Научная статья на тему 'Georgia in antiquity: choosing between the West and the East'

Georgia in antiquity: choosing between the West and the East Текст научной статьи по специальности «История и археология»

The Caucasus & Globalization
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Аннотация научной статьи по истории и археологии, автор научной работы — Lordkipanidze Guram

Between the 6th century B.C. and the 4th century A.D., Georgia, caught between the Western and Eastern civilizations that were locked in opposition in the Caucasus, had to choose its own cultural and political makeup. The author relies on written sources (national chronicles, Greek and Roman authors) and archeological data to reveal the true geopolitical value of a country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and the most important transportation routes. Not infrequently, Georgia's cultural orientation clashed with its political interests, while its civilizational identity was not always clear: the West-East struggle repeatedly turned its territory into a theater of war; waves of conquests (the Mongols were an exception) left the country devastated, while the conquerors imposed alien ideologies and alien religions on the local people.

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Текст научной работы на тему «Georgia in antiquity: choosing between the West and the East»


D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Corresponding Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Georgia

(Tbilisi, Georgia).



Between the 6th century B.C. and the 4th century A.D., Georgia, caught between the Western and Eastern civilizations that were locked in opposition in the Caucasus, had to choose its own cultural and political makeup. The author relies on written sources (national chronicles, Greek and Roman authors) and archeological data to reveal the true geopolitical value of a country at the crossroads of Europe

and Asia and the most important transportation routes. Not infrequently, Georgia’s cultural orientation clashed with its political interests, while its civilizational identity was not always clear: the West-East struggle repeatedly turned its territory into a theater of war; waves of conquests (the Mongols were an exception) left the country devastated, while the conquerors imposed alien ideologies and alien religions on the local people.

I n t r o d u c t i o n

The civilizational and political confrontation between the West and the East (between Europe and Asia) goes back to antiquity; as a major culturological problem it is still relevant. Found at the border between Europe and Asia, the Caucasus serves as a bridge of sorts between two different cultural types and is the best illustration of their millennia-long dialog.1

Georgia’s civilizational identity still figures prominently in Georgia’s national historiography2 for the simple reason that far too often the country served as a buffer between two or even three warring empires, each with political and economic aims of its own.

In his poem “Davitiani,” otherwise known as “Georgia’s Afflictions,”3 Davit Guramishvili (1705-1792) presented a dramatic picture of the clashes of interests among three great powers (Russia, Persia, and Turkey) in his native country.

He could not conceal his bitterness when writing with a great deal of sarcasm about King of Georgia Vakhtang VI, a great military leader who served the Shah of Iran: “While taking orders from him he respects the Russian and the Turk as well. If these three disagree among themselves they will draw us into a war. He obeys three kings and has three yokes ready.”

1 See: R. Metreveli, The Caucasian Civilization in the Globalization Context, CA&CC Press, Stockholm, 2009, pp. 8-9.

2 See: T. Gamkrelidze, “Does Georgia Belong to Europe or Asia?” Academia (historical-philological journal), Tbilisi, No. 1, 2001, pp. 3-8; N. Chikovani, Georgia's Cultural Essence and Civilizational Identity in the Context of the Theory of Civilizations (theoretical and methodological aspects), Tbilisi, 2005, pp. 250-319 (both in Georgian).

3 See: D. Guramishvili, Davitiani, Kiev, Tbilisi, 1980, p. 28.


“Can three dragons set a lion free?” the poet asked. This was not an idle question: the “lion” (read, Georgia) had from time immemorial defended its freedom from the “West” and from the “East”; the Caucasus separated the nomads from the settled peoples.

Strabo (64/63 B.C.-A.D. 23-24) likewise was struck by Georgia’s ethnocultural diversity: “The people of the valleys (land tillers) prefer a peaceful lifestyle, while the people of the mountains are belligerent; they follow the customs of the Scythians and Sarmatians, even though they also till the land. When threatened with a war they gathered scores of thousands of warriors, including Scythians and Sarmatians” (Strabo, XI, III, 3).

