both Toumanoff and Tarchnishvili have too often been ignored
by or remain unknown to - Roman and Byzantine historians, specialists whose interests often intersect
with medieval Georgian history. 18 This is, o f course, partly a reflection of the peripheralization o f
Georgian studies in Europe and North America.
Several other Georgian scholars have offered surveys o f Georgian literature (of widely varying
quality and detail),
soundly based

yet the works o f Javaxishvili and Kekelidze remain the most creative, intuitive, and

The elevation o f Javaxishvili and Kekelidze to heroic levels is w arranted but the

popular, and even scholarly, depiction o f their work as infallible is not. For all o f its shortcomings, the
nationalistic milieu o f post-Soviet Georgia has made it possible for links of this sacred chain o f
scholarship, which may be traced to the pen o f Javaxishvili (and his contemporaries), to be challenged
However, a great many pseudo-scholars are presently emerging, and instead of initiating a meaningful,
scholarly debate, shock tactics (i.e.. offering diametrically opposed views to the established paradigms of
Javaxishvili, Kekelidze, etc. so as to generate maximum interest) and fanatical patriotism are en vogueM

The Texts

The vast majority of extant medieval Georgian historical writings is preserved in the corpus
known as S'art'lis c'xovreba (,3*6 c3C?ob 3 6 0 1 3 6 3 6 *), or literally The Life o f K'art 'lifGeorgia. Fewcontemporary extant works of a historical nature escaped inclusion in that compendium. It is not
altogether clear why this should be the case. However, a prominent characteristic o f Georgian historical
writing is that it was produced in support of, and often commissioned by. the K 'art' velian/Georgian

18This is even more true for Near Eastern and Russian specialists who are almost universally
unacquainted with these works.
^ E .g ., A.S. Khakhanov, Ocherkipo istoriigruzinskoi slovesnosti. 2 vols.: Ingoroqva. "K'art'uli
mcerlobis istoriis mokle mimoxilva." Mnat'obi 1 (1939). pp. 163-188.2 (1939). pp. 141-173.4 (1939).
pp. 94-138, and 9 (1939), pp. 97-141. and 10-11 (1939). pp. 197-272; Lang. Landmarks in Georgian
Literature: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered on 2 November 1965; and A. Manvelishvili. Dzveli k'art 'uli

mcerloba (1987).
jr\

The essentially indiscriminate acceptance o f the theories of Javaxishvili and Kekelidze is contagious,
infecting even Western specialists, most recently by Rayfield, The Literature o f Georgia.
21

One such work is by R. Baramidze, P'amavazman dzlier hqo k'ueqana t'visi, with Rus. sum.,
"Pamavaz i ego rol' v usilenii mogushchestva strany." pp. 42-50. Even usually careful scholars have
stumbled into the snare o f rampant nationalism, as is the case with the archaeologist O. Lordkipanidze,
Georgian Civilization: Whence Does Its History Start?. Other modern specialists have sought to justify or
even shape internal politics. E.g., M. L o rtk ip a n id z e , "The Abkhazians and Abkhazia," in her Essays
on Georgian History, pp. 189-209.

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13

Crown. That is to say, unlike the case in neighboring Armenia, where numerous histories were composed
yy

to glorify noble families,

historical writing in K 'art'li/G eorgia was the prerogative o f the royal clan.

K'art'lis c'xovreba is essentially the official, royally sanctioned, interpretation o f the K 'art'velian past,
and it is precisely for this reason that Toumanoff styled it The Georgian Royal Annals. Although these
sources were partially based upon archival evidence, they were nevertheless subject to extensive
manipulation by royal historians and later scribes. Georgian historical writing served not only as the
official view of the past but also as royal propaganda to explain the origins o f the various dynasties,
thereby demonstrating their legitimacy to rule, and to trumpet and enshrine forever royal achievements .23
We shall first direct our attention to those few historical writings which are not found in any of
the divergent MSS o f K'art'lis c'xovreba. Second, we shall consider the various historical works which
constitute that medieval corpus. The various MSS will be briefly considered thereafter, it should be noted
that the components o f K'art'lis c'xovreba, with the exception o f the inserted Life o f Nino, do not appear
independently of the MSS of that corpus. Finally, relevant non-historical Georgian works, and Armenian
historical texts, will be examined. The reader should recall that this introduction is not intended to
provide a comprehensive analysis o f medieval Georgian literature. Therefore, it will not offer a complete
enumeration of received works, original or otherwise.2^
Owing to the relatively large number o f corpora, and in an effort to keep them separate from their
constituent texts, I shall employ Georgian titles for corpora and English ones for their components. This
convention is particularly appropriate since corpora are customarily named alter one o f their component
texts thus compounding the confusion. In the following enumeration (but not in the main text), titles of
corpora are also capitalized .23 The bracketed forms here are those used in the notes. Cross-referencing
below is to the numbers assigned here to each text.

yy

E.g.. The Epic Histories (formerly attributed to P'awstos Buzandec'i) seeks to exalt the Mamikonean
clan: and T omva Arc' runi composed his history to glorify his own clan. See also Toumanoff, Studies.
pp. 128 (footnote 223) and 140 (footnote 245).

yi

See also E. Abashidze, "K'art 'lis c xovrebis" carmok'mnisa da ganvit arebis salat 'xebi, pp. 101-115.

y*

My study is particularly interested in original literature and therefore considers only briefly the
translations of the Bible as well as patristic, homelitic, and exegetical works. Several short, imprecisely
dated works are also not cited here; many o f them are included in the important collection o f Zhordania,
K'ronikebi, 2 vols. (1893 and 1897). A third vol. (dealing with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries),
by the same title, was ed. by G. Zhordania and Sh. Xant'adze (1967).
Some o f the Georgian titles are truncated in the following enumeration. Full titles are provided in the
bibliography.

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Texts Outside K'art'lis c'xovreba

1. MOK'C'EVA Y K'ART'USA Y = lit. THE CONl'ERSION OF K'ART'LI [Mok\ k'art'.].


The corpus o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay was traditionally considered as a single te x t
although Toumanoff convincingly demonstrated that it is composed o f six independent
works. It survives in the tenth-century Shatberdi codex, the fourteenth-/fifteenth-century
Chelishi codex, and two unpublished codices from Mt. Sinai (new collection. Sin-48 and
Sin-50) apparently from the tenth/eleventh century. The corpus consists of the
following components:
a. The Primary History o f K'art'li [Prim. Hist. K'art'li]
b. Royal List I
c. The Conversion o f K'art'li proper [Conv. K'art'li]
d. Royal List II
e. Royal List III
f. The Life o f Nino [Life o f Nino inMok'. k'art'.].
It should be noted that all o f these titles, except The Conversion o f K'art'li and The Life
o f Nino were suggested by Toumanoff and do not appear in any o f the MSS. Moreover,
the MSS themselves do not provide information on authorship. The text that furnishes
the name for the corpus, The Conversion o f K'art'li, seems to be the earliest text; it was
written as early as the seventh century and is almost certainly a pre-Bagratid production.
It constitutes the earliest Georgian account o f the Christianization o f K 'art' li. O f the
remaining texts, only The Primary History o f K'art'li, which is concerned with the
establishment o f the K 'art'velian monarchy at M c'xet'a in the time o f Alexander the
Great, may be pre-Bagratid. for it was conceivably based upon the ca. 800 Life o f the
Kings (s.v., #4a, infra). The Life o f Nino is a version o f the vita written in the Bagratid
period (ninth/tenth century) and is closely related to the version in C'xorebay
k 'art 'velt 'a mep 'et'a (s.v., #4). The three Royal Lists are all Bagratid-era productions
and are based upon the initial pre-Bagratid texts o f K'art'lis c'xovreba. It should be
noted that only the Shatberdi codex includes The Primary History o f K'art 'li and Royal
List I. The Chelishi codex and Sin-48 include only the texts describing Christian
K 'art'li, whereas Sin-50 includes only a text about Nino, probably The Ufe o f Nino
(little is known about the unpublished Sin-48 and Sin-50).

2. Divan o f Kings = Divani mep 'et 'a [Divan].


The Divan is a brief list o f the monarchs o f Ap' xazet' i (in western Georgia). It was
composed in the eleventh century and is usually attributed to Bagrat III (978-1014).

3. Monument o f the Erist'avi-s = Dzegli erist'avt'a [Mon. Erist'.].


This text is unique among medieval Georgian historical works, for it was not written by,
and in support o f the monarchy, but rather is a record o f the erist'avi-s (regional
governors) o f K 'sani. Written in the fifteenth century, perhaps by Grigol Bandas-dze, it
addresses the period from the ninth through the fifteenth centuries.

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15

Texts Within K'art'lis c'xovreba

4. C'XOREBAY26 K'ART'VELT'A MEP'ETA = THE LIFE OF THE KINGS [Cx. k'art'.

mepet'a].
This corpus is always placed first in the extant redactions o f K art Tis c 'xovreba. It
describes the earliest history o f K 'art'li, from its origin through the Christianization of
its monarchy. Traditionally, the entire corpus is considered to be the work o f the
eleventh-century archbishop Leonti Mroveli. although this view was rejected inter
alios by Toumanoff. In this study it will be demonstrated that Leonti Mroveli was
merely an editor, and at most he wrote the terminating, short section on the immediate
successors o f Mirian, the first Christian K 'art'velian monarch. The corpus consists of
the following components:
a. Life o f the Kings
b. Life o f Nino [Life o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a]
c. Life o f the Successors o f Mirian. [Life Succ. Mirian]

The Life o f the Kings explains the ethnogenesis of the K 'art'velian community,
beginning with the legendary eponym K 'art'los. This text also describes the
establishment o f the K 'art'velian monarchy under P'am avaz. It should be noted that
this tradition differs slightly from The Primary History o f K art'li (s.v # la). The Life
o f the Kings terminates with the conversion o f Mirian (284-361). This text is
considered by most specialists in Georgia to be an eleventh-century work; however, I
shall argue, as did Toum anoff that it was actually composed ca. 800. in the preBagratid period. The Life o f Nino was written by a different author, and is extremely
sim ilar to a work by the same name contained in Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay (s.v., #lf). This
vita was composed in the Bagratid period, in the ninth o r tenth century. The Life o f the
Successors o f Mirian, which is untitled in the corpus (the title is mine), is a brief
continuation of The Life o f the Kings and brings the history of K 'a rt'li down to the early
fifth century.

5. C'XOREBA Y VAXTANG GORGASUSA = THE LIFE OF VAXTANG GORGASAU [C'x. vox.

gorg.\.
This corpus is often considered to be a single text written by a certain Juansher
Juansheriani in the eleventh century. However, Toumanoff demonstrated that it actually
consists o f two works written in the pre-Bagratid period ca. 800. I do not concur with
Toumanoff that the author o f the latter work was Juansher. Since Juansher was a
historical figure, I refer to the author as Pseudo-Juansher.
a. Life o f Vaxtang
b. The brief untitled continuation by Ps.-Juansher.

^ T h e Old Georgian term c'xorebay corresponds to the Latin vita and the Greek BIOE. In modem
Georgian it is rendered c 'xovreba. i.e., with an inserted "v" and without the old nominative marker "-y."
It should be noted, however, that the modern form K'art'lis c 'xovreba (K'C") is used throughout this study
since it is so widely used by contemporary specialists.

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16

As we shall see, internal evidence strongly suggests that The Ufe o f Vaxtang was written
in the same era as The U fe o f the Kings (s.v., # 4a). This text is a semi-mythical
biography o f Vaxtang I (ca. 447-ca. S22). Although it incorporates several fantastic
tales, it is built around historical events. The continuation o f this text describes the
reigns o f Vaxtang's successors down through the eighth century'. It was definitely
written by a different author, Ps.-Juansher (whose identity is considered later), for there
are hardly any stylistic commonalities between The Ufe o f Vaxtang and the continuation
by Ps.-Juansher. Ps.-Juansher is the first near-contemporary Georgian historian o f the
events he describes.

6.

Martyrdom o f Arch 'il = Camebay arch 'ilisi romeli iqo mep e k'art'lisa [Mart. Arch V/].
This text is a historical-hagiographical work which relates the events surrounding the
martyrdom o f the prince A rch'il n in 785/786. The date o f this text is uncertain: a
vague passage found elsewhere in K'art'lis c 'xovreba attributes it to Leonti Mroveli. It
is almost certainly a Bagratid-era work (i.e., it post-dates ca. 800). In any event this
text was not written tty the same author o f The Ufe o f the Kings (also traditionally
attributed to Leonti Mroveli).

7. Sumbat Davit' is-dze, The U fe and Tale o f the Bagratids = C'xorebay da ucqebay

bagratoniant'a.
Sumbat Davit'is-dze (lit. "son of Davit'") is the earliest medieval Georgian historian to
identify himself within his own work. W riting in the eleventh century. Davit' is-dze
sought to describe the origin o f the K 'art'velian branch o f the Bagratid clan which had
been established there only in the late eighth century. The author attempted to prove
that the K 'art'velians were the direct descendants of the Old Testament King-Prophet
David, thus demonstrating that they were uniquely fit to rule. This text was not
incorporated into all the MSS o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba; it is missing from the earliest
extant version - the Armenian adaptation (perhaps because the Armenian
adaptor/translator did not want to publicize further these Georgian claims) - and the
earliest extant Georgian redaction (the Anaseuli MS). When K'art'lis c'xovreba was
reedited Ity the King Vaxtang VI Commission in the eighteenth century. Davitis-dzes
history was dismembered and inserted into other texts, especially The Chronicle o f
K'artli (s.v.. #8 ) but also Ps.-Juansher (s.v., #5b).

8.

The Chronicle o f K'art'li = Matiane k'art'lisay [Chron. K'art'li],


This work is not given a title in K'art'lis c 'xovreba, but was named by Javaxishvili, who
believed it to be written ju st prior to the reign o f Davit' II (1089-1125). The Chronicle
o f K'art'li is the only medieval Bagratid-era historical work to describe the rule o f both
pre-Bagratid and Bagratid princes, covering the period after A rch'il II (s.v., #6 ) to
Bagrat IV (1027-1072).

9. The Ufe o f Davit' = C'xorebay mep'et'-mep'isa davit'isi.


The biography o f Davit' II (1089-1125) was composed near the time of his death,
perhaps by his famous contemporary, the monk Arsen. The earliest extant version o f
K'art'lis c'xovreba, the Armenian adaptation, breaks off in mid sentence within this
work. Its author's language is sophisticated, and it is likely that he was fluent in Greek

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17

10. The Histories and Eulogies = Istoriani da azmani sharavandedt'ani [Hist, and Eul.\.
The reigns o f Giorgi i n (1156-1184) and his daughter T am a r (1184-1213) are the
subject o f this lengthy tex t The name o f its author is unknown. However, in scholarly
literature he is often referred to as the First Historian o f T amar. The Histories and
Eulogies is not incorporated into the earliest extant Georgian MS (Anaseuli). but is
found in other early MSS (i.e., MQm). This text was written in the thirteenth century.

11. The Ufe ofT'amar = C'xorebay mep'et'-mep'isa t'amarisi.


Javaxishvili attributed this text to Basil! Ezosmodzghuari. although this identification is
not made within any contemporary' text (within or outside K'art 'lis c 'xovreba). Many
scholars refer to its author as the Second Historian o f T am ar. In any event, this text
was composed in the thirteenth century and covers the activities o f both Giorgi III and
T amar. It has come down to us in a defective state, its second part having been lost and
replaced (in some later MSS) with excerpts from The Histories and Eulogies (s.v., #10).
Toumanoff s hypothesis that The Ufe o f Tamar was not incorporated into K'art'lis
c'xovreba until much later is probably correct, but by the sixteenth century it was found
in some MSS of that corpus.

12. History o f the Five Reigns [Hist. Five Reigns],


This brief, untitled history' was written by an anonymous author (usually identified as
The Chronicler of the Times o f Lasha Giorgi = Lasha giorgis-droindeli mematiane),
probably in the thirteenth century. It describes the reigns from Demetre I (1125-1154)
through Giorgi IV Lasha (1213-1223). It should be noted that this work is not properly
a chronicle, although some dates (in the Georgian era. or k'oronikon) are provided.

13. (The Chronicler o f a Bygone Age = Zham f aaghmcereli]. The Chronicle o f a Hundred Years
= Asclovani matiane [Chron. Hund. Years],
The name and author o f this fourteenth-century text have not come down to us; T .
Zhordania suggested that it be called The Chronicle o f a Hundred Years since it
describes the period from Giorgi IV Lasha up to 1317. This lengthy text is not found in
the earliest extant Georgian MS o f K'art'lis c'xovreba (Anaseuli), but is found in other
early MSS (i.e.. MQm). It is dedicated mainly to the Mongol domination of Georgia.

The Manuscripts

The medieval histories of K'art'lis c'xovreba, up through the thirteenth-century History o f the

Five Reigns, was published for the first time, with an accompanying French translation, by the eminent
K 'artvelologist M.-F. Brosset (with the assistance o f D. Ch'ubinashvili) in 1849. Brosset's splendid
edition incorporates the only comprehensive translation o f the corpus into any language; thus many
Western specialists, having no other recourse, have been forced to rely upon it. But Brosset had at his

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18

disposal only a handful o f late MSS, and after the publication o f his edition, sev eral earlier variants
surfaced which considerably broadened our understanding o f K'art'lis c'xovreba.
In Brosset's time it was widely believed that K'art'lis c'xovreba was a rather late work written by
a single author (or group of authors) for King V axtang V I (1675-1737). But subsequent scholarship has
amply demonstrated that K'art'lis c'xovreba consists o f multiple sources several of which are of
remarkable antiquit}. Moreover, K'art'lis c'xovreba had only been edited, and not composed, by the
Vaxtang VI Commission of "learned men "2 7 and therefore this compilation is actually comprised of
several, distinct texts which had been conjoined perhaps from as early as the ninth century. Javaxishvili.
Kekelidze, Toumanoff; and others have proven beyond any doubt that the constituent histories of Kart'lis

c'xovreba represent a very old tradition of historical writing.


Countless scholars in Georgia have devoted their careers to the study of K'art'lis c'xovreba and
its respective components. Before examining the MS tradition (that is to say. the succession o f MSS
which transmitted K'art'lis c'xovreba), I should make reference to some o f the influential modem studies
that have considered the nature and contents of that corpus. As already mentioned, the first Georgian
edition o f the corpus, with an accompanying French translation, was published by M.-F. Brosset. K'art'lis

c'xovreba = Histoire de la Georgie (1849). Z. Chichinadze published the Georgian text again in 1908.2**
But both o f these publications, based only upon later MSS, were superseded by S. Qauxch'ishvili's critical
edition o f K'art'lis c'xovreba, 2 volumes (1955 and 1959). This edition was based upon the earliest
Georgian MSS, many of which were unknown in Brosset's time. Qauxch'ishvili's publication remains
even today the only comprehensive critical edition o f K'art'lis c'xovreba. For the most part.
Qauxch'ishvili's edition remains up-to-date.2^ since only one pre-Vaxtangiseuli (i.e.. predating the
Vaxtang VI Commission) MS has been discovered since its publication, the so-called M c'xet'ian variant
(Q) of 1697.^0

present, no updated critical edition o f the entire corpus o f K'art 'Us c xovreba is

planned.2 1 However. Georgian scholars have begun to publish the constituent texts separately, taking Q
into account.

27The antiquity o f K'C was definitely established with the discovery o f the medieval Armenian
adaptation o f that corpus.
2 *Z. Chichinadze,

K'art'lis c'xovreba.

2^This is not to suggest that there are not shortcomings with respect to Qauxch'ishvili's readings of the
MSS. Toumanoff; Studies, pp. 345 (footnote 21), 346 (footnote 24), 403 (footnote 49) notes some of these
misreadings. Moreover, M Shanidze has demonstrated that some o f the leaves of the archetype of the
received text of The Ufe o f Davit' were misplaced and were blindly copied in later MSS: this went
unnoticed by Qauxchishvili. See Shanidze in The Ufe o f Davit', introduction.
3See A.E. Klimiashvili, "Novyi spisok 'Kartlis Tskhovreba' 1697 goda," Moambe 3 (1960), pp. 371-376.
3 ^ p o p u l a r version of K'C' is now being published: N. Shoshiashvili, ed.,

K'art'lis c'xovreba, vol. 1

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Qauxch'ishvili's text has not been comprehensively translated into any language, although
several o f the constituent histories as he edited them have been rendered into Russian, and the works up
through the thirteenth century were rendered into German by G. Patsch in 1985.32 Until recently, no
scholarly English translation o f any text o f K'art'lis c'xovreba had appeared R Thomson has nowtranslated the histories up through and including The Life o f Davit' as part of his study of the medieval
Armenian adaptation o f K'art'lis c'xovreba (Rewriting Caucasian History [1996]).33 He provides
parallel English translation o f both the Armenian adaptation and the Georgian text (the latter as edited by
Qauxch'ishvili). Thomson's translation is excellent and displaces Brosset's French rendition as the
standard In view of the relative obscurity o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba in the West, it is, to some degree,
unfortunate that Thomson did not render more importance to, and offer more commentary on, the
Georgian text than its Armenian adaptation. It should be noted that Thomson was seemingly not aware of
the new Q ("M c'xet'ian") M S. His translation is based entirely upon Qauxch'ishvili's edition, and he did
not incorporate the recent re-edition of The Life o f Davit' by M. Shanidze. In any event, Thomson's
translation (both Georgian and Armenian) is first rate. A few o f the Bagratid-era histories were translated
into English by K. Vivian in 1991, but her w ork exhibits signs o f reliance upon Brosset's outdated edition,
and did not take into consideration the M c'xet'ian MS and recent Georgian scholarship.3* A flaw o f
Vivian's rendition is that she incompletely translated several o f the texts and did not employ ellipses to
mark such instances.
The Georgian passages translated within this study are my own unless otherwise noted. In
isolated cases I have chosen to base my translations upon those o f others (especially Thomson): often these
renditions have been modified with regards to terminology (e.g., Thomson often uses "Georgia" for
"K'art'li"; the difference is paramount in this thesis). The reader should also note that I do not usually
cite Thomson's translation o f the Georgian text since within it he includes convenient cross-referencing to
Qauxch'ishvili's edition (the last o f which is always cited in this study).
M odem studies o f K'art'lis c'xovreba are far too numerable to be enumerated here. The
component histories are treated individually in the literary studies o f Javaxishvili. Kekelidze.
Tarchnishvili, Toumanoff, and N. Berdzenishvili. The question o f the origin o f K'art'lis c'xovreba and its
relationship to the corpus M ok 'c 'evav k art lisay was recently tackled by E. Abashidze, but his hypothesis

(1994), with a children's version appearing as idem., K'art'lis c'xovreba, vol. I (1992).
3 2 Patsch,

Das Leben Kartlis.

See also my forthcoming review essay in Etudes byzantines.


3 *Vrvian,

Georgian Chron. See also my review in ASSC 4-5 (1992-1993), pp. 90-93.

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20

that the former was first enjoined in the twelfth century is, in my opinion, a bit Ia te .^ a marvelous
synopsis of K'art'lis c'xovreba, as well as a succinct summary' o f m odem historiography, is to be found in
M. Lort'kipanidze's Ra aris "k'art'lis c'xovreba?", or R'hat is K'art'lis C 'x o v r e b a ?

Published in

1989. it contains an extensive bibliography, including contemporary sources, translations, and modem
studies, in Georgian, Russian. French, German, an d English. Lort'k'ip'anidze thoroughly investigates the
controversies surrounding the corpus, its components and MS tradition, and its historical value, and offers
a brief overview o f the editorial work of the K ing Vaxtang VI Commission.
Although the MS tradition o f K'art'lis c'xovreba is rich, few detailed studies o f it have been
attempted. This is, in my opinion, largely because o f the abhorrence many medievalists have for being
forced to work with relatively late MSS. Only one work in any language considers the MS tradition o f

K'art'lis c'xovreba in detail. In 1954 K. G rigolia published his Axali k'artlis c'xovreba. or The Sew
K'art'lis c 'xovreba. Grigolia makes a detailed examination of the Georgian MSS known up to his time,
dividing them into two useful categories: pre-Vaxtangiseuli and Vaxtangiseuli. These terms, which were
not invented by Grigolia but were popularized by him, are based upon the name Vaxtang. i.e.. King
Vaxtang VI; they terminate in the genitive suffix -iseuli which has the meaning "of." "belonging to."
"named for." Thus MSS which contain K'art'lis c 'xovreba as edited by the King Vaxtang VI Commission
in the early eighteenth century are referred to as Vaxtangiseuli. We should emphasize that these term s
refer to groups (here: "recensions") o f MSS and not exclusively to any single MS. Adding to the
confusion, the suffix -iseuli is also used for the names o f individual MSS.
Grigolia records the employment of different Georgian scripts.-*^ In this regard it should be said
that the majority o f the relevant MSS are in the mxcdruli ("knightly") script which was developed around
the eleventh century and is used by Georgians today. This script was invented in the Bagratid period, at
the time that the royal bureaucracy was expanding and records were increasing. Mxedruli is a rounded
script which is much easier and faster to write than the earlier ones. The two scripts which predate

mxedruli are known collectively as xuc'uri ("priestly"). The oldest o f the xuc 'uri scripts is asornt 'avruli.
which is a majuscule script. Asomt'avruli was developed in the fifth century as the direct result o f the
Christianization o f K 'artTi. By the early Bagratid period (ninth/tenth century) nusxuri. a miniscule
script, appeared-*** Asomt'avruli and nusxuri are not usually commingled within the same word (i.e.. an

^A bashidze, "K'art'lis c'xavrebis" carmok'mnisa da ganvit'arebis safdt'xebi. In my view, theearliest


version of K 'C ' existed by the end o f the ninth century, soon after the composition o f The Life o f the
Kings, The Life o f Vaxtang, an d the anonymous history by Ps.-Juansher.
*^M. Lort'k'ip'anidze, Ra aris "k'art'lisc'xovreba?".
J 'F o r a succinct survey, see T. Papuashvili, "Pismennost," in Ocherfd istorii Gruzii, vol. 2, pp. 467-477.
^**Both xuc 'uri scripts are still used by the modem Georgian clergy.

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21

asomt'avruli "capital" followed by nusxuri "m iniscules"),^ although frequently we encounter


asomt'avruli employed in nusxuri and mxedruli texts as a way to emphasize a word or phrase, or more
commonly, for titles and headings.
Although Grigolia examined several Vaxtangiseuli MSS, his study is not quite comprehensive
since it neglects the numerous MSS from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The most glaring
omission from Grigolia's work is a formal stemma o f the transmission o f K'art'lis c'xovreba.
No detailed study o f the MS tradition o f K'art'lis c'xovreba has appeared since the publication of
Grigolia's work. However, a brief yet valuable summation of our knowledge about these MSS was
published by Toumanoff in 1947/*** and a more general survey by M. Lort'k'ip'anidze appeared in
1991/** Although Toumanoff was concerned primarily with the earliest extant Georgian MS. the
Anaseuli (his "Queen Anne") variant, he does offer a stemma o f the m ajor redactions o f K'art'lis

c'xovreba, although without offering comment This stemma, as Toumanoff himself admits, was based
upon that generated earlier by Qauxch'ishvili in 1 9 4 2 .**^
An entire monograph could be devoted to the MS tradition o f K'art 'lis c 'xovreba. A fresh,
original study o f these documents still awaits its historian. Here I shall provide a brief overview o f the
MSS, referring the interested reader to the more detailed analysis in Excursus B.
Essentially, then, there exist two major recensions (groups) o f MSS, those composed before the
eighteenth-century King Vaxtang VI Commission ("pre-Vaxtangiseuli") and those based upon its editorial
alterations ("Vaxtangiseuli"). We shall consider each in turn.

^ T h e only exception is the relatively common use o f a majuscule for the initial letter o f a word which
begins a paragraph or text
^T oum anoff, "The Oldest Manuscript o f the Georgian Annals," pp. 340-344.
**Published as the introduction to Vivian, Georgian Chron., pp. xxvii-xlvii.

^ K 'C Queen Anna = K'art'lis c'xovreba: ana dedop'liseuli nusxa, ed. by S. Qauxch'ishvili,
introduction, p. Ixxxiii. Toumanoffs stemma is more detailed, inserting the main Vaxtangiseuli
redactions as well as their now-lost archetype(s); it was also published in his "Medieval Georgian
Historical Literature," pp. 164-165, footnote 21.

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22

Pre-Vaxtangiseuli M SS^

The pre-Vaxtangiseuli recension consists o f four Georgian MSS. the earliest o f which was copied
in the last decade o f the fifteenth century. All o f the pre-Vaxtangiseuli Georgian MSS are defective at the
beginning except for the Mariamiseuli (M) variant o f 1633-1645/1646. M is extremely important since it
forms the basis for the initial history o f K'art'lis c'xovreba, The U fe o f the Kings (other early Georgian
MSS are all defective for it). Ironically, the earliest extant version o f K'art'lis c'xovreba is an Armenian
adaptation which was made originally in the eleventh/twelfth century, and in any case by the thirteenth
(see the English translation by Thomson). There are six main MSS o f the Armenian adaptation, and all
of them are based upon the earliest extant MS (or a close relative o f it) which itself was copied in the
period 1279-1311.
The pre-Vaxtangiseuli MSS o f K'art'lis c'xovreba may be summarized as:

Date copied
1279-1311
1479-1495
16th century
1633-1645/1646
1697

MS
abbr.
Arm/A
A
C
M
Q

MSjiame

M &4 4

Armenian adaptation
Anaseuli
Chalashviliseuli - Old
Mariamiseuli
Mc'xet'ian redaction

KeUnst. MS HQ-795
KeUnst. MS #Q -207
Kek.lnst. MS # S-30
KeUnst. MS #Q-1219

Matenadaran # 1902

M ajor Vaxtangiseuli MSS

As we have seen, only four Georgian MSS o f the pre-Vaxtangiseuli recension are extant, and
only one o f them, the Mariamiseuli (M) variant, is complete. In contrast, well over fifteen complete, or
nearly complete, MSS o f the Vaxtangiseuli survive. It is well beyond the scope o f this study to present a
detailed analysis of the editorial changes effected by the King Vaxtang VI Commission in the early

I have followed the convention o f modem Georgian specialists in listing MSS. When more than one
MS is cited, e.g., A and M and Q. they, are referred to as AMQ. Georgian specialists use Latin characters
as the abbreviations for these MSS.
44Repository conventions used only in this introduction are: M atenadaran = Matenadaran MSS
Repository, Erevan, Armenia; and Ceret'. = House Museum o f Akaki Ceret'eli, Sxvitori, Georgia.

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23

eighteenth century (probably 1703-1705), but some o f its characteristic alterations are noted in Excursus
B .45
We possess no evidence that any pre-Vaxtangiseuli MS was completely copied after the work o f
the King Vaxtang VI Commission, although one later MS, the m variant, is entirely dependent upon a
pre-Vaxtangiseuli MS for the histories o f T a m a r and the period that followed. T hat is to say. all extant
MSS that have been dated to the eighteenth century and later are based upon the Vaxtangiseuli recension.
Vaxtangiseuli MSS are characterized by a preamble which occurs in all complete documents o f
that recension. Although there are some minor variations to this preamble, its content is remarkably
consistent The critical text o f Qauxch' ishvili renders the passage as:

O honorable and noble K 'art'velians, from the time that K'art'lis c'xovreba had been in
part corrupted by copyists and, in part as the result o f the revolutions o f the times, it has
been [neglected and has remained] unwritten. But Vaxtang V .4 6 son o f Leon and
nephew o f the renowned Giorgi [XII], has assembled learned m en and collected
whichever [MSS he could find] o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba, as well as charters from
M c'xet'a, from Gelat'i, from numerous churches, and from nobles. And they compared
[them], and that which was corrupted they rectified. And they also found other writings:
they made excerpts from the histories of the Armenians and the Persians: and in this
manner they wrote it down. 4 7

According to Toumanoff, the intellectual labors of the Vaxtang VI Commission rectified


approximately 90% of the errors which had crept into the corpus.4* However, the work of the
commission was not without its faults. Although filling several o f the received textual lacunae, the

4C
The most comprehensive treatment to date o f the commission's editorial work is in K. Grigolia, Axali
k'art'lis c'xovreba, pp. 197-286 (with even later changes discussed, pp. 287-328). Shorter considerations
are to be found in: M. Lort' k' ipanidze. Ra aris "k 'art'lis c xovreba? ". esp. "Vaxtang VI komisiis
sak'm ianoba" pp. 53-66 and 67-81; idem., in Vivian, Georgian Chron., introduction, pp. xxvii-xlvii; S.
Qauxch'ishvili in
esp. "Vaxtangis 'm ec'nier kac't'a mushaoba." introduction, pp. 023-029 and
030-034: and Toumanoff, "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," pp. 161-166.
46It is striking that Vaxtang is given this ordinaL for modern scholarship has demonstrated that he was
actually the sixth king to bear that name. But Vaxtang VI was the fifth Bagratid king to be named in
honor of the fifth-century K ing Vaxtang I Gorgasali. See also Toumanoff, "Medieval Georgian Historical
Literature," p. 164, footnote 18.

The Life o f the Kings, p. 3, apparatus criticus, U. 1-3. Cf. the trans. o f Toumanoff, "Medieval
Georgian Historical Literature," p. 164. The verb in the final sentence for "writing" is aghcemes: for this
verb see ch. 1. It should be noted that the Georgian text of quoted passages in this study is provided only
when necessary to demonstrate nuances in the Georgian, or in the case o f particularly important accounts.
48Toumanoff "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," pp. 179-181.

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24

commission's insertions were nevertheless artificial and not always accurate. Although the insertion of
regnal and paginal headings, subtitles, marginalia, and indices facilitated the reading o f K'art 'lis

c'xovreba, this standardization also obscured the fact that the corpus was comprised o f a number o f
distinct histories, some composed as early as ca. 800 AD. And it has been suggested that the commission
may have destroyed or lost some early MSS, an d this accusation is not without reason. However, it
remains a fact that the commission did edit K'art'lis c'xovreba, and it is largely because of its work that
Brosset was able to publish a Vaxtangiseuli variation of the corpus in 1849.
Standing on the precipice o f oblivion, Vaxtang Vi's political authority was extremely feeble. In
his time, it was uncertain how much longer the political entity o f Georgia could withstand the mounting
Persian threat. The unmitigated disasters o f the seventeenth an d eighteenth centuries compelled some
Georgian elites to turn inward and to focus upon non-political endeavors, like literature. Thus the early
eighteenth century. like the period ca. 800 before it, emerged as a period of extreme interest in literature
and linguistics in G eorgia.^ Vaxtang VI him self ordered and presided over the editing of not only

K'art'lis c'xovreba but also the twelfth-century epic Knight in the Panther's Skin by S hot'a R ust'aveli . '50
Also during his reign the Dasturlamali, the first officially promulgated law' code in Georgia since the
fourteenth century, was com piled.^ Vaxtang set up the first printing press in Georgia in 1709.^
Meanwhile, Vaxtang's bastard son, Vaxushti (1696-1756) wrote several extensive works, including a
retelling o f K'art 'lis c 'xovreba as well as an outstanding geographical treatise.^ Sulxan-Saba O rbeliani

^ O n the activities o f Vaxtang VI. see: M. Kikodze. Vaxtang 17-is saxelmcip'oebrivi moghvaceoba
(politikur-ekonomikuri dasoc'ialur-kulturuli sak'mianoba) (1988). with Rus. sum.. "Gosudarstvennaia
deiatelnost Vakhtanga VI." pp. 196-202.
^ O n e such MS o f the Vaxtangiseuli recension o f Shot'a Rust'aveli's work is Kek.Inst.SfS # Q-7I4. 94 11
(eighteenth century).
^ *For Vaxtang's law code, see: Code o f I 'axtang 17 = P' urceladze trans.. with Eng. sum., pp. 3 3 1-334:
Corpus Juris Ibero-Caucasici. Karst e d and trans.. vol. 1, parts 1 and 2: and the Rus. trans. of A.S.
Frenkel', Sbomik zakonov gruzinskago tsariia Vakhtanga 17. An unpublished generally accurate, trans. of
much o f this legal corpus was made by O. Wardrop (Oxf.Wardr. # M S.W ardd3). For the fourteenthcentury legal code o f King Giorgi the Brilliant, see: Code o f Giorgi V= P'urc'eladze e d and trans.. For
an Eng. rendering see O. Wardrop, trans. and comm.. "Laws o f King George V. o f Georgia. Sumamed
th e Brilliant," JRAS (1914). pp. 607-626.
57
^Instrumental in the introduction of printing to Georgia was the archbishop of Wallachia. the Georgian
clergyman Anthim the Iberian ( d 1716). Vaxtang himself took a personal interest in the early activities
of this press. See Lang, The Last Years o f the Georgian Monarchy 1658-1832 (1957). pp. 130-136.
^ T h e autograph o f Vaxushtis works is believed to be Cent.HistArchJvfS # f. 1448, no. 103 (copied in
1745); other extant MSS do not predate 1774. Vaxushti's history is cited by many modern scholars
writing on medieval themes. However, his study is not regarded as a principal source here, for his
information on ancient and medieval K 'art'li is fully based upon known sources (i.e., K'C' and Mok'.
k'art'.). For cases of verbatim borrowing, see Qauxch'ishvili in Vaxushti, introduction, esp. "Vaxushti da

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25

(1659-1725), the uncle o f Vaxtang, when he was not in Europe attempting to secure French and papal
support for Vaxtang against the Persians, compiled the first lexicon o f the Georgian language - A

Bouquet o f Words - which is still o f great value to m edievalists.^ Sulxan-Saba, who eventually
converted to Catholicism, also left us many other works, including a book o f fables and an unpublished
diary (now defective) o f his travels throughout southern Europe and A natolia.^ The beginnings o f
modem Georgian nationalism, in my opinion, may be traced directly to this period and the intellectual
labors o f Vaxtang VI, Vaxushti. and Sulxan-Saba Orbeliani.^* And it was precisely in this atmosphere
that an intense interest in K 'art 'lis c 'xovreba, itself perceived as a relic o f and testimony to the glorious
past, germinated among the princes and nobles o f Georgia.
The major Vaxtangiseuli redactions o f K'art'lis c'xovreba, which were copied from the first
decade o f the eighteenth century until the 1830s, may be summarized as:

'dzveli k 'art'lis c'xovreba,'" pp. 024-046, with parallel texts from Vaxushti and K'C". The importance of
Vaxushti's reworking o f K'C' is that it was widely copied and that it introduced a great many modem
Georgians to their shared past: essentially, Vaxushti was part o f the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
movement to nationalize K'C'. In any event, his geographical information is still o f great value to
medievalists. Mik'ayel C h'am ch'ean wrote a corresponding work on Armenia later in the same century.
SeeM . Chamch'ean, Patmut'iwn Havoc'i skzbane minch'ewcam Team 1784, 3 vols. (Venice. 17841786).
^ S .-S . Orbeliani = Sulxan-Saba Orbeliani, Sitqvis kona, 2 vols. (1991 and 1993). A beautifully
illustrated, virtually unknown MS o f this text may be found at Indiana Universitys Lilly Library. W.E.D.
Allen M S #22 (323 ((). It was copied in 1724. For a description, see my "Highlights o f Georgian History
Holdings at Indiana University Bloomington," ASSC 3 (1991), p. 43.
'One such MS of Sulxan-Saba's diary, "Mimoslvay ap rik et'sa. italias, hroms. da q~lsave dasavlet'isa
k'~qnasa" ("Travels to Africa, Italy, Rome, and All the Lands o f the West"), is SPB Or.Inst.MS # E-69.
(NB: T h e m a r k i n g in transcription notes the use of abbreviations in the original text; this convention
will be found throughout this thesis). For a description see Orbeli, Gruzinslae rulcopisi Instituta
vostokovedeniia, pp. 81-82.
5 6 Cf. R. Suny,

The Making o f the Georgian Nation, 2nd ed., pp. 54-55.

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26

Date copied
1699-1703/1709
ca. 1700/1705-1724
1719-1744
1731
1736
mid 18th century
1748
1761
1761
18th century
2 nd half 18th century
2 nd h alf 18th century
1822
1833-1834
1839

MS
abbr.
R
T
P
c
m
D
E
P
b
d
s

MS name

MS

Rumianc'eviseuli
Teim uraziseuli
P'alavandishviliseuli Old
Chalashviliseuli New
Mach'abliseuli
Janashviliseuli
Saeklesio muzeumisa
P'alavandishviliseuli New
Barat'ashviliseuli
Dadianiseuli
Sxvitoruli
[Q-383]
[S-5316]
[S-5314]
[M-18]

KeUnst. M S # H-2080
SPB.Or.Inst. M S # M-24
KeUnst. MS if H-9S8
KeUnst. MS # Q-207
KeUnst. M S # H-2135
KeUnst. MS # S-4730
KeUnst. MS # A-131
Kek.Inst. M S # H-988
KeUnst. M S # S-25
KeUnst. M S # S-354
Ceret'.

KeUnst. M S if Q-383
KeUnst. M S if S-5316
KeUnst. M S if S-5314
SPB.Or.Inst. A /S# M-18

Our knowledge of the relationship of the extant MSS o f K'art 'Iis c 'xovreba remains
incomplete.

57

Beyond the division o f the MSS into pre-Vaxtangiseuli and Vaxtangiseuli recensions, only

one other grouping has been firmly established. It seems certain that the Mariamiseuli. the Me' xetian,
and the Mach'abliseuli variants (MQm) consist o f a group that was produced from a common, but lost,
exemplar. The MQm group is called the "M c'xet'ian recension" in Georgian scholarly literature. It is
widely held that MQm itself shared a prototype with C, and thus, if we descend another generation.
CMQm may in fact constitute a group. Yet even the existence o f this recension must be treated with
extreme caution, for although studies o f individual texts suggest the validity o f this grouping,^ we shall
be able to identify conclusively this recension only after the MQm MSS o f all the component histories
have been compared.
Determining the relationship o f MSS within the Vaxtangiseuli recension is considerably more
tenuous. The following stemma summarizes the present state o f scholarship and should be considered

Surprisingly few attempts have been made to construct formal stemmae for the MSS of K'art lis
c'xovreba. I am aware o f only four previous attempts, none o f them particularly detailed: K'C'-Queen
Anna Redaction = S. Qauxch'ishvili ed., introduction, p. lxxxiii (for ACMm only); Toumanoff
"Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," pp. 164-165, footnote 21; idem., "The Oldest Manuscript of
the Georgian Annals," pp. 343-344; and M. Shanidze in The Ufe o f Davit', introduction, p. 144 (for
ACQMm only). Regrettably, K. Grigola did not generate a stemma in his Axali k'art'lis c 'xovreba.
CO

E.g., MQm definitely constitutes a recension with respect to the biography o f King Davit' IL See M.
Shanidze in The U fe o f Davit', introduction, esp. pp. 52-156.

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tentative at best All MSS designated by Greek letters (prototypes) and the characters x a n d y (important
redactions signifying a group) are assumed to have existed and are not extant: each of these symbols likely
represents multiple MSS.

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Stemma of Pre-Vaxtangiseuli MSS

Georgian Prototype
Pre-Bagratid Sources, 8th-9th cents.

Georgian Prototype
Pre-Bagratid and Bagratid Sources,
I lth-12th cents.

7
12th-13th cents.
Armenian adaptation
Arm/A
1279-1311

x2

yi

16th cent.

1633-1645/6

1697

m
1736

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29

It is not altogether clear precisely where the Armenian redaction o f K'art'lis c'xovreba should be situated
within this stemma, since we neither know when it was originally copied nor do we possess any early
Georgian MSS o f the corpus.
The two earliest extant MSS of the Vaxtangiseuli recension are R and T. and both exhibit
characteristics o f editorial changes. But most subsequent MSS were not based directly upon RT. Could
there have been a (now lost) Vaxtangiseuli prototype? It is likely that DEPRTcm were all copied from a
common exemplar. After the mid eighteenth century the MSS are extremely dependent upon the earlier
Vaxtangiseuli documents. But all of these are hypothetical statements at b est and the matter will not be
resolved until specialized work is attempted. From Brosset's own admission, we know that his MS (B)
was based upon the P'alavandishviliseuli codex (P/p).

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30

Stemma of Vaxtangiseuli MSS

Sources

?Vaxtangiseuli
Prototype (ca. 1703-ca. 1705)

16991703/9

l
ca. 1700/51724

1719-1744
and 1761

1731
1736

mid 18th cent


1748

B
1839

O f the remaining MSS, bds and Q-383 are directly dependent upon earlier Vaxtangiseuli
redactions (with any possible Vaxtangiseuli prototype having been lost or rendered unavailable), although
the precise relationship has yet to be determined. However, S-5316 (copied in 1822) and S-5314 (18331834) are related and constitute a group. In fact, S-5314 was copied directly from S-5316. and both
include colophons which relate that the MSS were made in the Russian city o f Riazan', just south of
Moscow. We may refer to S-5316 and S-5314 collectively as the Riazan' recension.
Now that the major MSS of K'art'lis c'xovreba as well as the constituent histories of that corpus
have been enumerated, we may plot the contents o f the respective MSS in tabular form. All o f the pre-

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31

Vaxtangiseuli MSS are listed, as well as the major Vaxtangiseuli variants, i.e., RTm. The Vaxtangiseuli
portion (c) o f the Chalasbviliseuli codex (C/c) is provided for comparison to its older component C: C/c is
bracketed below since they comprise a single, but hybrid, MS. The final column, V, represents the
remainder o f the Vaxtangiseuli MSS. The histories constituting the two corpora o f C'xorebav k'art'velt'a

mep'et'a and C'xorebav vaxtanggorgaslisa are also grouped together.

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32

VAXTANGISEULI

PRE-VAXTANGISEUU
II

A nn/
A

ii=Cx k a rt.

- -

- -

mep et a =
Life o f the Kings
Life o f Nino
Life Succ. Mirian

- i

[C

I*

cj

!f=C'jc. vaxtang gorg.=


life o f Vaxtang

Ps.-Juansher

Mart. Arch 'il

Sumbat Davitis-dze

Chron. K'art'li
Life o f Davit'
Hist, and Eul.
life o f Tamar
Hist. Five Reigns
Chron. Hund. Years

KEY = = = = =

Included

Excluded

><
k

Defective

*
+

X.

*
*

t
t

*
*

Excerpts inserted into Chron. K'artii


T includes more extensive inserts in Chron. K'art 'li than other
MSS o f the Vaxtangiseuli recension
Edited version o f Hist, and Eul. with excerpts from The life o f Tamar
inserted
Excerpts used in a Vaxtangiseuli History o f Demetre and Davit' III

Both the pre-Vaxtangiseuli and Vaxtangiseuli recensions incorporate the same texts which
describe pre-Bagratid K a r t l i , that is. the corpora C 'xorebay k 'art 'velt 'a mep et a and C 'xorebay vaxtang

gorgasiisa as well as The Martyrdom o f Arch 'il. The Vaxtangiseuli recension injected no new medieval
texts, and, because of the editorial changes effected by the Vaxtang VI Commission, the pre-Vaxtangiseuli
variants o f the texts are almost certainly closer to their pristine form. It is for this reason that preVaxtangiseuli MSS are usually afforded priority over the later recension in this study. Yet modem
scholars first became aware o f K'art 'lis c 'xovreba only through the later redaction (viz. Brosset).

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33

Non-Historical Georgian Texts and Non-Textual Evidence

Since the focus o f this thesis is historical, hagiography, other "secular" works, and non-textual
evidence (including archaeological, epigraphic. numismatic, and artistic evidence) is examined only in
special circumstances.
Georgian hagiographical works are of some relevance, since a few texts survive for the preBagratid period. However, it should be said that these texts are now extant only in MSS copied during the
Bagratid era, and thus their original forms have almost certainly been altered. The earliest extant work of
Georgian literature is The Martyrdom ofShushanifd. It was written as early as the late fifth century and is
attributed to the priest lakob C'urtaveli (lit. "of C'urtavi"). The next earliest dated work is The

Martyrdom o f Evstat'i, written in the sixth century. Both o f these texts survive only in MSS from the
eleventh century and later. The Martyrdom o f the Children o f Kola survives in a tenth-century MS and
may have originally been composed as early as the fifth/sixth century. Perhaps the most famous vita from
the period o f M uslim domination (especially from the second-half o f the seventh century until the
establishment o f Bagratid power) is Ioane Sabinis-dze's Martyrdom ofHabo (NB: Habo is often rendered
as Abo). It was written in the late eighth century, just prior to The life o f the Kings and the corpus

C xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa. O f the hagiographical texts mentioned in this section, it is noteworthy that
Shushaniki (Armenian), Evstat'i (Persian), and Habo (from Baghdad) were all Christian nonK'art'velians. Only the children martyred by their "pagan" parents in The Martyrdom o f the Children o f

Kola seem to have been K'art'velians. This circumstance clearly demonstrates the absence o f nationalism
in the pre-m odem period.
The first great work of hagiography of the Bagratid period is Giorgi Merch'ules Works o f Grigol

Xandzt'eli. M erch'ule wrote this tract in 951, nearly a century after the death of Grigol Xandzt'eli (lit. "of
Xandzt' a " ) . ^ After the establishment of the Iveron monastery on M l Athos in Greece in the late tenth
century, several K'art'velian/Georgian monks took up residence there. Outstanding among the important
original hagiographical works o f these monks are Grigol Mt'acmi[n)deli's Life oflovane and Ep't'wme
(composed ca. 1044) and Giorgi M e'ire's Life o f Giorgi Mt'acmideli (ca. 1070).
We should mention here the polemical work o f Arsen Sap'areli O il "of Sap'ara"). He composed
a text devoted to the ecclesiastical schism between the K 'art'velians and Armenians which was formalized
by the third Armenian Church council held at Dwin in 607/608. Ironically, his Schism o f the

^ S e e esp. the lengthy study o f P. Ingoroqva, Giorgi merch'ule: k'art'uli mcerali meat'e saukunisa
(1954).

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34

K'art'velians and the Armenians exploited Armenian texts, turning them on their heads, so as to
demonstrate that the Georgians were not at fault as the Armenians had claimed from the start.
Secular literature was a relatively late development and appeared only under the Bagratids. The
most famous work is the thirteenth-century Knight in the Panther's Skin (Vep xistqaosani) o f Shot a
Rust'aveli. Another contemporary secular work pertinent to this study is the Amiran-darejaniani
attributed to Mose Xoneli.
Royal charters and coinage, as well as lexicons, dictionaries, and grammars are specifically
examined when they prove relevant in the course o f this work.

Note on Armenian Sources

This study focuses upon the self-identity o f the medieval K 'art'velians and especially their
understanding o f their own p a s t Therefore, Georgian sources are emphasized. However, no study of
ancient and medieval K 'art'li/G eorgia is possible without taking into consideration neighboring Armenia.
The works of several exceptional modem historians, like the monumental study o f N. Adonc' on the
Justinianic reform o f Armenia, are somewhat flawed because they have addressed one community in
isolation from the other. More recently, N.G. Garsoian's excellent work on the Persian context of early
Armenian society would have been further strengthened had it contained even a cursory examination of
the K'art'velian experience. The genius of ToumanofFs magnum opus was that it treated Armenia and
K artli/Georgia, in several respects, as a single social unit. To be sure, each community was distinct
(language is an obvious example), but Toumanoff understood that the modem notions o f borders and
nationalism had no place in the ancient and medieval environment.
Because I have limited the scope of my study to the self-identity o f the K'art'velian/Georgian
community, the Armenians have been afforded less attention than they probably deserve. However, I
recognize the importance of Armenian historical writing, and Armenian evidence is employed whenever
relevant Because Armenian historical literature emerged in the fifth century, almost three centuries
before that of the K'art'velians, Armenian sources help illuminate the early history o f the neighboring
K'art'velians. Therefore, a sketch o f the relevant Armenian texts is appropriate.
The fifth century was the first great period o f literary activity among the Armenians. To this
time belongs several noteworthy historians. The conversion of the Armenian king T 'rdat (Arm. Trdat,
Gk. Tiridates) is described by A gat'angeghos (Agathangelos), whose suspect name is Greek for the
"Bearer of Good News." The original history of Agat'angeghos was written in Armenian but is now lost;
scholars have detected four extant recensions of Agat'angeghos 1 text, in Armenian and other languages.
The "A" group comprises the now extant Armenian text (Aa, fifth century or later, translated into English
by R.W. Thomson (1976]), and medieval translations in Arabic (Aar), Greek (Ag), and Georgian (aFg,
fragment). The Georgian fragment is extremely short and relates part o f the martyrdom o f the holy

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35

woman Ripsime/Rhip" sim e .^ The "V" recension is not extant in Armenian, but includes an Arabic
rendition (Va) published and translated by Marr (1904) and a Greek rendition (Vg). The other two
groups are later versions and abridgments of "A" and " V with texts in Georgian. Syriac. Karshunt.
Arabic, Ethiopian, Greek, and Latin. The various redactions o f Agat'angeghos (known collectively as the
G rigorian Cycle, for Gregory the Illuminator) were most recently described by Thomson (in the

introduction to his translation) and G. Winkler (1 9 8 0 ).^


To the fifth century also belong other important Armenian histories. The Epic Histories, a text
formerly attributed to a certain P'awstos Buzandac'i, relates the early history o f Christian Armenia. Its
author has little to say about K 'art' li. It was translated into English, with outstanding appendices and
detailed commentary, by Garsofen (1989). The same is true for Eghishe (Elishe; English translation by
Thomson [1982]) whose tract focuses upon the disastrous Armenian uprising o f 451 which ended in the
defeat of Vardan Mamikonean at the Battle of Avarayr. G h azar P 'a rp e c 'i (Lazar P'arpec'i) is the most
relevant Armenian text o f this era for us, for he touches often upon K 'a rt'li and provides the only
contemporary Caucasian evidence for the renowned K 'art'velian king Vaxtang. Thomson translated this
source in 1991. The hagiographer-historian Koriwn wrote a biography o f his master Mashtoc' (later
called Mesrop). According the Armenian tradition. Mashtoc' devised the Armenian script. Significantly,
his biographer also claimed that he had fashioned alphabets for the K 'art'velians and Caucasian
Albanians as well. There is no scholarly English rendition o f this text.
From the period of Islamic domination and the rise of the K 'art'velian Bagratids the history
attributed to Sebeos is important This text is often referred to as The History o f Heraclius. since much of
it is concerned with the Byzantine emperor Heraclius' invasion of the N ear East. A translation has been
published privately by R. Bedrosian (1985), but a scholarly rendition by' Thomson is forthcoming. In the
same era Ananias Shirakec'i (Shirakac'i) composed an important geography, which is particularly useful
for Caucasia and Sasanid Iran. R.H. Hewsen published both the long and the short recensions o f that text
along with massive commentary, in 1992. The eighth-century history o f Ghewond (Levond) was put into
English by Z. Arzoumanian (1982).
Perhaps the most famous medieval Armenian history was composed by Movses X orenac'i
(Moses Khorenats'i, Moses of Chorene). Although Xorenac'i himself claims to have written in the fifth
century, modem scholarship (recently that of Toumanoff, Thomson, etc.) has successfully demonstrated
that he could have written no earlier than the late seventh century and perhaps as late as the ninth century.

CambrMS # Georgian MS.5 = MS. Add. 1890.3. For the text and an Eng. rendering o f this fragment,
see R.P. Blake, "Catalogue of the Georgian Manuscripts in the Cambridge University Library," HTR 25/3
(Jul. 1932), pp. 216-221. Blake believes that it was written in Jerusalem in the eleventh century.
^ G . Winkler, "Our Present Knowledge o f the History o f Agat'angeghos and its Oriental Versions,"

REArm, n.s. 14 (1980), pp. 125-141.

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36

Still, many specialists in Armenia continue to place him in the fifth century. Xorenac'i says little about
Kartli directly. However, his text is the first attempt to sum up Armenian history since antiquit}', and in
that regard we shall compare it to the parallel Georgian attempt o f The Life o f the Kings. Moreover.
Xorenac'i was a supporter of the Armenian Bagratids (Bagratuni-s) and his theories on their provenance
was known to the K'art'velian/Georgian branch o f that clan. Xorenac'i relied upon many sources, both
oral and written. One o f his sources for early Armenia was the so-called Primary History o f Armenia,
perhaps written in the seventh century. These texts were translated together by Thomson (1978).
The tenth century was also a period o f historiographic efflorescence among Armenian scholars.
Yovhannes D rasxanakertc'i, or John the Cathoiicus, wrote a history o f Armenia down to his own time,
drawing upon Xorenac' i (as had become customary). Drasxanakertc' i spent some time at the court o f a
K 'art'velian Bagratid prince. His history was translated by K. M aksoudian(1980). The History o f the

House o f Arc'runik' was composed by T'om va A rc 'ru n i (Artsruni) and was brought down to the twelfth
century by an anonymous continuator, it was translated by Thomson in 1985. Like mam contemporary
Armenian historical works, his history was written for a particular noble house and not for the Crown (the
opposite was true in K'art'li/Georgia). Other sources from this period include that attributed to The
Anonymous Story Teller (sometimes referred to as Ps.-Shapuh Bagratuni. translated by Thomson in
1988-1989) and the anti-K'art'velian polemical work by the bishop Uxtanes. The earlier Book o f Letters

(Girk' t'ght'oc', fifth-century and later) was a principal source for Uxtanes. Uxtanes' history was rendered
into English by Arzoumanian (1985 and 1988). The History ofTaron has been redated by L. Avdovan
(who translated the text in 1993) to the second-half o f the tenth century: Avdovan reattributed it to Ps.Yovhannes M amikonean.
A history o f the Caucasian Albanians was written by Movses Dasxuranc'i (sometimes called
Movses Kaghankatuac' i) and continuators in the course of the tenth through thirteenth centuries. It
provides important evidence for the legendary foundation of the Albanian community and was translated
by C.J.F. Dowsett (1961). In the eleventh century we possess histories by Aristakes Lastivertc'i
(translated into Russian by K.N. Iuzbashian [1968]) and Asoghik (Asolik. also Step'anos ofTaron:
translated into French by E. Dulaurier [1883]).
The history o f M atthew o f Edessa is an important source for the consolidation of Bagratid power
in K 'art'li and the establishment o f a unified Georgian realm in the eleventh century. It was composed in
the twelfth century and translated by A E . Dostourian in 1993. Following the translation and adaptation
o f the Georgian historical corpus of K'art'lis c'xovreba into Armenian in the twelfth/thirteenth century,
several Armenian historians made use of it. V ardan Arewelc'i's Historical Compilation of the thirteenth
century was translated by Thomson in 1989. The contemporary history o f M x it'a r Ay rivanec'i was
translated into Russian by K Patkanov in 1869. The thirteenth-century Step'annos O rbelean, however,
knew Georgian and seems to have read K'art'lis c'xovreba in its original; M.-F. Brosset published this
history in 1864-1866. Finally, Kirakos G andzakec'i, also of the thirteenth century, touches upon the

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37

reign o f the Georgian queen T amar. Gandzakec'i's history was translated into Russian by L.A.
Khanlarian in 1976.
It should be emphasized that Armenian texts, unlike their Georgian counterparts, are customarily
used here in their English translations (when available). W hen a particular point must be made, o r when
I am at odds with the published translation, the original Classical Armenian is cited. Armenian editions
used in this study are enumerated in the bibliography.

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38

NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION

A number o f languages employing non-Latin scripts are pertinent to this study, especially Georgian.
Armenian, Russian, and Greek. Each o f these languages has some characters which do not have any
single equivalent in English. No universally accepted systems o f transliteration exists for these languages:
here, scholarly-based systems (i.e., those that closely correspond to the original) are applied, although in
some instances single Georgian, Armenian, an d Russian characters are rendered with two Latin
characters (e.g., "sh" and "ch") in order to avoid excessive diacritical markings. The Georgian and
Russian systems in my study are based upon those o f the Library o f Congress. The Armenian system used
here is a modified version o f that used in Revue des etudes armeniennes. Greek phrases and names are
usually rendered directly from Greek. However, some names and titles are known in scholarly literature
by their Latin equivalents which are given precedence here so as to limit confusion (e.g.. Procopius and
not Prokopios; Heraclius for Herakleios). Persian and Arabic words are usually transliterated according to

The Encyclopedia o f Islam.


It should be noted that three scripts exist for Georgian. Because o f technological limitations, only the
most recent (and still used) script, mxedruli, is employed in this study. It should be noted that all three
Georgian scripts have characters which directly correspond to one another. Moreover, no Georgian script
employs both majuscule and miniscule letters. Thus, I have chosen to capitalize only the first letter o f the
initial word in titles and transliterated passages.
Proper names within the main text are capitalized according to English rules. They have usually been
transliterated from a given author's native language. Thus the name of the Georgian author of the famous
book K'art 'veli eris istoria is rendered from the Georgian as (Ivane) Javaxishvili although in Russian we
find the variants Dzhavakhishvili and the Russianized Dzhavakhov. Such variations are noted in the
bibliography. In the main text, historical personae are usually referred to in their native tongue:
accordingly. Iovane/Ioane corresponds to die English John, Davit' to David, and Petre to Peter (but note
"Peter the Iberian," and not Petre the K'art'velian, since this is the form commonly used in scholarly
literature).
Old Georgian nouns, including proper ones, term inated in either -/ or -v. With respect to proper nouns,
the -/ and -y are often dropped (e.g., Davit' and not Davit' i: Bagrat and not Bagrati), although in some
cases they are retained for euphony.
It should also be noted that an orthographic change was instituted for Georgian in the first third of the
twentieth century. This accounts for certain discrepancies. Thus: old form Tp'ilisi (used here for all pretwendeth-centuiy contexts) is equivalent to the new form T bilisi; K 'u t'a t'isi-K 'u t'aisi: Sak'art'uelo
Sak'art'velo (the latter form is preferred here). The medieval forms are preferred in this study, although
the modem ones are used when referring to the m odem city/site.

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39

GEORGIAN
6

b
b

b
8

G
d

3
e

01

k'

gh

00

t'

3
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25
I

3
zh

6
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b
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d
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3
w

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3
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(3
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Pp
b

bb

2q
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tt
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Co
e

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t'

d-d
zh

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i

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gh

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m

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fin

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t

Pp

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44

ch'

5g
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hi
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p'

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k

Oo

to

(\ m
u

mi
[ev]

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z

Hr
i

ftn
i

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f

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kh

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ts

ARMENIAN

Uuj
a
IMu

RUSSIAN
Aa
a

56
b

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V

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g

Aa
d

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e

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JIji

Mm
m

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nn
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yy

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mm
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blbl
V

bb

39
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K) k >
iu

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"b-b
N

zh

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GREEK
Aa B/3
b
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Nr
ks
n

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nr
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44

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PART ONE
THE PRE-BAGRATID PERIOD

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46

Chapter One

Forging the Pre-Bagratid Historical Tradition1

/. THE DAWN OF GEORGIAN HISTORICAL WRITING


For the first millennium or so o f its existence, the K 'art'velian community ~ or really,
communities lacked its own alphabet and its own written historical traditions. Although the protoK 'art'velians, like the Meschoi/Mesxi-s, evolved from ancient Anatolian, Mesopotamian, and Caucasian
civilizations which themselves left behind a fragmentary written record, the earliest K'art'velians. for
whatever reason, did not develop their own alphabet nor did they write their language in existing ones.
The ancient K 'art'velians would seem to have transmitted their historical traditions orally. Accordingly,
for this shadowy period we must rely strongly upon the evidence unearthed and interpreted by
archaeologists.
The development o f a script, however, does not necessarily indicate the existence of historical
writing. In the case o f the K 'art'velians, hundreds o f years elapsed from the time that their alphabet was
invented until the production o f historiography. When a written Georgian historical tradition was finally
realized, the remote past was compressed since it was faintly remembered, if at all. A noteworthy feature
o f this compression is the enhancement o f the semi-mythical first K 'art'velian king, P'amavaz, so that he
became attributed with pouring the foundation o f subsequent K 'art'velian society', including the fraudulent
claim that he had invented the Georgian script But modem scholars have firmly established that a
specifically Georgian script was formulated, and deliberately so, only in conjunction with the
Christianization o f K 'a rt'li in the fourth century'. The impulse o f contemporary Christians to transmit
their texts (which, from the first century AO, had formed the basis o f their religion) to the newly
converted peoples o f Caucasia stimulated the invention of alphabetic systems not only for the

^"Forging" here is intended in the sense of production, although, as we shall see, much o f early
K 'art'velian history was interpolated by later writers and the sense o f making something false is also
applicable in certain instances. This chapter is, in some respects, awkward, for some of my hypotheses
are necessarily circular. As will become apparent, the redating o f several historical texts to the preBagratid period is paramount for the arguments that follow. This chapter seeks to present ample
information so as to validate my attempt at redating. Several o f the themes touched upon here will be
expanded later.

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47

K'art'velians, but for their Armenian and Caucasian Albanian neighbors as well. By the early fifth
century a relatively standardized form o f the Georgian script existed. Its acceptance and currency among
contemporary K'art'velian clerics is attested not only by stone inscriptions (like those a t the Bolnisi
cathedral in southern K 'art'li and at Bir-al-Qutt in Palestine) but also by the earliest extant work of
Georgian literature, the hagiographic Martyrdom ofShushaniki by the priest Iakob C 'urtaveli .3
Hagiography was the earliest genre of original literature developed by. or perhaps for. the
K'art'velians. But its appearance did not imply the existence, or inevitable later development of
historical writing. In fact the historical genre was not developed until the seventh/eighth century. This
sharply contrasts with the experience o f Armenia, to which ancient and medieval K 'art' li was intimately
connected .3 The anonymous author o f The Epic Histories

Agatangeghos, Eghishe, an d the

hagiographer-historian Koriwn were all swept up in the literary cascade o f the fifth century. So great was
the legacy o f this period that the eighth-century Armenian historian Movses Xorenac'i (Moses of
Chorene) tendentiously claimed that he had lived in this literary g ra n d siecle? The frantic activity of
early Christian Armenian historians apparently had no parallel among the K'art'velians. This peculiar
circumstance may partly be explained by the fact that the clerics and prelates o f the early K'art'velian
Church - the learned circle o f the realm were primarily Greeks. Armenians, and Syrians, and
sometimes even Christian Persians.** These non-K'art'velians dedicated themselves fully to the
advancement o f the new religion and did not concentrate their precious energies and resources upon the
development o f a written Georgian historical tradition. The literary' focus o f the early Church in K 'art'li
was the translation of the Bible and related patristic, exegetical. hagiographical. and liturgical texts.
Historical writing had no early Kart'velian adherents and was simply not regarded as a priority during
the first two hundred years or so o f Christian K 'art' li.

It should be emphasized that the earliest extant MS containing this text was copied only in the eleventh
century; the original is lost.
3 Thomson, "The Writing of History: The Development o f the Armenian and Georgian Traditions." pp.
493-520.

^Garsoian in The Epic Histories, introduction, pp. 11-16. Garsolan has convincingly demonstrated that
the source should no longer be attributed to P'awstos Buzand. Rather, the Buzandaran Patmut'iwnk' is
the work of an anonymous author.
^Although many modem specialists now believe X orenac'i was a seventh-/eighth-century figure, many
specialists in Armenia still cling to the notion that he lived in the fifth century.
**But the Armenian Church also had significant numbers o f Greeks and Syrians within its ranks. But,
from the evidence o f extant histories, it would seem that the Armenians were more successful in
participating in their early Church than were their neighbors to the north.

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48

The birth and efflorescence o f Georgian historical writing was made immediately possible by the
events o f the sixth century. Already at the end o f the fifth century, the Church in K 'art'li secured for itself
the higher rank o f kat'alikos (KA0OAIKOE, Latin catholicus) for its prelate, a reward for its intermittent
support o f Byzantium. The imperial recognition o f the importance of K 'a rt'li and its Church, and the
promotion of its prelate to a more esteemed status, gradually evolved into the Eastern Church's
recognition of defacto K 'art'velian ecclesiastical autocephaly (i.e., independence in local administrative
affairs). Yet, for the time being, the K 'art'velians did not control their own Church, for its hierarchs, as
they had been from the start, remained non-K'art'velians. Even the earliest kat'alikos-es were not native
K'art'velians. For example, the first, Petre, had been a resident of Pontus. Only during the sixth century
did the K'art'velians seize their Church for themselves (from which time we may speak o f a K'art 'velian

Church and not simply a Church in K 'art'li), and from this time we may surmise that an interest in
translating and in composing original Georgian texts was fostered. Simultaneously, the emboldened
K 'art'velian Church also liberated itself from Armenian domination; this was manifest in the K'art'velian

kat'alikos Kwrions refusal to accept Armenian Christology (which seems to have been a form o f
Monophysitism). As a result of the events surrounding the Third Council of Dwin (607/608). the
K 'art'velian and Armenian Churches officially separated from one another, with the K 'art'velians
eventually coming out in favor of the pronouncements o f the Fourth Ecumenical Council held at
Chalcedon back in 451.7 It would be an exaggeration to suggest that by this action the K 'art'velian
Church had thrown itself fully into the arm s o f Byzantium by accepting the imperial creed However, this
episode is emblematic o f a period of augmented Byzantine influence in K 'art'li. Although dogmatic
differences between the K'art'velians and the Armenians did exist, and real feelings about theology were
involved the schism ultimately represents the K 'art'velians aspiration to diminish Armenian influence
over their own ecclesiastical organization, as well as the desire of the K 'art'velian ruler Step'anoz 1 (ca.
590-627) to liberate K 'a rt'li from excessive external interference by balancing those which existed
Kwrion was stimulated by a complex web of considerations which is not altogether understood
even today, but a significant consequence was the realized potential of the K'art'velians to propagate, a n d
more importantly, to formulate, a distinct tradition for both their Church and community.** Moreover,
from the sixth century (by ca. 580), K 'art'velian royal authority was abolished by the Persian Great K ing
the shahanshah. As K 'a rt'lis earliest historians sifted through received traditions, they determined that
Kart'velian kingship, now unjustly interrupted could be plausibly traced to the Hellenistic period From

7For more on Dwin HI, see chs. 5-6.


**The dramatis personae o f the extant Georgian hagiographical sources which were composed before the
Third Council of Dwin are not K'art'velians. Thus, the martyrs Shushaniki and Evstat' i were Armenian
and Persian Christians respectively.

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49

the start, Georgian historical writing was a mouthpiece for pro-monarchy supporters, and the
commemoration o f earlier K' art'velian kings originally served as a rallying cry for the re-establishment of
indigenous royal authority.

U. THE CORPUS OF MOK'C'EVA Y K A R T LISA Y

The Original Core

In the aftermath o f the Christologicai break with the Armenians, K' art'velian clerics, who were
the earliest native writers, set out to articulate in writing the story of the conversion of their community to
Christianity.^ Georgian historiography was initially an offshoot of hagiography, and it is far from
surprising that these cleric-historians chose to commence K 'art'velian history with the triumph o f the
faith of Christ in their land. An existing tradition o f the conversion of K 'a rt'li had already written down
in Latin by Rufinus in the late fourth century and recapitulated in the works o f the ecclesiastical historians
Gelasius. Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret. Rufinus' account may actually have served as the basis of
the written Nino Cycle that emerged in a written Georgian form only after the break with Armenia.

It

should be noted that the activities o f Nino and the events surrounding the Christianization o f the
K 'art'velian monarchy are not related in the vitae of Shushaniki and Evstat'i, the earliest extant
monuments o f Georgian literature. This may be an indication that the Nino tale was not then current
among the K 'art'velians, or that it was suppressed by the Armenians, or even that it was not deemed
accurate. Admittedly, the silence may merely represent the fact that Nino had nothing to do directly with
either Shushaniki or Evstat'i.
It was only in the seventh/eighth century that the oral traditions, if any, of the conversion of
K' art" li were transposed onto parchment as The Conversion o f K'art 'li (.Mok'c 'evay k 'art 'lisay. 3 0 1 ^ 0 3 360
^ifim cjolw a). * * This brief text is the earliest extant Georgian account o f the activities o f Nino and is

9For a categorization o f written medieval Georgian sources, see G. Alasania, Klassifikatsiia gruzinskikh
pis'mennykh istoricheskikh istochnikov (1986), with summary-chart, pp. 197-198.
lT he "Nino Cycle" refers to those Georgian literary sources which relate the activities o f the holy woman
Nino. For a more detailed discussion, see ch. 4.
**The Georgian title o f this work isM ok'c'evay k'art'lisay, but I use this Georgian form to refer to the
corpus o f which Conv. K'art 'li proper is only a single text (see infra). On The Conversion o f K'art 'li, see,
e.g.: ToumanofF, "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," pp. 149-153; Tarchnishvili, "Sources
armeno-georgiennes de rhistoire ancienne de leglise de Georgie," LeM 60/1-2 (1947), pp. 29-37; E.
Abashidze, "K'art 'lis c 'xovrebis" carmok'mnisa da ganvit arebis sakit xebi; L. Pataridze, C'xovrebay
cmidisa ninoysi (k'art'lisgak'ristianebis kulturul-istoriuli saldt'xebi) (1993); and S. Kakabadze,

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50

intertwined w ith historical data about Mihran/Mirian III (284-361), the first local Christian king. It is
best characterized as an amalgamation o f historical and hagiographical traditions .12 The anonymous
author of The Conversion o f K'art'li almost certainly regarded his work in just those terms: as a
hagiographical account of the saintly Nino and, at the same time, as a historical narrative o f the early
Christian kingdom. Since subsequent Georgian historical works emphasize K 'art'velian kings and their
authority, I consider The Conversion o f K'art'li to be a historical work (at least in part) because it is
concerned with the conversion o f the dynast As such, this text is the earliest extant Georgian history.
The preexisting hagiographies had nothing to say about the K 'art'velian monarchs: the only rulers
mentioned in them were their Persian overlords. Still, since the Christian activities o f Nino constitute the
fulcrum o f the narrative, the text should be qualified as being historical hagiography. The first indigenous
historical works to be stripped o f these hagiographical trappings were produced only ca. 800.

Constituent Texts o f the Corpus

The compilation o f historical texts into corpora was a relatively common practice in medieval
K 'art'li. K'art'lis c'xovreba, or The Georgian Royal Annals, is a corpus o f several distinct texts. In fact,
even some o f its components are themselves mini-corpora. The "text" traditionally referred to as

Mok'c'evay k'art'Usay (lit "The Conversion of K 'art'li") is also a composite. Before examining each of
its constituent texts, we should first attempt to discern its original core.
Georgian historical works, unlike many o f their Armenian counterparts, incorporate few internal
references to their sources. However, "The Conversion o f K 'art'li" is cited as a source in The Life o f the

Kings, a history traditionally attributed to Leonti Mroveli:

...and Elioz M c'xet'eli and Longinoz Karsneli went [to Jerusalem], And at that place
they saw the crucifixion of the Lord, and from there Elioz M c'xet'eli and Longinoz
Karsneli brought the Lords tunic as is written clearly in The Conversion o f K'art'li

[Mok'c'evasa k'art'lisasa]...^ 3
This passage is found in all Georgian MSS of K'art'lis c'xovreba, both the pre-Vaxtangiseuli and
Vaxtangiseuli (eighteenth century' and later) recensions. In the latter this notice is followed by an

"Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay," in his Saistorio dziebani (1924), pp. 56-92.


^ C f. Ingoroqva, "K 'art'uli mcerlobis istoriis mokle mimoxilva," Mnat'obi 10-11 (1939). pp. 222-231.
1 3 7he Life o f the Kings, p. 362o.23- Cf. the corresponding passage o f Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ pp. 46-47 =
Thomson trans., p. 50, which knows Elios and Lunkinos but does not cite any authority on their retrieval
o f Christ's tunic.

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51

inserted, embellished account o f the journey of Elioz and Longinoz. ^

It would seem that this reference

to "The Conversion o f K 'art'li" was part o f the original Life ofthe Kings. Should my dating o f The Life o f

the Kings to ca. 800 be accurate (argued infra), then some text by the name "Conversion o f K 'art'li" must
have existed by the beginning o f the ninth century.
But to which text does this title refer? Today, a medieval hagiographical-historical corpus is
attributed by modem specialists w ith an identical title, Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay. ^ A component of that
corpus actually relates the tradition that the Lord's tunic had been transported to M c'xet'a. the
K'art'velian royal seat by some Jews, but it does not identify them by name . 16 There may be no question
that the aforementioned passage from The Ufe o f the Kings refers to this component text which we shall
refer to as The Conversion o f K'art'li proper.

Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay is sim ilar to the separate, and much larger, historical corpus o f K'art'lis
c 'xovreba insofar as it is a collection o f several different texts which have been conjoined to engender a
sequential narrative. And like those o f its counterpart, the constituent texts o f Mok'c evav k'art'lisay are
not found independently of that corpus with the exception o f The Ufe o f Nino. The reader should again
note that in an attempt to confine confusion, I shall employ Georgian appellations for corpora while the
English ones will refer to a specific te x t The works which comprise the composite Mok'c'evay

k'art'lisay, in the order they appear in the extant MSS and with approximate dates o f composition, are: 17

1. The Primary History o f K'art'li,


entitled The Primary History o f Iberia by ToumanofF [eighth/ninth century];
2. Royal List I,
an enumeration o f the earliest kings o f K 'art'li down to the first Christian king. Mihran/
Mirian [by the tenth century];
3. The Conversion o f K'art'li proper,
the only portion o f the corpus that rightly bears this title. ToumanofF and others have
attributed this text to a certain Gregory the Deacon, although this is speculative at best
[seventh/eighth century];

l4This insert occurs only in some Vaxtangiseuli redactions of the text, notably Tpb and B.
^ T h a t is to say, in Georgian both the component text in question and the corpus are entitled Mok'c'evay
k'art'lisay (Alok'. k'art'.), and in Eng. The Conversion o f K'art'li. For an overview o f this corpus, see
introduction, # 1.

^Conv. K'art'li, p. 87.


17The best discussion of the relationship among these texts remains Toumanoffs "The Royal List and The
Conversion o f Iberia and Sumbats History of the Bagratids," in his Studies, excursus A, pp. 417-428; and
idem., "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," pp. 149-152. Cf. Melik'ishvili, K istorii drevnei Gruzii
(1959), pp. 23-28; and Novolsel'tsev, Genezisfeodalizma v stranakh Zakavfcaz'ia (1980), pp. 39-40.

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52

4. Royal List II,


an enumeration o f the fourth-century successors o f Mirian down to the time o f the
Byzantine emperor Heraclius's campaign in K 'art'li. Prelates o f the Church in
K 'art'li are also enumerated [by the tenth century];
5. Royal List III,
brings the rulers o f K 'a rt'li and the primates o f the K 'art'velian Church down through
the ninth century [by the tenth century]; and,
6.

The Ufe o f Nino,


a highly reworked and detailed version o f The Conversion o f K'art 'li; strictly
hagiographical. A related redaction o f this text was also appended to The Ufe
o f the Kings [ninth/tenth century].

Until recently, only two codicies o f the corpus were known to exist: Shatberdi *** (tenth century)
and Chelishi 19 (fourteenth/fifteenth century). These two redactions form the basis o f the critical edition
by Abuladze published in 1963.2 Two "newly" discovered incomplete redactions from the monastery of
S t Catherine's on M t Sinai have yet to be published (Sin-48 and Sin-50, new collection), though over
twenty years have elapsed since their initial discovery following a fire in 1975.2 * Regardless, some
sketchy information has reached the community of scholars according to which the Sinai redactions
apparently derive from the tenth/eleventh century. A brief but significant excerpt from The Conversion o f

K'art'li also was incorporated into the tenth-century K laijet'ian mravalt'avi (polycephalon).22 An early
version o f the corpus of Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay would seem to have been compiled already in first-half of
the tenth century, the terminus ad quern for the composition o f all o f its components. In any event, the
assembling o f the corpus itself and the majority o f its constituent texts are Bagratid-era productions.
The published version o f the Shatberdi codex bears the title Mok 'c evay k'art 'lisay. or literally
"The Conversion of K 'art' li."2^ Its components were likely conjoined by Bagratid-era clerics in the tenth

lSKek.Inst.MSif S-lUl.
19KekInst.MS # U-600.
2 0 Abuladze, e d ,

DzK'ALDz, vol. 1 (1963). pp. 81-163.

J|

Information on these redactions is extremely limited. I have made use of Z. Alek'sidze, "The New
Recensions o f the 'Conversion o f Georgia' and the "Lives o f the 13 Syrian Fathers' Recently Discovered on
M l Sinai," in SSC1SSM, vol. 43a (1996), pp. 409-426; and idem., "Recent Manuscript Discoveries on
Mount Sinai," lecture at the Oriental Institute, Oxford University, 29 Nov. 1994. MS Sin-50, which
includes texts other than Mok". k'art'., is being prepared for publication by Alek'sidze and J.-P. Mahe. I
wish to thank professors Alexidze and M ahe for providing some information on these new Sinai MSS.
2 2 K/aty.

Polyceph., p. 19.

The Chelishi codex (also published) is defective at the beginning while Sin-48 and Sin-50 remain

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53

century in order to elucidate the stoiy o f the conversion o f K 'a rt'li and to commemorate the antiquit}' of
K 'art'velian royal authority. The third text, The Conversion o f K'art'li proper, describes the activities of
Nino and is probably the oldest, being composed as early as the seventh century, and in any event towards
the end of the pre-Bagratid period (eighth century). Other texts were adjoined to this core and arranged in
chronological order. In the process, the entire corpus came to be known by the title o f its original and
featured text.
The initial work, named The Primary History o f K'art 'li by ToumanofF. commences with an
account o f the alleged invasion o f K 'art'li by Alexander the Great. It is noteworthy that the corpus opens
with Alexanders conquest and makes no mention whatsoever o f Togarmah and K 'art'los. two o f the
prominent dramatis personae in the corresponding section o f The Ufe o f the Kings.2* Although other
texts within Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay are abridgments o f the ca. 800 Ufe o f the Kings, the relationship of
this latter text and The Primary History ofK 'art'li, which do contain similar accounts of Alexander,
remains a conundrum (the relationship is considered later). In any case, should The Primary History o f

K'art'li predate The Ufe o f the Kings, the text in its extant form was probably composed no earlier than
the seventh century. O f all the components o i Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay, only The Primary History o f

K'art'li was conceivably written before the seventh-century Conversion o f K'art'li.


The second text o f the corpus of Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay was ascribed with the title Royal Ust I by
ToumanofF. This succinct enumeration relates the order o f the earliest K 'art'velian monarchs,
highlighting their secular and idol-raising agenda .2 5 ToumanofF hypothesized that Royal Ust I is an
abridgment o f The Ufe o f the Kings since the former consists o f a concise, derivative chronology o f the
earliest kings, corrupting several o f their names / 0 I am tempted to concur with this observation,
although it is far from definitive. As is true o f The Ufe o f the Kings and other Georgian historical sources

unpublished.
7*1

The Ufe o f the Kings is the opening text o f K'C'. The Ufe o f the Kings opens with the claim that the
K 'art'velian community had arisen from the progeny o f Togarmah. But it does link the establishment of
K 'artvelian royal authority to the time o f Alexander.
2 5 T . Mgaloblishvili in Alexander of CyprusGeorgian, pp. 24-28 with Rus. sum., "Khronika Aleksandra

Kiprskogo (po rukopisiam X-XIV w .)," pp. 32-33, notes an affinity of these lists with those o f the

Chronicle of Alexander of Cyprus (sixth century). A medieval Georgian translation of this work is known
to have existed; extant MSS o f this translation date from the tenth-fourteenth centuries. Because o f this
emphasis on building projects, Melik' ishvili suggested that this portion o f the text be called the
Stroitel'naia letopis' (GrpoHTejibHaa JieTonncb), i.e., The Chronicle o f Construction (cf. Procopius' IIEPI
KTTEMATON, or On the Buildings). See Melik'ishvili, K drevnei istorii Gruzii, pp. 26-27.
2 <*ToumanofF, Studies, pp. 418-419.

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54

composed prior to the Bagratid period (with one possible exception to be discussed later), calendrical dates
in any Georgian era are entirely ab se n t 2 7
The conversion of the Persian-born K 'art'velian king Mihran/Mirian to Christianity is the subject
o f The Conversion o f K'art'li, the third text o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay. It served as the original nucleus of
the corpus, perhaps along with The Primary History o f K'art'li. In its extant form. The Conversion o f

K'art'li provides a skeletal, rather unelaborate, account o f the activities o f Nino. The embellishments o f
the ninth-/tenth-century Life o f Nino (the sixth part o f the corpus) are absent.2** The Conversion o f

K'art'li represents the earliest extant written Georgian tradition of Nino.


Two further lists of secular and religious rulers, Royal Lists II and III. were appended to The

Conversion o f K'art 'li by the tenth century. These enumerations contrast with Royal List I insofar as they
are more lavishly detailed, and, notably, they incorporate brief notices on the prelates o f the Church. The
second list is based upon the late eighth-century Life o f Vaxtang and its slightly later continuation by Ps.Juansher. The notices of Royal Lists II and III on royal construction projects share an affinity with those
o f Royal Ust I. Generally speaking, considerably more detail is found in the latter two lists. Thus we
read about the ascendancy o f T p'ilisi as the royal seat, the establishment o f the first kat'alikos. the advent
o f monasticism in K 'art'li, and the invasion o f K 'a rt'li by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641).

Royal Ust III enumerates the secular rulers of K 'art'li, some o f whom, at the time, were adorned with
Byzantine dignities. This work also records their ecclesiastical counterparts. A sizable portion of this
final list is extremely brief, providing only names. The list o f secular rulers terminates with Guaram (d.
881 AD), the erist'avi of Javaxet'i and son of Ashot I kuropalates (813-830). The corresponding
enumeration o f kat'alikos-es ends with Arsen (mid-ninth century).2^
How may we explain the brevity of Royal Ust I in view of the relatively lengthier accounts o f

Royal Lists Il-IIT? Obviously, this circumstance might reflect a lack o f sources, either oral or written. Yet
The Ufe o f the Kings was composed, as I argue infra, ca. 800. and this text happens to transmit the
contemporary traditions of pre-Christian K 'art'li. Keeping in mind that the extant versions of Mok'c'evay

'O n relative chronologies and the chronologization o f the early dynasts o f K 'artli. see: ToumanofF,
"Chronology o f the Early Kings o f Iberia." Traditio 25 (1969), pp. 1-33; idem.. Manuel de genealogie et
de la chronologie (1976), pp. 543-544 etsqq: and A. Gugushvili. "The Chronological-Genealogical Table
o f the Kings o f Georgia," Georgica 1/2-3 (Oct. 1936). pp. 109-153.
2**Both the seventh-century Conv. K'art'li and the ninth-/tenth-century Life o f Nino are considered in
detail in ch. 4.
2^The chronological order o f the chief hierarchs o f the K'art'velian Church may be reliably surmised
from medieval sources, but the precise dating o f their tenures is an impossible task using existing sources.
A far from satisfactory attempt to assign regnal dates to K 'art'velian ecclesiastical hierarchs was
attempted by P. Karbelashvili, Ierark'ia sak'art'velos ekklesiisa kat'alikosni da mghvdelt'-mt 'avami, book
1 (1904), esp. pp. 16-78 (for the fourth through the thirteenth centuries). See also ch. 4.

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55

k'art'lisay were found in monasteries, I would suggest that the corpus may have served as a sort o f text
book, or general history reference, for monks. Accordingly, the pre-Christian history o f K 'art'li might
have drawn little attention by these Christians, or, it may have been forbidden, save a very few details. In
fact, only one extant codex, the Shatberdi. contains the pre-Christian sections (The Primary History o f

K art 'li and Royal List I); in the other MSS these texts were either omitted or removed.
The corpus o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay is a complex document Although some o f its components
seem to be of considerable antiquity, the collection as a whole was not assembled until the ninth/tenth
century. Its earliest text and original core is The Conversion o f K'art'li, from which the entire corpus
later drew its title. This tradition o f the efforts o f the holy woman Nino was not written down until the
seventh century or so. The initial work o f the collection, The Primary History o f K'art'li, is more difficult
to date: it may represent an extremely early tradition (perhaps as early as the seventh century), but it is
conceivable that it was a reworking o f the initial passages o f The Life o f the Kings. Only The Conversion

o f K'art 'li, and perhaps The Primary History o f K'art 'li, is a vestige o f the earliest (pre-Bagratid)
Georgian historical writing Royal Lists /- /// and The Life o f Nino are later, Bagratid-era productions and
do not predate the ninth century.

