Научная статья на тему 'The Byzantine Commonwealth and the international status of the Georgian political units in the first half of the 10th century'

The Byzantine Commonwealth and the international status of the Georgian political units in the first half of the 10th century Текст научной статьи по специальности «Философия, этика, религиоведение»

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Аннотация научной статьи по философии, этике, религиоведению, автор научной работы — Papaskiri Zurab

Outstanding Russian Byzantine scholar Dimitri Obolensky introduced the term ";Byzantine Commonwealth" as a concept in his fundamental work The Byzantine Commonwealth. Eastern Europe, 500-1453 (published in 1971). He described the Byzantine Commonwealth as a "supranational community" of sorts rooted in Orthodoxy and the idea of primacy of the Byzantine emperor. The present author demonstrates that many of the neighboring states (not only the Slavs and Rumanians as Dimitri Obolensky believed) belonged to the Byzantine cultural and political arena; however, the Byzantine Commonwealth was not a mechanism of political subjugation. He proceeds from this premise to dwell on the central aspects of the relations between Georgia and Byzantium and to assess the Georgian trend in Byzantine foreign policy in the first half of the 10th century.

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Текст научной работы на тему «The Byzantine Commonwealth and the international status of the Georgian political units in the first half of the 10th century»



D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor, Sukhumi State University

(Tbilisi, Georgia).



Outstanding Russian Byzantine scholar Dimitri Obolensky introduced the term "Byzantine Commonwealth" as a concept in his fundamental work The Byzantine Commonwealth. Eastern Europe, 500-1453 (published in 1971). He described the Byzantine Commonwealth as a "supranational community" of sorts rooted in Orthodoxy and the idea of primacy of the Byzantine emperor. The present author demonstrates that many of

the neighboring states (not only the Slavs and Rumanians as Dimitri Obolensky believed) belonged to the Byzantine cultural and political arena; however, the Byzantine Commonwealth was not a mechanism of political subjugation. He proceeds from this premise to dwell on the central aspects of the relations between Georgia and Byzantium and to assess the Georgian trend in Byzantine foreign policy in the first half of the 10th century.


For nearly a millennium, the Byzantine Empire remained a superpower responsible for the political climate in the countries of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Hither Asia, and the Middle East. Being involved in a never-ending confrontation with Sassanian Iran, later with the Arab Caliphate, and still later with the Seljuk Turks, the Byzantine Empire never dropped its efforts to draw the neighboring Christian countries and peoples into the sphere of its interests as the leader of


the East Christian world. Over time, the Empire created a cultural and political entity of sorts which comprised its vassal neighbors and the countries oriented toward Constantinople. This entity, or the Byzantine Commonwealth, a term coined by prominent Russian student of Byzantium Dimitri Obolensky, was a "supranational community of Christian states of which Constantinople was the center."1 It was rooted in "the unity of Orthodoxy, the idea of metapolitical domination of the Byzantine emperor, and in the Byzantine culture and jurisprudence accepted by other countries."2

It should be said that prominent Byzantinists slightly readjusted what Obolensky meant by the Byzantine Commonwealth. Alexander Kazhdan, another luminary of Russian Byzantine studies, was not quite satisfied with the "too narrow interpretation ... of the geographic limits of the 'Commonwealth';" he was quite right to point out that "the commonwealth was not limited to the Balkans, the northern shores of the Danube and the Northern Black Sea coast. It stretched to Italy, the Caucasus and the Euphrates area." He deemed it necessary to emphasize that the "ideological and political reality of the Middle Ages, even if registered in terms of dependence, had nothing in common with real dependence" and that "the hierarchy of the Byzantine Commonwealth" was a factor of self-awareness rather than political subjugation.3 According to Academician Litavrin, another prominent Russian Byzantinist scholar (he was the first to offer his opinion about Obolen-sky's monograph4), the real interests of the countries which belonged to the so-called commonwealth had little in common. They perceived the community as a cultural and confessional unity, while the Byzantine Empire placed the stakes on politics,5 which means that a Byzantine looked at "the commonwealth as an 'imagined paradise' and ideological justification of imperial foreign policy designed to attain this ideal . while the subjects of the 'dependent' country treated it as a moral-ethical conception and nothing more . therefore it ("community" as Litavrin described it.—Z.P.) had no real political or administrative-hierarchical structure."6 It should be said that some think that the Byzantine Commonwealth was not a "real structure" but rather a delusion of those who ruled the empire.7