The Greco-Persian Wars and Georgia

The Kingdom of Colchis (Western Georgia) and Iberia (Eastern Georgia, the Kingdom of Kart-li) were the first Georgian states which emerged at the crossing of important trade routes (including the Phasis-Kura river route)4; they played and continue to play an important geopolitical and geo-economic role.5

In antiquity, Georgian territory was crossed by strategic roads which connected the Black Sea coast and the Northern Caucasus with the Caspian countries and Western Asia. The Caucasus served as a natural dividing line between the nomads and land tillers (a fact well known to ancient authors like Herodotus and Strabo).

Greeks and Persians competed for control over the key mountain passes (Daryal, Mamisoni, Klukhor, Derbent) and the Colchis-Maeotis road, which in antiquity made Georgia a regional player in its own right.

Herodotus (5th century B.C.) offered important information about the Caucasus’ ethnopolitical past: “The distance from the Palus Maeotis (Lake Maeotis, the Sea of Azov.—G.L.) to the River Pha-sis (Rioni.—G.L.) and the Colchians is thirty days’ journey for a lightly-equipped traveler.” It is 430 km from the Sea of Azov to the Rioni! He also wrote that the area between Colchis and Media (the Persian border) was populated by “only a single intervening nation, the Saspirians” (Herod. I, 104); he probably had in mind the East Georgian tribes of Iberians. The toponym “Speri” (an ancient Georgian province on the upper reaches of the River Chorokhi, now part of Turkey called Ispir) has preserved the name mentioned by the ancient Greek historian.

He also knew that some of the East Georgian tribes were directly included in the XVIII and XIX satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire. He also wrote that Persia (uJpo; Pevrsh/si a[rcetai) controlled the territories that stretched up the Main Caucasian Ridge, although it did not control the territories to the north of it (Herod. III. 97, 4).

This means that in the 6th-4th centuries B.C., the Achaemenids sought control over the Caucasian mountain passes with the help of the local nobles to protect their borders. This probably explains the so-called Kazbegi Treasure6 which included, among other things, a silver phial with an omphalos of the Ionian-Achaemenid circle decorated with palmettes, lotuses, and swan heads and bearing an inscription in Aramaic script.

4 See: O. Lortkipanidze, “Trade on the Black Sea. The Premise of the Great Silk Road,” in: 9th International Symposium on the Ancient History and Archeology of the Black Sea Area, Vani, Tbilisi, 1999, pp. 58, 59.

5 See: E. Ismailov, V. Papava, The Central Caucasus: Essays on Geopolitical Economy, CA&CC Press, Stockholm, 2006, pp. 17-18.

6 Archeologist G. Filimonov found the Kazbegi Treasure in 1877 in the Daryal Gorge (in the village of Kazbegi in Khevi) when the Military-Georgian Road was widened. Today, the treasure is exhibited in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

The Persians remained interested in the mountain passes for a long time. Kartlis tskhovreba (dated to the 11th century) says: “The king of the Persians arrived and occupied all the gorges (Khevi) of the Caucasian tribes and appointed his mtavars everywhere.”7

Herodotus knew how the Scythians moved across the Caucasian isthmus; he was aware of the tactical ploys they used when selecting the route: “This however was not the road followed by the Scythians, who turned out of the straight course, and took the upper route, which is much longer” (Herod. I, 104).

Archeologist K. Pitskhelauri found a monumental Scythian stone sculpture of the god of war dated to the 6th-5th centuries B.C. not far from this road, in the village of Manavi.8

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This confirms what Herodotus wrote about the Caucasus of his time. The presence of Medians and, later, Achaemenids is confirmed by archeological finds in some regions of Eastern Georgia.9

The political influence of the Achaemenids probably stretched as far as Western Georgia, which belonged to the Hellenic cultural area,10 something which is indirectly confirmed by the fact that in the Greco-Persian wars of the 6th-4th centuries B.C.,11 Colchian warriors fought together with the Persians. Herodotus confirmed this, saying: “Asia, with all the various tribes of barbarians that inhabit it, is regarded by the Persians as their own; but Europe and the Greek race they look on as distinct and separate” (Herod. I, 4).