III. THE CORPUS OF (TXOREBA K'ARTVELTA MEP'ETA TRADITIONALLY ATTRIBUTED


TO LEONTI MROVELl

The Conversion o f K'art'li. the third text o f M ok 'c'evay k'art'lisay, is the earliest extant
Georgian literary work which may be classified as historical. But the scheme of this text, with its
integration o f hagiography and history, was not adopted as an exemplar for subsequent medieval Georgian
historical writings, although some o f its approaches were later mimicked, especially that of interpolating
K 'art'velian history into existing traditions. In any event, almost two centuries elapsed before a local
interest in tracing the origin and development of the K 'art'velian community emerged.

The Life o f the Kings: Extant MSS and the Title o f the Text

The Life o f the K'art'velian Kings and of[Their] Forefathers and Progeny (C'xorebay
k'art'uelt'a mep'et'a dapirvelt'agant'a mamat'a da nat'esavt'a, Q bnfybsa ^Artro^acpcDA

83330^

joa

3 o 6 3 apa)A&A6 cf)A 3a3aoja joa 6 A0 )abA30 )A), endeavors to reveal the ethnogenesis of the K 'art'velian

community and the establishment o f local kingship.^ The text describes the period from the alleged

In the Georgian title, the form k'art 'uelt'a (the genitive-plural form o f "Kart'velian") is found in some

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56

origin o f the K 'art'velians (before Alexander's alleged invasion o f K 'art'li) through the early fourth
century AD. As its title suggests, it is first and foremost an account of the kings o f the pre-Christian
period. Monarchs, and not the nobility or the religious orders o r the other stratae o f society, are central to
the account and they are depicted as the very embodiment o f K 'art'li. This approach characterizes all
medieval Georgian historical works, although it is less pronounced in the earlier, partly hagiographical

Conversion ofK'art'li. The anonymous author o f The Life o f the Kings, therefore, was not only a
historian but also a royal eulogist and propagandist and he subscribed resolutely to the ideal o f dynastic
kingship and primogeniture. This is particularly striking since he wrote during the lengthy interregnum
extending from the sixth century until 8 8 8 . Therefore, his work must be regarded not only as a monument
to the past but as a call for the restoration o f indigenous royal authority in the future.
The original author was not particularly interested in things Christian. Although later editorial
work (especially in the eleventh century) provided for some Biblical and Christian references, the original
text, which is now lost, seems to have incorporated only a brief notice about Nino. Significantly, this
work ends precisely with the conversion ofM ihran/M irian. Thus, although composed well into the
Christian period, The Life o f the Kings is intended to be a summation of the pre-Christian K 'art'velian
p a st The Life o f the Kings, and perhaps The Primary History ofK 'art'li (which also addressed only preChristian history), therefore represents a radical break with the traditional Christian nature and context of
early Georgian historical writing.

The Life o f the Kings is part of a miniature corpus within the larger corpus o f K'art 'lis c 'xovreba.
The first three texts o f K'art'lis c'xovreba are customarily and collectively known as C'xorebay

k'art'velt'a mep'et'a, literally "The Life of the K 'art'velian Kings." But only the initial portion of
C'xorebay k'art 'velt'a mep 'et'a may properly be attributed with that titled * The remaining two The
life o f Nino and The Life o f the Successors ofMirian (my title) were appended in the Bagratid period,
probably in the eleventh century, and certainly no later than that time. Modem Georgian specialists
typically regard all three texts as a single work and attribute it to the eleventh-century archbishop Leonti
Mroveli. This argument will be challenged here.
Authorship, the content o f the original text, the nature and relationship o f the extant MSS, and
later textual manipulation by copyists have contributed to the intense controversy which envelops the

o f the earliest MSS; however, preference has been given in the remainder o f this study to the form
k'art'velt'a. The influence o f the older hagiographic tradition within Georgian literature is detectable in
the employment of the term c'xovreba, i.e., "life" or Latin vita, in the traditional titles o f medieval
Georgian historical texts. The text under examination is referred to in this study by the truncated title The

Life o f the Kings.


3 *Thus common characteristics of pre-Bagratid Georgian historical works include: (1) the joining o f
separate but related texts into corpora; and (2 ) the naming o f the corpora after their core texts.

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57

introductory texts o f K'art 'lis c 'xovreba. The conflagration still eludes containment primarily because of
the fact th at The life o f the Kings represents the received pre-modem account of the origin of the
Georgian community, and its meaning and significance are esteemed as valuable commodities for
defining modem nationality and ethnicity. That considerable debate is associated with this text is far from
surprising, for even in the medieval period (especially under Bagratid rule) this text was sometimes
suppressed, rewritten, and ignored.
The three texts which constitute C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a, like the other component
histories o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba, are not found independently o f that corpus. Four Georgian preVaxtangiseuli MSS, as well as the oldest extant variant appearing in the Armenian adaptation o f K'art'lis

c'xovreba, containing the text survive.

Pre-Vaxtangiseuli MSS Containing C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep 'et'cP-

Date Copied
1279-1311
1479-1495
16th century
1633-1645/1646
1697

Redaction
Arm/A
A
C
M
Q

Traditional MS Name
Armenian adaptation, earliest MS
Anaseuli ("Queen Anna")
Chalashviliseuli. old section
Mariamiseuli ("Queen Mariam")
M c'xet'ian variant 33

Arm/A. the earliest MS o f the Armenian adaptation, is the oldest extant redaction of K'art'lis

c 'xovreba by more than a century, and it was ultimately copied from a now-lost Georgian MS. It mirrors
closely the earliest complete Georgian version of The Life o f the Kings found in the Mariamiseuli variant.
Arm/A served as the exemplar for the other surviving MSS o f the Armenian adaptation. It is noteworthy
that the Armenian documents provide neither a title nor an attribution of authorship for this text.
The Mariamiseuli3^ variant (M) o f K'art'lis c'xovreba is the only extant, fully pre-Vaxtangiseuli
MS not to commence with The Life o f the Kings. It begins with two apocryphal works, including the

33 Cf. Toumanoff. "The Oldest Manuscript of the Georgian Annals," pp. 340-344.

Not to be confrised with the M c'xet'ian recension (i.e., MS groupl of K'C' which is currently believed
to consist o f the MQm MSS; the other pre-Vaxtangiseuli recension consists o f the group AC. See G.
Araxamia, "'M ep'et'a c'xovtebis' tekstis dadgenis zogiert'i sakit'xi," Mac'ne 1 (1989). pp. 139-140; and
M. Shanidze in The Life o f Davit', introduction, esp. pp. 128-154, MSS stenuna at p. 140.
3<h h e O ld Georgian suffix -iseuli denotes "named after." Its usage with respect to the names o f MSS
enables proper names to be converted into adjectives. This Mariamiseuli is an adjective meaning "named
after [Queen] Mariam (Mary)."

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58

medieval Georgian rendition o f The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures, a sixth-century (or later) text
originally written in Syriac.3^ The Life o f the Kings is the first historical work in the document.3** and its
opening is clearly distinguished with wavy, black and red borders .3 7 Following this break, in red ink. is a
heading introducing the work:

tabacpocoA 060ob6O)6 dob60)6 CS* b g c g o b ^ ^0ofoob6a>6 3 o ^ y m 0oo)b6ca&6o

gbn 6 a&^b6
660)ab 63 CD6

S agaoJibi g a 3 0 6 3 3 2 3 0 )65660)6 360606 06

Saxelit 'a mamisat 'a dzisat 'a da sulisa cmidisat 'a vicqo mit 'xrobad c 'xorebasa
k'art'uelt'a mep'et'asa da pirvelt'agant'a mamat'a da nat'esavt'a
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit I shall begin to relate The Ufe o f

the K'art'velian Kings and the Forefathers and [Their] Progeny.

This title differs from the one offered in Qauxch'ishvili's critical edition in that it is prefixed with "In the
name o f the Father [and] o f the Son and o f the Holy S pirit" Qauxchishvili rightly discarded this phrase
from his reconstructed "original" text since it is a later addition. After all. The U fe o f the Kings is devoid
o f a sustained interest in things Christian.3** The prefixed phrase was added by a later scribe, perhaps the
eleventh-century archbishop Leonti Mroveli, or even by the scribe responsible for this particular MS.
The most ancient Georgian MS o f K'art'lis c'xovreba, the Anaseuli redaction (A), is defective.3^
The entire initial section o f The Ufe o f the Kings, which describes the origin of the K 'art' velians and the
establishment of local kingship, has been lost/removed. This document begins in mid-sentence with the
reign o f Arshak II (20 BC-1 AD ).4 0 The title o f the work as found in the A redaction is not indicated in
the extant folios.

3^The m MS (part of the MQm recension) also begins with an apocryphal work. See C . K'urcikidze.
"Kvlav Tcartlis c'xovrebis* xelnacerebis apokrip'ul t'xzulebat'a shesaxeb," Mac'neenisa 1 (1990). pp.
49-64, with Rus. sum., "Eshche raz ob apokrifakh v rukopisiakh Kartlis Tskhovreba,'" pp. 63-64.
3**Kek.Inst.KIS a S-30, ( 52r, includes a later marginal note in purple ink. written in Rus., noting that this
is the proper beginning of K'C' and that this MS was written under the direction o f Queen Mariam.
3 ^Ibid., (. 52r.

The Ufe o f the Kings occupies Cf. 52r-l00r.

The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 3. Following Qauxch'ishvili, this phrase is also absent in the trans. o f the
Georgian text in Arm. Adapt. K'C', Thomson trans., p. 2.
3^See also Toumanoff. "The Oldest Manuscript o f the Georgian Annals," pp. 340-344. The issue o f MSS
being defective for The Ufe o f the Kings is engaged in ch. 2.

40The Ufe o f the Kings as preserved in A begins at The Ufe o f the Kings, p.

3 5 3 , and

K'C'Queen Anna,

P -2 5 14.

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59

None o f the oldest MSS o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba incorporate an authorship or even scribal/copyist
attribution w ithin the text o f The Life o f the Kings itself, and moreover, the earliest MSS are not furnished
with a title.

The Identification o f Leonti Mroveli, the Traditional Author of C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a

So who were the authors o f the three texts which constitute C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a? As
we have mentioned, authorship attributions occur nowhere within any o f the three works. However, a
subsequent text within K'art'lis c'xovreba associates an author, or perhaps editor, with them. That
passage is found in all of the earliest Georgian (pre-Vaxtangiseuli) redactions but not in the Armenian
adaptation^ and was appended to the continuation o f The Ufe ofVaxtang written by Ps.-Juansher. It is
argued infra that Ps.-Juansher's history was composed in the first decade o f the ninth century, but we do
not know whether the aforementioned authorship/scribal quotation was from his own pen. The passage as
it appears in the earliest extant Georgian MS, A, reads:

flbfl aftftocjob

g 6 83330)6 0 boi3<<)3&6, g 6 60601b 803(6 ^Arocjob

801^0336 e 33 0 i 6 <J)O 8 (6 ^ 3 3 1 5 8 6 6 6 g ^ 3 (6 6 .4?

Ese arch 'ilis cameba, da mep 'et 'a c 'xovreba, da ninos mier k 'art 'lis mok 'c eva leonti
mruvelman aghcera.
This Martyrdom o f Arch'iI, and The Life o f the Kings, and The Conversion o f K'art'li by
Nino was <written/copied>^ by Leonti Mruveli [Mroveli].

The only significant deviation from this passage occurs in the Vaxtangiseuli T eimuraziseuli (T) MS.
copied in the first half of the eighteenth century. Written in the nusxuri script, this MS is deemed to have

Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 199. Thomson, trans.. p. 251, footnote 55, offers the Georgian text in a footnote.
Strangely, he has separated it from the main text even though, by his own admission, it occurs in the
earliest Georgian MSS (i.e., AM).
^Ps.-Juansher, p. 244; in the unpublished Q variant the passage, in nusxuri, reads:"Ese arch 'ilis cameba
da mep'et'a c'xr~ba da ninos k'~rt'lismok'ceva leonti mrovl~mn dacerayf see Kek.Inst.MS# Q -1219, 1
71 r. The initial letter "e" o f the authorship passage in Q has been enlarged and placed in the margin for
effect (but in the characteristic black ink); five blank lines follow the passage. Again, it should be noted
that the
symbol in transliterated passages indicates the abbreviation o f words (e.g.. above k '~rt 'lis is
an abbreviation o f k'art'lis).
43The Georgian is ambiguous here; this term aghcera will be considered infra.

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60

been a bridge between the earliest MSS and the Vaxtangiseuli ones.'*'* The authorship/scribal quotation
o f A is repeated, but appended to it is the statement that:

...cga ib c ji o~a c>33A6eib 8~6 aQ^afti.4^


... da axla i~e dekcmozm-n aghcera.
...and now I[oan]e the Deacon has <written/copied> [this].

O n the basis o f the just quoted passage, modem scholars have almost unanimously associated
Leonti Mroveli with The Ufe o f the Kings, as well as with the two other named works: The Conversion o f

K'art'li by Nino (a close relative o f the Bagratid-era The Ufe o f Nino which was appended to The Ufe o f
the Kings) and The Martyrdom o f Arch 'il. Again, it should be emphasized that this authorship/scribal
claim does not appear in any o f the aforementioned works, but rather is appended to an entirely separate
text (though within the same historical corpus o f K'art'lis c'xovreba).
Is it possible to identify Leonti Mroveli? The received cognomen of the author suggests that he
was a clergyman at, and probably the bishop of, Ruisi: M-r[ovJ-eli (3 (*5oi3 gcpo), in which m- is a prefix of
agent4 6 a n d the suffix -eli denotes "of/from." The root of the episcopal/geographical designation Ruisi,
6 jobo, is

R[u]~, with -isi being an extended genitive ending common to toponyms (cf. Tp' ilisi,

K 'ut'at'isL BolnisD- The -u- in Ruisi is represented in some variants by the linguistically equivalent -ovin the attributive form.4^ Later usages of the term "Mroveli" confirm that it was utilized as the title o f the
bishop o f the cathedral of Ruisi.4**
T he contention that Leonti was the bishop o f Ruisi is undeniable. Should we expand our purview
o f inquiry beyond K'art'lis c'xovreba, we discover that a bishop o f Ruisi named Leonti is attested in other
medieval sources. Our clearest reference to him is an inscription discovered in a cave at T' rexvi in 1957.
That inscription was published by G. Gap'rindashvili in 1961:

"^Grigolia, Axali k'art'lis c'xovreba, pp. 155-168.


4 6 SPB.OrJnstMS # M24,

119r-v. A black-and-white photo-reproduction o f this MS is maintained by


the Kekelidze Institute of MSS (Rt-II, No. 18, 3 volumes).

^Cf. the bishop o f Tbet'i who was commonly referred to as Mlbevari: see Sumbat Davit'is-dze. p. 58 =
Qauxch'ishvili ed., p. 386; and Chron. K'art'li, pp. 263-264.
4^See also Kekelidze, K'art'uli literaturisistoria (1941 ed.), p. 14.

Cont. K 'C 3rd text, p. 494^ which refers to an early


sixteenth-century figure named Gedeon Mroveli. For the identification o f Leonti Mroveli as a bishop, see
also Tarchnishvili, "Sources armeno-georgiennes," p. 37.
4 % .g ., in Beri Egnatashvili, p. 3 8 5 and

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61

[O] H olyM ik'el [i.e., Michael] th e Archangel! I, L[eo]nti Mr[ove]li. with great labor
built this cave for the icon o f the Lord God and against adverse tunes, to provide shelter
for the children o f the cathedral o f Ruis[i] in the time o f desolation wrought by Sultan
Alp-Arslan in k'r[oni]k[o]n 286 [i.e., 1066 A D ].^

On the basis o f this inscription, D.M. Lang was satisfied that Leonti Mroveli is an eleventh-century
author, and this seemed to corroborate the view that Mroveli is indeed a Bagratid-era historian.
Indeed, evidence had surfaced even prior to the T rexvi inscription which bolstered the opinion
that Leonti Mroveli flourished in the eleventh century. In an article published in 1943, ToumanofF was
convinced that Leonti Mroveli was an eleventh-century figure, dating his floruit to 1060-1080.^ In
support o f this hypothesis, he cited Georgian MS #61 from ML Alhos which was evidently copied in the
eleventh/twelfth century and refers to a mt 'avarepiskopozi (archbishop) Leonti Mroveli.^ * In fact
ToumanofF was drawing upon the even earlier work o f evidence o f N.Ia. M arr who published this excerpt
already in 1904.

A third independent source, from the eleventh century and now housed at the

Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, was published by E . Taqafshvili in 1 9 3 3 .^ This passage is acquainted

4 ^G. Gap'rindashvili, "Leonti mrovelis 1066 c. samsheneblo carcera t'rexvis kvabebidan,"

Moambe

(1961). pp. 240, 247, a n d 254: "^ 3 ocS4 Q 8 0 ^ 32 ? 3 ooi3 i 6 i 6 aa c p a h o ! 8 3 , cjfa^lfy *)0 96[cn3olc?3[.i]6
B>0g[o]4 9ci3ofi33&[o]o)A 4 (3 3 4 8 3 6 3 36 3 ^ 4 6 0 b4(*)ob4CD[3lb Q[8 6 ]m[3 3 ]6 ob 04 eSQO^
3o6ob[4]b4 643cob4a393C3[4]co 6^)ob[o]b4 b4yeo6ot>4 33oe2[4](D3b <j[4]3a>4 8[o]64
4255346642546 bt")C5 (*)>i5 ob[4 ]a[ 4 ]5 pib6 cn6 ob[4 ]m 4 (3 6 fai5 o] 3 [cnl6 b 4 b3s."; and AMaladze. "K'art'lis
c'xovreba" da sak'art'velo-somxet'is urt'iert'oba, p. 53. See also Tarchnishvili, "La decouverte d'une
inscription georgienne de l'an 1066." BK 26-27 (1957), pp. 86-89 (text reprinted on p. 87). The Eng.
trans. here is based upon Lang, Landmarks, p. 10.
^^ToumanofF, "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," p. 166. Kekelidze first took a broader view,
placing Leonti Mroveli in the period from the tenth century to 1072/1073 ("Leonti mrovelis literaturuli
cqaroebi." Tp 'ilisis universitetis moambe 1 11 [1923], p. 3) and later placed him in the era o f King Bagrat
IV (1027-1072) (K'art'uli literaturis istoria [1941 ed.], pp. 213-218). The recent survey o f Rayfield.
Literature o f Georgia, p. 38, largely recapitulates the hypotheses o f Kekelidze; likewise, I. Ant'elava, A7XIVss. k'art'uli saistorio cqaroebi (1988), pp. 5-9.
^ToumanofF, "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature, p. 166.
5 2 N.Ia. Marr, "Agiograficheskie materialy po gruzinskim rukopisiam Ivera,"

ZVOIRAO 13 (1904), p. 84.

See also Abdaladze, "K'art'lis c'xovreba" da sak'art'velo-somxet'is urt'iert'oba, p. 53.


aqalshvili, Parizis nac'ionaluri bibliot'ekis k'art'ulxelnacerebi da oc'i k'art'uli saidumlo
damcerlobis nicani (Paris, 1933), p. 42; and Abdaladze, "K'art'lis c 'xovreba" da sak'art'velo-somxet'is
urt'iert'oba, pp. 53-54.

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62

with the ebiskoposi (bishop) ^ and the mt 'avar-ebiskoposi (archbishop) Leonti. In it Leonti is explicitly
referred to as MruelfiJ, which is likely the authentic medieval form o f the appellation Mroveli.
There may be no question that a Leonti Mroveli was the archbishop o f the Ruisi cathedral in the
second-half o f the eleventh century. But this begs the obvious question: did this particular Leonti Mroveli
compose The Life o f the Kings'!55 In order to dispense a solution, we should further contemplate the
aforementioned authorship/scribal quotation, for, as a result o f the possible ambiguity o f one o f its verbs, it
may be hypothesized that Leonti Mroveli was actually understood not to have composed the work at hand
O f course, we might also wish to disregard the notice as a later, and erroneous, addition. We shall return
to this question directly after offering a brief consideration o f the nature, and especially the dates o f the
composition o f the three parts, o f C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a.

The Components o f the Corpus o f C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep 'et'a and a Further Consideration o f the
Literary Activities o f Leonti Mroveli
Before attempting to link o r disassociate Leonti Mroveli from the components of C'xorebay

k 'art velt 'a mep 'et 'a, we should offer a fuller examination of that mini-corpus. The three constituent texts
may be identified (with approximate dates o f composition):

1. The Ufe o f the Kings proper.


describing the provenance o f the K 'art'velian community and their pre-Christian kings
from P 'am avaz to M irian [eighth/ninth century];
2. The Ufe o f Nino,
a ninth-/tenth-century work, clearly not written by the same author as that of The Life o f
the Kings. The vita o f the illuminatrix o f K 'art'li was attached to The Ufe o f the Kings
sometime between the ninth and eleventh centuries. In any event, this text is closely
related to The Ufe o f Nino which constitutes the terminating part of the corpus
Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay. This work is properly hagiography and not history [ninth/tenth
century]; a n d
3. The Ufe o f the Successors o f M irian5^
an untitled work commencing after The Ufe o f Nino. It is clearly a continuation o f The
Ufe o f the Kings [eighth/ninth to eleventh century].

^*In Old Georgian we find "bishop" rendered as both episkoposi and ebiskoposi, b and p being
linguistically equivalent
^T oum anoff later suggested that there had been two Leonti Mrovelis, one ca. 800 and one eleventhcentury. This is, in fact possible, though I think unlikely.
^ T h is title is mine; it is not found in any MS.

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63

As is the case with the components o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay, those o f C'xorebay k'art 'velt 'a mep et 'a are
not delimited by separate titles or distinguished in any way (e.g., a border or page break) in extant MSS.
Rather, in cases where the MSS are not defective, a general title prefaces the entire corpus.
The ascription o f dates to the constituent texts o f C'xorebay k 'art 'velt 'a mep 'et 'a is a forbidding
affair. I should think it safe to assume that they are based upon some ancient materials which have not
come down to us. The dates offered for texts in this study refer to the era in which the works attained the
form by which we know them today. Accordingly, the initial portion o f The Ufe o f the Kings may itself be
a composite work incorporating a pre-existing independent vita o f P'arnavaz.
Owing to the relatively late MS tradition o f K'art'lis c'xovreba as well as the aforementioned fact
that the majority o f the pre-Vaxtangiseuli MSS lack the initial portion o f The Ufe o f the Kings. the
original organization of the w ork is a mystery. The earliest complete Georgian text in M incorporates two
subtitles, but this does not dictate that earlier MSS were organized in this m anner

1.

msso SatknligcpA iC ? a ^ j, 6 co6 abo


T'avi shemosula alek'sandresi
Chapter [no number], The Invasion o f Alexander*^

2.03630 aanba
SabgcjA b3A(*ibo3A coa 3agpi&A 0o(*3OA6obo q ~ odoi
6353(*>0363 GSOIS^acjo 3o(*30a6 053036 3~a bo&fidobA 9obob6036. a3o6.

T'avi meot'xe k'art'lisa shesula sparst'a da mep'oba mirianisi g h t-o akurt'xe


dedop'ali miriam dghet'ash~a sigrdzisa misisat'a. Amin.
Chapter 4, The Persian Invasion of K 'a rt'li and the Reign o f Mirian; O God
bless Queen Mariam and increase her days. A m en .^

This is not the place to trace the development o f subtitles, and other forms of organization, within the MS
tradition o f K'art'lis c 'x o v r e b a But it should be said that these and similar subtitles play an extremely

57

K eklnstM S if S-30, f 6 8 v, missing in A; in Q (in nusxuri script) reads: t'av[ij shemoslva aleks-ndresi
(,Kek.Inst.MS if Q-1219, ( Iv); in T (also in nusxuri) reads: shemoslva alek'sandre makedonelisa
(SPB.Or.lnst.MS if M24, ( 9v).
CO

Keklnst-MS # S-30, ( 90r, in A reads: t'avi meot'xe shemosula sparst'a k'art'Is mep'oba mirianisi
k'asres dzisa (KeklnstM S if Q-795, p. 20); in Q (in nusxuri script) reads: t'avi meot'xe k'art'lisay
sheslvay sp~rst'a da mep~ba mirianisi (.KeklnstM S if Q-1219, t lOr); in T (in nusxuri) reads: shemosvlay
sparst'ay k'r-tls da mep'obay mirianisi (SPB.Or.InstMSif M24, t 27r).
^ E .g ., Grigolia, Axali k'art'lis c'xovreba, pp. 107-196. See also Javaxishvili, Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio
mcerloba, p. 177; and Araxamia, "'K 'art'lis c'xovrebs pirveli matianis moc'ulobis sakit'xisat'vis,"
Mac'ne 2 (1987), pp. 59-61.

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64

limited role in surviving early MSS .6 0 In them, especially noteworthy events and characters are not
introduced with subtitles. This is true, e.g., for the alleged first K 'art'velian king P 'am avaz who in later
MSS is customarily afforded a distinguishing subtitle .6 1 The earliest extant version o f K'art 'lis

c'xovreba, the Armenian adaptation, in its extant forms does not incorporate subtitles in The Life o f the
Kings.
Although the language, syntax, and content o f The U fe o f the Kings is remarkably consistent
throughout, it is conceivable that earlier texts were reworked and incorporated into it to produce a
cohesive narrative .6 2 A possible example of this is the Alexander legend related in The Primary History

o f K'art'li. Should it have been composed before The Ufe o f the Kings, then the latter potentially
incorporated the former. But the chronology as to their respective compositions has yet to be
determined .6 2 R. Baramidze recently attempted to consign the account o f P'am avaz (299-234 BC). the
traditional first king of K 'art'li, to the second century BC!6** Although such a hypothesis is not
impossible, it is supersaturated with problems, the foremost o f which is the fact that a Georgian script did
not exist until the late fourth century AD .6 5 Showcasing his new "discovery," the author drew attention

^ C f . the subtitles offered in Qauxch'ishvili's critical ed. oiThe U fe o f the Kings within the main text:
T'avipirveli: ambavi rvat'a dzmat'a (p. 3); t'avi meore: ambavi k'art'lisa (p. 8 ); a n d gamoslva xazart a
(which does not appear in M but only in later MSS: p. 11).
6 % .g., in variant T (in

nusxuri): C'x~r~by p'~mavazisi r~li iqo p~li mep'e k'art'lisay (SPB.Or.Inst.MS if

M24. llr): and c (Chalashviliseuli - new): C'xovreba p'amavazisi romeli iqo pirveli mepe k'art'lisa
k'art'lisiani {Kek.Inst.MS# Q-207. 3r).
ozMelikishvili, K istorii drevnei Gruzii, pp. 34-47. delineates ten separate "parts" o f The Ufe o f the

Kings.
6^For a discussion o f their relationship, see ch. 2 .

P'amavazman dzlier hqo k'ueqana t'visi (1992), with Rus. sum. "Pamavaz i ego rol' v
usilenii mogushchestva strany," pp. 45-50; and idem., "Die Anfange der georgischen Literatur ('Das
Leben des Pamawas')," Georgica 10 (1987), pp. 39-43. For other, more sound attempts at isolating the
vita of P'arnavaz as an independent work, see: Kakabadze, Saistorio dziebani (1924), pp. 96-97. quoted in
A. Bogveradze, "TK'art'lis c'xovrebis 1pirveli matiane da misi avtori," in K'art'uli istoriograp'ia, vol. 1
(1968), pp. 10-11; Z. Alek'sidze, "Cxovreba p' amavazisi." Mnat obi 12 (1985), pp. 152-157 (unavailable
to the author): and N. Shoshiashvili, "Nekotorye voprosy istorii sozdaniia Kartlis Tskhovreba," in
Aktualnye problemy izucheniia i sozdaniia pis'mennykh istoricheskikh istochnikov (1985), p. 107.
6 ^R. Baramidze,

^B aram id ze does not address this issue solidly. One can imagine, however, that future arguments will
follow a sim ilar road as those enveloping the work traditionally attributed to the fourth-/fifih-century
Armenian writer Zenob Glak/Glakec'i. The older portion o f his history would have pre-dated the fifth
century (and the Armenian script); thus patriotic modem historians have maintained that it had originally
been rendered in Syriac, and was translated only later into Armenian. Happily, the work o f L. Avdoyan
has reattributed the work to Ps.-Yovhannes Mamikonean (with the title Patmut'iwn Taronoy) to the late
tenth century. See Avdoyan, "Ps. Yovhannes Mamikoneans Patmut'iwn Tardnoy: A Caveat Against its

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65

to his theory that his so-called "The Life o f P'am avaz" was written seven centuries before the next earliest
work (The Martyrdom ofShushaniki) and that it was "a masterpiece o f Georgian prose." Although this
argument for such an early dating is fantastic a t best, the possibility that is raised regarding the composite
nature o f The Ufe o f the Kings is suggestive. In the final analysis, beyond minimal circumstantial
evidence, no persuasive argument has been advanced which conclusively demonstrates that The Ufe o f the

Kings was itself a composite.


Nino and her missionary activities in K 'art'li. and the ultimate conversion o f the K'art'velian
monarch Mihran/Mirian, are the subject of The Ufe o f Nino which comprises the second part of

C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a. This ninth-/tenth-century work differs in tone, content syntax,
vocabulary, and style from The Ufe o f the Kings and was clearly appended to it at a later time. The Ufe o f

the Kings narrowly focuses on the early kings o f the K'art'velians and terminates with the acceptance of
Christianity by Mihran/Mirian whereas the hagiographical Ufe o f Nino is concerned with Nino's
missionary activity in K 'art'li. This version o f The Ufe o f Nino appended to The U fe o f the Kings closely
resembles that appearing in Mok'c 'evay k'artlisay and they are variations of the same text.
The third part o f the corpus is The Ufe o f the Successors ofMirian. This work is unnamed and
the title here is my own contrivance. It is possible that Leonti Mroveli himself wrote this brief account o f
the immediate Christian successors of Mirian. The Ufe o f the Kings, The Life o f I axtang. and the brief
continuation by Ps.-Juansher related K 'art'velian history from the era o f Noah down to the eighth century.
But a series of early Christian kings had been forgotten for their reigns fell between the end of The Life o f

the Kings and the beginning o f The Ufe ofVaxtang (that is. between Mirian [284-361 [ and Mihrdat IV
[409-411]). The Life o f the Successors o f Mirian was written to rectify this small rupture in narrative.
We possess no direct evidence that it was Leonti Mroveli who was responsible for composing The Life o f

the Successors o f Mirian, but we can be sure that this source was written between ca. 800 (the time of the
composition of The Ufe o f the Kings and The U fe o f I axtang. argued infra) and the eleventh century (the

floruit o f the archbishop Leonti Mroveli. who is associated with the entire corpus). O f the three
components o f C'xorebay k'art 'velt 'a mep 'et a. it is most logical to associate Leonti Mroveli (as an
author) with The Ufe o f the Successors o f Mirian, for, as we shall see. that archbishop effected a reediting of K'art'lis c'xovreba and was probably him self responsible for Christianizing The Life o f the

Kings.
So how may we account for the aforementioned passage attached to the narrative o f Ps.-Juansher
which associates Leonti Mroveli with "C'xorebay mep'et'a," which either refers to The Ufe o f the Kings
proper o r its entire corpus C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep 'et'al Since no Georgian MSS predate the A

Use in Archaeological, Artistic and Historical Argumentation," inA tti del Quinto Simposio Intemazionale

di ArteArmena (1991), esp. pp. 742-743.

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66

recension (end o f the fifteenth century), we cannot determine whether this authorship attribution was an
element o f the original text or was added later. It should be stressed that the passage does not appear in
the earlier Armenian adaptation o f K'art 'lis c 'xovreba. However, we may not automatically assume that
because the passage does not occur in the Armenian adaptation that it was not present in the now-lost
Georgian original, or other contemporary Georgian redactions.
The solution o f Leonti Mroveli's possible association with C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a may
hinge partly on the meaning o f the verb aghcera (aq^A ^), based upon the root -cer-, "to write."** which
occurs in the authorship/scribal quotation. In modem Georgian, the term aghcera has the meaning "to
describe" which does not fit exactly the context here. In Old Georgian the prefix agh- often modifies a
verb to yield the sense of either a completed action o r an action which has been repeated (i.e.. Eng. "re-").
Perhaps the most famous Old Georgian usage o f this prefix is in the sobriquet o f King Davit' II
(1089-1125), aghmashenebeli (a3 3 a 3 3 6 3 &3 C5 o). Confusion over the precise meaning o f this designation
is rampant: two popular English renderings of this participle are "the Builder" and "the Rebuilder." The
root o f the participle is the verbal -sheneb- which usually denotes "building" or "construction." The
translation o f this term has become an exercise in m odem politics, for present-day Georgian scholars often
wish to give the impression that Davit' was rebuilding the imagined unified kingdom o f the semi
legendary first king, P'am avaz. This contention is simply not borne out by contemporary historical
sources, which, in fact, never employed the term aghmashenebeli for Davit' ^

As recently demonstrated

by M. Shanidze, the term does not mean to rebuild but rather relates the sense that Davit' created a
kingdom and society for his subjects, provided for their welfare, and restored their security which
collapsed during frequent raids by the Turks.***
In an earlier source, the Royal List I (contained in the corpus Mok'c 'evay k'art'lisay). we
frequently encounter the perfective verb aghashena, or a related variant. In this context it has the
meaning "to start and finish building" or "to build completely." Thus, King Saurmag began building
Armazi. but his successor Mirvan "finished building [aghashena] Armazi."*^ In the earlier Martyrdom

o/Evstat'i. composed in the sixth century, we find the verb aghashena having the meaning of

66The term aghcera is also used in a similar authorship passage mentioning Juansher Juansheriani; see
infra. The significance of this word was also noted by: Araxamia, "K 'a rtlis c'xovrebis pirveli matianis
moc'ulobis sakit'xisat'vis," p. 62; and Melikishvili, "Istochniki," in the introduction to Melik'ishvili, ed..
Ocherla istorii Gruzii, vol. I (1989). pp. 22-23.

67

The designation aghmashenebeli does not appear within the text o f The Ufe o f Davit'. Rather we
encounter the term only in the title to the vita, in Vaxtangiseuli redactions o f K'C'.
M. Shanidze in The Ufe o f Davit', Eng. sum., p. 250.

^R o ya l U st /, p. 82.

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67

"rebuilding," as in the case o f Christ declaring to the Jewish elders that he would overthrow the Temple
an d "rebuild" it within three days.7 0 But the sense o f the verb here is even more precise: "to rebuild

completely."
Therefore, in Old Georgian usage the prefix agh-, at least when attached to the verb "to build."
yielded two ideas: "to rebuild to completion" or "to build completely. Although the meaning of aghwhen used in tandem with the verb "to build" may be suggestive o f other O ld Georgian verbs, it cannot
provide a definitive answer for our query. However, in sixth century usage, the prefix agh-. at least when
used with the verb "to build," very often expresses a sense o f a completed action, or the bringing o f an act
to completion.
Does the verb aghcera signify that Leonti Mroveli composed the enumerated works, or might it
imply that he brought them to completion or that he merely copied or edited them or even retold them?
Usage o f the verb aghcera is relatively uncommon in early Georgian literature. However, it does arise in
the earliest extant work o f Georgian literature, the fifth-century Martyrdom o/Shushaniki. The saint's
father-confessor Iakob addressed Shushaniki concerning her impending torture at the hands of her
Mazdaizing husband Varsk'en:

... "3 0 0 5 4 6 a a a o E ja & o k , 8003 6 4 6 8 3 , 6 4 0 0 3 4


8 3 6 0 " ...71

g 4 4 2 3^3600 8601840

... "Vit'argegulebis, mit'xarme, rayt'a ucqodi daaghvcero shromay sheni ...


... "That which you desire, relate to me. so that I should be knowledgeable and [so that I
may] write down your w otkfs]."...

Thus, the verb aghcera in this context has the meaning "to write down," and really, the modem sense of
the verb "to describe." That is to say. in Old Georgian a saint's life was "described" (aghcera) in writing.
But the meaning here is clearly "written down ." 77 It is thus conceivable that Leonti Mroveli was believed
to have "written down" (aghcera) The Ufe o f the Kings (or C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a). The Ufe o f

Nino, and The Martyrdom o f Arch'il?^

Mart. Evstat'i, pp. 40-41.


7 *C' urtaveli. Mart.

Shush., p.

143 ^ .

72

' But in the eleventh-century historical work o f Sumbat Davit'is-dze, the verb aghcera is employed to
identify its author. At worst, the verb aghcera is ambiguous and must be considered specially in each
case.
Georgian hagiographical works were known as c'xorebay-s (or, vitae, "lives") as were early Georgian
historical works. Thus, in this respect, the verb aghcera was likely applicable to both.

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68

Should we transfer the m eaning o f re- upon the verb "to write," however, we are faced with the
possibility that aghcera means "to write down again" or "to copy." One pre-Vaxtangiseuli variant of

K'art'lis c'xovreba, the Q recension o f 1697 AD, substituted the form daceray ("to copy") in the
authorship quotation. Either the scribe had access to a previously unknown exemplar of K'art 'lis

c'xovreba, or more likely, he merely substituted the unambiguous dacera for the confusing aghcera.
In my view, Leonti Mroveli, the eleventh-century archbishop o f R uisi was responsible for editing
the early part of K'art 'lis c 'xovreba, an d perhaps even for bringing together the first version o f that
corpus. Accordingly, it was Leonti Mroveli who appended the ninth-/tenth-century Life o f Nino to The

Ufe o f the Kings. If I am correct, then Mroveli could have been regarded as having completed the earlier
Ufe o f the Kings7* I believe that this archbishop, a high-ranking member o f the K 'art'velian Church,
determined that The Ufe o f the Kings needed the missing details o f the conversion o f K' art' li by Nino. In
effect, Mroveli Christianized The Ufe o f the Kings, yet he left much of the work intact. Mroveli thus
affixed the blatantly Christian tale of N ino to the otherwise non-Christian history. In addition, it was
probably Mroveli who added various other Christian elements, such as the contention that Aderki was the
king o f the K'art'velians during the tim e o f C h rist It is known that some o f the insertions about Aderki
had been introduced already at the time o f the copying of the earliest extant MS o f the Armenian
adaptation o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba (1279-1311). In this lig h t The Ufe o f the Successors ofMirian, which
narrates the reigns of the immediate Christian successors o f Mirian, was almost certainly part o f this same
program to Christianize The Ufe o f the Kings. Through this effort The Ufe o f the Kings was transformed
into the corpus of C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a. Therefore, the term aghcera in this authorship/scribal
quotation may tentatively be regarded as relating that Leonti Mroveli "finished writing" and "edited,
making [Christian] additions" to (and in a sense "retelling") The Ufe o f the Kings7^ After we have
carefully examined infra the internal evidence for dating The Life o f the Kings to ca. 800. this argument
will receive further validation.
We may now offer dates for the two final sections o f the corpus C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et 'a.

The U fe o f Nino was written in the ninth-/tenth-century and attached to The Ufe o f the Kings by a later

^3y enjoining The Ufe ofthe Kings an d The Life o f Nino, Leonti Mroveli would have been responsible
for creating the corpus o f C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a. Perhaps Leonti Mroveli could therefore have been
envisaged as composing the corpus, w hich may from the start have been collectively known in Eng. trans.
as "The Life of the Kings." But owing to the lateness of the MS tradition, we do not know precisely when
the corpus was first called by the name o f its first text.
,J The precise meaning o f the aforementioned modified passage found only in the T recension o f K'C' is
far from clear. We do not know whether this deacon Ioane was responsible for adding anything to the
enumerated works. However, Ioane was probably not simply a copyist See Orbeli, Gnainskie rukopisi
Instituta Vostokovedeniia AN SSSR, vol. 1, pp. 15-18.

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69

cleric, perhaps the archbishop Leonti Mroveli. Moreover, The Life o f the Successors o f Mirian may itself
have been written by the editor Leonti Mroveli, who relied on some ancient source o r sources which have
not come down to us. We cannot suggest a firm date for The Life o f the Successors o f Mirian. but in its
received form it was composed sometime between the composition o f The U fe o f the Kings (ca. 800) and
the time o f Leonti Mroveli (eleventh century), and in any event, almost certainly in the Bagratid period.
Before formally suggesting a date for The Ufe o f the Kings, we should first consider the wide
array of sources used by, and the influences upon, this history. The identification o f the anonymous
author's sources will provide an indication as to the era in which The Ufe o f the Kings was composed.

Sources and Influences


The anonymous author o f The Life o f the Kings acknowledges that he was familiar with, and
perhaps borrowed from, other written sources.7 6 But these works are cited in ambiguous terms, an d a
colorful debate has raged among modem scholars as to their precise identification. None of the nonKa rf velian sources named in The Ufe o f the Kings may be positively identified. Rather, they seem to
represent traditions (i.e., groups o f texts and oral reminiscences on a given theme). In any event,
medieval Georgian historians rarely cited by name the sources upon which they relied .7 7 Countless
scholars have engaged this question. Among the most effective efforts to date are those of Javaxishvili.
Kekelidze, Abuladze, Ingoroqva, Tarchnishvili, and A. Bogveradze.

7 Attempts to discern the sources o f The Ufe o f the Kings have been plentiful but not always original or
persuasive. See: Javaxishvili, Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba, pp. 176-188; Kekelidze, "Leonti
mrovelis literaturuli cqaroebi," Tp'ilisis universitetismoambe 111 (1923). pp. 3-32, repr. in his Etiudebi.
vol. 12 (1973), pp. 10-31; idem.. K'art'uli literaturis istoria, vol. 1 (1941 ed.), pp. 209-220 and also vol. 2
(1958 ed.), pp. 252-259; idem., Dzveli k'art'uli mcerlobis istoria, 2 vols., 3rded. (1951-1952). pp. 212223; K. Kekelidze with A. Baramidze, Dzveli k'art'uli literaturis istoria (1969 ed.), pp. 128-132;
Tarchnishvili. Geschichte, pp. 91-94; G. Mamulia, "Leonti mrovelis da juansheris cqaroebi (p'alauri epos
leonti mrovelis da juansheris saistorio t'xzulebebshi cqaros struk'turuli analizi)," Mac'ne 4 (1964), pp.
241-275; N. Janashia, "'C'xovreba k 'a rtvelta mepe t'a -s cqaroebisat'vis," in his Istoriulcqarot'mc'odneobit'i narkvevebi (1986), pp. 92-111; A. Bogveradze, " K a rt'lis c'xovrebis 1pirveli
matiane da misi avtori," in K'art'uli istoriograp'ia, vol. 1, pp. 8-44; Kakabadze, Saistorio dziebani, pp.
96-97; Ingoroqva, "K 'art'uli mcerlobis istoriis mokle mimoxitva," Mnat'obi 10-11 (1939), pp. 199-207
(who dates "Leonti Mroveli to the eighth century, idem., "Leonti mroveli, k 'art'v eli istorikosi me -8
saukunisa," Moambe 10 (1941), pp. 94-95; and Abdaladze, "K'art'lis c'xovreba" da sak'art'velo-somxet'is

urt'iert'oba.
77

M.S. Ch'xartishvili, "Priemy ssylki na istochniki v drevnegruzinskoi istoricheskoi literature (po


materialam nacbalnoi chasti 'Kartlis Tskhovreba')," in Istochnikovedcheskie razyskaniia 1985 (1988), pp.
148 et sqq. Ch'xartishvili summarizes and translates into Rus. those passages mentioning sources.

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70

a. Local Georgian Sources

Medieval Georgian histories infrequently make direct references to other Georgian texts. We
have already seen th at in The Life o f the Kings? narrative o f the reign o f Aderki (1-58 AD), it is related
that two Jews brought the Lord's tunic from Jerusalem to the K 'art'velian royal city o f M c'xet'a. In this
re g ard ."Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay" is cited.

I have already demonstrated that this reference m ust be to The

Conversion o f K'art'li, the core text o f the corpus Mok'c'evay k 'a r t 'l i s a y And it should be noted that
the anonymous author o f The Life o f the Kings exhibited a patent unfamiliarity with the ninth-/tenthcentury Ufe o f Nino which greatly embellished this legend. The silence o f The Ufe o f the Kings
compelled the eleventh-century Leonti Mroveli to append The Ufe o f Nino so as to account for the
Christianization o f K 'a rt'li within the pre-existing written historical tradition. Simply put, the author of

The U fe o f the Kings himself was unacquainted with the Bagratid-era U fe o f Nino and instead relied upon
the earlier Conversion o f K'art'li.

The Conversion o f K'art 'li is not the only constituent work o f Mok c 'evay k 'art iisay to have
affinities with certain passages in The U fe o f the Kings. The Primary History o f K'art'li. which relates
Alexander's mythical invasion of K 'a rt'li. has an analogue in opening account o f The Life o f the Kings.
However, the nature o f the surviving MSS prevent us from determining once and for all which account
was written first* It may be tempting to suggest that The Primary History o f K'art'li is of great
antiquity since it has come down to us on in MSS containing the relatively old Conversion o f K'art'li.
Moreover, we might wish to seek a comparison with the gradual evolution o f the Nino Cycle from a
skeletal outline (the seventh-century' Conversion o f K'art'li) to a fully developed tradition (the ninth/tenth-century Ufe o f Nino). The account o f Alexander in The Primary History o f K'art'li is more

70

The Life o f the Kings, p. ^20-23' ^ nf ra 3r a translation. The date o f this reference is uncertain for
it may not have been part of the original text. In any event, it was part of the text by the eleventh century.
A detailed account about Elioz and Longinoz was inserted only by the Vaxtang VI Commission. Most
modern Georgian scholars make the assumption that the corpus of Mok'. k 'art'. was an important source
for The Ufe o f the Kings: Araxamia, "M ep'et'a c'xovrebis tek'stis dadgenis zogiert'a sakit'xi," Mac'ne 1
(1989). pp. 138-150; E. Xoshtaria-Brose, "Leonti mrovelis cqaroebis da *k'artlis c'xovrebis dasacqisi
c'iklis shedgenilobis sakit'xisat'vis," Mravaltavi 16 (1991), pp. 181-188; idem.. "K art'lis c'xovrebis'
dasacqisi c'iklis shescavlis shedebebi da tek'stshi arsebuli minacerebis interpretac'iis c'da," in K'art'uli
cqarot'mc'odneoba, vol. 8 (1993), pp. 81-87; andM . Ch'xartishvili, K'art'lisk'ristianizac'iis
cqarot'mc'odneobit'iproblemi (1982).
*
yConv. K'art'li, pp. 86-87. The notice about the Lord's tunic appears in the later Chelishi redaction but

79

not in the tenth-century Shatberdi variant Since the new Sinai redaction is being withheld from the
community of scholars, we do not know i f and if so, how - it relates this tale.
*On the relationship o f these texts, see ch. 2.

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71

succinct than that in The U fe o f the Kings. But more detailed accounts are not necessarily later
embellishments of earlier, less developed narratives.
We face a similar query with respect to Royal U st I. We do not know exactly when this concise
enumeration o f the pre-Christian kings o f K 'a rt'li was compiled The relative chronology and names of
dynasts corresponds to those o f The Ufe o f the Kings in most instances. Significantly. Royal U st I
commences with Azon and P'am avaz, though Azon is made the first K 'art'velian king to reside in the
city o f M c'xet'a whereas the honor of being the first K 'art'velian king is rendered to P'arnavaz in The

Ufe o f the Kings. But both The Ufe o f the Kings and Royal U st / are concerned only with the preChristian K'art'velian monarchs. On this question we may cite the detailed studies of ToumanofF. for he
has already hypothesized, I think convincingly, that Royal Ust I is an abridgment o f The Ufe o f the

Kings.81 O f great significance are the several careless corruptions o f royal names which occur in Royal
U st I, whereas they are accurately preserved in The Ufe o f the Kings. The Ufe o f the Kings almost
certainly served as the basis for the slightly later abridgment o f Royal Ust /,82
With respect to The Conversion o f K'art Ti and The Royal U st I, it is prudent to reconsider the
nature o f the corpus of Mok c 'evay k 'art Tisay. In essence, that corpus was a medieval outline, or even
textbook, o f early K'art'velian history' for tenth- and eleventh-century' monks. It also served to sum up
and propagate a homogenous but sanitized viewpoint favorable to Christianity. However, it did not seek
to obliterate the pre-Christian past but rather to describe only enough o f it so as to explain the triumph of
Christianity from the 330s. In Royal U st I we find the contentious "admission" o f the prominent role of
the Armenians (and even o f their eponymous ancestor Hayk) in early K'art'velian history', as found in its
major source The Ufe o f the Kings - completely elim inated From an ecclesiastical perspective, after
Dwin m (when Royal Ust I was composed), the Armenians might be regarded as heretics. Likewise, the
Persian context of early K 'art'velian history is also ignored After all. the Persians had been adherents of
Zoroastrianism, the antagonist of Christianity'. The Primary History o f K'art Ti. when contemplated in
this context could have been a (later Bagratid) abridgment o f The Ufe o f the Kings, although this has not
yet been definitively established
In sum. the reference in The Ufe o f the Kings to "Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay pertains only to the
third text o f that corpus. The Conversion o f K'art'li proper, for only it mentions the tradition o f Christ's
tunic as having been brought to M c'xet'a in the same terms. Should the author o f The Ufe o f the Kings

^T o u m an o ff Studies, pp. 418-419.


82

Should we envisage the eleventh-century Leonti Mroveli as the author of Ufe Succ. Mirian, it would
have been possible for him to have relied upon the Royal Usts in Mok'. k'art. This would suggest (as
does the inclusion of the tradition of Azon and his father as K 'art'velian kings predating P'arnavaz) that
the Royal Usts did not rely exclusively upon The Ufe o f the Kings.

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72

had been familiar with the entire corpus o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay, he possibly could be referring to its
version o f The Life o f Nino, but this is unlikely since: (1) the author is unaware o f The Ufe o f Nino's
embellishments on this topic; and (2 ) this would suppose that our author flourished in the eleventh
century, a date which is much too late according to this study. The Royal Lists o f Mok'c 'evay k'art 'lisay
are largely derivative upon the initial works o f K'art'lis c'xovreba. and especially The Ufe o f the Kings-.
there is no reason to think that they were sources for The Ufe o f the Kings. The only remaining
component o f Mok'c 'evay k 'art'lisay that may have served as a source is The Primary History o f K'art 'li.
whose narrative about Alexander is doubtlessly related to that in The Ufe o f the Kings. This question will
be examined in the following chapter, but suffice it to say that The U fe o f the Kings does not refer to The

Primary History o f K'art'li or Mok 'c 'evay k art 'lisay on this subject
b. Persian Influences

The earliest Georgian historical works, with the exception o f the semi-hagiographical Conversion

o f K'art 'U, firmly situate early K 'art'li within the Persian cultural and political world. In The Ufe o f the
Kings, Persia was depicted as the first kingdom on the Earth, and its alleged first monarch. Nimrod
(Georgian Nebrot'i ),**3 is described as a hero-dynast. The pre-Bagratid kings o f K 'a rt'li mimicked the
Persian shahanshah-s, and their actions and the vocabulary of the sources emphasize the intimate
connection with Persia. The extreme antiquity o f the Persian kingdom and the K 'art'velians' ancient
connection with it are paramount, for The Ufe o f the Kings regarded antiquity as the ultimate basis of
legitimacy.
Two explicit references to Persian sources/traditions are afforded in The Ufe o f the Kings. The
first concerns a certain hero named Ap'ridon who had arisen among the Nebrot'iani-s (i.e.. the
Nimrodids, the progeny o f Nimrod/Nebroti):

There are many traditions about Nimrod, some o f which will be considered in this and the succeeding
chapter. In any event, Nimrod mentioned in Genesis and traditions about him have been traced to ca.
2000 BC according to G. Smith, Izdubar Legends = The Chaldean Account o f Genesis (1876), esp. ch.
11, pp. 167-192 (Smith equates Izdubar with Nimrod). At the same time as the composition o f The Ufe o f
the Kings, at the start o f the ninth century, the Byzantine chronographer Syncellus also reckoned Nimrod
as the first king o f the world. See W. Adler, Time Immemorial: Archaic History and its Sources in
Christian Chronography (1989), pp. 174-175.

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73

... the Persians, the progeny o f Nimrod, grew strong on the dawning Sun.8"* And a
certain man, a hero named Ap'ridon, became exalted among the clans of Nimrod: "he
bound Bevrasp'i, Lord o f Serpents, in chains, and fastened him to an inaccessible
mountain."8^ Such things are written in The Ufe o f the Persians [C'xovrebasa
sparst'asaJ.8**

The medieval Armenian adaptation o f K'art'lis c'xovreba repeats this story and cites "the books o f the
Persians ." 8 7
Writing of a later successor to Nimrod named K'ekapos, who is said to have been a contemporary
of the Biblical Moses, the anonymous historian wrote:

A few years after this K'ekapos again dispatched his grandson, the son of Shiosh "the
Fortunate," who had been killed in T*urk'et'i [i.e., Turkestan], as is written in the book
of The Ufe o f the Persians [Sparst'a c'xovrebisasa].88

The precise identification of this so-called Ufe o f the Persians8^ remains enigmatic even today.
Modem specialists generally agree that this Persian source/tradition o f The U fe o f the Kings is connected
with Abu'l-Qasem Firdawsi's Shah-nama? Yet, had our anonymous historian relied upon Firdawsl

pi

On the dawning Sun," mier mzisa aghmosavlit'gan ( 8 0 3 6 9bob6 io3 ciljA3 C5 oo 3aiB). is almost
certainly a Georgian rendition o f the meaning o f Khurasan, from xvarasan. the Phi. word for "east" (the
Georgian word aghmosavlet'i similarly means both "dawn" and "east"). The Phi. phrase xvarasan zarnik
means "land o f the sunrise," hence Khurasan. This phrase in The Ufe o f the Kings suggests that some
K'art'velians understood correctly the etymology o f Khurasan, used here in the sense of Persia. See
Bailey in Jamasp-namag, pp. 581 and 586.
0

Bevrasp' i is the Biurasp Azhdahak of Movses Xorenac'i, "From the Fables o f the Persians," pp. 126128.

^T h e U fe o f the Kings, pp. I 2 2 3 - I 3 3 .


'Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 1 7 ^ .^ (ev great e i mateansParsic') = Thomson trans., p. 16.
OO

The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 1^21-23Passa 8 e mentioning Corn. K'art'li, The Ufe o f the Persians
is not mentioned in Arm. Adapt. K C'. pp. 20-21 = Thomson trans.. pp. 19-20. although it is fam iliar with
Shiosh (Biuab "the handsome") whose son is named as K'ue-Xosrov.
on

The O ld Georgian designation for Persians is spars-ni and for Persia, Sparset'i. These terras are
derived from the root -fars- (cf. Farsi), but the s- prefix has not been satisfactorily explained.
.g.. R.P. Blake, "Georgian Secular Literature," pp. 26-38, who relies heavily upon the work o f
Kekelidze. A dissenting view is held by V. Gabashvili, "K'art'ul-sparsuli kulturuli urt'iert'obani (X s.)."
Mac'ne 4 (1983), pp. 38-40 and 45, considers The Ufe o f the Persians mentioned in Georgian sources "of
the tenth and eleventh centuries" to be Tabari or the Persian translation of him attempted by Balami in
963 AD. There is no direct evidence of borrowing from Tabari (and this is impossible according to my

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74

directly, then the former could not have written before the beginning o f the eleventh century, that is. the
tim e o f the Shah-nama's composition. Furthermore, the stories about A p'ridon, K'ekapos, and Shiosh,
and those about other Persian rulers related in The Life o f the Kings were not extracted directly from the

Shah-nama. We possess no evidence to suggest that the Shah-nama itself served as a source for The Ufe
o f the Kings?*
The U fe o f the Kings is obviously dependent upon some Persian source/tradition, be it written
and/or oral. This is manifest by the fact that several o f the names of early Persian kings mentioned in The

U fe o f the Kings have analogues in the Shah-nama?^

The Ufe o f the Kings


A p'ridon
Bevrasp'i
K'ekapos
Shioshi

Shah-nama
Faridun9^
?94

Key Kavus9^
Siaush/Siyarosh9**

chronology).
^ A lth o u g h according to the Shah-nama K'ekapos, apparently the Keykhosrow o f Firdawsi, did initiate
military operations against Turkestan ( T urk'et'i): see Shah-nama, VII.8 , pp. 110-112.
92See Melik'ishvili, K istorii drevnei Gruzii, pp. 35-36; sad. Shah-nama. Darius is not known to The Ufe
o f the Kings. The earliest reference in original Georgian historical literature to Darius (Georgian:
Dariosi) seems to occur in the twelfth-century Ufe o f Davit', p. 217j = Qauxch'ishvili ed.. p. 358 j 9. In
the tenth-century Shat. Codex, pp. 199-200, a list o f Persian kings is incorporated into the Georgian trans.
o f portions of Hippolytus' Chron. The Persian kings provided in this list (e.g., Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzor,
Darius, Xerxes, and Artvan) do not correspond with those divulged in The Ufe o f the Kings. Therefore,
the Chron. o f Hippolytus was not the source; moreover, the same may be said o f the Chron. o f Eusebius
(which also exists in a medieval Arm. trans.).
9 ^Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi iranul-k'art'uli enobrivi urt'iert'obidan (1966), pp. 35, 186, and esp. 437438, who associates the Georgian form Ap'ridon with the Av. Oraetaona, and the Persian forms Fretun,
Fredun, Faredun, Feridun, and Afridun. The Armenian historian Movses Xorenac' i. "From the Fables of
the Persians, pp. 126-128, is familiar with a Persian named Hruden, who corresponds to Faridun.
Thomson in Movses Xorenac'i, p. 126, footnote 2, equates Xorenac'is Hruden with the Shah-nama's
Feridun.

9* Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 449-450. The author derives the Georgian Bevrasp'i from the Av.
Baevaraspa, the Arabic Baiwarasb/Baiwarasf, and the Syriac B[ew]arspag. This name does not occur in
the Georgian version o f the Shdh-ndma. Movses Xorenac' i, pp. 126-128, is aware of a Persian named
Biurasp Azhdahak. B.L. Chukaszyan, cited by Thomson, ibid., p. 126, footnote 1, compares the Biurasp
Azhdahak o f Xorenac* i and the Zohhak o f Firdawsi.
9 5 Andronikashvili. Narkvevebi, pp. 507-508, who links the Georgian form K'ekapos to Kaikavus, Kai
Kayos, and Kaikabus.

9<*Ibid., pp. 508-509, who connects the Georgian form Shioshi with the Pers. forms SySvarshan,

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75

K.'aixosro
Vashtashabi
Spandiat-Rvali
Ba[h]ram

TKey Khusrau 9 7
Goshtasp 98
? (son o f Vashtashabisi in the Georgian tradition )9 9
? (son o f Spandiat-Rvali in the Georgian
tradition ) 100

It should be emphasized that the names o f these Persian rulers, and their heroic deeds, were not invented
by Firdawsi; he only refashioned, and in some cases formulated, a tradition about these kings. Therefore,
the mere fact that The U fe o f the Kings and the Shah-nama share a common Persian royal nomenclature
does not necessarily betray- a direct dependence, or even an imitation, o f our Georgian source upon
Firdawsi.
The Shah-nama was preceded by a now-lost work, the anonymous Khwaddy-namag. or The Book

o f Rulers. 101 The Khwaday-ndmag was composed in Pahlavi prior to the overthrow of the Sasanids . 107
The work was translated into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa' in the first-half o f the eighth century. Although
the original Persian redactions and the Arabic translations/adaptations have been lost, several works based
upon them have come down to us. A great number o f these derivative works were written down in the
ninth to eleventh centuries. The beginning o f this period coincides precisely with the composition of The

U fe o f the Kings, but we may only conjecture whether the evidence about Persia in the initial part of that
work was derived directly from the lost Khwaddy-namag. 10^ We can be certain, however, that the Shah-

nama is a derivative o f that source.

Siyavaxsh, and the Arm. derivatives Shavarsh and Shiosh, respectively. Andronikashvili notes that the
form Siaosh appears in the late medieval Georgian trans. o f the Shah-nama. See also T '. Ch'xeidze,
"Iranuli carmomavlobis sakuf ari saxelebi k 'a rf ulshi," Mac'ne 4 (1987), p. 101.
Q7
'Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 505-506. The nam e K'aixosro is clearly derived from Pers., but a
clear parallel between the K'aikosro o f The Ufe o f the Kings and that o f the Shah-nama has not been
established.
9 8 Ibid., p. 25, who links the Georgian form Vashtashabi with the O.Pers. form Wishtaspa.
9 9 Ibid ., pp. 494-495. Andronikashvili derives the Georgian form Spandiat from the Pers. forms

Spanddat, Spandiat, with related Arm. forms Spandarat and Spandiat respectively.

100Ibid., pp. 445-446.


101 An additional Persian influence on The Ufe o f the Kings may be detected in its very title; C'xorebay
mep 'et 'a is the Georgian equivalent for both Khwaday-ndmag and Shah-nama.
102 E. Yarshater, "Iranian National History," in

CHI, vol. 3/1 (1983), pp. 359-360.

102Some modem Georgian historians, such as G. Mamulia, "Leonti mrovelis da juansheris cqaroebi
(p'alauri epos leonti mrovelis da juansheris saistorio t'xzulebebshi cqaros struk'turuli analizi), Mac'ne 4
(1964), pp. 244-246, have identified The Ufe o f the Persians with the Khwaddy-namag.

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76

Other identifications have been posited. Javaxishvili suggested that the reference to The Ufe o f

the Persians may in fact be an allusion to the enigmatic Book o f Nimrod. ^

Although this work is cited

by name in other Georgian historical sources, there is no explicit mention o f it in The U fe o f the Kings.
Moreover, other medieval Georgian references to The Book o f Nimrod do not imply that its contents were
sim ilar to that o f The Ufe o f the Persians. There is no basis to equate The Ufe o f the Persians with The

Book o f Nimrod. ^
During the past century, the nature o f Persian influences on Georgian literature has been the
focus o f considerable interest ^

M. Andronikashvili, the foremost specialist on Georgian-Iranian

linguistic contacts, has proposed four possible identifications for The U fe o f the Persians:

^Jav a x ish v ili, Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba, p. 187. The Book o f Nimrod is not to be confused
with the Uber Nimrod, a later astronomical treatise that was popular in medieval Europe (on this see S.J.
Livesey and R.H. Rouse, "Nimrod the Astronomer," Traditio 37 [1981], pp. 203-266). On The Book o f
Nimrod, see ch. 2.
^ F r o m a reference in a MS from the sixteenth/seventeenth century (from the Monastery o f S t John the
Baptist not far from the village o f Xashmi), Xaxanashvili suggested that The Book o f Nimrod was the
Georgian version o f the apocryphal Book o f Enoch. See Xaxanashvili, "Ekspeditsii na Kavkaze 1892,
1893 i 1895 g.," MAX 7 (1898), p. 41.
Kobidze, K'art'uii-sparsuli literaturuli urt'iert'obani, vol. 2 (1969), esp. pp. 242-245 = "Zametki o
gruzinskikh versiiakh proizvedenii prodolzhatelei 'Shakh-name'," and pp. 101-104 (on the Amirandarejaniani); A. Gvaxaria, "K art'ul-sparsuli literaturuli urtiertobis sat'aveebfan." in Sparsul-k'art'uli
c'dcmi. e d by M. T'odua (1987). pp. 3-13; Kekelidze, "'Shakh-name* Firdousi v gruzinskoi literature." in
his Etiudebi, vol. 13 (1974), pp. 112-115; and A. Saroukhan, "Firdowci et l'influence iranienne dans la
litterature ggorgienne" (1936).
Modem scholarship has tended to emphasize the influence o f Persian literature on late medieval
and early modem Georgian works. Obviously, it is my contention that this influence may now be
extended back well into the pre-Bagratid period The influence of Persian works, like the Shah-nama. on
later Georgian literature is undeniable. An adaptation o f the Shah-nama became popularized in Georgia
in the late medieval period under the name o f the Rostomiani. Serapion Sabashvili is known to have
reworked the text o f Firdawsi in the fifteenth century. In the seventeenth century', Xosro[v] T'urmanidze
wrote the Bezhaniani, an episode from Firdawsi; it continued to be widely copied up through the
nineteenth century [see S. Mdivanov. Bezhaniani (1891)].
The influence o f Persian literature is vividly illustrated throughout Shot'a Rust aveli's Knight in
the Panther's Skin, now the "national" epic of the modem Georgians. That a Persian model was employed
for such a grand poem during the very apogee of the medieval Georgian kingdom is evidence o f the
syncretism - cultural, political, an d to a less extent, religious - extending throughout K 'art'velian
history. Precisely when the Visramiani was translated into Georgian is unknown, but the earliest extant
MS does not pre-date the seventeenth century. (Traditionally, the work is attributed to Sargis Tm ogweli
who flourished during the reign o f T a m a r [1184-1213]). The Eng. translator O. Wardrop found at least
twenty-five parallels between Vep'xistqaosani and the Georgian Visramiani (ibid., pp. vii and 409).
Finally, another work traditionally assigned to the late twelfth century (earliest extant MS from the
seventeenth century) is Xoneli, Amiran-Darejaniani, trans. by R.H. Stevenson (1958). Stevenson
describes Amirandarejaniani as a medieval Georgian production reflecting deep Persian influences (ibid.,
p. xxvii).

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77

1. Firdawsfs Shah-nama',
2. A New Persian version o f the Khwaddy-namag,
3. An Arabic rendition o f the Khwaday-ndmag; and/or
4. Georgian adaptations o f Persian epics . 10 7

Because o f the traditional view that Leonti Mroveli composed The U fe o f the Kings in the
eleventh century, a great many scholars have voiced the opinion that the author must have relied upon the

Shah-nam a}^ However, there is no textual evidence that the anonymous historian of The Ufe o f the
Kings relied directly upon the Shah-ndma. It is more likely that he was familiar with the Khwaddyn a m a g and the Persian epos through oral traditions.
We should offer a few words on the Persian context and heritage o f early K 'art'li so as to
understand more fully the references to The Ufe o f the Persians. The author of The Ufe o f the Kings
himself, writing many centuries after the fact, understood that K 'art' li, up through the early Christian
period, had been firmly situated within the Persian cultural, and to a lesser degree, political, orbit *

In

my view, this is an indication that the Christianization o f K 'art'li. and Caucasia as a whole, did not entail
a sudden shift to a Late Roman/Early Byzantine culturo-political orientation. Even in his time i.e.. ca.
800, during the interregnum following the abolition o f K 'art'velian royal authority by the Persians in the

^A n d ro n ik ash v ili, Narkvevebi, pp. 570-571. To this enumeration we might add the possibility' of
intermediary texts which have not survived to this day.
l^ S u c h arguments are weakened by the fact that no early Georgian translations or adaptations of the

Shah-nama are known to have existed. Kobidze. in his K'art'uli-sparsuli literaturuli urt'iert'obani, vol.
2, pp. 242-245, contends that the majority o f the Georgian versions of the Shah-nama were attempted no
earlier than the fifteenth/sixteenth century. Kekelidze. "Leonti mrovelis literaturuli cqaroebi." Tp ilisis
universitetis moambe 111 (1923), pp. 15-17. makes a sim ilar assertion, but suggests that twelfth- and
thirteenth-century Georgian literary monuments - such as Shot'a Rust avelis Vep'xistqaosani.
Ch'axruxadze's T'amariani display a thorough knowledge o f the Shah-nama. For a general survey of
the Shah-nama in terms o f its influence on Georgian literature, see idem., K'art'uli literaturis istoria. vol.
2 (1958 ed.), pp. 323-364. Finally. A. Baramidze. P'irdousi da misi shah-name (mokle istoriulliteraturuli mimoxilva) (1934), part 2 = "Shah-names k 'a rt'u li versiebi," pp. 20-53. says that while the
earliest fragment o f a Georgian trans. o f the Shah-nama dates from the fifteenth century, a Georgian
version must have existed already in the eleventh/twelfth century.
109 Cf. ToumanofF Studies, p. 89, footnote 122, who too strongly contends that the author o f The Ufe o f
the Kings "on his own admission" relied upon the Khwaday-namag.

**That is not to say that K 'art'li was never came into contact with Roman civilization or that it never
fell under Roman political authority. But in terms of conceptualizing and ordering society and political
authority, K 'art'li remained firmly within the Persian world, even in those periods when Roman influence
was relatively strong in Caucasia. For the Roman view, see: ToumanofF, Studies: and, Braund, Georgia in

Antiquity.

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78

sixth century the author conceptualized K' art'velian royal authority in Persian terms even centuries
after the fall o f the Sasanid Empire to the armies o f Islam and even during a time when Byzantine ideas
were infiltrating K 'a rt'li on an unprecedented scale.
Unmistakable signs within this text testify to the Persian orientation of early K 'art'li. Foremost
among them concerns royal K 'art'velian onomastics. *** The names o f the K 'art'velian kings, and their
nobles, are clearly Median, Avestan, Parthian, and Persian in form, even after Christianization. * ^ The
name o f the very first king in The Life o f the Kings, P'am avaz (299-234 BC), is itself the Georgian form
o f the Persian Famavazdah (Gk. 4APNABAZ0E), which in turn was based upon the term

famah/xwamah which denoted "divine fortune," or "glory." *^ To the Persians, fam ah distinguished a
legitimate ruler. That the very first K 'art'velian king, himself a semi-mythical figure, bore this particular
name was no accident, for what better name could the first king o f a Persian-type community possess?
The conduit o f Persian ideas into antique K 'art'li was a broad one, for some o f the K 'art'velian kings
were themselves Persians (like Mihran/Mirian) or had Persian spouses. Even the daughters o f Christian
K 'art'velian monarchs often bore names terminating in the Persian suffix -duxt (i.e.. daughter). *^
Caucasia was regarded as part o f the Persian commonwealth already in the time of
Herodotus. * 15 This memory was reflected, consciously or not, by pre-Bagratid Georgian sources ( The

Life o f the Kings, The U fe ofVaxtang, and the brief narrative of Ps.-Juansher) which were all written after

* * *Most o f the names o f K 'art'velian monarchs may be confirmed independently by Graeco-Roman


literature and Sasanid inscriptions, and thus they were not merely some later invention.
1 ^A ndronikashvili, Narkvevebi. esp. "Iranuli carmomavlobis piris sakut'ari saxelebi." pp. 417-517. See
also E. Benveniste, Titres et noms propres en iranien ancien (1966 repr.). One might be tempted, after
reading Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, that the kings o f the K 'art'velians (whom he prefers, like
ToumanofF, to call "Iberians") bore names in Classical style. This is m ost certainly not the case. Whereas
ToumanofF preferred Classical forms o f names, he clearly placed K 'a rt'li within a pan-Mediterranean
context: such a context is less evident in Braund's work.

*^ .\v aranah, xwarrah, farrah. farr = "divine fortune." See Yarshater, "Iranian Common Beliefs and
World-View," CHI. vol. 3/1, pp. 345-346. Yarshater writes that the idea is variously translated as "divine
fortune," "-grace," or "-glory." It was "conceived as a blessing bestowed from above, usually by Ashi, the
goddess o f wealth and recompense... No king could rule successfully without it." It is not by chance that
the first K 'art'velian king is named P'am avaz, whose very name indicated his connection with, or even
possession of. xwamah. See also "$APNABAZOE" in F. Justi, Iranisches Namenbuch (1895), p. 92;
Andonikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 14-16; and Garsoian, "Prolegomena to a Study o f the Iranian Aspects in
Arsacid Armenia," HA 90 (1976), pp. 36-37. footnotes 66-67.
114Royal K 'art'velian onomastics, Persian titles current in K 'art'li, as well as the relationship o f the
Georgian and Pers. languages will be considered in more detail in the following chapter. The suffix -duxt
is common in feminine Pers. names; it is evident in the name Boranduxt, the penultimate and de facto
ruler o f the Sasanid Empire in 630-631.
^ H e ro d o tu s, 111.97, p. 125; and infra, ch. 2.

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79

the collapse o f the Sasanid Empire. Moreover, the Persians themselves situated K 'art'li within the
Persian commonwealth. Three third-century Sasanid inscriptions place K 'a rt'li within the dominion o f
Persia. At that tim e the Sasanids claimed territory westwards extending to the Black Sea itself. 116 The
Sasanid presence, both cultural and political is corroborated by the Sasanid coins, silver dishes, jewelry,
seals, and other manifestations o f material culture excavated on the territory o f Georgia. * ^

But it should

be emphasized that the Persians d id not regard K 'art' li as part o f Persia proper, but as the fringe of
Persian influence and civilization. The K'art'velians were not Persians, even if the two communities had
much in common . 1
A great number o f modem historians have studied the fierce competition of Rome/Byzantium and
Persia for hegemony in Caucasia, an d it is true that K 'a rt'li periodically fell under Roman authority. Yet
it should be emphasized that Roman influence was considerably more potent in the western territories of
Colchis (Lazika/Egrisi), i.e., along the Black Sea rim and in northeastern Anatolia, than in K 'art'li
proper. Greek inscriptions (even in M c'xet'a, the K 'art'velian royal city), Roman coins, and other
artifacts testify to substantial Roman contacts with K 'a rt'li. However, the K'art'velian historical sources
themselves ignore Roman efforts to win over K 'art'li. They do not relate Pompeys invasion o f Caucasia,
or even P'arsman His triumphant visit to Rome ca. 141-144 AD. *^

The Ufe o f the Kings names only

two Roman emperors: Vespasian, in connection with the exodus o f Jews to Caucasia:

and Constantine

"the Great" during the account of M ih ra n /M iria n .^ This contrasts sharply with the numerous Persian

*^B raund, Georgia in Antiquity, p. 242. These Sasanid inscriptions, as well as Sasanid coins found in
K 'a rt'li will be examined in ch. 2.
117

E.g., Mtskheta: itogi arkheologicheskikh issledovanii, vol. 1 (1958), with Eng. sum.. "Archaeological
Excavations at Armazis-Khevi near Mzkhetha in 1937-1946." pp. 275-282.
* *8The nexus o f K 'a rt'li and Persia is demonstrated by the nature of early K 'artvelian art. The affinity
of K'art'velian and Persian art persisted into the early Christian period: N. Thierry. "Iconographie sacree
et profane en Transcaucasie: caracteres ponctuels des influences," in SSCISSKI. vol. 43b. pp. 963-980.
concludes that "Cette epoque [i.e., the fifth through seventh centuries ADJ se caracterise par la
predominance de la Perse..." and "Larcheologie confirme que dans liberie [i.e., K 'art'li] du haul Moyen
Age, ce qui etait du quotidien, c'est a dire, les vetements, l'ornamentation, la typologie generate de la
monnaie, etait du monde iranien et caucasien." The author is absolutely correct to describe the
K'art'velian art o f the period as both "Iranian" and "Caucasian," for it was not simply some slavish
imitation of Persian art but was adapted to fit local conditions.
*^ O n P'arsman's audience with the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, see: Cassius Dio, LXDC. 15.3, pp.
470-471; and Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, pp. 232-234.
120

The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 4 4 2 - Vespasian is referred to as Uespasianos, hromt'a keisari ("Vespasian,
the caesar of the Romans").
m Ibid pp. 6 9 16_l7 and 705 lg .

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kings named throughout the tex t *2 2 Hagiography further confirms this, for both the fifth-century

Martyrdom ofShushaniki and the sixth-century Martyrdom ofEvstati are ignorant o f the Roman Empire,
and in both "the king invariably refers to the Persian King o f Kings.

In fact only with Heraclius

(610-641) and his appearance in K 'art'li (en route to Persia) did native historical and hagiographical
works begin to integrate detailed information about the Romans/Byzantines. This event was considered so
portentous that three medieval Georgian historical sources relate Heraclius eastern campaign . 124 A nd it
should be noted that the contemporary Persian connection o f K 'a rt'li was known to the seventh-century
Byzantine historian Theophanes. for he relates that Heraclius incarcerated a certain Barsamouses
(TParsman), who was "the commander o f the Persians Iberian [i.e., K'art'velian] s u b je c ts ." ^
Although the Persian orientation o f early Armenia has already received the attention o f scholars
like N.G. GarsoEan and J. Russell, a comprehensive study o f K 'a rt'lis place within the Persian
commonwealth awaits its historian . 126 Yet we may confidently situate late antique and early medieval
K 'a rt'li within the Persian social and cultural sphere, and it was counted among the Sasanid domains by
Sasanids and Caucasians alike. The cultural, social, religious, linguistic, economic, and political
influence o f Persia upon Caucasia was enormous. The Christianization o f the K 'art'velian kings, and the
very collapse of the Sasanid Empire, did not engender a sudden and conscious denial by the K 'art'velians
o f their Persian heritage, at least in the pre-Bagratid period.
The influence of Persian oral and written historical traditions was overwhelming. Our author,
who was a Christian (but not necessarily a cleric) and who wrote considerably later than the events he
describes, believed it proper to describe early K 'a rt'li in a Persian framework. The K 'art'velian kings and
their realm are depicted by The Life o f the Kings as patently Persian, and this circumstance reflected not

1W
---But it should be said that some o f these Persian kings were legendary. For a more detailed
examination of the local Georgian sources' acquaintence with Roman/early Byzantine and Persian
(Achaemenid, Arsacid, Sasanid, etc.) rulers, see ch. 2.
*23Both Conv. K'art'li and The Life o f Nino assert that Constantine "the Great" was responsible for
dispatching clerics to the newly converted K 'art'velian kingdom. This need not be taken literally; rather,
this claim was likely a tendentious attempt to link K 'a rt'li with the first Christian Roman emperor.
*2 ^I.e., Ps.-Juansher, Royal List II, and Sumbat Davit' is-dze, although it should be emphasized that only
Ps.-Juanshers account is original while the other two are dependent upon i t Heraclius activities in
Caucasia are also related by: Theophanes, Annus mundi 61 IS, pp. 18-19; Sebeos, chs. 24-30, pp. 91-128;
Constantine VII, DAI, cap. 45, pp. 206-207; Movses Dasxuranc'i, n. 10-12, pp. 76-90; Nikephoros, Brev.,
pp. 55-67; and Vardan Arewelc'i, #33, pp. 174-175. Cf. Siege o f Cple., pp. 48-53 (with little detail for
Heraclius invasion o f Caucasia).
*^T heophanes, Annus mundi 6118, pp. 23-29.
^ A lth o u g h we have the preliminary work o f Toumanoff, Studies, and idem., "Christian Caucasia
between Byzantium and Iran: New Light from O ld Sources," Traditio 10 (1954), pp. 109-189.

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81

only the historical reality o f the time but also the preservation o f this Persian Weltanschauung among the
K 'art'velians even at the beginning o f the ninth century, when, as I shall argue, The Life o f the Kings was
composed.

c. Greek Sources/Traditions Explicitly Cited

Although early Georgian historical works are characterized by their intimate association of
K 'art'li with Persia, the K 'art'velians did not turn their backs to other existing traditions. No early
Persian historical works survive in their pristine form, and much o f what we know about pre-Islamic
Persia must be extracted from Roman and Byzantine literature. The K' art'velians were familiar with
some Roman and Byzantine works and traditions, particularly those composed in Greek. This is true
especially after the Christianization o f K 'art'li in the fourth century, from which time K 'art'velian clerics
maintained contacts with much o f the Eastern C hristian world.
In the Georgian redactions o f K'art'lis c'xovreba, the author o f The Life o f the Kings claims a
familiarity with the Greek traditions o f the conquests o f Alexander the G reat As we shall see. the alleged
K 'art'velian campaign of Alexander was perceived by later writers the moment when their community'
moved from being primitive to civilized. In fact The Primary History o f K'art'//. the initial text of

Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay, associates the very origin o f the K'art'velians with Alexander's expedition. This
campaign is also narrated in The Life o f the Kings, whose anonymous author refers to a written source
concerning the life and deeds o f the world conqueror:

This Alexander, son o f Nectanebus and an Egyptian, became prominent in the land o f
Greece, which is called Macedonia, the tale about whom is written in the book[s] o f the
Greeks [cignsa berdzent'asa\S^

The medieval Kart'velian Alexander tale, which is repeated in slightly divergent forms in The

Life o f the Kings and The Primary History ofK 'art 'li, relates only a few details from the traditions o f
Alexander attributed to Ps.-Callisthenes which were produced in several Near Eastern/Mediterranean
languages, including the original Greek. *2 8 The aforementioned quotation does not state that our author

The Life o f the Kings, p.

173 . 5 . The reference to "Greek books" is absent in the Arm. Adapt.

K 'C \ p.

2 4 2 . 5 : "A* tta t time Alexander the Great, son o f Nectanebus the Egyptian, arose in the land of Macedon

[and he] conquered the three ends o f the world." See also Thomson, trans., p. 23. It is possible that this
reference in the Georgian redactions was added considerably later than the composition o f The Life o f the
Kings. For a detailed analysis o f this Georgian tradition, see the following chapter.
1 2 8 Cf. Kekelidze, "Leonti mrovelis literaturuli cqaroebi," pp. 23-26.

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82

directly relied upon some version o f Ps.-Callisthenes. Rather, we are told that he was only familiar with
the Alexander tradition as it existed in "the book[s] o f the Greeks." The author was cognizant that the
exploits o f Alexander had been recorded in Greek literature, although other important adaptations were
composed in Armenian, Syriac, and Ethiopian (and much later, in the Persian Iskandar-ndma).
The Georgian tradition o f Alexander is only vaguely familiar with those of any extant version of
Ps.-Caliisthenes, ^

and it does not closely imitate any o f the Eastern versions, including th e Armenian

text which itself has no knowledge o f Alexander invading K 'a rt'li . 130 Yet it must be said that in his
introductory statement on Alexander, the historian echoes the common tradition that Alexander was the
son of the last Egyptian king, Nectanebus, and thus Alexander could be identified as an Egyptian.
The assertion that Alexander had invaded K 'a rt'li potentially could have been interpolated from
an earlier tradition of one o f the Eastern versions o f Ps.-Callisthenes. For example, in the Syriac version
Alexander is said to have:

... departed thence, and [have come] to Kusitires and to Nutira. to the shore o f the river
Ustin, and he saw the lake which they call 'the second death.' and the country was a
place o f cannibals . . . 131

E.A.W. Budge, the translator o f this text, tentatively identified the shore o f the Ustin River with the Greek
O EYEEINOEIIONTOE, or the Black Sea. ^3 2 Following his foray into Caucasia, the source relates that
Alexander appeared at the Armenian city of Methone to quell an insurrection. *33
A medieval. Christianized version o f the Alexander legend contends that the world conqueror
reached "the great Musas" Mountain, which may be identified as the Caucasian M t Masis. Subsequently.

Cf. Blake, "Georgian Secular Literature," p. 31:"... Leonti Mroveli refers to and cites a considerable
passage o f the Alexander romance: and V. Vashakidze. "'M ep'et'a c'xovreba' da berdznuli
'alek'sandriani,' in Istoriul-cqarot'mc'odneobit'igamokvlevebi (1991). pp. 37-46, with Rus. sum.,
"Grecheskii Homan ov Aleksandre' i 'Zhizn' kartliiskikh tsarei,'" p. 46, who argues unconvincingly that a
Georgian version of Ps.-Callisthenes already existed in the seventh/eighth century, precisely at the time
when The Life o f the Kings was written.
^3 0 Ps.-CaIlisthenesArmenian = A.M. Wolohojian, trans.. The Romance o f Alexander the Great by
Pseudo Callisthenes: Translatedfrom the Armenian Version (1969).
^3 *Ps.-CallisthenesSyriac = Budge, trans. and commentary. The History o f Alexander the Great, Being
the Syriac Version o f the Pseudo-Callisthenes (1889), 1.44, pp. 55-56. Budge suggests that this Syriac

text was composed in the seventh-ninth centuries (pp. lvi-lvii).

l32Ibid p. 55, footnote 2.


133Ibid., 1.23, pp. 30-31.

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83

Alexander penetrated Arm enia and "Azerbaijan." *34 The Ethiopian Ps.-Callisthenes also reports that
Alexander passed near ML Musas. ^

while the Armenian version states that Alexander "passed through"

Armenia . 136 The tradition that Alexander was responsible for constructing a gate in northern Caucasia
so as to contain various barbarian tribes was not incorporated into The Life o f the Kings:1*7 instead the
text relates a divergent tradition which did not associate this gate with Alexander.13**
The death o f Alexander, as narrated by The Life o f the Kings. is based upon an existing tradition,
though the version o f Ps.-Callisthenes (perhaps oral) that was employed by our anonymous author cannot
be precisely identified. According to The Life o f the Kings. Alexander conquered the world in twelve
years. This is a reflection o f the well established tradition in Ps.-Callisthenes that Alexander had reigned
for slightly less than thirteen years . 139
Moreover, The Life o f the Kings holds that Alexander returned to E gypt presumably to his city' of
Alexandria, where on his deathbed he entrusted the major areas o f his realm to his kinsmen Antiok'oz
(Antiochos), Hromos (Romos), Bizantios (Byzantios), and Platon (Ptolemy was likely intended). *40 The
names o f these mythical kinsm en are clearly eponyms for Syria/Antioch, Rome. Byzantium, and Egypt
("Ptolemy" indicates the Hellenistic Ptolemids). This tradition is unknown in extant versions o f Ps.Callisthenes, although they do relate Alexander's "testament" whereby the administration of his empire
was apportioned. Four figures are particularly prominent in all the major redactions of Ps.-Callisthenes:
Ptolemy (Egypt). Antigonos (western Anatolia), Eumenes (Cappadocia and Paphlagonia), and Lysimachos

*34/l Christian Legend Concerning Alexander in Ps.-CallisthenesSyriac, pp. 148-149.


*3 ^Ps.-CallisthenesEthiopian = Budge, ed.. trans.. and commentary.

The Life and Exploits o f Alexander

the Great, Being a Series o f Ethiopic Texts (1896). vol. 2. p. 228.


^P s.-C a llisth en esArmenian, pp. 87-88.
The evolution o f the tradition regarding Alexanders construction of a gate in northern Caucasia, and
the tribes imprisoned by iL is traced by A.R. Anderson. Alexander's Gate, Gog and.Magog, and the
Lnclosed Nations (1932). Anderson enumerates the peoples who were at various times believed to have
been incarcerated: some o f the progeny of Togarmah (an identification which potentially could be
extended to include the K 'art'velians), Gog and Magog, Scyths, Huns. Alans. Khazars. Turks. Magyars.
Parthians, Mongols, and the Ten Tribes of Israel (pp. 4-14 et sqq).
*3 **7%e Life o f the Kings, p. 13. See also Anderson, Alexander's Gate, p. 91.
I 3 9 A.B. Bosworth, "Alexander the Great Part I: The Events o f the Reign," CAH. vol. 6 , 2nd ed. (1994). p.
845.
*477je Life o f the Kings, pp. 19-20. The Georgian tradition has Alexander returning to Egypt where he
passed away, but Ps.-Callisthenes asserts that Alexander died while on campaign in Babylon and his body'
was transported to Egypt and finally interred at Alexandria.

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84

(Thrace ) . 141 It should be emphasized that many other appanages were delimited by Alexander's will, but
none o f them correspond to those of The Life o f the Kings. The four prominent successors o f Alexander
according to Ps.-Callisthenes were Macedonian kinsmen o f Alexander with few exceptions, such as
Eumenes who himself was a Greek. The Life o f the Kings explicitly identified Alexander's successors as
his kinsmen and this is consistent with the received tradition. But the names o f the heirs o f the world
conqueror as enumerated in The Life o f the Kings is unique. The medieval K 'art'velian understanding of
Alexanders will was that civilized rule in Syria, Rome, Byzantium, and Egypt could be traced only to the
Hellenistic period, and coincidentally (but fortunately), K 'art'velian royal authority could also be traced to
the same era. Thus the author o f The Life o f the Kings has further associated K 'art' Ii with the civilized
world. Legitimacy and power in ancient K 'a rt'li thus was not only envisaged in Persian terms but in the
Hellenistic context as well.
Strikingly divergent from the various redactions o f Ps.-Callisthenes, The Life o f the Kings is for
the most part unconcerned with Alexander's agenda o f world conquest, though he is acknowledged to
have "conquered all the ends o f the world. The focus here is on Alexander's personal invasion o f K 'art'li
and his direct connection w ith the establishment o f indigenous kingship . 142 In short, the tradition o f
Alexander as related in The Life o f the Kings shares only minor affinities with the various redactions o f
Ps.-Callisthenes: that Alexander was related to the Egyptians, that he had ruled for twelve years, and that
he had apportioned his lands on his death. But The life o f the Kings knows Ps.-Callisthenes only vaguely
and perhaps second-hand o r even through some oral tradition, for its author confused the few elements of
Ps.-Callisthenes that were incorporated in his work. Moreover, the account o f The life o f the Kings is
principally concerned with Alexanders alleged invasion of K 'a rt'li and the rise of the K 'art'velian
monarchy in the Hellenistic period; the remainder o f Alexander's exploits are incidental.
The narrative o f Alexander as preserved in The life o f the Kings may not be identified as a
medieval Georgian version o f Ps.-Callisthenes. In fact a Georgian version of Ps.-Callisthenes was
produced only in the late medieval/early modem period. Reaching Georgian ultimately through a Serbian
redaction, the Georgian version o f Ps.-Callisthenes was widely circulated throughout Georgia from the
seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. 143

141 E. Will, T h e Succession to Alexander," in CAH, vol. 7/1, 2nd ed. (1984), pp. 27-28. This tradition is
recapitulated in Ps.-CallisthenesArmenian, pp. 154-156.
142 77te Life

o f the Kings, p. 17.

