Sunday 1 April 2018

Kingdom of Georgia

The Kingdom of Georgia was a medieval monarchy which emerged c. 1008 AD. Georgia became one of the pre-eminent nations of the Christian East, her pan-Caucasian empire stretching, at its largest extent, from the North Caucasus to Northern Iran, and eastwards into Asia Minor, while also maintaining religious possessions abroad, such as the Monastery of the Cross and Iviron.

Monastery Of The Cross

Bagrat III (c. 960 – 7 May 1014), of the Georgian Bagrationi dynasty, was King of Abkhazia from 978 on (as Bagrat II) and became the King of Georgia from 1008 on. He united these two titles by dynastic inheritance and, through conquest and diplomacy, added more lands to his realm, effectively becoming the first king of the Kingdom of Georgia.

Bagrat III

In 1008, Gurgen, father of Bagrat died, and he succeeded him as King of Kings of the Georgians. After he had secured his patrimony, Bagrat proceeded to press a claim to the easternmost Georgian principality of Kakheti and annexed it in or around 1010, after two years of fighting and aggressive diplomacy. This formidable acquisition brought Bagrat’s realm to the neighbourhood of the Shaddadid emirate of Arran in what is now Azerbaijan.

A town in Georgia.

Bagrat was also known as a great promoter of Georgian Orthodox culture. Not only did he encourage learning and patronize the fine arts, but he built several churches and monasteries throughout his kingdom with the "Bagrati Cathedral" at Kutaisi, Bedia Cathedral in Abkhazia, and Nikortsminda Cathedral in Racha being the most important. Bagrat III died in 1014 in the Panaskerti Castle in Tao and was entombed in Bedia Cathedral.

Bagrati Cathedral at Kutaisi, a World Heritage Site

Bagrat was succeeded by Giorgi I (1002 – 16 August 1027), of the House of Bagrationi, who ruled from 1014 until his death in 1027. He spent most of his thirteen-year-long reign waging a bloody and fruitless territorial war with the Byzantine Empire. Following the peace treaty in 1023, Constantinople was visited by Catholicos-Patriarch Melkisedek I of Georgia, who gained Byzantine financial aid for the construction of "Svetitskhoveli", a major Orthodox cathedral in the eastern Georgian town of Mtskheta.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

After George I's death in 1027, Bagrat, aged eight, succeeded to the throne and ruled from 1027 to 1072 CE. During his long and eventful reign, Bagrat sought to repress the great nobility and to secure Georgia's sovereignty from the Byzantine and Seljuqid empires. The second half of the 11th century was marked by the strategically significant invasion of the Seljuq Turks, who by the end of the 1040s had succeeded in building a vast empire including most of Central Asia and Persia.

Bagrat IV 

The Seljuk threat prompted the Georgian and Byzantine governments to seek a closer cooperation. To secure the alliance, Bagrat’s daughter Maria married, at some point between 1066 and 1071, the Byzantine co-emperor Michael VII Ducas. The Seljuks made their first appearances in Georgia in the 1060s, when the sultan Alp Arslan laid waste to the south-western provinces of the Georgian kingdom and reduced Kakheti.

Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan

Bagrat IV was succeeded by George II as the king of the Georgians and he reigned from 1072 - 1089 CE. In 1076, the Seljuk sultan Malik Shah I surged into Georgia and reduced many settlements to ruins. He was pressured into submitting to Malik-Shah to ensure a precious degree of peace at the price of an annual tribute. Although, George's acceptance of the Seljuq suzerainty did not bring a real peace for Georgia, Seljuk garrisons occupied the key fortresses in Georgia's south.

Seljuk Sultan Malik Shah I

Unable to deal effectively with the constant Seljuk Turkish attacks and overwhelmed by internal problems in his kingdom, George II was forced to abdicate in favor of his energetic son 16 year old son David IV, to whom he remained a nominal co-ruler until his death in 1112. David ruled from 1089 until 1125 CE. Popularly considered to be the greatest and most successful Georgian ruler in history and an original architect of the Georgian Golden Age.

David IV  

King David IV suppressed dissent of feudal lords and centralized the power in his hands to effectively deal with foreign threats. He proved to be a capable statesman and military commander. In 1089–1100, he organized small detachments to harass and destroy isolated Seljuk troops and began the resettlement of desolate regions. By 1099 David IV's power was considerable enough that he was able to refuse paying tribute to Seljuqs. David IV founded the Gelati Academy, which became an important center of scholarship in the Eastern Orthodox Christian world of that time.

Gelati Academy, Georgia

In 1123, David’s army liberated Dmanisi, the last Seljuk stronghold in southern Georgia. In 1124, David finally conquered Shirvan and took the Armenian city of Ani from the Muslim emirs, thus expanding the borders of his kingdom to the Araxes basin. Armenians met him as a liberator providing some auxiliary force for his army.

Cathedral of Ani

David the Builder died on 24 January 1125, and upon his death, King David was, as he had ordered, buried under the stone inside the main gatehouse of the Gelati Monastery so that anyone coming to his beloved Gelati Academy stepped on his tomb first, a humble gesture for a great man. He had three children,son Demetrius, succeeded him and continued his father's victorious reign.

David the Builder

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