Herodotus described the River Phasis, that is, Georgia, as the boundary between Europe and Asia (Herod. IV, 45), where the Hellenes and the Persians pursued their own interests. The Greek historian supplied a lot of details about the weapons used by the Colchian auxiliary units (similar to those set up among the Moschi and Saspirians-Iberians) which fought under (ei\con) a certain Pharan-dates, son of Teaspes (Herod. VII, 79).

The Colchian warriors carried short spears and small shields made of ox hide; horsemen were armed with mavcairai (a cutting one-sided curved weapon). (This is confirmed by monuments of material culture dated to Colchis of the 5th-4th centuries B.C.)

Herodotus supplied another important fact, saying: “The Colchians undertook to furnish a gift[to the Persians], which in my day (ej-ejmev) was still brought every fifth year, consisting of a hundred boys, and the same number of maidens” (Herod. III, 97, 4).

It is a well-known fact that this extremely humiliating system was not voluntary (dw’ra-dwreav); it can be presumed that Western Georgia was a vassal of Persia and had to supply auxiliary units in the event of war. This probably explains why the Greek written sources of the 5th-4th centuries B.C. frequently mentioned Colchian slaves.

When writing that under Darius the Persians conquered the Greek islands and the European people as far as the Thessalians (III, 96), Herodotus offered his own explanation, saying: “The Greco-Persian wars were waged by divine will (to; qei’on). The gods gave Europe to the Hellenes and Asia, to the Persians and other barbarians. The gods punished the Persians who upset the balance and captured more than had been given to them from above.”

Georgia separated two hostile worlds; this is confirmed by the national chronicles of the 4th-12th centuries known under the blanket title of Kartlis tskhovreba (History of Georgia).

According to them, the common ancestor of all the Georgians ethnarch Targamos received from God, after “separation of the tongues in Babylon,” his share of land—a vast territory between the

7 Kartlis tskhovreba (History of Georgia), ed. by Academician R. Metreveli, Tbilisi, 2008, pp. 41, 47 (in Georgian).

8 See: O.D. Dashevksaia, G.A. Lordkipanidze, “Skifskoe izvaianie iz Vostochnoy Gruzii,” in: Istoriko-arkheolog-icheskiy almanakh, Armavir, Moscow, 1995, pp. 99-101.

9 See: G. Kipiani, “Achamenian Heritage in Ancient Georgian Architecture,” in: Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Vol. XLI, Pecters Press, Louvain, 2004, pp. 167-191.

10 See: G.A. Lordkipanidze, “Nekotorye voprosy istorii antichnoy kultury Gruzii,” in: Problemy antichnoy kultury, Nauka Publishres, Moscow, 1986, pp. 237-242; O. Lordkipanidze, Nasledie Gruzii, Metsniereba, Tbilisi, 1989; T. Dund-ua, Colchis and Greek Settlements in Western Georgia, Universal Publishers, Tbilisi, 2009, pp. 22-42 (in Georgian).

11 See: G. Cawkwel, Greek Wars: The Failure of Persia, Oxford University Press, London, 2005, pp. 5-325.


Hyrcanium (Caspian) and Pontus (Black) seas. The newly acquired lands were settled by descendants of eight brothers. Kartlos acquired the Central Caucasus (hence the ethnonym Kartvelians), while Egros, the younger brother, received the Western Caucasus (hence the ethnonym Megrels).

Peaceful intervals in the incessant feud among the frequently warring brothers brought prosperity and calm to their domains, a fact that is confirmed by the 2,500-year long history of Georgia.

Kartlis tskhovreba (p. 17) says that the Georgians were pagans and worshiped the Sun, the Moon, and Five Stars; the burial of Kartlos, their ethnarch, was the main shrine where oaths were made.