143 Xaxanishvili, "Gruzinskaia povest' ob Aleksandre Makedonskom i serbskaia Aleksandriia." ZMNP


289/9 (1893), pp. 241-252. Khakhanov suggests that the trans. from Serbian occurred after the fourteenth
century and postulates that the Georgian version was attempted by the famous poet and rhetor, the
Georgian prince Arch'd, in the sixteenth/seventeenth century. A rch'il migrated to Russia, where he could
have gained access to the Serbian version.

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85

The Alexander romance is not the only Greek source alluded to in The Life o f the Kings. A
second Greek work/tradition is named in connection with the Christianization o f the emperor Constantine
"the G reat" Constantine had been approached by some Christians about the virtue of Christianity:

But the emperor Constantine [came to] believe them, as is written clearly in The
Conversion o f the Greeks \Mok'cevasa berdzent'asa]. Constantine was baptized,
and he carried before him the sign o f the Cross, and he overcame the countless Persian
enemy with his few troops, and by the power of Christ their camp was put to flight and
a multitude o f them were annihilated . 144

The Conversion o f the Greeks (Mok'c'evay berdzent'a) must refer to the account o f the conversion of
Constantine "the Great" written by Eusebius o f Caesarea, or some tradition/text dependent upon it. It is a
curious fact that no Old Georgian translations of Eusebius, or the later Socrates and Sozomen. are known
to have existed. *4^ O f course, it is possible that our anonymous ninth-century historian could read Greek.
Important versions o f the works o f Eusebius and Socrates existed in Classical Armenian, and. as we shall
see, our author almost certainly could read that language. However, from the details given in the account
about Constantine there is no indication that this author was personally familiar with Eusebius' accounts
o f Constantine. Likewise, we have already seen that the author of The Life o f the Kings, while knowing
that the legend o f Alexander's conquests could be found in the book[s] o f the Greeks," was directly
unacquainted with them.
So we may characterize the references in The Life o f the Kings to "the book[s] of the Greeks"
(concerning Alexander the Great) and The Conversion o f the Greeks (concerning Constantine "the
Great) as allusions to grand traditions in Greek and nothing more. In both instances we have no reason
to think that the author had first-hand knowledge, let alone access, to the relevant Greek texts. Moreover,
we may not assume that our author knew Greek. While such a supposition may be true, we have no direct
evidence to support or deny it

The Life o f the Kings, pp.


Although this episode is repeated in Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ pp. 73-74
= Thomson trans., p. 82, The Conversion o f the Greeks is not cited. This version relates that Constantine
had a vision instructing him to convert
*4% o r an informative enumeration o f medieval Georgian translations o f foreign texts, see Kekelidze.
"Uc'xo avtorebi dzvel k 'art'u l mcerlobashi," in his K'art'uli literaturis istoria (1941 ed.), pp. 569-676. A
trans. o f Theodoret's Ecclesiastical History was made in the eleventh century. It is entirely possible that
this reference was added in the eleventh century when Leonti Mroveli, and/or others, attempted to
Christianize The Life o f the Kings.

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86

d. Armenian Influences and Sources

Some modem scholars have commented upon the alleged "Armenophile" tendencies o f the
author o f The Life o f the Kings. 146 One o f the fascinating traits of this text, which was composed in the
wake o f the ecclesiastical schism between the K 'art'velians and the Armenians in 607/608. is the
prominent role o f the Armenians and Armenia. Accordingly, it is not surprising that the author claims
some familiarity with Armenian historical literature, which had emerged already in the fifth century.
Towards the end o f his narrative, the author o f The Life o f the Kings lauds the heroism and courage o f the
Armenian king T rdat. Yet the conversion o f T rdat, the first Christian Armenian king, is unknown to
him. Rather, T rdat is simply described in terms o f being a hero and a "giant, which, as we shall see,
was typical of the literary depiction o f Persian-type (including K'art'velian) monarchs.
In connection with T rdats service to the Roman emperor in overcoming the Goths, we read that:

And [T rdat] became renowned throughout the entire world, and he was victorious in all
o f his wars, as is written in his tale in The Life o f the Armenians [C'xorebasa

som ext'asa)}^

Like other direct references to non-Georgian works, the source/tradition represented tty the title Life o f the

Armenians [C'xo{v}rebay somext a\ is obscure. ^

For example, the extant Armenian version of

Agat'angeghos does associate T rdat with a campaign against the Goths. 1 4 9 But we should recall the

^ S e e Abdaladze, "'C 'xovrebak'art'velta mep et'as' armenop'iluri tendenc'iis mizezebisat'vis," Mac'ne


4 (1987), pp. 188-191. For parallels with Movses X orenac'i, see chs. 2-3.

^ T h e Life o f the Kings, p. 6 9 -7. 9 . ^ l s s011 * unacknowledged in Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ pp. 70-71 =
Thomson trans., pp. 80-81. The Conversion o f Armenia, pp. 25-26, rendered into Georgian tty the
eleventh century, also documents T 'rdat's connection with the Goths.
*4There may be a reference to the text The Conversion o f the Armenians in the Life o f Nino as inserted
into The life o f the Kings, p. 84$: " a *
dci^Qgs^ta 8 0 6 * bmdabojibi" = "...da sascauli
mok'c'evasa shina somext'asa." However, it seems to me that the passage in question merely refers to the
events surrounding the Christianization (i.e., the conversion) o f Armenia. See also M.S. Ch'xartishvili,
"Priemy ssylki na istochniki v drevnegruzinskoi istoricheskoi literature," in Istochnikovedcheskie
razyskaniia 1985, p. 148.
1 4 9 Agat'angeghos, para. 39-45. pp. 54-61. This w as also noticed by Thomson in his trans. o f Arm.
Adapt. K'C \ p. 80, footnote 78. See also: the outstanding study of Garitte, Documents pour Tetude du
Livre dAgathange (1946); ToumanafFs review o f in Traditio 5 (1947), pp. 373-383; and G. Winkler,
"Our Present Knowledge of the History o f Agat'angeghos and its Oriental Versions," REArm, n.s. 14

(1980), pp. 125-141 andstemma, p. 134.

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87

purpose o f the Grigorian Cycle

was to describe the Christianization o f Armenia, exclusively

associating Gregory the Illuminator with the conversion o f T r d a t . ^ This theme is completely ignored
in The Life o f the Kings. But this does not preclude the Grigorian Cycle as being the indicated Armenian
source. Moreover, a fragment o f a medieval Georgian redaction o f Agat'angeghos is extant, but it docs
not predate the eleventh century. ^

Unfortunately, this so-called "Cambridge fragment" says nothing

about T rdat o r Gregory the Illuminator, but is instead concerned w ith the holy woman Rhipsime. a
companion o f Nino in the Georgian tradition.
In 1892/1893 T . Zhordania published a medieval Georgian text which he entitled Mok'c evav

somext'a (ck n ^Q ^ia bciSgbco^), or The Conversion o f the A rm en ia n s.^ He proposed that it was
copied in the eleventh century for King Davit' II (1089-1125). This Conversion o f the Armenians deals
with the early Armenian dynasty o f the Arshakuniani-s (Arsacids), who are said to have been the
offspring o f "Parthian clans [nat'esavit' part't'a].^

The reign o f King T rdat, his involvement in the

Gothic war, and the activities o f Gregory the Illuminator are also described. We do not know if a
prototype or even the original o f this Conversion o f the Armenians existed in the early ninth century7.
However, after the schism o f 607/608 the K'art'velians continued to receive translations and original
literature from the Armenians, albeit in a less amicable environment. Perhaps an prototype o f this

Conversion o f the Armenians, or a text similar to it, was employed by the author o f The Life o f the Kings.
The possible identification o f The Life o f the Armenians should not be confined to the Grigorian
Cycle, for the description o f King T rdat in The Life o f the Kings has a number o f correspondences with
the Armenian traditions preserved in the seventh-century Primary History o f Armenia and by the eighthcentury Movses Xorenac'i. The Armenian king is associated in each o f these texts with a Gothic war.
Moreover, T rdat is described tty Xorenac' i as an invincible hero, an adroit horseman, and a boxer/
champion duelist, reminiscent o f his depiction in The Life o f the Kings. ^

But no evidence exists to

^ T h e "Grigorian Cycle" refers to those texts (i.e., ascribed to Agat'angeghos) describing the missionary
endeavors o f Gregory the Illuminator.
^ *Winkler, "Our Present Knowledge o f the History o f Agat'angeghos," p. 125.
^ G a r itte , "Sur un fragment georgien d'Agathange," LeM 61 (1948), pp. 89-102; idem.. Documents pour
Tetude du Livre dAgathange, esp. "Les textes georgiens," pp. 10-16; and idem., "La Passion des saintes
Rhipsimiennes en georgien (Agathange, ch. Xm-X3X)," LeM 15 (1962), pp. 233-251.

^ C o n v . Armenians - Molc'c'evay somext'a in Zhordania, ed., K'ronikebi, vol. 1, pp. 19-27.


154Ibid., p. 19.
^ M o v s e s Xorenac'i, n.79, pp. 226-227, and H.82-83, pp. 231-235; as noted by Thomson, Xorenac'i
here is elaborating on the account o f Agat'angeghos and mentions him tty name in several instances.

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88

imply that Xorenac'i's history was ever translated into Old Georgian. Some Georgian scribes, possibly
including the author o f The Life o f the Kings, were evidently fam iliar with it through the Armenian
original and/or pan-Caucasian oral traditions.

e. Unacknowledged Influences: The Deluge Universel

It is certain that the author o f The Life o f the Kings was acquainted, either first- or second-hand,
with traditions about the Armenian king T rd at But what was his source? Was it the Grigorian Cycle.
Movses Xorenac'i, another derivative lost text o r an oral tradition possibly based upon these sources? In
addition, can we establish whether the historian could read Armenian? For an answer to this last query,
we must consider the unacknowledged sources o f The Life o f the Kings.
Many works reached early Christian K 'art'li through translations and adaptations from the
Armenian language, such as the Bible and various patristic texts. Armenian translations, adaptations, and
original literature continued to be read by K'art'velian learned m en even posterior to the Christological
schism declared at Dwin III. For example, the historian who composed The life o f the Kings (writing
several centuries later) was familiar with the Armenian tradition o f T 'rdat and Gregory the Illuminator.
Although the two later terminating sections o f C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a, which are
concerned with Christian K 'art'li, sought - or were later edited to limit the role o f the Armenians in
K 'art'velian history, the preceding Life o f the Kings did not. The initial portion o f that text, which
explains the ethnogenesis of the K'art'velians. both is highly dependent upon medieval Armenian
scholarship and testifies to the ancient and intimate links of K ' art' li and Armenia. The reasons for this
will be examined throughout this study. However, I would suggest that the author o f The Life o f the Kings
was not a cleric and did not seek to divorce K 'art' li from Armenia on the grounds o f obscure points of
dogma. The Christian sections o f C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a were almost certainly Christianized by
clerics (like Leonti Mroveli), and they would have more reason to deny the Monophysite Armenians any
role in early K 'art'velian history.
The curiosity on the part o f the K'art'velians in the early ninth century concerning their
ethnogenesis occurred within the context of a similar interest among the Armenians, the Caucasian
Albanians (Movses Dasxuranc'i), and the Persians (Khwaddy-ndmag). About a century before the
composition o f The Life o f the Kings, the influential Armenian historian Movses Xorenac'i sought to trace
and summarize the origin of the Armenian community, but more specifically, the Bagratuni c l a n . ^
Xorenac'i him self drew upon the traditions of the seventh-century Primary History ofArmenia, which

l ^ I n this study I shall refer to the main core o f the family try the Armenian designation Bagratuni. The
term Bagratid will be employed for the family as a whole, or as an adjective. See infra, chs. 6-7.

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89

sometimes is attributed erroneously to Sebeos, ^

and the Grigorian Cycle. Later, both the tenth-century

Yovhannes Drasxanakertc'i (John the Catholicus) and the tenth-/eleventh-centuiy history o f the
1SR
Caucasian Albanians by Movses Dasxuranc'i
exhibited a similar interest in origins. In Byzantium the
chronographer George Syncellus sought to reconcile the traditions o f the Greeks with those o f the ancient
world. ^ 9 In short, scholarship in eighth-/ninth-century Caucasia, and indeed the entire Near East and
even the Byzantine world, was characterized by an intense fascination in the subject o f ethnogenesis. and

The Life o f the Kings may be regarded as the K 'art'velian expression-of this interest.
Perhaps the most influential o f these tracts from the upper Near East, and certainly the best
known Caucasian example o f this genre, is The History o f the Armenians by Movses Xorenac'i.
Anticipating The Life o f the Kings by a century or so, Xorenac' i was conditioned by received traditions.
R. Thomson, who translated the text into English, described Xorenac' is work as:

... more than a nonce publication to satisfy the political need of the m om ent It is an
attempt to sum up the Armenian tradition, to present it in a coherent albeit
tendentious fashion, and to provide the Armenians with a history as respectable as
that o f other nations . 160

The Life o f the Kings, while not glorifying the K 'art'velian Bagratids (a branch of that same Bagratuni
family eulogized by Xorenac'i), had a common objective: to summarize the archaic traditions of the
community. Both The Life o f the Kings and Xorenac' i endeavored to formulate a specific image of the
past and a coherent tradition. But whereas Xorenac'i in several instances deliberately rewrote history by
tendentiously reshaping the past in broad strokes, the author o f The Life o f the Kings more carefully
respected the inviolability o f the received traditions, so long as the K'art'velians could be inserted
plausibly into them. This is not to suggest however, that the author o f The Life o f the Kings did not
consciously manipulate received traditions, for as an image-maker he was forced to emphasize some
traditions, deny or ignore others, and even invent some o f his own. But when contrasted with Xorenac i.
the author of The Life o f the Kings was more conscientious about the faithfulness of his account with
respect to the received traditions. Biblical and otherwise, and was considerably less willing to contort
them beyond immediate recognition.

^ Prim. Hist. Armenia, pp. 357-368.


1 CO

JOYovhannes Drasxanakertc'i, cap. I-II, pp. 66-70; and Movses Dasxuranc'i, 1.1-3, pp. 1-3 (and footnote
l.p - 1 ).
159 W. Adler,

Time Immemorial: Archaic History and its Sources in Christian Cosmography.

160rhomson in Movses Xorenac'i, introduction, p. 60.

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90

One o f the fundamental differences between The life o f the Kings and Xorenac'i's history is the
willingness o f the former to admit the prominent role played by external agents. Xorenac'i does not exude
the nostalgia for the intimate relationship o f early Arm enia and K 'art'li, and the admission o f such a bond
was not a necessity, for received traditions already accounted for the provenance o f Armenia. Moreover.
Xorenac' i was concerned only with the ev olution o f the Arm enian community, and especially, the
ascendancy o f the Bagratuni clan. He is silent with regards to the K'art'velians. except to comment that
their conversion was ultimately the result o f the missionary activities o f Gregory the Illuminator (the
converter o f Armenia), that the first Christian dynast o f K 'a rt'li was a prince and not a king (after all. the
Armenian T rd a t was the king in the Caucasus region), an d that the Georgian script had been invented
through the labors of the Armenian cleric Mashtoc' (a tradition first articulated by Koriwn). 16 * In
addition, whereas the Georgian tradition admits early K 'a rt'li to have shared much in common with
Persia, Xorenac'i had no love for the Persians.
The author of The Life o f the Kings was faced w ith a serious dilemma: the K'art'velians were not
classified in the Biblical pedigree following the deluge, a tradition which no Christian genealogist could
conceivably avoid, so how could the K 'art'velians be traced directly to the post-diluvian dispersion o f
peoples? And this is important, for the Old Testament was the source par excellence for determining the
provenance o f communities. In searching for the vinculum which would explain the ethnogenesis o f his
community, the anonymous author was aided by the fact that some of the Caucasian peoples were believed
to have been the descendants o f Japheth, a son o f Noah. Already in the fifth century, Agat'angeghos
asserted that Togannah (Arm. I&npqnd, Gk. 0OPTOM A / 0OPTAM A / 0EPTAMA) was the ancestor o f
the Armenians. ^

In the seventh century or so, the anonymous Primary History o f Armenia recorded the

tradition that Hayk was the ancestor o f the Armenians. ^

This tradition was adopted and expanded upon

by the eighth-century Movses Xorenac' i. In diagramming the origin of the Armenians. Xorenac' i built
upon Agat'angeghos and The Primary History o f Armenia'.

Japheth -* Gamer -* Tiras Togarmah * Hayk -* Aramaneak... ^

^ X o r e n a c 'is History was highly influential upon subsequent Armenian historians. E.g.. several o f his
arguments are recapitulated in the tenth-century account o f Yovhannes Drasxanakertc'i, cap. I-II, pp. 6 6 70, and pp. 238 (note 11, cap. 1) and p. 239 (notes 19-20, cap. 2). Cf. Movses Xorenac'i, 1.14, pp. 94-96.
1^2Agat'angeghos, para. 16, pp. 28-29 ("the race o f T'orgom" = "qfifnpqmfujj ujqqhu"); para. 776, pp. 314315; and para. 796. pp. 334-335. Xorenac'i built upon the traditions o f Prim. Hist. Armenia and
Agat'angeghos as well as the work of earlier Christian genealogists.
163prim. Hist. Armenia, pp. 358-361.
l^ M o v ses Xorenac'i, 1.5, p. 74. On the Armenian traditions o f Togannah see also Garsoian, "T'orgom"

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91

Hayk is a figure o f some gravity in Xorenac'i's account for he is identified as the eponym of the
Armenians, who called (and still call) themselves Hayk'. Xorenac'i grafted Hayk and the early Armenian
kings onto the received Biblical tradition, thus inserting them into "world" and Biblical history. ^
Xorenac' i did not deduce a Japhethic origin for the other peoples of Caucasia. Yet within a
century Xorenac' i's approach influenced, or perhaps was even adopted by. the author o f The Life o f the

Kings. He traced the origin o f not only the Armenians, but also o f his own K 'art'velian community and of
the other peoples of Caucasia, from Japheth, and more particularly, Togarraah. The Life o f the Kings
commences:

First we should explain that the Armenians and the Kart'velians. the Rani-s and the
Movakani-s, the Heri-s and the Leki-s. the Megreli-s and the Caucasians [all o f these]
had a single [fore-]father by the name o f Togannah \T'argamos\. This Togannah was
the son o f Tiras [T'arshiJ, the grandson o f Japheth [lap'et'i\, [who in turn was] the son
o f Noah. And Togannah was a heroic man... ^

The implications o f this passage will be examined in the following chapter. Suffice it to say here that The

Life o f the Kings subsequently developed an origin stemma which closely resembled that o f Movses
Xorenac'i:

Japheth -* T i r a s - Togannah - {Haos & K'art'los}...

Clearly, our historian adopted the tradition that Hayk (Georgian Haos) the eponymous ancestor o f the
Armenians, whose legend was classically articulated by Xorenac'i a century before was descended from
Togannah, in the line o f Japheth. But The Life o f the Kings makes one significant addition: the claimed

in The Epic Histories, p. 416.


^ T h o m s o n in Movses Xorenac'i, p. 75, footnote 4. The derivation o f Hayk' from the eponymous

praenomen Hayk is erroneous and will be considered infra.


^ The Ufa o f the Kings, p. 3^ : "3ofi3ac?6{g 3 . ^ 3 6 3I13, 6a33 q bm dab .* oj> j 6 6 co3 3 C?ODi,
6 i 5o)j> c0i 0ci3A36oc5O)A, J36coa
e?33^. 3flP>6 ,jg3A eoo> 3o>33J>boi66o>3i jb^ a6o
0 3 3i 3iO b ib a c j o r o i 6 & i 3 b . a b a A 6 & a8 b 0 3 d a ^ 63 o b o . d o b ^ g c M o i g a o b o ,
d o b o 6 a b o . g i 0 3 a b a i r t a i 3 b 3AQ0 &3o d )o ..."
167
Gamer has been removed from the K'art'velian genealogy.

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92

eponym o f the K 'art'velians, K 'art'los, as well as his counterparts for other Caucasian communities. We
have no earlier (extant) references in medieval Georgian literature to this K 'art'los.
O f the sons o f Togannah, The Life o f the Kings renders the highest honor to Haos, the Hayk of
the Armenian tradition. Having defeated his sovereign, "the first king o f the world" Nimrod (Nebrof i).
Haos' position was solidified: "And the progeny o f Togannah were liberated, an d then Haos made himself
king over his brothers ..." 1 6 8 This admission that K'art'los was the junior o f his brother Haos has
confounded a great many m odem historians, some of whom, like Kekelidze. have branded the anonymous
historian as a n "Armenophile. 16^ But Kekelidze, and others, have over-emphasized the "progressive"
notion of "Caucasian brotherhood" found in The Life o f the Kings. Such assertions are best explained by
the influence o f the Soviet policy o f druzhba narodov OtpyxOa HapoROB), or "Friendship of the Peoples."
and the various successful and unsuccessful attempts to detea friendly contacts between Soviet peoples
from time immemorial. 17

^ the case o f The Life o f the Kings, its author merely linked the

K'art'velians with the Armenians insofar as such a relationship enabled him to interpolate the origin of
his own community from the received traditions o f the Old Testament, apocrypha, and related sources.
This association did not seem tendentious to the contemporary historian, for K 'a rt'li's past was
inextricably intertwined w ith that both of Armenia and Christendom. There is nothing particularly
"progressive" (in the m odem sense o f the word) about our author's intellectual labors. Rather, he
demonstrated himself to be thoroughly familiar with, and deeply respectful of, received traditions. And,
as I have noted, as a non-cleric the author was not interested in the dogmatic questions that arose in the
post-Dwin in milieu. The prom inent place o f the Armenians and their traditions with his work m ight
actually indicate that the author believed that the two communities need not be divorced over dogmatic
issues, and that the two communities had enjoyed a friendly and fruitful relationship from antiquity.
As we have said, existing traditions o f the deluge, like the tabula populorum of Genesis,
Hippolytus' Chronicle,171 also did not specify the K'art'velians as one of the peoples inhabiting the post

168The Life o f the Kings, p. 720-2V Nimrod is the Bel of Xorenac'i.


^ K e k e lid z e with Baramidze. Dzveli k'art'uli literaturis istoria, p. 130.
17 E.g, T.A. Karapetyan, Hayos ev K'art'los eghbaymere = Brat'iaAios i Kartlos (1990), Arm. text pp.
3-120 and Rus. pp. 121-235, which emphasizes the bonds of "brotherhood" which pervade Armenian and
Georgian history. Thus Karapetyan proclaims "the brotherhood o f the Armenian and the Georgian
peoples has a many-centuried history" (p. 122). The book begins with a modem rendition of the account
o f Haos/Hayk and K 'art'los.
171 Hippolytus, Chron. A dolf Bauer, Die Chronik des Hippolytos (1905), pp. 50-53, enumerates the
offspring o f Japheth. Although the K 'art'velians (Iberians) are not mentioned, the Armenians are said to
be descended from Japheths son Torgamah (pp. 52-53).

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93

diluvian Earth. But a passage in the first-century AD Jewish Antiquities o f Josephus Flavius refers to one
o f the proto-K'art'velian peoples and linked them to the descendants of Japheth:

... and Theobal [founded] the Theobelians, nowadays called Iberians. The Meschenians.
founded by Mescbos, are today called Cappadocians .. . 172

It should be emphasized that pre-Bagratid K 'art'velian historians do not exhibit any direct familiarity
with this passage . 173 Josephus' eponym o f the Mesxi-s, Meschos (Mesxos), m ight be regarded as a model
for those of The Life o f the Kings, yet that source is completely unfamiliar with any Mesxos. Moreover,
one is reminded of Armenos o f Thessaly, the eponym o f Armenia and member o f the Argonautic
expedition led by Jason. *7 4 Strabo asserts that this Armenos visited K 'art'li. Armenia, and Caucasian
Albania. O f course, Greek mythology held that Jason had journied to Colchis (Egrisi) to retrieve the
Golden Fleece. Strabo definitely connects Armenos with the whole o f Caucasia, and he would be an
attractive figure upon which to base other eponyms. However, there is no mention o f Armenos and even
Jason an d the Argonauts in the pre-modem Georgian historical tradition . 175 Furthermore, there is no
indication that any medieval Georgian historian drew upon the Geography o f Strabo.
In view of this, the model o f eponyms was not necessarily or exclusively drawn from any single
foreign source. There is no compelling evidence that The life o f the Kings modeled its eponyms upon the
models o f Strabo or Josephus. However, Haos/Hayk was definitely borrowed from the Armenian tradition,
perhaps directly from The Primary History o f Armenia or Xorenac'i. I shall comment further upon the
parallels between Xorenac'i's History and The Life o f the Kings in the following chapter.

*7 2 Josephus. Jew. Antiq., 1.124-125. vol. 4. pp. 60-61. On the "nations" descended from Japheth. see
ibid., 1.122-129, pp. 58-63.
173 w e have no clear indication that Josephus served as a direct source for The Life o f the Kings.
However, his Jew. Antiq. was translated into Georgian by the twelfth century. See loseb P' Iaviosi
[Josephus Flavius], Mot'xrobani iudaebrivisa dzuelistquaobisani, ed. and comm, by N. Melik'ishvili. 2
vols. (1988), with Eng. sum., vol. 2, "The Georgian Translation o f Josephus Flavius' 'Jewish Antiquities,'"
pp. 545-548. Although the trans. o f this work was traditionally attributed to the renowned philosopher
Ioane Petrie i. Melik'ishvili has successfully disspeUed this notion.
174 Strabo, H.iv.8 , pp. 230-231 and H. 14.12, pp. 332-333.

l 7 % owever, Strabo, I.ii.39, pp. 166-167, relates that "memorials" o f this expedition still exist in
Caucasia. Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, is o f the opinion that the indigenous population o f "Georgia"
embraced the legend o f Jason. However, this argument is made primarily from the evidence of Greek
traditions.

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94

The first problem confronting the author o f The Life o f the Kings was how to invent a plausible
K 'art'velian counterpart o f Hayk. Movses Xorenac'i, and the Armenian tradition after him. promoted the
following etymology:

' mujIi

huijbptli

'\uijp

' mujp, 'suijuuifuili

HAYK
Eponym

HAYEREN
Armenian
language

HAYK'
Armenians

HAYK', HAYASTAX
Armenia

This simplistic derivation has now been called into question, ^

but the significance here is not that these

correspondences were inaccurate, but that by the seventh/eighth century they were understood to be
authentic. In any event, it is obvious that each o f the aforementioned designations incorporated the root

hay-. Through this common root, Xorenac' i and the earlier Primary History o f Armenia connected the
name Hayk with the ethnym Hayk' and the toponym Hayastan as well as with the name o f the Armenian
language Hayeren.
Similarly, the anonymous author o f The Life o f the Kings devised a K'art'velian counterpart for
Hayk so as to explain the ultimate origin o f the K 'art'velian community:

K'ART'LOS
Eponym

3a(6o>v3C30

^60)332360

^60)230

K'ART'UU
Georgian
language

K'ART'VELNI
K'art'velians

K'ART'LI
K'art'li

K'art'- is the root o f each o f these designations. From the existing terms K'art'li, k'art'uli. and k'art'velni
our anonymous author interpolated the name o f the eponym o f the Kart'velians as K 'art' los. The
tradition o f Haos/Hayk was legitimizing in this regard.
The form K 'art'los, however, is an anomaly o f sorts, for the -os ending is not typical o f Georgian.
Persian. Armenian, or other Eastern languages. Rather, -os corresponds to the Greek -OE. the nominative
singular form o f Greek "0 -" declension nouns. ^

Why would the name o f the primogenitor o f the

l^ T h o m so n in Movses Xorenac'i, p. 80, footnote 6 an d cf. p. 80, footnote 19; and Garsoian, "Hayk'," in

The Epic Histories. p. 379. See also Adontz with Garsoian. Armenia in the Epoch o f Justinian. pp. 309310.
l ^ S e e also Toumanofif, Studies, p. 8 8 , footnote 120; and Javaxishvili, Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba,
p. 180.

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95

K'art'velians have been rendered in a Greek form? Perhaps there was an unacknowledged Greek work
exerting influence over the author o f The life o f the Kings. ^

Interest in the deluge universel pervaded

all eras o f pre-modem Christian history, and the genealogies and stemmae associated with this curiosity
were generically termed as Diamerismos o r Liber Generations. ^

That the author o f The Life o f the

Kings was strongly impressed by Greek (i.e.. early Christian and Biblical) writers is manifest by its
employment of ethnarchal names terminating in the Greek -os.
One of the most influential genealogical tracts o f the time was composed by Hippolytus o f Rome
ca. 235 AD. The Chronicle o f Hippolytus, originally written in Greek, was widely copied and imitated by
many writers, including Epiphanius o f Salamis (d. 403) and by various Syriac authors. ^

It served as

the basis o f an entire recension o f tabulae populorum, including Chronicon Paschale. George Monachos.
Symeon Logothetos, Syncellus, Skylitzes/Kedrenos, Michael the Syrian, Samuel o f Ani. and Bar
Hebraeus. 181 By the first-half o f the seventh century, Hippolytus' Chronicle had been translated, and
reworked, into Classical Armenian. No complete medieval Georgian translation o f Hippolytus' Chronicle
has come down to us. However, a brief excerpt o f a contemporary Georgian translation of it was
incorporated into the famous Shatberdi codex o f the late tenth century, the very MS that contains a variant
o f the corpus Mok 'c 'evay k 'art 'lisay. ^

Unfortunately, the excerpt is concerned only with the first

"patriarchs'' as well as the early judges o f Israel and the kings o f Judea. Persia. Egypt, and Rome:

It should be noted that Hayk's grandson. Kadmos, bore a name terminating in -os as well: e.g.. Prim.
Hist. Armenia, p. 361: and Movses Xorenac'i. 1.12. p. 8 8 . There is no reason to believe this example
directly influenced those in The Life o f the Kings. I wish to thank Prof. K. Bardakjian for bringing this to
my attention.
^ K e k e lid z e , "Ideia bratstva zakavkazskikh narodov po genealogicheskoi skheme gruzinskogo istorika
XI veka Leontiia Mroveli," in his Etiudebi. vol. 3 (1955). p. 95: cf. an edited Fr. trans.. "Chronique
dUippolyte et lhistorien georgien Leonti Mroveli," BK 45-46 (1964). p. 8 8 : and Abdaladze. "K'art'lis
c 'xovreba " da sak 'art 'velo-somxet 'is urt 'iert'oba. pp. 99-101.
^HippolytusofRome, ALAMEPIEMOE. in S. Qauxch' ishvili. e d , Georgika. vol. 1 (1961). pp. 19-20:
and the related text "Liber Generationis Chronicon a. 334," ibid.. pp. 11-18. Two such Syriac sources are
the post- sixth-century Cave o f Treasures, esp. pp. 133-135 (for a medieval Georgian trans. see Cave o f
TreasuresGeorgian); and the thirteenth-century work The Book o f the Bee. esp. cap. 22. p. 38. Neither
o f these Syriac accounts mention the K' art'velians. For works based upon Hippolytus that may have
influenced the K'art'velians, see Kekelidze, "Xalxt'a klasip'ikac'iisa da geograp'iuli ganrigebis sakit'xebi
dzvels k'art'ul mcerlobashi: Liber Generationis-s k'art'u li versia," in his Etiudebi, vol. 1 (1956), pp. 168182.
10 1

Chron., table 5, according to which the Josephus represents a tradition unrelated to that
later represented by Hippolytus.
1 0 Hippolytus,

^K ekln stJrfS # S-l 141; and Shat. Codex, pp. 196-202. See also S-Fond Catalog, vol. 2 (1961), pp. 3640.

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96

Hippolytus' tabula populorum is missing. Abuladze was the first to identify this account as being an
extract from Hippolytus, and he hypothesized that a Georgian translation had been attempted from the
Greek in the first-half o f the eighth century, although this remains conjectural.
Kekelidze also studied extensively Hippolytus' influence upon C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep 'et'a.
He suggested that in the late tenth century an acute interest in the deluge erupted among K 'art'velian
cleric-scholars. Indeed, it is precisely at this tim e that the translation and copying o f the Gospels in
Georgian f l o u r i s h e d ^ The renowned Georgian Athonite monk, Ep't'w m eM t'acm i[n]deli (d. 1028.
also known as Euthymius the Hagorite), displayed a keen interest in such things, and it is partly because
o f his fascination in the tabula populorum that Kekelidze relegated The Life o f the Kings to the eleventh
c e n t u r y . B u t an interest in these genealogies in the eleventh century does not preclude one at an
earlier time.
Kekelidze himself posited that the author o f The Life o f the Kings relied upon the Armenian
version of Hippolytus' Chronicle, or at the very least, was influenced by some o f its particular
embellishments and innovations. ^

The Armenian version o f the Chronicle of Hippolytus exists in

^ A b u la d z e , "Ipolite romaelis k'ronikonis dzveli k 'a rt'u li versia," Moambe-MSSInstitute 3 (1961). pp.
223-243, w ith brief Rus. sum.. "Dtevnegruzinskaia versiia Chronicon-a Ippolita Rimskogo." p. 243.
Other works o f Hippolytus are known to have been translated into Georgian. Kekelidze, K'art'uli
literaturis istoria, vol. 1 (1941 e d ), pp. 644-645, enumerates eight works of Hippolytus having Georgian
translations; his Chron. is not among them. Published eds. o f Hippolytus' work; in Georgian include;
Garitte, e d and trans., Traites d'Hippolyte sur David et Goliath sur le Cantique des Cantiques et sur
I'Antichrist: version giorgienne, CSCO. vols. 263-264 = Scriptores Iberici, vols. 15-16 (1965); and M.
Briere, L. Maries, and B-Ch. Metcier. eds. an d trans., Hippolyte de Rome sur les benedictions dTsaac, de
Jacob = PO 27/1-2 (1954).
^^B .M . Metzger, The Early Versions o f the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations
(1977), esp. ch. 4, "The Georgian Version," pp. 182-214; and Vddbus, Early Versions o f the New
Testament, vol. 6 o f Papers o f the Estonian Theological Society in Exile (1954), esp. ch. 5, "The Georgian
Version," pp. 173-209. One o f the tenth-century Gospels is specially considered in R.P. Blake and S. der
Nersessian, "The Gospels o f Bert'ay: An Old Georgian MS. of the Tenth Century," Bvzantion 16 (19421943). pp. 226-285.
^ K e k e lid z e , "Ideia bratstva zakavkazskikh narodov," p. 97 = "Chronique d'Hippolyte et llustorien
georgien Leonti Mroveli," p. 8 8 ; and idem., "X alxt'a klasip'ikac'iisa da geograp'iuli ganrigebis sakit'xebi
dzvels k 'a rt'u l mcerlobashi: Liber Generations-is k 'a rt'u li versia," in his Etiudebi, vol. I, pp. 168-182.
^^B iblical texts and the works o f the Church Fathers were initially transmitted into Old Georgian largely
from Classical Armenian. Even after the schism at Dwin HI in 607/608, the Georgians continued to
translate original Armenian literary works. Abuladze suggested that from the eighth/ninth century
Armenian hagiographical works reached Georgian through Armenian Chalcedonians in the southwestern
region o f Tao/Tayk-Klaijet' i. Contact also flowed the other way, the most obvious example being the
Armenian adaptation o f K'C'. See Abuladze, K'art'uli da somxuri literaturuli urt'iert'oba IX-Xss-shi:
gamofcvleva da tek'stebi (1944), with Rus. sum., "Gruzuisko-armianskie literatumye sviazi v EX-X v.v.,"
pp. 0200-0208.

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97

several redactions, but only one MS has been published. The printed version is problematic, for only a
portion o f the MS was published and, moreover, the editor seems to have taken great liberties with the
te x t187
One fact is c le a r the Armenian version o f the Chronicle o f Hippolytus. unlike the Greek original,
specifically names the K 'art'velians as one o f the descendant-peoples o f Japheth.188 In both the Greek
original and the Armenian adaptation, the Armenians are likewise tied to Japheth. Thus, the two
communities are ultimately "related," as the author o f The Life o f the Kings would insist, but there is
neither any emphasis upon such a relationship nor a single mention o f the name K 'art'los. The Armenian
adaptation o f Hippolytus1Chronicle counts the following communities as descended from Japheth:

... and the sons of T iras [were]:


Ask'anas, and from him [were descended] the Sarm atk':
and R ip'at' from whom were [descended] the Savrom atk';
and T'orgom from whom were [descended] the Hayk' [Armenians].
And the sons o f Havan [were]: Eghisha, and from him were [descended] the
Sikeghec'ik' and the A l'enac'ik' ;
and T ashish from whom were [descended] the Virk' [Iberians] in Turenac'ik'.
And these nations were [descended] from Habet' [Japheth]... M ark', Aghuank'
[Albanians], Lp'ink'. Aghank', Amazonk'. Dzighbk', M ask'urk'. Hayk'
[Armenians], Virk' [K'art'velians], Egerac'ik' [Egr-s]...189

The original Greek account mentions "Iberians." but from context they are clearly the Iberians o f Europe
and not those o f Asia (Caucasia), as are those l irk' (Iberians) mentioned above in connection with
T ashish.^90 But both the Armenians and the K'art'velians {Virk") are thus listed with other Caucasian
tribes and communities as the offspring of the progeny of Japheth in the Armenian adaptation of
Hippolytus Chronicle (end of aforementioned quotation) whereas the original Greek text does not know
the K 'art'velians in this regard.
Xorenac' i himself employed, either directly or indirectly, the Chronicle o f Hippolytus. yet he
completely disregarded the origins o f the K 'art'velians in his history. This is not unexpected. On the one
hand. Xorenac'i was concerned first and foremost with relating a specifically Armenian histoiy, on the

107

I am deeply indebted to Prof. R.W. Thomson for his valuable insights into the Armenian version o f
Hippolytus.
*88The original names only the Armenians as the descendants o f Japheths son, Togarmah. See
Hippolytus, Chron., pp. 50-53 and 56-59.
*89i4rm. Anon. Chron., p. 5.
190Hippolytus, Chron., pp. 56-58. Cf. pp. 60-63.

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98

other hand, in the few instances in which he refers to the K'art'velians, Xorenac'i is keen to make them
dependent, politically or otherwise, upon the Armenians. The Armenian version o f Hippolytus could
further advance these claims o f dominance.
Later Armenian historians also drew upon Hippolytus. The tenth-century history o f Yovhannes
Drasxanakertc'i exhibits a deep dependence upon the earlier work o f Xorenac'i. But this reliance was not
exclusive or blind, for in his account o f the progeny o f Noah, Drasxanakertc'i directly employed the
Armenian version o f Hippolytus' Chronicle. For unlike Xorenac'i, Drasxanakertc'i relates that:

... The sixth son was Tiras from whom were bom our very own Ashkenaz [Ask'anaz]
an d Togannah [ T orgom] who named the country that he possessed Thrace after
himself... From Javan [Yawan], the ancestor o f the Greeks, descended Elisha [Eghisha]
whose progeny are the Sicilians [Sikilac'ik'] and Athenians [A t'enac'ik'], andTarshish
[T arsis], the ancestor o f the Iberians [Virk'] and the Tyrrhenians fTiwrenacik']. and
Kitris [Kitiim] whose offspring are the Romans [Hrowmayec' ik]. 1

From context, it is clear that the Virk', i.e., Iberians, mentioned here are a European community'; this is
confirmed by the original text o f Hippolytus.192 Drasxanakertc'i's account lacks the subsequent notice of
the Armenian adaptation o f Hippolytus' Chronicle which enumerated several Caucasian peoples, the I irk'
(K'art'velians) among them, as ultimately descended from Japheth.
Also in the tenth century Uxtanes, the Armenian bishop of Sebastia. composed a history o f the
ecclesiastical schism between the Armenians and the K 'art'velians (condemning the latter), but the
introductory books o f that work were devoted to the early history of the Armenians. Being highly reliant
upon Xorenac' i. Uxtanes employed other works as well (especially The Book o f Letters). O f "The
Territories of Japheth," Uxtanes relates that:

From Marastan to Gadiron, going north, the following countries [were given to
Japheth]: Atropatene. Albania, Amazonia, Greater and Lesser Armenia. Iberia.
Cappadocia, Paphlagonia. Galatia, Gaul, Colchis, Greater Spain, and others.193

191 Yovhannes Drasxanakertc'i, I.6.8-9, p. 66.


192Hippolytus, Chron.. p. 52. where the context is Europe and not Asia.
193Uxtanes, vol. 1, para. 10, p. 27. The Classical Armenian geographical designations have been
rendered in recognizable Anglicized forms here. Uxtanes himself does not employ the Graeco-Latin term
"Iberia" but Virk'.

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99

Thus Uxtanes has clearly enumerated K 'art'li. i.e., VoedaJVirk', within the domains o f Japheth. along with
Colchis (western "Georgia") and also "Greater Spain" (European Iberia). Uxtanes' account of the progeny
o f Japheth is not based upon The Primary History o f Armenia o r Movses Xorenac' i. but rather upon the
Armenian version o f Hippolytus Chronicle. Uxtanes him self probably interpreted the two references to
the Iberians in Hippolytus account to refer to both the Caucasian K'art'velians as well as the European
Iberians.
I have adapted the following table originally prepared by Kekelidze which compares the
"ethnyms" o f the Caucasian peoples mentioned in Hippolytus, the Armenian Hippolytus. and finally, The

Life o f the Kings. 19<1 We should recall that both The Primary History o f Armenia and Xorenac' i ignore
the tradition o f the origins o f the K'art'velians.

Armenian

Hippolytus195

Hippolytus

Ihe.LUe
of.lhe Kings

Armenians
[Iberians]196
Albanians
Enaioi
Amazonians
Sarmatians &
Savromatians
Colchians

Hayk' = Armenians
Virk' = K 'art'velians
Aghvank' = Albanians
LjTink'197
Amazonk'
Sarmatk' &
Savromatk'
Egerac'ik'

Somexi-s = Armenians
K'art'velians
Rani-s & Movakani-s
Heri-s
Leki-s
Kavkasiani-s = northern
Caucasians
Megreli-s

19*Kekelidze, "Ideia bratstva zakavkazskikh narodov," p. 99: the corresponding chart is not offered in the
Fr. trans.. See also idem., "X alxt'a klasip'ikac'iisa da geograp'iuli ganrigebis sakit'xebi dzveli k'art'ul
mcerlobashi: Liber Generationis-is k'art'uli versia," in his Etiudebi, vol. 1, esp. pp. 177-179.
I95These designations in the original are: APMENIOI, IBHPEE (see following note), AABANOI,
EPPAIOI, AMAZONEE, EAPMATAI/EAYPOMATAI, and KOAXOI (for the Colchians. see
Hippolytus, Chron., p. 60-61).
196The only Iberians mentioned by Hippolytus with respect to the post-diluvian population of the Earth
are those o f Europe (i.e., Spain).
197
The precise identification o f the Lp'ink', or the Lupenians, is still debated, although R.H. Hewsen,
"The Kingdom of the Lupenians: A Forgotten State o f Christian Caucasia," ASSC 1 (1989), pp. 13-20,
suggests that they were "probably the inhabitants o f Lp' in village, possibly a Lesgian tribe that may or
m a y not have entered into the formation of the Albanian federation, and who, if so, may have been one of
its twenty-six constituent elements" (p. 19). Hewsen refers to the omission o f the Lupenians in the tabula
of The Life o f the Kings and suggests that they were subsumed in the Lek-s (Lesgians), Heret'ians, or
Caucasians (pp. 16-17). In fact, it is clear that the author o f The Life o f the Kings, basing his tabula on
Hippolytus Chron., loosely associated the Lupenians with his Heret'ians.

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100

There is a definite congruity between The life ofthe Kings and the Armenian version of
Hippolytus. First, the Armenian version enumerates the Virk'. i.e., the K 'art'velians, as the descendants
o f Japheth. This appears to have been the interpolation o f some Armenian scribe, for while the Greek
Hippolytus is familiar with the origins o f the Armenians, nothing about the provenance of the neighboring
K 'art'velians is reported. ^

Thus an Armenian bookman, perhaps the very translator of Hippolytus

Chronicle, was responsible for indicating the origin o f the K 'art'velians within the tradition of the tabula
populorum.
Both the Armenian version of Hippolytus Chronicle and The Life o f the Kings employ one
designation, Egerac'ik' and Megreli-s respectively, in place o f several terms in the Greek original of
Hippolytus, the main one being "Colchians" (Kolchoi). It is possible that the author o f The Life o f the

Kings was unable to identify the Colchians, the Tibarenians. and their immediate neighbors in western
"Georgia," but the choice o f "Megreli-s" strongly suggests that he was acquainted with the Armenian
rendition "Egerac'ik'," since both terms are based upon the stem Egr-, and both refer to communities in
the western domains.
As with his other sources, we do not know precisely how the author o f The life o f the Kings was
familiar with the Armenian version of Hippolytus. Part o f Hippolytus Chronicle was translated into
Georgian by the tenth century (i.e., the time when the Shatberdi codex, which includes the work, was
copied), but we do not know whether it was translated from the Greek original or the Armenian
adaptation. For the moment, the most likely scenario is that our anonymous author had a reading
knowledge o f Classical Armenian. This explains not only the parallels with the Armenian redaction of
Hippolytus Chronicle, but also the familiarity with the legend o f Hayk as contained in The Primary

History o f Armenia and Xorenac'i, and perhaps even the story o f Constantine "the G reafs conversion
through the Armenian version o f Socrates' Ecclesiastical History. Moreover, the recapitulation of the
tradition o f Hayk. and the insertion of K 'art'los into it, as well as the employment o f the Armenian
Hippolytus. allowed the author o f The life o f the Kings to explain the prominent role of the Armenians in
early K 'art'velian history. But this is not to suggest that the author indiscriminately accepted received
Armenian traditions. For Hayk was admitted to have had held the whole o f Caucasia under his
domination, the assertion o f the fifth-century author Koriwn that the Georgian script had been created at
the behest o f the Armenian cleric Mashtoc' was completely omitted.
The author of The Life o f the Kings also exploited Syriac texts. W ritten perhaps as early as the
fourth century AD. and reaching us in a sixth-century form. The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures was

198
170Although Hippolytus was not completely unfamiliar with the Caucasian Iberians, i.e., the
K 'art'velians: see Hippolytus, AIAMEPIEMOE, in Qauxch'ishvili, Georgika, vol. 1, #232, pp. 19-20.

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101

adapted into Georgian in the medieval period.199 We should note that one pre-Vaxtangiseuli MS o f

K'art'lis c'xovreba, the Mariamiseuli variant, actually begins with the medieval Georgian adaptation o f
The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures, although w e have no indication that earlier MSS o f the corpus also
commenced with that work.^ In any event, the author o f The Life o f the Kings almost certainly was
familiar with this text, although it is not known i f the Georgian version existed in his own time. There
are several parallels with The Life o f the Kings. For example, The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures provides
substantial information about Nimrod^* and it cites by name The RevelatiowBook o f Nimrod, apparently

The Book o f Nimrod mentioned in the Bagratid-era Life ofNino (appended to The Life o f the Kings).20^
Moreover, both The Life o f the Kings and The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures echo the tradition that
Syriac/Aramaic was the original language o f all the world. ^

But The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures, in

both its original Syriac and adapted Georgian forms, relates nothing directly about the K 'art'velian
community, and the parallels with The Life o f the Kings are just that and nothing more.

Internal Textual Evidence fo r Dating The Life o f the Kings

An extensive array o f largely unidentifiable sources/traditions, both Georgian and non-Georgian,


were employed, or at least known second-hand, by the anonymous author o f T.ie life o f the Kings.
Significantly, none of these works necessarily postdate the eighth/ninth century . This fact in itself does
not definitively demonstrate that The Life o f the Kings was composed before the eleventh century', say
around the year 800 AD. However, internal textual evidence will confirm my view that The Life o f the

Kings is a monument precisely from that time.


The established view among modem Georgian historians was articulated by Javaxishvili in his

Old Georgian Historical Writing. He argued th at Leonti Mroveli composed The Life o f the Kings in the

^ " C a v e o f TreasuresGeorgian, ed. by C. Kourcikidze and Fr. trans. by J.-P. Mahe (1992-1993). The
MSS used by Kourcikidze are: (A) No. 128 of th e Kut'aisi Museum o f History; (B) A-153; (C) S-30 =
Mariamiseuli MS o f K'C': (D) No. 10 of the Saltykov-Shchedrin Museum in St. Petersburg; H-433; and
(K) H-1064.

200Kek.InstJHS# S-30, It. lr-48v.


^^C ave o f TreasuresGeorgian, XXIV.24. XXVII.1-23, and XL V. 7-11 (who knows Nimrod's name in
the form "Nebrot'i"); and the Syriac Cave o f Treasures, esp. pp. 135 and 171.
^ C a v e o f TreasuresGeorgian, XXVII. 19-21; and the Syriac Cave o f Treasures, p. 205.
^ C a v e ofTreasures-Georgian, XXIV.10-11; and the Syriac Cave o f Treasures, p. 132. This tradition
was incorporated into the twelfth-century Syriac Chronology o f Bar Hebraeus, part I, p. 8, who also relates
another tradition whereby Hebrew was the original language.

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102

eleventh century.204 This hypothesis has been regarded as holy writ throughout the greater part o f this
century. Javaxishvili, and the successive ranks o f modem Georgian specialists, have based their
arguments on three fundamental points: (1) the author's direct reliance upon the Shah-nama (which has
been discounted above); (2) the name Leonti Mroveli that was associated with the text (but that reference
is in a later work and may be spurious, and it has been shown that Leonti Mroveli probably did not write
but only edited and completed the work); and (3) the oblique references to the political situation o f
eleventh-century Georgia throughout the work.
The scholarly ascription of a date to a historical work that survives only in MSS copied half a
millennium after its composition is a laborious task. Yet the evidence o f the identifiable sources o f and
influences upon The Life o f the Kings, when coupled with an objective consideration of the contents of the
text, strongly suggest a date o f composition ca. 800 AD.
Does any internal evidence suggest a later date? Eleventh-century Georgia, in several respects,
was fundamentally different from ninth-century K' art' l i 20^ In the early eleventh century the
K 'art'velian Bagratid ruler Bagrat in (978-1014) became the first king o f a unified Georgia, when
K 'art'li, Ap'xazet'i, and Tao/Tayk' were joined into a single political entity. To reflect this new reality, a
new designation was coined to describe the kingdom, Sak'art'velo (IwdiflxnggExn). The term
Sak'art'velo was not part o f the original text o f The Life o f the Kings and occurs as a variant reading in
only the M c'xet'ian recension for a single passage;206 otherwise the term K 'a rt'li is preferred by all MSS.
Although The Life o f the Kings is infected with the conception o f the lands constituting the K 'art'velian
domains under P'am avaz and the early kings i.e.. that Egrisi/Colchis (later western Georgia) were part
and parcel of the kingdom Tarchnishvili and Toumanoff have demonstrated this to be a reflection of the
authors own era.207 I concur wholeheartedly with them, and this circumstance, I should think, is a
K 'art'velian "myth o f settlement" whereby a "plan" for future expansion is expressed.208

204Javaxishvili, Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba, pp. 176-188.


20^Early Bagratid K'art'li/G eorgia is examined in chs. 6-7.
20677je Life o f the Kings, p. 66, apparatus criticus, line 7; cf. Tarchnishvili, "Sources arraenogeorgiennes," p. 38. and his other arguments, pp. 37-42.
207Tarchnishvili, "Sources armeno-georgiennes," pp. 29-50; and Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 103-104,
footnote 159. See also Hewsen, "Introduction to Armenian Historical Geography IV: The Vitaxates of
Arsacid Armenia. A Reexamination o fth eT em to rial Aspects o f the Institution (Part Two). IV. The
litaxate o f Moskhia: (The Iberian March)," REArm, n.s. 22 (1990-1991), pp. 150-152.
208For this phrase and its application to the Maori of Aotearoa (New Zealand), see J. Belich, Making

Peoples: A History o f the New Zealanders, pp. 62-64.

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103

The inclusion o f Egrisi within the domains o f the early K 'art'velian kingdom, and the alleged
ancient unity o f Georgia, need not be taken literally, and there is no reason to do so.209 In fact, the
author himself states that Egrisi was not originally a dependency o f K 'a rt'li: both K 'art'li and Egrisi were
endowed with same-generation eponyms.210 Furthermore, the preference o f the author for the old term
Egrisi instead o f A p'xazet'i (current in the eleventh century) likewise is indicative of a relatively early
source. The fact that the term A p'xazet'i does occur infrequently suggests that it was written at the time
o f the establishment o f the Ap'xaz kingdom, ca. 790-ca. 800 211 It would seem that the anachronistic
projection o f political unity upon the earliest K 'art'velian monarchs is actually a reflection o f the authors
own time (in my view, ca. 800) when such a conception had just taken ro o t
In terms o f vocabulary, syntax, and style, The Life o f the Kings closely resembles the corpus of

C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa, which in my estimation was also written around the year 800. Only these
Georgian sources clearly describe K 'art'velian monarchs as hero-kings in the Sasanid sense o f the idea,
regularly employing the terms bumberazi ("champion-duelist") andgoliat'i ("goliath," "giant").212
Bagratid-era historians never emphasized these terms for their rulers, nor did they portray them as
essentially Sasanid-type hero-kings.
From their inception Georgian historical works were written for kings, and as an endorsement of
K 'art'velian dynastic kingship. Should The Life o f the Kings have been written in the eleventh century,
we would expect some clear references to the ruling Bagratid dynasty. A strong argument in favor o f a ca.
800 date of composition is the fact that The Life o f the Kings is completely oblivious of the Bagratid
family.21^ That the text is ignorant of the famous presiding prince Ashot I "the Great" (813-830), the
first K 'art'velian Bagratid to rule, implies that the work was composed before his tenure.2 14 The silence

209E.g., O. Lordkipanidze, Georgian Civilization, p. 28.


210 77ze Life o f the Kings, pp. 3-5.
21 ^Toumanoff. Studies, p. 24. for similar arguments concerning The Life o f Vaxtang, and idem..
"Chronology of the Kings o f Abasgia and Other Problems," LeM 6 9 /1 -2 (1 9 5 6 ), pp. 73-90. esp. pp. 73-76.
Cf. Melik'ishvili, "Istochniki," in the introduction to Ocherki istorii Gruzii, vol. 1, pp. 2 3 -2 4 . The
contemporary corpus o f C'x. vox. gorg. also employs both terms.
212Tarchnishvili, "Sources armeno-georgiennes," pp. 39-10.
21^In the contemporary C'x. vox. gorg., Toumanoff has shown that the name Bivridani refers to some
Bagratids though that corpus does not make this identification. On the Bivritiani-s, see infra.
21<1A s we shall see (chs. 6 -7). the K 'artvelian Bagratids were a branch o f the Bagratuni family which for
the most part may be identified as Armenian. Since the author of The Life o f the Kings did not hesitate to
admit the intimate bond o f K 'a rt'li and Armenia, had he been aware that the Bagratids had come from
Armenia he would have reported i t It should be noted that Ashot was not "king" since the K 'art'velian
monarchy had been abolished by the Persians in the second-half of the sixth century and was only
reestablished by the Bagratid Adaraase in 888.

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104

o f The Life o f the Kings regarding the Bagratids may be juxtaposed with the History of Xorenac' i. One of
the principal aims o f Xorenac'i was to glorify the Bagratuni clan, to trace its alleged antique origins, and
to praise its contributions (some o f which were falsified) to the Armenian community from time
immemorial. The complete silence o f The Life o f the Kings on this point is extraordinary unless we may
consign the source to the era just prior to the consolidation o f the K 'art'velian Bagratids (especially
Ashot) in the early ninth century.
The ideological bases developed by the K 'art'velian Bagratids are entirely unknown to the author
o f The Life o f the Kings. This contrasts sharply with Xorenac'i who asserted that the Bagratids were
descended from the ancient Jews. This claim was later amplified, probably tty the K'art'velian branch of
the Bagratids, so as to demonstrate that the Bagratids, as kings, were the direct descendants o f the Old
Testament King-Prophet David. In K 'art'velian Bagratid literature we find no emphasis whatsoever on
the K 'art'velian predecessors of the Bagratids. In the eyes o f the K 'art'velian Bagratids, only they, as the
relatives o f King David, were legitimate monarchs. The Life o f the Kings contains no direct references to
the Bagratids and also fails to assert that legitimate kings must be related to King David.
Under the Bagratids The Life o f Nino was rewritten and popularized from the ninth/tenth
century. The Life o f the Kings, while it knows Nino's name and her connection with the conversion o f
Mihran/Mirian, is completely unaware o f the embellishments incorporated into the later vita. This
suggests that The Life o f the Kings was written prior to The Life o f Nino. To bring The Life o f the Kings
up-to-date with the new traditions o f Nino, The Life o f Nino was appended to it, probably in the eleventh
century Ity the archbishop Leonti Mroveli.
The interpolation of the origin o f the K'art'velians, as calculated by the author of The Life o f the

Kings, contrasts with the stemmae generated by eleventh-century Bagratid-era historians, like Sumbat
Davit' is-dze, who wrote the first tract explicitly glorifying the K 'art'velian Bagratids and delineating their
Davidic provenance. Davit'is-dze, in fact, is unconcerned with the provenance of the K'art'velian
community. Rather, he merely traces the evolution o f the K 'art'velian Bagratid clan. Proceeding from
Adam, through Noah and Shem, Davit'is-dze genetically links the K 'art'velian Bagratids to the KingProphets David and Solomon.2 *^ The origin of the K 'art'velian community, the tale of K 'art'los, the
establishment o f indigenous kingship by P'amavaz, and all o f the pre-Bagratid kings, except a few brief
references to Vaxtang Gorgasali (ca. 447-ca. 522), are entirely omitted.
Simply put, the K 'art'velian Bagratids, with a few exceptions to be discussed later, were
apathetic towards the K 'art'velian kings who preceded them, and moreover, they placed no emphasis

215Sumbat Davit'is-dze, pp. 39-40 = Qauxch'ishvili ed., pp. 372-373.

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105

upon the origin o f either K 'art'li o r the K 'art'velian community. This renders an eleventh-century date o f
composition less attractive.
The favorable treatment o f Armenians and Armenia in The life o f the Kings is often raised as
evidence in favor o f an eleventh-century attribution. Several modern scholars have suggested that the
tract was composed during the reign o f Davit' H at a time when the K'art'velian/Georgian kingdom had
incorporated a large number o f Armenians within its domains, which coincided with the decline o f the
Bagratids in Greater Armenia.2 ^

Thus, The Life o f the Kings might be envisaged as "Armenophile," and

as both a concession to the Armenian community within Georgia and as an attempt to buy their loyalty,
especially against the common threat of the Seljuqs.217 The predominant modem view is that The Life o f

the Kings represents an effort to secure the allegiance o f these Armenians. Specialists promoting this
opinion often emphasize that The Life o f the Kings commences with a statement attesting the
"brotherhood" o f the Caucasian peoples. Clearly, the author o f The Life o f the Kings envisaged Caucasia
as a single socio-geographical unit, but this was necessary so th at he could interpolate the origin o f the
K'art'velians into the existing Biblical tradition as well as into that o f the Armenian adaptation of
Hippotytus1Chronicle. Moreover, the author, presumably a non-cleric, chose not to imbue his work with
contemporary dogmatic issues. Therefore, the fissure with the Armenians was ignored, and it would seem
that he believed that the religious differences of the two communities should not obscure their ancient
connections.
The author, of course, wrote in the afterglow o f the early seventh-century ecclesiastical schism
between K 'art'li and Armenia. Although the fissure provoked a stampede o f polemic from the Armenian
camp from an early date (e.g., the Book o f Letters and the dependent work o f Uxtanes), corresponding
tracts emerged among the K'art'velians only from the eleventh century.2 ^

The major polemical work

emanating from the K'art'velian side was composed tty Arsen Sap'areli not before the second-half of the
eleventh century.2 19 In this charged atmosphere o f the eleventh century, it is extremely unlikely that a
royal historian could have composed a tract which would have been seen as glorifying the Armenians,
while not mentioning the ruling K 'art'velian Bagratid family (and their origins and ancient claim to
legitimacy) whatsoever.

216This view' was recently adopted by Rayfield, Literature o f Georgia, p. 56.


217A. Abdaladze, "K'art'lisc'xovrebadasak'art'velo-somxet'is urt'iert'oba (1982), Rus. sum., p. 227.
2]Q

1Although I argue here that the development o f Georgian historiography was partly the result o f the
ecclesiastical schism, the attempt by the K' art' velians to shape their own distinct past may not be properly
regarded as polemic.
2 ^9Alek'sidze in Arsen Sap'areli, introduction, pp. 9-68.

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106

Unlike any Bagratid-era historical text, The Life o f the Kings is replete with notices about nonK 'art'velians.220 Armenians, Persians, Romans/Byzantines, Jews. Ovsi-s (Alans), and others, are found
throughout its pages. The Life o f the Kings is extraordinary for its emphasis on the cultural plurality and
the heterogeneous nature of the K'art'velian community'. Medieval Bagratid historical literature has no
analogue.
It must be admitted, however, that several puzzling anachronisms occur in the text (even in the
earliest MSS),22* and we cannot simply attribute them to early modem scribes who were largely ignorant
o f the situation of late antique K'artli. The Life o f the Kings depicts the Khazars (Georgian A'azar-ni and
Armenian Xctzar-k ~) as active players in Caucasian politics even before the era o f Alexander o f
Macedon.222 We also encounter the term Turk'-, its meaning in relation to Xazar- in the context of
medieval Georgian history has not yet been determined. Regardless, the Khazar tribal confederation arose
only during the sixth century AD. By the seventh century the Khazars entertained close, but not always
amicable, relations w ith Caucasia. A large number o f Khazars were employed as mercenaries by the
Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641) during his invasion o f K 'art'li.223 The Khazar confederation
disappeared from the pages o f history following their defeat at the hands of Sviatoslav in 965. Clearly, the
Khazars were not active in Caucasia in the third century BC. This anachronism, which is present in the
early Armenian redaction of K'art'lis c'xovreba as well as in the history of Xorenac'i,22^ is a reflection of
the political situation o f the time of the composition o f The life o f the Kings, i.e.. ca. 800 AD. It is less

220Although the K 'art'velian Bagratids claimed descent from the Biblical King-Prophet David, an d thus
the Jews, Bagratid-era historical works do not dwell on this point
221

Melikishvili, K istorii drevnei Gruzii, p. 37, for the proposal that three separate waves o f invasion are
represented by the anachronisms: the Huns (fourth-sixth centuries); Khazars (seventh-eighth and ninth
centuries): and the Qipchaqs/PoIovtsi-s (eleventh century).
222On the Khazars, see: W. Barthold and P.B. Golden, "Khazar," El2, vol. 4 (1978), pp. 1172-1181; P.B.
Golden, "The Peoples o f the South Russian Steppes," in D. Sinor, ed.. The Cambridge History o f Early
Inner Asia (1990), esp. pp. 263-270; idem., Khazar Studies: An Historico-Philological Inquiry into the
Origins o f the Khazars, vols. 25/1-2 of BOH (1980); D.M. Dunlop, The History o f the Jewish Khazars
(1954); M.I. Artamonov, Istoriia Khazar (1962), with Eng. sum., "The History o f the Khazars," pp. 517521; A.P. Novosel'tsev, Khazars/coe gosudarstvo i ego roTv istorii Vostochnoi Evropyi Kavkaza (1990);
O. Pritsak, "The Turcophone Peoples in the Area o f the Caucasus from the Sixth to the Eleventh
Century," in SSCISSM, vol. 43a (19%), pp. 232-234 et sqq; and A.V. Gadlo, Etnicheskaia istoriia
sevemogo Kavkaza X-XIII w . (1994), pp. 8ff.

22^The Life o f the Kings, pp. 11-16; Royal List II. pp. 95-% ; andM ovses Dasxuranc i, 11.11, pp. 83-86,
who relates that the Khazars seized Partaw (Bardavi) in the 38th year of Xosrov, i.e. in 628 AD. See also
Barthold-Golden, "Khazar," p. 1172.
22<*Movses Xorenac'i, 11.65, p. 211. See also Ananias Shirakec'i, in . 10 (long recension), p. 48.

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107

likely that an eleventh-centmy author, writing a century after the disappearance o f the Khazars. would
have projected that extinct tribe into antiquity.
A second set of anachronisms is not so easily deciphered Two indigenous communities are
enumerated w ith respect to Alexander of Macedon's mythical invasion o f K 'art'li: the enigmatic and
unidentified B unt'urk'-s as well as the Qivchaq-s.22^ Both peoples are mentioned only once in The Life

o f the Kings, which may suggest th at they were inserted at a later time. The B unt'urk'-s. who were
probably envisaged as being related to the Turks ( T urk'-s) and perhaps to the Huns (Georgian Hons).
are mentioned in a corresponding passage in The Primary History o f K'art'li while the Qivch'aq-s are
not.22** The Bunturk'-s are not known in any other medieval Georgian work. T hat they appear in the
seventh-century (or later) Primary History o f K'art'li does not necessarily imply that this designation is o f
great antiquity, for it could have been inserted (and invented?) by a later scribe. In any event the
Bunturk'-s were imagined to be a barbarian tribe inhabiting parts o f central Caucasia. The "Turks" were
a real concern both in ca. 800 (Khazars and other Turkic tribes) and in the eleventh century (Seljuqs). and
thus this anachronism could have been introduced either by the original author or by an eleventh-century
editor or scribe.
The Qivch'aq-s are to be identified as the Cumani Qipchaqs. a great many o f whom were settled
near Georgia as mercenaries under Davit' n a n d T a m a r (1184-1213).227 While the Qivch aq-ni are
mentioned in all extant redactions o f The Life o f the Kings, they are not enumerated in the Armenian
adaptation o f K'art 'lis cxovreba ,22^ In the twelfth-century Life o f Davit' as found in the Armenian
adaptation, the Qipchaqs are equated with the Honk' /Huns 229 The Qipchaqs are anachronistic for late
antique and early medieval K 'a rt'li and were active in K'art'velian history only from the eleventh century.
It should be emphasized that the term "Qipchaq" appears only once in The Life o f the Kings. Either it was
a later addition or represents a tribe other than, but somehow related to. the Qipchaqs proper. The

22^The Life o f the Kings, p. 17


2 Prim. Hist. K'art 'li, p. 81. Bunt 'urk'- might represent a conflation o f the designations Hun (Hon-i)
and Turk (J'urk'-i). The initial letter in Hon-i would have had to have been transformed into B: these
letters were not easily confused in any o f the three Georgian scripts. Moreover, bun- might also be
explained by the meaning "nature" or "original." Thus the Bunt'uric'-s may have been regarded as the
"original T urk'-s." In his trans. o f Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 23, Thomson renders the term as "'real' Turk."
Pritsak, "Turcophone Peoples, p. 236, places the first Turks in the Black Sea region ca. 575.
227P.B. Golden, "Cumanica I: T he Qipchaqs in Georgia," AEMA 4 (1984), pp. 45-87. See also Pritsak,
"Turcophone Peoples," pp. 240-241; and Gaidlo, Etnicheskaia istoriia sevemogo Kavkaza, pp. 138#!

22*Arm. Adapt. K'C', pp. 24-25 = Thomson trans., pp. 23-24.


229Ibid p. 244.

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108

Qipchaqs were almost certainly inserted into the story when the text was reedited in the eleventh century.
In any event, these anachronisms existed already in the pre-modem period for they occur in all extant
Georgian MSS of K 'art'lis c'xovreba.
The Qipchaqs are not the only eleventh-/twelfth-century tribal confederation which appear
anachronistically in pre-Bagratid Georgian historical works. The Pechenegs. like the Cumani Qipchaqs.
were prominent in eleventh-century Byzantine history. The Byzantine emperor Romanos IV Diogenes
(1068-1071), who was captured a t Manzikert in 1071, gained notoriety for his struggles against them. In
conjunction with his successes in the Balkans, John II Komnenos (1118-1143) seems to have defeated the
Pechenegs once and for all. Regardless, after his reign we no longer hear o f a Pecheneg threat to
Byzantium. It is not surprising that we find references to the Pechenegs in Georgian historical literature,
since it is clear that the Pechenegs posed a palpable threat to the Byzantines, and moreover, some of their
numbers were settled in the environs o f northern Caucasia. But how may we explain their appearance in

The Life o f the Kings'? The Pechenegs are specified in a single instance in which they are associated with
several tribes, including the Ovsi-s (Alans) and Jik'i-s, assembled by the supposed K 'art'velian dyarchs
Azork and Armazeli in the first/second century AD for their raid upon Armenia.23 The Pecheneg tribe
is also known to the author o f The Life ofVaxtang (ca. 800), in which their homeland. Pachiniket'i. is
attested.231 Significantly, the biography of Vaxtang also links the Pechenegs with the Ovsi-s and the
Jik'i-s, and states that "at that time Pachaniket'i bordered Ovset'i along the Ovset'ian River."232
Pachaniket'i was evidently regarded as part o f "Caucasia," and more precisely, northern Caucasia. But
instead o f being the allies of the K 'art'velians, Vaxtang ravaged the land o f the Pechenegs as part o f his
campaign against the Ovsi-s.
There can be no question that the references to the Pechenegs in both The Life o f the Kings and

The Life ofVaxtang are anachronistic and were introduced by a later scribe. The familiarity of both
sources with the Pechenegs is evidence that both were likely reworked by the same editor, probably in the
era o f the Pechenegs and the Qipchaqs (and. of course, reedited by the K ing Vaxtang Commission in the

*jyjThe Life o f the Kings, p. 45 jq (where the A variant has Pachanak-ni and M has Pachanig-ni).
231The Life ofVaxtang, pp. 156-157.
232An eighteenth-century insertion in The Life ofVaxtang, appearing in only two MSS (Tk), occurs
within the just-mentioned account the Pechenegs and refers to the Qipchaqs. This insertion enumerates
the Qipchaqs and the Ovsi-s (Alans) as among those tribes imprisoned by the Darial Gate (on the
development of this tradition, see Anderson, Alexanders Gate). Beyond this brief notice, the author of
The Life ofVaxtang is completely unfamiliar with the Qipchaqs. It is noteworthy that this anachronism
about the Qipchaqs was placed within an eleventh-/twelfth-century insertion itself mentioning the
Pechenegs. But this association o f the Pechenegs with the Qipchaqs is an eighteenth-century
interpolation. See The Life ofVaxtang, p. 156 j 9 . 2 2 -

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109

eighteenth century)- This fact suggests that these works were edited in the late eleventh/early twelfth
century, the era o f archbishop Leonti Mroveli. The anachronistic references to the Khazars. however,
were made by the original author o f The life o f the Kings ca. 800 AD, when the Khazars were a known
tribal confederation in the region.
An indirect argument in favor o f an eleventh-century date might be advanced on the basis o f the
prominence o f Jews in The Life o f the Kings. O n the one hand, the Jewish community in K 'art'li was
ancient, and the anonymous author was anxious to explain their origin and their role in K'art'velian
history. Alternately, should The Life o f the Kings be an eleventh-century text, the prominence of the Jews
in it m ight be regarded as an echo of the Bagratid claim that they were descended from the Jews, and the
K 'art'velian Bagratids1own innovation that their branch was the biological continuation o f the line o f the
King-Prophet David. But this view must be discarded, for the Bagratids are not mentioned in any context
within The Life o f the Kings. Its author was well aware of Biblical traditions, and the Jews were basic to
them. Linking the K 'art'velians with the ancient Jews exuded the impression that the K'art'velians were
a very old community. Significantly, we find no attempt on behalf o f the author to associate any
Caucasian cfynasty, including the unnamed Bagratids, with the Jews.
The aforementioned anachronisms represent three levels in the evolution o f The Life o f the

Kings. The original author attempted to explain the presence o f the Khazars in Caucasia, who were active
in his own time (eighth/ninth century), tty projecting their confederation into remote antiquity,
demonstrating that they were among those barbarians found by Alexander. The second level represents
the reedition o f The Life o f the Kings (and the existing section o f K'art iis c 'xovreba) in the eleventh
century. In this phase anachronistic references to the Qipchaqs (Cumanis) and the Pechenegs were
inserted. These tribes were actors in eleventh-century Caucasia and thus could be interpolated into The

Life o f the Kings so as to explain their presence. The Qipchaqs and Pechenegs were associated with the
various barbarian peoples o f Caucasia. Finally, the King Vaxtang VI Commission in the eighteenth
century inserted additional information on the Qipchaqs. specifically associating them with Alexanders
Gate. It is not clear how the Bunt' urk' -s fit into this scheme. But the Jews had settled in Caucasia
already in antiquity, and references are an accurate memory o f their presence. There is no justification to
understand the K'art'velian Jews as a manifestation of Bagratid ideology, for there is absolutely no
indication that our author rendered any significance to the nascent K 'art'velian branch o f that family.

The Date o f The life o f the Kings

The Life o f the Kings was composed Ity an anonymous author in the period ca. 790-ca. 800 (i.e..
the era o f the establishment o f the Ap' xaz kingdom), and certainly before the ascendancy of the Bagratid
Ashot I in 813. The work itself along with the corpus C'xorebay k'art velt'a mep 'et'a in which it is
found, does not distinguish its author. Rather, a certain Leonti Mroveli is associated with it only in a later

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110

notice appended to the brief history of Ps.-Juansher. It is noteworthy that this "authorship passage was
not incorporated into the Armenian adaptation o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba, a text which constitutes the earliest
extant version o f that corpus. This suggests that the passage was a later addition. As has been shown, the
verb aghcera almost certainly indicates, at least in this particular instance, that Leonti Mroveli edited and
"finished" the text. This Leonti Mroveli was unquestionably the eleventh-century archbishop o f the Ruisi
cathedral whose tenure witnessed Seljfiq raids upon K 'art'li. Leonti Mroveli was responsible for injecting
Christian elements into The Life o f the Kings, for affixing the ninth-/tenth-century Life o f Nino to it so as
to explain the rise o f the Christian K 'art'velian monarchy, and possibly for composing the short
continuation o f The Life o f the Successors ofM irian.
The original author o f The Life o f the Kings plundered a myriad of existing traditions. Biblical
and otherwise, so as to elucidate the origin o f the K 'art'velians and the establishment of local kingship.
These widely varying sources, both Georgian and non-Georgian (Persian, Greek. Armenian, and Syriac
works), are a testimony to the marriage of cultures which characterized antique and medieval K 'art' li.
The anonymous author integrated evidence from The Conversion o f K'art'li but he exhibited a patent
unfamiliarity with the later Life o f Nino. He may have been acquainted with the Armenian history o f
Xorenac' i, but beyond their common interest in ethnogenesis there is no evidence to imply that Xorenac' i
served as a direct source for The Life o f the Kings. Yet its author almost certainly possessed a reading
knowledge o f Armenian, for he incorporated some o f the embellishments of the Armenian version o f
Hippolytus Chronicle in order to demonstrate the ancient provenance of the K'art'velians. One o f the
principal aim s o f the author o f The life o f the Kings was to interpolate the K 'art'velians into received
traditions o f the deluge. In his effort to maximize the plausibility o f his creative narrative he depicted
K 'art'los (the eponym o f the K'art'velians) as ultimately subordinate to Haos/Hayk (the eponym o f the
Armenians). It should again be emphasized that the eighth and ninth centuries witnessed an interest
throughout the Near East and even Byzantium in tracing the origins o f communities. Thus The Life o f the

Kings fits squarely within this intellectual environment. Finally, none of the identifiable sources o f The
Life o f the Kings necessarily postdates ca. 800 AD.
The Ufe o f the Kings situates K 'art'li within the Persian world, and K 'art'velian society and
kingship are described in Persian terms (this contention will be elaborated in succeeding chapters).
Moreover, as the very nature o f The Ufe o f the Kings suggests, pre-Bagratid K 'a rt'li is characterized by
the fusion o f Biblical/Christian and Persian traditions, as is evident in its interpolation of K 'art'velian
origins. The prevalent view that the image o f K 'a rt'li as an outpost o f Persian civilization is merely an
imposition o f later Persian literary models is misguided and is partly fueled by a blind sense of patriotism.
Achaemenid and Sasanid inscriptions, as well as Graeco-Roman, Armenian, and Georgian sources firmly
place K 'a rt'li within the Persian world (we shall offer a fuller consideration of this question in the
successive chapters). It should be restated that there is no indication that our anonymous author was
directly fam iliar with Firdawsfs Shah-nama. The Ufe o f the Kings and the contemporary C'xorebay

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I ll

vaxtanggorgaslisa routinely employ the term bumberazi ("duelist-champion") to describe K 'art'velian


kings as Sasanid king-heroes, whereas this image is extremely' rare in later Bagratid-era historical works
(and never applied to B agratid monarchs). Thus, instead o f im itating Persian epics that became popular
at the Georgian court in the thirteenth century, The Ufe o f the Kings accurately recalled the Persian nature
o f early K 'art'velian society, as it still was in the era o f its author ca. 800.
Several internal textual concerns are also suggestive in the matter o f dating The Ufe o f the Kings.
In the oldest MSS of K'art'lis c'xovreba, we encounter no use o f the designation Sak'art'velo. or "allGeorgia, a term politically relevant only after 1008. The author's indiscriminate usage o f the
designations Egrisi and A p 'x azet'i as synonyms suggests that he flourished in the last decade of the
eighth century during which the kingdom o f A p'xazet'i was established. In explicating the origins o f the
major communities o f Caucasia, the anonymous author did not fashion the eponym o f Egrisi/Ap'xazet'i as
a son (i.e a direct dependent) o f K 'art'los. Instead, Egros is made to be his younger brother, which was
indicative o f Egrisis essential autonomy. These are perhaps the most revealing clues that The Ufe o f the

Kings was composed ca. 800, and certainly well before the apogee o f the K 'art'velian Bagratid monarchy
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Significantly, we find no reference whatsoever in The U fe o f the Kings to the K'art'velian
Bagratids, the family which rose to power in the early ninth century and ruled Georgia until the Russian
conquest in the nineteenth century. Although the Jews play a conspicuous role in The Ufe o f the Kings, in
no way were they linked to the unnamed Bagratids. Rather, the inclusion o f the Jews in this narrative is
both part and parcel o f the heterogeneous nature o f K 'art'velian society so readily admitted by the author
as well as indicative o f an attem pt to implant an unmistakable sense o f antiquity. I have already
demonstrated that the anachronistic presence o f the Khazars, Qipchaqs. and Pechenegs within the text
testify to three distinct periods o f composition and then subsequent reediting. That is to say', although the
interpolation o f these tribes are anachronistic for the narrative, they were contemporaries o f the author
and then editors o f The U fe o f the Kings.

The Ufe o f the Kings was the first attempt to provide a comprehensive, detailed pre-Christian
history for the K 'art'velians and was written in the period of the rise o f the Ap'xaz kingdom, ca. 790-ca.
800. Later, the ninth-/tenth-century Ufe o f Nino was grafted onto the text, perhaps tty Leonti Mroveli in
the eleventh century. Leonti Mroveli himself was responsible for editing the composite text o f C'xorebay

k'art velt'a mep 'et'a, and perhaps he added, o r even composed, The Ufe o f the Successors ofMirian, a
short account o f the Christian dynasts who reigned between the accounts of The Ufe o f the Kings and The

Ufe ofVaxtang. This eleventh-century archbishop traditionally has been credited with writing the
composite work o f C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a. However, The Ufe o f the Kings and the biography of
Nino clearly predate him, an d his association with the corpus may be regarded as a reflection of his
activity in editing and assembling the corpus.

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112

IV. THE CORPUS OF C'XORERA Y VAXTANG GORGASLISA TRADITIONALLYA TTRIBUTED


TO JUANSHER JUANSHERIANI

The reign ofV axtang I Gorgasali (ca. 447-ca. 522) is described in the anonymous U fe o f

Vaxtang, which is traditionally ascribed to the eleventh century. This text is one o f the most colorful in all
o f medieval Georgian historiography, being invested with witty dialogue, brilliant description, and scene
after scene of valiant struggle against the ill-intending neighbors o f K 'art'li. Vaxtang is portrayed as a
great king who not only negotiated a peace between the warring Persians and Byzantines but also won for
his community a status equal with them. While The Ufe ofVaxtang is a semi-mythical account,
nevertheless it masterfully coalesces a fifth-century historical figure with actual, verifiable events. The
legends preserved in Vaxtang's biography have tenaciously persisted to this very day precisely because this
text is an exciting and memorable story, saturated with effulgent description and intense drama.

The Title o f C'xorebay vaxtanggorgaslisa

The biography ofVaxtang Gorgasali and its brief continuation were almost certainly a part of the
now-lost prototype o f K'art'lis c'xovreba. Though originally they likely existed in independent MSS, both
are now extant only in K'art 'lis c 'xovreba. Moreover, both The Ufe o f Vaxtang and its continuation,
together known as the corpus C'xorebay vaxtanggorgaslisa. are now always found conjoined. No
redaction of K'art'lis c'xovreba supplies one without the other.
Each extant Georgian pre-Vaxtangiseuli redaction of the corpus C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa
commences with a title233 followed by a notice on the exile and death o f Mihrdat IV (409-411), and the
reigns o f his successors Arch'il (411-435), Mihrdat V (435-447), and finally Vaxtang I. The title in
oldest extant Georgian variant. A (Anaseuli). is written in distinctive red ink and is defective for the end:

gbcififlbA OS*

3*b(J),b65 [aPijejaalwcjobA 93cn&ac50Ji 9* C030J

d o b o b g3E>obj> jo a Q ~ < n o b -3 c iy Q [4 ]6 o b i d a g o b i 6 c i3 3 ? o ) 3a(J)Qb

bibac5&46a>^3350 as3nh6jos ypi[3 3 xz>i>

8 3 3 3 0 )6

^ithmcjobioji]23^

C'xoreba da mok'alak'oba vaxtang [gojrgasalisa mshobelt'a da t'w t'm isis dedisa da


gh~t'is-moqu[a]risa mep 'isa romeli umetes saxelgant'k'muli gamoch 'nda qofvelt'a
mep'et'a k'art'lisat'a]

233The title is absent in the Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 139 = Thomson trans., p. 153, even though each
published version inserts the title and supposed author into the main tex t

234Kek.Inst.MS #Q-795, p. 125.

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113

The Ufe and Agenda ofVaxtang Gorgasali [and] ofH is Parents and o f the Great
and God-Serving King Himself, Who Manifested HimselfMore Glorious than All [the
Other Kings o f K'art'li].

The form o f this title varies quite a lo t but that o f A constitutes the earliest extant one as no title was
incorporated into the Armenian adaptation.

Because only the first text o f this mini-corpus relates the

history ofV axtang and his immediate descendants, the title Ufe ofVaxtang is rightly to be associated
exclusively with i t The brief, untitled continuation, which was not composed by the same author, is
concerned solely with Vaxtang's immediate successors. I shall argue infra that its author should be
identified as Ps.-Juansher. In any event, The U fe ofVaxtang proper was regarded as a c'xorebay {vita.
i.e.. "life") describing the accomplishments o f Vaxtang. This text differs with the contemporary Ufe o f

the Kings and the continuation o f Vaxtangs biography, both o f which tracked a sequence o f rulers rather
than converging upon a single monarch. The U fe ofVaxtang is the earliest Georgian history to be
devoted to a single king (excluding the semi-historical Conversion o f K'art'li). This model was adopted
again by the great Bagratids Davit' n and T am a r. That Davit' and T a m a r were commemorated in their
own vitae amplified the image ofVaxtang in the Bagratid period, since he too enjoyed his own biography.

The Author, Date, and Composite Nature o f the Text

In all extant Georgian MSS, the corpus C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa commences with the
aforementioned title which, significantly, fails to identify its author. Reminiscent o f the oblique
association o f Leonti Mroveli with The Ufe o f the Kings, a certain Juansher Juansheriani was connected
with C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa. In an appendix to the Bagratid-era Martyrdom o f Arch 'il. a
subsequent text in K'art'lis c'xovreba itself traditionally attributed to Leonti Mroveli. it is declared that:

This book o f his [i.e., Arch'ils] martyrdom was found in this abridged form [mc'ired
aghcerili, lit. "written {in a) short {form}"], since in the time of disturbances it could
not be <written down/finished/copied> [aghecera] properly.
And this book of K'art'lis c'xovreba was <written down/finished/copied>
[aghicereboda] to [the account of] Vaxtang from time to time.23^ And from [the

233QauxchishviIi deduced five major variants o f the title: (1) A; (2) Mm; (3) C; (4) ERTbps and B; and
(5) d. The last two are Vaxtangiseuli variants. See S. Qauxch'ishvili in The Ufe ofVaxtang, p. 139,
apparatus criticus, ft 1-4. The unpublished pre-Vaxtangiseuli Q variant reads (in nusxuri, in red ink):

C 'xorebay vaxtng gorgslisa mep 'isa mshbt 'a da sh~d t 'wt' mis didisa da gh~is msx-risa mep 'isa ri
umetesads~xot'agnt'k'm-ladg~moch nda q~t'a mep'et'a {Kek.InstMS # Q-1219, ft. 37v-38r).
236I.e., the corpus o f K'C' (L it The Ufe o f K'art'li). The form K'art'velt'a c'xovreba {The Ufe o f the
K'art velians) must be the original name of that corpus, for such a form would be consistent with
medieval K 'art'velian royal titulature (king o f the K'art'velians instead of king o f K'art'li). Of. infra the

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114

account of] King Vaxtang to here [i.e., The Martyrdom o f Arch 7/] was <written down/
finished/copied> [aghcera] by Juansher Juansheriani, husband o f the niece o f the holy
Arch'il, [who was] o f the clan o f Rev, [who was] the son o f Mirian. After this the
coming generations will describe [aghceron] [their history] as they witness it. and the
future tune will make them known to their God-given wise understanding...237

This passage is found in all the Georgian pre-Vaxtangiseuli variants (ACMQ) w ith only minor variations,
though the unpublished Q variant lacks the familial identification o f Juansher Juansheriani as the husband
o f the niece o f Arch'il and a descendant o f Rev.23** The Armenian adaptation gives a slightly different
reading:

And this abbreviated history was found in the time o f trouble and placed in this book
called K'art'lis c'xavrepa, which is the Patmut'iwn K'art'lay [i.e.. The History o f
K'art'li], And Juanber found it written until [the reign of] King Vaxt'ang, and [from
there] until this point was added by Juanber himself, and that which follows he entrusted
to those eyewitnesses and contemporaries.23^

So all o f the earliest extant MSS o f K'art'lis c'xovreba contain a notice associating Juansher/Juanber with

C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa. However, this does not necessarily evince the authorship of the texts.
Rather, it merely demonstrates that by the time that Arm /A was copied (1279-1311), Juansher/Juanber
was understood to have written, copied, or edited depending upon the meaning o f the verb aghcera.
which we explored supra C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa.
We should pause to ponder the different, but related, forms o f the alleged author's/editor's name.
The major variations are:

Armenian transliteration of K'art'lis c'xovreba.


