Andrew Andersen







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.


Soon after coming to power, David re-built regular army and created peasant militia in order to be able to resist Seljuk colonization of the country. The First Crusade (1096-1099) and Crusaders offensive against Seljuk Turks in Anatolia and Syria favored Davids successful campaigns in Georgia. By the end of 1099 David stopped paying tribute to the Seljuks and put most of Georgian lands except Tbilisi and Ereti under his effective control.


In 1103 he reorganized Georgian Church and closely linked it with the state by appointing the Catholicos (Arch-Bishop) a Crown Chancellor (Mtsihnobart Ukhutsesi) of Georgia.


In 11031105 Georgian army took over Ereti and made successful raids into still Seljuk-controlled Shirvan. Between 1110 and 1118 David took Lore, Samshvilde, Rustavi and other fortresses of lower Kartli and Tashiri turning Tbilisi into an isolated Seljuk enclave.


In 1118-1119, having considerable amounts of free, unsettled land as a result of the withdrawal of Turkish nomads and desperately needing qualified manpower for the army King David invited some 40 000 Kypchak warriors from North Caucasia to settle in Georgia with their families. In 1120 the ruler of Alania recognized himself King Davids vassal and after that thousands of Alans (Ossets) were allowed to cross the main Caucasus range into Georgia to be settled in Kartli and some other areas. Georgian Royal army was also welcoming mercenaries from Germany, Italy, Scandinavia (all those westerners were defined in Georgia as the Franks) as well as from Kievan Rus.


In 1121, Seljuk Sultan Mahmud declared Jihad on Georgia and sent a strong army under one his famous general Al-Ghazee to wipe out all of her Christian population. Although significantly outnumbered by the Turks, Georgians managed to defeat the invaders at Didgori (12/08/1121) and in 1122 took over Tbilisi to make it Georgias capital. Three years later, Georgians conquered Shirvan. As a result, mostly Christian-populated Ghishi-Kabala area in western Shirvan (relic of once prosperous Albanian Kingdom) was annexed by Georgia while the rest of already Islamized Shirvan became Georgias client-state. Same year a big portion of Armenia was liberated by Davids troops and fell into Georgian hands as well. Thus, in 1124 David also became the King of Armenians incorporating Northern Armenia into Georgian Crown lands.


Several months later, King David died (01/1125) leaving Georgia with the status of a strong regional power. In his country, King David is called Agmashenebeli. That can be translated into English as the re-constructor or the restorer.


(Click on each map for better resolution)



David Agmashenebelis successors (Kings Demeter I, David V and George III) continued the policy of Georgias expansion by subordinating most of the mountain clans and tribes of North Caucasia and further secured Georgian positions in Shirvan. However, the most glorious sovereign of Georgia of that period was definitely Queen Tamar (Davids great-granddaughter).



To the left:

Ruins of an abandoned Georgian church erected between 1130 and 1160 in present-day Daghestan






Reign of Queen Tamar was the peak of Georgias might in the whole history of the nation.


In 1194-1204 Tamars armies crushed new Turkish invasions from the south-east and south and launched several successful campaigns into Turkish-controlled Southern Armenia. As a result, most of Southern Armenia with the cities of Karin, Erzinjan, Khelat, Mush and Van, was put under Georgian control. Although not included into Georgian Crown lands and left under nominal rule of local Turkish Emirs and Sultans, Southern Armenia became a protectorate of the Kingdom of Georgia.


The temporary fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1204 to the Crusaders left Georgia the strongest Christian State in the whole East Mediterranean area. The same year Queen Tamar sent her troops to take over the former Byzantine Lazona and Paryadria with the cities of Atina, Riza, Trebizond, Querasunt, Amysos, Kotyora, Heraclea and Sinopa. In 1205, the occupied territory was transformed into the Empire of Trebizond with Tamars relative Prince Alexius Comnenus crowned Emperor. Although officially called an Empire the new state was Georgias dependency for more than two hundred years.


In 1210 Georgian armies invaded northern Iran (todays Iranian Azerbaijan) and took the cities of Marand, Tebriz, Ardebil, Zenjan and Kazvin putting part of the conquered territory under Georgian protectorate.


That was the maximal extent of Georgia throughout her history. During the described period of time Queen Tamar was addressed as The Queen of Abkhazians, Kartvels, Rans, Kakhs and Armenians, Shirvan-Shakhine and Shakh-in-Shakhine, The Sovereign of the East and West. Georgian historians often refer to her as Queen Tamar the Great.


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The period between the early 12th and the early 13th centuries and especially, the era of Tamar the Great, can truly be considered as the golden age of Georgia. Besides the political and military achievements, it was marked by the development of Georgian culture including the architecture, literature, philosophy and sciences





The Golden Age was interrupted by the Mongol invasions of the early 20s of the 13th century.