The Hellenistic Period

Alexander the Great, who marched against Persian King Darius III (334-332 B.C.), plunged Georgia, and the Caucasus for that matter, into another mire of wars, immediately after the Greco-Persian wars of the previous period.

The first Georgian chronicle of the 4th century, “The Conversion of Kartli,” which in the 11th century became part of the official, and ideologized, History of Georgia, says: “Alexander appeared in Greece, in a country which was called Macedonia. Having conquered all four corners of the world, he entered our land, Kartli. At first he did not stay long in this country of powerful cities and strong fortresses” (Kartlis tskhovreba, Ch. III, p. 20). After conquering the whole world, Alexander the Great returned to Kartli with its belligerent population. In six months, he captured 12 large fortified cities in Georgia (they existed in the 4th-3rd centuries B.C.) and entrusted the newly conquered country to Azo, also known as Azon, son of Macedonian Iaredos, ruler of Arian Kartli with a Greek title patrikos (from Greek лахріко^—the forefather).

“Persian Georgia,” probably part of the Achaemenid Empire (Herod. III, 94), was wedged between Persia and the Seleucid Empire.12

Alexander the Great, who routed Darius III, naturally wanted the Persian king’s Caucasian domains well known to him from the myths about the Argonauts and Prometheus; the academic community, however, refuses to accept this march as a historical fact.

The diadochi, locked in squabbles over Alexander’s legacy for twenty years, might have undertaken this march; ancient Georgian historical tradition (323-281 B.C.) refers precisely to this.

The chronicle says: “In twelve years, he conquered the entire world and died in the fourteenth year” (Kartlis tskhovreba, Ch. IV, pp. 21, 24).

Alexander the Great had no descendants and left no instructions about the future of his worldwide empire. The Georgian chronicles, however, enumerated all official successors personally appointed by the great military leader.

Antioch was given “Syria and Armenia, the eastern part of his state;” this probably relates to Antioch I Soter (281-261 B.C.), successor of Seleucus I (358-281). In several places, the source refers to the founder of Antioch as Anticoz (an obvious lapsus calami by the scribe). Romus and Byzantios (two diadochi) are probably imaginary figures.

The history of the new Georgian kingdom emerging amid the squabbles for supreme power looks plausible enough. The Macedonians made Azo (Azon) king of Georgia; he relied on foreigners and on the Greek military corps stationed in Georgia (described as provtasi-protavssw—a vanguard).

Azo, who stationed Greek garrisons in the country’s four main strategic points, remained in power in Eastern and Western Georgia for twenty years.

While obeying “Byzantios, the King of Greece” he, a cruel and bloodthirsty man, put more pressure on the local people and issued a decree which said in part: “Any Georgian found with weapons

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12 See: D. Braund, Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia. 650 B.C.-A.D. 562, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994, pp. 124-151.

on him should be murdered;” the chronicler confirms that the order was obeyed (Kartlis tskhovreba, Ch. IV, pp. 21, 28).

Azo, who was determined to replace the local astral cults with an alien cult of dynastic idols, stirred up discontent which developed into an anti-Macedonian (anti-Greek) uprising headed by Phar-navas, one of the local nobles, the immediate ancestors of whom had ruled Mtskheta and been killed when Alexander the Great captured their land (Kartlis tskhovreba, Ch. IV, pp. 25, 5).

The chronicler, who says that all the Caucasian peoples rallied around Pharnavas, describes him as an intelligent and fearless warrior and hunter. The confrontation, which lasted for two years, ended when a “thousand of the best Roman (Greek, anachronically referred to as Roman.—G.L.) warriors” moved to the side of the insurgents. Pharnavas entered the capital as a victor; despite the troops sent from Greece, “the Greeks were defeated and had to flee.”