7^7
Mart. Arch'il, p. 248 jq.^: "^0360 363 ^6836066 806066 o3 ei36 366301 b^jc? 83063(0
625^360250. 6018325 3680)6 82502501600)6 3536066366 30630b 6253^366. 6012501 ^0360 obo
^660133250)6 36013636066 302563 366(*)66&ob6d2>3 6(50^363601(06 36800)0-3686(5. 6012501
366<*)66& 8330600)366 30(563 6^68018(03 6(3^366
35366836o65366, d8ob^325ob
<3866866 ^8ooob6 66602506866, 660)3663866 63306866, 8060660b dob6866. 803600)366
838(930130)6 801863625006 660)3663006 6(5^36016 300)6636 06025016 (06 ^06682536663866 368866
0^3366(5 8016336 301636666 860)66 2586003 36666d6oi6oEob6."
23*Kek.Inst.MS # Q-1219, 11 72v-73r.
5*)g

" Mm.

np

Adapt K 'C \

pp. 2 0 7 ^9-2 0 8 7 : Ti qtpbtuL ujuipJnipfclju huifuiiuiip |i diufuriiujlju ztfvipJuilili, li bqun [i qfaipu,

ftjuppihu StunpbujuJ, np t' ''Vupdmpbi'li ftujppituj. U bqhip quui SnuuUpbp, qpbui ifbhjli gd.(u)^auihq pwquinp, (i

iffthjh guijwJwji fihph juib( Sntuikpfap, li qqmnjli juiliAhbujg ipbunquigli h ujuipuhbingli [t diufiukul|ili"; cf. Thomson
trans., p. 255. At footnote 97 Thomson remarks that a later expandedversion of Arch'il's martyrdomis
known.

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115

Redaction

Form

A nn/A
A
C
M
C^-RDEPbd
m

Juanber
Jonber Jonberiani
Jonsher Jonsheriani
Juanbar Juanberiani
Juansher Juansheriani
Junber Junberiani

In the earliest MSS, Ann/A and AMm, we find the variants Juanber and Jonber Jonberiani respectively,
whereas the pre-Vaxtangiseuli variants CQ have Jonsher Jonsheriani and Juansher Juansheriani.
Medieval scribes often confused the letters sh and "b" in the Georgian nusxuri script, and this accounts
for the divergence. But which form is the authentic rendition? O f all o f the pre-Vaxtangiseuli MSS. only
Q variant is in the nusxuri script (the script in which K'art'lis c'xovreba was first composed): Q gives the
form Juansher Juansheriani. This form was adopted for the Vaxtangiseuli redaction, and it seems likely
that the Vaxtang Commission had Q at its disposal. The name itself is of Persian derivation and is based
upon the form Juwansher.240 The form Juansher, as preserved in the nusxuri Q redaction is therefore
almost certainly authentic inasmuch as the earliest redactions Arm/A and A were likely based upon
intermediate Georgian mxedruli MSS which had misread the nusxuri"sh" as "b ." This implies that the
original version of the corpus o f C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa was written in nusxuri.
Was this Juansher Juansheriani the author o f the corpus C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa or either
o f its components? We should first consider more thoroughly the composite nature o f this text which is
alluded in the very authorship/scribal quotation appended to The Martyrdom o f Arch V/.2"*2 C'xorebay

vaxtang gorgaslisa is a composite consisting o f two texts written by different anonymous authors. The
initial and longest portion. The Life ofVaxtang proper, limits its description to Vaxtang and his

2*T\ Ch'xeidze, "Iranuli carmomavlobis sakut'are saxelebi k'art'ulshi," Mac ne 4 (1987), p. 103; see
also Justi. Iranisches Namenbuch, p. 123.
2<^ I shall argue infra that C'x. vox. gorg., like The Life o f the Kings, was composed ca. 800. If this
hypothesis is correct then these texts must have been composed originally in nusxuri, for the mxedruli
script was invented only in the Bagratid period (tenth/eleventh century). O f course, nusxuri was still
employed in the Bagratid period, so a MS in nusxuri does not guarantee its antiquity. E.g., Q was copied
in the late seventeenth century; it may indeed transm it an early redaction o f K'C', but this is not
necessarily the case.
242For an overview of the source, see: Kakabadze, Vaxtang gorgasali da misi xana (1994 ed.), pp. 15-36;
Toumanoff, "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," pp. 169-171; and idem., Studies, pp. 419-421 et

sqq.

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116

immediate predecessors. Only this section o f the corpus is legendary and epical, although it was built
around a reasonably sound historical basis. The brief continuation o f this work is concerned with the preBagratid successors ofVaxtang, from his son D ach'i I (522-S34) through the eighth century. Unlike the
half-mythical account ofVaxtang, the continuation (which I attribute to Ps.-Juansher. see infra) is nearcontemporary with the events it describes and is devoid of the legendary trappings o f The Ufe ofVaxtang.
Moreover, the continuation is strikingly sim ilar in style, vocabulary, organization, content, and
description to The Ufe o f the Kings.
Considerable controversy surrounds C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa. Groundbreaking research
was published by the Georgian scholars M. Janashvili, Ingoroqva. and Javaxishvili. Janashvili proposed
that the authorship/scribal passage mentioning Juansher should be accepted literally, so that he should be
regarded as a historical compiler o f the eighth century. Accordingly, Juansher was made to be the relative
of Arch' il II (d. 785/786), whom The Martyrdom o f Arch'1/, the text which associates Juansher with

C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa, e u lo g iz e s .^ But as Toumanoff has shown, Janashvilis arguments are
flawed, partly because he relied upon an erroneous chronology for Arch' il's martyrdom.^'*1*' Ingoroqva.
having relegated C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a to the eighth century, posited that C'xorebay vaxtang

gorgaslisa had been written within a century.^^ For his part Javaxishvili looked to internal textual
evidence, and calculated that C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa is a literary monument o f the eleventh
c e n tu r y .^ He theorized that an eleventh-century monk named Darion Juansher, who is mentioned in a
MS from the Iveron monastery on Mt. Athos, was the author. But no contemporary source associates
nation with the biography of V a x ta n g .^ Javaxishvili's argument on dating rest on two other unsound
points: a reference to the tenth-century Ufe o f Iovane Zedadzneli, the leader o f the Thirteen Syrian clerics
who are traditionaUy believed to have introduced monasticism to K 'art'li: and references to the Turks
which he consigned to the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. This theory is far from convincing
because o f the relatively late MS tradition o f K'art 'lis c 'xavreba. That is. these references cited by

^ J a n a s h v ili, "Kartlis-Tskhovreba Zhizri Gruzii," SMOMPK 35 (1905), pp. 120 and 133.
2MToumanoff, "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," p. 169 and footnote 22.
^ In g o ro q v a , "K'art'uli mcerlobis istoriis mokle mimoxilva, pp. 207-210; cf. the ninth-century dating
o f Tarchnishvili, "Sources armeno-gdorgiennes." p. 42.
Javaxishvili, Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba, pp. 189-194; and summary o f his views in
Toumanoff "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," p. 170.
Javaxishvili, Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba, p. 191. For a criticism o f this view, see Toumanoff
"Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," p. 171, footnote 33, who writes that Javaxishvilis argument
fails because "he does not give the date, or even epoch, of the Ms. and also because the name Juansher
alone is not sufficient for an identification, as it was rather popular in old Georgia."

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Javaxishvili might been added by a later scribe o r editor. We simply do not know what the original
version o f K'art'lis c 'xavreba said.
In any event, Javaxishvili's eleventh-century dating for C'xovreba vaxtang gorgaslisa was
accepted by subsequent specialists, like S. Kakabadze,248 G. Tsulaia.249 and D. Rayfield.250 and it
remains the dominant view today. Javaxishvili work, much o f which is perfectly trustworthy, has usually
been treated as a sacred truth by the successive generations o f Georgian scholars. Thus, when Kekelidze
wrote his monumental study o f medieval Georgian literature, he instinctively consigned Juansher and his
work to the eleventh century. However, Kekelidze also conjectured that, based upon their stylistic
commonalities, The Ufe o f the Kings and C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa were written by the same
author!251 Although this hypothesis can hardly be entertained, Kekelidze's argument does imply that the
two histories share much in common and represent a single stage o f pre-Bagratid historical writing.252

The Ufe o f the Kings and C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa are, in my view, contemporaries o f one another.
They describe similar social and political realities and employ a common vocabulary. Both The Ufe o f the

Kings and C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa (and especially The Ufe ofVaxtang) describe K 'art'velian
society and indigenous kingship as essentially Persian in character.255 As this portrayal is unusual in
Georgian historical writing, it is understandable how a scholar might suggest that these texts were
composed by a single historian.
ToumanofFcarefully weighed the various scholarly opinions about Juansher and C'xorebay

vaxtang gorgaslisa in formulating a more balanced and sensible theory. Expanding upon the insightful
work of Tarchnishvili254 and others, he convincingly proposed that the initial work of the corpus. The

Ufe ofVaxtang, had been written by an anonymous author around the year 800. about the same time as
The Ufe o f the Kings.255 Indeed, the syntax and style of the two works are alike, and he found the

248Kakabadze, Vaxtang gorgasali da misi xana, pp. 18-19.


249G.V. Tsulaia, trans. and comm., Zhizn' Vakhtanga Gorgasala (1976) (the Rus. trans. o f C'x. vox.

gorg.], introduction.
25Rayfield, The Uterature o f Georgia, pp. 55-56.

251

Kekelidze with Baramidze, Dzveli k'art'uli literaturis istoria, pp. 132-134; and Kekelidze, "Vaxtang
gorgaslanis istorikosi da misi istoria, Ch'veni mec'niereba 4 (1923), pp. 17-47.
252
See also Tarchnishvili, "Sources arm&io-gtorgiennes, p. 42.
251

The common description found in these sources is discussed throughout chs. 2-5 and esp. 5.

254Ibid., pp. 37-42.


255

Additional evidence for this dating is the fact that like The Ufe o f the Kings, C'x. vox. gorg. employs
the term Egrisi along with the later Ap'xazet'i. See also ToumanofF, Studies, pp. 418-419. Cf. the recent

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indiscriminate application in both texts o f the terms Egrisi and Ap'xazet'i significant Their use as
synonyms suggested to him that the date o f composition coincided with the rise of the A p'xaz kingdom
(ca. 790-ca. 800), for the toponym A p'xazet'i was probably coined, or at least entered general usage- at
that time. The unknown author, ToumanofF postulated, was "an anonymous chronicler from Ujanna" in
the eastern region o f K axet'i.2^* In his opinion, Juansher Juansheriani had merely composed the brief
continuation shortly after the completion o f The Ufe ofVaxtang2*7
In the period o f and following the disintegration o f the Soviet Union and of overt and often
extreme expressions o f patriotic sentiments, several extreme reworkings o f Georgia's past were, and still
are being, published. In 1991 V. Goiladze published Vaxtang Gorgasali and His Historian (Vaxtang

gorgasali da misi istorikosi). The author endeavored to equate the A rch'il o f the authorship/scribal
passage not with the m artyr Arch'il II (about whom The Martyrdom o f Arch'il is itself concerned), but
rather with Arch'il I (411-435), a historical figure who is attested both in The Ufe ofVaxtang and by the
fifth-century Armenian Koriwn.2^8 Seeking to ascertain that The Ufe ofVaxtang was an extremely old
fifth-century source composed by a contemporary ofVaxtang, Goiladze posited that the work was
subjected to a major re-edition, perhaps by the hand o f the eleventh-century Leonti Mroveli.2^9 While the
author successfully debunked the notion that a historian named Juansher Juansheriani wrote in the
eighth/ninth century, he floundered in his venture to relegate C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa to the fifth
century. The foundation o f his argument, the rereading o f authorship/scribal quotation from The

Martyrdom o f Arch 'il, is groundless. There is no justification whatsoever to identify its A rch'il with any
one other than A rch'il II whose murder is eulogized in the source. Moreover. Goiladze also makes the
dangerous assumption that the authorship/scribal quotation is authentic. While soundly-based challenges
to, an d defenses of, the traditional theories are sorely needed, both Goiladze and Baramidze (who
suggest the existence o f an early "Life o f P'amavaz") before him - have embarked on a mission to win

view o f M. Lort'kip'anidze, "Georgia in the 4th-10th Centuries: The Spread o f Christianity in Georgia."
in her Essays on Georgian History, pp. 12-13, where she states: "The work shows evident traces of
considerable elaboration and redaction in the 11th century. According to a number o f researchers,
Juansher lived at the turn o f the 8th and 9th centuries. However, it is not ruled out that a comparatively
short work devoted to the life and activities o f one o f the major representatives o f Georgia was written
soon after the death o f the King, and was subsequently supplemented and enlarged."
^^Toum anoff, Studies, pp. 24-25.

257Ibid., pp. 419-421.


2^K o riw n , Abeghianed., cap. 18, p. I2O25, for "Arjigh": "UpA|xi\... puiquinpkut d.puig..."
V.
Goiladze, Vaxtang gorgasali da misi istorikosi (1991), pp. 42-61, with Rus. sum., "Vakhtang
Gorgasali i ego istorik," pp. 205-207.

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both the vociferous consent o f the all-too-numerous nationalists who are avid for promoting and
solidifying their particular reinterpretations o f the past so as to justify the present and predetermine the
future.
These are only some o f the more prominent views on the authorship o f C'xorebay vaxtang

gorgaslisa. On m ost points I concur with the outstanding work ofToumanofF. For example. C'xorebay
vaxtang gorgaslisa unquestionably consists o f two separate texts. The presence o f two distinct texts
within the corpus o f C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa is actually testified in the enigmatic authorship/scribal
quotation appearing at the end o f the separate and later Martyrdom o f Arch 'il, for it speaks o f the
biography ofV axtang being completed at one time while the account o f his successors was composed
later. But was ToumanofF right to identify Juansher as the author o f the continuation? At first glance, the
authorship/scribal passage does seem make this assertion. Should we assume that the passage is
authentic, then we must again consider the problematic and ambiguous verb aghcera?* A literal
reading would have Juansher Juansheriani "writing," "editing," or simply "appending" a brief
continuation to The U fe ofVaxtang.
May we further identify this Juansher? It so happens that a Juansher Juansheriani is mentioned
in the continuation itself for the late seventh century. He is said to have been an erist'avi (a regional
governor) "from the clan o f King M irian. a descendant o f Rev," who had been entrusted with M t'iulet'i,
the region of Manglisi, Xerti, Juari, and the royal seat Tpilisi.261 The authorship/scribal passage in The

Martyrdom o f Arch 'il endows its Juansher with precisely the same descent Nevertheless, it should be
emphasized that not in a single variant o f Ps.-Juanshers history is its Juansher Juansheriani credited with
the composition o f the continuation o f The Life ofVaxtang. The author never refers to him self in the firstperson, and no special identification o f Juansher is made within the extant versions of the continuation.
The authorship/scribal passage o f The Martyrdom o f Arch 'il would seem to have the erist 'avi
Juansher Juansheriani in mind. But it has not yet been determined why the authorship/scribal passage,
which mentions Juansher in connection with C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa. is situated in the subsequent

Martyrdom o f Arch 'il. The most obvious answer is that the Arch'il named in the passage is actually to be
identified as Arch' il II, the subject o f The Martyrdom o f Arch 'il. But this does not lay to rest the question
as to why the author is not identified in his own work. Moreover, it is odd that an authorship claim does
appear at the end o f the continuation, but not in connection with its own author. Instead, it concerns the
literary activities o f Leonti Mroveli! Here, as we have seen, Mroveli is associated with three works: The

960

See also: Araxamia, "'K art lis c'xovrebis pirveli matianis moc ulobis sakit'xisat'vis," Mac'ne 2
(1987), p. 62; and M elik'ishvili, "Istochniki," in the introduction to G.A. Melik'ishvili, ed., Ocherla
istorii Gruzii, vol. 1, pp. 22-23.
2 6 1Ps.-Juansher, p. 242.

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Life o f the Kings, The Ufe ofNino, and even The Martyrdom ofArch il itself. The circle o f confusion is
complete, for Leonti Mroveli is not mentioned in the corresponding passage in The Martyrdom o f Arch 'il.
W e possess no credible evidence demonstrating that Juansher Juansheriani wrote either section of

C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa. Therefore, the continuation should not be attributed to Juansher. Since
Juansher him self was a historical figure and because, for the moment at least, we are unable to identify the
original author o f the untitled continuation, it is ascribed to Ps.-Juansher.
As for the name Juansher Juansheriani, it may have been associated with the corpus for effect.
The name Juansher is based upon the Persian Juwansher and denotes "young lion." 2 6 2 Thus the semilegendary tale o f an alleged great king, Vaxtang Gorgasali ("wolfs head"), was purported to have been
written by a certain Juansher ("young lion"). In m y opinion, the nam e Juansher (found within the
continuation itself) was attached to the story, at a later time, to enhance the heroic deeds, and the Persian
setting, o f the era ofVaxtang. This is perfectly tenable, for pre-Bagratid K 'art'velian nomenclature was
based upon Persian, and it is altogether possible th at a contemporary would have understood the Persian
meaning o f Juansher.

The Sources o f C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa

The corpus o f C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa, like its contemporary Life o f the Kings, rarely
acknowledges its sources and influences.26^ In fact, the half-mythical Life ofVaxtang. at least in its
extant shape, does not directly refer to another text/tradition. Ps.-Juansher. writing in a style reminiscent
o f that o f The Life o f the Kings, mentions only two sources by name, one Persian and one Greek.

2 6 2 AndronikashviIi, Narkvevebi, pp. 418.452,476, and 510; H. Acharyan. Havoc ' anjnanunneri
bararan, vol. 4 (1972 repr.), p. 306 cited by Avdoyan in Ps.-Yovhannes Mamikonean. p. 186. Avdoyan

postulates that "the core of the story as found in the Georgian Chronicle [i.e., A"C'| is taken from the fifth
century Armenian historian, Ghazar P'arpec'i; the rest is added fiction." There is no reason to believe
that any portion o f C'x. vox. gorg. was based directly upon Ghazar P'arpec' i's History o f Armenia. As for
much of the biography ofV axtang being "fiction," its author was attempting to fashion an image, yet as
Toumanoff and others have demonstrated the core o f The Life ofVaxtang is, in fact, based upon
historically verifiable events and personae.
2 6 ^JavaxishviIi, Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba. pp. 189-194; Janashvili, "Kartlis-Tskhovreba Zhizn' Gruzii," pp. 120 and 131; Kekelidze, "Vaxtang gorgaslanis istorikosi da misi istoria," pp. 17-47;
Kekelidze with Baramidze, Dzveli k'art'uli lileraturis istoria, pp. 132-134; Toumanofif, "Medieval
Georgian Historical Literature," pp. 169-171; and G. A xvlediani,"K'art'lis c'xovrebis"p'olkloriuli
cqaroebi (1990), pp. 74-90.

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121

a. TheJLife of Persia

Ps.-Juansher refers to a Persian source in connection with the Persian Bahrain Chobin (Baram
Ch'ubini), whose rise to power is documented during the reign o f the K 'art'velian kuropalates Guaram I
(588-ca. 590). Guaram, the first representative o f the so-called Guaramid dynasty, having been granted
the dignity o f kuropalates by the Byzantine emperor, launched an offensive against the Persians:

Then a certain man, who was named Bahrain Chobin, appeared in Persia. He fought
against the "Turks," who had invaded Persia, as is written clearly in The Ufe o f the
Persians [C'xovrebasa sparst'asa]: he killed Saba, the king o f the "Turks." and he put
their camp to flight.2 6 4

Ps.-Juansher then relates that Bahrain Chobin raised a rebellion in Persia. The shahanshah Khusrau II
(K'asre):

... was put to flight by Chobin, and he went to Greece. And the caesar Maurice [keisari
Mavrilti] gave to Khusrau his [own] daughter as a wife, and he gave him his arm y and
dispatched it against Chobin. Chobin was driven out of Persia and Khusrau
[rejoccupied Persia.26^

Toumanoff identified this Life o f the Persians as a redaction o f the lost Khwadqy-namag2^

If

Toumanoff is right, then The U fe o f the Persians, as cited both in The Ufe o f the Kings and by Ps.Juansher, may be identified as the now-lost Khwaday-namag or a related, now-lost work. But we must
still ask whether this source was written or oral. We do know this much: like The Ufe o f the Kings, there
is no evidence to suggest that Ps.-Juansher used the Shah-nama directly. Should Ps.-Juansher be an
eleventh-century historian (and I do not think that he is), then it is possible that he was inspired by that
work and related contemporary Georgian ones like the Amiran-darejaniani attributed to Mose Xoneli .2 6 7

2 6 4 Ps.-Juansher, p. 2 2 0 ^ . The Armenian adaptation does not include this passage or reference to this
Persian source.

265Ibid., p.

2 2 1 2^ .

" 6 6 Toumanoff, "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," p. 171 and footnote 37; cf. Javaxishvili, Dzveli

k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba, p. 192.


2 6 7 E.g., Kekelidze, "Vaxtang gorgaslanis istorikosi da misi istoria," pp. 35-43 and 46-47. The Eng.

translator o f Amiran-darejaniani has conclusively demonstrated that the work was not written before the

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122

W hat is crucial, however, is the deep influence o f the Persian epos upon early Georgian historical works,
a n d the fact that its application in Georgian historical writing does not necessarily signify a dependence
upon the famous Shah-ndma.
It is conceivable, although unlikely, that the reference to The Life o f the Persians is. in this
particular instance, inaccurate. In the mid eleventh century the renowned Georgian monk Giorgi
M t'acmideli, who resided on M t Athos, translated into Georgian a Byzantine history' describing
"Scythian" raids on Constantinople and Heraclius1invasion o f Persia. This text provides information
about the rebellion and rule o f Bahrain Chobin. Maurice, Khusrau. and Heraclius .2 **8 Should Ps.Juansher actually be an eleventh-century historian, then it is possible that this Siege o f Constantinople

and the Campaign o f Heraclius served as his source. O f course, it is also possible that the account o f Ps.Juansher, written before its rendition into Georgian, was embellished with its evidence by a later scribe.
In any event, it is unknown whether this translated Byzantine text served as a source for Ps.-Juansher in
either its original or later redactions. If so, it is possible, though I think unlikely, that it was
misrepresented as The Life o f the Persians.

b. The Hermetica

The invasion o f K 'art'li by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius is addressed with unusual detail by
Ps.-Juansher. In his account o f the reign o f Step'anoz II (637/642-ca. 650), Ps.-Juansher offers a brief
notice o f the rise o f Islam,2**^ and then o f Heraclius expulsion from the Near East at the hands o f the
M uslims ("Hagarites"):

They told the emperor [lit. "king"] Heraclius that the Hagarites had invaded Shami and
Jaziret'i, which is Mesopotamia. And Heraclius set out for Palestine in order to wage
war there. But there [he found] a certain monk, a man o f God. and he said to the
emperor: "Flee, because the Lord has given the East and the South to the Saracens, who
in translation are called the dogs o f Sarah." And these words o f the monk were
explained to the emperor Heraclius by the astrologers and by all the prophets.

Accepting the validity of this prophecy, Heraclius prepared to withdraw from the Near East:

twelfth century, which would place its composition a century later than even the erroneous eleventhcentury dating o f C'x. vox. gorg. Stevenson himself noted that we should concern ourselves with "a
common indebtedness to a popular tradition rather than one writer exert[ing] influence over the other."
See Xoneli, Amiran-darejaniani, p. 239 and the introduction.
268For Chobin, see Siege o f Cple., pp. 40-41 ("Bahram ch'ubini").
2 6 9 Ps.-Juansher, p. 229.

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... The emperor Heraclius raised a pillar and inscribed on it: "O Mesopotamia and
Palestine, farewell, be until the seven weeks p it th e seventh seven'] has passed" The
limits of th[at] interval o f time had been found in the books o f the philosopher Hermi
Trismejistoni with regard to the Saracens, which is 250 years.27 0

This last passage is deliberately obscure. However, its Hermi Trism ejistoni^ is to be identified
as EPMHE O TPIEMEriETOE. Hermes Trismegistos is the Greek appellation for Thoth, the Egyptian
god o f wisdom. Numerous spiritual and mystical texts were attributed to him by the Greeks from the first
century AD and were known collectively as the Hermetica. It fused a wide range o f ideas, from astrology
and alchemy to philosophy and theology, and was a synthesis of Greek and Egyptian thought The

Hermetica was widely known in the fourth century, but from the sixth to the eleventh century it almost
completely vanished from the Byzantine scene. With Psellus it resurfaced in Byzantium, but a more
sustained interest in it may be traced only from the fourteenth century .2 7 2 The reference to Hermes in
Ps.-Juansher might suggest that he wrote in the eleventh century, at the time o f Psellus. However, should
Ps.-Juansher have written at the time o f the composition o f The Ufe o f the Kings (i.e., ca. 800). then this
reference, if authentic, is striking. But we must remember that the mere reference to Hermes does not
necessarily insinuate that Ps.-Juansher relied directly upon him .272 Because o f the relatively late MS
tradition we may not discount the possibility that the reference was added by a later scribe, perhaps
himself from the time of Psellus, which happened to coincide with the editorial labors of Leonti Mroveli.

270Ibid., p. 2301_10. This event occurred in 638, therefore the prophecy was to materialize in
638+250=888 AD; see Tsulaia in The Ufe ofVaxtang, Rus. trans., introduction, pp. 52-53.
271

This form is Qauxch' ishvili's reconstruction based on the work o f Kekelidze. Cf. variants Rmistorman
ijistonis and Hirmistosman Ijintones (C). The Armenian adaptation (Arm/A) attributes the prophecy to
the works o f "Hermitron and Ijintos" (Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 194 = Thomson trans., pp. 238-239):
"Prognostications about them are found in the books o f the philosophers Hermitron and Ijintos: On the
great date 5814 appeared the son o f the handmaid from the righteous nation in 615, and he will endure
five times seven sevens minus five, which is 240 years. Thomson, footnote 69, remarks that these dates
do not coincide.
2 7 2 G. Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind (1993 [1986]); and
A. Kazhdan, "Hermes Trismegistos," in ODB, vol. 2 (1991), p. 920, who also notes that some references
to the Hermetica are found in the Byzantine historian Nikephoras Gregoras. Some works attributed to
Hermes are preserved in Armenian MSS, the earliest o f which was copied in the second-half o f the
thirteenth century. On this Georgian reference, see also G. Alasania. "Ric'xvi da mistika dzvel k'art'ul
saistorio mcerlobashi," Mac'ne 4 (1984), pp. 28-29.

27^

Prof. J.-P. M ahe has suggested to me that this type o f prophecy was most common throught all o f the
versions o f the Hermetica (private correspondence dated 23 Apr. 1996).

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In any event, it seems certain that either ca. 800 o r in the eleventh century some Georgian writers were
familiar with the Hermetica.

c. Armenian Influences

No Armenian sources are directly cited in the corpus o f C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa. Both of
its authors exhibit a diminished interest in things Armenian as compared that o f The Ufe o f the Kings.

The Ufe ofVaxtang does recollect the Armenian dynasty o f the Arshakuniani-s (Arsacids) through the
tale o f the Christianization of the Armenian monarch T rdat at the hands o f Gregory the Illuminator
0Grigol Part'eveli, lit "Grigol the Parthian"). This story was reportedly retold by Vaxtang:

... do you not recollect [you] the Arshakuniani [i.e., Arsacid] inhabitants o f Armenia,
the patiaxshi-s [descended from] Bivritiani, the deeds of Gregory the Parthian [i.e.,
"the niuminator"] and his adversary T r d a t the Arshakuniani king - how [the latter]
fell from his arrogance and was turned into a boar? However, Gregory converted him
and from that time he became a toiler o f the Church, and T 'rd at built a great church
with his own back, thus he was a h e r o . . . ^
This episode is ultimately based upon the Grigorian Cycle, according to which T rd a t had been divinely
transformed into a wild boar just prior to his conversion. It should be noted that the Armenian tradition
considered Gregory to have been descended ultimately from the Parthians, a further testament to the
Persian heritage o f Caucasia.
T rdat was a figure o f immense historical stature throughout Christian Caucasia. The imagined
Vaxtang is not ashamed to admit that he was descended from T rd a t through his mother. But he is also
said to have been descended through Mirian on his father's side, making him related to the first Christian
dynasts o f both Armenia and K 'a r t 'l i . ^ This genealogy, accurate or not, reflects the prestige associated
with T rdats name, even in the author's time of ca. 800. I should think that this suggests Vaxtang's
biographer, like the contemporary author o f The U fe o f the Kings, was a non-cleric, and that he chose not
to make an issue o f the schism with Armenia at the beginning o f the seventh century.

*The U fe ofVaxtang, p. 161g_jQ- The A variant inserts "Bagratids" after "Bivritiani" (Toumanoff has
demonstrated that these Bivritiani-s were, in fact, Bagratids; however, only the A o f all the Georgian MSS
o f K'C' makes this identification. Moreover, the Bagratids referred to here are not the K 'art'velian ones).
Cf. Arm. Adapt. K'C', pp. 154-155 = Thomson trans., p. 176.
275jbid., p. 169. We should remember here that Vaxtang was a king well before the 607/608 schism with
the Armenians, and the source was written after that event.

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125

d. The Book o f Nimrod

The so-called Book o f Nimrod seems to have been an important source for early K 'art'velian
historians .2 7 6 Although it is cited by name only in the ninth-/tenth-century Ufe o f Nino,277 its influence
is particularly evident in The U fe ofVaxtang.278 As we have seen. Javaxishvili hypothesized that The

Ufe o f the Persians, which not infrequently was cited in early Georgian historical writing, represented
The Book o f Nimrod?79 But this identification was formulated without historical proof and it now seems
dubious. Scholars have not yet identified any extant text as the late antique Book o f Nimrod. Although
the existence o f a text entitled The History o f Nimrod, Son o f Canaan (A IETOPIA NEBPOA YIOI
XANAAN) at ML Sinai was claimed a century ago. its actual identification, contents, and even existence
have yet to be determ ined28 In any evenu assuming that The Book o f Nimrod as known to the
K'art'velians did exist, we do not even know its original language (Greek, Persian, Syriac, Aramaic.
Armenian, Georgian, etc.).28 *
According to his biographer, Vaxtang addressed his troops during a campaign in Anatolia,
warning them that the mistreatment o f the local Christian population would provoke certain disaster. The
king alluded to some famous miracles, notably the conversion o f Constantine "the Great and the triumph
o f Jovian (363-364) over the pagan resurgence that had been spearheaded by Julian (361-363). Vaxtang
also recounted the marvels o f the Christianization of the Armenian king T rdat at the hands o f Gregory
the Illuminator.

276This Book o f Nimrod is not to be equated with the Uber Nimrod, an astronomical treatise popular in
medieval Europe.

777The Ufe o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a. pp. 105-106.


2 7 8 However, in Vaxushti's eighteenth-century reworking o f The Ufe ofVaxtang, The Book o f Nimrod is
expressly mentioned in connection with Vaxtang. See Vaxushti. p. 105g.
2 7 Javaxishvili,

Dzveli k'art'uli saistorio mcerloba, p. 187; his argument was recapitulated by Kekelidze,

"Leonti mrovelis literaturuli cqaroebi," p. 14.


28See The Ufe o f NinoWardrop trans.. p. 33, note 1. The MS in question is given as Sinai "Cod Arab.
No. 456."
On The Book o f Nimrod see: Janashvili, "Izgnanie Adama iz Raia, Nimrod i sem' poslepotopnykh
narodov: Kniga Nimroda." SKiOMPK 29/2 (1901), pp. 19-44; Kekelidze. "Vaxtang gorgaslanis istorikosi
da misi istoria" pp. 34-35; Bogveradze, "Leonti mrovelis ert'i istoriul-politikuri konc'ep'c'iis shesaxeb
(leonti-juansheris identip'ikac'iisat'vis)," Mac'ne 4 (1987), pp. 176-177; and E. Bammel, "Das Buch
Nim rod" Augustinianum 32/2 (Dec. 1992), pp. 217-221. Kekelidze, "Leonti mrovelis literaturis
cqaroebi," pp. 18-23, believes that the Cigni nebrot'isa (The Book o f Nimrod) was a Gk. source.

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126

Subsequently, Vaxtang turned to the K 'art'velian predicam ent He declared that the kings of
K 'art'li were the direct descendants o f the first king o f the world, Nimrod (Nebroti). and that even
Nimrod had not been immune to divine punishm ent Genesis is familiar with Nimrod although he is not
explicitly identified there as the first king o f the world. As the son o f Cush. Nimrod is described as a
mighty warrior and a hunter; the main centers o f his kingdom were Babylon. Erech. Akkad, and Calneh.
He also gained possession o f Assyria, where he established the cities o f Ninevah, Rehobah. Ir. Calah. and
Resen.2 **2 King Vaxtang him self reportedly recounted a non-Biblical tale about Nimrod which
attributing him with the building o f a tower to the heavens, the Tower o f Babel. With the abandonment of
Nimrod's capital, Vaxtang explained that the various peoples of the world took up residence in their
respective lands with their own languages.2*^ This is not exactly the Biblical tradition as preserved in

Genesis, but an independent one that was apparently related in The Book o f Nimrod. As such, it would
seem that the latter should be characterized as Old Testament apocrypha. Moreover, the tradition
depicting Nimrod as a giant and associating him with the Tower of Babel was not an unfamiliar one. for it
was also known to Josephus. We possess no evidence that the Georgian author directly used Josephus,
and works dependent upon him, as a source.2**
Recently, S. Livesey and R. Rouse co-authored an intriguing study of the evolution o f the
tradition o f Nimrod as an astronomer. The authors posited that the identification o f Nimrod as a giant
was an innovation o f Augustine, and, that Augustine him self had first associated Nimrod with the
tower.2*^ ft is possible, though still not definitively proven, that the traditionally-held "eastern" tradition
of Nimrod in fact originated from the pen o f Augustine. Moreover, the authors also attempted to
dismantle the notion that Nimrod's depiction as an astronomer had emanated from some ancient Near

**Genesis X.8-12. Verse nine describes Nimrod as "a mighty hunter before the Lord." Again. Nimrod
is the Bel o f Xorenac'i.

2*^The Life ofVaxtang, pp. 160-163; and Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ pp. 155-159. Cf. Genesis XI. 1-9.
2**Perhaps The Book o f Nimrod itself served as a source for Josephus since that historian, breaking with
the Biblical tradition, is also acquainted with the building o f a great tower by Nimrod. If so. The Book o f
Nimrod is a text of extreme antiquity. It should be emphasized that The U fe o f The Kings. though it also
associates Nimrod with the tower, exhibits no direct dependences upon Josephus. See Josephus. Jew.
Antiq., 1.113-121, pp. 54-59. The association of Nimrod with the tower is also made by Teaching o f St.
Gregory, para. 297, pp. 55-56 and paras. 577-586, pp. 139-142 (which is part o f the Grigorian Cycle and
was conceivably known to our Georgian author), and in the twelfth-century Syriac Chronography of Bar
Hebraeus, p. 8 . M.E. Stone, "The Armenian Apocryphal Literature: Translation and Creadon," in
SSCISSM, vol. 43b (1996), p. 639, reports Armenian apocryphal works titled Exegesis on the Tower and
Concerning the Tower o f Babel. Their traditions may have been known to our ca. 800 K'art'velian
historians.
285Livesey and Rouse, "Nimrod the Astronomer," Traditio 37 (1981), pp. 203-216. The authors are
unfamiliar with the Georgian tradition o f Nimrod.

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127

Eastern tradition. Rather, Livesey and Rouse suggested that it was formulated largely in Europe. This
contention is noteworthy in light o f the fact that The Ufe ofVaxtang relates that, having climbed the
tower, Nimrod "entered the realm o f the stars." 2 8 6 Could it be that the Georgian tradition o f Nimrod,
which serves as part of the "Persian" backdrop o f early K 'art'velian history, was ultimately based upon
innovations made by Augustine (in the West), which in turn had been introduced into Georgian literature
perhaps via Syriac or Armenian? Or are the Syriac, Georgian, and Armenian traditions themselves based
upon a considerably older story which was seized upon by Augustine? For the moment, answers to these
questions remain elusive, although it should be said that the potency and transmission o f ideas should not
be underestimated .2 8 7
Among medieval Georgian written sources only The Ufe o f Nino preserves an explicit reference
to The Book o f Nimrod. After Nino cured the queen consort Nana, her husband Mihran/Mirian:

... was filled with wonder and he began to inquire about the faith o f Christ, and he asked
Abiat'ar, the former Jew, about the old and the new books [i.e., the O ld and the New
Testaments], and [Abiat'ar] explained everything And Mirian possessed The Book o f
Nimrod [cignic'a romeli hk'onda mirian mep'esa nebrot'isi] ...
Then the account summarizes the contents o f The Book o f Nimrod, which is quite clearly the same text
described in The Ufe ofVaxtang. We find exact parallels with Nimrod's building o f the tower, the
abandonment o f his city, and the triumph of God's will. The hagiographer who reworked the biography of
Nino in the ninth-/tenth-century may have used The Book o f Nimrod directly, although it seems more
likely to me that he merely paraphrased the corresponding passage in The Ufe ofVaxtang.
Syriac literature also has preserved a reference to a mystical work about Nimrod. The Syriac

Book o f the Cave o f Treasures was written as early as the fourth century AD, but survives in an form
composed no earlier than the sixth century. It is extant in several divergent Syriac recensions and was
translated, with major modifications, into Georgian by the eleventh century. Nimrod is a figure of some
gravity and is described not only as a mighty warrior and a giant, but also as the introducer o f fire-worship

2 8 6 77ie Life ofVaxtang, p. 162.


2 8 7 0 n the tradition o f Nimrod as the first king (and his identification as the Assyrian king Ninus) see W.

Adler, Time Immemorial, pp. 15-19,113 (and footnote 35), 128-129, and 174-175.
2 8 8 77/e Life o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'eta, pp. 105-106:"... {3i3o6 3 o 6 o i6 3 3 3 3 } 50.6336056 02*
o^yoi a^dcidogbAQ b x sjE jb i
02* 9 6 i 3iC5afcob 3300)6636 Jgfioi-ym gocsbA Sib
*bo*a>i6 b d)3CPA C* *b*ff?fl)* ^o&Boibi, 09* 0 5 0 *3^y3&02* bOi3 3 C?bi. jg i ^ 0 5 6 0 3 0 .
dfcnSscpo 3 ^cn6 fi0 i So 6 o a 6 8353366 6 3 6 6 ma)obo..." Cf. Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ p. 101 = TTiomson trans.,
p. 115, which does not offer the name of the book consulted by Mirian ("Mirian possessed a book which
related the history o f the race ofNebrot' and o f the building ofK 'aghan.")

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128

(Zoroastrianism) to the Persians. He built several eastern cities, including B a b e l Nineveh. Seleucia, and
Ktesiphon .2 9 In The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures we are told o f some Chaldean magis who consulted

The Revelation o f Nimrod (Gelyana dhe Nemrddh). In this work they' discovered that a mighty king was
to be bom in Judea, and so the prophecy o f Christ's coming was revealed .2 9 0 This is in accordance with
the contents o f the Book o f Nimrod as described in The Ufe o f Nino, for after consulting it Mihran/Mirian
became informed about the Son o f God.

The Revelation o f Nimrod and The Book ofNimrod are almost certainly represent one and the
same source/tradition. Probably written and transmitted originally in Syriac, th e text may have been
translated into G reek and perhaps into Georgian and Armenian. But all o f this, for the moment at least, is
firmly consigned to the realm o f scholarly speculation. Regardless. The Book o f Nimrod, in some
capacity, served as a source for The Ufe ofVaxtang, and later for The U fe o f Nino.

e. Georgian Sources
A preponderance o f modem specialists consider the corpus o f C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa to be
an eleventh-century te x t Too often scholars have failed to identify the corpus' composite nature, and the
entire work is often attributed to Juansher Juansheriani. These erroneous opinions have obscured the
relationship o f the corpus to the Royal Usts and The Ufe o f the Kings, all o f which contain certain similar
passages. The path o f textual interdependence must now be reconsidered.
The Georgian scholar A. Bogveradze has demonstrated that at least nine passages o f The Ufe o f

the Kings were based upon, or formed the basis for, similar accounts in The U fe ofVaxtang.29 *
Therefore, it has become evident that one of the authors had access to the other's work, assuming, of
course, that a later scribe had not effected the parallels. Yet Bogveradze did not discern a single
correspondence between The Ufe o f the Kings and Ps.-Juansher. We might have expected to find parallels
between The Ufe o f the Kings and Ps.-Juansher since both works are strikingly sim ilar in terms of
vocabulary, style, syntax, and content .2 9 2 This paucity o f repetition may be a n indication that both works

2^9Cave o f Treasures, pp. 135-144; and Cave o f TreasuresGeorgian, cap. 24-27.


290Cave o f Treasures, pp. 203-205, and Budge in the introduction, p. 38; cf. Cave o f Treasures
Georgian, cap. 27.
2 9 *Bogveradze, '"Kart'lis c'xovrebis' pirveli matiane da misi avtori," pp. 26-27.
2 9 2 E. Xoshtaria-Brosse has theorized that "the opening cycle" of K'C' i.e., the works traditionally

ascribed to Leonti M roveli and Juansher Juansheriani are similar because they were reworked by the
same editor in the eleventh century. See his: "Terminologicheskaia osnova istochnikovedcheskogo
izucheniia nachal'nogo tsikla K artlis Tskhovreba,'" in Istochnikovedcheskie razyskaniia (1985), pp. 157162; "*K'art'lis c'xovrebis dasacqisi ciklis kompozic'iis shesaxeb," pp. 180-183; "Leonti mrovelis

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129

were composed by the sam e author who regarded it unnecessary to repeat information. Should these
works have been written by different authors, we cannot state with any certainty which source was
composed first
Another w ork exhibiting parallels with C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa is the legitimist tract of the
eleventh-century Bagratid historian Sumbat Davit'is-dze. This text has been dated to ca. 1030 by
Toumanoff2 9 3 and more recently to the 1050s-1060s by G. Araxatnia.29* Notwithstanding, it is
unquestionably a literary monument o f the eleventh century. Its close parallels w ith Ps.-Juansher.
especially with regards to Heraclius* invasion o f K 'art'li, must be regarded in terms o f Davit'is-dze's
unacknowledged plundering o f Ps.-Juansher and/or the dependent Royal Lists. It should be emphasized
that the early, legendary section29^ 0f Sumbat Davitis-dze's tract is deeply dependent upon pre-existing
Georgian texts, like the Royal Lists o f Mok'c 'evay k'art 'lisay.
Toumanoff has demonstrated that the Royal List II, and possibly Royal List I, was derived from

C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa at some point between the composition o f that corpus (ca. 790-ca. 800) and
the tenth century, when the earliest MSS containing the Royal Lists (i.e., within the corpus Mok'c'evay

k'art'lisay) were copied.29** This is reminescent of the Royal List Ts abridgment o f The Ufe o f the Kings.
One o f the strongest proofs indicating the reliance o f the Royal U st II upon Ps.-Juansher is its repetition
of the tatter's erroneous assignment o f the martyrdom o f Shushaniki to the reign o f Bakur III (7-580).
That climacteric event actually occurred during the reign ofVaxtang Gorgasali, 2 9 7 though not a single
K'art'velian ruler is attested in Shushaniki's fifth-century vita. Ps.-Juansher offers this description of
Shushaniki's demise:

cqaroebis da k 'a rt'lis c'xovrebis' dasacqisi c'iklis shedgenilobis sakitxisat'vis." pp. 181-188; and
"K'art'lis c'xovrebis' dasacqisi c'iklis shescavlis shedegebi da tek'stshi arsebuli minacerebis
interpretac'iis c'da," in K'art'uli cqarot'mc'odneoba, vol. 8 , pp. 81-87.
293 Toumanofif. "Medieval Georgian Historical Literature," pp. 154-156.

29*Araxamia in Sumbat Davit'is-dze. introduction, pp. 10-32.


293It is noteworthy that both works representing the two traditions o f origins ( The Ufe o f the Kings for
the pre-Bagratid period and that o f Sumbat Davit'is-dze for the Bagratid era) commence with highly
legendary tales and are followed by information that is more historically accurate.
29 ^Toumanoflf, Studies, pp. 262-263 and 418-421. Toumanoff wrote before the discovery in 1975 at Mt.
Sinai o f two new tenth-century recensions o f Mok'. k'art'.

297The fifth-century Arm enian historian Ghazar P'arpec'i, 111.66, pp. 171-172, relates that "Vaxt'ang
killed the impious bdeashx Vazgen in the twenty-fifth year of king Peroz." Peroz was the successor of
Hurmazd III and ruled from 459 to 484.

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130

At this time in Armenia there was a man, the son o f a mt'avari [i.e.. head o f a
noble house], nam ed Vask' en. And his spouse, the child o f a mt'avari, was named
Shushaniki, the daughter o f Vardan. But the Devil dominated Vask'en and he decided
to convert to fire-worship; he appeared before the king o f the Persians, and he renounced
the faith o f Christ, and he became a fire-worshipper. And the king of the Persians made
him the erist'avi o f Rani [giving him] great gifts. When he had returned his wife
realized that he had abandoned the faith o f Christ, she repudiated him as [her] spouse.
And she forgot [her] love for her spouse, and with all her heart she adhered to the
precepts of C hrist
Then V ask'en pressured [her in] many [ways]: at first by hypocrisy and
entreaties, and by giving o f gifts; then he subjected her to a great torture, so greatly that
it is more that I can describe [that] feat o f the holy Shushaniki. And her spouse
Vask'en, the erist'avi o f Rani, [thus] murdered her.
Then Bakur, the king o f the K 'art'velians, summoned all the erist'avi-s, and
secretly he gathered an army, and clandestinely he attacked Vask'en. Vask'en was
on the plain along the bank o f the M tkuari [River], where the Anakerti River flows
into the Mtkuari, [and] they fell upon V ask'en and seized him. They dismembered him
and hung [his] limbs on a tree. But w ith great honor they retrieved the body o f the holy
Shushaniki, and they buried her at C ortavi .2 9 8

Royal List II gives a more succinct notice:

A n d ... [then]... Bakur reigned, and the kat'alikoz was Makari, and during his [reign]
Varsk'en was the pitiaxshi, and Shushaniki was martyred in C'urtavi.29 9

Although Ps.-Juansher fails to acknowledge his source, he had at his disposal the fifth-century

Martyrdom o f Shushaniki. As already mentioned, this vita does not name any ruler of K 'art'li. The only
kings documented are the shahanshah-s o f Persia. This confused Ps.-Juansher. for he was forced to
interpolate the identity o f the K 'art'velian king at the time o f Shushaniki and Va[r]sk'en. Toumanoff
demonstrated that the misplacement o f the martyrdom o f Shushaniki by Ps.-Juansher was the result o f the
reference to the shahanshah Hurmazd in Shushaniki's vita. Ps.-Juansher understood "Hurmazd." who was
not identified with an ordinal, to be Hurmazd IV (579-590), a contemporary o f Bakur m , instead o f
Hurmazd HI (457-7459), a contemporary o f Vaxtang.-*^ The Royal List II indiscriminately abridged

C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa, and confronting the name o f the famous Shushaniki, it restated the error of
Ps.-Juansher.

2 9 8 Ps.-Juansher, p. 216.

299'Royal List II, p. 94; this account appears in both the Shatberdi and Chelishi codicies. C'urtavi is
rendered C'ortavi in the Chelishi variant
300roumanof Studies, p. 262-263 and419; andL.-N. Janashia, Lazarp'arpec'isc'nobebi sak'art'velos
shesaxeb (1962), pp. 117-119,131-143, and 174.

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131

Ps.-Juansher was evidently acquainted with another hagiographicai work, a collection o f vitae
relating the activities o f the Thirteen Syrian Monks. These monks, who established themselves K 'a rt'li
during the reign o f P'arsm an VI (561-?), were led by the "Mesopotamian cleric Iovane Zedadzneli. Ps.Juansher relates that:

Their live[s] [c'xovreba] were written down Idiacera], [as well as] their miracles, and
they were placed in the churches ofK 'artTi.

This passage is found in the Armenian adaptation o f K'art'lis c'xovreba as well as the pre-Vaxtangiseuli
Georgian redactions. Therefore, it has been a part o f Ps.-Juansher from at least the end of the thirteenth
century. Of course, it is possible that this notice was added by a later scribe and did not constitute part of
the original te x t We have no direct evidence that written Georgian vitae of these monks existed ca. 800.
but we do know that some existed by the time o f Leonti Mroveli. It is widely accepted that the vitae o f
these monks, in their received forms, were written (or edited) in the tenth century. Yet Ps.-Juansher
himself does not allude to the content o f these vitae, or even the names o f Iovanes disciples, although the
Vaxtang VI Commission inserted extensive excerpts from these vitae into its official redaction o f K'art'lis

c xovreba in the early eighteenth century .3 0 2 The earliest Georgian version o f K art lis c 'xovreba. A,
does not include the considerably later Vaxtangiseuli insertion about the monks, yet its scribe did exhibit
an interest in them: to the end o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba proper he appended - or the original MS from which
he copied itself contained a version o f the vitae o f the thirteen Syrian monks.3 0 3 The other preVaxtangiseuli MSS do not include this work. In fact, the A redaction including the vitae of the Syrian
monks is one of its earliest extant versions, with the oldest o f them being copied in the thirteenth
century .30 4 In the final analysis, although we have a clear reference to vitae o f the Syrian monks (should
the passage be part o f the original text), we need not assume, as Javaxishvili had. that Ps.-Juansher
possessed the tenth-century version o f those vitae, a circumstance which consequently might relegate him
to the eleventh century.

3 0 ^Ps.-Juansher, p. 207; and^frm.

Adapt. K 'C '. p. 188 = Thomson trans., p. 227.

302For these insertions, see Ps.-Juansher, pp. 208-215; Eng. trans. in Arm. Adapt. K'C' by Thomson, pp.
363-369.

303KeUnstuVIS if Q-795, pp. 425-470.


3^K ekInstM S if A-199 (thirteenth/fourteenth century) and if H-136 (71366 AD); as well as a Georgian
MS from Jerusalem (Ier-36).

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132

In addition, The life ofVaxtang is acquainted with the martyrdom o f Razhden/Razhdan. who
was tortured to death by the Persians during the reign ofVaxtang. But The Life ofVaxtang is ignorant o f
the vita for this sain t 3 3 It is well established that a Life o f Razhden was written down only in the early
Bagratid period3** Although the author o f The Life ofVaxtang was not in the habit o f naming his
sources, the omission o f a reference to this later vita may be evidence that the biography ofVaxtang was
composed before i t B ut this argument ex silentio is far from compelling and the discovery o f new MSS
would be required to validate i t
Finally, The Life ofVaxtang is better apprised about Nino than the contemporaneous life o f the

Kings. However, in both works the details o f Nino's activities, as elaborated in the ninth-/tenth-century
Life o f Nino, are absent Whereas The Life o f the Kings is aware only that Nino was responsible for
Mihran/Mirian's conversion, the biography ofV axtang makes more references to her. though without
offering additional details o f the conversion episode itself. Nino was understood not only to be the
spiritual teacher of Mihran/M irian , 3 ^ but she was a central figure in the mystical dream o f Vaxtang
Gorgasali.

The Earliest Georgian Reference to the K'art'velian Bagratids

As we have seen, the entire corpus of C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a is unaware of the
K 'art'velian Bagradd clan, and relates absolutely no information about them.3** Similarly. The Life o f

Vaxtang is oblivious to their existence. Ps.-Juansher. at the very end o f his narrative, provides the first
definite reference in K'art'lis c'xovreba to the K 'art'velian Bagratid family :39

3 3 77jc Life

ofVaxtang, p. 199.

3**For the text, see The Life o f Razhden. The same argument may be applied for the Syrian monk Abibos
who is known to Ps.-Juansher, p. 229. but that author does not mention his vita.

3^The Life ofVaxtang, p. 163.


38On the Bagratids, see chs. 6-7.
3 0 9 Cf. the much earlier references to the Bagratuni in Armenian historical literature; already in the fifth
century AD, the anonymous author o f The Epic Histories refers to them, but his tract champions the rival
Mamikonean clan. Toum anoff Studies, pp. 335 (footnote 143) and 344 (footnote 16). identified the
Bivritiani-s o f The Life o f the Kings (pp. 47-49) and The life ofVaxtang (p. 161) as Bagratids. In fact, for
the instance in The Life ofVaxtang, the A redaction adds after Bivritiani-s "Bagratids" (see apparatus
criticus, il 6-7). With the exception o f A, no early text in any extant version o f K'C ' makes this
identification. To be sure, medieval Georgian historians themselves do not seem to have equated the
Bivritiani-s with the K 'art'velian Bagratids.

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133

Then there came to [A rchil II] a mt'avari, who was from the clan o f David the Prophet,
by the name o f Adamase. grandson o f Adamase "the Blind, whose father was related to
the Bagratids.3 10

Nothing else about the K 'art'velian Bagratids is related here, and nothing more is said about
their activities, prominent members o f their clan, o r their origin. Adamase has been identified by
Toumanoff as a Bagratid prince who removed him self to southwestern K 'art'li following the disastrous
Armenian uprising against the Caliphate in 771/772. His emigration to K'art'velian lands marks the
historical beginning o f the K 'art'velian branch o f the Bagratid clan .3 ** By the time o f Ps.-Juansher. the
K 'art'velian Bagratids already seem to have been advancing the claim that they were the direct
descendants o f the Old Testament King-Prophet David. But the claim is known here only in general
terms; other details about the Bagratids are lacking. It is possible that the Davidic claim as articulated in
the aforementioned account was inserted by a later (Bagratid-era) historian, yet it is conceivable that the
K 'art'velian Bagratids developed such a legitimist claim relatively early, and this theory is plausible since
such an innovation was the logical conclusion to the received tradition (from the eighth-century Movses
Xorenac'i) that the Armenian Bagratids were descended from the Jews. The K 'art'velian Bagratids
merely extended this Judaic origins claim to its logical conclusion: as rulers, and as Jews, they sought to
trace their provenance to the archetypical king, David. Only in the eleventh century would a Bagratid-era
historian encapsulate the claim in a special Bagratid history, elucidating not only the origins of the clan
but also its earliest (tendentious) members. Once the Bagratids assumed royal power, their origin - and
thus. legitimacy - myth emerged as the ideological pillar o f K 'art'velian kingship.
Still. K'art'velian royal legitimacy remained fundamentally unchanged, for it had been linked
from the earliest Georgian historians to remote antiquity. While the hero-giant Nimrod (a Persian) was
regarded as Vaxtang Gorgasali's ultimate ancestor, the Bagratids claimed another Old Testament figure,
the King-Prophet David (a Jew), as theirs. The implication was cle a r while the pre-Bagratid K'art'velian
kings were an integral part of the Persian cultural world and their historians readily admitted this fact, the

3 1^Ps.-Juansher, p. 243q.jj. On this passage see Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 343-347 et sqq. It should be
noted that the A redaction inserts the Bagratids into a passage in The Life ofVaxtang, p. 161 and
apparatus criticus:"... [the] Arshakuniani inhabitants o f Armenia, the patiaxshis [descended from]
Bivritiani Bagratids... The meaning o f this statement is unclear and occurs in no other variant. It is
almost certainly a later scribal error/insertion and was also detected by Thomson in his trans. of Arm.
Adapt. K'C', p. 176, footnote 21.
31 ^Adamases relocation into lands bordering the K 'art'velian kingdom did not represent the first
Bagratid holdings in the area which later became known as "Georgia:" Toumanoff has demonstrated that
a Bagratid branch was established in Odzrq'e (m odem form Odzrxe) from the second to the fifth centuries
AD. On these early "K'art'velian" Bagratids as well as Adamase see Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 192,202,
315-354, 357-360, 407-416, 453-456,466,485, et sqq.

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134

Bagratids were the heirs o f the ancient Judaic world from which had emerged the prevailing Christian
religion.

The Dates o f the Constituent Texts

Unfortunately, there are precious few "smoking guns" testifying to the precise dates and the
identification o f the very authors o f the earliest works of Georgian historical writing. In the absence o f
explicit statements relating authorship, we must scrutinize the texts themselves so as to deduce their age.
As we have seen, even this laborious task is compounded, for the original texts are not extant and the
earliest MSS are centuries removed from them. We have a adequately good idea o f K'art'lis c'xovreba's
structure and contents in the thirteenth century since we possess a copy o f its Armenian adaptation
(Arm/A) from that time. B ut we may only speculate as to the nature and contents o f the corpus prior to
that time. It is worth repeating that not a single pre-Bagratid version o f K'art'lis c'xovreba survives. The
consequences o f this plethora of uncertainty are that in many cases we may only suggest the most tenable
scenarios.
It is possible that the corpus C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa is, as popular belief holds, an
eleventh-century production. However, it seems to me that internal evidence, as well as comparisons with
other Georgian historical texts, demands that we strongly consider an earlier, pre-Bagratid date. No
known source o f the corpus, either acknowledged or unacknowledged, necessarily postdates ca. 800. I
have not selected this date a t random, for a number o f similarities between this corpus and The Life o f the

Kings begs a common date o f ca. 800. All three texts use the toponyms Egrisi and Ap" xazeti as
synonyms. This may reflect the situation at the time o f the establishment o f the A p'xaz kingdom ca. 790ca. 800. None o f the texts are aware o f the elaborations of the ninth-/tenth-century Life o f Nino, but rather
are acquainted only with the skeletal tradition of the pre-Bagratid Conversion o f K'art 'li. All these
sources employ a similar vocabulary, syntax, and description. As we shall see, all three works depict the
K 'art'velian community and its kingship in inherently Persian terms. Historical works which are soundly
dated to the Bagratid era never portrayed local kings in this manner. Moreover, none of the texts is
familiar with the rule of the Bagratids in K 'art'Ii. In fret, of them only Ps.-Juansher mentions them in
any regard.

The Life o f the Kings, The Life ofVaxtang, and the untitled continuation by Ps.-Juansher were,
in my view, written ca. 800, and certainly before the elevation o f Ashot I in 813, the first Bagratid to rule
the K 'art'velians, an event w ith which none o f the aforementioned texts reports. A further proof for this
hypothesis is the prominent place of the patriarchate o f Antioch and the admission of the K 'art'velian
Church's subordinate status to it in Vaxtang's biography. As we shall see in chapter five, this is
indicative o f a pre-Bagratid date, and certainly not o f the eleventh century when Georgia claimed full
ecclesiastical independence from Antioch. These three texts almost certainly constituted the original core

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135

of K'art'lis c'xovreba, though we do not know precisely when that corpus was first assembled. The
original versions o f all o f these texts are now lost and we may only hope to approximate them with the
relatively late extant MSS now at our disposal.
The authors o f the two components o f C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa did not identify themselves
within their respective works. Reminescent of The Life o f the Kings, the authorship/scribal passage
concerned with C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa was appended to a subsequent history in K'art'lis

c 'xovreba. Annexed to The Martyrdom o f Arch 'il is a passage which associates Juansher Juansheriani
with C'xovreba vaxtang gorgaslisa. It should be noted that this account was incorporated into the earliest
extant version o f K'art'lis c'xovreba, the medieval Armenian adaptation, which demonstrates that
Juansher was associated w ith that corpus at least by the thirteenth century. Owing to the ambiguity of the
verb aghcera, this association might not identify Juansher as the author but rather as the editor.
Alternately, the entire passage may be spurious. In any event, The Life ofVaxtang was composed by' an
anonymous author, and its continuation, although linked by the thirteenth century to Juansher
Juansheriani, could not have been written by the erist'avi by that very name who is mentioned in the very
text Therefore, the brief continuation is attributed here to Ps.-Juansher.
In conjunction with the K 'art'velian Bagratids, Ps.-Juansher was already aware that they
claimed to be the descendants o f the Old Testament King-Prophet David. The authenticity o f this passage
is probable since the Armenian Bagratids, from at least the eighth century, had claimed to be of Jewish
origins. The K 'art'velian branch, from an early time, took this claim to its logical conclusion: as rulers,
they extended their Jewish origins claims back to the prototypical king, David. And this is significant, for
it marks a tangible ideological break with the pre-Bagratid K 'art'velian past. Whereas The Life o f

Vaxtang portrayed the ultimate ancestor ofVaxtang Gorgasali as Nimrod, who him self was associated in
Georgian sources with Persia, the K'art'velian Bagratids. from their establishment in southwestern
K'artTi, claimed a biological connection not with Persia but with the Judeo-Christian w orld This change
in ideology had not yet affected historical writing at the time of Ps.-Juansher, although we may observe
the transformation incubating in The Life ofVaxtang. In this latter source K 'artTi is indeed placed within
a Persian milieu but its author, nevertheless, aspires to demonstrate the progression o f Vaxtang's ultimate
loyalties from the Persians to the Byzantines.
We may confidently say that the constituent texts of C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa were
composed prior to the solidification o f Bagratid rule. The nature of subsequent Bagratid-era Georgian
historical sources contrasts sharply, for in them the K'art'velian connection with Persia was consciously
and conveniently overlooked, whereas the bond with Christian Byzantium was emphasized and sometimes
praised

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136

Chapter Two

The Algebra o f Origins

I. THE ORIGIN OF THE F A R 7" VELIANS AND POST-DILUVIAN F A R T L I

The received tradition o f the provenance o f the K'art'velian community is enshrined in The Life

o f the Kings, which was composed tty an anonymous author ca. 800. Christian historians customarily
calculated the origins o f peoples from the story o f the post-diluvian dispersion preserved in the Old
Testament and related works. O ur historian's point o f departure was no different However, the tradition
o f Genesis was incomplete from the K 'art'velian perspective, and the author of The Life o f the Kings
labored to rectify its oversight * Seeking to place his community within the established framework o f the

tabula populorum, he proceeded from the assumptions that the K 'art'velians were both ancient and
ultimately related to the neighboring Armenians, whose antiquity was confirmed in the Bible and whose
origin was explained in the genealogical tract o f Hippolytus of Rome. Accordingly, the Georgian
historian invented an eponym for the K'art'velians, K'art'Ios, and interpolated him into existing. largely
non-Georgian, traditions. Once he demonstrated the provenance o f the K'art'velian community, he
embarked on a description of the evolution of local royal authority and the place o f K 'a rt'li within the
purview of "world" history.

^There is no evidence to suggest that the eponymous ancestors known to The Life o f the Kings Oust like
those of Genesis) were historical persons. Old Testament and related genealogies are characteristically
ahistorical, and their primary function was not to present a coherent and accurate historical record.
Rather, their intentions were varied: to demonstrate the actual or desired relationships am ong various
communities, to provide contexts for narratives, to establish a sense o f continuity, and to serve as a basis
o f legitimation to an office or dignity. In short, genealogies were made and remade according to the
political demands o f the moment See: R.R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World (1977);
and M. J. Johnson, The Purpose o f the Biblical Genealogies, 2nd ed. (1988), esp. pp. 77-82. It should be
noted that no complete ancient version of the Georgian Old Testament survives; complete versions o f the
text, including Genesis, survive only from the late medieval period.

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137

The Sons ofTogarmah and the Origin o f Caucasia

Two conspicuous themes are introduced in the initial passage o f The Life o f the Kings: the
assumed genetic relationship of all peoples o f Caucasia as well as the strict principle o f primogeniture
(i.e., ultimate authority resting with the eldest son). The Life o f the Kings, the opening text o f the corpus
o f K'art'lis c'xovreba. commences:

First we should recall that the Armenians [Somexi-s] an d the K 'art'velians. the
Heret'i-ans and the Leki-s. the Megreli-s and the Caucasians [all] had a single
[forejfather by the nam e ofTogarm ah [ T argamos]. This Togarmah was the son of
Tiras [Tarshi], [who was the] grandson o f Japheth [Iap'eti]. [who. in turn, was the]
son o f Noah. And this Togarmah was a heroic man.^

^The Life o f the Kings, p. 3 5 _g: "3o633E34o 343636010 ) 3 6 3 , 64830313 6018311034 {54
64&034 04 8 0 3 4 3 4 6 0 3 4 , 36034 04 333034, 8aafiac?034 CSS 34334 6 04 60 34 40403 0 3 6 0 3 4 qAcOO
0 3 0 8 4 8 4 , b4b3C3003 0346348016 . 3 6 3 034634801 b 0301 8 3 0 3 4 6 8 0 6 0 , dob^QEjo 0 4 3 3 0 3 0 6 0 , dob4
6 0 1 3 6 0 . 04 oyoi 3 6 3 0346348016 3 4 3 0 3 8 0 6 0 ." The designation "Caucasians" in medieval Georgian
historiography usually refers to the various tribes of northern Caucasia. Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 5, reads:
"Bfctujuii ufujugmp uijuT qh 'Mujtg li d.puig It fkilwjg li LTmlliuuliujg li 'sbfiuiliujg li Ltlnug li bmlljujufcujg li bqbptug huip dji
tp ungui2 l&npqntf Ijnjbgbm..." [Hishatak arasc'uk'aysm, zr Hayoc'ev Vrac'evRanac evM ovkanac'ev
Heranac' ev Lekac' ev Kovkaseac' ev Egerac' hayr mi er soc 'ash T'orgom kochec 'eal... ] Hayoc' denotes
the Somexi-s (i.e., the Armenians) and Vrac' corresponds to the K'art'velians.
Even much later Georgian legends o f the Flood remember Noah as the father o f all peoples. For
example, in unpublished notes of M. Wardrop. I have found a translation o f an undated (probably late
nineteenth century) Georgian folk tale entitled "The Origin o f Princes, Nobles, and Peasants":
Having received from God a revelation that a universal flood was about to take place,
Noah hastened to build a ship to save himself. But the work went on slowly, and the
deluge was approaching fast. Noah sent for a carpenter, to whom he promised his
daughter in exchange for help. Soon he had to get another carpenter, and to him also he
promised his daughter. Finally, he had to seek the aid o f a third carpenter, with whom
he made the same agreem ent When the work was finished, the carpenters demaded the
fulfilment of the promises... But Noah only had one daughter! What was to be done?
He prayed to God for help. Then God created one daughter from a dog, an d another
from an ass-, thus Noah had three daughters, whom he m arried to the three carpenters.
From the first (original) daughter proceeded the princes, from the second (the dog)
nobles, from the third (the ass) issued peasants.
This tale does not seek to explain the origin o f ethnic groups o r nations, but rather classes o f people:
princes, nobles, and peasants. See M Wardrop, "Georgian Folk Tales," Oxf.Wardr. # MS.Wardr.c.22 (ca.
1893).

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138

The communities named here represent the major peoples o f Caucasia ca. 800. the time in which The Life

o f the Kings was composed It is remarkable that the Armenians (Somexi-s) are the initial community
m entioned while the K 'art'velians are relegated to second position. I shall return to this circumstance
directly.
Having declared that the major communities o f Caucasia were biologically related through one
son o f Noah, The Life o f the Kings immediately moves to associate the post-diluvian dispersion o f peoples
with the erection of the Tower o f Babel (called the T o w e r o f Babylon" in the Georgian tradition):

And the languages became divided after the Tower o f Babylon had been raised the
languages being differentiated and diffused throughout the entire w orld 3

The contemporary Life ofVaxtang offers a similar but considerably more detailed account about the
Tower, apparently based upon the now-lost Book o f Nimrod. King Vaxtang (ca. 447-ca. 522) is made to
address his troops during a campaign in Byzantine Anatolia (lit "Greece), during which he joyfully
proclaimed that K 'art'velian royal lineage extended directly from N im rod "the first king of the w orld
Nimrod was understood to have erected

... a city, the stones o f which were made o f g o ld and the foundation [of which] was
made o f silver, and he encircled it with bricks and lime, but the arches over the doors
and windows were made from jacinth and emeralds; even the night could not overcome
their brilliance. And inside [the city] he erected temples and towers, which are difficult
to imagine: the skill devoted to every detail is incomprehensible. He raised it to a
height o f [a] three days [walk], he built a stairway in the walls for the ascent, for he
wanted to ascend to heaven in order to see the beings o f the clouds. But as soon as he
transgressed the realm o f the atmosphere and entered the realm o f the stars, the
workmen were no longer able to build, for the gold and the silver melted since fire ruled
over the ether so that it flamed up vehemently owing to the rotation of the firmament.
[And] he heard at that place the conversation o f the seven heavenly assemblies, o f which
the Adamiani-s [i.e.. the progeny o f Adam, "humankind"] were frightened And all the
men with their clans began to speak in their own languages, and no longer could anyone
understand the language o f their neighbors, and they took leave [of one another].
But to Nimrod was said in the Persian tongue: "I am the angel Michael, who
has been established by God to rule over the E a st Abandon this city, for God will
conceal this city until the appearance o f Paradise, which is located close to this
construction o f yours, between which extends this mountain, from which rises the Sun
and [from which] flows two rivers: the Nile [Nilos] and the Gehon [Geoni], For the

The Life o f the Kings, p. 3g_j0. Cf. Genesis XI. 1: "And all the world was o f a single language and
speech."
^The tradition that Nimrod was the first king o f the world is expressed in Genesis X.8 .

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139

Gehon brings from Paradise a fragrant tree and a herb which mixes with musk. Now go
forth. And settle between the two rivers, the Euphrates [Evp'rati] and the Tigris [Jila].
and let these kindred dwell [where] each one desires, for they have been sent by the
Lord. But your kingdom will reign over all [other] kings, and at the end of time the
Lord o f Heaven, Whom you desire to see, will come among a despised people. Fear of
Him will annul the pleasures o f life. Kings will abandon [their] kingdoms and will seek
poverty. And then He will see you in misfortune and He will save you.
And everyone abandoned the city and departed. And [those] departing who
spoke Indian went to Hindoeti, 5 the Sinds to Sindef i, the Romans to Rome, the Greeks
to Greece,6 Ag and Magug to Maguget'i ,7 the Persians to Persia: but the original
language was "Assyrian [?Syriac, ?Aramaic, ?Semitic], and these were the seven
languages which were spoken until [the time of] Nimrod. I shall relate to you that our
[forejfathers secretly kept this book, and I have been compelled by [my] zeal for God to
speak about this, by which our [forejfather Mirian came to accept the Gospel o f Christ
through Nino.**

The corresponding passage o f the Armenian adaptation o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba adds that at the end o f the
world Christ would find Nimrod in Hell and resurrect him. Subsequently, Christ Him self would erect a
new Tower and a stairway to Heaven upon which Nimrod and others would finally ascend to God.^ It
should be noted that Genesis X.8-14 specifically relates that Nimrod - who is not specifically called a

^All o f the Georgian MSS have Indian/Hindoet'i here; cf. Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 159

"fanpqndiuu' h

f&npqmfbuiluti" [T'orgomavs i T'orgomeansn], "the Targam osiani-s to [the land/lot] ofTogarmah" =


Thomson trans.. p. 180.
6 Alternately, this passage could be anachronistically read as "the Byzantines to Byzantium."
7 I.e., the Gog and Magog. For the "region o f Gog" being counted among the domains o f Japheth and his
sons, see The Book o f Jubilees, VIII.25. p. 26.

The Life o f the Kings, pp. 161 j^-1635. I wish to thank Prof. G. Alasania for illuminating certain
phrases in this mystical account Cf. Arm. Adapt. K'C', pp. 155-159 = Thomson trans., pp. 177-180: and
Vardan Arewelc'i, p. 147. Nimrod is not directly associated with the Tower of Babel in most extant
contemporary sources, e.g.: Genesis XI; Book o f Jubilees, X. 18-26, pp. 28-29; Sibylline Oracles, ID. 97104, pp. 380-381; and Teaching o f Saint Gregory, para. 297, pp. 55-56. But Augustine, City o f God,
XVI.4, pp. 24-31, does associate Nimrod with the Tower and the confusion of languages. For the recent
suggestion that this association was an innovation o f Augustine and not a recapitulation o f some
preexisting Syriac o r Eastern tradition, see Livesey and Rouse, "Nimrod the Astronomer, Traditio 37
(1981), pp. 203-266. For the view that these traditions about Nimrod were first fashioned in the Near
East, see C.H. Haskins, "Nimrod the Astronomer," in his Studies in the History o f Mediaeval Science
(1927), pp. 336-345. For the role o f Nimrod in the works o f Dante, see P. Dronke, Dante and Medieval
Latin Traditions (1986), esp. ch. 2, "Giants in Hell," pp. 32-54 and excursus 2, "Nimrod: His character,
ambitions and thoughts about God The evidence o f the Liber Nemroth," pp. 112-124 (and pp. 146-147,
note 9, for the place o f the account o f "Leonti Mroveli). NB: The medieval European Liber Nemroth
should not be equated with the Georgian Book o f Nimrod.
^Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 158 = Thomson trans, p. 179.

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140

king but a "mighty hunter" who ruled in some capacity was the son o f Cush, who him self was the son of
Noah's son Ham. The K 'art'velians, as we shall see, customarily referred to the Persians, o r at least their
rulers, as Nebrotiani-s, or "the progeny o f Nimrod." The implication is that Nimrod, his descendants,
and the Persians were, according to the medieval K 'art'velian reckoning, the progem' o f Noah's son Ham
while the K'art'velians themselves were descended from Hams brother Japheth. That is to say. the
Persian and the K 'art'velian communities were not immediately related to one another. This is
noteworthy in light of the Persian context o f K ' art'velian history in The Ufe o f the Kings. However, the
ca. 800 author recognized the genetic relationship o f the contemporary Persian and K 'art'velian rulers,
and thus he made Vaxtang extol his Nebrot' iani ancestry.
Subsequently, The Ufe o f the Kings shifts its focus to the dispersion of peoples, inserting the
foundation o f K 'art'li and all o f Caucasia into the received tradition. The anonymous historian derived
the names o f the eponyms from the names o f the various communities. The sons ofTogarm ah allegedly
established in the region o f Caucasia are (see mapV 10

Eponym

Region

Community

Haos (Arm. Hayk)

Som xit'i (Arm. Hayk').


i.e., (Greater) Armenia
K 'a rt'li
Bardavi (Arm. Partaw)
Movakani
Leki
Heret'i
Northern Caucasia
Egrisi

Somexi-s
(Armenians)
K'art'velians
Rani-s
Movakani-s
Leki-s
Heret'i-ans
Caucasians
Mggieli-s

Kart'Ios
Bardos
Movakan
Lekan
Heros
Kavkas
Egros

^The Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 3-4. Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 6 = Thomson trans.. pp. 3-4, gives the sons as:
suijll (Hayk), fiuw inu (K 'art'los), Pufqnu (Bardos), lTm|ljuili (Movkan), LUjiuli (Lekan), ^bpnu (Heros). Mrallnuu

(Kovkas), bqpfcu (Egres). Cf. the thirteenth-century Armenian author Vardan Arewelec'i, Arm. ed., p. 14,
who himself employed the Armenian adaptation o f K'C': "... li (Dnnqml dlui q'vuj/te li qtopli bqpqu tmpuj2
qPuflJinuj qMmlljuu (i qiu|uU -" = "... and T orgom begat Hayk, and his seven brothers, K 'art'los, Kovkas, and
the others..." It is noteworthy that although Vardan prefers the Armenian version of the name "Hayk" in
this passage, he employs the Georgianized (i.e., The U fe o f the Kings via the Armenian redaction o f K'C~)
"Hayos" later, as ibid., p. 91.
W.E.D. Allen, and others, have stressed the commonality in the Near East and Caucasia of the
roots K-T (cf. K 'art'li, Kurd, Karduchoi [of Xenophon]), M S (cf. M c'xet'a, Masis, Samcxe, Mesxi), P/BL (cf. Uplisc'ixe, Tubal, Tibarenoi), S-N (cf. Suanet'i, Sindi, Tzan/Tsan), etc. On this see Allen, "The
Ancient Caucasus and the Origin o f the Georgians," The Asiatic Review (Oct. 1928), pp. 544-557.

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DISTRIBUTION OF THF
CAUCASIAN T'ARGAMOSIANI-S

141

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T he influence o f Greek-language Biblical traditions on this K 'art'velian narrative is apparent from the
non-Georgian, Greek -OB suffixes o f five o f the eponyms' names. Each o f the names obviously
corresponds to the designations for the regions and inhabitants with two exceptions:
Haos/Somxit' i/Somexi-s* * and Bardos/Bardavi/Rani-s. Bardavi (Partav. Partaw) was a major center in
Caucasian Albania, and was later (in the time of the author) the center for Muslim administration over
Caucasia. Rani and Movakani together were the broader, medieval Georgian designations for far eastern
Caucasia (Caucasian Albania, in the area o f modem Azerbaijan). The related terms
Haos/Somxit' i/Somexi-s are particularly significant, for they conclusively demonstrate that the writer of

The Life o f the Kings, in some capacity, was acquainted with the Armenian tradition that Hayk (Haos) had
founded Armenia. ^

As we have seen, the ultimate derivation o f the Armenian forms for "Armenia."

Hayk' and Hayastan, from the personal name Hayk has been discounted by modem specialists.
Nevertheless, this interpretation was accepted as truth by, and found its classical expression in. the early
eighth-century History o f the Armenians by Mbvses Xorenac' i. There is no compelling evidence that the
anonymous author o f The Life o f the Kings learned of this tradition directly from Xorenaci. and we
should remember that the latter did not invent the story ofHayk/Haos but merely produced a retelling of
it. ^

Had the Georgian historian rendered the name o f Haos in the form "Somexos" (or something

similar), we might have assumed that he was unfamiliar with the Armenian tradition. The Georgianized /
Grecified form Haos betrays his familiarity with the Armenian legend o f Hayk.
Togarmah, as a result of the dispersion of peoples following the overthrow of the Tower, is
reported by The Life o f the Kings to have migrated with his clan (nat'esavi, 6 ^0131^ 3 0 ) ^ to Caucasia.

* The etymology o f the Georgian terms Somxit'i/Somxet'i and Somexi is undetermined. L. MeliksetBek, "NeskolTco slov o termine somex,'" in XT'6/1 (1917), pp. 93-94, suggested that the root o f these
designations is mex-i. Who these Mexi-s were is unknown. Some authors have attempted to link
Somxit'i/Somexi with samxret'i, "south." Although from the K 'art'velian perspective the Armenia is
indeed to the south, this derivation is speculative at best
1^<suijp. Hayk', the plural o f Hay, denoted both "Armenians" and "Armenia." Another term, used less

frequently in early Armenian literary works, is Hayastan, '^uijuupuili (i.e., "the land o f the Hayk'").
Throughout this study I prefer the form "Haos" when referring to the Georgian tradition of the Armenian
eponym and "Hayk" for the Armenian tradition. In view o f this indigenous terminology, the Greek
provenance o f Strabo's Armenus (the Greek for Armenia is precisely "Armenia") is evident.
^ T h a t is to say, the stories ofHayk/Haos in Xorenac'i and The Life o f the Kings are clearly based upon
common traditions, but there is absolutely no evidence to prove that the former served directly as a source
for the latter. However, there are several important parallels: Hayks journey north with his clan; Hayk as
the father o f indigenous communities; the naming of regions; the dispersal o f Hayk's children; and the
role o f Nimrod (the Bel o f Xorenac'i).
14T he term nat'esavi in O ld Georgian has the following meanings: clan, family, tribe, community.

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143

"between two inaccessible mountains, Ararati and Masisi." ^ The lands they settled extended east from
the Gurgeni Sea up to the Sea o f Pontus in the west that is to say. the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea
and north from the Greater Caucasus mountains and south up to the O ret'i Sea. 16 This passage is a
Georgian interpolation, but one that was plausibly deduced from Biblical and related apocryphal texts. In

Genesis X.2-5 it is said that "the coastland peoples" were descended from Japheth and his progeny'. The
Book o f Jubilees (also called The Little Genesis), a second-century BC apocryphal version of the canonical
Genesis, further alleges that the sons o f Noah Shem, Ham, and Japheth divided the world between
themselves. 1 7 For Japheth we read that: "And all that is towards the north [i.e., from the point of
reference of the Levant] is Japheth's, and all that is towards the south belongs to Shem ; " 18 and:

... for Japheth came for the third portion beyond the river Tina to the north of the
outflow o f its waters, and it extends northeasterly to the whole region o f Gog and to all
the country east thereof. A nd it extends northerly to the north, and it extends to the
mountains o f Q elt [identified by the translator as the Celts] towards the north, and
towards the sea o f Ma'uk, an d it goes forth to the east o f G M r as far as the region o f the
waters o f the sea. And it extends until it approaches the west of Fara and it returns
towards 'Aferag. and it extends easterly to the waters o f the sea o f M e'at And it extends
to the region o f the river T ina in a northeasterly direction until it approaches the
boundary o f its waters towards the mountain Rafa, and it turns round towards the north.
This is the land which came forth for Japheth and his sons as the portion o f his
inheritance which he should possess for himself and his sons, for their generations for
even five great islands, and a great land in the north... ^

Caucasia, as well as parts o f m odem Iran. Turkey, and the southern Russian Federation, fall within these
confines.

progeny, generation, and nation (Biblical).


^A rarati is apparently the modern Mt. Ararat while Masis[i] is the Nekh Masik' to the west of Lake Van.
16 77ie Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 3-4. I have yet to identify the Oret'i Sea or the Oreti Mountains mentioned
in the initial portion o f The U fe o f the Kings, although Brosset reports that M.S.-Martin suggested a
connection with the Greek OPOE. "mountain": Brosset, Hist, de la Georgie, Fr. tians. (1849), p. 17,
footnote 1. Prof. R. Hewsen (private correspondence, 31 Jan. 1996) tentatively identified the Oret'i
mountains as the Armenian Taurus range or even the northern part o f the Zagros. As for a sea of that
name, Hewsen suggested the possibility of Lake Urmia.
1^Book o f Jubilees, VIII. 10-30, pp. 25-27. T he account of Hippolytus is considered separately

l%Ibid Vm .12. p. 26.


19Ibid., Vm.25-29, pp. 26-27.

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infra.

144

According to The Ufe o f the Kings, Togarmah apportioned his Caucasian possessions among
eight o f his hero-sons.

These sons gave their own names to the lands they occupied, and. in a sense, the

dispersion following the destruction o f the Tower o f Babel was duplicated, albeit on a local. Caucasian
scale. However, it should be emphasized that the author does not comment on the possibility that each
eponym was regarded as the patriarch of a distinct linguistic community. The land was divided among
the sons ofTogarmah as follows:2 *

Appanage
Haos/Hayk
K 'art'los

Bardos
Movakan
Heros
Egros

Lekan
Kavkas

Received half o f the clan and h alf o f the "best" land (by virtue
o f being the senior brother)
Heret'i and Berduji River in the east; Black Sea in the west;
the mountains reaching the source o f the Berduji River in
the south; and M t Ghado in the north
Lands south o f the Mtkuari River, from the Berduji River up
to the confluence o f the Mtkuari and Araxes rivers
Lands north o f the Mtkuari, from the mouth o f the Little
Alazani River up to the [Caspian] Sea
Lands north o f the Mtkuari. from the mouth o f the Little
Alazani River to Tqetba ("which is now called Gulgula")
Lands near the Black Sea littoral: east from Mt. Lixi; Black
Sea in the west; the Small River o f Khazaria in the north
[i.e.. the Don]
Lands from the Daruband (Caspian) Sea to Lomeki River.
north up to the Great River o f Khazaria [i.e.. the Volga]
Lands from Lomeki River to "the end o f Caucasia in the
west"

The author of The Life o f the Kings qualifies the holdings of Lekan and Kavkas:

But [the land] o f northern Caucasia was not the lot of Togarmah. and there were no
men to the north of Caucasia; and the land was uninhabited from Caucasia to the Great
[Volga] River, which empties into the Daruband [Caspian] Sea. Consequently.
[Togarmah] selected from the multihide o f heroes the two heroes Lekan and Kavkas [to
be allotted the lands o f northern Caucasia]...22

20Invented ancestor-heroes are common in medieval European genealogies; see R.H. Bloch. Etymologies
and Genealogies: A Uterary Anthropology o f the French Middle Ages (1983), pp. 80 et sqq.
11

AThis enumeration o f boundaries has several Biblical and apocryphal parallels: e.g., throughout Joshua
(for the division of land among the Israelites); and Book o f Jubilees, VIII, pp. 25-27.
2 2 77re Ufe

o f the Kings, p. 5 15 . 19 .

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145

Togarmah is said to have seized the opportunity' to annex the uninhabited land o f northern Caucasia,
sending two o f his sons to govern there. This connection o f northern Caucasia and the Targam osiani-s the progeny ofTogarm ah (Georgian T argamos) foreshadows the prominent role of the tribes of
northern Caucasia throughout The Ufe o f the Kings, and is a reflection o f the importance o f the region in
the authors own time.
The sons ofTogarm ah symbolized the eight major communities o f Caucasia, at least as they
existed ca. 800. Although Haos is depicted as the superior of his brothers, each o f the Caucasian
T'argamosiani eponyms was the ultimate ruler o f his respective domain . 23 However, when the whole of
Caucasia was threatened, Haos stepped forward as the primus inter pares by virtue of being the eldest
sibling. K 'art'los is portrayed as no more than an older brother o f Bardos, Movakan. Heros. Egros.
Lekan, and Kavkas. That is to say, K 'art'los is afforded no explicit dominance over them and, in any
case, it is not proposed that he was the equal of his older brother Haos. Nevertheless, the sons of
K 'art'los, and the eponymous communities, regions, and cities represented by them are unambiguously
subordinated to K 'art'los.
In sum, K 'art'los, the mythical eponym o f the K 'art'velian community, is specifically identified
as the younger brother o f Haos/Hayk. himself the ultimate chief of the Targamosiani-s. The Ufe o f the

Kings admits that the K 'art'velian community loyally abided by the wishes o f Haos on the basis of
primogeniture. But, K 'art'los is made to act independently in the internal administration o f his domains
(K 'art'li). and The Ufe o f the Kings immediately subordinates the lands o f K 'art'li to the progeny of
K 'art'los (the K'art'losiani-s). That is to say, Haos/Hayk is not afforded any authority in internal
K 'art'velian affairs, but when the whole of Caucasia was threatened, he is considered the commander-inchief. Other regions annexed later to the Georgian kingdom, like Caucasian Albania, northern Caucasia,
and especially Egrisi/Ap'xazet'i, are not counted among the possessions o f K 'art'los. Therefore. The Ufe

o f the Kings does not claim that any of these regions were original, integral provinces of K 'art'li. This
would seem to reflect the fact th a t even in the author's time, these areas did not form integral parts of
K 'art'li. Though, as we shall see. he desired that they should, and later in the account, attempting to
historically justify any future unification, he suggests that the western domains actually fell under the rule
o f early K 'art'velian kings. Regardless, the author him self admits that the western regions were not
originally part o f K 'art'li.
If the complexion of these relationships is one of confusion, it is because we are grappling with
an imagined, mythical past. The ca. 800 author endeavored to plausibly interpolate the existence of

23On the expression o f subordination in genealogical works, see D.N. Dumville, "Kingship, Genealogies
and Regnal Lists," in P.H. Sawyer and I.N. Wood, eds., Early Medieval Kingship (1977), pp. 81-82.

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146

K 'art'los, but having engaging Armenian and Biblical traditions faithfully, he was forced to fashion
K' art' los as the younger son o f Haos. The pre-existing an d probably well-known traditions about Hayk
dictated that the Georgian author give precedence to the Armenian eponym. Therefore, according to the
norms o f primogeniture, he is made to be the eldest sibling ofTogarmah. Nevertheless. K 'art'los is
portrayed as being independent in his own possessions, K 'art'li. The desired consequence is. of course,
that K ' art' li should be understood to have been a legitimate political and social entity from Old Testament
times. That is to say, the K 'art'velians could claim as great an antiquity' as any other community.
Conversely, it is, and was, also possible to regard the ancient relationship o f K 'a rt'li and Armenia as the
domination of the latter over the former, and this accounts for the later suppression o f the account
especially in the early modern period.

Haos

A peculiar feature o f fifth-century Armenian historical literature is its unfamiliarity with Hayk.
the Haos of The Ufe o f the Kings. However, a solitary reference to Hayk may be found in the Aa redaction
o f the Grigorian Cycle, in which the Christianized King T rdat is said to have "giant strength like
Hayks."2^ This passage is absent in the Ag redaction (the Greek text related to the Armenian Aa).2^
Therefore, I would suggest that the reference to Hayk may have been added by a later s c r i b e . O t h e r
contemporary Armenian historians, like Eghishe, Ghazar P 'arpec'i, Koriwn, and the anonymous author of

The Epic Histories ("P'awstos Buzand") are unacquainted with Hayk. Only The Primary History o f
Armenia and the eighth-century History by Xorenac' i relate the exploits o f Hayk and his mythical
foundation of Armenia. That is not to suggest, necessarily, that the tale of Hayk was created by either of
these two authors. At the very least they were responsible for setting to parchment the received oral
traditions about Hayk, and in Xorenac' is case, elaborating the story. Numerous successive Armenian
historians, like the tenth-century Uxtanes,2 7 recapitulated the Hayk tale, and their narratives are usually
dependent upon Xorenac'i.

2 <*Agat'angeghos, para. 767, pp. 306-307.