Recently, it has become obvious that the Byzantine Commonwealth conception calls for a more creative approach. According to Academician Litavrin, for example, the following questions should receive clear answers: "Was the vast East Christian area which stretched from the Holy Land to the Baltic tied together into a political and legal structure? Were there any definite contractual, outside the church, contacts between these countries and Byzantium as the center of the area and among them? And finally, was there any practical meaning in the system of fictitious kindred ties (the closeness of which varied from country to country) between the basileus and the rulers of the East Christian neighbors? Could it be that this system was nothing more than one of the ceremonial and diplomatic ploys designed to strengthen the empire's influence in the area?"8

1 D. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth. Eastern Europe 500-1453, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1971, p. 341. The Russian translation of this work was published in the book: D. Obolensky, Vizantiyskoe sodruzhestvo natsii. Shest vizantiyskikh portretov, Moscow, 1998.

2 A. Voytenko, "Review of D. Obolensky, Vizantiyskoe sodruzhestvo natsii. Shest vizantiyskikh portretov," available at [http://old.russ.ru/journal/kniga/99-03-04/voit.htm].

3 See: A.P. Kazhdan, "D. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth. Eastern Europe 500-1453, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1971. Annotation/review," Vizantiyskiy vremennik, Vol. 35, Moscow, 1973, p. 262.

4 See: G.G. Litavrin, "D. Obolensky, Vizantiyskoe soobshchestvo gosudarstv. Vostochnaya Evropa. 500-1453 (review)," Voprosy istorii, No. 2, 1972, pp. 180-185.

5 See: G.G. Litavrin, Vizantiya, Bolgaria, Drevnyaya Rus (IX-nachalo XII vv.), St. Petersburg, 2000, p. 355.

6 G.G. Litavrin, "D. Obolensky, Vizantiyskoe soobshchestvo gosudarstv. Vostochnaya Evropa. 500-1453 (review)," pp. 182-183.

7 S.A. Ivanov, Vizantiyskoe missionerstvo: mozhno li sdelat iz "varvara" khristianina? Moscow, 2003, p. 343.

8 G.G. Litavrin, "Foreword to the book Rus i Vizantiya: Mesto stran vizantiyskogo kruga vo vzaimootnosheniyakh Vostoka i Zapada," in: Tezisy dokladovXVIII Vserossiyskoy nauchnoy sessii vizantinistov. Moskva. 20-21 oktyabrya 2008 goda, Moscow, 2008, p. 4.


It is not my intention to join the polemics around this highly important problem of principal importance for contemporary Byzantine studies; I am absolutely satisfied with Obolensky's conceptual approach and believe that, on the whole, his idea of the Byzantine Commonwealth corresponds to historical reality. This means that throughout its history,9 the Byzantine Empire was perceived not only by its rulers,10 but also by its Christian neighbors, as a center and leader of the entire Christian Orthodox world.11 In fact, not only the Christian Orthodox countries, but also Grigorian Armenia, were regarded as part of the Byzantine Commonwealth.12

This article can be described as an attempt to identify Byzantine policies in relation to the Georgian states in the first half of the 10th century and their international status and to decide whether they can be described as part of the circle of countries and peoples which belonged to the Byzantine Commonwealth in the period under review.

An Overview of Byzantine Imperial Policies in the Georgian and Armenian Areas and the Hegemonic Ambitions of King Adarnase II Bagrationi of "the Kartvelians"

At the turn of the 10th century, the Byzantine Empire treated the Georgian and Armenian political units with caution and did all it could to draw them onto its side in its confrontation with the Arab Caliphate. Under Leo VI the Wise (886-912), the empire lost some of its foreign policy and military might, hence its relatively passive behavior: it had to preserve what it had rather than strive toward wider international impacts.13 This became obvious for the first time in Byzantine history under Basil I (866-886) in 885 when the Arab Caliphate made Ashot Bargatuni king of Armenia. The Byzantine

9 According to Obolensky, in the Late Middle Ages the "cultural unity not only survived the catastrophic events of 1180-1240 but ... acquired a new content and strength" (D. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth. Eastern Europe 500—1453, p. 203) (see also: V.A. Zolotovsky, "Voennye aspekty vneshney politiki Vizantii pri pervykh Paleologakh (K uyasneniyu spetsifiki 'Vizantiyskogo sodrizhestva natsiy')," in: Rus i Vizantiya: Mesto stran vizantiyskogo kruga vo vzaimootnosheniyakh Vostoka i Zapada, p. 56).