After securing the support of Antioch of Asurastan (Syria) and, through him, of the rulers of Armenia, Pharnavas began reorganizing his country. He ruled “according to the rules of the Kingdom of Persia,” that is, the state of the Seleucids.13 (The state of the Seleucids, which pursued the policy of Hellenization, acquired the name of Syria when it lost the larger part of Asia.)

Georgia was divided into 8 regions (satrapies)—saeristao; Mtskheta, the capital, along with the country’s central part, formed a special administrative unit. The military-administrative units were headed by eristavi (“heads of the people”) who obeyed the king and the spaspet (commander-in-chief). The commanders of “thousands” helped “collect duties for the king and the eristavs”. The Macedonians likewise had similar people (hiliarchoses) who commanded units of one thousand men.

According to the chronicler, King Pharnavas (284-219 B.C.) “protected himself from all enemies (Kartlis tskhovreba, Ch. IV, pp. 24, 4); he built and filled Georgia with every boon he restored the cities and fortresses of Georgia destroyed by Alexander.”

Pharnavas, like the rulers of Cappadocia, Armenia, and the neighboring states14 of the Hellenistic period, “loyally served Antioch, King of Asurastan” (Kartlis tskhovreba, Ch. IV, pp. 24, 34).

The above is confirmed by archeological excavations in Georgia. The cities mentioned in History of Georgia were destroyed in the 4th-3rd centuries B.C.

It was then that the strategically important and strongly fortified Khovle gora settlement (the Kasp District of Georgia) in the Kartli lowland on the right bank of the Kura was ruined. This was the first place in the Caucasus which produced (in the 3rd cultural layer) stone cannon-balls of various calibers15 used by stone-projecting machines of the so-called torsion type (catapults and ballista-pal-intonon) known as “the artillery of antiquity.”16

At that time, only the Macedonian army used technically perfect stone-projecting machines serviced by trained engineering units.

The digs in Samadlo-Nastakisi, Uplis-Tsikhe, and Urbnisi (in the River Kura plain) revealed (in the layer dating back to a fire of the 4th-3rd centuries) stone cannon-balls (weighing 9.5 kg and 21 cm in diameter), evidence of the Macedonian attacks (Kartlis tskhovreba, Ch. III, pp. 20, 25.)

The archeological sources show that there was an “outbreak of urbanization;” archeologists found strong fortifications, public buildings, palaces, and temples, which indicates the fairly advanced stage of the country’s Hellenization.

The Seleucids maintained close trade and economic ties with Georgia, which promoted peace to a great extent; the country used the gold staters of Alexander the Great and Lysimachus and Seleucid, Cappadocian and Ptolemy coins.

13 See: E. Bikerman, Gosudarstvo Selevkidov, Nauka Publishers, Moscow, 1985, pp. 184-185, 190-191. (E. Biker-man, Institutions des Séleucides, Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, Paris, 1938.)

14 See: Ibid., p. 156.

15 See: D.L. Muskhelishvili, “K voprosu o sviaziakh Tsentralnogo Zakavkazia s Perednim Vostokom v rannean-tichnuiu epokhu,” in: Voprosy istorii Gruzii, Tbilisi, 1978, pp. 17-30.

16 E.W. Marsden, Greek and Roman Artillery, Oxford University Press, London, 1969, p. 65.

The Roman Age

When the state of the Seleucids fell victim to another round of global confrontation between the West and the East, Georgia found itself drawn into the international whirlpool of the 2nd-1st centuries B.C.

As an ally of the King of Pontus Mithridates VI Eupator and King of Armenia Tigran II the Great, Georgia became a theater of war waged by the Romans. Greek and Roman written sources (Plutarch, Appian, and others) confirm that Pompey devised a strategic plan for the wide-scale invasion of Georgia; Plutarch supplied the details of this military operation.

The Roman historian described the Iberians as a belligerent people and wrote: “These Iberians were never subject to the Medes or Persians, and they happened likewise to escape the dominion of the Macedonians, because Alexander was so quick in his march through Hyrcania. But these also Pompey subdued in a great battle... From thence he entered into the country of Colchis, where Servilius met him by the River Phasis, bringing the fleet with which he was guarding the Pontus” (Plut. Pomp. XXXIV).