25Thomson in Agat'angeghos, p. 482 = notes for para. 767, note 5.


2 ^As pointed out to me by Prof. K Bardakjian, the absence o f references to Hayk in fifth-century

literature does not necessarily imply that the myth had not yet been produced (after all, nascent
Christianity was the overpowering concern).
2 7 Uxtanes, vol. 1, para. 14-16, pp. 28-30.

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147

According to the Georgian tradition, Haos assumed the private estate (saqop 'eli. biycngacjo; lit.
"dwelling place") o f his father Togarmah. He was granted half o f both the clan and the best land: the
remainder was apportioned among his seven younger brothers. While Haos served as the ultimate
superior o f his brothers, all o f them are said to have been the vassals o f Nimrod, the alleged first king of
the w orld2*
When the tim e came for the progeny ofTogarm ah to free themselves from the tyranny o f
Nimrod, it was Haos who assembled his brothers and spearheaded the rebellion against their overlord.
Haos boldly withheld further tribute and Nimrod responded by launching a massive attack on Caucasia.
The T argamosiani-s ultimately defeated Nimrod's sixty powerful heroes in a struggle "which raged like
the elements." Then, an embittered Nim rod personally engaged Haos in single com bat It should be said
that the motif of hand-to-hand combat between two heroes permeates pre-Bagratid Georgian histories,
particularly The Ufe ofVaxtang. A king's worthiness and legitimacy is proven by his success in an armed
duel.2 9 In the end, Haos felled his opponent by penetrating his breastplate with an arrow'. Nimrod's
troops immediately broke rank and fled, and "the clans ofTogarm ah were liberated."
Thus Haos is credited with defeating the first king o f the world, Nimrod, and the T'argam osiani
army, including his brothers, subsequently routed Nimrod's mighty army .-*0 The implication is that Haos1
victory over Nimrod had been ordained by God Himself; for Nimrod is assumed to have been divinely
confirmed/chosen as king. Consequently, the status o f Haos is reconsidered. Before his trium ph over
Nimrod. Haos had been simply the "ruler" (ganmglebeli, 566051 *3 3 6 3 2 3 0 ) and "lord" (up'ali. 3 3 6 2 3 0 ) o f
the T argamosiani-s, this by virtue o f being their senior. But after vanquishing the mighty Nimrod. "Haos
made himself king [mep e. 8 3 3 3 ] over his brothers and over the other communities which were near his
borders."^ * Accordingly, the historian acknowledges that the first local king in Caucasia, who himself

2 *77re Life

o f the Kings, pp. 6-7.

29RuIers are often described in the pre-Bagratid K 'art'velian tradition, like that o f the Old Testament and
o f Persia, in terms o f being "giants" and "warriors." For Nimrod as such see the Syriac Cave o f
Treasures, pp. 135 and 171. The medieval Georgian adaptation o f that text. Cave ofTreasures
Georgian, XXTV.24; XX V II.l, refers to Nimrod as "a hero [gm/ri]" and as "the first king o f Babylon

[pirveli mep'e babilovnisay]


*The Armenian historian Movses X orenac'i also credits Hayk with defeating Bel (identified by
Xorenac'i as Nimrod) in battle. See Movses Xorenac'i, 1.7, p. 81, and 1.10-11, pp. 85-86; see also the
discussion in ch. 1 on the relationship o f The Ufe o f the Kings and Xorenac' i.
^f

3 l The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 121. 22 06 bb<g6 a>6 Q6 660036630)6 ba06 ,

8 * 8 0 6 .Jamb Jycn. 0 * 3 0 m jbo 830335s d 06<6


bats*
bib 23 6 <ba36 9oboi6bi [da mashin haos hqo t'avi

t wsi mep ed dzmat 'a t wst 'a zeda da sxuat 'ac 'a nat 'esavt 'a zeda, maxlobelt a sazghvart 'a mist asa]" The
anonymous historian does not state that Haos assumed the literal place o f Nimrod, although both o f them
are accorded the same title, mep'e. The late thirteenth-century Armenian compiler/historian M xit'ar
Ayrivanec'i lists Hayk (and even Azon) among the "princes" o f the K'art'velians. One o f his sources was

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148

bad defeated the powerful Nimrod, was the Armenian eponym. and, in any event, not some K'art'velian.
This indicates that our ca. 800 Georgian historian was no nationalist, and that he faithfully re-transmitted
the received Armenian traditions, though reworking them for a K 'art'velian audience .3 2 This story in

The U fe o f the Kings is in general accordance with Xorenac' i, except for the conspicuous fact that
Armenian historian does not specifically name Hayk as king .33

K'art'los

Following the promotion o f Haos as mep 'e, The Ufe o f the Kings directs its full attention to
K 'art'los and the establishment o f the K 'art'velian monarchy. K 'art'los is neither styled as a king

{mep'e), nor is he explicitly afforded any other title designating rulership, even in later MSS which input
various embellishments. Nevertheless, the author projects upon him some of the royal attributes which
are typical in pre-Bagratid historical literature (Le., in The Ufe o f the Kings, The U fe ofVaxtang, and Ps.Juansher). In addition, the mythical K 'art'los is identified as a contemporary of Nimrod, who according
to the Georgian tradition was the first king o f the world. Thus, the origin of the K 'art'velian community
could be traced directly to both the time o f Noah and the very era that royal authority was first instituted
on Earth.
K 'art'los is said to have established him self "where the Aragwi [River] empties into the Mtkuari
[River],"3'* that is, precisely at the site o f M c'xet'a-Armazi, the ancient capital o f K 'a rt'li.3^ Although
M c'xet'os, the senior son o f K 'art'los, is credited with the establishment of the city o f M c'xet'a proper.

The U fe o f the Kings clearly connects K 'art'los with its site. Having settled there, K 'art'los immediately

the Armenian adaptation o f K'C'. See M xit'ar A yrivaneci, Rus. trans.. p. 346.
3 2 Again. this circumstance is noteworthy in light o f the schism between the Armenian and K 'art'velian
Churches in 607/608.

33Movses Xorenac'i, 1.21, p. 108, for the first king o f Armenia. Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 294-297,
includes Hayk within his Armenian king lists. Although Hayk may not have been styled specifically as
"king," he certainly is portrayed and behaves as one. Cf. Prim. Hist. Armenia, p. 360, where Hayk is
called "the patriarch of the nations" (see also Thomson's note 22). The thirteenth-century Armenian
historian/compiler M xit'ar Airivanec'i, who was heavily dependent upon earlier Armenian historians as
well as the Armenian adaptation o f K'C', enumerates Hayk as the first "K'art'velian prince" (fcluuiti J.pujg)
(p. 246) while his list of "Armenian princes" (fcluuilip 'mujkj) begins "Japheth, Gamer, T ira s, Togarmah,
and Hayk I" (p. 241). Thus Hayk is not afforded the title o f king, but prince.

3<*The U fe o f the Kings, p.

87.

33Armazi appears to be the older settlement. See: A. Boltunov, "K voprosu ob Armazi," VDI2 (1949),
pp. 228-240; and D M Lang, "Armazi," in Elran, vol. 2 (1987), pp. 416-417.

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149

constructed a fortress on ML Armazi, just upstream on the right bank o f the M tkuari renaming it M l
K 'a rt'li after himself. The mountain is reputed to have emerged as the locus o f religious devotion, and
really the axis mundi, for the K 'art'velians following the erection of the idol Armazi by K'art'los. After
his death. K 'art'los was reportedly interred within the mountain and his tomb was worshipped: "And at
this time [the K'art'velians] forgot God, their Creator, and they served the Sun and the Moon and the Five
Stars, and the primary and most important sacred site [sap'ic'ari] was the tomb [sap'lavi] o f K 'art'los."3^
This sacred peak, The Mountain o f K 'art'li. allegedly gave its name to "all o f K 'art'li... from
Xunani up to the Speri [Black] Sea.3 7 K 'art'li is defined rather broadly here, for the author regards
K 'a rt'li as the heartland of all o f central Caucasia, even from the time o f K 'art'los. This assertion is a
reflection o f the author's era and is anachronistic for the Caucasia o f antiquity. I should think this and
other vague claims to an all-K 'art'velian "state" in central Caucasia represents a plea by the author that
this region should be united in the future. The legitimation for this ensuing unification was therefore
grounded in remote antiquity.
The connection of K ' art' los with Me' xet'a was emphasized by his alleged building projects there.
He is said to have mandated the building there o f an idol dedicated to Armazi (probably the K 'art'velian
counterpart to the Persian Ahura-Mazda). His construction agenda, however, was not limited to things
sacred. K 'art'los is understood to have raised two fortresses to the south o f M e'xet'a: the Orbi/Orbet'i

The Life o f the Kings, p. 1 17 . 9 : "e4 3ib


S>4 0 3 0 ^y 3 b 5 8 3 6 0 1 0 . 5 i 3 &ACS3 &3 C5 o 6 no, gi
0 ,33 6 3 b 3bAbj6 3bobi 54 3 mcn3 i 6 o b i 54 3 4 6 b3 )e?43 o >4 b)coo54, 04 3 (*)3 oq 3 oa g grtm bo
b ig o Q i 6 o Siojo oyca ^ 5 3 2 3 4 3 0 ^irtencjcibobo." Cf. Thomson's Eng. trans., p. 13, where he gives
"oath" for sap 'ic 'ari. Sap 'ic 'ari literally designates "a place for an oath [p 'ic /]"; here, I should think it
refers to a place where the K'art'velians placed their trust in the sacred. Toumanoff. Studies, p. 8 8 .
footnote 120, deduces that K 'art'los was himself divine, and that Mt. K 'art'li became the K'art'velians'
axis mundi. This mountain undoubtedly had a special significance to the early K'art'velians, but we
simply do not know the antiquity o f its association with K art' los. On the connection o f distant ancestors
with pre-Christian deities, see Dumville, "Kingship, Genealogies and Regnal Lists," p. 77. In connection
o f the Germanic pagan god Woden in an apparently eighth-century Anglican royal genealogy. Dumville
writes: "When we recall that the collection is probably the work o f a cleric, a number o f questions comes
to mind. For example, did Woden no longer hold any terror for the Anglo-Saxon churchman? Or did he
represent something other than Germanic heathenism?" Apparently the deified K 'art'los did not pose a
threat to the anonymous writer (?cleric) o f the ca. 800 Life o f the Kings.
37

The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 8 jq -i l* This wide definition o f K 'art'li, stretching westwards to the Black
Sea (and thus encompassing Egrisi/Ap'xazet' i/Colchis), is a projection o f the potential K 'art'velian
kingdom o f the author's time (i.e., the eighth/ninth century) onto the remote past. This definition actually
contradicts the stenuna of the progeny ofTogarm ah in Caucasia, for many of the regions included in this
extended conception o f K 'art'li had their own founders, i.e., younger brothers (or even sons) of K 'art'los,
and (in the case o f his brothers) were at this tim e relatively independent, despite the fact that K 'art'los
was their older brother and commanded respect/loyalty (just as in K 'art'los' relationship with his older
brother Haos).

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150

fortress in Samshwlde and the Mtueri fortress in X u n a n i.^ Samshwlde is located chiefly between the
rivers Alget'i and K 'c'ia, while Xunani is found just south o f the city o f Rust'avi. at the confluence o f the
Kc 'ia and the Mtkuari rivers. The alleged building projects o f K 'art'lo s in M e'xet'a. Samshwlde. and

Xunani coincide with the major rivers o f the region in this case the Aragwi. Mtkuari. Alget'i. and
K 'c 'ia the control o f which was customarily sought and guarded by the rulers o f K 'a rtli. It is
noteworthy that K 'art'los is not credited with any building projects further to the west (i.e., towards the
Black Sea littoral), even though the author anachronistically claimed that ancient K 'a rt'li had extended to
the coast.
Upon the death of K 'art' los, his eldest son M c'xet'os assumed rule over the K'artTosiani-s. As
K 'art'los had not divided his lands among his sons prior to his death, his wife distributed his possessions
among their sons. K 'art'los unnamed spouse is also reported to have ordered the raising o f Deda-c'ixe
(lit "Mother-Fortress") and Bostan-k'alak' i, the latter of which was subsequently renamed R u st'av i.^
This is one o f the exceedingly rare instances in which a woman is reported to have directly participated in
the political life of ancient K 'art'li.
The account of K 'art'los is exceedingly brief and provides few details about the early K'art'velian
community. This is not surprising, for the story, as written down and as it have come down to us. was
largely interpolated from non-Georgian traditions. Significantly, K 'art'los is entirely unknown in
successive medieval Georgian texts.-* This might suggest that the legend did not enter the discourse o f
the K 'art'velian shared past. However, The Ufe o f the Kings, with its account o f K 'art'los. was
transmitted in K'art'lis c'xovreba throughout the medieval period, so we must assume that at least some
contemporaries were familiar with it. The Primary History o f K'art 'li, the only other extant medieval
Georgian source to touch upon the origin o f the K 'artvelians. is entirely unacquainted with K'art'los. It
commences with the mythical conquest of Alexander the Great, tracing K 'art'lis existence only from the
early Hellenistic period. Significantly. The Primary History o f K'art 'li completely ignores/is unfamiliar
with K 'art'los. his sons, and the Biblical tabulapopulorum. As we shall see. it may represent a distinct
historical tradition, or it may constitute a deliberate refashioning o f The Ufe o f the Kings.

1 0

JOIbid p. 8 . Orbi in Old Georgian means "eagle." Later the Orbi/Orbeti fortress was believed to be the
original possession o f the Orbeliani-s/Orbeliank'; see Arzoumanian in Uxtanes. p. 129. note a.
^ Ibid., p. 8 . Bostani is derived from the Av. baody and the Phi. bod//boy, with the suffix -stan
(indicating a place) and denotes "fragrant place; see Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, p. 294.
^The brothers and progeny o f K 'art'los are likewise unattested, with the exception o f a passage in the
thirteenth-century Hist, andEuL, p. 2 ^ (Haos) and 585^ (Heros, Bardos). These references suggest that
the author was fhmiliar with The Ufe o f the Kings. It would seem that the medieval Bagratids, who
calculated their origin from the Old Testament K ing David, completely ignored K 'art'los (who himself
was interpolated into Old Testament legends).

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151

The Immediate Progeny o f K'art'los

The Ufe o f the Kings also allocates eponyms in the successive generations o f K 'art' los for the
remaining communities, regions, and major settlements o f central Caucasia. The implication is that these
areas, all part o f the late antique and medieval K ' art'li, were dependencies o f the domains o f the first
generation, and accordingly, o f K 'a rt'li :-* 1

Eponym

Community. Region. Settlement

SONS OF K'ART'LOS:
M c'xetos
Gardabos
Kaxos
Kuxos
Gach'ios

Me'xeta (city)
Gardabani (city)
Kaxet'i
Kuxet'i
Gachiani (city)

SONS OFMC'XET'OS:
Uplos
Odzrq'os
Javaxos

M cxet'os

Up'lis-c'ixe (fortress-city)
Qdzrq'e
Javaxet'i

was the eldest son o f K 'art'los, and in accordance with the norms o f primogeniture

his mother bestowed upon him the personal holdings o f his deceased father, just as the Haos had assumed
those o f his own father Togarmah. In the words o f the anonymous author o f The Ufe o f the Kings:

And M c'xet'os, who was the most heroic among the brothers, took possession of the lot
of his father K 'art'los, which now is called Armazi. A nd he built a city near the
confluence of the Mtkuari and the Aragwi [rivers], and he named it Me' xet'a after
himself. And he held the land from Tp'ilisi and Aragwet'i up to the Speri [i.e.. Black]
Sea in the west.*'*

41177/e Ufe

o f the Kings, pp. 8-11.

*^Cf. the Meschos (MEEXOE) o f Josephus, Jew. Antiq., 1.124-125, pp. 60-61. Josephus' Meschos was
the alleged primogenitor o f the Meschi-s (cf. Georgian Mesx-ni), one of the proto-K art" velian tribes who
resided in southwestern K 'art'li.

a>_

The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 9 j


Tp'ilisi is probably an anachronism here, for that city's foundation is
traditionally ascribed to the first-half o f the sixth century. However, the author may be referring to a
smaller settlement/fortress on the same site before the foundation of that city. Cf. the site o f Byzantium
and the subsequent raising o f Constantinople by Constantine "the Great" Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 14fi_, ] =

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152

M c'xet'os took possession o f his father's estates and like K 'art'los he did not adopt the title o f king.
Instead, "he was ruler [ganmge] and lord [up'ali] over his four brothers. And all four were loyal to
him."44
The K'art'losiani-s, the progeny o f K 'a rtlos,4^ reportedly maintained their eponym's legacy of
building projects. Mc'xetos erected the future royal seat o f M e'xet'a near the site where K 'art'los had
originally settled. Kaxos, a younger brother o f M c'xet'os, built C h'elet'i with the aid o f their sibling
Kuxos. As for the sons o f M c'xet'os: Odzrq'os built two fortress-cities (c'ixe-k'alak'ni) O dzrq'e and
Tuxarisi; and Javaxos erected the fortress-cities o f Cunda and Artani. Up'los, the eldest son and
appointed successor o f M c'xet'os, raised the fortresses o f Up'lis-c'ixe,4^ Urbnisi. and Kaspi. All o f these
were, by the author's time, extremely old settlements.
U p'los was appointed by his father, M c'xet'os, to administer the progen) of K 'art'los.
Nonetheless, once M c'xet'os passed away civil w ar erupted:

And for a long time [civil war] existed among them, and among them no one was more
distinguished or renowned [than the others], but each one considered [himself] the
t'avadi ["chief"] in [his own] place. But whoever was established at M e'xet'a became
the [defacto] t'avadi over all the others. And he neither took the name o f mep 'e
["king"], nor erist'avi ["regional governor"], but he was called mamasaxlisi ["father of
the house"], and he was peacemaker and judge [mazavebel da mche] o f the other
K'art'losiani-s, for the city o f M e'xet'a became greater than all [the other cities and
regions], and [thus] it was called the Mother-City [deda-k'alaki]*7

Thomson trans., p. 13, gives a slightly different account: "At that time the city o f Me' xet' [a] grew larger,
and it was called the mother city o f the house o f K 'art'l[i]; and the prince [ishxan] who lived there was
called the mamasaxlisi [tanutir] o f the entire land. They afforded him neither [the name] o f king
[t'agawor] nor erist'avi [naxarar] nor any other such honor." Thus the Armenian redaction names
Mexet'a specifically as the M other City o f K a rt'li already in the second generation following K 'artlos.

^T h e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 9 15- Cf. supra, for Haos being the ruler (ganmglebeli) and lord (up 'ali) o f the
T argamosiani-s.
4^ln The Ufe o f the Kings, the designation "K'art'losiani" is usually employed as a dynastic tag whereas
"K'art'veli" (i.e., K 'art'velian) usually represents the entire community. Thus the K 'art'losiani-s were
K'art'velians. In a strict sense, the K 'art'velians were imagined as the progeny o f K 'art'los but the tag
"K'art'losiani" is usually reserved for their own ruling strata.
46Up'lis-c'ixe may be explained either by the inference o f The Ufe o f the Kings that it was "Uplos
fortress," or by the equation o f up 'lis with the genitive form o f up 'ali, "lord/Lord." to designation "the
Lords fortress."

The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 1 1 ^ . Mamasaxlisi is a rulership position in early K 'art' li. Before the advent
o f indigenous royal authority, mamasaxlisi-s apparently ruled in Armazi-Mc'xet'a.

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153

The Ufe o f the Kings does not disclose that any o f the early K ' art' losiani-s, even by the third
generation, had adopted the title o f king. The generic term t'avadi (<d*3 *5 0 ), literally "head" or "chief*
(of a house/clan), was employed by each o f the brothers, yet the possessor of M e'xet'a is depicted as
occupying an esteemed position. This status, however, did not thwart the intensifying sibling rivalry and
the subsequent outbreak o f open dissension against the rule of Up'los.
We m ight ask why the early K'art'losiani-s are not portrayed as kings, and why in-fighting
should be reported. Any answer, to be sure, is conjectural at b est It seems to me that the ca. 800 author,
who him self probably invented the K'art'losiani-s, was all too aware that there were no existing oral
traditions about them. Therefore, K 'art'losiani authority needed to wane so that Alexanders supposed
conquest could be easily explained, and especially to account for the rather large lacuna between the time
ofTogarm ah and K 'art'los to the establishment o f royal authority in K 'a rt'li in the Hellenistic period.

Stemma o f the Eponymous Ancestors o f Caucasia

The initial section o f The Ufe o f the Kings has two principal goals: to diagram the provenance o f
the K 'art'velians and their neighbors as well as to promulgate a model o f ideal K 'art'velian rulership. As
we have mentioned, this ancient past was invented, o r at least first consigned to parchment, ca. 800 by the
anonymous author o f The Ufe o f the Kings. but it was based upon old Biblical (and Perso-Armenian)
traditions. In any case, its dramatis personae are largely mythical in nature. But the key point is that
these Old Testament myths were intended to be considered, and were often held, as truth. As Christians,
the K 'art'velians had to look to Genesis for the explanation of the origin o f their community' (and all other
communities as well). Contemporary "plausibility" denoted faithfulness to the traditions, understood to be
trustworthy, o f the Old Testament
Essentially, the author o f The Ufe o f the Kings generated a miniature K 'art'velian version of

Genesis, with a genealogy extending from Noah up to the establishment o f the communities o f Caucasia.
The stemma o f The Ufe o f the Kings for the provenance o f Caucasia may be summarized a s : ^

4*Ibid pp. 3-10.

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Japheth

Tiias

TOGARMAH

I
Haos

KA R T LOS

Bardos

Mcxet'os

Gardabos

Uplos

Odzrq'os

M ovakani

Lekani

Kaxos

Kuxos

Heros

Kavkas

Egros

Gachios

1
Javaxos

The issue o f when The Life o f the Kings was composed resurfaces after only a cursory glance at
this stemma. Should the author have lived in the eleventh century, we would have expected to find the
western region o f Egrisi represented by a son or grandson of K 'art'los. thus indicating the subordination
o f Egrisi/Ap'xazeti to K 'art'li. mimicking the contemporary political situation. Instead, the historian
identified Egros a younger brother o f K 'art'los. Therefore Egros was merely the junior o f K 'art'los, just
as K 'art'los was to Haos. K 'art'los is described as being independent in his lot, and there is no
justification to assume that the other brothers o f K 'art'lo s did not enjoy the same standing. The author
simply does not represent Egros as subordinate to, o r even dominated by, K'art'los.
Furthermore, we do not encounter any brother or son o f K 'art'los named "Ap'xazos." The
kingdom o f Ap'xazet' i (Gk. Abasgia) arose in the last decade o f the eighth century and held dominion
over the tribes o f the western Black Sea littoral, including that o f the Egri-s/Megreli-s. As previously
demonstrated, our author is familiar with the term A p'xazet'i and he applied it and Egrisi as synonyms.
But it must be admitted that he seems to have preferred Egrisi and the initial part of his history illustrates

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155

this point: the eponym o f that western region is named E g ro s .^ The absence o f any eponym bearing the
name Ap'xazos is additional evidence in favor o f a pre-Bagratid dating for The Life o f the Kings.

The Roman Empire in Pre-Bagratid Georgian Historical Texts

Before plunging into a discussion o f the Persian context o f early K'art'velian history, we should
first offer a brief consideration o f the knowledge and role o f Rome in pre-Bagratid historical texts .30
Georgian historical and hagiographical works composed in that period relate exceedingly little about the
Roman and early Byzantine Empires .3 * Their unfamiliarity w ith the prominent accomplishments and
failures, and even the very names, of the Roman emperors is immediately evident.32 In those instances
when a Roman emperor is named, they are usually not references contemporaneous with the accounts at
hand, but rather, vague recollections.

49We possess a king list for A p'xazet'i composed in the eleventh century. Divan, p. 23, gives the first
mep 'e o f A p'xazet'i as a certain Anos: " 3 0 6 3 3 2 3 0 8 3 3 3 AgbAtyjmob* ogcn o.5nb" = "The first king o f
A p'xazet'i was Anos." The term Egrisi is not found here. Furthermore, there is no mention o f Egros. To
be fair, K 'art'los was not considered a king by The Life o f the Kings, so this is not altogether surprising.
Moreover, the Divan is attributed to King Bagrat in (r. 1008-1014), the first king of a united Georgia
(,Sa/c'art'velo):; if such an attribution is correct, Bagrat would not have wanted to draw attention to the
tradition in The Life o f the Kings that Egrisi/Apxazet'i had originally not been a dependency o f K 'art'li.
30The purpose o f this section is to comment upon the role o f Rome/Byzantium in early Georgian
historical texts. This is not to suggest that Rome was not an im portant player in Caucasian politics, and
that Roman civilization did not exert a palpable influence upon the K'art'velians. But according to the
historical memory o f the Georgians (itself written down in the early medieval period), Persia exerted a
considerably greater influence on K 'art'li than did Rome. For K 'art'velian-Rom an contacts, see esp.
{passim): Toumanoff. Studies, Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, Javaxishvili. K'art'veli eris istoria. vol. 1;
and Ocherki istorii Gruzii. vol. 1.
3 ^B. Martin-Hisard, "Continuite et changement dans Ie bassin oriental du Pont Euxin (IV6- ^ s.)," in

From Late Antiquity to Early Byzantium, ed. by V. Vavrinek (1985), pp. 143-147. examines Georgian and
Roman sources for the history o f coastal Caucasia for the fourth an d fifth centuries. She notes that one of
the most concrete early references to the Roman Empire in Georgian literature occurs in The Life o f
Vaxtang, p. 177; in the passage, the border between K 'art'li and Rome/Byzantium (also called "Greece"
here) is mentioned. Martin-Hisard, p. 143, begins with the comment: "Daprts le corpus des sources
narratives georgiennes intitule Kartlis Cxovreba, les Romains sont absents des rives orientates du Pont
Euxin jusqu'au milieu du Ves. Absence etrange puisque Rome a ldgue k Constantinople ce territoire
detache du monde georgien que les textes grecs et latins appeUent Colchide [i.e., Colchis]."
52

The earliest Georgian list o f Roman emperors with which I am familiar appears in the tenth-century
(Bagratid-era) Shatberdi codex. It appears in a translation o f part o f Hippolytus' Chron. but was brought
down to the second-half o f the tenth century. It is a confused list, even for contemporary emperors; e.g., it
ends with Theophilus, Michael, Basil, Leon, Romanos, Constantine, Romanos, and Nikephoros (which
does not correspond to reality). See KekJnstM S # S -l 141, "[Keisami hromt'ani]," 11 125r-125v = Shat.
Codex, pp. 201-202.

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The following table summarizes direct references to Roman emperors in pre-Bagratid historical
literature .53

Roman/Byzantine Emperor

Editio dials?

[Hromos]5*
[Bizantios]
Vespasian (Uespasianos)

Julian (Ivliani)

Ufe o f the Kings, p. 19


Life o f the Kings. pp. 19-20
Life o f the Kings. p. +4 2 .3
Life ofVaxtang, p. 1 6 4 2 j
Life ofVaxtang. p. 164
Life o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a. p. 72 jq
Life o f the Kings, pp. 69-70
Life ofVaxtang, pp. 160 and 165
Conv. K'art'li. pp. 85-905^
Life o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a. passim
U feofVaxtang.pp. 160.

Jovian (Ivbimianos)

U feofVaxtang.pp. 140. 160-

Zeno (Zenoni)
Maurice (Mavriki)
Phokas (P'okas)
Heraclius (Erekle)

Ufe ofVaxtang. p. 203

Titus (Tito)
Maximian (M ak'simiane ) 5 5
Constantine "the Great"
(Kostantine)

165, and 171


161. 165. 171-172, and 183
Ps.-Juansher. pp. 221 and 223
Ps.-Juansher. p. 223
Ps.-Juansher, pp. 223-224
Royal List II. pp. 95-96
Mart. Arch 'il. pp. 246-247

The Life o f the Kings knows only Vespasian and Constantine "the Great." as well as the mythical eponyms
Hromos and Bizantios. The Life ofVaxtang is acquainted with Vespasian and Constantine, as well as
Titus, Julian, Jovian, and Zeno. It should be noted that with the exception of Zeno. The Ufe ofVaxtang
refers to these emperors in a purely reminiscent sense. Only Zeno is contemporary w ith events described
in the work. Ps.-Juansher may be distinguished from his contemporaries in that he was relatively familiar
with events in Byzantium. He documents Maurice's intervention in the Persian rebellion of Bahrain
Chobin, the ascendancies o f Phokas and Heraclius. and Heraclius' invasion o f Caucasia (en route to
Persia).

53Theodosius H ( T eodosi) is named in two later insertions appearing in V&xtangiseuli MSS of Ufe Succ.

Mirian, pp. 133-134.


54Hromos and Bizantios are the mythical successors appointed by Alexander the Great in the medieval
Georgian tradition.
55 Maximian's name appears only in the later Vaxtangiseuli MSS.

S6Conv. K'art'li relates that Constantine is the son o f "Kostay" and Helena.

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157

It is precisely for the reign o f Heraclius that Georgian historical works begin to evince a deeper
acquaintance with events transpiring in Byzantium. We should recall that in Ps.-Juansher's continuation
we encounter the earliest extant Georgian reference to the K 'art'velian Bagratids. It is well known that
this clan rose to prominence with Byzantine assistance, and we find an increasing fascination in
Byzantium in this text However, no Roman emperors are attested in The Ufe o f the Successors o f

Miricm, The Primary History o f K'art'li, and Royal Usts I and III (which were dependent upon The Ufe o f
the Kings and C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa, and may be later compilations).
Pre-Bagratid Georgian historians did not set early K 'a rt'li within a Roman/Byzantine context.
Rome and Constantinople are virtually unknown in medieval Georgian historical texts until the very
appearance at Tp' ilisi o f the Byzantine em peror Heraclius at the head o f an army in the seventh century.
Although the local historical tradition does not relate any significant contacts with the Romans before this
time (excluding the legendary sending o f priests to K 'art'li by Constantine "the Great"), the Romans were
nevertheless active in Caucasian politics from the first century BC. Episodes like Pompey's conquest of
Caucasia (by which Rome gained political superiority over K 'a rt'li in 65 BC) and the K 'art'velian king

57

P'arsm an Ill's visit to Rome ' are unknown in local histories, and we may only speculate as to why this
should be the case. However, the lengthy passage o f time from these events to the composition o f The Ufe

o f the Kings, and the lack o f intermediate texts (should they have existed), are contributing factors.
Georgian sources divulge little information about the clash o f Persia and Rome for hegemony over
Caucasia. Today we know about the treaties o f Rhandeia (in 63 AD, according to which Persian Arsacids
were elevated as Caucasian kings who were technically the vassals o f the Roman emperor) and Nisibis (in
298, by which Persia withdrew its claims over large parts o f Caucasia. The former situation was
reestablished following the defeat o f Julian in 363), as well as the struggles over Colchis/Egrisi. largely
through Classical texts.
Although Rome ostensibly held legal political sway over K 'artli during the larger part o f the
first four centuries AD, this influence was relatively weak (especially in the socio-cultural sphere) and
many K 'art'velians continued to share more in common with Persia, which was, after all, adjacent to their
land. To be sure, some Romanesque buildings were raised in K 'art'li, Greek inscriptions were
occasionally cut in M c'xet'a in honor o f the Roman emperors, and under indirect Roman influence the
K 'art'velian monarchy was converted to Christianity. But the fact remains that even in the early ninth
century local historians continued to conceive o f their society, royal authority, and their own shared
history in Persian terms.5 8

5 ^Braund,

Georgia in Antiquity, pp. 232-233.

58That is to say, by the time of the composition o f the three ca. 800 Georgian histories, the local
historians themselves tapped Persian and Near Eastern traditions instead of Roman/Byzantine ones so as
to describe the K'art'velian past. Roman-K'art'velian relations were recorded in Classical literature, yet

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158

Later Georgian copyists may have edited out references to the Romans (though, it should be said,
the extant references could have likewise been added by them). I think this improbable. Rather, the
scarce ancient records which presumably reached our ca. 800 historians were incomplete and likely
inaccurate. In addition, K 'art' li had experienced relatively little direct contact with the Romans, being
more fully a part of the Persian/Near Eastern world, at least socially. Early Georgian historians not only
recorded historical events and personae, when these were known, but also fashioned a homogeneous
collective past for their community when the past was unknown, or perhaps, undesirable. The image of
the K 'art'velian past was painted as one bound from tim e immemorial with that o f Persia and was cast
essentially in Persian terms precisely because K 'art' Iis ancient heritage was still easily discernible ca.
800. The open admission o f a Persian past was probably also influenced by the contemporary praise
heaped upon ancient Persia at t h e ' Abbasid court. ^

The Persian Context Admitted: K'art'li as Part o f the Persian Commonwealth

... socially, the Caucasian polities were sim ilar to the Iranian and utterly unlike the
Romano-Byzantine. Armenia and Iberia [read: K 'art'li] were even more aristocratic in
character than Iran, being, in fact, federations o f dynastic princes each the overlord of
a body o f lesser nobility presided over by kings ...60
Toumanoff
As we have seen, The Ufe o f the Kings is concerned with the ethnogensis of the K 'art'velians
and the establishment o f an indigenous monarchy. This text, along with the contemporary Life o f

Vaxtang and its continuation by Ps.-Juansher and the entire pre-Bagratid Georgian historical tradition - consciously and explicitly situated early K 'art'li within the Persian cultural and even political world,
something which should be expected in light o f Toumanoff s observation on the social affinity o f Caucasia
and Persia.
Pre-Bagratid histories are punctuated by both mythical and historical events in Persia.
Accordingly, Nimrod (the first king o f the world in The U fe o f the Kings)^ and his progeny, the

ca. 800 K'art'velian historians do not seem to have plundered these texts in an attempt to construct the
history o f their community.
^See C.E. Bosworth, "The Heritage o f Rulership in Early Islamic Iran and the Search for Dynastic
Connections with the Past," Iran 11 (1973), pp. 51-62.
6 0 Toumanoff, "Christian Caucasia Between Byzantium an d Iran: New Light from Old Sources." pp. 123

124. Toumanoff carefully studied the social structures o f early Caucasia and thus noted their affinity to
that o f Persia. See also idem., Studies.

6 ^The Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 6-7.

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159

Nebrot' iani-s, are equated with the Persians. Nimrod's authority was extensive, and among his vassals
were counted the Caucasian T argamosiani-s. But the defeat o f Nimrod by Haos did not m ark the end of
the Persian domination o f Caucasia, for The Ufe o f the Kings subsequently portrays K 'art'li as part and
parcel o f the Persian world, and Persian affairs are routinely reported. Moreover, the Persian monarchy
was only temporarily crippled by the T*argamosiani-s. for we soon hear about the hero-king Ap' ridon
Nebrot' iani.6^ He is credited with founding the Persian administration based on erist 'avi-s (regional
governors). This action was later replicated by P'am avaz, the traditional first king of the K'art'velians.
Ardami, one o f Ap'ridon's erist'avi-s, led an army to K 'a rt'li where he is said to have battled "Khazar"
forces. Having subdued K 'art'li, Ardami built Daruband/Derbent in northeastern Caucasia near the
Caspian Sea. He reportedly introduced masonry to K 'art'li when he constructed a stone wall around
M c'xet'a and reinforced the Armazi fortress. Thus, the Persians are understood to have reasserted
sovereignty over all o f Caucasia.
At the end o f his life, Ap* ridon divided his possessions among his sons, and one o f them. lared.
received K 'a rt'li as his lo t But a Persian civil war ensued, and lared was murdered by his brothers. It is
in the context o f disturbances within Persia, and o f various external threats to Persia, that the
K 'art'velians and the Armenians are said to have routinely defected from Persian rule. So during the civil
war following the death o f Ap'ridon, the K'art'velians, with the participation o f the northern Caucasian
tribe o f the Ovsi-s, "liberated" themselves, though the eastern regions o f Rani and Heret'i remained under
Persian control.6-^
Persia again demonstrated its resilience and dominance in the region. The new king. K'ekapos.
brought K 'art'li again under the Persian hegemony .6 4 But the appearance o f "Turks" in the East
compelled K'ekapos to commit Persian troops to confront this new threat, and as a result the Caucasian
occupation force was diminished. This provided the K 'art'velians and the Armenians with the
opportunity to forsake the Persians. K'ekapos dispatched P'araboroti, his son, to battle the
T argamosiani-s in eastern Caucasia. But reminiscent o f the failure o f Nimrod, the Persians were
defeated. The next shahanshah, K'aixosro, the son o f Shiosi "the Fortunate and the grandson of
K'ekapos, managed to subjugate K 'art'li yet again. Persian erist'avis were appointed to administer
Caucasia, and Zoroastrian altars are said to have been erected.

62Ibid., pp. 12-13.


^ 2Ibid pp. 13-14.
MIbid pp. 14-15.

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160

K'aixosro then turned his forces against the "Turks" so as to avenge his fathers death .6 5 The
K 'art'velians and the Armenians united against the Persians once again, and the local Persian erist'avi-s
were assassinated. In the meantime, K'aixosros troops put to flight a multitude o f "Turks." Twenty-eight
"houses" o f "Turks" migrated to M c'xef a, whose ruler, the mamasaxlisi, settled them nearby at
Sarkine .6 6 These Turks allegedly entered into an alliance with the K 'art'velians and jointly they engaged
the Persians.
Persian dominance over Caucasia had still not been permanently eradicated by the alliance of the
K'art'velians, the Armenians, and "Turks." It is reported that the Persian king Vashtashabisi dispatched
his son Spandiat-Rvali. a "giant," to recover K 'art'li and Armenia. Reaching Caucasia, Spandiat-Rvali
received news that the "Turks" had invaded Persia, and he withdrew leaving the K 'art'velians and the
Armenians "free." But his son, Baram, who was also called Ardashir (later the shahanshah), conquered
Babylonia, Syria, and northern Mesopotamia, and is said to have m ade the Greeks, Romans, and the
K 'art'velians his vassals.6^
We should pause to consider why the K'art'velians, if they were part o f the Persian
commonwealth, were customarily believed to have defected whenever Persian authority waned. It seems
to me that the author, writing considerably later than the period he describes, wished to demonstrate that
K 'art'li was not simply an appendage of Persia, and that it was a viable kingdom in its own right.
Therefore, K 'a rt'li is painted in Persian colors in terms o f social organization, conceptualization of royal
authority, and the like, but linguistically and religiously K 'art'li is m ade to be distinct from Persia. The
desired relationship, from the inception of the T argamosiani-s, is c le a r while K 'art' li shared much in
common with Persia on the social front, it was not rightly a political dependency' upon Persia, and its
language and religion guaranteed that the K 'art'velians were not merely corrupted Persians.
Baram is the last Persian king attested prior to the establishment of local K 'art'velian kingship.
According to The Ufe o f the Kings, the K'art'velian monarchy is said to have arisen at the time of
Alexander the Great, precisely in the period following Baram when Persian dominance in the Near East
was reputedly in decline. The Georgian historical tradition rightly notes the abeyance of Persian kingship
in the years following the conquests of Alexander. But Persian influence in K 'art'li did not evaporate
completely with the translatio imperii. In the absence o f a king in Persia the erist 'avis ruled and are said
to have masterminded several incursions into Caucasia.6** During this period, K 'art'li recognized the

65Ibid., p. 15.
^Ib id ., pp. 15-16.
67Ibid., p. 16.
6 **Ibid., pp. 30 and 43.

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161

Seleucids, the successors o f Alexander in the Near East, as its overlords. This circumstance may be
inferred from Georgian texts. Nevertheless, the recollections o f early K 'art'velian rulers reflect the
intimate ties with Persia: the first king, P'arnavaz, was bom o f a Persian mother, his son and successor,
Saunnag, married a Persian wife; and the first Christian dynast o f K 'art'li. Mihran/Mirian. was a Persian
by b ir th .^ Should these images not echo the actual contemporary situation, they nevertheless incorporate
the memory that early K 'a rt'li was part o f the Persian commonwealth.
It is worth emphasizing that later Georgian historians writing about the period often link the
K 'art'velian royal family with its counterpart in Sasanid Iran. Thus Mihran/Mirian, the first Christian
monarch o f K 'art'li, is tendentiously depicted as the eldest son o f the founder o f the Sasanids7
However, Toumanoff has shown that the K 'art'velian Chosroid dynasty, founded by Mihran/Mirian, was
actually descended from the Persian Mihranids, one o f the Seven Great Houses o f P e rsia .^ The historical
M ihran/Mirian was descended from noble Persians, though later Georgian historians inflated this bloodlink to be one with royalty. In any event, according to The U fe o f the Kings, when his father died, a
leadership struggle ensued, and Mihran/Mirians younger brother, Bartam, emerged as successor. Having
been accused o f being the son o f a concubine. Mihran/Mirian relaxed his claims and accepted a package
o f concessions while retaining his hold over K 'art' li. Whether or not this episode is historically accurate,
the imagined association o f K 'art'velian kings with the Persian monarchy' is an sound reflection of the
close ties binding the ruling strata and Elites o f Persia and K 'art'li.
During the reign o f Aderki, who is supposed to have ruled K 'art'li at the time of the birth o f
C h rist the Persian erist'avi-s are said to have assembled and chose a certain Azhghalan "the Wise" to be
k in g .^ His heirs, the "A zhghalaniani"^ (Arsacid/Parthian) monarchs, reigned until their overthrow by

^ Ib id ., pp. 20 and 27 for P'arnavaz and Saunnag respectively. For the Persian connections of the early
K 'art'velian kings, see also ch. 3.

The Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 67-68.


^T oum anoff, Studies, pp. 83 et sqq.

^T h e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 43.


^ I .e ., "the progeny o f Azhghalan." Ibid, p. 59, notes that the Azhghalaniani were also known as the
"Ardabiroba." In the older nusxuri script *V was often confused with "sh"; applying this to "Ardabiroba"
we may read it as "Ardashiroba." The suffix -oba denotes an abstract or collective noun. The root
Ardashir- is an Iranian name; Ardashiroba is essentially the equivalent oiArdashiriani (i.e., "the progeny
o f Ardashir). This is probably a confusion with the traditional founder o f the Sasanids, Ardashir (see
following note). "Azhghalaniani" doubtlessly refers to the Arsacid kings o f Persia. But how may we
explain this strange form? Probably it is a corruption o f Ashghanian/Ashkaniyan, terms which are used to
denote the Arsacids as in the later eleventh-century historian Albiruni, cap. 4, pp. 127 and 116-122
respectively. He reports (pp. 116-122) that the Ashkanians held Iraq and M ah in the Hellenistic era and
that the first prince o f this dynasty was a certain Ashk ben Ashkan (cf. Azhghalan).

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162

"K'asre Anusharvan Sasaniani," who is identified as the founder o f the Sasanid dynasty.7* The Ufe o f

the Kings fails to relate the names o f other Azghalaniani-s.


Georgian historical works are silent about the names o f Sasanid rulers from the early Sasanid
rulers "K'asre" and "Bartam" until the fifth century.7^ The Ufe ofVaxtang knows an "Urmizd." who is
Hurmazd IQ (457-458 AD) .7 6 the first historical Sasanid ruler featured in Georgian historical writing.
Khusrau I (531-579), Hurmazd IV (579-590), and Khusrau II (590-628) are named in Ps.-Juansher, 7 7 the
same historian who relates the names and activities o f several Roman emperors. It should be said that
Roman and Persian competition in Caucasia in this period was particularly fierce, and local sources
display a greater familiarity with Rome and Persia at this time, though their clashes in the region are
usually left undocumented. Ps.-Juanshers interest in these particular shahanshah-s coincides with the
striking o f Sasanid coins in K 'a rt'li, a further testimony o f the Sasanid presence there. As should be
expected, The Primary History o f K'art'li, The Conversion o f K'art'li. and Royal U stsI a n d ///g iv e no
indication o f the social, cultural, and political affinities o f K 'art'li and Persia since they are probably
Bagradd-era productions and their Bagradd sponsors wished to obscure K 'art'lis ancient Persian
heritage. While Royal U st II does accurately describe a K 'art' li administered ty Persian overlords
0marzpan-s and pitiaxshis ), it fails to situate K 'art'li within the Persian social orbit: any connection with

Persia is depicted as purely political and certainly disadvantageous.

7 *77re Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 43-59. The mythical figure o f K'asre, the alleged founder o f the Sasanid
dynasty, seems to be a K 'art'velian innovation. The first Sasanid Great King was Ardashir who reigned
from 224 to 240 AD. The royal name K'asre (Persian: Khusrau) is not to be found until the sixth century.
The Georgian tradition often referred to the Sasanid rulers by the generic name Xosro/Xuasro/K'asre.
With K 'asre Sasaniani we seem to have a confusion o f Ardashir. although the account is muddled with
anachronisms. M irian ascended the K'art'velian throne in 284. during the reign of Bahram II (274-293).
The other shahanshah-s o f his reign were Bahram III (293), Narseh (293-302), Hurmazd II (302-309).
and Shapur II (309-379). Clearly, there was no Great King bearing a name similar to K'asre. and there
was no "Bartam" who took control o f the empire, unless Bahram III is meant. In short, the connection o f
Mirian with the Great Kings o f Persia is tendentious, although it is likely that Mirian was himself related
to a Persian noble family. NB: Thomson in his trans. o f Arm. Adapt. K'C'. p. 70, footnote 51. suggests
that the Armenian K'arse-Sharvan and the Georgian K 'asre Anusharvan are corruptions o f Khusrau
Anushirwan (531-579), "whose fame eclipsed in popular tradition the renown of all other Sasanian
rulers."

7^This is not altogether surprising since a specifically Georgian script was not invented until the late
fourth/early fifth century. Therefore, the memory o f Sasanid monarchs from the fifth century may be an
indication that some contemporary written source had reached our pre-Bagratid historians o f ca. 800.

The Ufe ofVaxtang, p. 158 14 .


77

'Khusrau - Old Georgian Xuasro/Xosro/K'asre: Hurmazd = Old Georgian Urmizd. Ps.-Juansher, pp.
213 (Khusrau I), 215,217, 221 (Hurmazd IV), and 217. 221,223, and 227 (Khusrau II). Khusrau II is
also named in connection with the Persian conquests o f Heraclius by The Royal U st II, p. 96: and
Sumbat Davitis-dze, p. 43g = Qauxch'ishvili ed.. p. 3 7 5 ^ .

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163

The author o f The Life o f the Kings, writing four centuries after the Christianization o f the
K 'art'velian kings, was cognizant o f K 'a rt'lis ancient Persian heritage- In my view, this is an indication
that the Christianization o f K 'a rt'li, and Caucasia as a whole, did not entail a sudden and complete shift
to a Late Roman/Early Byzantine cultural-political orientation, for the ca. 800 author found it
accurate/plausible to describe K 'a rt'li in Persian terms. Overtly Christian texts, like The Conversion o f

K'art'li (seventh-century) and the ninth-/tenth-centuiy Life o f Nino, do not emphasize, and certainly do
not praise, the legacy of Persia. Being historical-hagiographical accounts o f the Christianization of
K 'art'li, both o f these works are more concerned with demonstrating early Christian K 'art'lis association
with the first Christian Roman emperor Constantine "the G reat" This does not reflect the reality o f the
fourth century. Since the K 'art'velian monarchy had indeed been Christianized during the time o f
Constantine, these authors invented a link between K 'art'li and the first Christian Roman emperor. The
silence o f these Christianization narratives concerning Persia is not characteristic o f the earliest Georgian
hagiographical accounts. Like The Life o f the Kings, the fifth-century Martyrdom ofShushaniki and the
sixth-century Martyrdom ofEvstat'i both place K 'art'li within the Persian political world (both actually
and conceptually), though this circumstance is loathed in them. Moreover, in both o f them the
designation "king invariably refers not to some local ruler or even the Roman emperor but to the Persian
King of Kings.
K 'art'lis position in the Persian world is clear enough, and it did not abate following the
establishment o f an indigenous kingship. This is not surprising since the K 'art'velian dynasty was itself
o f royal Persian extraction or a t least believed itself to be. Onomastics testify that the very names o f the
pre-Bagratid K 'art'velian kings are based upon some form of Persian, although some of the names may
have entered Georgian via an intermediary, like Armenian. Even the semi-legendary first K 'art'velian
king, P'arnavaz, bears a Persian name. Significantly, it is based upon the Persian term famah, the "divine
grace which the Sasanids deemed to designate a legitimate monarch.7* The following enumeration of
K'art'velian royal names, although not exhaustive, is representative of the period:

78The name P'arnavaz was not exclusive to kings in early K 'art'li: thus we find a spaspeti (i.e., "second
to the king" and head of the erist'avi-s) bearing that name during the reign o f P'arsm an K'ueli. See The
Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 51-52. It should be noted that the spaspeti was a high noble and we have no
indication that the name P'arnavaz (or a derivative) was current outside the royal and high noble clans.

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164

K'art'velian
royal name
p'arnavaz
Saunnag
Mirvan
P'arnajora. P'arnajob
Arshak
Aderki. Rok
P'arsm an
Amazasp
Rev
Vach'e
Bakur
Asp'agur

Persian root/form

Jamah. Av. xwamah = "divine fortune." "grace"^ 9


cf. Sawarmag > saw = "black" and arm-ag= "hand"**
cf. O.Ir. Miflrapana = "protector"8 *

Jamah, Av. xwamah (cf. P'arnavaz)8^


O.Pers. arshaka < Av. ar&ha- = "male 1.83
O.Ir. raucha = "light" Av. raochah "light" "day"8-*
fam ah, Av. xwamah (cf. P'arnavaz, P'amajom/b)
cf. O.Pers. Hamazaspa- > hamaza = "multitude." "gathering"
+ aspa- "horse"; cf. Phi. bevarasp = "10,000 horses"8'
cf. Rdwniz > rev = "lie, falsehood" + niz< Av. nvanchah
= "to put/lie down "8 6
cf. Phi. Wachak = "boy, youth" < vach(ch)al7
cf. O.Ir. Bagapufra = "son of God"8 8
cf. Aspa rug > aspar/asvar = "warrior." "horseman."
"cavalry"8 9

79

Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi. pp. 496-499; and T. Ch'xeidze, Narkvevebi iranuli onomastikidan


(1984). pp. 32-33 and 47.

on

Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 492-493.

%lIbid., pp. 482-484.


i2 Ibid.. pp. 500-502.
0*5

Ibid., p. 434; and Garsoidn, "Arshak II," in prosopography in The Epic Histories. pp. 352-353. Cf. T'.
Ch'xeidze, "Iranuli carmomavlobis sakut'ari saxelebi k'art'ulshi," Mac'ne 4 (1987). p. 94.
Andronikashvili. Narkvevebi, pp. 491-492.
Of

Ibid., pp. 422-423; and Ch'xeidze, Narkvevebi iranuli onomastikidan, pp. 34-37 and 78.
8 6 Andronikashvili,

Narkvevebi, pp. 489-491.

S7Ibid., pp. 466-467.


S*Ibid pp. 443-445.
on

Ibid., pp. 425-426; and Ch'xeidze, "Iranuli carmomavlobis sakut'ari saxelebi k 'a rtulshi," pp. 102-103
(on asp-).

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165

Mihran/Mirian
T rdat
Archil

cf.O.Ir. Mi0rana > Mitfra9 0 (cf. M irvan above)


cf. O.Pers. Tiridata = "given by Tir"9 *
cf. Artashir9^

Persian titles and names for offices were also adopted by the Kartvelians .9 3 In The Ufe o f the Kings we
often encounter the title spaspeti (b3o>b3Q(*)o), the second-person o f the realm after the king .9 4 The
designation pitiaxshi (3a<Joib8a; variant patiaxshi) was also current in late antique K 'art'li.
This brings us to the larger question o f potential linguistic affinities between Persian and
Georgian. We must ask whether Persian was spoken in ancient, pre-Christian K 'art'li. In the course of
the brief account of Baram's reign, the anonymous author o f The U fe o f the Kings asserts that six
languages were spoken in K 'artli:9^

1. Somxuri
2. K'art'uli

h.Xazaruli
4. Asuruli
5. Ebrauli

6.Berdzuli

= Arm enian (cf. Somxit'i/Somxeti, or "Armenia")


= Georgian (i.e., "K'art'velian")
= Khazar
= Assyrian (i.e ?Syriac, ?Aramaic, ?Semitic)
= Hebrew
= Greek (cf. Saberdznet'i "Greece/Byzantium")

The languages enumerated in this passage do not explicitly include Persian (i.e.. sparsidi. cf. Sparset'i.
"Persia"). Nevertheless, a local version o f Aramaic. Armazic. was employed as a written language in
Kart' li prior to the development o f a specifically Georgian script in the fifth century AD. As is well
known, a form o f Aramaic was the "official" language of Achaemenid Persia. Aramaic is a Semitic
language and is closely related to Syriac. The term asuruli, literally "[the language] o f the Assyrians."
refers to Syriac, Aramaic, and/or Semitic. Could it be that asuruli here was understood as some form of

onAndronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 478-481; and Ch'xeidze. Narkvevebi iranuli onomastikidan. pp. 2224.
9 ^Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 470-472; Ch'xeidze, Narkvevebi iranuli onomastikidan. p. 21; and
Garsolan in The Epic Histories, prosopography. pp. 416-417.

^ Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 435-437 and Georgian variant Darchil. pp. 462-463.
93On Persian titles and offices in neighboring Armenia, see Garsolan, "Prolegomena to a Study o f the
Iranian Aspects in Arsacid Armenia," HA 90 (1976), pp. 20-24 and footnote 44.
9 4 7he

Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 24-25.

95 / 6/d., p. 1621 . 2 3 - Cf. Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ p. 23 = Thomson trans.. p. 23 (which makes Georgian a
mixture o f the other five!). The suffix -uli typically is used to denote the name o f a language and
corresponds to the Eng. "-ian."

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166

Persian? This is indeed a possibility, but a rather remote one in my opinion since the language o f the
Persians is referred to both in a later passage in The Ufe o f the Kings and in The U fe ofVaxtang
specifically as s p a r s u l i Moreover, Persia is not identified as "Assyria" in medieval Georgian historical
texts. Therefore, local histories imply that spoken Persian was not current among the indigenous
population o f K 'art'li. This is somewhat odd in the light of the Persian context o f early K' art'li so
prominently featured in The Ufe o f the Kings. The soundness o f this memory is debatable, yet we should
recall that our text was written considerably later than the time it describes. In any event, we have
evidence for the linguistic influence o f written Persian, for the Armazic form o f Aramaic was commonly
used, sometimes appearing with Greek in the same inscription (e.g., the "Armazic B ilingual").^
There are an abundance of words borrowed from the various forms o f Persian (including Old
Persian, Middle Persian, New Persian, etc.), as well as Avestan, and Parthian. Several modem studies
have been devoted to the ties between the Persian language and Old Georgian.

Andronikashvili

summed up these connections by noting that:

... some o f the earliest Iranian elements recorded in the Georgian language ought not
[to] be regarded as mere borrowings; for they form an integral part o f the Georgian
language, being comprised in its basic lexical c o r e .^

This is not the place to recapitulate the complex research of Andronikashvili and others. Suffice it to say
that basic "cultic" words, used by the early K 'art'velian Church (even today), are usually not based upon

^T h e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 64; and The Ufe ofVaxtang, pp. 143 and 158.
^ O n Armazic, see ch. 3.
^^The best study is Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, with detailed Eng. sum., "Studies in Iranian-Georgian
Linguistic Contacts: I," pp. 545*571. Unfortunately. Andronikashvili's second volume remains
unpublished See also: Ch'xeidze, Narkvevebi', ibid., "Iranuli carmomavlobis sakut'ari saxelebi
k'art'ulshi." pp. 95-105, with Rus. sum., "Iranskie antroponimy v gruzinskom,"pp. 104-105; and J.
Gippert, Iranica Armeno-Iberica: Studien zu den Iranischen Lehnwdrtem im Armenischen und
Georgischen (1993), 2 vols.
^A ndronikashvili, Narkvevebi, Eng. sum., p. 547.

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167

Greek but rather Parthian and other forms o f Persian. 1 0 0 Christian religious terminology, derived from
some form o f Persian (including Parthian and Avestan), includes: 101

Georgian

Persian fo rm

English

cmi[n]da
eshmaki
beri
netari
anderdzi,102
iadgari,103

Av. sp&ita
Av. aeshma
M.Pers. pir
Pers. nettar/nektar
O.Pers. han-dardz
Manichaean vat

holy, saint
demon. Devil
monk, old m an
blessed (adj.)
will, testament

tropologion

100That is to say, religious conceptual ideas more usually have Persian, Avestan, or Parthian roots.
However, terms for ecclesiastical officials and religious material objects were often borrowed from the
Greek (with the -os suffix being represented as either -osi or -ozi): e.g., "church" (<eklesia). "bishop"
(episkoposi, ebiskoposi), "catholicus" (kat'alikosi).
pp. 549,566-568 et sqq. In The Ufe o f Nino as found in the hagiographical-historical
compilation o f Mok'. k'art'. we likewise find deep Persian linguistic influences, the most obvious one
being the transcription o f an entire sentence in (corrupted) Persian: "rast' megoi xojast'a banu[va]
rasulfe] p'asarfej izaeT (In the Shatberdi codex [Shat, codex] of Mok'. k'art'., p. 336j, this phrase is
rendered as: "rayt 'meboy xojat' st 'abanub rasul p 'sarzad"). This statement, made by Mihran/M irian
following the destruction o f the K'art'velian idols by a divinely-dispatched storm, was correctly translated
in Georgian (within this text) as "You speak the truth, O fortunate Queen [i.e., Nino] and apostle o f the
Sun o f God" (see Shat, codex, p. 336j_-j). See: Gvaxaria, "K'art'ul-sporsuli literaturuli urt'iert'obis
sataveebt'an," in M. T*odua, ed., Sparsul-k'art'uli c'dani (1987), pp. 10-12 (with full quotation from the
ed. o f Abuladze); V. Gabashvili, "K'art'ul-sparsuli kulturuli urt'iert'obani (X s.), Mac'neenisa 4
(1983), p. 37; andRayfield, Uterature o f Georgia, p. 52. In The Ufe ofVaxtang, p. 180, Vaxtang's
sobriquet is said to be derived from the Pers. phrase *Dur az gorgasaT or Flee the head o f the wolf."
Rayfield notes two possibilities: either Persian was actually used by the early K 'art'velian kings and/or
this was a later interpolation and Persian was presumably still understood by many elites in the time o f the
author.
10^The O.Pers. han-dardza ("to fasten to, to bind together") is connected to the Av. handarza ("knot,
chain). These terms entered into Georgian, however, through the related Manichee term ndrz ("will")
and the Armenian andarj (ufaiufiA, "will," "testament"). I am grateful to Prof. T . Mgaloblishvili for this
information. Particularly useful is her unpub. "The Ideological Situation in 3rd-4th Century Iberia and
How it is Expressed in Georgian Literature" (ca. 1995), pp. 4 and 41-42 (note 14). (Mgaloblishvili
suggests that words such as anderdzi and iadgari entered O ld Georgian through the Manichees). See
also, Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 282-283.
1 0 3 Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, p. 333. Mgaloblishvili, "The Ideological Situation in 3rd-4th Century
Iberia" (unpub., ca. 1995), pp. 4 and 45 (note 15), who notes that Marr was the first to suggest that
iadgari was a Manichaean term; P. Ingoroqva and G. Ceret'eli later concurred. In Manichaean, iadgari
denotes a "cultic hymn" o r a psalm in memory o f a saint.

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168

From this b rief enumeration it is clear that a considerable number o f the most basic o f Christian
terminology was based upon Persian o r even Manichaean roots. These conceptual terms were not purged
from Georgian and were not replaced by Greek equivalents. To the medieval K 'art'velians. and then
Georgians, these words were perfectly Georgian.
W hat was the Persian attitude towards K 'art'li? The Persians themselves regarded K 'art'li as a
part, however peripheral, o f their empire. The connection of the proto-K' art' velians with the Achaemenid
world was already noted by Herodotus in the fifth century BC. Although Herodotus was unfamiliar with
the Iberians and Iberia (the Greek appellations for K 'art'velians and K 'a rt'li respectively ) . 104 he did
know the Tibarenoi, the Mossynoikoi, and the Moschoi (Mesxi-s). These tribes are now recognized as
being proto-K'art'velians.

The latter designation Moschi is related to Mesxi/Mesxet'i (a region in

southern "Georgia"), and the sixth-century Byzantine historian Procopius states that the Meschians
(Mesxi-s, i.e., Herodotus' Moschoi) had been subjected to the K 'art'velians "from ancient times . " 106
Herodotus, drawing upon the evidence o f Hecataeus (early fifth century BC). relates that the nineteenth
satrapy of the Persian king Darius consisted of the Moschoi, the Tibareni. the Makrdes, the Mossynoikoi.
and the Mares.

These are proto-K'art'velians, and so the nexus o f Caucasia and the Persian world

pre-dated even the formation of the K 'art'velian community. Herodotus reports that these protoK 'art'velians were exceedingly similar, being nearly indistinguishable in terms o f the weapons and armor
they employed in warfare.*0** This already suggests the potential for a "unified" K 'art'velian community.
In Herodotus view, this part of Caucasia was:

*^H erodotus wrote at a time before the K'art'velians proper could be regarded as a community. In any
event, he certainly wrote before the establishment o f the K 'art'velian monarchy in the Hellenistic period.
*% .g.: Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 56-57;AUen, "The Ancient Caucasus and the Origin o f the Georgians,"
pp. 544-557; idem., "Ex Ponto V: Heniochi-Aea-Hayasa," BK 8-9 (1960), pp. 79-92; C.F. LehmannHaupt, "On the Origin o f the Georgians." Georgica 1/4-5 (Autumn 1937), pp. 43-79; and N. Xazaradze.
Ocherki drevnei istorii Meskhov (1992), with Eng. sum., "Essay o f the Meskhians Ancient History," pp.
179-181. The Moschoi/Mesxi-s are an extremely ancient community, for they are attested by the form
Mushki in the prologue o f the Anu-Adad prisms o f Tiglath Pileser I ca. 1110 BC and they were also
known to Hecataeus, frag. 288. See E. Herzfeld The Persian Empire, ed. by G. Walser (1968), pp. 124125.
*0 6 Procopius, Wars, VIII.2.24, pp. 70-71.
*^Herodotus, m .94, p. 123. For the notice of Hecataeus, see E. Herzfeld, The Persian Empire, e d by G.
Walser (1968), pp. 288-349 and esp. 313-317.
***Herodotus, VII.78, pp. 386-387. Moreover, the weapons of these proto-K'artvelians were similar to
those of the neighboring Colchians. He reports (VII.78, pp. 388-389) that the Colchian and Marian
troops were under a certain Pharandates (farr + dat - "given by divine grace"; cf. P'arnavaz this
confirms that names based upon p 'ar- were current in ancient Caucasia).

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169

... as far as the Persian rule reaches, the country north of the Caucasus paying no regard
to the P ersian s .. . 109

Thus, already in the fifth century BC, Herodotus positioned central Caucasia, including the lands
inhabited by the proto-K'art'velians, w ithin the Persian commonwealth.
The absence o f contemporary Persian historical sources is well documented, yet the few Sasanid
monumental inscriptions that have come down to us impart significant, though scattered, evidence about
the relationship of K 'a rt'li and Persia . 1 1 0 Two such inscriptions, that of Shapur I (240-270) on the
Ka'ba-yi Zardusht and that o f the high-priest Kartir (about a generation after Shapur). count Armenia and

IVyrshnA'lrchcm (Kart'li) among the Persian domains. The Ka'ba-yi Zardusht inscription, also known as
the Great Inscription o f Shapur (the mis-named Res Gestae DM Saporis), carved near Persepolis ca. 262.
preserves the earliest extant Sasanid reference to K 'art'li:

... O n the Aryan Empire [Sasanid Iran] the principalities and the provinces are these:
Pars,
P arth ia,...
Alrupatkan [Azerbaijan],
Armenia [Armny],
K 'a rt'li [Virchan],
Sikan,
Albania \Ardan\,
Balaskan, until forward to the Kap mountains fi.e.. the
Caucasus] and the Alans' gate [i.e., pass]... *

When W.B. Henning described the Shapur inscription in 1939. only its Middle Persian text had been
unearthed. The identification o f the term Wyrshn remained uncertain until the corresponding Greek was
excavated. A comparison o f the texts demonstrates that Wyrshn corresponds to the Greek IBHPIA. i.e..

m lbid., m.97, p. 125.


l l 0 Kart'li is not mentioned in extant Achaemenid and Parthian sources; see Ch'eidze, "Sakart'velos da
k'art'velebis aghmnishvneli terminebi sashualo sparsulsa da part'ul enebshi," in Paichadze, ed.,
Sak'artvelosa da k'art'velebis aghmnishvneli (1993), pp. 118-119.
^
Gestae DM Saporis = ed. by A. M aricq in his Classica et Orientalia (1965), pp. 47-49 and 78;
M. Sprengling, Third Century Iran: Sapor and Kartir (1953), p. 14 and note 2, pp. 21-22; Garsolan, "The
Locus o f the Death o f Kings" (1981), pp. 32-34; and W.B. H enning "The Great Inscription o f Shapur I,"
BSOAS 9/4 (1939), pp. 823-849. See also Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, pp. 239-240.

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170

K 'a rt'li.11^ The related Persian designations iVlwch'n, Wyrshn, Waruchan, Virchan were therefore
positively identified as K 'a rt'li . 113 The medieval Armenian designation for K 'art'li. Vlrk' (dfipp). is
probably derived from these Persian forms, although the possibility that it is based upon the Greek Iberia
(cf. Vlrk'and I-bir-ia.) may not be completely discounted11* The inscription's knowledge o f K 'art'li is
not limited a simple toponym. for the Greek part of the inscription mentions to AMAZAEIIOY TOY
BAEIAEQE THE IBHPIAE, or "Amazasp the king o f the Iberians [K 'art'velians ] ." 1 13 This passage
actually refers to the anti-king Amazasp m (260-265), who. with Persian backing, contested the
legitimate king Mirdat II (249-265).116
In the late third/early fourth century, the Sasanid high magus K artir commissioned an inscription
to commemorate his Zoroastrian proselytizing activities. The text enumerates the areas in which
Zoroastrianism had been established and strengthened:

And by me many fires and magi in the empire of Iran were made prosperous. And by
me also for the territory o f non-Iran fires and magi, which were to be for the territoiy o f
non-Iran, wherever the horses and men o f the Kings o f K ings arrived, the city of
Antioch and the country o f Syria and what beyond Syria [is] on [down]ward the city of
Tarsus and the country o f Cilicia and w hat beyond Cilicia is on [downjward the city of
Caesarea and the country o f Cappadocia and way beyond Cappadocia is on [down]ward
until forward to Galatia, and the country o f Armenia, and K 'a rt' li [Vrvcan], and
Albania, and Balaskan until forward to the Alans' pass... there also I by command of
the King of Kings those magi and fires which were put in order. And I did not permit
damage and pillaging to be made, and whatsoever pillaging by any person had been
made, those [things] also by me were taken away, and by m e again to their own country
they were left. 11

1 ^ G . Cereteli's unpub. Iveria mesame saukunis (a.c.) iranul cqaroebshi (1964) is cited by
Mgaloblishvili throughout her "The Ideological Situation in 3rd-4th Century Iberia" (ca. 1995).
1 13 G. Ceret'eli, "Sak'art'velos iranul saxelcodebat'a istoriisatvis," in Paichadze, e d , Sak'art'velosa da
k 'art 'velebis aghmnishvneli. pp. 92-106. with Eng. sum., "Towards the Iranian Designations o f Georgia."

pp. 105-106; and Ch'xeidze. "Sak'art'velos aghmnishvneli terminebi sashualo sparsulsa da part'ul
enebshi." in ibid.. pp. 107-120 with Eng. sum.. "The Terms Designating Georgia and the Georgians in
Middle Persian and Parthian," pp. 118-120. who suggests Waruchan ("K 'art'li") is derived from the
Persian "the country o f wolves."
11*Hewsen in Ananias Shirakec'i, commentary, p. 128; and Garsolan, "V irk'," in The Epic Histories,
toponymy, pp. 500-501. See also the following discussion o f the accounts o f both the Armenian e d of
Hippolytus and Yovhannes Drasxanakertc' i for their use o f Virk' (Iberia) a n d its identification as either
Caucasian, or perhaps, European Iberia.
1 13/?es

Gestae Divi Saporis. para. 60. p. 69.

116Amazasp HI is not recorded in the Georgian historical tradition. See Toumanoff, "The Chronology of
the Early Kings of K 'art'li,"pp. 18-19.

117
1

Sprengling, Third Century Iran, pp. 51-52. I have changed Sprenglings "magimen" to "magi." The

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171

This inscription differs from that o f Shapur in that K 'a rt'li is specifically identified as part o f non-Iran
(non-Eran). Braund recently suggested that "non-Iran" as employed in the inscription o f K artir is
"evidently not so much political as ethnic . " 118 The term "ethnic," with all of its modem baggage, is not
easily applied to the pre-modem era. Braund seems to be proposing that while K 'a rt'li could be
considered as a political outpost o f the Sasanid enterprise, the K'art'velian community was not regarded
by the Zoroastrian priest Kartir as being Persian. To be sure, we have no evidence that contemporary
K 'art'velians in any numbers spoke Persian though they occasionally used a local form o f Aramaic, along
with Greek, as their written languages . 119 Perhaps Kartir here was alluding to the slow penetration of
Zoroastrianism among the K 'art'velians, even though he had succeeded in establishing a fire-altar in
K 'art'li. The later Georgian historical tradition does not regard Zoroastrianism as the main religion of
contemporary K 'art'li. Non-Iran in the context o f Kartrrs inscription is likely a designation o f religious
affiliation, and perhaps also reflects the linguistic divergence. But should we abandon the issues of
Zoroastrianism and language for the moment, we have already seen how both the K 'art'velians and
Persians regarded K 'a rt'li as a part o f the Persian world. Palpable differences existed between the two
communities (and to the Sasanids, to be Persian meant to be Zoroastrian). but to exaggerate the social and
cultural divide between the Persians and the K 'art'velians is to obscure their numerous intimate
connections. To be sure, pre-modem identity entailed more than language and religion. But these
elements were, nevertheless, central pillars, and it would seem they were deemed to be the principal diride
between the Persians and K'art'velians. Ultimately, the identification o f K 'art'li as part o f non-Iran
signified that the bulk o f its inhabitants neither spoke Persian nor were Zoroastrians. But this does not
preclude a wide range o f other affinities which intimately bonded K'artli to the Persian world (like social
organization and conceptions o f royal authority).
Also inscribed in the late third century, probably in the period 293-296. the so-called Paikuli
inscription mentions the 'BYR'NK4LKA. or "the king o f Iberia." The fragmentary nature o f this text does
not make it clear whether or not the K 'art'velians are identified as subjects o f the King o f Kings .* 0

parenthetical additions are Sprengling's. Also, in the transliteration of Georgia (Vrvcan). "v" is
linguistically equivalent to "w." Cf. the less obscure rendition of Garsolan. "The Locus o f the Death of
Kings," pp. 32-34.
* *8 Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, pp. 243-244.
* *9 0 n the use o f Aramaic throughout the Near East see J.C. Greenfield, "Aramaic in the Achaemenian
Empire," in CHI, vol. 2 (1985), pp. 698-713 (p. 702 notes the use of Aramaic in Caucasia), and ch. 3.

Paikuli Inscr. = P.O. Skjaervo, The Sassanian Inscription o f Paikuli, parts 3.1-3.2 (1983), text = para.
92, p. 71 (part 3.1) and commentary = p. 126 (part 3.2). Other central Caucasian rulers are named in the
passage: the king o f MSKYT'N, who has been identified as the king of the Albanians. Moreover, a minor

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172

What is clear from all three Sasanid inscriptions is that the Persians claimed territories extending at least
to the littoral o f the Black Sea. ^

Though the Persians did not regard the K 'art'velians as part o f their

own community, nevertheless the land o f K 'art'li was believed to be in inherent p a n o f the Empire.
In the first-half of the seventh century, the erudite Armenian geographer Ananias Shirakec' i
composed his Geography (Ashxarhac 'oyc ~). Apart from yielding a wealth of information on Caucasia.
Shirakec'i's treatise constitutes the most detailed extant description o f the Sasanid domains (found only in
the "Long Recension''). He divided Persia into four sectors: K'usti Xorbaran ("the Western region).

K'usti Nmroj ("the Meridional region"), K'usti Xorascm ("the Eastern region"), and K'usti Kapkoh ("the
region o f the Caucasus Mountains"). This last zone is described in the following m anner

{iv.} K'usti Kapkoh, i.e., the 'region o f the Caucasus Mountains' in


which are thirteen provinces:
Atrapatakan;
Armn, [i.e.,] Armenia;
Vagan, i.e., Iberia [K 'art'li];
Ran, i.e., Albania;
Balasakan;
Sisakan;
Are;
Gegham
Shanchan;
Dlmunk';
Dmbawand;
Taprestan;
Rwan;
and Ami,
o f all o f which we are going to speak. ^ 2

Thus a large part o f Caucasia, including K 'art'li. Armenia, and Caucasian Albania, is enumerated in
contemporary written monuments as integral to the fourth region o f the kingdom o f Persia.
The canonical Bible does not refer explicitly to K'art'li/Iberia, so no connection o f K 'art'li with
the Persian world is suggested there. However, in The Sibylline Oracles, an Old Testament apocryphal

ruler, the MWSHK'NMROHY, o r the Lord of the M oshk (cf. Gk. MOEXOI and Georgian Mesxi-s) is
mentioned; M esxet'i is a southern region in modem Georgia.
^ B r a u n d , Georgia in Antiquity, p. 242.
*22Ananias Shirakeci, V.29 (Long Recension only), p. 72. Although Shirakec'i promises to return to
this topic, he does n o t

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173

work written down in Greek between ca. 160 BC and the fifth century AD, K 'art'li is associated with
Persia in a prophecy which foretold o f the destruction o f both:

... Go to the E a st to the senseless Persian tribes, and signify to them the present and that
which is to be. The stream o f the Euphrates shall bring on a flood and it shall destroy
Persians and Iberians and Babylonians, and Massagetae lovers o f w a r . . . 123

We possess no evidence that medieval K 'art'velians were familiar with this tex t
The economic integration o f K 'art'li within the Persian world is attested by numismatic
evidence. ^

T . Abramishvili studied the Parthian/Arsarid coins unearthed on Georgian territory, 125

documenting a total o f fifty-five separate finds, forty-six o f which are situated in eastern Georgia (i.e..
K 'art'li and Kaxet'i). Most o f these were found in the basin o f the Mtkuari River, the transport and trade
artery extending through the length o f K 'art'li. The vast majority o f the Parthian coins analyzed by
Abramishvili were excavated in the context o f elite burial sites. The chronological distribution o f the 274
Parthian coins, all o f which are silver drachms with the exception o f a solitary copper coin discovered
near Gori, found in K 'artli (up to 1974) is:

Centurv o f minting

Number o f specimens and ruler

2nd century BC
1st century BC

5
no

1st century AD

157

2nd century AD

(4 o f Mithridates H [ca. 124/3 BC])


(76 of Orodes I [between ca. 9078/77 BC]; 10 o f Phraates IV [ca. 40 BCD
(150 o f Gotarzes II [43/4-50/1 AD] and
one copper coin)
(both o f Mithridates IV [ca. 130-147])

Abramishvili noted that many o f the Parthian coins discovered in Georgia were buried together with
Roman aurei and denarii, and it is very probable that they circulated side-by-side in K 'art'li (see further).
Moreover, the syncretism o f Greek and Persian culture typical o f Arsacid Iran was manifest on coinage.

^S ib yllin e Oracles, V. 113-117, p. 399.


l 2 4 0 n Sasanid numismatics see: R. Gdbl, Sasanidische Numismatik (1968); R.N. Frye, e d , Sasanian
Remainsfrom Oasr-i Abu Nasr: Seals, Sealings, and Coins (1973); and F.D.J. Paruck, Sasanian Coins
(1976).
125

T . Abramishvili, Sak'art'velossaxelmcip'o muzeumispart'uli monetebiskatalogi (1974), with


extensive Rus. sum., "Katalog parfianskikh monet Gosudarstvennogo muzeia Gruzii," pp. 109-141, and
Eng. sum , pp. 142-145.

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174

since up to the first century AD they bore only Greek titles and epithets; *2<* it is only from Vologeses I
(51-80 AD) that Parthian inscriptions were employed. Before the first century AD, the coins routinely
bear only the throne name o f the dynasty in Greek, BAEIAEQE MErAAOY APEAKOY.1 2 7 These coins
are a testament to the intimate contact o f the Arsacids and the K'art'velians. Ironically, through the
intermediary o f the Arsacids, the K 'art'velians were surely introduced to some aspects o f Greek
civilization, though Georgian texts do not enlighten this point
Numismatic evidence confirms that the successors of the Arsacids. the Sasanids. m aintained the
economic and political tie with K 'art'li an d Caucasia. Over fifteen separate hoards o f Sasanid coins have
been unearthed on the territory o f m odem Georgia . 128 All of them were discovered in eastern and
southeastern Georgia, that historical region o f K 'a rt'li described as a part o f the Sasanid Em pire by the
contemporary sources. There have also been numerous accidental finds o f loose Sasanid coinage in
K 'art'li. Sasanid coins found in Georgia have been the subject o f several studies, the most significant o f
which were authored by M. Tsotselia, T . Abramishvili, and I. Jalagania. The earliest documented
specimens were minted during the reign o f Shapur I (240-270). However, large numbers o f Sasanid coins
date only from the fifth century, 129 being predominately silver, suggesting intermediate-distance trade

^ Iro n ic a lly , some Greek influences were almost certainly transmitted to early K 'art'li through the
intermediary o f the Iranian Arsacids.
12 7

Abramishvili, Sak'art velossaxelmcip'o muzeumispart'uli monetebis katalogi: and V. Lukonin, "The


King o f Kings o f Iran: The Conception o f Royal Authority," in his "Political, Social and Administrative
Institutions, Taxes and Trade," in CHI, vol. 3/2 (1983), pp. 684-692. The syncretism o f Greek and
Persian culture in neighboring Pontic society is discussed by B.C. McGing, The Foreign Policy o f
Mithridates VI Eupator, King o f Pontus (1986), pp. 168-169 et sqq. Ironically, some Greek influence
almost certainly penetrated K 'art' li from Arsacid Iran.
*28Important hoards were recorded at Katexi, Baisubani, and Ibrahim-Hajida (in Kaxet'i-Kuxet'i),
Bolnisi. Ujarma, Ghulelebi, Urbnisi, Sach'xere, and M c'xeta. That is to say, all Sasanid hoards found in
Georgia were found within the extent o f the ancient kingdom and not within the western domains (a fewchance finds are recorded from there, as a t C' ixisdziri, Qvirila, and Chiat'ura). Roman and Byzantine
coinage is considerably more common in the western domains and in Armenia. For a map o f these finds,
see Musxelishvili, Sak'art'velosistoriuligeograp'iis dzirit'adi sakit'xebi, vol. 1, map 1 entitled
"Kavkasiashi V-VII ss. sasanuri da bizantiuri ok'rosa da verc'xlis monetebis aghm och'enat'a."
150

We do possess Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sasanid artifacts (found in Georgia) predating the fifth
century, including silver bowls, jewelry, and seals. See: P.O. Harper with P. Meyers, Silver Vessels o f the
Sasanian Period, vol. 1 = Royal Imagery (1981), esp. pp. 24-31,36-39, and 124-127 with plates 1-2; K'.
Javaxishvili, Urbnisis nak'alak'arisgliptikuri dzeglebi (1972); K.G. Mach'abeli, "Neskofko pamiatnikov
sasanidskoi torevtiki v Gruzii," Mac'ne 3 (1972), pp. 48-72; and Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, pp. 236267 et sqq.
Several o f the silver bowls found in Georgia both Sasanid and Roman are pictured in
Jewellery and Metalwork in the Museums o f Georgia (1986), esp. A. Javaxishvili, "Jewellery and
Metalwork in Pre-Christian Georgia," pp. 14-23 and plates 52 (w/Antinous, second century AD), 53
(w/Fortune, second century), 57 (w/Persian ruler [unnamed], third century), 58 (w/horse, fourth century),
62 (w/Marcus Aurelius, second-third centuries), 63 (w/horse, third-fourth centuries), 64 (w/dog and bear,

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175

between Persia and K 'a rt'li.

A hoard o f fifth-century Sasanid drachms were found in 1970 at Bolnisi.

the location of a late fifth century church, upon which is carved an inscription mentioning the shahanshah
Peroz (459-484).

T he Bolnisi find consisted o f twenty-eight drachms that were minted under the same

Peroz. A wide array o f Sasanid mints are represented by these coins: Khorasan, Fars. Media. Suristan.
Kerman, and M ah . 132
Sometimes Sasanid coins were buried together with Roman/Byzantine ones. These hoards
include those discovered at T b ilisi, M agranet'i (just north o f T bilisi), and Cit'eli-cqaro .* 3 3 Although
only ten coins from the C'iteli-cqaro hoard are Byzantine (from the period o f Heraclius), 1268 are
Sasanid. The Sasanid coins o f the Cit'eli-cqaro hoard represent the reigns o f three sha ha n sha h s:^

Shahanshah

Number of specimens

Khusrau I (531-579)
Hurmazd IV (579-590)
Khusrau II (590-628)

96
743
429

These Sasanid coins bear various mint marks, the great majority o f them from western Persia (the part of
the empire closest to K 'a rt'li). ^3 3 Although the Sasanids operated m ints in many major cities, including

third century), 6 8 (w/abstract design, third century), 69 (fragment, third century). 74 (w/unidentified
monogram, third century), 75 (w/horse, third-fourth centuries), and 78 (w/eagle. third-fourth centuries).
These bowls were found at Armazis-q'evi (near M c'xet'a) (4), B aginet'i (1). Zguderi (2). Xvashxieti (1).
C'xinvali (1), M agranet'i-Erco (1), and Aragvis-piri (2). The presence o f both Sasanid and Roman silver
bowls in antique K 'art'velian burials testifies to the competition of Rome and Persia.
130Only four copper Sasanid coins have been discovered in K 'art'li; see M. Tsotselia, Katalog

sasanidskikh monet Gruzii (1981). Eng. sum., pp. 265-266.


Ill

On Bolnisi, see infra. O n its inscriptions see V. Silogava, Bolnisis udzvelesi k'art'uli carcerebi
(1994), with Eng. sum., "The Oldest Georgian Inscriptions o f Bolnisi," pp. 93-109.
113

T . Abramishvili and M.V. Tsotseliia, "Klad sasanidskikh drakhm iz Bolnisi," in Numizmaticheskii


sbomikposviashchaetsiapamiati D.G. Kapanadze (1977), pp. 150-158. Those coins which may be
positively dated were m inted in the period 464-466.
111

Another such hoard is that found in M agranet'i, in the region o f T ia n e t'i, in 1967. The find
consisted of eleven Sasanid drachms (Khusrau 1 2; Hurmazd IV 7; and Khusrau n 2) as well as
eight Byzantine coins from the period o f Heraclius. See T . Abramishvili, "Klad monet iz Magraneti," in
Numizmaticheskii sbomik posviashchaetsia pamiati D.G. Kapanadze, pp. 73-82.
I

I.
Dzhalagania, Monetnye klady Gruzii: klad sasanidskikh i vizantiiskikh monet iz Tsiteli Tskaro
(pervaia chast) (1980), pp. 5-6 and 135 and part 2 (1982), pp. 129 and 132.
^ E . g . , Dzhalagania, Monetnye klady Gruzii (1980), p. 135; and Tsotseliia, "O monetnykh dvorakh
sasanidskogo Irana," Soobshcheniia AN GSSR 77/1 (1975), pp. 233-236, with Eng. stun., "Concerning the

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176

within Armenia (whose mints employed the marie "ARM"), we do not know o f any mint-marks that
designate a location within K 'a r t'li.* ^ However, there was probably a Sasanid mint in K 'art'li. perhaps
in Tp'ilisi and/or M c'xet'a, by the sixth century. From that time we possess a few exceptional examples
o f Sasanid coins with Georgian-Christian inscriptions . 1 3 7 These crudely-cut coins are exceedingly rare,
however, and their original numbers, the extent of their circulation, and whether their minting was
authorized by Seleucia-Ktesiphon are mysteries. It should be noted that no Roman/Byzantine coins
bearing Georgian inscriptions are known to have existed.

Cosmopolitanism Admitted and Explained

In the aftermath o f the civil war which erupted following UpTos' accession as ruler of the
K'art'losiani-s, all o f the T argam osiani-s*^ were immediately faced w ith the prospect o f external
domination. In describing this situation. The Ufe o f the Kings introduces several non-K'art'velian
communities which were to play a conspicuous part in subsequent K 'art'velian history. This overt
admission, and rather positive interpretation, of the cosmopolitan nature o f K 'art'velian culture and
society is characteristic o f pre-Bagratid Georgian historical writing and contrasts sharply with later
(especially Bagratid-era) works.
The author o f The Ufe o f the Kings was fully cognizant of the marriage o f cultures which
characterized K 'art'li, and in his attempt to explain how this situation had evolved, he anachronistically
projected some communities into remote antiquity. The "Khazars," the.Yazar-s (b ib i6 -5 o ). are perhaps
the most prominent example, for in the initial pages of The Ufe o f the Kings the T*argamosiani-s were
compelled to pool their resources so as to confront the mounting threat o f Khazar consolidation. For their
part, the Khazars elected a king and marched on Daruband. one o f the most important north/south passes
through the rugged Greater Caucasus range. The Khazars routed the T'argamosiani forces and the latter

Mints o f Sasanian Iran," p. 236.


*^E .A . Pakhomov, Monety Gruzii (1970), pp. 17-36; D.G. Kapanadze, Gruzinskaia numizmatika (1955),
pp. 46-48; and Tsotseliia, "O monetnykh dvorakh sasanidskogo Irana," (1975), pp. 233-236.
**^Considered infra, chapter five.
*^8The T argamosiani-s included the K art'losiani clan.

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177

were reduced into tributaries . 1 3 9 (It should be emphasized that the Khazars are confined to the opening
section o f The Ufe o f the Kings).
In reality, the Khazars could not have intimidated the T argamosiani-s (assuming the}'
themselves existed) since a Khazar confederation was established only in the course of the sixth century
AD . 1"*1 But in the author's time, that is to say at the beginning o f the ninth century, the Khazars were
well-known to the K'art'velians. In the seventh century the Byzantine emperor Heraclius had marched
against the Persians and himself had led raids into K 'art'li. The siege o f Tp'ilisi was spearheaded by a
reliable core o f Khazar mercenaries, and the emperor even installed a Khazar leader to administer the
city once it had been sacked.
Immediately prior to the composition o f The U fe o f the Kings, the eighth-century Martyrdom o f

Habo related how the K 'art'velian erist'avi Nerse fled in the face o f Muslim raids to Khazaria:

And the Lord saved him from the hands [of the Saracens], and he passed through the
pass of Ovset'i, which is called Darieli [Darial Pass]. Among the 300 men o f his escort
[err] was Habo, the blessed slave o f C hrist But Nerse came as a refugee from his own
land to the land o f the north, where is the station [sabanako: cf. banaki. "camp"] and
abode [sadguri\ o f the sons o f Magog, who are called the Khazars. [They are] wild men.
fearsome of face, savage in character, drinkers o f blood: [they] do not hav e a religion,
except that they recognize a god the creator. And when the erist'avi Nerse entered the
presence of the King o f the Heathens [mep'isa mis carmart't'asa\. the latter greeted him
graciously, as a stranger and a refugee from his enemies, and he gave [Nerse] and all
o f his entourage food and drink.

Unlike the account in The Ufe o f the Kings, this one describes a contemporary event. The Khazars o f The

Martyrdom o f Habo are, in fact, the historical ones.


At the moment when the Khazars disappear from the pages o f The Ufe o f the Kings, the rise of
the Ovsi-s (cn3 b-6 o) is reported. 1-13 Uobos. the son of an unnamed Khazar king, is identified as the

1 3 9 77re Life o f the Kings, pp. 11-12. The Old Georgian term moxarke designates a tributary: cf. xarki. or
"tribute/tax."

140-rhe influence of the Khazar, and other Turkic languages (including Qipchaq but especially the later
Oghuz dialect), on Georgian is considered by P.B. Golden, "The Oghuz Turkic (Ottoman/Safavid)
Elements in Georgian: Background and Patterns," in A. Ascher, T. Halasi-Kun, and B.K. Kiraly. eds..
The Mutual Effects o f the Islamic and Judeo-Christian Worlds: The East European Pattern (1979). pp.
183-208. With respect to language, it should be noted that The Ufe o f the Kings itself asserts that several
languages, including Khazar, were spoken in early K 'art'li.
141On this anachronism of the Khazars see ch. 1.