10 For more detail, see: Yu.G. Sokolov, "K probleme 'Vizantiyskogo sodruzhestva gosudarstv': strany vizantiyskogo kruga glazami romeev v pervoy polovine XIII veka," in: Rus i Vizantiya: Mesto stran vizantiyskogo kruga vo vzai-mootnosheniyakh Vostoka i Zapada, pp. 120-126.

11 It should be said in this connection that the Arabian geographic works of the 10th century "treated the Byzantine Commonwealth ... as a geopolitical reality. In particular, al-Istahri and Ibn Nawkal identified 'four empires (mamlakat),' which they treated as the pillars of world order (italics mine.—Z.P.): the Caliphate (mamlakat al-islam) ruled from Baghdad by the sovereign of the faithful (amir al-muminin); Byzantium (mamlakat ar-Rum) headed by the czar (malik), who lives in Constantinople; China (mamlakat as-Sin), the ruler of which (sakhib) lives in the city of Kayfeng; India (mam-lakat al-Hind), with the czar (malik) as its head, who lives in the city of Kannauj" (I.G. Konovalova, "Predstavlenie o Vi-zantiyskom sodruzhestve gosudarstv v arabskoy geograficheskoy literature X veka," in: Rus i Vizantiya: Mesto stran vizantiyskogo kruga vo vzaimootnosheniyakh Vostoka i Zapada, pp. 76-77).

12 For more detail, see: V.A. Arutyunova-Fidanyan, "Kontaktnye zony v sisteme 'Vizantiyskogo sodruzhestva gosudarstv'," in: Rus i Vizantiya: Mesto stran vizantiyskogo kruga vo vzaimootnosheniyakh Vostoka i Zapada, pp. 15-17.

13 It has been more or less commonly agreed that, on the whole, Byzantium pursued a fairly successful foreign policy in the latter half of the 9th and the first half of the 10th century (see: A.P. Kazhdan, "Vneshnepoliticheskoe polozhenie imperii v seredine IX-seredine X veka," in: Istoria Vizantii, Vol. 2, Moscow, 1967, p. 188, available at [http://historic.ru/ books/item/f00/s00/z0000048/st018.shtml]), however, from time to time the empire suffered serious foreign policy defeats, the effects of which lasted for fairly long periods of time. This happened during the reign of Leo VI the Wise (see: A.A. Vasiliev, Istoria Vizantiyskoy imperii, Vol. I, available at [http://www.hrono.ru/libris/lib_we/vaa161.html]; A.P. Ka-zhdan, "Vneshnepoliticheskoe polozhenie imperii v seredine IX-seredine X veka," p. 190).


rulers were baffled, but Basil I could not object; he even expressed his pleasure. According to prominent Armenian historian of the 10th century, Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi (John of Drasxanakert) "the great Greek Emperor Basil ... concluded an important treaty on peace, obedience, and friendship with our King Ashot, calling him his favorite son14 and drawing him into all the royal [developments] of his state."15 As historians rightly pointed out, the Byzantine emperor tried to demonstrate his rights to Armenia and his suzerainty over Ashot.16

The Byzantine rulers treated Smbat Bargatuni (890-914), who succeeded Ashot, in the same way when he sent a friendly letter to Emperor Leo VI the Wise. Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi wrote: "Meanwhile Smbat, having finally consolidated [his] rule, sought ... peaceful and friendly relations with everybody. In the first place, according to the alliance established by [his] father, he, being a mild and unpretentious man, did not move away from the sincere friendship of Leo, the emperor of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, and sent numerous and suitable gifts as a token of his respect. This explains why the emperor reciprocated not with scanty but with lavish gifts and honors... Most importantly, by signing a union of friendship, the emperor made Smbat his 'favorite son' (italics mine.—Z.P.)."17

These honors, however, did not bestow the royal status (of basileus) upon Ashot and Smbat. They were addressed as Archon ton Archonton (prince of princes, a rough analogue of the Armenian ishkhanats ishkhan or Georgian eristavt-eristavi). Imperial diplomacy was guided by the Byzantine conception that treated the emperor as "vicar of Christ and protector of the Christian Church. None of