From that time on Georgia became part of the sphere of strategic interests of the Roman Republic (later Empire) locked in a protracted and strenuous conflict with reviving Persia. The East-West confrontation entered a new stage which lasted for several centuries.

Once more, the great powers became concerned about the safety of the Caucasian passes; the Georgian rulers, who had to rebuff the Persians and the Romans, relied, from time to time, on nomads and the belligerent mountain peoples, which added to Georgia’s international political prestige.

Georgia’s greater political weight in the region is confirmed by a lapidary Greek inscription found in Mtskheta. Seventeen lines of a declaration of Emperor Vespasianus dated to 75 A.D.17 says with a lot of pathos that Romans built a fortified wall (TA TEIXH ESQ ESQXYPQ2AM), “To King of the Iberians Mithridates, son of King Pharasmanes and Prince Amazasp, friend of Cesar and the [Georgian] people who love the Romans” (ФІЛОКАІСАРІ KAI ФІЛОРОМАІКО).

Archeologists confirmed that a strong defense line ran to the south-east of Armazi Tsikhe (Mt-skheta), capital of the kingdom, designed to close access to the Kura valley and block the road to Armenia and Parthia.

In the inscription, obviously composed in the chancellery of Autocrator Cesar Vespasianus Sebastos, Father of the Fatherland, etc., Mithridates, son of Pharasmanes, is called “King of Iberia” without additional titles.

At the same time, the so-called Stele of Saragash of the 1st century A.D. (found in the necropolis of Armazi (Mtskheta) carries an Aramaic inscription which contains the full title “Great King Mithridates, son of Great King Pharasmanes.”18

“Prince Amazasp,” who is mentioned in the Vespasianus inscription, is a historical figure; this is confirmed by another inscription found in the Roman environs. A lapidary Greek inscription (an epitaph) on a gravestone (114/115 B.C.) said: “Glorious Prince Amazasp, bother of King Mithridates, whose native land is found at the Caspian gates. Iber, son of Iber, is buried in the holy city [Nizibis] founded by Nicator, where the Migedon flows under olive trees; a companion of the Potentate [Emperor Trajan], leader of the Avzons, having arrived to fight the Parthians, died before he could steep his powerful hand, spear, arrow, or sword, on foot or on horseback in enemy blood.”19

The two monuments are about 40 years apart, throughout which Amazasp remained the friend of the Roman cesars; Georgia, however, pursued its own foreign policy interests and looked toward the West20; this is amply testified by the written sources.

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17 See: T. Kauchtschishwili, Korpus der Griechischen Inschritten in Georgien, Tbilisi, 2004, pp. 337-338.

18 G.V. Tseretelli, “Epigraficheskie nakhodki v Mtskheta—drevney stolitse Gruzii,” Vestnik drevney Natrii (VDN), Moscow, No. 2, 1948, p. 52.

19 Quoted from: T. Kauchitschwili, op. cit., p. 12.

20 See: A.G. Bokshchanin, Parthia i Rim, Moscow University Press, Moscow, 1966, pp. 266-267; N.Yu. Lomouri,

Gruzino-rimskie vzaiomotnoshenia, Vol. 1, Tbilisi University Press, Tbilisi, 1981, p. 163.

Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 57-138) had the following to say about the events of 32-37, “King of Iberia Pharasmanes is waging a successful war against Parthia and its ally Armenia. He replied by forming a league with the Albanians and calling up the Sarmatians. The Iberians, however, who controlled the important positions, hastily poured their own Sarmatians into Armenia by the Caspian Way” (Tacit. Ann. VI. 33).