^ M a r t. Habo, pp. 58 = Lang trans., p. 118. See also P. Peeters, "Les Khazars dans la Passion de S. Abo
de Tiflis," AB 52 (1934), pp. 21-56.

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178

eponym of the Ovsi tribe (Uobos//Uob. b o v , u o o v , Ov[s]i). This is noteworthy, for the author did not
place the Ovsi-s o f northern Caucasia directly in the stenuna o f the K 'art'velians or even the larger
T argamosiani-s, and did not imply their political subordination. Thus, the Ovsi-s were conceived as
having a distinct origin.
That is not to say that the K 'art'velians and the Ovsi-s did not entertain intimate associations.
When the "Khazar" hegemony over the T argamosiani-s waned, the Persian king Ap'ridon invaded
K 'art'li and installed Ardami as erist'avi. ^

In their attempt to repel the domination o f the Persians, the

K'art'velians solicited Ovsi assistance. The K'art'velians, as noted above, had become emboldened on
account of a civil war among the sons o f the deceased Ap'ridon that was being waged in Persia:

And all [those] Persians who were found by the Ovsi-s a n d the K 'art'velians were put to
death, and the K 'art'velians were liberated, but Rani an d Heret' i remained [in the
possession of] the Persians.

The Ovsi-s figure prominently in the pre-Bagratid histories o f K'art'lis c'xovreba. They could
produce goliath-kings, such as the brothers and duel-kings Bazuk and Abazuk .146 The existence o f Ovsi

bumberazi-s (duelist-champions) demonstrates that The Ufe o f the Kings regards that tribe, like the
K'art'velians themselves, as part o f the Persian world. Other Ovsi-s distinguished themselves in battle,
like a certain Xuanxua who opposed the K 'art'velian king Amazasp H (185-189 AD) in single
combat. ^

Furthermore, the Ovsi-s, like the Khazars, possessed their own kings (and often dual kings as

was common among other Turkic peoples), who were afforded the same title (mep'e) as the K'art'velian.
Persian, and Roman/Byzantine monarchs.

^ T h e medieval geographical designation O vset'i is mirrored in the m odem Oset'i (or the Anglicized
Ossetia). Byzantine literature usually refered to the Ovsi-s, and nearby tribes, as the Alans and their
homeland as Alania. Cf. the modem Ossetia/Oset' i.
^ 7 7 r e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 13, which relates that Ardami was made erist'avi "for [Apridon's] army."
This reflects the early meaning o f err. i.e.. army (later the word came to designate "people" or the Biblical
"throng, masses"). Thus, erist'avi literally means "head of the army." In later contexts it is better
rendered as "regional governor" (cf. Toumanoff s translation o f the term, "duke"). For a brief discussion
o f the term, see E. Xoshtaria-Brosse, "Dzveli k 'a rt'u li mcerlobis dzeglebshi gamoqenebuli terminebis 'eris*
da misgan nacarmoebi 'erisaganis,' eriskac'is da 'saeros' soc ialur-samart'lebrivi aspek'tebi," Mac'ne 2
(1990), pp. 123-129.

The Ufe o f the Kings, p.


Heret' i is situated east o f K 'art'li.

Rani corresponds to Caucasian Albania (part o f modem Azerbaijan);

l46Ibid., pp. 45-46.


147Ibid., p. 56.

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179

The Ovsi-s could be both the trusted ally and abhorred enemy o f the early K 'art'velian kings.
P'arnavaz allegedly employed Ovsi-s in his rebellion against Alexander's representative Azon. As a token
of his appreciation, he gave his own sister in marriage to their m e p 'e } ^ In contrast, the Ovsi threat
served as the backdrop for the accession ofVaxtang Gorgasali: he initiated his reign with a campaign
against the Ovsi-s, but this did not rid K 'a rt'li o f the danger, and later he was compelled to offer great
concessions so as to liberate his sister MiranduxL 149 An eighteenth-century Vaxtangiseuli insertion into

The Ufe o f the Kings, the so-called Wandering and Preaching o f the Apostle Andrew , recounts th a t"... the
great Andrew, accompanied by Simon [the Canaanite], came to the land o f O vset'i and entered the city
which was called F ostap' ori, in which they performed great miracles and they converted a multitude o f
people..."

Ovsi power waxed and waned, but the durability of that tribe (or at least its name) is

attested even in the eleventh century and later. ^


The Turk'-s (oj^jthJ-So) are initially mentioned in the context o f posing a threat to the eastern
frontier o f Persia. But some o f these "Turks" eventually are thought to have settled in Caucasia.
Following a successful Persian offensive. The Ufe o f the Kings reports that twenty-eight "houses" o f Turks
sought refuge in M c'xet'a. Having petitioned for aid, the mamasaxlisi o f M c'xet'a settled these Turks to
the west o f the city at a place called Sarkine. Consequently they regrouped and confronted the Persians
with K 'art'velian considerable backing, the anonymous author reporting that "these Turks voluntarily
allied with the K 'a r t'v e lia n s ." ^
Later in The U fe o f the Kings we find the enigmatic Bunt'uric' -s (&)603136 ,3 -6 0 ; perhaps "the
original T uric' -s") residing in Sarkine.

The Primary History o f K'art 'li is fam iliar with "the savage

^ I b id pp. 21 and 24. P'arnavaz himself married a Dirdzuki, another northern Caucasian tribe {ibid.,
p. 25).

^ 9The Ufe ofVaxtang, p. 157, for the release of his sister. K. Gamsaxurdia suggested that this episode
was patterned upon the Persian epos', see ch. 5.
^ T h e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 42; cf. the trans. o f the Georgian text in.4rm. Adapt. K'C', Thomson trans.,
p. 359. Chi the alleged apostolic mission o f Andrew in Caucasia, see ch. 4.
^ T h e Ufe o f Davit', pp. 218-219 = Qauxch'ishvili ed., p. 360.
^ T h e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 15 9 .
^ T h e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 18. Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 296-297, links the prefix "bun-" with
the Georgian buneba, "nature." Buneba is based upon the Av. buna and Phi. bun; cf. the Armenian bun
and bnut'iwn. Perhaps Bunt'uric'-s designated the proto-Turks. Cf. Brosset, Hist, de la Georgie, p. 33,
footnote 33, who identifies them as "Turks primitifs." See also Gvasalia, Istoricheskaia geografiia vost.
Gruzii (1991), pp. 154-155. Mamula, cited ibid., contends that the legend o f the B unt'urk'-s cannot
predate the sixth century AD, for their memory represents the consolidation o f the Huns and the "Turks"
in the fourth through sixth centuries.

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180

tribes o f the Bunt'urk'-s who lived along the course o f the Mtkuari [River] in four cities and their
environs." These four cities are identified as Sarkine, Kaspi, Urbnisi, and Odzrq'e. all situated just to the
west o f M c'xet'a/Tp'ilisi. The Bunt'uric'-s allegedly ate every sort o f animal indiscriminately, and did not
bury their dead, even consuming the deceased. This description emphasizes that these tribes were
uncivilized According to The Primary History o f K'art'li, Alexander the Great regarded the Bunt'urk'-s
as the ancient tribe o f the "Iebosi-s" (oa&cnb-5o). 15* These Iebosi-s should be equated with the Biblical
Jebusite tribe which inhabited Jerusalem before David's conquest Joshua XVQI.28 equated "Jehus" with
early Jerusalem while I Chronicles XI. 4-5 related that "David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, which is
Jebus, where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants o f [that] land.." 1 5 5 The Primary History o f K'art 'li thus
identifies the Bunt'uric'-s residing in K 'art'li at the time o f Alexander's alleged invasion as the
descendants o f the Jebusites. The B unt'urk'-s seem to be forerunners o f the K 'art'velians in The Primary

History o f K'art'li, but the precise connection o f the two is extremely vague. In any event, the author
depicts the Bunt'urk'-s as a tribe which had migrated to Caucasia. But instead o f tracing their origin to
Inner Asia (which would be logical should we associate the B unt'urk'-s with the Turkic peoples). The

Primary History ofK'art'li portrays them as the descendants o f the pre-Davidic inhabitants o f Jerusalem,
thus linking K 'a rt'li with the Holy Land and Biblical antiquity.

The Ufe o f the Kings also calculates an ancient origin for Jewish settlements in K 'a rt'li . 156 The
Georgian term for the Jews is Uria-ni/Huria-ni (g6oA-6oA3g6oA-6o). Judea is usually rendered as

Uriastani (g ( 6o 4 b<$,j6 o ),15^ while some texts, especially hagiographical ones, favor IsraeliiIsraeli

154Prim. Hist. K 'art 'li, p. 81.


1 5 5 77ie Old Testament in Greek According to the Septuagint, e d by H.B. Swete, vols. 1-2 (1925 and
1930), v. 1, p. 458 ( Joshua) and v. 2, p. 25 (I Chronicles). The Georgian version o f The Cave o f
Treasures is familiar with the Jebusites but does not equate them with the B unt'urk'-s or even place them
in K 'artli: Cave ofTreasures-Georgian, XXVIII.8 ; XXDC3; and XXXI.7. The Jebusites are included in
a Tthirteenth-century Georgian enumeration o f the peoples of the w o rld see K. Kekelidze, "Xalxt a
klasip'ikaciisa da geograp'iuli ganrigebis sakit'xebi dzvels k'art'ul mcerlobashi: Liber Generationis-is
k 'a rt'u li versia," his Etiudebi, vol. 1, p. 179.

156For a general account o f Jewish communities in K 'a rt'li and then Georgia, see "Georgia," in

Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 7 (1971), pp. 423-427; an d Z . Chichinadze, K'art'veli ebraelebi


sak'art'veloshi (1990, repr. 1904), w ith a new endnote by V. Ch'flcovani. See also Kakabadze, Vaxtang
gorgasali da misi xana, pp. 64-66.
15 ^Uriastani, i.e., Judea, is found once in the early histories of K'C': "But in the first year o f the reign [of
K ing Aderid] O ur Lord Jesus Christ was bom in Bethlehem in Judea [Bet'Iems uriastanisasa]." See The
U fe o f the Kings, p. 35 14 . 15 . The O ld Georgian version oL4c/s XVII. 1 and .5 gives the form
(Howria) (see Garritte, e d , p. 112 = 10th century MS). Some Georgian texts prefer the term Ebrael-ni,
i.e., Hebrews, for the Jews; see, for example, K. Kekelidze, "Xalxt'a klasip'ikaciisa da geograp'iuli
ganrigebis sakit'xebi dzvels k 'art'u l mcerlobashi: Uber Generationis-is k 'art'u li versia," in his Etiudebi,
vol. 1, p. 179 (as quoted from MS 1469, M 10v-l lv [fond A], Georgian State Museum). The term Ebraeli
is also encountered in The Ufe o f Davit', in which we find references to Josephus the Hebrew (Iosipos

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181

(ob 6 6 3 go/ob<i)tGK)). The Life o f the Kings accurately, but perhaps coincidentally, maintains that these
Jewish communities, like the one in M c'xet'a, were very old:

And from that tim e [when the Turks settled a t Saridne] many [years] passed. Then
King Nebuchadnezzar [Nabukodonosori] seized Jerusalem, and Jews [Uriani] fled from
there and came to K 'art'li. and they asked the mamasaxlisi of M c'xet'a for [a parcel] o f
tributary land. He gave them [a place] and settled them on the Aragui [River], at [its]
source, which is called Zanavi. And the land which he gave them under tribute is now
called X eriri.^*

This account ultimately may be traced to Jeremiah LII, which records Nebuchadnezzar's capture of
Jerusalem and the enslavement o f the Jews. *5 9 Howev er, no Biblical passage mentions the K'art'velians
or K 'art'li. According to the Georgian historical tradition, this initial migration o f Jews to K 'art'li was
followed by another during the time o f Vespasian. Two related accounts have survived to this day. F irst
that o f The Ufe o f the Kings asserts that:

... during the reigns o f [the diarchs Bartom and K 'art'am ] Vespasian, the caesar o f the
Romans [hromt'a keisari] seized Jerusalem, an d from there Jews [ Uriani] came as
exiles to M c'xet'a, and they settled with the Jews [who had settled there] earlier, [and]
among these [newly arrived Jews] were the sons o f Bar-Abbas, whom the Jews had
released at the Crucifixion o f the Lord in the place o f our Lord Jesus . . . 160

And second, in the Royal U st I, we find a corrupted and condensed version of the aforementioned
account:

ebraeli; p. 192 = Qauxch'ishvili e d . p. 342) and Mosimaxos the Hebrew (ibid., p. 202 = Qauxch'ishvili
e d , pp. 348-349). The same source also makes use o f the word "Hellene" (elini) as opposed to "Greek"
(berda). Thus we have Aristobulus o f the Hellenes (Aristavli elint'a, ibid., p. 102 = Qauxch'ishvili e d , p.
342) and Achilles the Hellene (ibid., p. 202 = Qauxch'ishvili e d , p. 348). The Armenian adaptation of
K'C' offers the terms <ytujjp (H reayk = "Jews") and 'ftuupuili (Hreastan = "Judea").
The U fe o f the Kings, pp. I 5 2 3 - I 6 3 . Xerki, cf. xarld or "tribute."
1 59 Cf. Movses Xorenac'i, 1.22, pp. 110-111, who counts the Bagratuni-s among the Jews seized by
Nebuchadnezzar (i.e the famous Babylonian Captivity). It is signifcant that The U fe o f the Kings made
no such attempt to explain the antiquity or the Jewish connection o f the Bagratids, and in fact, does not
know the Bagratids in any connection whatsoever.

^ I b id ., p. 4 4 2 . 5 . The line indicators in Qauxch' ishvilis e d are misaligned for this page. Cf. Arm.
Adapt. K 'C \ p. 48 = Thomson trans., p. 52, which refers to Bar-Abbas as a "brigand" and mentions Pilate
with regards to the Crucifixion.

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182

And in Armazi K 'arram reigned, and in M c'xet'a Bratman, and during their reigns
Jews [Huriani] arrived and settled in M c'xet'a . 161

Although the Georgian historical tradition accurately recollects, perhaps by accident, that Jewish
communities had been established in K 'a rt'li already in antiquity, the details given o f this colonization are
both meager and legendary. T . Mgaloblishvili and Yu. Gagoshidze have successfully proven that a great
many Jews actually migrated to K 'a rt'li and Caucasia following the Jewish Wars in the Levant from the
end of the first and throughout the second centuries AD . 162 The recollection by The Life o f the Kings and

Royal List I about early Jewish colonies seems to be based on a sound historical recollection.
Armenian and Jewish sources attest an early Jewish presence in neighboring Armenia, and this
supports the theory o f early Jewish migrations to Caucasia. J. Neusner traced Jewish settlements in
Armenia to at least the first century BC. ^

The major Armenian source for such a presence is Movses

Xorenac'i. Xorenac'i, like the author o f The Ufe o f the Kings, was an image-maker. His exposition o f
early Jewish colonies in Armenia was part and parcel o f his argument that the Bagratuni-s were originally
Jews and that they had been among the very first Armenians to convert to Christianity. The presence o f
Jews throughout Armenia, it was hoped, would lend credence to Xorenac'is claim o f Bagratid origin. The

Ufe o f the Kings, it should be noted, makes no such pronouncement on behalf o f the K'art'velian
Bagratids (who are not mentioned in that text).
The K 'art'velian Jews16* were understood by later historians to have m aintained regular
communications with Jews throughout the Near East, and particularly at Antioch and Jerusalem. At the
time of Christ's birth, the Jews o f Ka rt'li reportedly received information from their brethren in

^ Royal U st I, p. 82.
^ 2 T. Mgaloblishvili and Yu. Gagoshidze, "The Jewish Diaspora and Early Christianity in Georgia,"
unpub. paper from the Early Christianity and Georgia Symposium (Tbilisi. Oct. 1991). t.b.p. in the
forthcoming initial vol. o f Iberica-Caucasica.
*2 J. Neusner, "The Jews in Pagan Armenia," JAOS 84 (1964), pp. 230-240. The Jewish sources o f the
Talmudic period mentioning Jews in Armenia include the Targum and the Midrash (pp. 232-234). A
later medieval Jewish source links the Armenians and the Old Testament figure Japheth (see ch. 1).
Neusner also notes that the Jews of Armenia, like their brethren in K 'art'li, were am ong the early converts
to Christianity, some even Christianizing under the hand o f Gregory the Illuminator (p. 235). See also:
Movses Xorenac'i, III.35, pp. 292-294; T o m v a Arcrani, 1.9, pp. 120-121; and N.O. Emin, "Evreiskie
pereselentsy v drevnei Armenii," in his Izsledovaniia i stat'i (1896), pp. 117-121.
1 ^ 1 usually avoid the term "K art'velian Jew." This term denotes Jews living within the confines o f
K 'art'li, but it might also imply the acculturation o f Jews residing there. The degree and type of this
acculturation, should it have existed (and it probably did), is unknown since we lack contemporary
historical evidence.

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183

Jerusalem . 1 6 5 In The Life o f Nino, Abiat'ar, the Jewish priest o f Mcxeta who him self became a
Christian under the hand o f Nino, remarked that he maintained a regular exchange o f letters with the
Jews o f Antioch . 166 But these are considerably later traditions so we must question whether these alleged
contacts actually existed in antiquity.
The Jews of K 'a rt'li are not mentioned in the earliest surviving works o f Georgian literature.
Jews are completely absent from the hagiographical accounts o f The Martyrdom o f Shushaniki (fifthcentury) and The Martyrdom o f Habo (eighth-century). But the sixth-century Martyrdom o f Evstat 7
asserts that Evstat'i, the son o f a Zoroastrian magus, resolved to convert to either Judaism or Christianity.
In the end Evstat'i was baptized as a Christian, but only after being informed by the Christian priest
Samoel about how God cam e to disfavor the Jews . 16 7 In any event, this text does not report on Jews
living within the confines o f K 'art'li. O f course, these texts were overtly Christian and in no way sought
to praise Judaism.
A more "positive" view emerged in the early Bagratid period by which Jews could be praised so
long as they became Christians. According to the ninth-/tenth-century Ufe o f Nino, both M c'xet'a and
Urbnisi had Jewish districts, and the illuminatrix herself frequented Jewish temples throughout
K 'art'li . 1 6 8 Nino is said to have known some Hebrew, having studied it in Jerusalem, and she conversed
freely with the Jews about the location of the Lords Tunic. Medieval K 'art'velians believed that the tunic
had been brought by Jews from Jerusalem, at the time of Christs crucifixion, to M c'xet'a . 169 This legend
not only reflected to the early settlement of Jews in M c'xet'a, but served to link K 'a rt'li with Jerusalem as
well as to demonstrate that K 'art' li had a special connection with Christ. Among the first converts of
Nino was a Jewish priest from M c'xet'a by the name of A biat'ar (Abiathar) . 176 It is no coincidence that

165 77e Life

o f the Kings, p. 35.

166 77je Life

o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a, p. 95.

167
101Mart. Evstat'i, pp. 35-42. In his recollection o f the Judaic past, the priest Samoel enumerates an
interesting version of the Ten Commandments {ibid., p. 37).
168 7he Life o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a, p. 95 (for M c'xet'a) and pp. 87-88(for Urbnisi and Jewish
temples in K 'art'li). In addition, when Alexander invaded K 'art'li. he found "Zanavi.the district o f the
Jews [ubani u r ia t'a \ see The Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 17-18. The Life o f the Kings gives us another
indication that Hebrew was spoken in K 'art'li. Prior to the rise o f Alexander we are told that six tongues
were spoken there: Armenian, Georgian. Khazar. Syriac, Hebrew, and Greek (p. 16).
169 77re U fe o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a, pp. 97-108. An earlier notice was inserted into The Ufe o f
the Kings under the reign o f King Aderki (1-58 AD), i.e.. the monarch at the tim e the tunic was allegedly
brought to M c'xeta; see The Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 36-38.
170 77ie U fe o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a, p. 95. Nino is said to have converted the priest Abiat'ar, his
daughter Sidonia, and six other Jewish women.

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184

Abiat'ar's namesake was the priest who consecrated the O ld Testament K ing David, for The Life o f Nino
attained its received form at the time that the Bagratids (who themselves claimed descent from David; see
chapter six) were ascending to power.
Jews are mentioned throughout The Life o f Nino. Still. K 'art'velian Jews (huriat'a k'art'velt'a.
JigrtoiOA 3 a6 o )3 3 2 M )a)^ are not explicitly referred to outside the corpus o f C xorebav k'art 'veil a

mep et a. Allusions to the Jews in other works o f medieval Georgian historical literature are rather
uncommon, although occasional notices about the "disgrace" o f the Jews and the like are made .* 7 7 It is
clear that Jewish communities, especially in M c'xet'a and Ujarma, were established from a very early time
and continued to exist well into the later medieval period. For example, Marco Polo noted a small
community o f Jews in T b ilisi in the second-half o f the thirteenth century . 173 Among the possessions of
the kat alikos o f Me' xet' a granted immunity by a royal charter of 1392 are "the Jews o f Eliozidze with his
land." The same document also mentions Jewish merchants in Bazari.*7* Even today a beautiful
synagogue, surrounded by Armenian and Georgian churches (and former mosque), functions at the base of
the ruins o f the Nariqala fortress in "Old T bilisi."
One o f the most striking characteristics o f The Ufe o f the Kings is its sense of the heterogeneous
character of early K 'art'li. Not only do we read o f the various communities inhabiting K 'art' li. but also of
their variegated religions, especially the local conventions o f idolatry, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism/FireWorship .* 73 Had its author been a nationalist, he could have easily denied the existence in K 'a rt'li of
other peoples until after the establishment o f local royal authority. Instead, he was mindful o f the ancient
contact o f the K'art'velians with their neighbors, and o f the existence o f other communities residing in the
land which eventually became known as K 'art'li. Advancing from the supposition that the peoples in
Caucasia in his own time had been settled there for an exceedingly long time, the author anachronistically
projects back some of these communities into remote antiquity (e.g., the Turks and Khazars).
Furthermore, he does not deny the intimate relations o f the K'art'velians with the Jews, not to mention the

*7 *This phrase is found in ibid., p. 9 8 3 ^ , where we are told that news came that the three wise men had
presented gifts to Christ "And all the K 'art'velian Jews [huriat'a zeda k'art'velt'a ] were overjoyed"
*7 7 E.g., in The Ufe ofVaxtang, p. 164.
*73Marco Polo, p. 25.
I"74"i392 Charter o f Immunity to the Kat'alikos o f M c'xet'a," in Georgian Charters, # 23, pp. 104-105.
"Eliozidze" is a surname while "Bazari" is a geographical designation.
17^A n d later, we find Christian and Manichean missionaries in K 'art'li. O n the plurality o f religions in
early K 'art'li: Mgaloblishvili, "The Ideological Situation in 3rd-4th Century Iberia and How it is
Expressed in Georgian Literature," who bases her study on the unpub. work o f G. Ceret'eli, Iveria
mesame saukunis (a.c.) iranul cqaroebshi (1964).

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185

Armenians. Had the author wished to depict ancient Colchis as an integral component o f K 'art'li, he
m ight have affixed the influence o f Greek colonies along the Blade Sea littoral to demonstrate that he was
fam iliar with the history and peoples o f that western region.
In sum, the author o f The U fe o f the Kings contends that the heterogeneous, cosmopolitan nature
o f K 'a rt'li so prevalent in his own era had persisted since the very provenance o f the K 'art'velian
community. He commences from the assumption that the K'art'velians were an ancient people and that
they could be plausibly inserted into the Biblical tabula populorum though absent in i t But the
anonymous author was convinced that K 'art'li, from its very origin, had emerged and evolved within the
context o f the Persia, the dominant contemporary force in that part o f the Near E ast In the meantime, the
K 'art'velians allegedly maintained intimate contacts with a wide range o f other communities, including
the Armenians, Syrians, "Turks," "Khazars," Jews, Ovsi-s, and even the Romans. The ca. 800 author o f

The U fe o f the Kings was immune to the modem poison o f nationalism, and he evinced no distaste for the
heterogeneous nature o f the K 'art'velian lands. But subsequent patriotic scribes and editors would find
this cosmopolitan account of the provenance o f K 'a rt'li contemptible, and we should now turn our
attention to their sinister attempts to rewrite and even obliterate this tale.

Intellectual Vandalism: Scribes, Patriotism, and the Legend ofHaos and K'art'los

The tale o f the foundation o f K 'a rt'li by its eponym K'art'los, and the superior position o f his
older brother Haos, was well-known among the early modem Georgian elite, a result o f the popularization
and, really, the nationalization o f K'artTis c'xovreba. But although the King Vaxtang VI
Commission itself did not purge this account, and its text, from its eighteenth-century edition of K'artTis

c'xovreba (the so-called Vaxtangiseuli recension), certain early-modern scribes looked upon the K 'art'los
legend with an incontestable abhorrence.
O f the three extant Georgian pre-Vaxtangiseuli redactions o f The Ufe o f the Kings, only the
Mariamiseuli (M) variant of 1633-1645/1646 is complete. ^

The Anaseuli (A; 1479-1495) and

M c'xet'ian (Q; 1697) variants are defective for this text, each one missing its initial folios. ^

It so

happens that AQ are missing the account ofHaos and K 'art'los, with its inferences that K 'art'los was
ultimately the subordinate ofHaos.

*^*The MSS o f the A nn. adaptation o f K'C' are complete and uncorrupted on this point

177

'A begins in midsentence with the reign o f the second king Saurmagi {KeklnstM S # Q-795, f. 2 =
K 'C '1, p. 3 8 2 3 ); while Q begins in midsentence with the conquest o f Alexander o f Macedon (Kek-InstMS
# Q-1219, ? lv = The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 15jy_jg).

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186

Was the account ofH aos and K 'art'los purposefully removed from these MSS? It is significant
that several o f the Vaxtangiseuli MSS show signs o f corruption.17* O f the major redactions, only the
Teim uraziseuli (T; first-quarter eighteenth century), Dadianiseuli (d; eighteenth century),
Barat'ashviliseuli (b; 1761), and Broseseuli (B: 1839)179 are complete and show' no flagrant signs of
damage. In addition to these MSS, three considerably later ones o f the late-eighteenth and nineteenth
ixo
centuries are intact.lou
One o f these, Kek.Inst.MS # S-S316, was copied in 1822, well after the Russian annexation o f
eastern Georgia. It commences with a unique miniature o f Togarmah (who is placed in the center) and
his sons (see photograph!. *** To his right is Haos, and to his left, curiously enough, is Lekos and not
K'art'los. K 'art'los is placed to the right hand ofHaos, clearly implying both his subordination to the
Armenian eponym. The fart that so many Vaxtangiseuli MSS are complete is conclusive evidence that
the King Vaxtang VI Commission did not effect the removal o f the Haos/K 'art'los legend from K'art 'lis

c'xovreba. That is to say, all strictly copied Vaxtangiseuli MSS contain this account and its absence
indicates accidental or intentional damage to a particular docum ent
Two Vaxtangiseuli MSS, the Chalashviliseuli (C/c) and P'alavanishviliseuii (P/p) codices,
actually consist o f multiple MSS that have been joined together. The older portion o f the Chalashviliseuli
codex, C, was copied in the sixteenth century and is pre-Vaxtangiseuli (ff 43-213, 217-261) whereas the
new section, c, derives from 1731. ^

The Ufe o f the Kings, up to the account o f Mihran/Mirian (284-

361), is represented only by the new folios (i.e., the c variant). T hat is to say, the older folios of C have
been lost/removed and replaced with the corresponding Vaxtangiseuli text. Likewise, the
P'alavandishviliseuli redaction includes an old section. P. written in the ecclesiastical nusxuri script, and

17*I have considered here all o f the Vaxtangiseuli MSS available to me: the only major MS not
considered here is the Sxvitoruli (s) variant o f the late eighteenth century. Very late MSS not considered
here from the Kekelidze Institute are: S-1738 (of Nikoloz Dadiani, 1823-1824): Q-354 (1876): and H-717
(Shemoklezuli redaction, nineteenth-century): as well as the "K 'ut'aisi" (k) MS o f the nineteenth century
(K 'ut'aisi State Museum # 441).
179 SPB.OrJnstMS # M-18: see also Orbeli,

Gruzinskie rukopisi Instituta Vostokovedeniia, vol. 1, pp. 1819. B was made from Vaxtangiseuli MSS by Brosset/Ch'ubinashvili and was published in Georgian and
Fr. as Hist, de la Georgie.
m KekInst.MSS ## Q-383, S-5314, and S-5316.
m K ekInstM S# S-5316, f. 1.
^ G r ig o lia ,

Axali k'art'lis c'xovreba, pp. 108-114: and Qauxch'ishvili in K'C'^, introduction, esp. pp.

015-016 and 019-020.

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187

Kek./nst^\/S ft S-5316. p. 1 = Vaxtangiseuli redaction of K'art'lis c'xovreba. Riazan' recension. Opening


oCThe Ufe o f the Kings. With Vaxtangiseuli preamble and miniature of Togantuh and his sons (from left
to right: Movakan, Bardos. K'art'los. Haos. Togarmah. Lek. Heros. Kavfcas. Egros).

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188

copied in the period 1719-1744 (tl 5-16, 19-59,61-66). *8^ The new section, p, was copied in 1761, and
is written in the civil, mxedruli, script It is significant that all the folios o f P, written in the nt/sxuri
script fall within The U fe o f the Kings. However, the initial section o f that text is part o f p and was
appended later. Yet the Vaxtangiseuli texts o f c and p have not been edited further, and conforms with
the official version o f the King V&xtang VI Commission. The point is that the account ofH aos and
K 'art'los in both C/c an d P/p each o f which comprise old and new sections is transm itted the new
sections o f those MSS. In my opinion, this suggests that the older folios (c and p) had been subject to the
same vandalism as the pre-Vaxtangisueli AQ.
Only two non-hybrid Vaxtangiseuli MSS, the Janashviliseuli (D) and Saeklesio muzeumisa (E)
variants, are defective for the initial portion o f The Ufe o f the Kings. The mid-eighteenth-century D
redaction lacks the entire account of K 'art' los and Haos. However, E, copied in 1748. commences in mid
sentence at the end o f that account, but not before admitting that the brothers ofHaos. including K'art'los.
declared their loyalty to him . 184
The remaining two major recensions o f the Vaxtangiseuli redaction are modified. The
Mach'abliseuli (m) variant, copied in 1736, belongs to the same recension as the pre-Vaxtangiseuli MQ.
MQm together constitute the M c'xet'ian recension o f K'artTis c'xovreba}^ In the m variant, the
opening o f The Ufe o f the Kings is embellished:

But this was [the stemma] o f the descendants o f Noah... Avnan was bom o f Japheth
the son o f Noah. And Avnan begat T ar[i]shi. And T ar[i]shi begat Togarmah
[T argamoz]. And this Togarmah was the father of the Armenians and the
K 'art'velians...*8*

Other than a modified opening passage. The U fe o f the Kings as found in m is in accordance with the
Vaxtangiseuli recension. The other modification is encountered in the Rumianceviseuli (R) variant
copied in 1699-1703. The R variant was used by M.-F. Brosset in his edition (B) and translation of

*8 ^Grigolia, Axali k'a rtiis c'xovreba, pp. 168-170 (P) and 180-185 (p); cf. Qauxch'ishvili in K'C'^,

introduction.
Kek.Inst.KIS # A-131, f. 1 = The Ufe o f the Kings, p.

623.

*8 % .g., see M Shanidze in The Ufe o f Davit', introduction, pp. 128-144.

^K ekJn stM S # H-2135, f. 36:

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0 6 5 6 8 0 1 6 6 6 (5 3 6 5 8 0 6 6 0 065016366 8 6 ( 3 6 2 3 6 0 8 3 6 6 3 8 566 3 6 6 0 1 0 ).
60136.

6 3 6 6 6 6 0 1 8 3 2 3 6 0 8 3 6 O6033m 8 3 8 6 6 6 0 1 3 6 8 6 6 .

3636
text proceeding the colon is in red ink, the remainder in black.
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56 3 6 3 0 )6 6 5 6 8 0 1 % 0301

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56

6 (1 8 3 6 0 )6 06 ^ 6 6 0 3 3 2 3 0 1 6 . .. "

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The

189

K'art'lis c'xovreba published in 1849. Although none o f the leaves were removed (as in other MSS), R
shows considerable signs o f patriotic vandalism. In this variant, the opening of The Ufe o f the Kings
reads (see photograph):

First we should recall that the K 'art'velians and the Armenians... had a single
father ...* * 7

The sequence o f the K'art'velians and the Armenians has been transposed. This was not a scribal
oversight, for K 'art'los was also enumerated first in the list of the sons o f Togarmah, and Haos was
relegated to second place.

too

In describing the battle ofHaos against Nimrod, the R variant prefers to

enumerate K 'art'los, Haos. and their brothers together though the medieval text usually has only Haos. 189
In fact, the entire Rumianc'eviseuli MS was tainted by its chauvinistic scribe(s) and readers. For
example, regnal titles that once admitted the Armenian provenance o f some of the kings o f the
K 'art'velians have been defaced.*9

181Kek.Inst.MS if H-2080, ( lr.


l88Ibid I 2 v.
l89Ibid f 3v. In the same passage, the patriotic scribe anachronistically inserts the word "Sak'art'uelo"
(i.e.. Sak'art'velo = "Georgia") for "K 'art'li." "Sak'art'uelo" is also found at 5r.
*9 E.g., King Bartom's name is followed by the dynastic tag "Arshakuniani" (i.e.. and Arsacid), but
Arshakuniani was written later over the phrase somext' mep 'isa [sic] ("king of the Armenians). Thus the
clear indication that Bartom was an Armenian was concealed in favor o f the more neutral dynastic label.
Ibid., < 23r.

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KeklnstM S If H-2080.12r Ruraianc'cviseuli codex of K'art'Us c'xovreba. Opening o f The Ufe o f the
Kings with Vaxtangiseuli preamble.

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191

The status o f the initial account o f the anonymous The Life o f the Kings in the extant MSS o f

K'artTis c'xovreba may be summarized as:*9 *

MS redaction

Date o f MS

Status of initial account

PRE-VAXTANGISEULl MSS:
Armenian adaptation
1279-1311
(Arm/A)
Anaseuli (A)
1479-1495
Chalashviliseuli old (C) 16th century
Mariamiseuli (M)
M c'xet'-ian (Q)

1633-1645/1646
1697

Complete
Defective; text begins in midsentence at
p .3 5 3
Defective: replaced by new folios (c): begins
in midsentence at p. 18
Complete (earliest complete Georgian text)
Defective; text begins in midsentence at
P -1517_18

VAXTANGISEULI MSS:
Rumianc'eviseuli (R)

1699-1703

Janashviliseuli (D)

mid 18th century

P'alavandishviliseuli
new(p)
Barat'ashviliseuli (b)
Q-383
S-5316
S-5314
Broseseuli (B)

1761

Complete but w ith substantial patriotic


re-editing
Complete
Defective up to account o f Mirian; replaced
by new folios (p)
Complete but replaces older text o f C
Complete but modified opening
Complete
Defective to the end o f the Haos account;
text begins in midsentence at p. 6 2 3
Defective throughout: text begins in
midsentence at p. 2 4 j7
Complete but replaces older text o f P

1761
late 18th centurv
1822
1833-1834
1839

Complete
Complete
Complete
Complete
Complete

T eimuraziseuli (T)
1st quarter 18th century
Palavandishviliseuli 1719-1744
old = Urbnisi MS (P)
Chalashviliseuli new (c) 1731
Mach'abliseuli (m)
1736
Dadianiseuli (d)
18th century
Saeklesio muzeumisa (E) 1748

191The page references in this chart refer to the critical text o f Qauxch'ishvili, i.e.. The Ufe o f the Kings.
Asterisks denote components o f a hybrid MSS (i.e documents composed of multiple MSS, especially P/p
and C/c).

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192

The cosmopolitan nature o f The U fe o f the Kings was suppressed not by the royal (pro-Bagratid)
Vaxtang VI Commission, but by renegade scribes, clergymen, and/or nobles who wished to divorce
themselves from this inclusive ninth-century tradition. Ironically, it is the earliest extant version o f

K'art'lis c'xovreba, the Armenian adaptation extant from the late thirteenth century, which has allowed
scholars to determine that the only complete pre-Vaxtangiseuli Georgian text (M) is relatively
unblemished by early m odem patriotic corruption. Although our extant evidence o f intellectual vandalism
is limited to the literal re-writing o f history at its best and the removal of entire leaves and folios at its
worst, we must wonder if entire pre-Vaxtangiseuli MSS were intentionally destroyed by Georgian patriotic
Elites. Regardless, the text o f The Ufe o f the Kings, though it in no way promoted Bagratid legitimacy
during the millennium o f their rule, was never entirely removed from the royal corpus of K'art'lis

c'xovreba.
A similar phenomenon may be detected in the Bagratid-era corpus o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay.
Until recently, only two redactions were known to have survived; the Shatberdi codex (tenth century) and
the Chelishi codex (fourteenth/fifteenth century). These two MS have been published. Following a fire at
St. Catharine's monastery on M t Sinai in 1975, two additional redactions, apparently copied in the
tenth/eleventh century, were discovered (new collection, Sin-48 and Sin-50). Sadly, they remain
unpublished. In any event, only the Shatberdi codex is complete for the initial texts of Mok'c'evay

k'art'lisay. The Chelishi document lacks The Primary History o f K'art'li and Royal List I. The two new
Sinai redactions both are reportedly wanting for these texts (Sin-48 lacks the same two texts while Sin-50
seems to contain only a story about Nino, probably The Ufe o f Nino).* 92 Thus, only one extant redaction,
the Shatberdi codex, contains the introductory texts which describe the pre-Christian K 'art'velian past.
Assuming that the remaining MSS originally commenced with these same works, then they have been
damaged. Should they not have been originally included, we must consider whether they were
intentionally omitted. All o f the redactions include at least one text about the conversion o f K 'a rt' li by
Nino (and thus the corpus is called by the nam e Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay, lit. "The Conversion o f K 'a rtli").
I should think that this is not a case of coincidence, but rather the later manipulation of these texts - by
literally ripping away folios so as to eliminate their record o f the pre-Christian past. At least three of
the MSS (Shatberdi, Sin-48, Sin-50) were found in monasteries, and two o f them are defective. It should
be noted that the vandalism afflicting The U fe o f the Kings did not infect the other accounts o f preChristian K 'art'velian history but rather was limited to the narrative about Haos/Hayk. Therefore, we
possess two separate incidents o f vandalism: one was an attempt to obliterate the tradition o f Haos/Hayk

(The Ufe o f the Kings) while the other sought to conceal the entire pre-Christian past of the K 'a rtvelian

19 2 Alek' sidze, "The New Recensions o f the 'Conversion of Georgia' and the 'Lives o f the 13 Syrian
Fathers' Recently Discovered on ML Sinai," pp. 414-418.

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193

community.

But it should be emphasized that we may only speculate as to when this vandalism was

executed. However, the available evidence seems to suggest the early modem period.

The Legacy ofK'art'los mid His Progeny in Later Literature

K 'art'los and his immediate progeny, the K'art'losiani-s, were largely forgotten, o r at least
ignored, by medieval historians writing after the appearance o f The life o f the Kings.194 It is particularly
noteworthy that The Primary History o f K'art'li, whose date o f composition has yet to be definitively
established, does not know o f K 'art'los or his progeny, or even o f the dynastic tags "K'art' losiani" and
" T argamosiani. The Primary History o f K'art'li, like The Ufe o f the Kings, is concerned with the
earliest period o f K 'art'velian history. But instead o f interpolating K 'art'li's provenance within the
Biblical tabula populorum, it traced the origin o f K 'a rt'li from the era o f Alexander the Great. It is true
that the Jebusites, the pre-Davidic inhabitants o f Jerusalem, are mentioned in connection with the
B unt'urk'-s (whom Alexander found residing in K 'art'li), but no further connection with Biblical history
is attempted. The Primary History might represent an independent tradition o f the establishment of
K 'a rtli. But two scenarios are more likely. O n the one hand, should The Primary History o f K'art'li
have been written prior to The Ufe o f the Kings, it constitutes evidence that the latter author himself
created the legend o f K 'art'los. On the other hand, should The Primary History be later than its
counterpart, then it represents a tacit rejection o f the K 'art'los legend. In the absence o f the original MSS
o f both The Ufe o f the Kings and The Primary History o f K'art'li, we may only speculate as to their
relationship.
On this point, we should consider the eleventh-century metaphrastic version of The Ufe o f Nino
written by the monk Arsen Iqalt'oeli (lit. "of Iqalt'o"). At the end of this work. Iqalt'oeli attached a
summation o f early K 'art'velian history. W hile the author acknowledges to have employed K'art iis

c 'xovreba and even The Ufe o f the K in g s ,^ he ignored the tatters account o f the origin o f K 'artli and
substituted that o f The Primary History o f K'art ii. He does not refer to K' art' los or his progeny and
commences K 'art'velian history with Alexander the Great and the Bunt'urk'-s. *9** Iqalt'oeli entirely

^ s i m i l a r patriotic vandalism may be detected in other MSS. E.g., KetInst.M S # Q-964, copied in
158S, the so-called Nikorcmida king-list, seems to be missing its initial passages (no pre-Christian
monarchs are related in it).
194As was Haos; the only reference to him in medieval Georgian historical literature outside o f The Ufe

o f the Kings is in the thirteenth-century Hist, and Eul., p. 2 = Kekelidze Rus. trans., p. 171.
^ A r s e n Iqalt'oeli, Metaphr. Nino, p. 395.
106

l Ibid., p. 390. In giving preference to Prim. Hist. K'art'li for early K 'art'velian history, Arsen also
identifies "Azove" (Azoy/Azon) as the first king o f K 'art'li {ibid., p. 391) whereas P'am avaz is rendered

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194

dismisses the origin account o f The Ufe o f the Kings though he certainly knew about i t It is not clear
why this should have been the case, except that The U fe ofthe Kings with its account o f K 'art'los
represents a carefully fashioned tradition o f pre-Bagratid kingship, a tradition which was considerably
more developed than that in The Primary History o f K'art'li, and one which could be construed as
"pagan" (its Persian overtones probably contributed to this attitude).
While occasional references to "the house o f Togarmah" (i.e., Targamosiani-s. o f which the
K 'art'losiani-s were a part) are found in twelfih-/thirteenth-century Georgian sources, 1 9 7 no significant
allusions to K 'art'los and his foundation o f K 'a rt'li are to be detected before the early modern period.
Thus, Iqalt'oeli's distaste for the opening account of The U fe o f the Kings may not have been an isolated
one. K 'art'los reemerges on the historiographical scene only from the fifteenth century or so. but the
solitary reference from that time is obscure and clearly dependent upon The Ufe o f the Kings. Named in it
are T argam oys (Togarmah), T a rsh i (Tiras), Iap'eti (Japheth), Noe (Noah). andT'argam oy's son
K 'art' Ioys (K 'art'los), the last o f whom settled at the confluence o f the Aragwi and Mtkuari rivers.
M c'xet'os, the son o f K'art'loys, built a city there and named it M c'xet'a after himself. The account
continues to paraphrase The Ufe o f the Kings, mentioning Nebuchadnezzar's capture o f Jerusalem.
Alexander the Great's invasion o f K 'art'li, and the establishment o f local kingship . 198
It was not until the eighteenth century that the tale o f K 'art'los was resurrected and introduced as
an integral part o f Georgian self-identity. Vaxushti's account is directly based upon that o f The Ufe o f the

Kings and did not incorporate any additional (now lost) Georgian material:

But K 'art'los was [descended from] the son o f Noah Japheth. for Japheth begat Avanani.
Avanani begat T arshi, T arshi begat T argam os. Targam os begat these eight heroes:
Haos. K 'art'los, Bardos. Movakanos. Lekanos, Heros, Kavkasos. and Egros. 199

This particular account displays an affinity not only with the Mach'abliseuli (m) variant quoted above, but
also with Vaxtangiseuli MSS generally, for all have inserted Avnan[i]/Avanani into the stemma.
Vaxushti followed the Vaxtangiseuli version o f The Ufe o f the Kings for this passage.

in this fashion in The Ufe o f the Kings.


197 E.g.,

Hist, and Eul., pp. 84 and 87.

198"Cesi da gangebay da darbazobisa, romeli alesrulebis m c'xet'as kurt'xevasa m ep'et'asa," in


Zhordania, K'ronikebi, vol. 1, pp. 10-11.
19 9 Vaxushti, p. 4 7 4 . 7 ; ^ PVaxushti added the Greek suffix -OE to all the names o f the
eponyms whereas the original account in The Ufe o f the Kings applied it to only some o f the names.

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195

Vaxushti is deeply dependent upon K'art'lis c'xovreba for his history o f ancient and medieval
K 'art'li, and this section o f his work is, in many respects, an early-modern reworking o f that corpus.
Vaxushti does not deny that Haos was the senior o f the eponym-brothers. but his role is diminished . 2 0 0
Instead o f reporting that Haos assumed Togarmahs possessions upon his death, Vaxushti emphasizes that
his lands were divided among all the brothers. Haos' leadership in the revolt against Nimrod is likewise
downplayed. In short, Vaxushti does not deny the received tradition that Haos was the senior brother of
K'art'los, but he surgically removed the details ofHaos' courage, heroism, and leadership. Thus,
Vaxushti's reworking o f the initial portion o f The Life o f the King was more extensive and more
blatantly patriotic - than that o f the contemporary King Vaxtang Commission.
The reedition o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba by the Vaxtang VI Commission in the first decade o f the
eighteenth century and the reworking o f that corpus by Vaxushti introduced K 'art'los. and the whole cast
of pre-Bagratid historical figures, to the Georgian literate public. Their knowledge o f P'araavaz must
have palpably increased w ith the first publication of K'art'lis c'xovreba in the mid nineteenth century.
K 'art'los. it would seem, having been portrayed as a unifier o f K 'art'velian lands ca. 800. was largely
forgotten thereafter, he became a figure o f national proportions only from the eighteenth century. This is
particularly evident from the Short Life o f K'art ii (Me'ire k'art 'lis c 'xovreba) written by the kat 'alikos
Anton (survives in a MS written in 1839). Anton described K 'art'los as being "the father of K 'art'li" and
having ruled not only over the K 'art'velians but also over the Imeret' ians, Kaxet' ians. Javaxet' ians. that is
over all o f "Georgia." Anton is careful to say that all o f these peoples were considered "K'art'velians."
although this is clearly a reflection of his own time.20*
K 'art'los was not an attractive figure to Bagratid historians because in no way did he advance
Bagratid legitimacy.2 0 2 The K 'art'velian Bagratids piqued themselves upon being Christians and the
direct descendants of the Old Testament King David. Sumbat Davit' is-dze's eleventh-century exposition

100Ibid., pp. 47-49.


20 *Cen/.Hist-4rch.MS, f. 1446, #713: "3 0 6 3 3 2 ?* 3 0 (0 6 3 6 3 0*3* ,3*6c?ob* eg* 3 <n3 3 2 ?* 3*oj
j*633C?* 3 b 3 0 5 0 ^*6332?*, 0 6 3 6 *, 3 *b* 06 x * 3 *bm*. 6cn332?o6Q* 301332 ?* 3*
3 ^oieg3 &ob ^*6<30e?o. 0 3 ^* 6 c?mb." See also Kekelidze. ed., C'entraluri saxelmc'ipo saistorio
ark'ivi: k'art'ulxelnacert'a kolek'c'iis aghceriloba, vol. 2 (1949), #713. pp. 211-212. This Short History
ends with Shah Nadir.

202Not only did Bagratid-era sources routinely ignore the tradition about K 'art'los. but I am unaware of
any pre-modem Bagratid bearing the name "K'art'los." Moreover, I know o f only one pre-modem
Bagratid figure (in the sixteenth century) having the name Targam os (Togarmah). See the
prosopographical study o f D. Kldiashvili, M. Surguladze, E. C'agareishvili, and G. Jandieri, eds., Pirt'a
anotirebuli lek'sikoni: XI-XVIss. k'art'uli istoriuli sabut'ebis mixedvit', vol. 1 (1991), p. 306, and for
Bagratid nomenclature for the eleventh-sixteenth centuries, pp. 212-371. It should be emphasized that
pre-Bagratid kings and nobles are not known to have had the aforementioned names.

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196

of that origin does not mention, even in passing, K 'art'los, his progeny, or any pre-Christian K 'art'velian
king. Davit' is-dze largely ignored even the Christian pre-Bagratid kings, although he did impart Vaxtang
Gorgasali and the subsequent Guaramid princely dynasty (whom he identified as proto-Bagratids) to his
readers. Since the pre-Bagratid kings could not, and did not, claim to be the descendants of David, in
Bagratid eyes they were not true kings. The association o f the establishment o f the K 'art'velian monarchy
with Nimrod was replaced by the Bagratid historians with a connection to David, the prototypical Old
Testament king who had been chosen and anointed tty God. Though connections were made with
different rulers o f antiquity, the bases for these associations are very much the s a m e . ^
K 'art'los was also largely ignored in Armenian historical writing. With a solitary exception, all
o f the extant histories composed in the fifth century, the works through and including The Primary

History o f Armenia, as well as the eighth-century narrative o f X orenac'i that is, all extant Armenian
sources written before the Armenian adaptation o f K'art'lis c'xovreba was completed - do not know him.
The possible exception, depending upon the original date o f the aforementioned adaptation, is the
thirteenth-century historian Step'anos Orbelean. He used K'art'lis c'xovreba in its Georgian version and
repeats its origin stemma including K'art'los, but no new information is provided.7** Only after the
adaptation o f K'art'lis c'xovreba into Armenian was completed do we find a number o f references (wholly
dependent upon that work) to K 'art'los. The thirteenth-century Vardan Arewelc'i is familiar with the
tradition that the progeny of Japheth settled "as far as the mountains o f the Caspian and the Caucasus, and
they filled the islands."7^ Arewelc' i fashions the K 'art'velians as the descendants o f Japheth and
Togarmah and, paraphrasing The Ufe o f the Kings, he states that "T'orgom begat Hayk and his seven
brothers: K 'art'los, Kovkas, and the others, who inherited the North. "7^
Another thirteenth-century Armenian historical compilation, that of the archbishop and vardapet
M xit'ar Ayrivanec'i, gives an enumeration of "the K 'art'velian princes:"

Hayk and his seven brothers: K 'art'los, Bardos. Movkan, Lekan. Heros. Kovkas, Egris.
Mcxit'a. Up'los, Ap'ridon, Azon. [during whose reign] was Alexander [of
Macedon], 7

K 'art' Ios and his descendants were not emphasized in subsequent Georgian historical literature,
although The Ufe o f the Kings as a component o f K'C' was not entirely forgotten, as is testified Ity the
later derivative references to K 'art'los.
7 "*Step'anos Orbelean, LXVL, pp. 209-210.

7^Vardan Arewelc'i, p. 146.

206Ibid., p. 148.
7 7 M xit'ar A yrivanec'i Arm. ed., cap. 15, p. 246.

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197

So not only K 'art' los, but Hayk an d the other seven brothers, are styled as princes o f K'art 'li by this
Armenian historian! Ayrivanec'i also provides a list o f "K 'art'velian kings." the first o f whom is
P'am avaz.20** T he contents o f the accounts o f Arewelc'i and Ayrivanec'i are clearly based upon The Ufe

o f the Kings, which would have been available to both of these historical compilers in its Armenian
adaptation .2 0 9 Significantly, neither o f the historians had at his disposal sources other than the
Armenian adaptation o f K'art iis c 'xovreba.

II. THE MYTHICAL CONQUEST OF K 'A R T U BY ALEXANDER THE GREATAND THE


ESTABLISHMENT OF INDIGENOUS ROYAL AUTHORITY
Georgian Sources on Alexanders Invasion o f K'art'li

The medieval Georgian historical tradition couches the establishment o f K 'art'velian royal
authority within the framework o f "world" history.2 *0 In doing so, both The Life o f the Kings and The

Primary History o f K'art'li link the accession of the first K 'artvelian king with the renowned Alexander
o f Macedon, around whom countless later traditions were b u ilt2 * *
It is not clear which Georgian source was composed firs t 2 *2 Nevertheless, these two medieval
accounts o f Alexanders invasion o f K 'a rt'li are related and correspond on a number of points. The

Primary History o f K'art'li is not necessarily earlier owing to its unfatniliarity with the interpolated tale of
K 'art'los, which itself was consigned to parchment in its received form ca. 800. On the other hand, we
may not suppose that The Primary History o f K'art'li is simply a modified abridgment of The U fe o f the

Kings simply because its appended Royal Usts are dependent upon C'xorebav k 'art'velt'a mep et 'a and

20%Ibid.. cap. 16, p. 246.


2 0 9 Cf. the tenth- to thirteenth-century work of Movses Dasxuranc'i

{The History o f the Caucasian

Albanians) which is not aware of K 'art'los.


210

It should be emphasized that although modern Georgian nationalists often speak of "Georgian" kings
during the time o f Jason and the Argonauts, that this myth is completely unknown in medieval Georgian
historical literature.
211
1A.P. Novoseltsev, "K vorposu o makedonskom vladychestve v drevnei Gruzii," in Ivane javaxishvilis

dabadebis 100 clist'avisadmi midzghvnili saiubileo krebuli, pp. 104-109.


212

i l T h e later, derivative account o f Vaxushti is based upon the known medieval sources and does not offer
additional information; see Vaxushti, pp. 54-55.

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198

C'xorebay vaxtang gorgaslisa,2 13 In short, the relationship o f The Primary History o f K'art li and The
Ufe o f the Kings cannot be definitively ascertained by extant MSS. I shall however, offer additional
comments upon the relationship o f the texts as their contents are examined.

The Narrative o f the Mythical Conquest o f K'art'li by Alexander ofMacedon

The various non-Georgian biographies o f Alexander, especially the Greek written tradition
attributed to Ps.-Callisthenes (originally composed ca. 2 0 0 AD)21"* and its Eastern renditions, do not
explicitly state that Alexander or his arm ies penetrated K 'a rt'li .2 1 5 But as is the case with the mythical
establishment o f K 'art'li narrated by The U fe ofthe Kings, it is the imagined collective past o f the
K'art'velians and its plausibility with regards to received traditions and not historical veracity as
determined by modem specialists that is param ount

The Ufe o f the Kings, drawing upon some written or oral version o f Ps. -Callisthenes. reports that
Alexander was the son o f Nectanebus (Georgian Niktanebi); accordingly, he is said to have been an
Egyptian by birth. Having subdued Greece and Macedonia, Alexander conquered "all the ends o f the

213As shown in the previous ch., M ok\ k'art'. is actually composed o f several distinct texts: Prim. Hist.
K'art'li, Royal UstsI-HI, Conv. K'art'li, and The Ufe o f Nino. The earliest texts in this compilation (i.e..
Prim. Hist, and that of Giorgi) are perhaps as early as the seventh/eighth century.
21<1Budge in Ps.-CallisthenesSyriac, introduction, p. lii.
215In Plutarch's vita of Pompey, we find the following statement: "For the Iberians [i.e., K'art'velians]
had not been subject either to the Medes o r the Persians, and they escaped the Macedonian dominion also,
since Alexander departed from Hyrcania in haste. See "Pompey" in Plutarch, Uves, pp. 206-207. The
first-century geographer Strabo already noted the embellishment o f the traditions o f Alexander's
conquests: "The stories that have been spread far and wide with a view to glorifying Alexander are not
accepted by all; and their fabricators were men who cared for flattery rather than truth. For instance: they
transferred the Caucasus into the region o f the Indian mountains and o f the eastern sea which lies near
those mountains from the mountains which lie above Colchis and the Euxine; for these are the mountains
which the Greeks named Caucasus, which is more than thirty thousand stadia distant from India; and here
it was that they laid the scene o f the story o f Prometheus and o f his being put in bonds; for these were the
farthermost mountains towards the east that were known to writers o f that time... See Strabo, XI.5.5, pp.
238-241. Pliny the Elder, IV. 10.39 and Solinus DC 19 are familiar with some Macedonian activity in
Caucasia. For Alexandrine coins found in modem Georgia, see G. Dundua, "Sak'arf veloshi gavrc'elebuli
alek'sandre makedonelisa da lisimak'es saxelit' mochrili monetebi," Mac'ne 1 (1973), pp. 51-65, with
Rus. sum., "Monety Aleksandra Makedonskogo i Lizimakha, rasprostranennye v Gruzii," pp. 64-65 (373
staters struck in Alexander's name have been found, and only 6 for Lysimachus). Some modem scholars
have surmised that Alexander o f Macedon did not invade K 'art'li: see A. Gugushvili, "The
Chronological-Genealogical Table of the Kings o f Georgia," Georgica 1/2-3 (O ct 1936), p. 109; L.
Sanikidze, Alek'sandre makedoneli (1984), esp. "Alek'sandre makedoneli da V a rt'lis c'xovreba,'" pp.
346-363; and C. Burney and D.M. Lang, The Peoples o f the Hills (1971), p. 195. O n Alexander's
invasion of Iran see E. Badian, "Alexander in Iran," in CHI, vol. 2 (1985), pp. 420-501.

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199

world ."2 1 6 During his Eastern campaign, A lexander allegedly invaded K 'art'li where he found the
"Bunt'urk'-s" and the "Qipchaqs" residing along the course o f the Mtkuari River. The identification of
the Bunt'urk'-s remains an enigma, but The Life o f the Kings may be suggesting that the B unt'urk'-s and
the Qipchaqs were uncivilized proto-K' art' velians .2 1 2 As we have seen, Alexander is said to have
believed that the B unt'urk'-s represented the remnants o f the tribes o f the Jebusites. So are we to equate
the K'art'velians found by Alexander with them ? W ere these Bunt'urk' -s the ancestors o f the
K'art'velians, or perhaps the original inhabitants o f K 'artli?21* Could it be that the confusion is a result
o f The Ufe o f the Kings and The Primary History o f K'art'li both being based upon an earlier, and now
lost, source? These questions, sadly, must rem ain unanswered.
The behavior of the peoples inhabiting K 'art' li astounded Alexander. The Primary History o f

K'art'li relates that the B unt'urk'-s were a "savage" tribe who "consumed every sort o f meat
[indiscriminately], they did not employ graves for they consumed [even] the dead. While The Ufe o f the

Kings asserts that the K 'art'velians were "adulterers, and they did not observe kinship when marrying;
they consumed every sort o f creature, they consumed the dead as if [they were] stupid animals there are
not sufficient words for these deeds."21^ In any event. Alexander reportedly resolved to rid Caucasia of
this barbarism and to introduce the norms o f civilization to the area.
These accounts have a parallel in the sixth-century Syriac Book o f the Cave o f Treasures. That
source does not expressly mention K 'art'li but states that Alexander

... saw in the confines o f the East those men who are the children o f Japhet[h], They
were more wicked and unclean than all [other] dwellers in the world; filthy people of
hideous appearance, who ate mice and the creeping things o f the earth, and snakes and
scorpions. They never buried the bodies of their dead [but consumed theml ...2 2 0

The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 17. My trans. "all the ends o f the world," i.e., qovelni kideni k'ueqanisani,
literally means "all the edges o f the land."
2 1 ^Ibid., p. 17, reports that Alexander "found all the Kart'velians to be worse than all [the other] clans

[and their faith worse than all other] faith[s]... And seeing these settlers along the Mtkuari River, these
very heathen clans, which we call the B unt'urk'-s and the Qivch'aqi-s, Alexander was astonished..."
2 1 %anikidze, Alek'sandre makedoneli, pp. 347- 354, finds that "it is erroneous and completely
anachronistic for that time (4th c. BC) that in Georgia lived the Bunt'urk'-s, Huns, and Qipchaqs."

510

4,1:7Prim. Hist. K'art'li, p. 81; and The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 17. Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, pp. 16-17
and 96, notes that the Greek document Constitution o f the Phasians (forth/third century BC) relates that
"In the beginning the Heniochi inhabited Phasis. They were cannibals and stripped the skin off men..."
The Heniochi were a proto-K'art'velian tribe.

Cave o f Treasures, p. 265. Notably, the medieval Georgian version o f this text lacks any account of
Alexander. It was widely understood that the harharians o f the northeast (i.e., in the region
near/comprising Caucasia) behaved in this deplorable fashion. Multiple Old Testament passages

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200

M ortified by that which he had seen, Alexander confined the twenty-two Eastern tribes within the
"northern gate" (later identified with Derbend). None o f these tribes exactly corresponds with the
K 'art'velians, although it is possible that the Thaubelaye could have been mistaken by a K 'art'velian
historian (like the author o f The Ufe o f the Kings who seems to have been familiar with various traditions
contained in The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures) for the Biblical Tubal-ians, a proto-K' art* velian
tribe .2 2 1 But no medieval K 'art'velian historian is known to have made this connection. Other
Caucasian peoples are mentioned in the list, including the Eshkenaz (?Armenians )2 2 2 and Alanaye
(Alans/Ovsi-s), while Kawkebaye would seem to refer to the tribes of northern Caucasia. Although the
K 'art'velians are not explicitly enumerated in this tradition, that community could have been plausibly
interpolated into i t 2 2 3
It is odd that the medieval Georgian version o f The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures lacks any
account o f Alexander, for both The Ufe o f the Kings and The Primary History ofK'art'li seem to have
relied upon it, or an intermediary'. Perhaps this is an indication that The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures
was not the direct source, or that it was not used in its extant Syriac version. Perhaps the contents of the
Mariamiseuli (M) variant o f K'art'lis c'xovreba explains the paucity in the Georgian rendition o f The

Book o f the Cave o f Treasures, for it actually commences w ith that work; The Ufe ofthe Kings follows it.
Could it be that the earliest Georgian version o f The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures was the initial text of

constitute the basis for this account: e.g.. Leviticus XI.41-42; and Deuteronomy XTV. 1-21. The sixthcentury Syrian writer M ar Jacob (Jacob o f Serugh) wrote an account of Alexander's gate in which he
described the barbarians bounded by it as the eaters of flesh, the drinkers o f blood, and bathers in blood
M ir Jacob specifically referred to these tribes as "more ferocious and have more wars than all other
nations and as the "cursed children o f the great family o f Japhet[h]." See "A Discourse Composed by
M ar Jacob upon Alexander, the Believing King, and Upon the Gate Which he Made Against Agog and
Magog." in Ps.-CallisthenesSyriac, pp. 178 and 197.
?? 1
Tubal is explicitly associated with K 'art'li (Iberia) by Josepheus, Jew. Antiq., 1.124-125, vol. 4, pp. 6061.
The opening words in Koriwn, p. 70. refer to Armenia as the "Azk'anazean nation," that is, the
progeny o f Ashkenaz. Cf. Jeremiah LI.27. which associates the kingdoms a f Ararat, Minni, and
Ashkenaz.

*yyi

Cave o f Treasures was a very popular work and was apparently written in the fourth century AD; its
extant version derives from the sixth century. There are two other parallels which draw our attention.
First, both sources mention a work associated with Nimrod (i.e., The Book/Revelation o f Nimrod, see:
Cave o f Treasures, p. 205; and Cave o f TreasuresGeorgian, XLV. 11). Second, both texts contend that
Syriac/Aramaic was the original language o f the world ( Cave o f Treasures, p. 132; and Cave o f
TreasuresGeorgian, XXTV. 9-1 1, which identifies Syriac as the language o f the Japhethites). This
contention is ultimately based upon Genesis XI. 1: "And the entire world was o f a single language and
speech."

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201

a recension of K'art'lis c'xovreba, and because Alexander had been incorporated into The Life o f the

Kings, the corresponding passage was removed (after all, it did not explicitly mention the
K'art'velians)?22* This, I should think, is an. attractive possibility, but the fact remains that no other
extant MS, including the Armenian adaptation, commences with The Book o f the Cave o f Treasures.
Both The Primary History ofK 'art'li and The Ufe o f the Kings relate that in the wake of
Alexander's initial, and unsuccessful, foray into Caucasia, the Chaldeans (K'aldevel-ni, ^ ? ! 333 C?-6 o).
also identified by the former with the Huns (Hon-ni, 3ci6-6o), entered KartIi.22^ The Primary History

o f K'art'li, but not The Ufe o f the Kings, asserts that they settled in Zanavi and paid tribute to the ruler of
the Bunt'urk'-s. Zanavi is, as we have already seen, the locale where the Jews who were fleeing from the
persecution of Nebuchadnezzar had allegedly settled,2 2 6 so the Chaldeans seem to have been understood
to have displaced, o r perhaps coexisted with, the Jews already residing there. In fa c t the author o f The

U fe o f the Kings states that the environs o f Saridne included Zanavi, the district o f the Jews. The original
inhabitants of Saridne were allegedly o f Bunt'urk' origin .2 2 2 The arrival of the Chaldeans at Zanavi. and
their payment of tribute, resulted in the site being renamed Xerid (cf. xarki, "tribute").
After the settlement o f the Chaldeans, Alexander returned to Caucasia so as to subdue the d u es
o f K 'art'li. But what were "dties" in the K 'art'velian context?22** The Georgian designation "dty,"

k'alak'i

was borrowed from Syriac via the Armenian k'aghak' (puipp). We must not read

Graeco-Roman and Byzantine conceptions of the IIOAIE into the Georgian k 'alak 7. Generally speaking.

k'alak'i designated a fortified, usually walled, military, political, economic, and religious settlement. We
also find the term c ixe-k 'alak 7 ("fortress-city").22^ It is evident that the vast majority o f K'art'velians,
through the late nineteenth century, had a great aversion to urban dwelling. While there were few

k'alak'i-s, however, there seem to have been numerous villages (sop'eli-s. daha-s). R.W. Edwards

22*This hypothesis is extremely unlikely, the earliest extant MS o f K'C' the Arm/A MS o f the
Armenian adaptation does not include Cave o f Treasures. However, it should also be said that except
for M the other pre-Vaxtangiseuli Georgian MSS (i.e., AQC) are all defective for the beginning of K'C'
and it is possible however unlikely that Cave o f Treasures had been incorporated into them.

22^

The designation K'aldevel-ni (but not Hon-ni) is also known in Cave o f TreasuresGeorgian. XLV.9.

22f%

**The Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 15-16. This passage is quoted supra (this ch.). For the settlement of the
Bunt'uric'-s at Zanavi, see Prim. Hist. K'art'li, p. 81.
2 2 2 77ie Ufe o f the Kings, p. 17-18.
2 2 8 Cf. N. Garsoian, "The Early-Medieval Armenian City: An Alien Element?," JANES 16-17 (1984-

1985), pp. 67-83.

229

The Arm. equivalent o f c'ixe-k'alak'i, pbpfnupuipp (berdak'agh'ak), is extremely rare; see, e.g, Movses
Dasxuranc'i, 1.14, p. 23.

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remarked that "the vulnerability of the lowlands, especially along the banks o f the rivers, explains in part
why Georgian and Armenian society was not urbanized in the medieval period "2 3 0 In any event,
Alexander reportedly found the following cities in K 'a rt'li (see maps at the end o f the introductionY

The Life o f the Kings

Arm. Adapt. K'C'231

Prim. Hist

Cunda
Xert'wsi mtkuarisa
Odzrq'e
Tuxarisi
Urbnisi
Kaspi
Up'lis-c'Lxe
Mcxet'a
Saridne & Zanavi

C'unda
Xertvis 2 3 2
U n jn i 2 3 3

_____

----Rust'avi

-----

T u g h ars 2 3 4
Urbnis
Kasb
U p'lisc'ixe 2 3 5
Mcxet'a
T aghk'e = Sarldna
and Zawan 2 3 0
C'ixedid 2 3 7
TRisha
Mayraberd23

2 3 0 r . w . Edwards, "The Fortifications o f Artvin."


23

_____

Odzrq'e
----Urbnisi
Kaspi

--------Sarkine

----_____

-----

DOP 40 (1986), p. 182.

^Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ pp. 24-25 = Thomson trans., p. 24.

232Armenian MSS BD have the variant Xert 'is.


233The Armenian adds liunntgfcutli qIh] pwp(ili Luituunj," "made o f the rock of Ladas.
23^The Armenian adds "fi tlbpuij qbtpnjli Uujbpnj, np unti &npn|u," "[which is] on the Sper River, which is [also]
called Chorox."
235 A rm en ia n MSS ABCD have Ublisc'ixe. The Armenian adds "np iuu|i Stunlrpbpn," "which is called the
Fortress o f the Lord" (this is the literal translation o f the Old Georgian).
236The Armenian gives Zawan (i.e., Zanavi) further in the enumeration and adds "punli 'Cptfig," "the
Jewish quarter."
237The Armenian adds "np t pfcpn dbb," "which is the G reat Fortress" (the l i t trans. of the Georgian).
23*The Old Georgian for this term would be Deda-c' ixe, or "Mother Fortress;" the Georgian redactions
associate Deda-c'ixe with Samshwlde.

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203

Samshwlde and Deda-cixe


Samshufllde 2
Mtueris-c' Lxe= Xunani
Xunan 2
the cities o f Kaxet'i (unspecified) -----

Alexander's return to Kart'li is said to have been a success, although eleven months elapsed
before Saridne was sacked. During the siege the Bunt'uric' inhabitants o f the city verbally abused
Alexander, who in turn proclaimed that he would "annihilate them."24* Alexander strangled the city
with a blockade until its inhabitants could endure no more: they tunneled under the wall and fled by
nightfall into the mountains.2 4 2

Azon/Azoy and the Two Georgian Traditions o f the Establishment o f Kingship in K'art'li

Upon the capitulation o f Saridne, Alexander is said to have rapidly conquered the whole o f
K 'art'li. He became disturbed by the uncivilized behavior o f the indigenous population, and in retaliation
Alexander reportedly initiated an ancient version o f ethnic cleansing. The Life o f the Kings asserts that
Alexander "destroyed all traces o f the mixed tribes in K 'art'li, and he slaughtered and imprisoned all of
the foreign tribes, [including] women, and young children less than fifteen years old ." 2 4 3 Thus it was
through Alexander that the "barbarian elements that had risen to prominence in K 'a rt'li ware
extirpated .2 4 4
According to the medieval Georgian historical tradition, Alexander appointed a certain Azon to
administer K 'art'li .2 4 3 Our sources disagree as to the identity o f this Azon. The Life o f the Kings

239Armenian MSS BCD have the variant Samshute.


24The Armenian has "U qMmp qfarnj phfuih* tumhuilj," "and the fortress on the Kur [Mtkuari] River. Xunan."
2 4 *Cf. the K 'artvelians' insult of Heraclius during his siege of T pilisi.
2 4 2 7%e Life o f the Kings, p. 18. Cf. the brief account o f Prim. Hist. K'art'li, p. 81: "And then Alexander
captured Saridne: the very [Bunt'urk'-s] abandoned it and retreated."
2 4 3 77e Life

o f the Kings, p. 18. Cf. Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 25 = Thomson trans., p. 25: "But he [i.e.,
Alexander] slaughtered many o f the others, and took captive women and innocent children under twelve
years o ld "
244But as suggested earlier the ascendency o f these foreign elements is not explained in our sources.
243Cf. Movses Xorenac'i, n.8, p. 140, for Alexander appointing a prince to rule over the K'art'velians. It
is not known whether this account was invented by Xorenac'i or whether he is simply repeating an
established tradition.

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204

describes him as a member o f Alexander's Macedonian clan and the son o f a certain Iaredos.
Furthermore, this text asserts that Azon held the Roman honor o f patridan (patrUd).2^

The Primary

History ofK'art'li, however, relates that "King Alexander brought forth Azoy. son o f the king o f Aryan
K 'art'li" and enthroned Azoy the Azon o f The Life o f the Kings - as king .2 4 2

The Primary History o f K'art'li thus claims that a king o f "Aryan K 'art'li" was already
established at the time o f Alexander's appearance in Caucasia.24** The term "Aryan" (spelled "Arian" in
Georgian) is almost certainly related to the Persian designation Aran, i.e.. Iran/Persia.24^ Thus we have a
further indication of the connection o f early Kart'li to the Persian world The second component of the
corpus Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay, the Royal List 1 which itself relied upon the preceding text. The Primary

History commences w ith the statement "And this Azoy, son o f the king o f the Ar[y]an K'art'velians,
was the first king in M c'xet'a..."2^

The Primary History and Royal List I identify Azoy's father as a

monarch o f "Aryan K 'art'li" but he did not reign from M c'xet'a. That is to say. although K 'art'velian

24^The Life o f the Kings, p. 18.


^ P r im . Hist. K'art'li, p. 81.
24**This alternate tradition o f the establishment o f royal authority among the K'art'velians was not
incorporated into K'C' and has come down to us only in the corpus of Mok'. k'art'. Many modem
historians have completely overlooked this alternate tradition; see, e.g., Allen, History o f the Georgian
People, p. 41; and R. Metreveli, Georgia: Overview ( 1993), pp. 5-6.
24^See also Melik' ishvili, "Obrazovanie kartliiskogo (iberiiskogo) gosudarstva," in Ocherld istorii Gruzii.
vol. 1, pp. 252-254. Guram Mamulia, Klasobrivi sazogadoebisa da saxelmcip 'os ch amoqalibeba dzvel
k'art'lshi, ch. 4, "K 'art'lis (iberiis) samep'os carmokmna," pp. 93-113 (Eng., p. 189), places the
ascendancy o f K 'art'li within the context o f the decay of the Achaemenid empire. Within that enterprise,
the eighteenth satrapy was "Sasperoi" which Mamulia has convincingly equated with Persian K 'art'li, i.e..
"Aryan K 'art'li." Coincidentally, Mamulia derives the Greek Iberia from Speri (cf. Sa-sper-oi).
Toumanoff, Studies, p. 90 (footnote 124), suggests that "Ayran K 'art'li" is the equivalent o f Ptolemy's
Arane (V.vi. 18) or the H ariana of the Hittites. Salia, History o f the Georgian Nation, p. 42, links it to the
kingdom o f Hurri, the southern part o f Subartu. Peeters, "Jeremie. eveque de l'lberie Perse (431)," AB 51
(1933), pp. 5-33, refers to the acts of the Council o f Ephesus in which a certain "Ieremia Iberos parttium
Persidis" is mentioned. After the treaty o f 422, K 'artli and much of Armenian fell under Persian rule;
Lazika (western "Georgia) was under Roman hegemony. In the acts o f Ephesus "Persian Iberia," i.e.,
"Persian K 'art'li," refers to the fact that K 'a rt'li was under Persian administration; Peeters suggests that at
the end o f the fourth century competing K 'art'velian monarchs had been established by the Persians and
Romans (p. 13; perhaps a similar situation is reflected in the isochronal dyarchs [first and second
centuries AD] o f The Life o f the Kings and Royal List I). There is no reason to think that the term "Aryan
K 'art'li" was devised in the fifth century AD, though, should it be a later invention, then we must ask why
part of K 'a rt'li was afforded this association with Persia. I should think that the designation was coined
in the Islamic period; the inventor was cognizant o f K 'art'li's ancient Persian heritage, and for whatever
reason he traced K 'art'velian kingship back to Persian K 'art'li. Should the term be ancient, then it would
seem that the contemporary K'art'velians counted themselves as part of Iran.

250RoyalListJ, p. 82.

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205

kingship (and specifically, this particular dynasty) was made to predate Alexanders invasion, it was only
as a result o f Alexander's conquest that local kings sat in M c'xeta. The Primary History and Royal List I
provide no clue as to the ultimate origin and antiquity o f kingship among the K'art'velians. Moreover,
neither source was acquainted with the K 'art'los legend nor even the designation "K'art'Iosiani." Azov
was unambiguously depicted as native K 'art'velian, and some modem scholars have suggested that his
very name might be a corruption o f "Jason" who had come to neighboring Colchis with the Argonauts in
search o f the Golden Fleece.2 5 1 This conjecture, however, is extremely unlikely, for we possess
absolutely no evidence that the tale of Jason and the Argonauts, and their voyage to neighboring Colchis,
was current among the K'art'velians. We should also note that The Primary History o f K'art 'li does not
specifically call Azon king, while the initial passage o f the dependent Royal List I does.2 5 2
For its part The Life o f the Kings is entirely unacquainted with both the region o f "Aryan
K 'art'li" and the existence o f a K 'art'velian monarchy before Alexanders alleged invasion.2 5 2 In it Azon
is styled as a patrician and not mep'e (king). This is significant, for Azon is afforded a specifically nonK 'ait'velian title. The Ufe o f the Kings does refer once to Azon as the erist'avi o f K 'art'li. but erist'avi
was not an exclusively K 'art'velian position, and our historian ascribes the establishment erist 'av~dXes in
the service o f the K 'art'velian Crown only to the subsequent reign o f its first king P'am avaz. Also, The

Life o f the Kings emphasizes that Azon was Alexander's kinsm an (a Macedonian) and not a native
K 'art'velian. According to The Ufe o f the Kings, the first king o f the K 'art'velians was established when
he rebelled against Azon. The form of the name o f Alexander's appointee is itself suggestive: in The Ufe

o f the Kings we encounter Azon. where -on is a Greek (-ON), i.e., foreign, suffix (cf. Platon). The Azov of
The Primary History o f K'art'li lacks this allochthonous ending.25^

2 5 *Melik' ishvili, "Obrazovanie kartliiskogo (iberiiskogo) gosudarstvo, in

Ocher/d istorii Gruzii, vol. 1.

p. 255; and Burney and Lang. The Peoples o f the Hills, p. 195.
2 5 2 / >nni. Hist. K'art'li and Royal Ust I constitute the first two works of the composite M ok\ k'art'. and
that neither work has been found independently o f this corpus. Both works, therefore, were subject to
later (esp. ninth-Ztenth-century) editorial changes.

252"Aryan K 'artli" is once mentioned in The Ufe o f Nino in M ok\ k'art'. =Shat. Codex, p. 335^: "...
q36o)6cs JjciBcsab 3a3ao>a co^gaB oi a 6 o 4 B-^a<6o9eso" = "[the idols G ac'i and Ga] are the gods of
our [forefathers from Aryan K 'art'li." It is probably not a coincidence that this source was found together
with The Primary History o f K'art'li and Royal U st I. Later, Arsen Iqalt'oeli, Metaphr. Nino, p. 391,
refers to "Aryan K 'art'li" in connection with Azo(y]; but his source w as Mok'. k'art'.

25*The Ufe o f the Kings does not suggest that the P'am avaziani-s were related to this Azon. Cf. the
attempt o f several medieval Welsh genealogies to connect their royalty with the last Roman ruler o f
Britain, Magnus Maximus (d. 388 AD). The prestige of Rome was overwhelming in Europe, but, as is
argued throughout this study, royal legitimacy in pre-Bagratid K 'a rt'li was conceived in Persian terms.
See Dumville, "Kingship, Genealogies and Regnal Lists," pp. 81-82.

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206

The anonymous author o f The U fe o f the Kings not only contends that Azon was an outsider, but
he underscored that Azon retained his position only w ith the assistance o f foreign troops. After all,
Alexander had buttressed Azon's governorship with some 100,000 soldiers from Protat" os in "the land o f
R o m e ." ^ With outside backing, Azon's hegemony extended over "all the borders/frontiers o f Kart' li.
from H eret'i and the Berduji River up to the Speri [i.e.. Black] Sea. And [having subdued] K 'art'li he
conquered Egrisi and made the 0[v]si*s, Leki-s, and Kbazars [his] v a s s a ls ." ^ Azoy's dominion is less
grand in The Primary History o f K'art'li: "the borders/frontiers o f Heret'i, Egris- cqali [lit. "the
water/river o f Egrisi"], Somxif i [i.e., Armenia], and ML C 'r o l i . " ^
According to The Ufe o f the Kings, Alexander also established a new faith for K 'a rt'li, and
entrusted its propagation and maintenance to Azon. The early K 'art'velian kings and their relationship to
pre-Christian religion are the subject o f a special discussion in the following chapter.
Once Alexander departed from Caucasia, The U fe o f the Kings imparts that he went to Egypt
where he was stricken with some illness. On his deathbed he apportioned his possessions among four
esteemed kinspeople: Antiok'oz (Syria and Mesopotamia), Hromos (Rome). Bizantios ("Greece" and
A n ato lia),^* and Platon ( E g y p t) .^ It is extremely curious that the Georgian historical tradition
ascribes the eponyras o f Rome and Byzantium to the tim e o f Alexander, and this further testifies to the
relative contemporary K'art'velian ignorance about the Roman Empire. Significantly, the great
civilizations o f Rome and Byzantium seem to be (mistakenly) depicted as having been established in the
Hellenistic period, precisely at the time when K 'art'velian royal authority had emerged! This contention
is extremely important, for it made K' art' li to be o f the same antiquity' as Rome and Byzantium.

Cf. the variant "Protiatos" for the island of Proteus in the printed version of Venice MS 424 of Ps.CallisthenesArmenian, p. 48. note 2. Thomson in his trans. o fArm. Adapt. K'C', p. 25. footnote 6 ,
notes that "The Georgian [text] applies the term p 'rotat 'os to the city o f Rome, and uses the adj.
p'rotat'oselni for the soldiers." This is not altogether true, for the Georgian makes P*rotat'os to be in "the
land o f Rome" (k'ueqanit' hromit') which might refer to any part o f the Roman domains. Thomson also
notes the curious usage of P'romni for "Romans in the Georgian version o f Acts XVI.21.

The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 19.


^ P r im . Hist. K'art'li, p. 82.
250

Byzas, the founder o f Byzantium, is mentioned by Procopius, On the Buildings, I.v.l. Some of
Procopius works were known to Bagratid-era historians, but this need not imply that he served as a source
for pre-Bagratid ones.
2^0

See also Vashakidze, "M ep'et'a c'xovreba' da berdznuli 'alek'sandriani,'" in Istoriul-

cqarot'mc'odneobit'igamokvlevebi, esp. pp. 4lff.

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207

Bizantios is said to have received "Greece."2 6 6 "Greece," Saberdznet'i (iM&artdbgojo),26*


denotes the Byzantine Empire ,2 6 2 and its area comprises not only Greece proper but also Constantinople
and Anatolia. The Ufe o f the Kings contends that the patrician and erist'avi Azon fell under the authority'
o f Bizantios after the death o f Alexander. This is significant for it is one o f the fen- instances in this text
that the Romans/Byzantines are afforded hegemony over K 'art'li, and it is striking that the neighboring
Armenians are subordinated to the ruler o f the East, Antiok'oz (who must represent the Seleucids).
Indeed the Romans/Byzantines are m inor characters throughout the work, for the K 'art'velians are placed
firmly within the Persian world and not w ithin the sphere o f the Byzantine commonwealth. Meanwhile.
Azon legislated that any K 'art'velian found to possess property or to be armed should be executed. The

Ufe o f the Kings sums up the situation by reporting that "there was great turmoil within the clan[s] of the
K 'artvelians ."26 2 It was in this context that P'arnavaz, a native of K 'art'li and himself related to the

mamasaxlisi-s o f Mc'xeta. rebelled against Azon and established royal authority' in K 'art'li.
Did K'art'velian kingship precede Alexander? Was Azoy/Azon the son of the king o f Aryan
K 'art'li? Guram Mamulia, in his insightful study of social and political structures in early K 'art'li.
theorized that the account o f The Ufe o f the Kings (his "Leonti Mroveli") was inaccurate .2 6 4 Mamulia
based his argument on the premise that P'arnavaz. the first native king in The Ufe o f the Kings, had built
an idol next to those erected by Azon himself. This, the author suggested, was impossible, since
P'arnavaz would have presumably destroyed the idols o f his predecessor upon his ascendancy. Rather.
Mamulia found the episode to symbolize P'am avazs "adoption" of Azon's relatives in an attempt to

2 6 6 77re Ufe

o f the Kings, pp. 19-20.

Saberdznet'i is a curious word. It consists o f the root brdzeni. a very old word meaning "sage." "wise
man," and the circumfix Sa-...-o which is a generic geographical marker denoting "the land where x live."
Thus Saberdznet'i literally means "land where the wise men live." possibly referring to the philosophers of
ancient Greece. The Sa-...-o circumfix is rather common, cf. Sak'art'velo (^ 6 ^ 601332501 ) and
Samegrelo (biSgafiflcpci). But N.Ia. M arr in Agat'angeghosArabic, commentary. pp. 167-170. suggests
that the term beri represents not "old men" or "philosophers" but "son." He postulates that the root -br- is
essentially geographical and may be detected in Abasgia, Iberia. Isper. Eger (Egrisi). Guria. and the
Armenian designation for K ' art' li, Virk. M arr also found the -br- root in the praenomen o f Ibir-b-zxua.
the metropolitan of K 'art'li allegedly appointed by Gregory the Illuminator {ibid.. pp. 171-172).
262This is evident in the/Inn. Adapt. K 'C \ p. 27 = Thomson trans., p. 27, which designates Hromos*
holdings as the area inhabited by "die western Greeks."
2 6 2 7%e Ufe
a x

o f the Kings, p. 20.

Guram Mamulia, Klasobrivi sazogadoebisa da saxelmcip'os ch'amoqalibebisa dzvel k'art'ulshi


(1979), with extensive Eng. sum., "The Emergence of a Class Society and State in Ancient Kartli
(Iberia)," pp. 184-191, esp. pp. 184-185 and 189-191.

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208

engender a "social synthesis" o f their two houses.2 6 5 The defect Mamulia's clever thesis is that he treated
the text o f "Leonti Mroveli" as an organic whole: the portion from which he quoted, regarding the idols, is
actually from The Ufe o f Nino which was inserted sometime after the ninth century. And the aim o f The

U fe o f Nino w as not to offer an accurate royal history o f K 'art'li, but rather to describe the triumph of
Christianity over idolatry. Significantly, by incorporating some o f the elements o f the earlier Life o f the

Kings and The Primary History o f K'art'li, The Ufe o f Nino did not nam e the builders o f the idols.
Mamulia has taken these earlier accounts, and interpolated Azon/Azoy and P'arnavaz into this vita. In
short, Mamulia's hypothesis fails because he did not distinguish the composite nature o f C'xorebay

k'art'velt'a mep'et'a. Moreover, we should also emphasize that Mamulia took at face value the account of
The Ufe o f the Kings and The Primary History ofK 'art'li, and he failed to recognize that the importance
o f these texts lies in the image they project and not necessarily in their alleged historical veracity .2 6 6
Mamulia spun out other intriguing theories, but they are similarly based upon his
misunderstanding o f the nature o f C'xorebay k'art'velt'a mep'et'a. He conjectured that the "Aryan
K ' art' li" o f The Primary History o f K'art 'li and o f the dependent Royal U st I corresponds to Sasperoi
(Speri), the eighteenth satrapy o f the Achaemenid Empire. Sasperoi is equated with Persian K 'art' li. and
thus Aryan K 'art'li. Moreover, Mamulia associated the Greek Iberia w ith Speri (cf. Sa-sper-oi) based on
their common root which was noticed already by M arr (I-bet-ia/Sa-sper-oi).2 6 7 Therefore, the territorial
extent of Aryan K 'art'li could be equated with the holdings o f Odzrq'os o f The Ufe o f the Kings. But this
argument is far from convincing, for The Ufe o f the Kings says only that Odzrq'os, a grandson o f
K 'art'los, ruled "from Tasiskari to the Speri [i.e., Black] Sea." 2 6 8 The designation "Aryan K 'art'li" is
not found in The Ufe o f the Kings. But, based upon these findings, Mamulia proposed that Azon's father
reigned over a small kingdom located in the southern "Georgian" region o f Mesxet' i. It should be

A similar argument was advanced by Vashakidze, Elinisturi xanis k 'art 'lis samep 'os soc ialuri
istoriidan (1991), with Rus. sum., "Iz sotsial'noi istorii kartliiskogo tsarstva ellinisticheskoi epokhi," pp.
141-149, esp. pp. 147-148.
266I do not deny that these texts may have been based upon some old oral traditions, but any such
evidence was certainly fragmentary and legendary in nature.

commentary, pp. 167-172. Such an identification has extremely


important nationalistic overtones, for the Bagratids' original homeland appears to be Speri. Thus, should
Mamulia's hypothesis be accurate, a direct link between the P'am avaziani-s and the early Bagratids might
be invented. But we should emphasize that the Bagratids are not mentioned in either The U fe o f the
Kings, The U fe ofVaxtang, or the derivative (but Bagratid-era!) compilation M ok'. k'art'.; the earliest
reference to them occurs at the end o f the brief continuation o f Ps.-Juansher. On the rise o f the Bagratids,
seech. 6 .
2 6 7 Cf. Marr in Agat'angeghosArabic,

2 6 8 7fte Ufe

o f the Kings, p. 9.

