Andrew Andersen




By the year 656, most of the South Caucasus except LazicaEgrisi, was overrun by the expanding Arabs and became part of the Arab Caliphate that by that time included all of the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe (click on the map to get the full-screen image).


In the former Iberia-Kartlia, an Emirate of Tephelis was established with the centre in Tephelis (Tbilisi). That caused mass migrations of Kartvelian-speaking population westwards to Byzantine-controlled Lazica. As a result, several areas of formerly Svan- and Zan-dominated Lazica became Kartvelian-speaking among them Racha, Imereti and Guria (including today’s Achara)


However, the Byzantine-Arab wars and partial disintegration of the Caliphate, created pre-conditions for the restoration of some elements of Georgian statehood: between 780 and 790 the Principality of Kakheti (formerly north-eastern Iberia) and the Kingdom of Ereti (formerly he easternmost area of Iberia and north-western Albania) gained sovereignty by seceding from the Emirate of Tephelis.


Approximately ten yeas later, Abkhazian Achrontos (Byzantine-appointed Governor) Leon launched an anti-imperial uprising, ousted Byzantine troops from most of Lazica, proclaimed the Kingdom of Egris-Abkhazia and bestowed the title of the King upon himself. As of today, some verbal supporters of Abkhazian separatism mistakenly believe that the Kingdom of Egris-Abkhazia was the first state of the Apsuans. That is wrong due to the fact that by its whole nature, Egris-Abkhazia was a pure example of a Georgian state: the majority of its population were Svans, Zans and Kartvelians (all the three groups were speaking closely related languages and were representing the branches of the furture Georgian nation), the official languages were Kartvelian (Georgian) alongside with Greek, the capital of the Kingdom was Kutaisi that was almost purely Kartvelian city. Two decades later, Egris-Abkhazia also seceded from Byzantine Empire ecclesiastically: Egris-Abkhazian church broke with the Patriarch of Constantinople and went under the Jurisdiction of the Catholicos of Mtskheta (the head of East Georgian Orthodox Christian Church) and switched the language of services from Greek to Georgian (Kartvelian). In fact, that was the creation of a united Georgian church that has been existing since the above events excluding a relatively short period of time between 1810 and 1917.


The first decades of the 9th century saw the birth rise of a new Georgian state in Tao-Klarjeti.

Liberated from the Arabs by Curopalate Ashot of the princely family of Bagrationi the territory of former southern Iberia including the Principalities of Tao and Klarjeti as well as the Earldoms of Shavsheti, Khikhata, Samtskhe, Trialeti, Javakheti and Ashotsi, was formally a part of Byzantine Empire under the name of “Curopalatinate of Iberia”. However in fact, Ashot Bagrationi was running a fully independent country with its capital in Artanuji. The hereditary title of Curopalate was kept by Bagrationi family whose representatives ruled Tao-Klarjeti for almost a century. Curopalate David bagrationi expanded his domain by annexing the city of Theodossiopolis (Karin, Karnukalaki), Armenian province of Basiani and imposing  protectorate over Armenian provinces of Kharqi, Apakhuni, Mantsikert and Khlat formerly controlled by the Kaysithe Arab Emirs.


The first united Georgian monarchy started forming at the end of the 10th century when Curopalate David invaded the Erldom of Kartli previously disputed between the Emirate of Tephelis, and the Kingdoms of Kakheti and Egris-Abkhazia, and crowned his adopted son Bagrat Bagrationi the King of Kartli in 975. Three years later, after the death of his uncle Theodosius the Blind, King of Egris-Abkhazia , Bagrat inherited Abkhazian throne. In 1001 Bagrat also included Tao-Klarjeti (Curopalatinate of Iberia) into his domain as a result of David’s death and finally, in 1008-1010 annexed Kakheti and Ereti thus becoming the King of the united Georgia both eastern and western.

(Click on the map for better resolution)


The second half of the 11th century was marked by the disastrous invasion of the Seljuk Turks who by the end of 1040s succeeded in building a vast nomadic empire including most of the Central Asia and Iran. In 1071 Seljuk army destroyed the united Byzantine-Armenian and Georgian forces in the battle of Mantsikert, and by 1081, all of Armenia, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria and most of Georgia and other countries of the area were conquered and devastated by the Seljuks.


In Georgia, only mountainous areas of Abkhazia, Svanetia, Racha and Khevi-Khevsureti remained out of Seljuk control and served as relatively safe haven for numerous refugees. All the rest of the country was dominated by the conquerors that were destroying the cities and fortresses, looting the villages, wiping out both aristocracy and farming population and colonizing the country with the nomadic tribes from Central Asia. In fact, by the end of the 80s of the 11th century, Georgians were at the edge of being irreversibly outnumbered by the newcomers in their own land.


The Anti-Seljuk struggle in Georgia was led by the young King David IV who inherited the throne in 1089 in the age of 16 after the abdication of his father George II Bagrationi.




Seljuk Turks in Georgia

Reconstruction: Angus McBride






Click on the below map for the full-screen image