Amid the mounting tension between the Roman and Parthian empires and being fully aware of Georgia’s strategic importance, Josephus Flavius (37-95) allocated a lot of money to win the Iberian rulers who controlled the “Caspian Gates” (resp. Daryal) over to his side; he incited the Alanians, now against Parthia, now against Armenia and Cappadocia (Jos. Fl. Antiq Jud. XVIII, 96-101).

The archeological finds in Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia, testify to the close political and economic contacts between Georgia and the Roman world in the 1st-4th centuries. Some of the highest nobles were Roman citizens—Publicus Agrippa and Flavius Dades21; we also know the name of the chief architect and artist of Mtskheta (Aurelius Akholis).

Rome confirmed its friendship with “diplomatic presents” of silver tableware of high artistic quality and vessels with portraits of the emperors,22 jewelry, intaglios of Caracalla (208-217), Ptolemy V Epiphanes (210-180 B.C.), and Antinous, an intimate friend of Emperor Hadrian, etc.

Archeological diggings produced objects with images of the Greco-Roman pantheon: Zeus, Jupiter, Athena (Minerva), Nike (Victoria), Apollo, Ares (Mars), Asclepius, Tyche (Fortuna), and others.

The local chronicles contained information about the religious policies of the nineteenth pagan king of Georgia Reva Arshakid (240-280), who erected a statue of “an idol called Aphrodite” to honor his wife, a Greek woman “called Sephelia, daughter of Logophet” (Kartlis tskhovreba, Ch. III, p. 37).

Archeologists also found a few objects of Parthian-Sassanian toreutics.

In the 1st-4th centuries, Georgians used mainly Roman denarii and aurei and, to a lesser extent, Parthian and Sassanian silver coins.

Gradually the Greek language replaced the Aramaic; this is confirmed by the finds from a set of rich burials dated to the 2nd-3rd centuries near the village of Zghuderi (the Kasp District).23

Several chance finds invited more detailed studies of three wooden sarcophaguses with rich burial inventory which accompanied provincial nobles to the grave.

The burials revealed various sumptuous objects (probably royal presents) with dedicatory inscriptions in Greek and 11 gold Roman coins of the 1st-3rd centuries; 28 denarii of Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14); and 5 silver Parthian drachmas of Artabanus II (10-38).

A gold coin of Emperor Domitianus (81-96) issued in 77/78 is the earliest among the Roman


The gold coins of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) and Empress Faustina Senior (100-141) are the most important coin finds; it was during their reigns that King Pharasmanes II was invited to Rome. Cassius Dio tells about this important event in his Roman History.

The name of the Georgian king is associated with an unprecedented event; his equestrian statue was erected on the Campus Martius in Rome (where his military unit took part in a military parade); he was allowed to perform sacrifice on Capitol Hill (Dio Cass. 1st Rom., LXX, 2, Fr. 3). The fact that the visit was registered in the Roman chronicles of dies Fasti found in Ostia (seven lines of a lapidary Latin inscription dated to 141-144) speaks of its outstanding importance.

21 See: T. Dundua, “Publicus Agrippa, Flavius Dades and a Dual Citizenship—a Pattern for Europe in Future?” in:

Georgians and Roman Frontier Policy in the East, Meridian Publishers, Tbilisi, 2003, pp. 3-14.

22 See: K. Machabeli, Serebro drevney Gruzii, Khelobneba Publishers, Tbilisi, 1983, pp. 18-28; idem., Pozdnean-tichnaia torevtika Gruzii, Metsniereba Publishers, Tbilisi, 1976, p. 17.

23 See: D. Braund, K. Javakhiswili, G. Nemsadze, The Treasures of Zghuderi, Georgia, Tbilisi, 2000, pp. 4-98.

By Way of


Three centuries of close relations with the Roman Empire predetermined the cultural and economic future of Georgia up to and including adoption of Christianity as the state religion in 326 under Mirian III.

Neither the aggressive policies of the Sassanids, who tried to impose Zoroastrianism by fire and sword, nor the Greco-Persian wars of the 6th-4th centuries that unfolded in Georgian territory, altered the country’s pro-Western orientation.