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209

emphasized that a direct statement to this effect is not found in any medieval Georgian source, including

The Primary History o f K'art'li.


Following the demise o f Darius' empire, Alexander o f Macedon appointed a satrap for Armenia,
a certain M ihr from the Ervandid clan. Mamulia suggested that Azon declared himself a vassal o f this
Armenian satrap, and that under Muir's protection Azon was able to initiate a conquest o f central
Caucasia. Assuming that the K 'art'velians (Mamulia's K 'art'-s) enjoyed a higher social organization than
Azon's Mesxi-s, Azon was accordingly unable to subjugate the K'art'velians. and after twenty-four years
be was ousted by P'arnavaz. According to Mamulia, P'arnavaz adopted many o f the features of Azon's
kingdom, including the institution o f the erist'avi-s, and that P'arnavaz's incorporation o f these features
was symbolically remembered in his raising o f an idol between those o f Azon .2 6 9
Reviewing his findings, Mamulia proposed his explanation o f the two traditions o f the
establishment o f K 'art'velian kingship. Thus, The Ufe o f the Kings represents the official, albeit distorted
view at the behest o f the descendants of P'arnavaz. Thus, the status o f kingship was denied to Azon/Azoy
and his fanuly, as well as the very fact that they were K 'art'velians. For its part. The Primary History o f

K'art'li preserves accurately the fact that Azon/Azoy and his clan represented a pre-P'am avaziani royal
dynasty in K 'a rt' li. But in its support of Azon/Azoy, it om itted any mention o f the assumed cruelty that
occurred during his reign. The Primary History o f K'art'li could be regarded as expressing the view of the

erist'avi-s o f O dzrq'e and K larjet'i, those regions from where, Mamulia surmised. Azon/Azoy came.
Mamulia's study is exceedingly important for it recognized, and contemplated in a creative,
scholarly fashion, the divergent traditions of the provenance o f K 'art'velian kingship. Mamulia's remains
the most cogent Georgian attempt to reconcile the two traditions of the establishment o f indigenous royal
authority among the K'art'velians, and he was right to differentiate them. Nevertheless, too man} o f his
arguments were launched from a purely sociological and anthropological point o f view, and, while
intriguing, they do not rest upon ancient and medieval evidence. While his connection o f Azon with
Mesxet'i and Javaxet'i is enticing, his argument was made principally ex silentio. In addition, it is
difficult to regard The Primary History o f K'art'li as a history o f the erist'avi-s o f M esxet'i and Javaxet'i
since the source itself offers no information whatsoever on that region and only the barest o f details about
non-royal figures. Mamulia has simply deduced, partly through his misguided assumption that The Ufe

o f Nino constitutes an integral part o f The Ufe o f the Kings, that Azon/Azoy represents a pre-Hellenistic
royal line in Aryan K 'art'li. Finally, Mamulia's study often obscured the division o f history and image. It
is entirely possible that a pre-P"amavaziani dynasty was established in K 'a rt'li and that the author o f The

Ufe o f the Kings, as an advocate for P' aroavaz and his successors, chose to deny the monarchs of "Aryan

269Guram Mamulia, Klasobrivi sazogadoebisa, pp. 93-113, and Eng. sum., pp. 189-190.

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210

K 'a rt'li the status of kingship, essentially delegitiniizing them .7 7 0 But for the moment, the issue o f the
identification o f Azon/Azoy and his connection with the establishment o f royal authority in K 'art'li

remains unresolved.7 7 *

A Further Consideration o f the Dates o f the Medieval Georgian Traditions ofAlexander

Now that the two Georgian accounts of Alexanders invasion o f K 'a rt'li and his consequent
appointment o f Azon/Azoy have been described and compared, the question o f which o f our relevant
Georgian sources is o f greater antiquity merits a re-examination. Unfortunately, the imbroglio of early
Georgian historical writing renders it impossible, at least with the MSS currently at our disposal, to offer
any firm conclusions; we may only point out the most tenable explanations.
The more detailed o f the two traditions is that o f The Life o f the Kings which stresses that Azon
was an outsider and that he was not a king o f the K 'art'velians but only a patrician (a rank) and erist 'avi
(a functional title) appointed by Alexander. The first king o f the K 'art'velians. according to The Life o f

the Kings, was P'arnavaz who is said to have rebelled against the very Azon. This P'arnavaz is explicitly
identified as a native K'art'velian, although he was also Persian through his mother.
The alternate tradition enshrined in The Primary History ofK 'art 'li maintains that K 'art'velian
royal authority had been established before Alexander's appearance in Caucasia. It contends that Azoy
was a native and himself the scion o f an existing K 'art'velian king. However, Azqys family is depicted as
holding the reins o f power in Aryan K 'art'li, or Persian K 'art'li. Although Azoy and his clan are not
made to be Persians, nevertheless the attributive "Ayran" almost certainly denotes "Persian" K 'art'li. and
thus both traditions link the K 'art'velian royal clan with Persia. Royal U st /. which is dependent upon

The Primary History o f K'art'li (both of which occur in the corpus o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay).
acknowledges Azoy as the first king o f the K 'art'velians to sit in Me 'xet a .7 7 7

7 On the ancient development o f the southwestern regions o f "Georgia." see G.G. Cheishvili, "Samxretdasavlet' sak'art'velos (mesxet'is) istoriuli geograp'iis sakit'xebi antikur xanashi," summary o f doctoral
thesis (1994), with Rus. sum., "Voprosy istoricheskoi geografii Iugo-Zapadnoi Gruzii (Meskheti) v
antichnuiu epokhy," pp. 2 1 -2 2 .
1 Although the vast majority o f modem scholars have chosen to either ignore the alternate tradition of
Azoy or to prefer one over the other, happily there have been other scholars who admit that a solution is
not within the purview o f scholarship using only the MSS presently at hand. E.g., A. Gugushvili, "The
Chronological-Genealogical Table o f the Kings o f Georgia," Georgica 1/2-3 (O ct 1936), pp. 109-114,
and this even though Gugushvili declares that Prim. Hist. K'art'li is earlier than The Ufe o f the Kings (p.
110).
7 7 7 Gugushvili, "Chronological-Genealogical Table," pp. 109-110, suggests that Prim. His. K'art'li
actually speaks o f a migration under Azqy/Azon o f K 'art'velians from their homeland in Ayran K 'art'li to
K 'a rt'li (with its center at M e'xet'a) proper.

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211

It might be tempting to hypothesize that The Primary History o f K'art'li is of greater antiquity
than The Ufe o f the fangs, for the former is now found attached to the relatively early seventh-century

Conversion o f K'art'li.272 However, there is no justification for this argument other than the fact that
The Primary History o f K'art'li and The Conversion o f K'art'li are preserved in the same corpus of
Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay. Internal evidence, while demonstrating the existence o f two traditions, does not
assist us in dating the original texts. The Primary History o f K'art'li admits to a royal authority in
K 'a rt'li predating Alexander whereas the latter ignored it, potentially out o f convenience .2 7 4 It should be
said that The Primary History o f K 'art'li does not name Azoy as king. Only his unnamed father was
afforded that title. But the dependent Royal U st I designates Azoy king, and it is entirely possible that
this text merely interpolated the status. The Ufe o f the Kings is unacquainted with any K 'art'velian
monarchs before P'arnavaz.
How may we account for the discrepancies o f content between the two traditions? It is quite
likely that Royal U st I is dependent upon The U fe o f the Kings,27^ Accordingly, the initial Royal Ust
must postdate The Ufe o f the Kings, an d according to my periodization, Royal U st I could not have been
compiled before the ninth century. B ut Royal U st I did not extract its information on "King" Azoy from

The Ufe o f the Kings', this was presumably appropriated from The Primary History ofK'art 'li. So it
seems probable that the anonymous compiler o f Royal U st I relied upon both The Ufe o f the Kings and

The Primary History ofK'art'li, unless, o f course, he employed a now-lost intermediate source (or
sources).
The author o f The Ufe o f the Kings was an image-maker and it was important for him to
demonstrate that the first king o f K 'a rt'li was a native K 'art'velian. In his P'arnavaz we have a king that
weaved together many o f the threads which binded the K 'art'velian community: a common (albeit
imagined) historical tradition, language, alphabet, and religion. The very name P'arnavaz was intended
to magnify K 'art'velian royal legitimacy, being based upon the Persian word fam ah, demonstrating that

from the beginning the K 'art'velian monarchs possessed the "divine grace" understood by the Persians
and presumably the K 'art'velians as well to be an unmistakable sign o f rulership. It is entirely possible
that P'arnavaz was not a historical figure at all, but rather the invention o f the anonymous author of The

273Ibid'., describes Prim. Hist. K'art'li as an earlier text than The Ufe o f the Kings.
274Such a chronology was most recently proposed by Araxamia, "'M ok'c'evay k'art'lisay da c'xovreba
k 'art'velt'a mepet'a.'" inlstoriul-cqarot'mc'odneobit'i gamokvlevebi, pp. 49-56, with Rus. sum.,
"'Obrashchenie Kartli' i 'Zhizn' kartliiskikh tsarei," p. 69. As with many o f the arguments o f modern
Georgian scholars, Araxamia has failed to identify Mok'. k'art'. as a coprus o f several distinct texts.
2 7 5 Seech. 1 .

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212

Ufe o f the Kings. H ad the author been familiar with the tradition that Azoy/Azon was a king, he might
have simply ignored it bad it not imparted the glorious dawn o f indigenous royal authority. And had he
been familiar with Azoy's/Azon's potential identification with the Jason o f Argonautic fame (as some
modem specialists have suggested), he might have played this card, for it dripped with antiquity. But we
may not dismiss the account o f The Ufe o f the Kings on these hypothetical points, for. as we have seen,
with his description o f the deluge universal, the author was faithful to received tradition, and we have no
reason to believe that he would have been any less faithful to any received K 'art'velian traditions.
Two divergent accounts o f the establishment o f royal authority in K 'a rt'li have come down to us.
yet both are in accord on three fundamental points: from the start the king {mep e) was the pinnacle o f
K 'art'velian society. K 'art'velian kingship, at least one based in M e'xet'a. was established in the
Hellenistic period; and indigenous royal authority is depicted as uniform throughout K 'art'li. and the
coherence and legitimacy of the K ' art'velian polity was never called into question.

Since the

historical Alexander never invaded K 'art'li, both accounts may be envisioned as creative attempts to link
K'art'velian kingship with the renowned world-conqueror, whose history was known to all the civilized
Mediterranean world.
Moreover, both The Life o f the Kings and The Primary History ofK 'art'li claimed to represent

the tradition o f the origin o f K 'art'li. This is manifested by the initial word o f each text, pirvelad
(3 ofi 3 3 E?icg), or "[at] first," "in the beginning.

But while The Ufe o f the Kings proceeds from a

hybrid Old Testament-Persian framework, grafting the provenance o f the K 'art'velians upon the progeny
of Noah but in a clearly Persian social context. The Primary History o f K'art'li is unfamiliar with any
tradition o f the foundation of the K 'art'velian community.

778

Rather, it merely commences with

Alexander's mythical conquest o f K 'art'li, and this event becomes the point o f departure for all recorded
K 'artvelian history

It is significant that The Primary History o f K'art 'li did not incorporate/know

97

It is extremely unlikely that early K 'art'li was a unified enterprise throughout its existence. On this
theme (for neighboring Armenia), see Garsoian. "Armenia in the Fourth Century: An Attempt to ReDefine the Concepts 'Armenia' and 'Loyalty,'" REArm, n.s. 8 (1971), pp. 341-352.
277

The Ufe o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a also begins with this word, signifying that its Christian author
believed that K 'art'velian history began only with the missionary activities o f Nino; to him. the only
K 'art'velian history worthy of documentation was Christian. Cf. usages in the medieval Georgian Bible,
as John 1.1: "3 o 6 3 3 2 2 O0 )&a6 0 3 m b o ^ g -jQ \pirvelit'gan iqo sitquay]" = "In the beginning was the
Word"; but Genesis 1.1, "co.)bA&A3 AG9
gdstimdAB qaq q a ^)3 3 a 6 a," "In the beginning God
created the Heaven and the Earth (the word dasabamad expresses here "in the beginning.")
^ ^ T h e origin o f the Bagratids. and not the K'art'velian/Georgian community, are similiarly described in
the eleventh-century history o f Sumbat Davit' is-dze. Davit' is-dze is known to have used The Royal Usts
as sources.
27Q
In this regard, it should be said that the apocryphal first Book o f the Maccabees also commences with
Alexander. / Maccabee^ 1.1-9, pp. 67-68, does not link Alexander to Nectanebus although it does state

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213

the legend o f Haos and K 'art' los. The Alexander tale o f The Primary History o f K'art 'li. however, is
clearly related to that in The Ufe o f the Kings, for both accounts correspond on several points.
Owing to the late MS tradition o f both texts, we are not in a position to offer even a relative
chronology w ith respect to those works. However, we may advance the most likely scenarios:

1. The Ufe o f the Kings was composed before The Primary History o f K'art 'li.
Therefore, The Primary History o f K'art'li, like its appended Royal Lists.
is a later paraphrasing o f The U fe o f the Kings. The Primary History would
have been compiled in the ninth/tenth century (when our earliest MSS
were copied), i.e., in the Bagratid period. The tale o f Haos and K 'art'los was
consciously edited out o f the account, owing to the prominence rendered to the
Armenians in i t Moreover, the Persian flavor o f early K 'art'velian society
would not have appealed to the Bagratids, who had risen to power under
Byzantine influence; however, a memory o f K 'art'li's connection with Persia is
retained by the word "Aryan." I am tempted to adopt the view that a Bagratidera cleric effectively denied the tradition presented by The Ufe o f the Kings.

2. The Primary History o f K'art'li represents the earliest extant Georgian historical
source, and the subsequent U fe o f the Kings exploited it as a source. Since The
Primary History does not specifically explain the origin o f the K'art'velians.
the anonymous author o f The Ufe o f the Kings sought to place his community
within a Biblical framework, and the most plausible way to accomplish this was
to use the Armenian version o f Hippolytus. The earlier tradition that Azoy had
been the son o f an existing K 'art'velian king was consciously re-written by the
author o f The Ufe o f the Kings in order to make a prototypical monarch out of
P'arnavaz. The brief account o f The Primary History was greatly embellished
by the later historian.
3. The Ufe o f the Kings and The Primary History o f K'art'li are independent o f one
another. Accordingly, both anonymous historians relied upon a now lost,
common or intermediary' source/sources and oral traditions.

Alexander in Succeeding Georgian Historiography

Like the account o f K 'art'los in The Ufe o f the Kings, that o f Alexander was neglected by
ensuing medieval Georgian historians. The pre-Bagratid kings of K 'art'li offered no ideological or
historical justification for Bagratid rule. We must wonder whether the existence o f K'art 'lis c 'xovreba, of

that the world-conqueror "pressed forward to the ends o f the earth" and that he reigned for twelve years.
Moreover, it also relates the oft encountered tradition that Alexander divided his territories among his
chief ministers while on his deathbed The apportionment o f his empire, and the evil which is alleged to
have ensued set the context for the consequent Jewish struggle. A common tradition is thus expressed in
both IMaccabees and Prim. Hist. K'art'li. It should be emphasized that there is no evidence that the
latter used the former (and even The Ufe o f the Kings) as a source; this is in contradistinction to
Xorenaci.

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which The U fe o f the Kings occupied the initial position within th at corpus, enabled later authors not to
repeat material from i t Yet The Ufe o f the Kingsf inclusion in toto within that corpus o f Georgian
historical writing compiled in, and transmitted throughout, the Bagratid period must draw our attention.
This circumstance may be explained partly by the fact that it had formed the original core o f K'art'iis

c xovreba. Moreover, no Bagratid-era historian attempted to account for the ethnogenesis o f the
K 'art'velian community, and no pre-Bagratid text could deny the ideological bases later developed by the
Bagratids. It should be recalled that The Primary History o f K'art 'li, with its version o f Alexander's
invasion, was not a constituent work o f K'art'iis c'xovreba. In any event, it was likewise largely
ignored.2** Although we possess no clear references in later medieval Georgian historical literature to
Alexander's activity in K 'art'li, that king of the then-known world did not go entirely unnoticed by later
writers.

The U fe ofVaxtang, a text contemporary with The Ufe o f the Kings, is acquainted with
Alexander, but it did not relate that he had invaded K 'art'li. However, in it Alexander is reported to have
established the border between the Roman Empire/Byzantium ("Greece") and Kartli .2 8 1 A later (but yet
undated) synchronism inserted into the contemporary Ps.-Juansher states that "from the year [that]
Alexander [died in] Alexandria to the appearance o f Muhammad were 927 years."2 8 2
The Georgian tradition o f Alexander was known to some K 'art'velian clerics from the tenth
century. After all, The Primary History o f K'art'li formed the initial part o f Mok'c'evay k 'art lisay which
was compiled at that time. Not only did this text circulate within K 'art'velian domains (the tenth-century'
Shatberdi codex) but also abroad (the unpublished tenth-/eleventh-century Mt. Sinai variants from St.
Catharine's Monastery. This assumes that their accounts o f Alexander, now wanting, were originally part
o f these MSS).

280We have no indication that the constituents o f Mok'. k'art'. were ever inserted into K'C ' in order to
replace the pre-Bagratid texts. The Georgian tradition o f Alexander are briefly recalled by the twelfthcentury Arsen Iqalt'oeli, Metapr. Nino, pp. 390-391, though his information is taken completely from The
Ufe o f the Kings and Prim. Hist. K'art'li.

28*The Ufe ofVaxtang, p. 177.


2 8 2 Ps.-Juansher, p. 230^

"3oa33.soob &.s3 eibo 6 a&i0 O3 6 ? 0 ^ l 6 cg6 <)b

oyci

n.($&sd$soo ^aC5 iCMjbj.bcgtfi'jbo." The m eaning o f this passage is not altogether clear, Thomson, in
his trans. of the Georgian text in^4rm. Adapt. K'C', pp. 238-239, rendered it as "From the year of
Alexander down to the appearance o f Mahamad was 927 years o f the Alexandrian [era]." He notes in
footnote 23 that the year 927 o f the Seleucid era corresponds with 615/616 AD, and this year is only one
removed for a date given in the Armenian text for the propecy o f Hermes Trismegistos. Qauxch'ishvili
(and footnote 2 ) considers this to be a later insertion (i.e., post-eighth/ninth century) although it does
appear in the earliest Georgian MSS (from the late fifteenth century).

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215

Comparisons of K 'art'velian rulers with Alexander were articulated only from the twelfth
century. Davit' n (1089-1125) was proclaimed to be a "new Alexander," and even surpassing him owing
to his adherence to Christianity. T he following passage from The Ufe o f Davit' is reminiscent o f Psellus
comparison o f Alexander and the Byzantine emperor Constantine DC Monomachos ( 1042-1055):283

For although a w riting compares the Macedonian to a winged panther because o f the
speed of his attack and his rapid march over the world, and for the tremendous variety of
his movements and plans; yet our crowned [king] and new Alexander, though later in
time was not inferior in deeds, o r counsel, or valor, in those very deeds for which
Alexander was said to be a conqueror, [Davit'] was not inferior, but I think him superior
for [their] number. And as much as [Alexander] was superior and pre-eminent among
all his equals o f his time in temporal and material ways, so did [Davit'] exceed all the
best around him in the commandments of God and Christ, as well as in material ways.
For he allowed his eyes no sleep, nor his eyelids any repose, nor his body any rest: he
did not turn to pleasures or the desires o f the flesh, nor did he concentrate his mind on
feasting [lit "eating-drinking"], o r on indecent songs, or on the inconsequential affairs
o f the body, but rather on all divine and spiritual matters in order to ov ercome and tame
the inclinations o f the will.28 4

D av it's military successes were also measured against those o f Alexander the Great:

Did he not struggle until among his troops there was not found any cowardly intention,
so that so many victories were gained or so many kingdoms were overcome? Was this
by sleeping or by carousing on grassy spots, by enjoyment and engaging in indecent
behavior? This is not so, no, [for] Alexander never acted in this way! For first he
gathered the [forces] o f his fatherland [mamuli], and with them captured the West[:]
Europe, Italy, Rome, and Africa, and having overcome these he seized Egypt, marching
from Carthage, and then from Egypt [to] Palestine and Phoenicia; and after he made
Cilicia his, he attacked Darius. And when he had gained Persia, then he conquered
Poros the Indian. And in this way' he covered the whole world and he accomplished
what he did; except that with Georgian [k'art'velt'a] troops Alexander could not have
attained [such a] good [result]. So if Davit' had controlled the kingdom of the Persians
or the force o f the Greeks and Romans, or of other great kingdoms, then you would have
seen his accomplishments superior to those o f other famous men!28^

2 8 2 Psellus, VI.173, Renaulded., vol. 2, pp. 51-52 = Sewtertrans., pp. 241-242.


2 8 4 77e Ufe o f Davit', pp. 185-186 = Qauxchishvili ed., pp. 337-338. The trans. here is based upon that
o f Thomson (Georgian text) in Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 329. Cf. Vivian trans., p. 21.
2 8 ^77ie Ufe o f Davit' , pp. 216-217 = Qauxch' ishvili ed., pp. 358-359. The trans. here is based upon that
o f Thomson (Georgian text) in Arm. Adapt. K'C', pp. 348-349. Cf. Vivian trans., pp. 41-42.

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216

Nowhere in these passages do we encounter any allusions to the traditions o f The Ufe o f the Kings or The

Primary History o f K'art 'li?*6 This is particularly striking in the second passage, where the author is
obviously unfamiliar with, o r himself did not accept, the local tradition that Alexander had invaded
K 'art'li. The biographer o f Davit' IL however, does mention Aristobulos (Aristovli). who "described the
conquests o f Alexander, his heroic exploits [and] triumphs ."2 8 2 The Greek w riter Aristobulos is not
attested in The Ufe o f the Kings, and it should be recalled that Ps.-Callisthenes is not directly named.
We encounter other comparisons w ith Alexander in the two histories o f T 'am ar (1184-1213).
T amar was the first woman to rule the unified Georgian kingdom (and the first native ruling queen in
K 'art'li). Notwithstanding her gender, she is likened to Alexander.2 8 8 In any case, neither o f her
historians exhibit a familiarity with the local tradition of Alexander.
M uch later, in the fifteenth/sixteenth century, the second text of the so-called Axali k'art'iis

c'xovreba (lit "The New K'art'iis c'xovreba) i.e., the late medieval and early m odem continuation to
the earlier histories of K'art'iis c'xovreba compares the destruction inflicted by Tim ur (Tamerlane) with
that by Alexander.28^ But again, the anonymous author provides absolutely no indication that he was
acquainted with the native traditions o f Alexander. At about the same time, the name Alek'sandre.
almost certainly taken in honor o f Alexander o f Macedon, was introduced into Georgian Bagratid
nomenclature.2^ Yet there is no indication in the contemporary literature that the pre-Bagratid tradition
o f Alexander subduing K 'a rt'li was popular am ong late medieval K'art'velians. And we do not know
precisely why the name Alek'sandre suddenly became current in the fifteenth century.
In the sixteenth/seventeenth century the Alexander romance of Ps.-Callisthenes. first written
down in Greek ca. 200 AD, was finally translated into Georgian.2^ The account o f Ps.-Callisthenes

28**In fact, Alexanders exploits were apparently known to the author o f Hist, and Eul., p. 2 ^2-13 not
through a version o f Ps.-Callisthenes (as was the case with The Ufe o f the Kings) but through Plutarch
(Plutarxos). I noted infra the familiarity o f the twelfth-century Arsen Iqalt'oeli w ith the Georgian
traditions o f Alexander, this may have influenced the references to Alexander in this period.
787

The U fe o f Davit' , p. 192


= Qauxch'ishvili ed., p. 342; a certain Mosimaxos, a Hebrew general
in Alexander's army, is mentioned on ibid., p. 348.
2**Hist. and Eul., pp. 34,63, and 76; and The U fe o f T'amar, pp. 128-130 = Vivian trans., pp. 6 8 and 74.
2 8 Co/r/.

K'C'2nd Text, p. 448.

2 E.g., Alek'sandre I "the Great" (1412-1442/1443), last king o f a united Sak-art' velo/Georgia;
Alek'sandre I, lord of K axet'i (1476-1490/1511); Alek'sandre n , lordofK axet'i (1574-1605);
Alek'sandre n , sovereign o f Im eret'i (1478-1510); Alek'sandre ID, sovereign of Imereti (1639-1661);
etc. See Pirt'a anotirebuli lek'sifconi, pp. 212-228 (for the Bagratids).

^ lTheAlek sandriani was extremely popular in Georgian and exists in many M SS, especially from the
eighteenth/nineteenth century. One such MS is "Istoria alek'sandres mep'isa makedoniisa," Oxf.Wardr. #
MS.Wardr.e.18.

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217

(both in Greek and its various Oriental renditions) should not be confused with the account o f Alexanders
conquest o f K 'a rt'li as found in The Life o f the Kings and The Primary History o f K'art'li. Xaxanashvili
first suggested that the A lek 'sandriani. as the Ps.-Callisthenes Cycle in Georgian is called, had been
rendered into Georgian from a Serbian original.2 9 2 Xaxanashvili's views were further elucidated by
Kekelidze, L. Menabde, and others, who postulated that the Georgian translator employed a Russian
translation o f a Serbian te x t 2 9 3 Although Xaxanashvili him self had posited that the Bagratid prince
Arch'il (1647-1713) had translated the work, this opinion was definitively established only by R.
Mirianashvili in 1980. Mirianashvili determined that Arch' il translated the Alek 'sandriani directly from
a Russian rendition during the years 1699-1713 when he resided in Moscow.29* Scholarly activity
among the Georgians was not unique in the period, for the translation of Ps. -Callisthenes into Georgian
coincides w ith the patriotic-literary exploits ofV axtang VI, Sulxan-Saba Orbeliani, and Vaxushti.
In term s o f historical literature, after the notices oTThe U fe o f the Kings and The Primary

History ofK 'art'li, and a brief retelling in the twelfth-century by Arsen Iqalt'oeli in his metaphrastic vita
o f Nino, Alexanders alleged conquest of K 'a rt'li was not featured again until the eighteenth-century'

Description o f the Kingdom o f Georgia by Vaxushti.2 9 5 Vaxushti drew heavily from K'art'iis c'xovreba
(edited under the authority of his father, Vaxtang VI), and he produced not a new version of Alexander's
exploits in Caucasia but rather an early modem retelling and elaboration of the tradition articulated in The

Ufe o f the Kings. Vaxushti did not have access to other sources. His account begins:

But when Alexander the Greek Macedonian came forth and had conquered the West,
then he conquered Egypt and he crossed into the East; he overpowered the Persians and

2 9 2 Xaxanashvili, "Gruzinskaia povest' ob Aleksandre Makedonskom i serbskaia Aleksandriia,"

ZhMKP

289/9 (1893). pp. 241-252.


293For a historiographical review o f the problem, see R. Mirianashvili, Alek'sandriani (1980), Rus. sum.,
pp. 197-202.

194Ibid., p. 2 0 1 .
2 9 5 Alexander, his invasion o f K 'art'li, and his establishment o f Azon over it are known to a fifteenth/sixteenth-century paraphrasing o f the initial portion o f The U fe o f the Kings: see "Cesi da gangebay da
darbazobisa, romeli alesrulebis m e'xet'as kurt'xevasa m ep'et'asa," in T . Zhordania, K'ronikebi, vol. 1,
pp. 10-11. Such later paraphrasings o f The Ufe o f the Kings, while an indication o f the text's continued
transmission as part o f K'C', is not in itself a manifestation o f that work's popularity under the Bagratids.
Vaxushti's account is clearly dependent upon The U fe o f the Kings and does not offer additional
information; Vaxushti, pp. 54-55. It is beyond the scope of this study to compare the texts of K'C' and the
dependent, comprehensive history o f Vaxushti, although it is noteworthy that Vaxushti omits the
Bunt'urk'-s and anachronistically credits Alexander with conquering Sak'art'velo (read: Georgia) where
The Ufe o f the Kings uses the term K 'artli.

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218

their kings. Then he came to K 'art'li [in the year] from Creation 3623, [in the]
Georgian [year] 490, and he found th[ese] tribe[s to be] the worst among all the
heathens. But this Alexander destroyed all the mixed tribes, except the K'art'Iosiani-s
and the Jews, and he conquered Georgia and he established [there] 1 0 0 ,0 0 0 soldiers, and
over them [as] mt'avari [he appointed] Azon. son oflared the Macedonian ...2 9 6

This brief account further paraphrases The Ufe o f the Kings, so that Azon rejected the religion prescribed
by Alexander himself and established idolatry in K 'art'li. It is evident from the account that Vaxushti
relied solely upon The U fe o f the Kings, and did not accept, o r did not know about, the tradition o f The

Primary History o f K'art'li (and its dependent Royal Ust I) that Azoy was the scion o f some existing king
o f "Aryan" K 'a rt'li Thus, Vaxushti renders preference to the form "Azon." Likewise, no major
interpolations are incorporated into the Georgian Alexander legend from the Alek'sandriani. Yet certain
alterations are made: e.g., the addition o f dates, and a claim that the Jews, along with the K'art'velians,
had been favored by Alexander. In the final analysis, Vaxushti's account constitutes a paraphrased
version o f the account o f The Ufe o f the Kings.

2 9 6 Vaxushti, p. 5 4 ] , . ^ .

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219

Chapter Three

Representations o f Pre-Christian Kingship

This chapter is concerned with the recollection o f the unbroken sequence of pre-Christian
K'art'velian kings descended from P'arnavaz. The tradition that Azoy/Azon was the scion o f a pre
existing local dynast, as preserved in The Primary History o f K'art'li and echoed in Royal List I (which
constitute the two initial texts o f the composite Mok 'c evay k 'art iisay). was not incorporated into the
royal historical corpus o f K'art'iis c'xovreba. Royal List / subsequently divulges the names o f P'arnavaz
and his successors (the P'arnavaziani-s), which for the most part correspond to those preserved in The Life

o f the Kings. But in this tradition, P'arnavaz is not made to be the first K 'art'velian monarch. Although
the principal focus o f this chapter is the "official" memory o f pre-Christian K 'a rt' li as documented in

K'art'iis c'xovreba, it should be borne in m ind that at least one divergent written tradition o f early
kingship had gained currency in medieval K 'art'li.
We shall first briefly investigate the outstanding royal attributes o f P'arnavaz. the alleged first
king o f K 'art'li according to The Ufe o f the Kings, the opening text of K'art'iis c'xovreba. The
examination will then be extended to encompass all of the pre-Christian K 'art'velian monarchs. who are
described by that text in a sim ilar manner. Over 600 years o f allegedly unbroken kingship is traced here.
At first glance, this approach may appear overblown and inappropriate. But the expanse of tim e is not so
much of a concern, for each o f these kings is described in a common Sasanid-inspired light by a single ca.
800 author. Although the relative sequence and names of the early K 'art'velian kings documented in The

Life o f the Kings is reasonably accurate many o f them are confirmed in contemporary' Graeco-Roman
and Armenian literature the details of their activities would seem to be formulaic and nothing more
than the figment of the later author's imagination. That historian presumed it fitting to depict
K'art'velian kingship in Persian terms, and to situate K 'art'li firmly within the Persian cultural and
political world. This is noteworthy, for the Sasanids had long been extinct at the time of the composition
o f The Ufe o f the Kings, and moreover, K 'art'velian kingship had itself fallen into abeyance in the course
of the sixth century and was not to be revived until 8 8 8 under the Bagratids. This approach m ay partly be
a reflection of the fascination in Sasanid history displayed at the contemporary'' Abbasid court
The "facts" about pre-Christian K 'art'velian kingship are nearly impossible to discern by means
o f the extant texts and MSS. Again, the evidence o f Graeco-Roman and Armenian literature does confirm
the existence o f the K 'art'velian monarchy already in the Hellenistic period B ut the scattered details of
K'art'velian kings in non-Georgian texts, especially ones touching upon Rom an-K'art'velian relations,

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220

were not incorporated into medieval Georgian historical literature, and this alone probably refutes any
notion that Georgian authors derived the names and sequence o f early K 'art'velian monarchs from these
non-Georgian sources. More likely is the existence o f an ancient, now-lost Georgian regnal list. And we
cannot overlook the possible persistence o f oral traditions. The place an d understanding o f K 'art'li in
Classical sources have appeared elsewhere, 1 so here we shall be concerned with the medieval, ca. 800.
K 'art'velian effort to formulate an anciently-rooted shared past describing over half a millennium of early
indigenous kingship.
It may seem that the emphasis on kingship o f this and the succeeding chapters yields a skewed
picture o f ancient and medieval K 'art'velian society. Indeed, it does. However, this image mirrors the
bias and intent of the medieval authors themselves. For them, the very embodiment o f the K 'art'velian
community was its monarchs. This is particularly evident in the aptly named Life o f the Kings, which
relates that an unbroken chain of K 'art'velian hero-kings ruled from the Hellenistic period until the fourth
century AO. We may wonder if this were actually the case, and we should scrutinize the assertion that a
strong and unified K 'art'velian realm existed at the tim e (the only serious challenges to the kings
authority come from men who subsequently became monarchs). The extant pre-Bagratid histories are
legitimistic in the extreme. Ironically, they all seem to have been composed during the long interregnum.
Finally, another feature o f pre-Bagratid histories is that they conceal any substantial activity by the various
noble houses. We know considerably more about the noble naxarar houses in neighboring Armenia
because they often commissioned their own historical works. Yes, the image is greatly distorted, but it
served an ideological purpose: the king was K 'art' li.

/ .

P'ARNAVAZ

P amavaz Becomes King

The attributes o f pre-Christian kingship, as imagined and articulated by the author o f The Ufe o f

the Kings, will be considered in detail in the following section. In the meantime, we shall examine some
o f the elements o f the description o f P'arnavaz, the alleged founder o f K 'art'velian royal authority .2 His

*I.e., the numerous works o f Toumanofif and the recent study of Braund, Georgia in Antiquity. See also:
A. Giardina, "Roma e il Caucaso, in SSCISSM, vol. 43a, pp. 85-141; and A. Carile, "II Caucaso e
lTmpero Bizantino (Secoli VI-XI)," in SSCISSM, vol. 43a, pp. 9-83.
2T he reign o f P'arnavaz is addressed in The Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 20-26. For an overview, see G.
M elik'ishvili, "Obrazovanie kartliiskogo (iberiiskogo) gosudarstva," in Ocherki istorii Gruzii, vol. 1
(1989), pp. 245-270.

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221

portrayal became a model for those o f subsequent pre-Christian K 'art'velian monarchs. who, in all o f

K'art'iis c'xovreba, are featured only in The Life o f the Kings.


The Life o f the Kings emphasizes that P'arnavaz was a strong, brave youth, an intelligent man.
and a skillful hunter. He was said to be a K 'art'velian (through the preeminent K 'art' losiani line of
Up'los/M c'xet'os/K'art'los) through his father and a Persian through his mother. His uncle. Samari. had
been the mamasaxlisi G it "Father o f the House," i.e., "patriarch") o f Me* xet'a when Alexander allegedly
invaded Caucasia. Together, the father of P'arnavaz along with Samari were murdered by Alexander, and
the remainder o f the family, including P'arnavaz him self (at age three), sought refuge in the defiles o f the
Caucasus mountains.
In exile the orphan P'arnavaz grew into a man and never forgot his hatred for Azon. Ultimately,
he resolved to spearhead a revolt against the tyrannical Azon, the foreign "Macedonian" governor of
K 'a rt'li installed by Alexander the Great.^ P'arnavaz is said to have secured the loyalty o f Kuji.* the
ruler o f Egrisi (Colchis), and he also added a mercenary force o f Ovsi-s and Leki-s. A thousand o f Azon's
own Roman troops, the so-called aznauri-s,5 defected to P'am avaz's camp. Emboldened by the force he
had assembled, P'arnavaz inaugurated his insurrection with a successful attack on M e'xet'a.
Subsequently, he allegedly conquered all of K 'a rt'li with the exception o f the southern region ofK larjet'i.
His position was further solidified by an alliance with the Seleucids, and the reference to them seems to be
an accurate memory that the P'amavaziani-s were actually vassals o f these Mesopotamian successors of
Alexander. In any event, Azon's bid to reclaim his position failed, and he eventually fell in battle. It

^The Life o f the Kings thus emphasizes that P'arnavaz represented the K'art'velians whereas Azon was an
agent o f foreign domination. Cf. Allen, History o f the Georgian People, p. 41: "That the rule of
Farnavazi [i.e., P'arnavaz] represented the imposed control of a foreign element - partly Iranian and
partly Hellenistic in character - is again indicated by the fact that his death was signalized by a
sanguinary revolt against his heir, Saurmagi..." It is possible that the K 'art'velians were opposed to the
prominent position o f Azon's defected Roman troops in the service o f P'arnavaz and Saurmag. But the
local sources provide no indication that P'arnavaz was perceived as representing foreign domination
though they do admit that P' arnavaz was a vassal o f the Seleucids. Now Saurmag, after quashing the
revolt did in feet demote the K'art'losiani-s in favor o f the Roman aznauri-s. It should be said that
Allen's brilliantly written account is tainted by two defects: first he often confuses image and history
proper, and second, he was forced to rely solely upon the later, Vaxtangiseuli variant o f K'C' published by
Brosset
* According to Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 138-139 and 556, the name K 'uji is based upon the Os
word kuz, "dog," and is equivalent to the Os name Kuzaeg and the Scythian Kuzaios. Lang, The
Georgians, p. 84, identifies K'uji as the king o f Colchis though he is not styled as a king (mep'e) in
medieval Georgian literature.

5Aznauri is defined in this instance as "the [men] o f Azon." However, this etymology is false, for the term
is actually based upon the Persian-Armenian term for "free [men]." Usually, aznauri refers to a high
noble.

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should be noted that the Persian custom of the blood-feud seems to have been projected upon P'arnavaz
and his desire to seek revenge for the murder o f his father and uncle .6
P'arnavaz immediately consolidated his control over the eastern frontier and assumed the title o f
"king o f all K ' art' li and Egurisi." His right to be king was amplified by his own nam e which was based
upon the Persian famah, the "divine grace" signifying the right to rule . 7 It seems to me to be too much a
coincidence that the first K 'art'velian king happened to be named P'arnavaz (this remark is strengthened
by the fact that P'arnavaz. unlike his successors, was left unrecorded in Classical sources).* In my view,
by inventing the name P'arnavaz, or at least by applying it to the supposed first monarch, the author o f

The Life o f the Kings (or his source) clearly designated that his right and destiny to be king.^ Through
P'arnavazs imagined behavior, the author also demonstrated his right to be monarch. Parnavaz is said to
have established a military bureaucracy to administer the kingdom, to have carefully organized his army
into defined units, and to have fortified his royal-city o f M e'xet'a (all o f these actions are considered

infra). He assumed a position akin to the pontifex maximus insofar as he alone, as king, possessed the
authority to erect idols. In this regard, he reportedly raised a statue to Armazi. who was understood to
have been the chief deify o f the K'art'velians.

The Life o f the Kings emphasizes that P'arnavaz "was the first king o f K 'a rt'li from the clan of
K'art'los," which in itself does not deny that an earlier non-K'art'Iosiani (i.e., foreign) dynasty may have
existed. Such a dynasty may, in fact, be commemorated in the initial texts o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay (i.e.,
Azoy his predecessors). The Life o f the Kings identifies P'arnavaz as a K 'art'velian. and reports that he
had promoted the use o f the Georgian language and had even fashioned a script O n his death, the first
K'art'velian king was buried at the foot of the Armazi idol. This a c t it would seem, had the effect o f
deifying P'arnavaz.

6 Cf. Garsoian, "Prolegomena to a Study' of the Iranian Aspects in Arsacid Armenia," p. 2. Garsoian

detected this theme (for Armenia) in the anti-Persian, Christian tract o f Agat'angeghos.
7For the K 'art'velian kings' possession of famah, see infra.
O
However, information about Caucasia in Classical texts is meager at b e st The rise o f a relatively
insignificant (from the Roman perspective) kingdom o f K 'art'li was not likely to have attracted
contemporary historians. The silence o f Graeco-Roman sources does not yield a sound indication by itself
that P'arnavaz was simply a later invention.
^It should be said that the derivation o f P'am avazs name is not explained. The implication that the very
name P'arnavaz and the details o f his reign may have been invented by a later author is that the first king
of K 'art'li was not P'arnavaz. Should this be the case, it is impossible to discern from extant texts who
was the first K 'art'velian king. In any event, K 'art'velian kingship does seem to have originated in the
early Hellenistic period.

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223

It is worth repeating that P'arnavaz is one o f the few pre-Christian K 'art'velian kings who is not
attested in any pre-modem foreign (i.e., Graeco-Roman, Persian, Armenian, Syriac) source. In fact,
beyond The Ufe o f the Kings and Royal List I, there is no direct reference to P'arnavaz in other medieval
Georgian literary works. ^

The medieval Armenian historical tradition is acquainted with the

"P'ar[n]awazean" dynasty, which is first attested in the fifth-century Epic Histories. *1 This reference
proves that by the fifth century AD the K 'art'velian ruling dynasty was conceived as having been
established by a certain P'amawaz, the Armenian form o f P'arnavaz. But the fact remains that no near
contemporary evidence about this P'arnavaz, or even his name, is extant ^

Thus we may question

whether P'arnavaz was the first K 'art'losiani king o f K 'a rt'li, and whether P'arnavaz was ever more than
an image. Nevertheless, it is precisely his medieval image as the first K 'art'velian king that is significant
for us, as well as how the early K 'art'velian monarchy was remembered by a ca. 800 author.

P'arnavaz as the Patron o f the Georgian Language and Inventor o f the Georgian Script

In the style o f a Sasanid king, P'arnavaz and his pre-Christian successors were the initiators of
great projects for their realm. These activities included, as we shall see. monumental, strategic, and
religious buildings. But royal undertakings were not limited to stone and mortar. The king also
embarked upon other projects benefiting his administration and the population at large. P'arnavaz is
credited by The Ufe o f the Kings as having been a patron and propagator o f the Georgian {k'art 'uli) ^

10Although it may7be tempting to suggest that the very name P'arnavaz was a medieval invention, we
must recall the reference in Cassius Dio, XLIX.24. to a later K 'art'velian king bearing the same name
(Gk. Pharnabazos) (63-30 BC). Strangely, Dios king is known by the name Bartom in the Georgian
historical tradition. See Toumanoff, "The Chronology o f the Early Kings of Iberia," p. 11.

^ T h e Epic Histories, V. 15, p. 201 (for Mushegh Mamikoneans supposed triumph over K 'a rt'li [Virk' 1
and his consequent massacre of the P'ar[n]awazean"). Later references occur in Prim. Hist. Armenia, p.
362; and Movses Xorenac'i, 1.22, p. 111. See also Garsoian in The Epic Histories, technical terms,
"P'amawazean/P'arawazean," p. 400. For the possible connection o f the P'amavaziani-s an d the
Bagratids as early as the second century AD, see ch. 6 .
iy

In the Persian cultural world the name P'arnavaz (Gk. Pharnabazos) was known already by Thucydides
(fifth century BC), who is familiar with Pharnabazos I, son o f Artabazos n , both of whom occupied the
satrapy of Daskyleion. Other early praenomina related to the name P'arnavaz include Pharandates,
Phamakes, Phamaspes, Phamazathes, and Pharaouchos. See Balcer, A Prosopographical Study o f the
Ancient Persians Royal and Noble c. 550-450 BC (1993), #56, pp. 85-86 (for Pharnabazos I)11

Throughout this study I employ the term "Georgian" to describe the language o f pre-modem
K 'art'velians. However, such a usage is misleading and technically anachronistic for it injects a non
existent, or at least exaggerated, sense o f linguistic unity. The K'art'velians (and modem Georgians for
that matter) used the term k'art'uli (or, "of K 'art'li/of the K'art'velians") to describe their language. It
should be noted that we do not know the precise meaning o f k'art'uli, at least linguistically, in pre-modem
texts. Did medieval authors have in m ind only the dialect o f K 'art'li proper, or were sim iliar dialects

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224

language and the inventor of a specifically Georgian script . 14 underscoring the contention that he was the
first native king to reign over the K 'art'velian community.
This is not the place to present a detailed account o f the genesis o f the Georgian language as
understood by modem linguists. ^

H ow ever, we are interested in how its provenance was imagined by

the author o f The Ufe o f the Kings, since his account forms the basis for the Georgian tradition o f the
invention o f the native script. No subsequent pre-modem Georgian source attributes a different origin for
the Georgian script.
On the eve o f Alexander's invasion of K 'art'li, the anonymous historian reports that:

Until now the K 'art'losiani-s had spoken in the Armenian language. But when these
countless clans/tribes had settled [together] in K 'art'li, at that time the K 'art'velians
abandoned the Armenian language. And from all o f these clans/tribes the Georgian
language [ena k'art'uli] was created... [In the time o f Baram. the king o f the Persians]
... all o f these clans/tribes in K 'art'li became so commingled that six languages were
spoken in K 'art'li: Armenian, Georgian, Khazar, Syrian/Syriac, 16 Hebrew, and Greek.
And all the kings o f K 'a rt'li, [and all the] men and women, knew these languages. ^

The Armenian Adaptation o f K'art'iis c 'xovreba diverges from the received Georgian account. Indeed.
Armenian is said to have been the original language o f the K 'art'velians. but the Georgian language is
explicitly described as a mixture o f the six other tongues in contrast to the Georgian account's vague
assertion that Georgian had been created from all o f the clans and tribes residing in K 'art' li:

Up to this moment Armenian was the language o f the K'art'velians. But then they
began to grow different from the peoples who dwelt among them. There occurred a
mixture o f all [the languages], and they came together in this which is now called [the]
Georgian [language]... [At the time o f Baram/Vahram]... they spoke in K 'a rt'li six

subsumed within it?


^ o r modem popular conceptions o f P'am avaz's alleged introduction of the Georgian script, see the
entertaining historical novel o fK 'art'los Kasradze, P'arnavaz (1986), especially "Anbani," pp. 497-511.
It is fitting that the author o f this novel should himself bear the name K'art'los.
^ E .g ., Rayfield, The Uterature o f Georgia, pp. 1-2.
l**The K 'art'velians seem to have meant more than Syriac proper by their word asuruli. This term
likewise denoted other Semitic languages and dialects including Aramaic. On the Georgian designations
for Syria/Assyria and its language, see K. Ceret'eli, "'Sirielisa 1 da 'asurelis' aghmnishvneli et'nikuri
terminebi k 'a rtulshi," in Ivane javaxishvilis dabadebis 100 clist'avisadmi midzghvnili saiubileo krebuli,
pp. 177-188.

17The Life o f the Kings, p.

164 .^+ 2 1 - 2 3 -

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225

languages: Armenian and Khazar. Syriac/Syrian and Hebrew. Greek and the
combination o f their mixture Georgian.1

As we have already seen, the Vaxtangiseuli Rumianceviseuli (R) variant (copied ca. 1703) includes
numerous patriotic re-writings o f early K 'art'velian history. Its scribe changed this passage completely.
Its account is not based upon some ancient or medieval tradition, but rather constitutes a conscious
attempt to obscure the medieval Georgian traditions o f the Armenians substantial role in early
K 'art'velian history, and to devise a more "pure" Georgian past:

Until now the language o f the K'art'Iosiani-s was only Georgian, which they spoke, but
when these countless clans/tribes had settled [together] in K 'art'li, at that time the
K'art'velians [allowed] their language to become corrupted, and from all o f these clans/
tribes was created a hybrid language [ena mort' //].19

Thus, this later tradition asserts that the K 'art'losiani-s had always spoken Georgian, but that their
language was corrupted Igarqvnes) by the foreigners who settled in K 'art'li. Georgian was believed to
have survived the onslaught, but its purity was forever compromised.
P'arnavaz, as the first native king o f the K 'art'velians. was expected at least by his later
biographer to have promoted the use o f the Georgian language. The Life o f the Kings starkly asserts
that:

And this P'arnavaz was the first (ring in K 'art'li from the progeny o f K 'art'los. He
extended [the use of] the Georgian language [ena k'art 'uli]. and no other language was
spoken in K 'art'li except Georgian. And he invented the/a Georgian script
[mcignobroba k'art'ulij.^

^ Arm. Adapt. K'C', pp. 22-23 = Thomson trans.. pp. 21 and 23. See also Thomson. "The Armenian
Version o f the Georgian Chronicles," JSAS 5 (1990/1991). p. 8 6 .

^"^iCSCSa ^i6o)C3cil>oj>5o)6 366 oym 860125015 jirtcoacjo, 601832566 1366630536. 6012501


01536 8380136636 363 <36036360 6603366360 ^66032566 8066. 86806 ^660330005^0* 5-1633636
366 033060, 06 60603 30133250)6 660336630)6566 830386-1 366 8ci6 o3<3 e?o." Quoted in M.
Janashvili, K'art'uli mcerloba, pt. 2 (1909), p. 171. Janashvili erroneously believed the R variant to be
pro-Vaxtangiseuli. From that misguided assumption, the author posited that this was an early account
and that it demonstrated that K' art'velian was not originally devised from other languages (p. 172).

The Life o f the Kings. p. 26g_10: " 6 3 6 3 3 6 6 6 6 3 6 b 0 3 0 1 8 0 6 3 3 2 5 0 8 3 3 3 ^ 6 6 0 3 2 5 6 6 8 0 6 6


^ 6 6 oD2 5 m 6 0 6 6 6 6 0 3 3 6 6 3 0 )6 5 6 6 0 . 60 6 0 5 6 6 6 3 6 3 m 3 6 6 J 6603<32 ? 0 , 6 6 6 Q 6 6 6 0 ^ ) 6 6 6 3 8 0 1 5 6
6 b<Q6 3 0 6 ^ 6 6 0 ) 2 5 6 6 8 0 6 6 0 ) 5 6 0 3 6 3 6 6 0 ) 3 2 5 0 6 6 . 6 6 0 6 0 8 3 3 8 6 6 8 ^ 0 5 6 m & 6 m & 6 3 6 6 0 3 3 2 5 0 ."
Cf. the thirteenth-century Armenian historian/compiler M xit'ar Ayrivaneci: "the first K 'art'velian king
P'arnavaz created the K 'art'uli (Georgian) script from [those of] six languages. He invented writing for
his people;" see M xit'ar Ayrivanec'i, p. 384. Ayrivanec'i employed the Armenian adaptation o f K'C', and

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226

The earliest extant redaction o f K'art'iis c'xovreba, the Armenian adaptation, incorporates a similar
passage:

Now P'am aw az was the first king from the clan o f K 'art'los. He commanded the
entire land to speak Georgian. And he created Georgian letters \gir lezuin Vrac'].^

So P'arnavaz, in the eyes o f his later biographer, established Georgian as the spoken and written language
o f his administration and subjects (at least noble ones).
But The Life o f the Kings admits that other languages continued to be current in K 'art'li. even
among the very kings. Some o f the successive monarchs were not natives. Thus, Mihran/Mirian III (284361 AD) who is depicted as the son o f the Great King o f Iran and who later in his reign accepted the
Christian God is said to have spoken Persian as his first language. But once ruling over the
K 'art'velians, the author of The Ufe o f the Kings (who is concerned primarily with the reign of
M ihran/M irian prior to his conversion) reports that he forgot Persian and spoke G eorgian.^ In the
appended Ufe o f Nino, Mihran/Mirian, having heard o f the miracles that had been performed at the hands
o f that holy woman, allegedly sought an explanation for these events in the so-called Book o f Nimrod.
But there is no indication in what language this book was composed, and should this episode be an
accurate memory, we cannot assume that text was written in G eorgian.^
From an early time, linguistic considerations constituted a prominent pillar in the selfidentification o f the K 'art'velian community. They certainly emerged as overriding factors in the early
Bagratid period, but before this period we may only speculate. In the late tenth century, the monk loane
Zosime wrote his famous Praise and Exaltation o f the Georgian Language (K'ebay da didebay k'art'ulisa

it is noteworthy that he repeated the claims o f K'C' instead o f the Armenian tradition that the Caucasian
scripts had been fashioned by the fifth-century (AD) Armenian cleric Mashtoc' (see infra).

01
*lArm. Adapt. K'C', p. 3 7 5 .9 = Thomson trans., p. 37: "U tp (huntuiuiq tunuiglili pwqiunn juiqatb ftuppinuujj.
uui bcp hpuiJurii uiTbtuijli bptjptilj (uu.ubi qibqmli Mjiuig. li u|up qfip [bqrajilj ^.puig." It is extraordinary that the

Armenian adaptation does not mention the Armenian tradition that Mashtoc' (Mesrop) invented the
Armenian, Georgian, and Caucasian Albanian scripts.

^ T h e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 65.


The Ufe o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a, p. 105; cf. Wardrop trans., pp. 32-33. If this book was in the
Georgian script the account could be an indication of the existence o f a pre-Christian script, but it should
be borne in mind that The Life o f Nino, in its extant form, is no earlier than the ninth century. Moreover,
The Ufe o f Nino says nothing about the language(s) which M ihran/Mirian spoke.

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227

enisay, ja& ia 0 i joooa&ifl ^(boj^jcjob.s gBobiQ). Although this work is a Bagratid-era


production , 2 4 it demonstrates the importance o f language to the community just after the era o f the author
o f The Ufe o f the Kings. Moreover, it is also an attempt to justify Georgian as a specifically Christian and
sacred language, an idea not incorporated into K'art'iis c'xovreba:
548466325 *60 364 4 4 6 0 3 2 5 0
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1 Buried in the Georgian language

A m u 3013325064 36464
228360)846 486025016 4 8 0 0 36004.

As a m artyr until th e day o f th e Second Com ing


o f th e Messiah.
So th at G od m ay look upon every language
Through th is U n g u g p .

5* 3 6 3 3 6 4

2. And this language

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04

Is sleeping until today;


And in the Gospels this language
Is called Lazarus.

4 6 4 2 5 8 4 6 60 601 8 0 1 4 4 3 0 4

2 And the new Nm o converted [it]

04 J 3 2 5 3 6 3 o g o p ig 4 C 5 3 4 6 .

And [so did] th e Empress H d o i[a ] [Helene],


T hese tw o [wornm] are sisters.
Like M ary [Mariam] an d M artha [Mart a].

gbg 4 6 0 4 6 01660 9460,


3 0 0 4 6 3 4 846043 (54 346014.
54 83501660164
43o b o g o b 0 4 3 4 [3464636300846].
6 4 8 3 0 ) 3 3 0 1 3 3 2 5 0 6 4 0 5 3 8 2 5 01

484b 36464 8064 543466325 4 6 b .


04 0106064 52>ob4 833546o
43aba>30b 0 4 3 4 54300) ^ o 6 4 b ^ 4 6 -

1 And frioidship
It spoke because.
For every secret
Is buried m this language.
And [it was] dead for four days
Thus David th e Prophet spoke,

ag<533gc?a46,
6 4 8 3 0 )3 : 40)4b 0 ^3250
300)4634 3 6 0 0 S2>3 ",

Thus. "A thousand years


[is] like one day."

54 b 4646g 64l >4 8064 4 4 6 0 )3 2 5 b 4 boi25 ou


094364 340>gbb4, ^0250 6 0 6 0 6 0 8 3 2 5
4boi 4 6 b ,
94 0 3 3 3 0 b 30132545
010)6 40)4bb 4 8 4 6 4 3 6 4 ,

And in the Gospels in Georgian.


In th e book oTM atthew. sits a part,
which is a letter.
And it will say to everyone
T he four thousand secrets, -

54 gbg 4 6 b oicobo 053


54 oia) 6ob 4 Scob 4 8,3320460.
480609306 8060046433 5 4 3 4 6 3 2 5
603320025004 6402506-2536064 80606400)4.

2 And these are th e four days

54 gbg 364 -

8 3 8 3 3 2 3 0 54 3 3 6 0 6 3 3 2 5 0 64632500)4
33250640094.

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80132506 515364 84b 83016325 8016253464


3 g 2?o b 4b 4 .
154 6 4 6 ^ 4 3 2 5 4 5 gbg 4^36:
46-010160 ^ 3 2 5 0 -

And [the man] who w as dead for four days.


For this [it is] buried with him
Through th e death o f its baptism.
And this language
Beautiful and blessed by th e nam e
o f th e Lord,
Humble and afflicted
Awaits th e day o f th e second com ing o f
the Lord.

2 And it has this wondrous sign:


A hundred and four years -

2 4 Cf. the failed attempt to push the date o f the poem back to at least the sixth century o f G. Abramashvili
and Z. Alek'sidze, "A National M otif in the Iconographic Programme Depicted in the Davati Stela," LeM
103/3-4 (1990), pp. 283-292 (an article which is almost as cryptic as Zosime himself). The authors
suggest that the Daviti stela (a sixth century artefact by their calculation; but this date is controversial)
proves that the "idea" o f Zosimes poem was current already in the sixth century. Abramashvili and
Alek'sidze also open the possibility that P'arnavaz and Mihran/Mirian are depicted on the stela, although
this is presently improvable.

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228

gagftgb bbgaou g&Mu

jttabggb 3mbQgoo>6 ga^Ag


G>c;glan8 |gg.
gbg ymgacgo, Awanwo faAocj iAb,

3n^o8gQ ^jA8ngo<Db4A:
ib-nmbo gbg jfgcjo

jo* ^ojjjo i6bi6oUi.

More than the other languages


From the Coming of Christ until
today.
UL And all this which is written.
I have told you as a witness:
A hundred and four years
A nd a p art o fth e alphabet.^**

Zosime was convinced o f a special status within Christendom for his native tongue. But noteworthy also
is the fact that Zosime, an exceptionally learned monk, does not mention P'arnavaz in connection with the
Georgian language or script Rather, he completely subsumed the Georgian language within a Biblical*
Christian context The Life o f the Kings had been written a few centuries prior to this poem. So Zosime
was either ignorant o f the tradition as enshrined in The Life o f the Kings, o r he consciously chose to
neglect i t maybe because that tradition was imbued with pre-Christian overtones. In addition, Zosime
may have known that the Georgian script had been a Christian creation, perhaps intensifying further his
disdain o f the traditional account o f P'arnavaz. A sim ilar attitude seems to have shaped the works written
by the eleventh-century (and Bagratid-era) writer Arsen o f Iqalt'o. who, in a brief summary o f
K 'art'velian history attached to his metaphrastic version o f The Life o f Nino, completely ignores
P'arnavaz .2 2 The unwillingness to attach any credence to P'arnavaz's association with the Georgian
script is prevalent in works o f Georgian literature up through the eighteenth century. It would seem, then,
that the ca. 800 contention that P'arnavaz had created the Georgian script was not widely accepted by
successive local medieval authors.
The medieval Armenian historical tradition proposes an alternate view, which is contested
vigorously by many modem Georgian specialists, many o f them arguing from the perspective o f
patriotism.2* The fifth-century biography o f Mashtoc' (Mesrop), written by his pupil Koriwn, relates
that:

<yc

Ioane Zosime, Praise o f the Georgian Lang., pp. 457-458. For an important MS containing this work,
see Garitte, Catalogue des manuscrits georgiens litteraires du Mont SinaT, CSCO vol. 165 = subsidia 9
(1956). codex 6/10, pp. 21-26. Zosime resided for a while on M t Sinai. O n his activities see
Tarchnishvili, Geschichte, s.v. "Johannes Zosime," pp. 109-114. For an analysis o f the poem, see B.
Martin-Hisard, "Le langue slave, le langue georgienne et Byzance au Xeme siecle, Byzantinoslavica 50/1
(1989), pp. 33-45, with Fr. trans. on pp. 36-37.
26T he trans. here is based upon that o f Rayfield, Literature o f Georgia, pp. 19-20.
22Arsen Iqalt'oeli, Metaphr. Nino, pp. 390-391. The example o f Arsen is even more striking than
Zosime since the former admits a knowledge o f K'C' and even The Life o f the Kings specifically.
Incidentally, we know that this account o f P'arnavaz was part o f K'C' by at least the twelfth-century since
it is incorporated within the Armenian adaptation o f that corpus.
2*For a summary o f the positions, see ToumanoCf Studies, pp. 105-106, footnote 160. The role of
M ashtoc' has been denied by many Georgian scholars, including: Tarchnishvili, "Quelques remarques sur
lage de lalphabet georgien," BK 30-31 (1958), pp. 21-28; K. Salia, "Note sur l'origine et l'age de

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229

... after the passage o f some time, the beloved o f Christ thought o f taking care o f the
barbarian regions, and by the grace o f God he undertook to create an alphabet for the
Georgian language. He wrote, arranged, and put it in order, and taking a few o f his
pupils, he arrived in the regions o f K 'artIi/Iberia [Vtrk'\. A nd he went and presented
him self to K ing Bakur, and the bishop o f the land. Movses. He placed his skill at their
disposal, he advised and urged them, and they consented to do that which he requested
And he found a Georgian translator by the nam e o f Jaghay, a literate and
devout man. The Georgian king then ordered that youths be gathered from various parts
and regions o f his realm and brought to the vardapet. Taking them he put them through
the forge o f education, and w ith spiritual love and energy he removed [from them] the
purulent uncleanliness of the worship o f spirits and false idols, and he separated and
purged them from their native [traditions], and he made them lose their recollection
to such an extent that they said, "I forgot my people and my father's house."
A nd thus they, who had been gathered from am ong so many distinct and
dissimilar tongues, he bound together with one [set of] divine commandments,
transforming them into one nation and glorifiers o f one God. There were found among
them men worthy o f attaining the honor o f bishop, first am ong whom was a saintly and
devout man by the name of Samuel, who became the bishop o f the royal court [episkopos
kaceal tarn ark'unakani].
And when he had organized the work o f God's worship in all parts of Georgia,
taking leave o f them, he returned to Armenia .. . 29

According to Koriwn, Mashtoc' fashioned an alphabet for the Caucasian Albanians, and indeed an
Albanian alphabet is known to have existed 3 0 This event, whose Armenian recollection has no analogue
in Georgian, documents the transformation Caucasian traditions from one orally- to one literary-based
But while the Armenian historian Ghazar P'arpec'i, a contemporary o f Koriwn who used his work, was

1'alphabet georgien," BK 43-44 (1963), pp. 5-18; and ibid.. History o f the Georgian Nation, Vivian trans.,
pp. 65-67. O n the creation o f Armenian letters, see J.R. Russell, "On the Origins and Invention o f the
Armenian Script," LeM 107/3-4 (1994), pp. 316-333. Russell, pp. 327-328, assumed that Mashtoc'
invented the Georgian script, but states that: "It seems likely from Koriwn's account, in which the
Armenian saint demonstrates his art and counsels the Georgians, then placing the work in the hands o f a
skilled translator o fth e Georgian language named Jaghay, that Mashtoc' explained the principles o f his
system and left it to the Georgians to apply it to their own tongue, which he him self is unlikely to have
known." This is an attractive scenario; however, Russell does not raise the issue that this account may be
a later interpolation o r simply incorrect.
2 9 Koriwn. Abeghyan e d , cap. 15, pp. 62-64 = Norehad trans., p. 37.

30On the Caucasian Albanian alphabet see: A Shanidze, "Novootkrytyi alfavit kavkazskikh albantsev i
ego znacheniie dliia nauki," Moambe IV/1 (1938), pp. 1-62 (Georgian sum., pp. 63-65; Fr. sum., pp. 6 6 6 8 ); idem., Iazyk ip is mo kavkazskikh albantsev (1960); I. Abuladze, "K otkrytiiu alfavita kavkazskikh
albantsev," Moambe IV/1 (1938), pp. 69-71; R. Hewsen, "On the Alphabet o f the Caucasian Albanians,"
REArm, n.s. 1 (1964), pp. 427-432; and H. Kurdian, "The Newly Dikxwered Alphabet o f the Caucasian
Albanians," JRAS (1956), pp. 81-83. The existence o f an Albanian script does not in itself prove that
Mashtoc' created it.

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230

acquainted with the tradition that Mashtoc had fashioned Armenian letters, he said nothing about his
alleged invention o f the Georgian script This is significant because P'arpec'i, alone among the fifthcentury Armenian historians, exhibits a fascination in K 'art'li, and we might have expected him to have
recounted Mashtoc' 's work, especially if it had included the Georgian alphabet Since Koriwn's account
has reached us only in considerably later MSS. it is entirely possible that the tradition concerning
Mashtoc s invention of the Georgian and Albanian scripts may, in fact be a later, post-schism
interpolation. But for the moment we may only raise the possibility, because we cannot base an argument
solely on Ghazar F arpecis silence.
We may be sure that by the eighth century, the era of Movses Xorenac'i, the Armenian tradition
that Mashtoc' had created scripts for the three major communities o f Caucasia was firmly entrenched.
Xorenac'i's brief account is based upon that o f Koriwn and refers to the cleric Mashtoc' by the later name
Mesrop:

Mesrop also went to the land o f Georgia and fashioned letters for [it] through the grace
given from above with a certain Jaghay. a translator o f the Greek and Armenian
tongues, and with the help o f their king Bakur and the bishop Moses. After selecting
children and dividing them into two groups, he left as teachers for them Ter of
Xordzean and Mushe o f Tarawn from among his own disciples . 3 1

Koriwn, and Xorenac'i following him, attribute the invention o f the Georgian script to Mashtoc'/
Mesrop. who in turn was aided by a certain Georgian translator named Jaghay. That is to say. the
Armenian historical tradition does not assert that the Armenian cleric was solely responsible for
fashioning an alphabet for the K'art'velians. Rather. Mashtoc' supervised a pan-Caucasian assembly of
clerics, including K 'art'velian ones, who devised scripts not only for the K 'art'velians, but the Armenians
and Albanians as well.3^ No extant medieval Georgian source knows o f M ashtoc'; he is simply not part
o f the received Georgian tradition. 1 do not think that we may confidently assert that it was precisely
Mashtoc' who invented the Georgian script, but since the Georgian, Armenian, and Caucasian Albanian
scripts were all deliberately developed in the course o f the fourth/fifth century, an all-Caucasian Christian
interest in developing local scripts almost certainly existed. It is indeed possible that Mashtoc' and his

3 Movses Xorenac'i, m .54, p. 322 = Arm. text, p. 328. This King Bakur seems to be the source o f
Rufinus' account o f the conversion o f K 'art'li (see ch. 4). It is noteworthy that Movses Dasxuranc'i,
author of the History o f the Caucasian Albanians, is unaware of the Mashtoc' tale, and insteads relies
upon an enumeration in Hippolytus' Chron. of the peoples acquainted with scripts. Hippolytus himself
included the Armenians within the list, while Dasxuranc i added the Albanians, but not the K'art'velians.
See Movses Dasxuranc'i, 1.3, p. 3.

Jaghay is not expressly said to have assisted in the fashioning of the Armenian and Albanian scripts.

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231

colleagues worked together on the three scripts, for the Armenian Church was the best organized and the
most literate Caucasian Church o f the period. The Armenian historical tradition's memory o f Mashtoc'
may not be rejected out o f hand, for it is based upon the likely premise that the fashioning o f scripts for
the three major communities o f early Christian Caucasia was the product of a Christian pan-Caucasian
effort led by Armenian clerics .3 3 With o r without Mashtoc''s participation, this is. I think, a reasonable
interpretation.
While the Georgian tradition asserts that the Georgian language had grown out of existing
languages, the script is said to have been a purely K 'art'velian. and royal, invention. But the reference to
P'am avaz's fashioning o f the Georgian script in The Life o f the Kings is ambiguous, since Old Georgian
routinely lacks both definite and indefinite articles:3'* did P'arnavaz create the Georgian script, or a
Georgian script? I think the answer is obvious from the context: it was asserted that P'arnavaz had
fashioned the Georgian script, and he has nothing else to say about the script even after the fifth century
AD when it was in feet invented to accommodate Christianity. Therefore, according to the Georgian
tradition, as a result of the intellectual and organizational labors o f the first king P'arnavaz, the Georgian
characters were introduced, and not some script that had since fallen from use.
Be that as it may, three related but distinct scripts have been employed by the K 'art'velians/
Georgians at various times (see charts). Neither the Georgian nor the Armenian historical tradition
relates explicitly which Georgian script was the first to be allegedly fashioned. 3 3 The earliest attested

33The vast majority of modem Georgian refutations o f the Armenian tradition o f Mashtoc' have been
conditioned tty patriotic emotions. However, scholarly dismissals of Mashtoc' alleged invention o f the
Georgian script are possible. E.g., Javaxishvili, Dzveli somxuri saistorio mcerloba (1935). pp. 158-160.
who suggests that Mashtoc''s connection with the Georgian and Albanian alphabets is an interpolation.
The Armenian A. Perixanian wrote that "The creation o f a new script to serve any language cannot be
limited to the invention o f letters; it is a question o f a vast and complex process, which includes in the
first place the separation o f the phonemes o f the given language and presumes a detailed knowledge of its
phonetics as well as its grammar. Mashtotz knew' neither Georgian nor Albanian, and Koriuns statement
that Mashtoz has collected in situ information relating to the phonetic structure o f these languages cannot
be taken very seriously, since the data collected in such a way could not be considered sufficient for such
an undertaking." See Perixanian, "La question de 1origine de lecriture armenienne." in Recueil dA sie
anterieure, vol. 2 (1966), pp. 126-127, quoted in Salia, History o f the Georgian Nation. Vivian trans.. p.
65.

^E se (<)bQ) and igi (og,o) were sometimes employed in Old Georgian as definite articles.
33Should the accounts in question be contemporary, then, o f course, only one script existed; but the
accounts, a t least in their extant forms, are considerably later. O n the origin of the Georgian script, see
the outstanding study o f T . Gamqrelidze, Ceris anbanuri sistema da dzveli k'art'uli damcerloba:
anbanuri ceris tipologia da carmomavloba (1989), with extensive Rus. sum., "Alfavitnoe pis'mo i
drevnegruz inskaia pis'mennost': tipologiia i proiskhozhdenie alfavitnykh sistem pis'ma," pp. 207-306.
Although beyond the scope of the present study, Gamqrelidze considers the influence o f existing scripts
upon Georgian and finds a close affinity with the order and structure o f the Greek script. The author
builds his arguments around the similar developments o f the Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and Slavic

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232

J*

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SOURCES: I. Bolrusi Siam (late fifth century): 2. Juan (sixth/seventh century): 3. Xanmet 'i Lectionaty
(seventh centuty): and 4. Sinai mravalt'avi (864). Reproduced from I. Abuladze, K'art'uli cens
mmushehi, p. x.

alphabets. See also: H. Junker, "Das Awestaalphabet und d er Ursprung der armenischen und georgischen
Schrift," Caucasia: Zeitschriftftir die Erforschung der Sprachen und Kulturen des Kaukasus 2 (1925), pp.
1-91 and 3 (1926), pp. 82-121, for the connection of the Arm. and Georgian scripts with Hebrew, Syriac,
Pers., and Gk.; and Ocherki istorii Gruzii, vol. 2, pp. 467-477.

Reproduced with perm ission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

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SOURCES 7. Athonitc Collection (1074); 8. T ranslation of the Gospels (eleventh century); 9. Vitae of the
Fathers (eleventh century); 10. Vani Gospels (thirteenth century); 11. Shio M ghvimc Gospels (1304); 12.
Acalhist (1681); and 13. Me'Net'a Bible (eighteenth century). Reproduced from I. Abuladze, K 'art'uli
ceris nimushehi, p. xiii.

Tfl

234

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eh
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eh
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SOURCES: I. Charter of Bagrat IV (1060-1065); 2. Donation Letter o f Chiaberi (1184/1185); and 3.


Translation o f the Song of Songs (1188-1210). Reproduced from I. Abuladze. K'art'uli ceris nimushebi.
p. xiv.

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236

script is called asomt'avruli (alxnctaigrtgE jo; see photograph). It consisted o f thirty-eight majuscule
letters3**and its use has been definitely traced back to the fifth-century AD (stone inscriptions at the
Bolnisi cathedral [just south o f T b ilisi] and at the Palestinian monastery at Bir-al-Qutt. as well in
palimpsest parchment fragments). Without exception, the earliest specimens o f the asomt'avruli script are
ecclesiastical in nature (i.e.. translations o f the Gospels and Church Fathers, or dedicatory inscriptions for
churches). This in itself may be evidence that a pre-Christian king did not invent this particular script,
for its earliest usages are conspicuously Christian. However, we may not discount the possibility of the
systematic destruction o f "pagan books by Christians. By the ninth century (and, in any event, probably
under Bagratid rule), another script, called nusxuri (6 igbb)6 o), was developed.3^ Nusxuri is an angular,
miniscule script and consists o f thirty-eight letters, all having direct asomt'avruli correspondences.3*
Modem specialists refer to asomt'avruli and nusxuri collectively as xuc'uri (b)Q)6 o). or the
"priestly" (Le.. ecclesiastical) hands. This is to distinguish them from the mxedruli (dbgcofi^cjo:
"knightly, i.e., civil/secular)3 ^ script which was developed under the K 'art'velian Bagratids in the
tenth/eleventh centuries. A form o f mxedruli is the script still employed today.4 0 The mxedruli script
contains only miniscules, and like its xuc'uri antecedents it consists o f thirty-eight characters (at least
before the twentieth-century orthographic changes). It is a rounded script and could be written more
expeditiously than the others. Mxedruli was employed especially by royal and "secular" scribes. Bagratid
royal charters were usually written in mxedruli.

S.N. Mouraviev, "Page dhistoire de la phonetique ancienne: la forme exteme de l'alphabet asomt'avruli
en tant que modele graphique de la structure difierentielle des phonemes du vieux-georgien." Proceedings
o f the Eleventh International Congress o f Phonetic Sciences (1987), pp. 2.1.1-2.1.4 (repr. in the
Newsletter o f the Societyfor the Study o f Caucasia 2/1 (1989).
J 'T h e development o f nusxuri roughly corresponds with the ascendancy o f the Bagratids in Kart'li. The
mxedruli script was a Bagratid-era invention.
3*The forms o f the nusxuri letters, in most cases, are clearly derived from asomt 'avruli.
The Old Georgian rendering is mq'edruli.
<*The xuc 'uri scripts are employed by the Georgian Church even today.

Reproduced with perm ission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without perm ission.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

| r
Ivffbc

*.")i; c.ci1 <,:yn; r.fi:


|iK:6 'hxfci i.itn
crc

ffi #

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.

i -*aJ.

.\a n n w t i Lcctionaiy (seventh century), reproduced from I. Abuladze, K 'art'uli ceris nimushebi, p. 21.
i-j

"4

238

The identification and relationship o f these three Georgian scripts may be classified as:'**

Ecclesiastical
( xuc'uri)

Secular
{mxedruli)

1. ASOMTAVRUU (majuscules)
2. NUSXURI (miniscules)

3. MXEDRULI (modem)

When was a specifically Georgian script invented? There may be no question that it was
conceived in conjunction with the Christianization of K 'art'li. A script was required so that the clergy
could employ the local language (and being able to read ecclesiastical texts, especially the Bible and the
works o f the Church Fathers) and propagate the faith among the K 'art'velian community. Asomt'avruli.
the earliest form of the Georgian script, was invented perhaps as early as the first-half of the fifth century
AD. This we know for Georgian inscriptions have been positively dated from that century at the Bolnisi
Sioni cathedral (494 AD), and apparently even earlier in that century at Urbnisi Sioni (near Gori) and in
Jerusalem.4^ If N. Shoshiashvili has dated the earliest Urbnisi Sioni inscriptions correctly (first-half of
the fifth century) then his assertion that the Georgian script was developed as early as the late fourth
century is tenable .43
Could a different but specifically (now-lost) Georgian script have been introduced during the
reign o f P'arnavaz? W.E.D. Allen, drawing upon the work of Xaxanashvili, suggested that the Zend (i.e..
Avestan) script, employed tty the Persians until their adoption o f the Pahlavi script after the invasion of
Alexander, may have been adopted ity P'arnavaz .4 4 Allen rightly noted that many o f the peoples with

4 *The earliest historical sources (seventh/eighth century), therefore, must have been composed in xuc 'uri.
But most o f our texts have come down to us in mxedruli MSS, owing to their relatively late date (i.e., well
after the invention o f mxedruli). Three MSS o f K'C' are in nusxuri: QTP. It is not known whether any of
these MSS, especially the pre-Vaxtangiseuli Q variant, is derived directly from a nusxuri original; rather,
a scribe could have converted a mxedruli text to nusxuri. In any case, it should be emphasized that not all
ecclesiastical texts and inscriptions were composed in xuc'uri. Likewise, some royal documents
especially ones which dealt with the ecclesiastical affairs were written in xuc 'uri (either asomt 'avruli or

nusxuri).
43 N. Shoshiashvili, Aghmosavlet' da samxret'sak'art'velo

(V-Xss.) (1980), with Rus. sum., pp. 349-355:


Urbnisi Sioni (#1, pp. 62-63), Bolnisi Sioni (#2, pp. 64-66), and Rus. sum., p. 349. On the early Georgian
inscriptions in Jerusalem see: G. Ceret'eli, Udzvelesi k'art'uli carcerebipalestinidan (1960), with Eng.
"The Most Ancient Georgian Inscriptions from Palestine," pp. 75-94; see also idem.. "The Most Ancient
Georgian Inscriptions in Palestine, BK 36-37 (1961), pp. 111-130.
4 3 Shoshiashvili, Aghmosavlet' da samxret ' sak'art
4 4 Allen,

veto. Rus. sum., p. 349.

History o f the Georgian People, pp. 309-311; and Xaxanashvili, Ocherki po istorii gruzinskoi

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239

whom the K 'art'velians entertained close relations "were becoming accustomed to alphabetical systems of
writing" including the Persians, Greeks, and S yrians.^ Allen and Xaxanashvili demonstrated that of the
thirty-five characters o f the Zend alphabet, no fewer than twenty-five o f them are identifiable in the

mxedruli script of the K'art'velians. In the end, Allen concluded that had Zend been employed by the
K'art'velians, it would have been introduced around the time o f P'arnavaz. Yet no specimens of the Zend
alphabet have been detected in Georgia, nor do we possess any direct reference to it in medieval Georgian
literature.
We do, however, possess ample evidence for the use o f two scripts in ancient K 'art'li: Greek and
a local variant of Aramaic termed "Armazic.

G. Ceret'eli, the foremost researcher on the subject,

suggested that the Armazic-Aramaic script may indeed have influenced the creation of the Georgian
alphabet, but that at the time of Christianization Greek (especially for the order of characters) was the
preferred m o d e l.^ Mo text written in the Georgian language, but transposed in these scripts, has been
found.
One of the most famous ancient Georgian monuments is the so-called "Armazi Bilingual. a
stone inscribed in both Greek and Armazic. The second-century AD bilingual inscription, as translated
by B. Metzger, reads:

slovesnosti, vol. 2 (1897), pp. 14 et sqq.


Allen, History o f the Georgian People, p. 309.
^^There has been considerable interest in the Armazic (local Aramaic) script even among Western
specialists. See: G. Ceret'eli, A Bilingual Inscription from Armazi near Mtskheta in Georgia (1941);
idem.. "Armazskoe pis'mo i problema proiskhozhdeniia gruzinskogo alfavita," Epigrafika Vostoka 2
(1948), pp. 90-101 and 3 (1949). pp. 59-71; K. Ceret'eli, Shenishvnebi armazis bilingvis aramuli tek'stze
= Zamechaniia k arameiskomu tekstu armazskoi bilingvy (1992); idem., "Armazian Script." unpub. paper
from the Early Christianity and Georgia Symposium (T b ilisi, Oct. 1991). Lb.p. in vol. 1 o f IbericaCaucasica; idem., "Aramaic Amulet from Mtskheta." unpub. typescript (ca. 1995) (the 29-line inscription
of this protection amulet mentions its owner Abraham, son o f Sarah); R.N. Frye, "Pahlevi Heterographv in
Ancient Georgia?," in G.C. Miles, ed.. Archaeological Orientalia in Memoriam Ernst Herzfeld (1952),
pp. 89-101 + plate XX; B.M. Metzger. "A Greek and Aramaic Inscription Discovered at Armazi in
Georgia." JN E S 15/1 (Jan. 1956), pp. 18-26; and H.W. Bailey, "Caucasica, JRAS (1943), pp. 1-5.
^ G . Ceret'eli, "Armazskoe pis'mo i problema proiskhozhdeniia gruzinskogo alfavita." Epigrafika
Vostoka 2 (1948), pp. 90-101 and 3 (1949). pp. 59-71. A chart comparing the Hebrew, Armazic variants,
Farsi, and Pahlavi scripts is provided in part 1, p. 100. Rayfield, The Literature o f Georgia, p. 1, notes
that while both the Georgian and Arm. alphabets are generally ordered after the Gk., Georgian follows the
Classical Gk. order (with digamma in sixth position) and Arm. follows that o f Christian Gk. (digamma in
thirtieth position). See also Gamqrelidze, Ceris anbanuri sistema da dzveli k'art'uli damcerloba:
anbanuri ceris tipologia da carmomavloba. The characters o f the oldest script, asomt'avruli, display a
number o f similarities with their Gk. counterparts: e.g., d (both have an enclosed area); e (Georgian
resembles 17); /; p 'ph. O ther similiarities may be detected in the nusxuri script: e.g., z\ and o (Georgian
inverts o>).

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240

{Greek}
Serapitis, daughter o f Zeuachos the younger, pitiax, wife o f the son o f pitiax Publicius
Agrippa, Iodmangan, he who has gained many victories as steward o f the great king of
the Iberians, Xephamugos [ZH$APNOYTOE| she died too young, [being] twentyone years [of age], she who had inimitable beauty'.

{Armazic-Aratruric}
I am Serapit, daughter o f Zewah the younger, bitahsh o f P'arsm an the king, wife o f
Yodmangan both victorious and having wrought many victories [as] chief o f the
court o f Hsepharnug the king son o f Agrippa, chief o f the court o f P'arsman the king.
Woe, woe [for her] who did not reach full age, incomplete, and so good and beautiful
that no one was like her in goodness - she died in [her] twenty-first year .49

There are three pre-Christian K 'art'velian kings named P'arsman, i.e., P'arsm an I (1-58 AD).
P'arsm an II K'ueli ("the Valiant," 116-132), and P'arsm an m (135-185).^ But a king named
Hsephamug/Xepharnugos (which perhaps would be rendered in Georgian as K 'sep'am ugi) is not
mentioned in any extant Georgian text. It would seem at first glance that P'arsm an and
Hsephamug/Xephamugos are to be identified as two separate individuals, but it should be noted that the
latter is probably built upon the Georgian root p 'ar- (here rendered -pham-), which is the Persian /amah.
Therefore, both P'arsm an and HsephamugPLephamagos are based upon the same Persian root Is it
possible that Hsephamug/Xephamugos was another name, o r nickname, for the aforementioned (or even
another) king named P'arsm an? If this is the case, then it would seem that Hsephamug/Xephamugos
would refer to P'arsm an II (116-132) while the inscription's P'arsm an would refer to P'arsman m (135185). Significantly, the names mentioned in the inscription are not based upon Greek (except for
"Publicius Agrippa," although "Publicius" is omitted from the Armazic text), but are local ones based
upon Persian and Aramaic. Moreover, the Armazic-Aramaic inscription is given in first person, while the

48The Greek here reads EHPAHEmE ZHOYAXOY TOY NEQTEPONIHTIAZOY 0YTATHP. I


concur with Metzger's translation o f "Zeuachos the younger* and cannot accept Tsereteli's "Zeuachos, the
junior pitiax' for no such title is anywhere attested in Caucasian texts.
4 9 Metzger, "A Greek and Aramaic Inscription Discovered a t Armazi in Georgia," pp. 20-21; cf. the trans.

o f Frye, "Pahlevi Heterography in Ancient Georgia?," p. 91. A line by line analysis and reinterpretation
o f these inscriptions was made by K. Ceret'eli, Shenishvnebi armazis bilingvis aramuli tek'stze. Ceret'eli
(pp. 89-93) suggests that the last reference to P'arsman, rendered as PRNWSh in Armazic, should actually
be read as "P'arnavaz" (having equated the terminating zsh. o f the Armazic with the Georgian -z); thus,
"... chief o f the court o f P'arsm an the king, who vanquished the powerful, as P'arnavaz had not managed
to do." I f this rereading is correct, then this inscription would seem to testify to the existence o f a king
P'arnavaz, perhaps the P'arnavaz o f The Life o f the Kings.

Bilingual as P'arsman I, also known as Aderki (1-58


AD). See ToumanofF, "Chronology of the Early Kings o f Iberia," pp. 11-12.
5 0 Toumanof identifies the P'arsm an o f the Armazi

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241

Greek inscription, which is not exactly identical to the Armazic, is n o t I believe that this is evidence that
Aramaic was more common than Greek among these particular K 'art'velian elites in M c'xeta. if not
others. Finally, the title pitiax (i.e., IIITIAEOE, the Latin vitaxa) is not Greek but Persian, denotes a high
office, perhaps to be associated with the defense o f the frontier as it came to be known in Persia and
Armenia.^ * The Georgian equivalent pitiaxshi (3o<*>ooib3o; var. patiaxshi) is rather common in early
Georgian texts. The Armenian form bdeashx (pibuglu) is employed in contemporary Armenian so u rc es.^
A few ancient Greek-only inscriptions have been excavated in the region o f K 'artI i .^ Perhaps
the most fascinating o f them is the now-damaged first-century monumental inscription mentioning the
Roman emperors Vespasian (AD 69-79), Titus (79-81), and Domitian (81-96). The inscription
commemorated the fortification o f Armazi-M c'xet'a fay Vespasian in the year 75.^* The "Iberian"
(K'art'velian) monarchs specified in it may be identified as MI6 PIAATHE = M ihrdat I (58-106 AD).
$APAEMANO = A derki-P'arsm an (1-58), and IAMAEAEIIOE = Amazasp I (106-116).^ Each o f
these rulers was styled as BAEIAEYE (basileus), or king. Furthermore, they were called
#IAOKAIAPO and #IAOPOMAIOE, that is, friend ofcaesar and friend o f the Romans respectively.
K'art'velian interaction w ith the Romans had existed from an early time, but intensified only with
Pompeys Caucasian campaign and the defeat o f King Artog (78-63 BC) in 65 BC. This episode, as well
as others involving the Romans, like the visit to Rome o f P'arsman HI (135-185) under Antoninus Pius
ca. 141-144,^ curiously were left unrecorded in Georgian historical literature. This circumstance lends

Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 154-192 et sqq (who notes, p. 156, that "a clear distinction should be made
between the provenance o f the terms used to designate it and the provenance of the office itself);
Metzger, "A Greek and Aramaic Inscription Discovered at Armazi in Georgia." pp. 21-22; and GarsoTan
in The Epic Histories, s.v. "Bdeashx," pp. 516-517. Forerunners o f pitiaxshi-s, at least in the Persian
sense, may be traced back to the bevarapaitish-s (toparchs) of the Achaemenids.
^GarsoTan in The Epic Histories, technical terms, s.v. "bdeashx," pp. 516-517; and M.-L. Chaumont.
"Armenia and Iran." in E lran, vol. 2 (1987), p. 437.
JJLatin inscriptions are rare for any region o f modern Georgia. For two fragments from the west, see
M.P. Speidel and T.T. Todua, "Three Inscriptions from Pityus on the Caucasus Frontier," SJ 44 (1988).
pp. 56-58.
^ G . Ceret'eli, M c'xet'is berdznuli carcera vespasianesxanisa (1958), p. 9.
^Toum anoff, "Chronology o f the Early Kings o f Iberia," pp. 11-16.
56Cassius Dio, LXDC15.3, pp. 470-471, gives the only account o f a K'art'velian monarch being received
at Rome:
When Pharasamanes the Iberian came to Rome with his wife, [Antoninus] increased his
domain, allowed him to offer sacrifice on the Capitol, set up an equestrian statue in the
temple o f Bel Iona, and viewed an exercise in arms in which this chieftain, his son, and
the other prom inent Iberians took part.

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242

credence to the supposition that many o f the episodes o f The Ufe o f the Kings were interpolated later and
not based upon ancient materials. In any event, from the perspective o f medieval Georgian historical
writing, K 'art'velian contacts with the Romans usually remained secondary to those with Persia, no
m atter what the Roman sources might have us believe .5 7 But the influence o f the Roman/Byzantine
empire was never entirely absent in early K 'art' Ii. Indeed Greek civilization penetrated K 'art' li largely
from the south, i.e from the Seleucids, Arsacids, and then Christians.
The Armazi Bilingual conclusively shows that the K 'art'velians, well before the official adoption
o f Christianity in the first-half o f the fourth century, were familiar with alphabetic writing, and in more
than one form. This is much like the ca. 800 local tradition that several languages were spoken in ancient
K 'art'li. The Aramaic portion o f the inscription is more detailed and, unlike the Greek, is rendered in
first-person. This, I should think, demonstrates that the more fam iliar script for the K'art'velians named
in it (and perhaps other K 'art'velian Elites as well) was Aramaic-Armazic. It should be said, however,
that both Aramaic and Greek inscriptions which have been unearthed in K 'art'li, like all pre-Christian
inscriptions found there, are rare, and any parallel argument on the basis o f frequency cannot be seriously
entertained. H ad the K 'art'velians possessed their own script we m ight have expected it on a monument
like the Armazi Bilingual. More importantly, no specimens of a pre-Christian Georgian alphabet have
surfaced.5** Therefore, the K 'art'velian elite, until the fashioning o f a specifically Georgian script after
the Christianization o f the K 'art'velian monarchy, utilized other alphabets in their corresponding
languages, particularly Aramaic-Armazic and Greek. Both script an d language are thus further
indications o f the heterogeneous character of K 'art'velian society an d culture recalled in pre-Bagratid
historical writing. It should also be noted that in neighboring Armenia the Arsacid kings, prior to the
invention o f the Armenian script, cut inscriptions in Aramaic.5^ Although no Aramaic inscriptions cut
specifically in the name o f K 'art'velian rulers have been discovered, it seems quite likely that Aramaic
was the written language o f the Caucasian elite in the early part o f the common era .**0

The context o f this visit is discussed bv Braund, "Hadrian and Pharasmanes." Klio 73/1 (1991), pp. 208219.

57

See the overview o f E. Dabrowa, "Roman Policy in Transcaucasia from Pompey to Domitian," in
French and Lightfoot. eds.. The Eastern Frontier o f the Roman Empire (1989), pp. 67-76.
58That is to say, no extant Georgian literary evidence predates Christianization.
5 9 Russell, "Origins and Invention o f the Armenian Script," pp. 319-320. Two Greek stone inscriptions
are attested for T rd a t; see SEG, vol. 20 (1964), ##110-111, p. 34.

^ F o r the translation o f the brief Armazic "monolingual" inscription (first century AD), see Braund,
Georgia in Antiquity, p. 214.

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243

The ca. 800 Life o f the Kings fashions its first K 'art'velian king as being uniquely worthy o f that
esteemed status. In order to depict that king as archetypal, and as specifically K'art'velian, it provides
fabulous attributes for him, essentially encapsulating the prominent features of the later K 'art'velian
rulership and his community w ithin his reign. That is to say, P'arnavaz is made to be the originator not
only K 'art'velian realm, but a kingdom which was well-organized and unified. Thus, the gradual
development o f royal institutions and social structure, as well as the assumed periodic weakness o f the
monarchy, were obscured. P'am avaz's very name (as applied to the first king) is almost certainly a
figment o f the author's imagination, although it must be admitted that the dynastic tag "P'araavaziani" is
known to fifth-century Armenian sources. According to our author, the first K 'art'velian king, as the
founder o f local royal authority, should logically be depicted as the creator of the K'art'velian
administrative machine. Therefore, P'arnavaz is said to have instituted a set o f military governors
( erist'avi-s) to adm inister the realm and effected a military reorganization. Part and parcel o f this
administrative project was the establishment o f Georgian as the language of government. Moreover, our
author incorrectly assumed that the Georgian script should be attributed to P'arnavaz, for without one how
could such an allegedly powerful monarch have adequately governed his extensive realm? But, as we
have seen, although the K 'art'velians were familiar with various scripts in the Hellenistic period, a
specifically Georgian script was created only at the impulse o f the needs o f Christian missionaries and
clerics. Later (Bagratid-era) writer-clerics, like Ioane Zosime and Arsen Iqalt'oeli. apparently refused to
accept the tradition that P'arnavaz, a "heathen" king, had fashioned the Georgian script, and discarded
these claims o f The Life o f the Kings.

II. THE SECULAR IMAGE OF PRE-CHRISTIAN K'ART VELIAN KINGSHIP

We should now consider the characteristics o f pre-Christian K'art'velian kingship as conceived


by the author o f The Life o f the Kings. As we have seen, he depicts P'arnavaz as the prototypical first
king o f the K 'art'velians, and his successors are similarly described. But unlike P'arnavaz, the names and
reigns o f the successive P'am avaziani-s are verified in foreign, especially Classical texts. Thus, they were
historical figures and not the complete figment o f some later author's imagination (as may have been the
case with P'arnavaz). The details provided in the Georgian historical tradition, consigned to paper only
ca. 800 but perhaps tempered by oral history, are not corroborated in Graceo-Roman literature. The fact
that the early kings o f K 'art'li are all described in much the same terms as one another leads us to the
prospect that the descriptions o f their reigns were invented at a considerably later time. Nearly six
hundred years o f kingship, from the time of P'arnavaz, are considered here, yet K 'artvelian royal
authority over this extended period is presented as a rather static, conservative, institution.

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244

Intitulatio

As a consequence o f the overthrow and murder o f Azon, P'arnavaz is said to have assumed the
title of mep'e, or king, the most obvious sign of distinguishing his status from other K'art'velians :6 1

At that time P'arnavaz was no longer afraid o f any o f his enemies and he became mep 'e
over all K 'a rt'li and Egurisi...6^

The term mep'e (8 3 3 3 ), "monarch" or "king ,"63 is not allochthonous. but is related to the Georgian word

up 'ali (3 3 *0

0 ), or "lord." Occasionally the form meup 'e (8 3 ^)3 3 ) is employed.6** although this is an

emphatic usage (often referring to Jesus Christ). All of the monarchs o f K 'a rt'li , 6 6 and later Georgia.

6 *On the title o f mep'e and royal authority among the K'art'velians, see the brief studies o f Javaxishvili,
Sak'art'velo mep'e da misi up'lebis istoria (1905), and Xaxanashvili, "K 'art'velt'a m ep'et'a tituli.
kurt'xeva da regaliebi," Moambe i n (1895), pp. 75-88.

^ T h e Life o f the Kings, p. 24g_^: "8i9o6 g ^ B ^ h g 3 o 8 o^86i jjcn3 3 E?CD6 3<*)3(!xnj>


coi 8 3 3 3 0 ^ 8 6 * aci 3 3 C3 b i JitB m cjbi tg i s a g f ib i tyjgA..." Egurisi almost certainly represents
Egrisi, the western domains that were only later incorporated into a unified Georgia. Thomson, in his
trans. ofArm. Adapt. K 'C \ p. 34, footnote 16, remarks that "Eguri is a river south o f the Egrisi" (after
Vaxushti).
63Georgian lacks a formal grammatical gender and therefore the rendition o f mep e as "king" is
imprecise. Mep 'e actually denotes the ruling monarch, be it a man or woman, lliis point is demonstrated
later with the reign o f T a m a r (1184-1213), the first woman to rule over K 'art'li/G eorgia. In the medieval
sources she is often referred to as both mep'e ("ruling monarch") and dedop'ali ("queen," usually
employed for the spouse o f a king). See S.-S. Orbeliani, vol. 1, p. 467.
^ S e e also Allen, History o f the Georgian People, p. 34, footnote 1, who dissects the designation meup'e:
me = designates a noun o f agent: up'ali = "lord" > up'lilup'Ieba = "the right [or prerogative)"; therefore.
meup 'e= "the holder o f the rig h t the highest." See also Ocherki istorii Gruzii. vol. 2, pp. 99-100. Mart.
Evstat 'i, p. 45, employs the phrase k 'ristesa meup 'esa which denotes "Christ the King." The eleventhcentury Giorgi Meire in his Life o f Giorgi Mt'acmideli, pp. 152jq, 153
et sqq, calls the Patriarch of
Antioch meup'e.
66 With the exception o f the alleged dyarchy reported in The Life o f the Kings sad Royal List I.
According to these two sources, following the reign of Aderiri (1-58 AD), K 'art'velian kingship was
divided by his successors between the twin-cities of Armazi and M c'xet'a; this situation was believed to
have existed down to Adami (132-135), who is known as the sole king o f the K 'art'velians. The Life o f
the Kings (along with its medieval Armenian adaptation) reports five isochronal (!) pairs o f kings
(Bartom/K'art'am, P'arsman/Kaos, Azork/Armazeli, Amazasp/Derok, and P'arsm an k ue/z/Mirdat) while
Royal List I gives six (Bratm an/K'arram , P'arsman/Kaoz, Arsok/Armazaer. Amazasp/Deruk, P'arsman
'ue///P'arsman avaz, and Rok/Mirdat). The fact that both sources claim that each dyarchal pair ruled
isochronally betrays the corruption, or perhaps the complete fabrication, o f this memory. For his part,
ToumanofF dismissed the tradition o f the dyarchy on much these same grounds, and suggested the
following "real" kings for the period o f the alleged rule of dual kings in K 'a rt'li: Mihrdat (58-106),
Amazasp (106-116), and P'arsm an k'ueli (116-132). Toumanoff "Caucasia and Byzantine Studies,"

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245

apparently took this title, both before and after Christianization down to the Russian occupation o f the
Georgian polities in the nineteenth century.** The customary style o f intitulatio. or royal titulature. in the
pre-Bagratid period was reportedly in the form k'art velt'a mep'e

8 3 3 3 ). that is "king of

the K 'artvelians," and not king ofK'art'li (i.e., a monarch o f a community rather than o f a territory, cf.
the Carolingian Rex Francorum).
Medieval Georgian historiography employs the term mep 'e indiscriminately for a wide range of
rulers other than the kings o f K 'art' Ii. Thus Nimrod, Nebuchadnezzar, and Alexander, Roman and
Byzantine emperors (imperator, augustus, caesar, and BAEIAEYE);*^ shahanshahs (i.e., "Shah of
shahs" = King o f Kings, o r the Great King) o f the Sasanids; Jesus Christ and God (but not Muhammad):
Khazar/Turidc qaghans;

chieftains o f the Ovsi-s (Alans); kings (t'agawor, pmquinp) and princes

(ishxan, tefurAi) o f the Armenians; and princes and grand-princes ( kniaz', k h jo l ) and tsars (naps) o f the
Rus/Russians; all of these were afforded the title of mep'e. The following table demonstrates the
medieval Georgian equation o f mep'e as "monarch."

Selected Mep 'e s According to C'xorebav k'art 'velt 'a mep 'et a

Editio citato

Figure

Title

p. 6
p .7
pp. 11-12
p. 14
p. 15
p. 17
p. 23
p. 24
p. 24
p. 28

Nebrot' i/Nimrod
Haos/Hayk

The first mep 'e o f all the Earth


Mep'e [of the Targamosiani-s]
M ep'e o f the Khazars
Mep 'e o f the Persians
Mep'e
Mep 'e o f all the Earth
Mep'e of Syria (Seleucids)
Mep'e o f the Ovsi-s (Alans)
Mep'e o f the K'art'velians
Mep 'e o f the Armenians

K'ekapos
Nebuchadnezzar
Alexander
Antiochos

P'arnavaz
Arshak

Traditio 12 (1956), p. 415, footnote 30. remarks that the reported dyarchy is usually regarded as a
projection to a later period o f the division o f K 'a rt'li between Persia and Rome in the first century.
(Moreover, Toumanoff convincingly demonstrated that Royal List I was dependent upon The Life o f the
Kings [or at least upon a common source]).
^ W ith the exception of the principate (ca. 580 through the Bagratid reestablishment o f royal authority in
the ninth century); see ch. 6 .
*^Molitor, Altgeorgisches Glossar zu Ausgewdhlten Bibeltexten (1952), p. 102, who points out that the
Biblical use o f mep e often corresponds to BAEIAEYE and APXQN.
*^In the anonymous eleventh-century Chron. K'art'li, pp. 249-250, the ruler o f the Khazars is called both
king-qaghan (mep'esa xakans xazart'a) and ju st qaghan (xakani).

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246

p. 45
p. 45
p. 59
p. 6 8
p. 69
p. 73 (.Life o f Nino)
throughout Life o f Nino
p. 95 {Life o f Nino)

p. I l l {Life o f Nino)

Bazuk and Abazuk

Constantine

Dual mep e-s o f the Ovsi-s


Mep e o f the Leki-s
Azhghalaniani mep e-s
Mep 'e o f the Goths
Mep e o f the Greeks69
Mep e of the B ran ji-s^
Mep 'e of the Romans
Mep 'e of the Jews
Mep'e o f H eaven^

Selected Mep e-s In Othe r Early Georgian Sources

Editio citato
C'urtaveli. Mart. Shush.

Mep'e in this source invariably

Father o f Azoy & Azoy


T rdat
David
Christ

Mep'e of the Heathens


Mep e of the North (Khazars)
Mep e of the Io n ian s^
Mep'e o f A iyan-K'art'li
Mep'e of Armenia
Mep'e -Prophet o f Israel
Christ the mep e ^
Mep'e-s o f [northern] Caucasia
Mep 'e of Persia = King of all
kings; King Vaxtang = mep'e

Mep e of Israel: mep 'e of

refers to the Persians

Mart, ffabo, p. 58
Mart. Habo, p. 59
Mart. Habo, p. 59
Prim. Hist., pp. 81-2
Conv. K'art'li, p. 84
Mart. Evstat'i, p. 38
Mart. Evstat'i, p. 45
Life ofVaxtang, p. 151
Life ofVaxtang, p. 158

o f the Ten Kings

Life ofVaxtang, p. 166

Christendom

9"King of the Greeks," i.e., mep'e berdzent'a, refers to the Byzantine emperor. Byzantium was
conceived by the Georgians as "Greece;" thus in the Georgian mind Greece included not only classical
Greece but also Anatolia extending eastwards into Greater Armenia.
^The Branji-s have not been positively identified, although is it generally agreed that the desigantion is
connected with the Franks (i.e., P rangis). The EPRbd Vaxtangiseuli variants o f The Life o f Nino in C'x.
k'art'. mep'et'a, p. 73, footnote 1, have the explanatory insertion "6 6 ^ 6 5 5 6 0 3 6 6 6 3 6 0 sdmsB, or "The
Branji-s are the P'rangi-s [i.e.. Franks]." But S. Eremian suggested that at least in the Armenian history o f
Matthew of Edessa the term "P'rang" m ight be a corruption o f "Vrang" and might therefore denote
"Varangian." Eremian as cited in P.B. Golden, "Cumanica I: The Qipchaqs in Georgia," AEMA 4 (1984).
p. 73, footnote 90.
71

1 I.e

meup 'esa c'at'asa, l i t "the Lord o f the Sky."

72

I.e., the Byzantine emperor. This is the only reference to the Ionian king known to me in medieval
Georgian historical and hagiographical literature.
79

I.e., k ristesa meup'ese.

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247
Life ofVaxtang, p. 167

Mep e o f Heaven and mep e-s of


Earth

Life ofVaxtang, p. 169


etsqq
Life ofVaxtang, pp. 172 &
179
Life ofVaxtang, p. 173 Ipajaji
Life ofVaxtang, p. 174 Borzo
Life ofVaxtang, p. 188
Life ofVaxtang, p. 188
Ps.-Juansher, pp. 217, 220

M ep 'e-caesaP *
Mep'e o f Darubandi (Derbend)
Mep e o f the Leki-s
Mep 'e o f th e Movakani-s
Mep e o f the Hindo-s (?Indians)
Mep e o f the Sindi-s
Mep e o f the Turks

We should recall that although Haos/Hayk is named as king in The Life o f the Kings, K 'art'los was not
However, that text allocates two titles denoting rulership to the immediate descendants o f K 'art'los: up'ali
O3 3 A2 3 0 , "lord") and ganmge (&A6 8 3 3 , "ruler").75 Even in the heyday o f the medieval Georgian
kingdom under Davit' II and T a m a r, the term mep'e is not treated as the prerogative o f the K'art'velian
monarch, although by that time special attributives modifying mep'e magnified the official royal
K'art'velian titulature (see chapter seven).
According to The Life o f the Kings, once Azon had been vanquished, P'arnavaz immediately
assumed the mantle o f kingship. P'arnavaz was aided in his elevation as king by the fact that:

... he was by descent through his father a K 'art'velian,7^ from the clan of Up'los, son of
M c'xet'os, and through his mother a Persian o f the Aspani clan [i.e from ?Isfahan).
He was the nephew of Samari, who formerly had been the mamasaxlisi [lit., "father of
the house"] of M c'xet'a [when] Alexander had appeared in K 'a rtli .7 7

As demonstrated by Toumanoff, medieval Georgian historians at times referred generically to their


overlords. Thus "Antiochos king o f the Syrians" refers to Seleucid rulers regardless o f their individual
names (although seven o f the Seleucid rulers bore that name). In The Life ofVaxtang "caesar" is the
generic rendering o f the Byzantine emperor.
7C

/J M c'xet'os is styled as ganmge a n d up'ali over his brothers {The Life o f the Kings, p. 9 ^ : "a 363
oyoi ^ 6 8 ^ 3 a jsa23 S*05 caoobo>A33 dSAOJA tyjgi."). In the civil war that ensued upon the death
of M c'xet'os, the brothers o f Up'los are said to have refused to acknowledge him as up'ali {ibid., p. 10).
For later conceptions ganmge and related terms, see Charachidz, Introduction a Iitude de la Jeodalite
georgienne, pp. 121-124.
76The odd form k 'art'leli appears only in M; this passage is absent from the pre-Vaxtangiseuli AQ
redactions. Vaxtangiseuli variants unanimously give the correct form k'art'veli preferred by
Qauxch'ishvili.
77

The Life o f the Kings, p. 2 0 18 _2 o : " 0 an 9a90C5AJS J*(6o)C5 aC5 0 , 6 *0 )3 ^ 3 0 QSepoibo,


d o b i , a 3325 *C2 b 3 A(6b o Ab3 A63c p o . oa 0301 0 5 0 d S o b ^ j c j o bA dA thobo,

3(jb 3<oibob

(60183230 3cib c3 3 A b A

3Ab

A g 3 3 jb A 6 { o 6 3 b b A 836300323

3A3AbAb23o b o

3 0 1 3 0 2 5 0 3 0 1 ."

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248

This passage was essential in fashioning the image o f the establishment o f the local monarchy, for it
alleged that P'arnavaz. the first king o f K 'art'li, was:

(1) a native K 'art'velian and his descent could be traced to K 'art'los through Up'los and
M c'xet'os (thus he was a K'art'losiani);
(2) related, by blood, to the Persians, which is indicative o f the tremendous Persian
social and political influence throughout Caucasia at the time (thus he was a
Nebrot'iani);
(3) related to the previous local rulers o f M c'xet'a. P'am avaz's uncle had been the
mamasaxlisi ofM c'xet'a, that ruler o f the inhabitants o f M c'xet'a before native
royal authority was established.

The Life o f the Kings offers very little information on the position/title o f mamasaxlisi
(0 i 9 ib ib c 5 ol3O). "father of the house" (cf. Arm. tanuter, major-domo). The term mamasaxlisi is a
compound consisting o f mama ("father") and the extended genitive form o f saxli ("house"). In this early
period, the mamasaxlisi was remembered to have served as the mayor ofM c'xet'a. This "memory" has
conditioned modern inquiry, and whatever is now asserted about the office/title is squarely based upon
speculation and/or the generic application of sociological and anthropological n o rm s.^ In any event, it
seems to have been an ancient institution/title in Caucasia, and the author o f The Life o f the Kings was
probably right to project its existence to antiquity. It should be emphasized that K 'art' los and his
immediate progeny were not styled as mamasaxlisi-s, so this institution/title was imagined to have arisen
only after K 'art'los. Moreover, up until P'arnavaz the K 'art'losiani-s, as noted, were not called mep'e-s.
During the civil w ar that ensued upon the elevation o f Up'los, son o f M c'xet'os:

...there was no [brother] more distinguished and renowned [than his siblings], but each
one in his place was considered the t'avadi [lit "head"]. But whoever [sat] in M c'xet'a
was considered the [de facto] t'avadi over all the others. And he neither took the name
o f mep e, nor erist 'avi. but he was called mamasaxlisi, and he was the peacemaker and
the judge of the other K'art'losiani-s, for the city o fM c'x et'a became greater than all
[the other cities], and [thus] it was called the Mother-City ^ 9 [deda-k'alak'i].*

^ O n the mamasaxlisi, see Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 91 (footnote 128) and 114-115 (and footnote 185. all
for its relationship to the Armenian tanuter [ifUilntiitji]). He notes (p. 91, footnote 128) that "As with its
Armenian equivalent [i.e., tanuter]... the use o f the term in historical times was somewhat archaistic and,
whatever may have been its pre-historic, tribal uses, o f which we have no record, decidedly princely." A
mamasaxlisi named Grigoli is attested in Mart. Evstat'i, p. 34). The title, at least later in the Christian
period, came to refer to a Father Superior of a monastery.
^ 9 Today, T b ilisi as the capital city is called deda-k'alak'i. See also Garsofan in The Epic Histories, s.v.
"M ayrak'aghak'," p. 545. Mayrak'aghak', i.e., "Mother-City," was used in the fifth-century The Epic

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249

So the ca. 800 author o f The Life o f the Kings places the origin o f the office/title of mamasaxlisi in the
generations immediately following K 'art'los. In addition, from its alleged inception, he associates the

mamasaxlisi with M c'xet'a. which subsequently emerged as the royal city. No list of ancient
mamasaxlisi-s has come down to us.
A Seleucid connection with the rise o f K 'art'velian royal authority is hinted in The Life o f the

Kings. In the course o f his battle with Azon, P'arnavaz initiated contact with those Near Eastern
successors of Alexander, and the Seleucid king is said to have provided aid and a crown Igwrgwni.
5 3 6 3 3 6 0 ), a universal symbol of kingship .81 It would seem, then, that

The Life o f the Kings has

incorporated some long-standing memory that the monarchy was established under Seleucid
sponsorship.8^ Seleucid suzerainty is insinuated for the reigns o f P'arnavaz. Saurmag. and Mirvan I. the
alleged first three kings o f K 'art'li. Moreover, the overthrow o f the Seleucids by the Arsacids in 141 BC
is obliquely reported.8-* But The Life o f the Kings does not explicitly state that the Seleucids were solely
responsible for the establishment o f K 'art'velian royal authority, this would have admitted a foreign
connection which the text attempts to eliminate, or at least diminish. It is entirely possible that the
K 'art'velian monarchy was propped up by the Selecuids. The memory of this episode was later confused
and transformed, but the era in which it had occurred was not forgotten.
We possess only sketchy indications of K 'art'velian insignia in the pre-Bagratid period, but
neither describes pre-Christian kings. In The Life o f Nino, composed in its extant form in the Bagratid
era, the transfer o f royal authority from Mihran/Mirian (after his Christianization) to his son B ak'ar is
described in the following terms:

Histories only for Caesarea in Cappadocia. apparently refering to that city 's ecclesiastical status (and upon
which the Armenian Church was dependent at the time). Garsoian says that The Epic Histories never
applies the term to Artashat, the "secular capital of Armenia; but later mayrak 'aghak' is employed for the
capital city Dwin.
8 7he Life

o f the Kings, p. 11

Cf. Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ pp. 13-14 = Thomson trans.. pp. 12-13.

The Life o f the Kings, p. 23. On crowns see C.J. Gadd, Ideas ofDivine Rule in the Ancient East
(1948), pp. 48-49. According to him in the ancient period crowns were not only the symbols o f kingship
but were themselves amulets exuding magical powers. We have no indication in medieval Georgian
historical sources that crowns were considered magical; nor do we have any- descriptions or surviving
examples o f pre-Christian K'art'velian crowns.
8 ^Toumanoff,
8 *77?e Life

Studies, pp. 80-81, thinks this to be the case from the inception of the P'amavaziani-s.

o f the Kings, pp. 25-28.

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250

And the Cross o f the holy Nino was brought, [the Cross] which she possessed [when she
had] first [arrived in K 'art'li], and the king hung the royal crown \gwrgwni samep o] on
this Cross. A nd his son B ak 'ar came forth. A nd [Mirian] made the sign o f the Cross on
his head; an d he took the crown from the Cross and placed it on his sons head .8 4

This event may be based upon the earlier, pre-Bagratid account o f The Ufe ofVaxtang in which Vaxtang
(already the king), during a dream, was offered a crown by the Byzantine emperor, a certain S t Gregory,
and Nino. The crown had been placed on the arms o f the Cross, and in return for i t Vaxtang was asked
for his unconditional support for Christendom and for his ultimate loyalty to the Christian Byzantine
emperor.8^ In the same te x t the Persian shahanshah is said to have granted the Christian Vaxtang a
crown of rubies and 1000 royal garments.8** Ps.-Juansher relates that the crowns o f the first Christian
king Mirian and of Vaxtang were made o f gold and carbuncle.8 7 This early ninth-century author believed
that crowns had been part o f K 'art'velian royal insignia from the time of the Seleucids. But the fact
remains that we know virtually nothing about pre-Christian (and even pre-Bagratid) regalia and
coronation ceremonial. The lack o f artistic evidence from this period only compounds the enigma.
Likewise, we know extremely little about the royal court in the pre-Bagratid, and especially in the
pre-Christian, period. We possess absolutely no references to the holding o f court in pre-Christian times.
The earliest extant reference is in The Ufe ofVaxtang. The Christian Vaxtang, a contemporary o f Zeno,
at the age o f fifteen, is said to have summoned the grandees o f K 'a rt'li to the royal city. The king
mounted a throne elevated above the others. Vaxtangs chief minister, the spaspeti, and the bishops sat
also on thrones, while the erist'avi-s sat on less ornate chairs. The assembly' was also attended by' the eri
(3 6 0 ), a term which designates either the arm y o r the "people." and we are told that "hundreds and
thousands o f them stood there at attention." 8 8
Significant evidence on K'art'velian royal vestments,8^ coronations,^ court ceremonial,
palaces, and the like, dates only from the ninth century and later. Particularly important for that time is

8 4 7%e Ufe

o f Nino in C'x. k'art'. mep'et'a, p. I30jq-I3-

^T h e Ufe ofVaxtang, pp. 167-168.


8<* Ib id pp. 181 and 183.
8 7 Ps.-Juansher, p. 236.

88TAe Ufe ofVaxtang, p. 147.


8^Although Strabo does not address the issue o f royal vestments, he did comment upon the style o f
clothing typical o f the K 'art'velian community: "Now the plain o f the Iberians is inhabited by people who
are rather inclined to farming and to peace, and they dress after both the Armenian and the Median
fashion..." (Strabo, XI.3.3, pp. 218-219). T hat is to say, the K 'art'velians living on the plains dressed in
the Persian maimer, and owing to the Persian context of our sources, we may assume that the kings of the

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251

the non-historiographic evidence o f Bagratid-era frescoes.9 * Texts describing court ceremonial survive
only from the thirteenth century, but these should not be taken as representative o f the pre-Bagratid period
since they mimicked, but did not always accurately reflect, Byzantine paradigms.9^
O ne characteristic o f K 'art'velian kingship of all eras (pre-Bagratid and Bagratid, pre-Christian
and Christian) is emphasized by The Ufe o f the Kings to have been implemented already from the time of
K 'art'los: the principle o f strict dynastic legitimacy' and primogeniture. In tracing the provenance o f the
K 'art'velian community. The U fe o f the Kings exploits Biblical models of paternal genealogies. This
dynastic ideal, which permeated not only the royal but also the noble segments o f society, was much like
that o f the Persians and only indirectly indicative o f the social patterns of Rome/Byzantium . 93
Significantly:

The concept o f the hereditary transmission o f the kingship, as characteristic o f Arsacid


Armenia as it was of the Sasanian realm [as well as in K 'art' liSR], was o f course
entirely foreign to the Roman empire, where, even in the Byzantine period, the popular
mandate to the new ruler, symbolized by acclamations and the raising on a shield, was
an indispensable part of the coronation ceremony. This dichotomy' which serves as a
watershed between the Classical and Oriental concepts o f the transmission o f power
within the State can simultaneously serve as another indication that, in this crucial
domain as well, Armenia [and K 'art'Ii-S R ] was on the Iranian side.9'*

Even for mythical pre-P'arnavaziani K 'art'li we read of a strict sense of dynastic legitimacy with K 'art'los
and his descendants (i.e., the K'art'losiani-s), and this almost certainly reflects its persistence (or at least
existence) in the authors own time, and may o r may not be true for the era in question. Anterior to the

K 'art'velians likewise were clothed in Persian garb.


9 No contemporary representations or specimens of the crowns used by the early kings of K' art' li have
come down to us. However, it is likely that they were similar to the crowns used by their contemporaries
in Armenia. On the latter see H. Ter Ghewondean, Ardashesean Ark'ayatohmi t'akere ewAnonc' Takume
= Die Kronen der Artaxiaten und ihre Entstehung (1989).

91A Eastmond, Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia, unpub. typescript, (to be published 1997).

QJ

E.g., the mid-thirteenth-century Rank and Order o f the Consecration Ceremony ofKings in Georgian
ChartersSPB, pp. 74-79. As I shall argue infra , the consolidation of the Bagratids over the kingship of
K' art' li an d indeed Georgia corresponded with their conscious turn to Byzantine models of rulership,
ceremonial, and art, while distancing themselves almost completely with the pre-Bagratid, i.e., effectively
Iranian, kings o f K 'art'li.
93 As so brilliantly demonstrated by ToumanofF,

Studies.

9 *Garsoian, "Prolegomena to a Study of the Iranian Aspects in Arsacid Armenia, "HA (1976), repr. in her

Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians (1985), p. 24, footnote 45.

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252

establishment o f royal authority in K 'art'li, it was possible for the ruler to crown his successor before his
death, as was the case with M c'xet'os establishing his oldest son U p'los upon the throne ofM c'xet'a; this
appears to have actually been the custom later on.9^ Yet even this was not always an adequate deterrent
to the outbreak o f civil war, as is signified in the legendary account o f Up'los.
The presumed naturalness and durability o f dynasties is a theme common throughout the
component histories of K'art'lis c'xovreba. This notion was most simply expressed in the frequent use o f
dynastic tags in The Ufe o f the Kings. The most prominent o f them are;

T argamosiani-s
K'art'losiani-s
P'am avaziani-s 96
Nebrot'iani-s
Arshakuniani-s

Azhghalaniani-s 9 7
Sasaniani-s 98
X uasrovani-s"

Bak'ariani-s 100
Reviani-s

progeny o f Togarmah ( T argamos)


progeny o f K 'art'los
progeny o f P'arnavaz
progeny o f Nim rod (Nebrof i), often equated
with the Persians
progeny o f Arshak, Le.. the Arsacids.
usually associated with the royal clan of the
Armenians
progeny o f Azhghalan "the Wise," king
o f Persia following the conquest o f Alexander
progeny o f Sasan; Le., the Sasanids
progeny of Khusrau (K'asre, Xuasro), royal
Persian clan, and also for the related K'art'velian
dynasty o f Mihran/Mirian and V axtang i.e.. the
Chosroids
progeny o f Bak'ar, son o f Mihran/Mirian
progeny of Rev, son o f Mihran/Mirian

O ur author is keen to point out those instances in which a ruler could be genetically linked to
multiple dynasties both inside and outside of K 'a rt' li. For example, the same Mirvan (the son of
P'am ajom who usurped the crown from Bartom) m arried the widow o f his opponent. The Life o f the

9^The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 10.


9<The form P'amavazianobay (gj>6 6 6 3 ihoc6 ci&6 Q) is found in an single instance in ibid., p. 32 j j . The
suffix -oba denotes an abstract or collective noun.
9 7 Ibid ., p.

59g, relates that this dynasty was also called the Ardashiroba ("the progeny o f Ardashir").
"Azhghalaniani" seems to be the equivalent o f "Arsacid" but its etymology remains unknown (see also ch.
2).
9SIbid pp. 59g and 623.
" U fe Succ. Mirian, p. 136 jg.
*%or the Bakariani-s and Reviani-s, see ibid., p. 1 3 8 7 .

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253

Kings identified her as an Arshakuniani princess, that is to say, as a member o f the Arsacid royal house.
Their son, the later King Aisbak n (20 BC-1 AD), is described as "an Arshakuniani through his mother,
and through his father a Nebrot'iani and a Pa rn a v a z ia n i." ^ Being related to all o f these dynasties was
worth emphasizing, for it added an even greater sense o f royal legitimacy . 102 The royal activity of
marrying ones daughters to foreign kings and princes will be discussed infra, b u t needless to say. this
often had the deliberate effect o f amending further claims o f legitimacy to the K 'art'velian kings. Thus
the son and successor of P'arnavaz, Saurmag (234-159 BC) gave his daughter to a Nebrot' iani and
him self married a daughter o f the ruler o f Bardavi, the chief settlement o f Caucasian Albania . 103 It
should be emphasized that claims o f dynastic linkage o f the Romans/Byzantines with the early kings o f
K 'a rt'li are rarely mentioned, while connections with the Near Eastern world (especially Persia and
Armenia) are prominently featured. Moreover, dynastic tags are not afforded to the rulers o f
Rome/Byzantium, and this is an accurate reflection o f Roman and Byzantine imperial authority where the
dynasties that were established were relatively short-lived. Thus, dynastic tags, at least as employed in
medieval Georgian historiography, were part and parcel o f the Persian w orld
When a Kart'velian king fell from favor e.g., P'amajom (109-90 BC), who disavowed the
local idols in favor o f Zoroastrianism resulting in the erist'avi-s of K 'a rt'li petitioning the Armenian king
for assistance - the nobility are alleged to have made no demand for a change in dynast}', but just o f the
individual monarch. P'arnajoms erist'avi-s requested that the king o f the Armenians send his son who
had been married to a P'arnavaziani:

... Our king has abandoned the faith o f our fathers: no longer does he serve the gods
who preside over K 'a rt'li; he has introduced the faith o f his father and he has renounced
the faith o f his mother. Now he is no longer worthy to be our king. Send us your son
Arshak, who is related through his wife to the P'arnavaziani clan, our kings. Help [us
with] your [military] might and we shall put P'am ajom to flight, the advocate of the new
faith, and your son Arshak will become our king, and his wife, the scion o f our kings,
will become queen [dedop'ali]}^

^Ibid., p. 3 3 9 . jg. See also Toumanoff, "Chronology o f the Early Kings o f Iberia," p. 11.
109

Consanguinous marriages within the P'arnavaziani-s are not emphasized However, its persistence in
Persia and Armenia would suggest that it was also prevalent in K 'art'li. See Garsolan, "Prolegomena to a
Study o f the Iranian Aspects in Arsacid Armenia," p. 31. It should be noted that intramarriage was
extremely common among the later K'art'velian/Georgian Bagratids.

The Life o f the Kings, p. 27.


1 0 4 77je Life o f the Kings, p. 2910_15. Erist'avi-s, o r regional governors, are said to have been first
established in K 'art'li by P'arnavaz. But already in the reign o f P'am avazs son, Saurmag, the erist'avi-s
were engaged in plots against royal authority, often seeking the aid o f the Persian king. The struggle
between central (royal) and local (erist'av-al) power culminated in the abolition of the K 'art'velian
kingship under the Persians by 580 AD (K 'art'li had come under Persian jurisdiction after the Persian-

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254

P'amajom was eventually murdered and his place was assumed by a son of the Arm enian king. This is an
excellent case o f a ruling king having lost his right to rule through his own sinful behavior. This accords
with the Persian notion, current also in Armenia, that a reigning m onarch was absolved from acting
responsibly and justly, and fam ah (or "divine favor") could abandon him. ^

In any event, subsequently,

during the narrative o f the rebellion against - and ultimate dethronement of - Bartom (63-30 BC) by
Mirvan II (30-20 BC), the son o f P'amajom, the author of The Life o f the Kings emphasizes that "the
K'art'velians were well-disposed towards the P'amavaziani-s; and they did not desire that a clan other
than the P'am avaziani-s should r e i g n . " I t would seem that fam ah, though lost by one P'arnavaziani.
was immediately and necessarily inherited by another.
The autum n o f the P'arnavaziani line was a monumental incident for the author of The Life o f

the Kings. As understood by him, its extinction coincided precisely with the reign o f the first Christian
K 'art'velian king. Mihran/Mirian, the founder o f the Kart'velian Chosroid dynasty . 1 0 7 Mihran/Mirian
is said to be a son o f the Persian shahanshah (though he was actually related to the Mihranids. one o f the
Seven Great Houses o f Persia), and he became king as a result o f his marriage to Abeshura. the daughter
o f the previous K 'art'velian monarch. Asp'agur. The main P'arnavaziani line was understood to have
funneled to this Abeshura, and upon her death the lineage was assumed to have ended. Our anonymous
historian tells us that she was at once P'arnavaziani, Arshakuniani, and Nebrot'iani. and that with her
death "the kingship [mep obay] and queenship [dedop'lobay] o f the P'arnavaziani monarchs came to an
end in K 'a r t 'l i . " ^ Yet following the demise o f his K 'art'velian spouse, the local elites confirmed

Byzantine treaty o f 532). This was the first instance in which wre know that the erist 'avi~s called for the
elimination o f the K 'art'velian monarchy. In any event, the Persians quickly checked the authority o f the
local kings, for Persian viceroys (marzpani-s) were established in T p'ilisi already' in 517/518. On this see
Toumanoff, "Chronology of the Early Kings of Iberia." pp. 29-31.
^ G a rs o ia n ," Prolegomena to a Study of the Iranian Aspects in Arsacid Armenia." pp. 35-39, and esp.
pp. 36-37, footnote 6 6 (for evidence from Persian sources); and idem., "The Locus o f the Death of Kings:
Iranian ArmeniaThe Inverted Image," in R. Hovanissian, The Armenian Image (1981), pp. 42-45. and
esp. p. 45, footnote 62, where she quotes from the Zamyad Yasht, VII.34, and the Shah-nama, cap. 3.
1^77/e Life o f the Kings, p. 32jg. Cf. Arm. Adapt. K'C', pp. 42-43 = Thomson trans., p. 46.
*7Recent work suggests otherwise; see V. Goiladze, P'amavaziant'a saxlisk'ristian mep'et'a
k'ronologia (1990), with Rus. sum., "Khronologiia khristianskikh tsarei roda Farnavazianov," pp. 158160. I am also grateful for my stimulating conversations on this m atter with Dr. D. Ninidze of T b ilisi
University.
1AO

lKJOIhe Life o f the Kings, pp. 62-66, quotation from p. 6 6 2 . 3 : "... coa
bacoa giab 6 3C5 i
3 o 6 i 0aojei&A jg* p a g c u g g y ib a
6 3 3 3 0 )^." Mep 'obay and dedop 'lobay literally
refer to the authority o f the ruling monarch (mep e) and the spouse o f the monarch (dedop 'ali). But only
the designation dedop 'ali is inherently gendered, consisting of the root deda ("mother" or "woman").

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255

Mihran/Mirian as king. Subsequently, he took a second spouse, the "Greek" Nana, who was to anticipate
him in accepting the Christian God. This act, though giving K 'a rt'li a king and consort that were not
native K'art'velians, further strengthened his dynastic and legitimist claims, since he could profess both a
legal and religious connection with the Romans/Byzantines.

Divine Fortune: The Persian Conception o fFamah

Prior to his ascendancy as king, P'am avaz is said to have lived in unmitigated fear o f the
despotic Azon, who not only terrorized the K 'art'velians, but who may have had a hand in the murder of
P'amavaz's father and uncle. Accordingly, P'am avaz was compelled to abandon his ancestral holdings so
as to escape the oppression o f Alexander's governor. But the fortunes of the orphan P'am avaz soon
changed. Having fled from K 'art'li, P'am avaz had a dream which incontestably demonstrated his
possession o f "divine fortune," the famah o f the Persians (xwarrah/famah/farr) ^

and the basis o f his

very name:

Then P'am avaz dreamed that he was in a vacant house, and he wanted to leave but he
was unable. Then the light o f the Sun [shuk'i mzisa\ entered the window and it took
hold o f him by the waist, and it raised him up and it led him beyond the window. And
when he [found himself] out on a plain he saw the Sun low [on the horizon], he raised
his hand, wiped dew from the surface o f the Sun [pirsa mzisasa] and he anointed his
[own] face [da ic xo pirsa missa],*^

P'amavaz awoke and resolved to set off for Aspani (?Isfahan). the homeland of his Persian
mother. En route, P'am avaz went on a hunt a favorite activity' of Sasanid kings in the plain o f
Dighomi not far from the site o f the later city o f Tp'ilisi. Pursuing a group o f deer. P'amavaz struck one

On the charisma o f the Sasanid shahanshah-s, see: R.N. Frye, "The Charisma o f Kingship in Ancient
Iran," Iranica Antiqua 4 (1964), pp. 36-54: and C.E. Bosworth. "The Heritage o f Rulership in Early
Islamic Iran and the Search for Dynastic Connections with the Past, Iran 11 (1973). pp. 51-62. The
concept o f the divine origin o f kings was current under both the Parthians and the Sasanids. but found
considerably greater development under the latter. Moreover, it should be recalled that such a concept
was also embraced by the Seleucids and the Greeks. See V.G. Lukonin, "Political, Social and
Administrative Institutions: Taxes and Trade," CHI, vol. 3/2 (1983), pp. 694-695.
* ^The Life o f the Kings, p. 2112-16- Ingoroqva. Giorgi merch'ule, p. 727, believes that this passage was
originally a poem of three stanzas (along with two others also from The Ufe o f the Kings). Cf. the trans.
o f this passage by Rayfield, Literature o f Georgia, pp. 55-56. In most cases, unfortunately, Rayfield does
not provide references to the specific passages which he translates or cites. Also cf. Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ p.
29 = Thomson trans., pp. 29-30.

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256

o f them with an a r r o w . T h e wounded anim al staggered to the foot of a cliff where P'am avaz overtook
it and subsequently decided to encamp nearby for the evening. A t that place, P 'am avaz discovered a cave
whose entrance had been concealed by an enormous stone. A storm gathered strength overhead, and as
the rain pelted down P'am avaz rolled away the stone and sought shelter within the cave. Insid; he was
astonished to find an incomprehensible quantity o f gold and silver. P'am avaz cam e to the realization that
he was fated to rule K 'a rt'li, and he "was filled with joy [when] he [also] recalled the dream." ^

He led

his family to the cave and they carried away the hoard.
The entire story is imbued with Sasanid and Parthian overtones, as suggested by Z. Kiknadze . 113
The Sun, a principal element o f the Sasanid devotion to fire, is prominent in the story, and P'am avaz
anointed himself with its very essence. This suggests that P'am avaz was a king in his own right and
ultimately did not depend upon any other monarch for his status. It should again be noted that we knownothing o f K'art'velian royal consecration rituals (assuming they existed) in the pre-Bagratid period.
Consecration was an extremely important act for the later Bagratids. who emulated the Biblical model,
and claimed to be the direct descendants, o f the Old Testament King David. But some sort of
consecration was common throughout the ancient Near East, so this imagery7 is probably not anachronistic

* I *Deer are often depicted in ancient Georgian art; such portrayals are known in Central Caucasia
already in the fifth millennium BC. M. Xadashvili, C'entraluri amier-kavkasiisgrap'ikuli xelovneba
adreuli rkinis xcmashi (1982), suggests that "devotion" to deer was intensified in the fifteenth through the
seventh centuries BC. Deer were sometimes depicted on early K 'art'velian churches, like over the
doorway o f Ateni Sioni near Gori. See: N. Urushadze, Drevnegruzinskoe plasticheskoe iskusstvo (1988).
pp. 147-165 etsqq; and I. Surguladze, "Zoomorp'uli simbolikis shescavlisat'vis (iremi-lomi)," in T'bilisis
shromi cit'eli droshis ordenoscmi saxelmcip'o universitetisshromebi 244 (1983), pp. 121-134. I am
indebted to the comments o f Dr. G. Cheishvili.
* ^The Life o f the Kings, p. 22.
l l 3 Z. Kiknadze, "Pam avazis sizmare," Mac'neenisa 1 (1984), pp. 112-120, with Rus. sum., "Son
Paraavaza," p. 120; and cited by Rayfield, Literature o f Georgia, p. 55. It should be said that this
episode, and others like it, does not necessarily denote a reliance upon Persian motifs, but rather K 'art'li's
membership in the Persian world; we have here a case of common expressions. As we have seen, deer
were depicted on art in the territories which would later become K 'art'li by the fifth millennium BC;
therefore, an ancient inhabitant o f this region would have probably regarded deer as inherent to the
traditions o f his tribe and not a Persian borrowing (and rightly so). Nevertheless, Persia became the great
power in the region, and this imagery is typical o f that enterprise. The legend o f P'am avaz and the deer
was examined specially by I. Surguladze, "E rt'i sak'orcili cesis mit'osuni da soc'ialuri bunebisat'vis,"
Mac'ne 1 (1989), pp. 30-49, esp. p. 44 (pointed out to me by Dr. Cheishvili). Surguladze believes the
episode to be more emblematic o f "Georgian" traditions than o f a Persian borrowing; in this I agree with
him, but only insofar as it m ust be recognized that Persia and K 'a rt'li shared this, and related, literary and
artistic motifs. Although the context o f The Life o f the Kings is thoroughly Sasanid, that the earliest
K'art'velian kings reigned ju st after the dissolution o f the Achaemenid Empire. This circumstance may
be explained by the relative late date o f the text's composition (when Sasanid notions were still strong).
Kiknadze (in file article cited here) also suggests a parallel between P'amavazAzon and DavidSaul.

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Scenes from the Bolnisi Sioni cathedral.

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258

for the era o f P'arnavaz . 11 4 Moreover, P'arnavaz's vision occurred while he was hunting, a fav orite
pastime o f Persian rulers and a topos o f Persian epics.

Moreover, "hunting was a noble privilege in

the Iranian world from which the base bom were excluded, and this would seem to further amplify
P'arnavaz's esteemed l o t 1 ^

The significance o f P'arnavaz's discovery o f the treasure is not explained in

the text and has not been definitively determined by modem specialists, but kings were the political and
economic fulcrum o f their realms, and P'arnavaz's discovery o f the hoard was almost certainly intended to
magnify his royal legitimacy (in terms o f both potential allies and the readers o f the tale) while also
demonstrating his possession o f famah. *

Kings as Sasanid Royal Heroes

Another element o f early K 'art'velian kingship, according to The Life o f the Kings, is the
monarch's depiction as a ruler-hero. This image, like the possession o f famah by the P'aroavaziani-s and
their founder, is specifically Sasanid in inspiration.
Several elements o f K 'art'velian royal authority and behavior, at least the way it is portrayed in

The Ufe o f the Kings, emulate the Sasanid model of the shahanshah. The K 'art'velian monarchs. like
their Sasanid counterparts, initiated great projects: they erected buildings, fostered the local religion
(albeit not orthodox Zoroastrianism), created administration, provided for defense, and devised an
alphabet The very structure o f K 'artvelian society, with its dynastic ruler-hero king and its intensely
aristocratic nobility, likewise connected K 'art'li with Persia. We shall see that The Life o f the Kings itself

* ^G ad d , Ideas o f Divine Rule in the Ancient East, pp. 48-49.


*^ C f. P'arnavaz's discovery o f this treasure trove with the story o f Bahrain Chobin finding a mysterious
castle while hunting (in the Shah-nama) and the story o f an Indian king chasing an antelope with golden
horns and subsequently coming upon a stone toner (in the Georgian Amiran-Darejaniani). See Stevenson
in Amiran-Darejaniani, p. 2. footnote 4. According to the Georgian historical tradition. King
Mihran/Mirian became an adherent of Christianity during a hunting expedition, and as suggested to me
by Prof. J. Fine. Mirian's salvation might be regarded as "treasure" (see ch. 4).
1 ^G arsoian. "Prolegomena to a Study o f the Iranian Aspects in Arsacid Armenia," p. 28.

117On later conceptions of famah (but excluding an examination o f the example of K 'art'li), see H.W.
Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems in the Ninth-Century Books: Ratanbai Katrak Lectures (1943), pp. 1-77.
Bailey demonstrates that the notion o f famah permeated Near Eastern literature well after the dissolution
of the Sasanid Empire, but that it came to be associated not only with kings but could simply designate
"good things" and "[good] fortune." In any event, the term fam ah was understood throughout the Near
East at this time, precisely when The Ufe o f the Kings was composed. We might ask whether its author
merely deduced a Persian-style past for K 'a rt'li since that approach was en vogue. The details o f his
account may very well be accounted in this way, however, we have already seen that non-Georgian
sources clearly associated K 'art'li from the Persian world even well before the Hellenistic period.

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contends that P'amavaz based the K 'art'velian administration on that of Persia. Moreover, we should not
forget that The Ufe o f the Kings itself sets the origin o f K 'a rt'li firmly within the context o f Persian, and
not Roman/Byzantine, history.
The portrayal o f rulers as hero-kings was not unique in Caucasia to K 'art'li. The Armenians also
adopted this Sasanid tradition, as is evident in the history o f Xorenac'i, which, it should be said, is overtly
anti-Persian. The Armenian expressions o f Persian notions o f kingship, although more concealed than
those o f the K' art'velians, were a reflection o f Armenia's membership in the Persian world. Garsoian has
demonstrated that Armenia was "invariably viewed as close and honorable by the Persians." *

This

insight, it will be argued here, must now be extended to encompass neighboring K 'art'li as well.
The ruler-hero in K 'art'li, just like that in Persia and Armenia, was a giant (goliat'i, &oic?oj>03o;
cf. "goliath"), being uniquely courageous, valiant, and strong, not to mention having superior intellect . 119
The Sasanids believed that their king possessed fam ah. This was the case with the early K 'art'velian
monarchs as well, for P'am avaz, with divine favor, had allegedly been anointed with essence o f the Sun
itself, and his very name is based upon the root p or-/<gi6 -> Median fam ah, M.Ir. xwarrah, Av.

xwarenah, Ir. farr and Arm. p ar-. Other Georgian royal names, e.g., P'arsm an and P'am ajob. are based
upon the same Iranian root. Although it is likely that the recorded activities o f P'amavaz, and even his
name, are the creation o f the ca. 800 author o f The U fe o f the Kings, several references to kings named
fcAPAEAMANHE (Pharsamanes = P'arsm an), are found in Classical literature.

Thus, early

K 'art'velian royal onomastics included names built upon the Persian root fam ah . 121 Although The Ufe

*^G arsoian, "The Locus o f the Death o f Kings: Iranian Armenia - The Inverted Image," p. 35.
1 *9 Garsolan, "The Locus o f the Death o f Kings," p. 41. It should be noted that in his trans. o f the early
histories o f K 'C \ Thomson often renders the term gmiri as "giant" although it is better trans. as "hero."
Although Bagratid kings are not portrayed as ruler-heroes in the Parthian/Sasanid sense, their memory
persisted (via Georgian and Persian literature and especially through the popularization of the Shah-nama
in Georgia). The biographer o f Davit' II (r. 1089-1125) compared his subject to those kings o f old: "And
I shall say briefly that the very first kings, [those] giants and heroes of age-old renown, courageous and
powerful, whatever their famous deeds he outshone all [of them], as though they had been brute beasts in
all their exploits." See The Ufe o f Davit', pp. 205-206 = Qauxch'ishvili e d , pp. 351-352: cf. Vivian
trans., p. 35.

*2For references in Classical literature, see Toum anoff "Chronology o f the Early Kings o f Iberia," pp.
11-12 (for P'arsman I/Adeiki), p. 16 (for P'arsm an II), and pp. 16-17 (for P'arsman III). Cassius Dio
mentions all three o f these kings.
*2 *But it appears that the royal family did not monopolize names based upon p ar-. See, e.g., the
damaged late fifth-century AD inscription from Bolnisi mentioning a male name beginning P 'a m - (most
scholars have reconstructed it as P'araevan). We can be certain that he was a Christian, but we do not
know whether he was a scion of the Chosroid royal house; see Silogava, Bolnisis udzvelesi k'art'uli
carcerebi (1994), Eng. text, pp. 103-104. In twelfth- and thirteenth-century Georgian historical sources,
the following names are mentioned: P'aradavla, P aravana, P'arajaniani, Parejan, P'arstnanis-shvili.
The onomastic root p ar persisted to the end of the Bagratid monarchy, thus a son of Erekle II was named

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260

o f the Kings does not explain the derivation of P'arnavaz's name, in term s o f image the very first king o f
the K 'art'velians was made to possess "royal glory." This identified him as a legitimate ruler according to
the Sasanid understanding o f kingship . 12 2
Being a "goIiath"-king entailed considerably more than just possessing divine favor. A goiiat'i
enjoyed extreme physical prowess, was well-trained in the art o f warfare, and possessed supreme courage.
P'arnavaz, the first K 'art'velian king in The Ufe o f the Kings, is said to have been intelligent an excellent
warrior, and a skilled hunter.12^ Hunting (nadirobay, 6 igo6 ca6 i a ) was a favorite activity of the Persian
and Near Eastern monarchs. and their K'art'velian counterparts also devoted much tim e and attention to
it. Hunting entailed more than simply the chase itself; for exercise, practice, training, and cooperation
were necessary not only for success in hunting but also for success in warfare. A Sasanid topos has the
king undergoing a significant transformation or reorientation while on a hunt. It is not surprising that the
first Christian K ' art'velian monarch, Mihran/Mirian, was on a hunt w hen his conversion occurred. The
torture o f Shushaniki by her husband Varsken, a K 'art'velian noble and convert to Zoroastrianism, is the
subject o f the earliest Georgian te x t This Varsk'en occupied his time while Shushaniki was wasting
away in confinement by going to w ar and tty hunting . 12 4 It is noteworthy, however, that the royal
banquet often held after a hunt and an integral part o f the description o f Sasanid and Armenian kings, is
absent in The Ufe o f the Kings.
Sufficient weapons, training and experience contributed to the success of the royal hunter. The
activity o f hunting was accurately remembered by the author of The U fe o f the Kings as having kept the
kings themselves adept with their varied weaponry'. Being a skilled fighter was conceived as a necessary
attribute of the king himself. Thus King Amazasp II (185-189 AD) is said to have been proficient not

P'am aoz (a corruption o f P'amavaz). See Kek.Inst.MS # S-37, (158r, cited by E. C'agareishvili in Papuna
Orbeliani, introduction, p. 27 and footnote 47.
122There can be little question that the K'art'velians, like the Persians, subscribed to the concept of

fam ah. However, it is striking that the word itself was not incorporated into the earliest extant texts
(except as part o f a name); rather didebuli (coocgo&ocno; from didi, "great"), was used to express "glory"
or "greatness" (under the Bagratids it also denoted the high nobility). This contrasts w ith Classical
Armenian where words based upon fam ah (e.g.. p a rk' [ijunp])were used to express "glory." Thus in Arm.

Adapt. K 'C \ p.

'ars (tjunu). Ibid., p.


93 = Thomson trans., p. 107, the verb "honor" is rendered by p'aravorec'in (ijiunutnpbgtili); and ibid., p.
116 = Thomson trans., p. 128, the verb "praise" by p armor. See also Garsotan in The Epic Histories,
technical terms, p. 552.
122 The Ufe

8 8 = Thomson trans.. p. 103, Gods glory is rendered by the word p

o f the Kings, p. 21.

124 Curtaveli,

Mart. Shush., cap. 7. p. 18.

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261

only with a bow, but was equally adept with a sword and spear. ^

W hile repelling an Ovsi raid upon

K 'art'li, Amazasp:

appeared with a bow. and he began to shoot it with fieriness in his heart and by means
o f his mighty arm; he shot from [such a] distance that the Ovsi-s, from where they stood,
neither realized nor saw anything, [and] whether he held his bow [at all]. The strength
o f [the enemy's] armor could not repel [Amazasp's] arrows...

Mirvan I (159-109 BC) personally led his army into battle to opposed the invading Durdzuki tribe from
northern Caucasia. The U fe o f the Kings describes him as a "panther" and "tiger" in com bat ^
Perhaps the most important element o f being a hero-king, at least in the medieval K 'art'velian
understanding, was to be a bumberazi (b<n)d&<)6 6 %o), or a "champion-duelist" and to possess others of
their numbers within the army. ^

According to D. Ch'ubinashvili (Chubinov), the Old Georgian term

bumberazi is based upon the Arabic muberiz. We should bear in mind that The Ufe o f the Kings was
written ca. 800, at a tim e when the Arab occupation of K 'art'li had manifested itself by a large number of
Arabic words entering Georgian and Armenian. ^

Bumberazi is not based upon some Persian word, and

there is no obvious equivalent for Sasanid Iran. Therefore, the concept possibly could have been the
creation o f the Arabic-era composer o f The Ufe o f the Kings and not some remnant carried down from
antiquity via oral history. O f course, the ancient designation (had one existed) might have been forgotten
and the ca. 800 author merely substituted a plausible equivalent Arabic word. The most likely scenario, in
my view, is that our author was fully aware o f the Sasanid notion o f the hero-king and rightly applied it to
ancient K 'art'li. But, he did not know of an appropriate term, and he coined, from Arabic, the
designation bumberazi.

*2%or medieval K 'art'velian armaments, see ch. 5.

^ T h e Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 55-56.


121Ibid.. p. 28.
^^T here is no direct Eng. trans. for the term. This rendering was suggested to me by Prof. R. Thomson.
Ch'ubinashvili, K'art'uli-rusuli lek'sikoni, ed. by A Shanidze, 2nd ed. (1984). col. 123, who
equates the term with gmiri, "hero." See also: S.-S. Oibeliani, vol. 1, s.v. "b u m b era zipp. 119-120 and
"muberazi," p. 526; Abuladze, Dzveli k'art'uli enis lek'sikoni (1973), p. 37. s.v. "bumberezi'. a n d M .A
Gafiarov, PersidsIco-russJai slovar', vol. 2 (1974), p. 729. Bumberazi-s are not attested in Georgian
historical literature prior to ca. 800. The term is common in later texts, especially those of the early
modem period when Persian influence over the Georgian kingdoms was particularly intense. It is
noteworthy that no bumberazi-s appear in Rust'aveli's Knight in the Panther's Skin.

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262

The authentic Old Georgian rendering is unclear. The M variant of K'art 'lis c xovreba prefers

bumberezi (SgSbgrtgbo) while the older A gives the form mumbarez (3 g 9&4 6 gh). which is obviously
closer to the Arabic muberiz. The medieval Armenian adaptation o f K'art'lis c 'xovreba employed several
terms for bumberazi: the literal transposition mumberiz (ifmifpbp^; which is closest to the mumbarez o f the
A redaction), *3 as well as the Armenian embish (nifpfc), ^
(riblMiTuroi),

menamartik (iffakuTuwi)!)), *3 3 menamart

and axoyean (idunjburij)-^ Qauxch'ishvili, for his part, preferred the form bumberazi. and it

is this variant which is the most widely accepted and recognized. As such, the form bumberazi reluctantly
has been afforded precedence in this study, even though the form mumbarez/mumberiz is clearly o f greater
age and is closer to the original rendering, or represents the original rendition.

Bumberazi-s were giants and heroes, the most powerful o f men.*3* For honor, entertainment,
and the morale o f their armies, the bumberazi-s o f opposing sides battled one another in violent, single
com bat The pre-Christian K 'art'velian king is portrayed as singularly physical, and he was expected not
only to lead his troops into combat but to demonstrate his legitimacy by proving his worth in the same
fashion as a bumberazi. But it should be stressed that kings were not the only bumberazi-s. for monarchs
were expected to have bumberazi-s under their command. Typically, warring sides are described as being
encamped on opposite sides o f a river or plain. Then duels between members of each side would erupt.
Eventually, the king himself was expected to engage in the bumberazi contests.
It is curious that P'am avaz himself was not specifically called a bumberazi. Actually, The Ufe o f

the Kings often does not specifically attach this term to the king, although it is absolutely clear that the
monarchs (from P'amavaz) are being described in precisely that manner. The first king to be counted
among the numbers of the bumberazi-s was M irvan n (30-20 BC). *3 3 The most vivid (and fanciful)
accounts o f bumberazi combat are found in connection with the Christian king Vaxtang 1. 136 It should

*3The Armenian mumberiz was not used in other Classical Arm. texts.
*3 *"Athlete" or "wrestler" according to M. Bedrossian, New DictonarvArmenian-English (1985 repr.), p.
196.

*-^"Gladiator," "wrestler," "gymnast," and "athlete" in ibid., p. 467.


^ " A n ta g o n ist," "adversary," "opponent," "rival." "competitor," "champion," "hero," and "triumpher" in

ibid., p. 5. For all these Armenian equivalents for bumberazi, see Abuladze in Arm. Adapt. K 'C \ index,
p. 301.
^ G e o r g ia n historical literature is not acquainted with a single woman who is afforded the honor o f

bumberazi.
*33The Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 31-32.
*3<*For Christian K 'art'velian kings described as bumberazis, see chs. 4-5.

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263

be emphasized that both pre-Christian and Christian K 'art'velian kings but only pre-Bagratid ones!
were reckoned as bumberazi-s. However, while The Ufe ofthe Kings and The Ufe ofVaxtang are filled
with bumberazi contests, The U fe o f the Successors ofMirian is completely unfamiliar with them. This is
probably an indication that the last source was not written ca. 800. It is. in fa ct a stylistic imitation o f the
aforementioned sources and was written in the tenth/eleventh century', at a time when the Bagratids
consciously sought conceal K 'a rtli's ancient Persian heritage.
In those cases in which a K 'art'velian participated in bumberazi warfare, his opponent need not
be a non-K'art'velian. That is to say, bumberazi combat could be conducted among two K 'art'velian
participants. King Bartom (63-30 BC) refused to enter into single combat against the future M irvan II.
Bartom was consequently demonstrated to be unfit to rule and he was subsequently killed in battle:

But King Bartom gathered all o f his K 'art'velian troops, and he summoned a force of
Somexi-s. and he set out for Xunani... Mirvan came and stood along the Berduji River.
And they began to battle, a n d from both sides bumberazi-s distinguished themselves.
Each day for a month there were duels among the bumberazi-s. At one time those of
one side were victorious, and on another - those o f the other side. But in a single
month M irvan himself slew thirteen K 'art'velian and Armenian bumberazi-s. And
there was no one from among the K'art'velians and the Armenians who could worst
Mirvan; and King Bartom him self did not battle him, for Bartom did not have [the
attributes o f a] goliat'i [goliat'oba]

This is another instance of a ruling king, through his own sinful behavior, losing the right to be king, and
by implication, being stripped o f famah. Ironically, Arshak II (20 BC-1 AD) removed from the throne
through having been killed in a bumberazi duel with Aderki (1-S8 AD), his own successor. ^
It is noteworthy that while we encounter bumberazi-s from among the K'art'velians, Armenians
(Somexi-s), Persians, O v s i - s , ^ and the like, Georgian historical literature is completely unaware o f any

bumberazi-s among the Romans and Byzantines. 140 The status of bumberazi was restricted, consciously

^ T h e Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 31 jg-32^.


l oIbid., pp. 34-35. The account o f the duel o f Arshak II and Bartom includes a dialogue between the
two contestants.
l 3 9 E.g., the Ovsi dyarchs Bazuki and Abazuki. Both of them are styled as "goliaths" and are described as

bumberazi as well. See The U fe o f the Kings, pp. 45-47.


140 Braunds statement about a Gk. epitaph o f the K 'art'velian Amazasp (written during the time of
Trajan) is somewhat exaggerated: "Both language and content evoke heroism in terms familiar to the
Graeco-Roman world to which Iberia belonged." (Georgia in Antiquity, pp. 230-231). I am not
suggesting that the Romans lacked heroism or valor. Rather, the fundamental historical veracity o f K'C'
and the inclusion o f K 'art'li by K'art'velian historians within the Persian commonwealth seems to
have eluded the author (though the Roman author may have depicted K 'art'velian valor in Roman terms

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264

or not, to the Persian world and to the pre-Bagratid history o f K 'art'li. Indeed, the notion o f a hero-ruler,
so tightly embraced even by the Christian K 'art'velians and Armenians, was not inspired by the Romans
but by theSasanids.
It should be emphasized that the description o f the early K 'art'velian kings in Persian terms is
limited to the initial texts o f K'art 'lis c 'xovreba. The alternate tradition preserved in The Primary History

o f K'art'li and the Royal Lists (i.e., the initial portion o f Mok'c'evay k'art'lisay ) provides only a skeletal
outline o f early indigenous kingship. They do not depict K 'art'velian kingship in Persian terms: but
lacking details of any land, they do not suggest that it was not Persian. I believe that this is an indication
that eith er (1) the original authors, perhaps in the Bagratid era (when Persian depictions o f local kingship
were discouraged), stripped the texts o f Persian trappings; or, (2) the Bagratid-era compiler/editor carried
out this intentional attempt to obscure the Persian heritage o f K 'art'li. In short, the local historical
evidence that has come down to us about the Persian nature o f early K 'art'velian society was largely
preserved only within K'art'lis c 'xovreba.

M c'xet'a and the Mobility o f Kings

The earliest kings o f K 'art'li were all associated with the city o f M c'xet'a (Rus. Mtskheta) and its
oldest quarter Armazi, situated at the confluence o f the M tkuari and Aragwi rivers. The U fe o f the Kings
projects the importance o f M c'xet'a back into the pre-P'amavaziani era, asserting that it had been
established by and named for M c'xet'os, the eldest son o f K 'art'los. ^
settlement. Ptolemy knew it as MEETAETA. ^
acquainted with MEEXI0A. ^

M c'xet'a is indeed a very old

Later, in the sixth century AD. Agathias was

The root o f the designation, mc'x-, is commonly found in Georgian

toponyms (cf. Same'.re andA/exret'i). Although the position o f M c'xet'os chosen successor and son.

in this particular instance). The institution o f bumberazi. so fundamental to the Persian world and largely
alien to Roman civilization, demonstrates that K 'art'velian heroism was conceived, even ca. 800.
principally in Persian terms. O f course, my historical approach contrasts with Braunds; while he
examines the history o f K 'art'li and Colchis based upon Roman and Byzantine sources, I focus upon the
image and tradition being promulgated by the K 'art'velians themselves.

^ T h e Ufe o f the Kings, p. 9: "And [Mc'xet'os] built a city [k'alak'i\ near the confluence o f the Mtkuari
and the Aragwi [rivers], and he named it M c'xet'a after him self"
142Ptolemy mentions other Iberian, i.e., K'art'velian, centers: AOYBION KQMH, AHNNA,
OYAEAIAA, OYAPKA, EOYPA, APTANIEEA, ZAAIEEA, and APMAKTIKA. See Claudii
Ptolemaei Geographica, ed. by C. M uller (1901), pp. 926-927, reprinted in Adontz/Garsoian, Armenia in
the Period o f Justinian, appendix 4, p. 109.
^ A g a th ia s , H22, pp. 69-70. The Persian general Mermeroes is said to have died at M c'xet'a.

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2to

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266

Up'los, was said to have been violently contested, The Ufe o f the Kings contends that Up'los nevertheless
retained a privileged position, since he occupied M c'xet'a, which had "become greater than all [the other
cities o f K 'art'li], and [thus] it was called the Mother-City [deda-kalak'i]."*44
Both Azon and P'arnavaz are associated w ith the city o f M c'xet'a by The Ufe o f the Kings.
Alexander the Great reportedly established Azon as his permanent representative in M c 'x e t'a 14^
whereas P'arnavaz is said to have been a native o f th at city and his uncle reportedly served as its

mamasaxlisi. One o f the initial objectives of P'arnavaz's insurrection was to secure Mcxet'a and its
citadels. 14<* The author o f The Ufe o f the Kings often emphasizes that the kings who succeeded
P'arnavaz, and his own son Saurmag, "sat at M c'xet'a as king . " 1 4 7 Usurpers, like Aderid, immediately
took up residence in M c'xeta . 148
Y et the early K 'art'velian kings were not m ade to take up residence in M c'xet'a and confine
themselves within its ramparts. The monarchs were expected to personally escort their troops into battle
and to affirm their military prowess in bumberazi contests. Thus, they are often said to have been distant
from the royal seat. Even P'arnavaz was depicted as not exclusively basing himself in M c'xet'a. though it
was his most important possession. He is supposed to have established a series o f seasonal residences:

But he spent the months o f spring an d o f the vintage [i.e., autumn] in M c'xet'a, the
royal city [sameup'osa k'alak'i]; and the months o f winter he spent in Gach'iani; but in
the months o f summer - in Cunda. And from time to time he went to Egrisi and
Klaijet'i, [on which occasion] he would visit the Megreli-s and Klarji-s so as to put into
order all the affairs [which had fallen into] disarray.

M c'xet'a expanded to become the largest settlement in central Caucasia. It served not only as the
political, economic, and cultural center of the K 'art'velians. but apparently also as their religious axis.

The Ufe o f the Kings paints pre-Christian Mcxet'a as an open-air. living museum o f idols. However, as
will be demonstrated infra, this is likely an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that from an
extremely early time M c'xet'a commanded an esteemed position as a major center of spiritual devotion in

144 77e Life

o f the Kings, p. 11 ^ .

l45Ibid., p. 19.
l46Ibid., p. 23.
147Ibid., p. 27.
l4%Ibid p. 34.
14 ^/h/W., p. 25j<7_20-

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267

central Caucasia. Later, M c'xet'a was the seat o f the prelates o f the K 'art'velian Church. Even after the
translation o f the political capital downriver to Tp'ilisi (mod. T b i l is i also Tiflis) in the sixth century AD.
M c'xet'a and its chief cathedral o f Sueti-c'xoveli (lit T h e Living Pillar") remained the headquarters o f
the Christian prelacy.

Kings as the Creators and Pinnacles o f Administration

A realm even the size o f K 'art'li (which in the time o f P'arnavaz was probably about the size of
modem Northern Ireland), as a consequence o f its remote mountainous provinces, was impossible for one
person to administer effectively. Ca. 800, in the era o f the anonymous author o f The Ufe o f the Kings,
and for a number o f centuries before him, the kings appointed regional governors, or erist 'avi-s
(3 6 0 b *3 -6 0 ), to govern the provinces in their stead . 150 The designation erist'avi is derived from two
Georgian words: the genitive form o f eri (3 (6 0 ), which came to mean the mass o r multitude of "people,"
but its earliest meaning was "army" or "troops"; and t 'avi (cos3 0 ) denoting "head." Erist'avi literally
indicates "the head o f the people but originally had the militaristic sense o f "head o f the army ." 151 In
the Bagratid period, erist'avis were further divided into the regular erist'avis and one chief erist'avi, the

erist'avi o f erist'avis (erist'avt a-erist'avi [3 6 0 1 x1)^30 )j>-3 fiobooi3 o ]).15^ It should be noted that erist'avi
was roughly the equivalent o f the Armenian naxarar (Uuluqxqi), and in Biblical texts it often corresponds
to ETPATHTOE (strategos), thus reflecting its military function. 155 A variant form eris-mt'avari
(3 6 ob- 9 ms3 i 6 o), "the chief o f the army/people." usually associated with the principate. w as functionally
equivalent to the erist 'avi. 15^

1 0 Melik'ishvili, "Gosudarstvenny stroi," in Ocherki istorii Gruzii, vol. 1, pp. 384-385. suggests that
three high social stratae existed in the era o f P'am avaz: the sep 'uculis (the royal family/princes); the
erist'avi-s; and the aznauri-s (who the author takes at this time to have been free landowner-soldiers).

15l Toumanoff prefers to call erist'avis "dukes." I do not follow this convention here, for employing the
designation "duke" may entice the reader to assume that the erist'avis bore equivalent European features.
152

Erist avi o f erist'avis may be found throughout the pages o f the eleventh-century history of Sumbat
Davitis-dze. The form erist 'avt 'a-erist 'avi is parallel to mep'et'a-mep'e. or "king o f kings" (cf. the
Sasanid designation shahanshdh).
153 Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 96-98 (footnotes 143 and 147) and 115-117. See also Molitor, Glossarium
Ibericum in quattuor Evangelica et Actes Apostolorum Antiquioris versionis etiam textus Chanmeti et
Haemeti complectens (1962-1964), p. 117 (stratigos in Luke XXH.52 and Acts XVI.20). In Royal List II,
p. 92, a certain Glonk'or held both the offices o f erist'avi and archbishop during the reign o f Mirdat V

(435-447 AD), the father o f Vaxtang I.


15 ^E.g., Nerse the eris-mt'avari o fK 'artli (son o f the kuropalates and erist'avi Nerse), in Mart. Habo, p.
56, also p. 6 6 (Lang trans., p. 125, renders the term simply as "prince). This usage is considerably later
(late eighth century).

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268

Although we do not know precisely when and how the institution o f the erist'av-ate was first
established in K ' artli, 1 5 5 The Life o f the Kings predictably attributes its establishment to the first
K 'art'velian monarch. But the earliest erist'avis mentioned in that te x t in preceding passages, are not
K 'art'velian but rather are erist'avi-s in the service of the shahanshah. 15<* The U fe o f the Kings starkly
concedes that P'arnavaz was inspired with the idea o f K'art'velian erist av-ates from the Persian model of
satraps: 1 5 7

In this way P'arnavaz ordered [his] entire [kingdom] like the Persian kingdom [read:
Empire ] . 158

Our historian, writing ca. 800. did not attempt to obscure his conviction that the K 'art'velian
administration, from its very inception, had been based solidly upon that of the Persian Empire and that
his first K 'art'velian king P'am avaz, a Persian-type of ruler, had introduced the institution o f the erist'avate.
Once P' amavaz bad defeated Azon, himself an "erist 'avi appointed by Alexander,15^ that
K 'art'velian king appointed his adjutant K 'uji as erist'avi over the western domains o f Egrisi and
Suanet'i. ^

There is no reason to believe that P'amavaz, assuming he is a historical figure, actually held

sway over these distant regions. Rather, this passage may be attributed to the imagination of the author of

The Ufe o f the Kings and his desire to propagate and legitimize the then-nascent idea that those western

155In both the earliest work of Georgian literature. Mart. Shush., and another early work of Georgian
hagiography, Mart. Evstat'i, the office o f erist'avi is not found.
15^77ie Life o f the Kings, p. 13 this erist'avi. Ardami Nebrot'iani, is said to have encircled Mcxet'a
with a stone wall and p. 15 (for a Persian erist'avi in Kart'li). Ibid., p. 43, for the gathering o f the
Persian erist'avis and their election o f Azhghalani "the Wise" to be shahanshah. In these instances, the
Georgian word erist'avi was believed to represent accurately some Persian post(s).
157 0 n the erist'av-ates being modeled on the satraps o f Persia, see Toumanoff, Studies, pp. 96-97 (and
footnote 143).
158 7fte Life o f the Kings, p. 25+: "3 1 1 6 3 0
3 I13 3 0 3 3 2 5 0 g a 6 6 i 3 i b 9o0bai3b36Q25*ES
b i 33 gobj> b3j>6b<nibi." Arm. Adapt. K'C', p. 3 5 j 2 - i 3 = Thomson trans., pp. 35-36, offers a similar

statement: "U Ijufiqbgui. uijluqihli bfurii pux}uinpmpbuiMi 'Hufwiig" = "And the [K'art'velian] land was organized
like the kingdom of the Persians."

15^The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 18.


l60Ibid p. 24.

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269

regions were part o f the K 'art'velian realm . 161 P'am avaz is portrayed as having created seven erist 'avates (saerist'avo [b ^ ^ o b m ^ n ] ) , and we may take their combined domains as being what our medieval
author imagined to be the rightful extent o f K 'a rt'li in his own time (ca. 800).
One o f the prerogatives o f kings, according to The U fe o f the Kings, was the granting o f land to
their most prominent and loyal subjects. K 'art'Ios is made to behave in this way even though he was not
specifically a king. As P'amavaz expanded and organized his realm, carving it into provinces governed
by erist'avi-s, he assigned each regional governor with a specific tract o f land. The erist'av-ates
established by P'amavaz, in the sequence enumerated in The U fe o f the Kings, are (see m ap):

K'art'velian erist'avi-ates

Specific regions delimited bv P'am avaz

1. Margwi

"from the Little Mountain, which is Lixi. up to


the [Black] Sea. above the Rioni River. A nd
P'arnavaz built two fortresses [there],
Shorapani and Dimna"
"from the Aragwi [River] up to Heret'i. which is
Kaxet'i and Kuxet'i"
"from the Berduji River up to Tp'ilisi and
Gach'iani, which is Gardabani"
"from the Skwret'i River up to the m ountain^].'
which is Tashiri and Aboc' i"
"from Panavari up to the sources of the Mtkuari
[Kura River], which is Javaxet'i and Kola
and Artani"
"from Tasiskari up to [the] Arsiani [mountain],
from the sources of the TNoste [River] up to
the [BlacklSea, which is Samc'xe and
Achara"

2. Kaxet'i and Kuxet'i


3. Xunani
4. Samshwlde
5. Cunda

6 . Odzrq'e

^ * A s we have seen. The Life o f the Kings relates that after Pamavaz defeated Azon he "was no longer
afraid of his enemies and he became mep'e o f all K 'art'li and Egurisi..." The rendering o f Egrisi as
Egurisi is unique in medieval Georgian historiography and is either the genuine archaic form or a
conflation o f Egrisi with the later appelation Guria (which itself is based on the former).
1f t )

Parnavaz's foundation o f the erist ov-ates found in The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 24. See also Toumanoff,
Studies, pp. 103-104. and footnote 159 (Toumanoff calls the erist'avis "dukes" and their lands "duchies"
whereas I give preference to the local terminology); and R.H. Hewsen, "Introduction to Arm enian
Historical Geography IV: The Vitaxates o f Arsacid Armenia. A Reexamination o f the Territorial Aspects
o f the Institution (Part Two). IV. The Vitaxate o f Moskhia: (The Iberian March)," REArm n.s. 22 (19901991), pp. 150-152.
163O n the problems o f this association o f the erist'av-ate o f O dzrq'e with Sam c'xe see G.G. Cheishvili,
Samxret'-dasavlet'sak'art'velos (mesxet'is) istoriuligeograp'iissaldt'xebi antikur xanashi, synopsis of
doctral dissertation (1994), with Rus. sum., "Voprosy istoricheskoi geografii iugo-vostochnoi Gruzii
(Meskheti) v antichnuiu epokhu," pp. 21-22.

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270

7. Klarjet'i, Egrisi, and


S uanet'i16*

"from Arsiani up to the [Black] Sea"

The Ufe o f the Kings divides the erist'av-ates into two categories: erist'av-ates "of the East" and
those "of the West." The m s f ov-ates o f the East comprise those of Kaxet' i. Xunani. and Samshwide.
while the erist'av-ates o f the West are those o f Odzrqe, Klarjeti, Cunda. and two (!?) erist av-ates of
Egrisi . 165
Toumanoff suggested that the seven erist'av-ates are a historical memory of the seven "planet
like vassals o f the Sun-like Great King" o f Persia. Indeed, The Ufe o f the Kings also remembers seven
idols o f the K 'art'velian pre-Christian pantheon. I concur with Toumanoff on this point, as well as with
his observation that the spaspeti (the second-in-command; see infra) was effectively an eighth erist'avi.
In this case, the cosmologically significance o f the seven vassals has been muddled. In any event.
Toumanoff has determined that there were, in fret, only seven original erist'av-ates:

1. Kaxet'i
2. Xunani
3. Samshwide
4. Cunda

5. Odzrq'e
6 . Klarjet'i

7. Shida (Inner) K 'art'li

H e removed the far-western erist'av-ates from the enumeration o f The U fe o f the Kings. since the notion
that the territories o f Egrisi and Ap'xazet'i were part o f the K'art'velian realm was most likely a

16 ^Suanet'i, modem Svanet'i, is not specifically mentioned in this particular account, but is cited
previously at the moment that K'uji was appointed as P'arnavazs first erist'avi: "And [P'amavaz]
bestowed upon K 'uji the land between the Egris Cqali and the Rioni [rivers], from the [Black] Sea to the
mountains, in which is situated Egrisi and Suanet'i, and he made him erist'avi over these places. And he.
K 'uji, built C'ixe-goji" (see The Ufe o f the Kings, p. 24). C'ixe-goji remained an important center for
some time, being referred to later as Nok'alak'evi and by the Greeks as Archaeopolis. On this city, see
th e trilingual (Georgian, Rus., and Eng.) work of P. Zak' aria and N. Lomouri, C'ixegoji, ark'eopolisi,
nok'alak'evi = Tsikhegoji, Archaeopolis, Nolalakevi (1988).
1 6 5 77re Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 55-57. These same erist 'av-ates are delimited (without many o f the
geographical details) in Arm. Adapt. K'C', pp. 34-35. But this work enumerated eight regional
governors. Notably, the seventh erist'avi o f The Ufe o f the Kings was made into two separate governors

of: (1) Klarjet'i and (2) K'uchaet' and Eger. K 'uchaet' (ftm&rtp) seems to be based upon the name K'uji
(we might reconstruct the Georgian equivalent K 'ujaet'i, or "the land o f K 'uji"), later the erist'avi of
Egrisi (in the west). To the erist av-ate o f OdzTq'e the Arm enian version attaches Tayk'. The Eng. trans.
o f Bedrosian (pp. 16-17) is defective here, lacking the seventh erist'avi and omitting certain details found
in Abuladze's critical ed.

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E R I S T 'A V - A T E S

ESTABLISHED
BY P'ARNAVAZ

271

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considerably later development (i.e., after P'arnavaz ) . 16 6 It seems to me that the vague "memory" of The

Life o f the Kings and The Life ofVaxtang is actually evidence that the K 'art'velians were only beginning
to entertain serious claims over these western lands ca. 800.167 We should recall that this was precisely
the time that the K 'art'velian branch o f the Bagratids were rising to power, and from the very beginning
they seem to have entertained some hope o f ruling a united Georgia. Moreover, the K 'art'velian
Bagratids' base in the ninth century was the southwestern regions of Tao/Tayk'. Klarjet'i. and Shavshet'i:
Klarjet'i is named as one o f the areas ruled by the erist'avi K'uji, the other being Egrisi. In fact K'uji is
the only alleged local erist 'avi to be explicitly named, and this may have been a way to emphasize that
region's position in Bagratid times (if this is correct then the original text must have been modified by a
Bagratid-era scribe).
Neither ToumanofFs corrected lis t nor that o f The Life o f the Kings, corresponds in any
meaningful way to the holdings o f the progeny o f Togarmah. That is to say, the author o f The Ufe o f the

Kings did not merely transfer the lands and cities established by the progeny o f Togarmah upon
P'amavaz. O f course, Egros was not a son o f K art' los, but rather a younger brother. This suggests that
the author attributed to P 'am avaz an expansionistic agenda, making him subdue regions which had
originally not been allotted to K'art'Ios. And this may have been the case, for P'am avaz (or at least the
early K 'art'velian kings) m ay have actually ruled as an agent o f the Seleucids in checking the advances
and consolidation of the Orontid dynasty o f neighboring Armenia. ^

The Ufe o f the Kings does not state whether all o f these erista vis were K'art'velians. Only later
do we have a clear indication that an erist'avi in the service o f the K 'art'velian king could be a nonK'art'velian: the first Christian king Mihran/Mirian (himself a Persian by birth) gave his daughter to
P'eroz, a Persian prince, appointing him erist avi from Xunani to Bardavi.

O f course, this eastern

^^Toum anoff, Studies, pp. 103-104, footnote 159. Cf. the historical novel o f K '. Kasradze. P'amavaz.
which stresses the popular modem view that Egrisi and K 'art'li. the western and eastern cores o f Georgia,
were closely connected even in antiquity. However, some Classical authors (e.g., Plutarch. Arrian, and
Pliny) assert that the kings o f K 'art' li held sway over a small region just to the south o f Colchis/Egrisi; see
Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, p. 45. This region evidently served as a major point o f contact between
Colchis/Egrisi and K 'art'li. Much later the K 'art'velian Bagratids would rise to prominence in the
neighboring territories o f southwestern "Georgia."
167w e possess no archaeological evidence which unequivocably demonstrates that P'am avaz
administered Egrisi. In fact, the study of Z. Bragvadze, "P'araavazis politika kolxet'is mimart' da sairxis
nak'alak'aris istoriis zogiert'i sakit'xi," Mac'ne 3 (1991), pp. 86-96 with Eng. sum. "Pamavaz's Policy in
Colches [sic] and Problems Relevant to the History of the Ancient Town o f Sairkhe, p. 96. suggests that
P'am avaz did not actually establish an erist'avi over the region o f Argvet'i (including the city o f Sairxe).
^^Toum anofif Studies, pp. 80-81.

^ T h e Ufe o f the Kings, pp. 68-69.

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273

region was not part o f K 'art'li proper and had traditionally been part o f Alropatene (roughly modem
Azerbaijan) in which Persian political influence had always been prominent.
A rigid hierarchy o f support staff for each erist'avi was also reportedly developed at this time.
Immediately below the erist'avi-s were appointed subordinate spasaiaris (U3 i(jiC5 i 6 -5 o. "generals") and

at'asist 'avi-s (6aubob<6 3 -6 o, "heads o f a thousand"; cf. chiliarch). T he military function o f the erist avates is obvious from the titles o f these subordinates. However, we know virtually nothing about the
prerogatives o f the pre-Bagratid erist 'avis. We do not even know, assuming that the relevant passages
are accurate, if the erist'avis appointed their own subordinates, or if this remained the right o f the king.
The erist'avis do seem to have possessed the right, an d the duty, to solicit both local and royal
taxes/tribute (xarki, 6 ^ 6 3 0 ; cf. Arabic haraf)P
The rigid administrative system reportedly created by P'am avaz ensured an intermediary'
between the king and the erist'avis. The spaspeti (b3ab3g()o; older variant b3j>a3g(J)o, spaypeti), not to
be confused with the numerous spasalaris, was charged with overseeing the erist 'av-ates. The Georgian
designation spaspeti is related to the Classical Armenian sparapet (uupnmubiji), and both are based upon
the O.Pers. spadapati-, "general" or "commander. " 171 Like the erist'avis, the spaspeti was conferred
with his own particular land, the central region o f Shida, or Inner, K 'art'li: "from T p'ilisi *7 7 and from
the Aragwi [River] up to Tasiskari and P'anavari, which is Shida K 'art'li." The Life o f the Kings
explicitly relates the relationship o f the spaspeti to the monarch: "And this spaspeti was second to the
king, [and] he stood over all the erist 'avi-s." *7^ The first spaspeti mentioned by name is Maezhan, who

110Ibid., p. 25.
*7 *Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi, pp. 211, 215, and 371-372; Garsoian in The Epic Histories, technical
terms, s.v. "sparapet/sparapetut'iwn," pp. 560-561. Spaspeti was rendered by Toumanoff as "high
constable." See also R. Bedrosian, "The Sparapetut'iwn in Armenia in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries,"
AR 36/2 (1983), pp. 6-46. The Georgian variant spaypeti is extremely old and appears in C urtaveli.
Mart. Shush., cap. 1, p. 11 (for Shushaniki's father. Vardan the spaypeti). In fourth-century Armenia, the
sparapet was second only to the king. And we have the example of the famous Manuel Mamikonean,
whose family had held the sparapet-ate hereditarily but whose family was removed from the honor by
King Varazdat Manuel seized the sparapet-ate and deposed the king after dueling him. He executed
Varazdat's sparapet, Bat Saharuni. We are told that "the sparapet and commander-in-chief Manuel
conquered the realm... He wielded authority and gave orders to the realm in the place of the king, and he
kept the realm prosperous." Thus the sparapet could act in the place o f an inept king, and the
Mamikonean sparapet-s did not always depend upon the favor o f the Armenian kings. We have no such
episodes o f boldness among the K 'art'velian spaspeti-s, but it is clear th at they wielded much authority
and influence. See The Epic Histories. V.37, p. 221.

172

1 Tp'ilisi is probably a gross anachronism here, for it was not founded (and did not become an
important center) until the fifth century AD. It is possible, however unlikely, that the reference here is to
an earlier settlement of the same name (cf. Byzantium/Constantinople).

^ T h e Life o f the Kings, pp. 24-25.

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held that position during the reign o f Asp'agur I (265-284), the father o f Mihran/Mirian. 17"^ The "second
to the K 'art'velian king" appears to be, in actuality, an ancient institution, for Strabo mentioned a "second
in line [who] administers justice and commands the army." 175
The administrative machine, with its cl