14 Historians have drawn attention to the formula "favorite son." It is believed that it (as well as "spiritual son") was actively used in the "system of international-legal relations of Byzantium." Authors of historical works pointed out that the "so-called spiritual family of the Byzantine emperor was probably invented for bilateral relations between Byzantium and any other state. The relations between the emperor and the members of this 'family' were of a triple nature: (1) 'spiritual brothers,' who under certain conditions could claim a certain degree of equality; (2) 'spiritual sons'; and (3) 'friends,' which was the lowest rank. The title 'spiritual son' was conferred on a long line of Bagratuni kings and survived at least until Ashot III (953-977). One of the possible contenders to the Armenian throne invariably held the title of 'friend.' The 'family' system coexisted with other regulators of international-legal relations, particularly with the Armenians" (H. Draskhanakerttsi, Istoria Armenii, Transl. from the Old Armenian, introduced and commented on by M.O. Darbinyan-Melikyan, Erevan, 1986, Note 140 to Chapter XXIX, available at [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus/ Drash/frametext3.htm]) (see also: K.N. Yuzbashyan, review of "Constantine Porphyrogennetos, De administrando Imperio,Translation, foreword and commentaries by R.M. Bartikyan," Erevan, 1970 (in Armenian), Vizantiysky vremen-nik, Vol. 37, 1976, p. 266; idem, Armyanskie gosudarstva epokhi Bagratidov i Vizantiya IX-XI vekov, Moscow, 1988, pp. 81-82).

15 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 119. In the 13th century, Vardan Areveltsi, another Armenian historian, supplied more detailed information: "Eunuch Nikita arrived from the same Emperor Basil. with many gifts to ask for a crown from Ashot because Vahan, Bishop of Taron, had convinced Basil that he descended from the clan of Arshakuni since his mother was an Armenian. Basil wanted Bagratuni to crown him, which Ashot did." (Compilation of History by Vardan the Great, Transl. by N.O. Emin, Moscow, 1861, p. 109). As for the assertions that Basil I allegedly sent a royal crown to Ashot Bagratuni (see: A.A. Vasiliev, op. cit.; A.P. Kazhdan, "Vneshnepoliticheskoe polozhenie im-perii v seredine IX-seredine X veka," p. 191), they are not confirmed by the sources (at least there is no mention of this in the work by Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi to which Vasiliev referred); however, this possibility should not be excluded. The Georgian chronicles (in particular the work by Juansher Juansheriani) registered that the Byzantine imperial court used to send royal crowns to leaders of other countries (in this case to Erismtavari Mir and Archil of Kartli) (see: J. Juansheriani, "Life of Vakhtang Gorgasali," in: Kartlis tskhovreba (Chronicle of Kartli), The Georgian text based on all the main manuscripts was prepared by Prof. S.G. Kaukhchishvili, Vol. I, Tbilisi, 1955, p. 239; idem, Life of Vakhtang Gorgasali, Translated, introduced and commented on by G.V. Tsulaya, Tbilisi, 1986, p. 104) (on the same subject, see also: "Byzantine Diplomacy and Political Changes in Western Georgia in the First Half of the 8th Century," in: Georgian Diplomacy. Annual, IV, Tbilisi, 1997, p. 307; Z.V. Papaskiri, "From the Political History of Western Georgia-Abkhazia" in his book Abkhazia is Georgia, Tbilisi, 1998, pp. 114-120; idem, "Once More on Georgia's Foreign Policy Status in the 8th Century," in: Proceedings of the Sukhumi State University, V, The Humanitarian, Social and Political Sciences Series, Tbilisi, 2008, pp. 449-451, available at [http://sou.edu.ge/files/samecniero%20 mushaobis%20koordinacia/ssu_shromebi_5_%282008%29.pdf], all in Georgian).

16 See: A.N. Ter-Gevondyan, Armenia i Arabsky Khaliphat, Erevan, 1977, pp. 237-238.

17 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 129, available at [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus/Drash/ frametext4.htm].


the foreign rulers could aspire to become his equal."18 It was part of the Byzantine political doctrine that proceeded from the idea of the unique nature of Byzantine statehood inherited from the Roman Empire19 and that (the Byzantine conception of power and the related ceremonial) Grigori Ostrogor-sky, one of the grandees of the world Byzantine studies, aptly described as a "specifically Byzantine political religion."20

The above suggests that the Byzantine rulers could remain outwardly indifferent to the title of "King of the Kartvelians" held by Adarnase II because of the highly unfavorable international context. Constantinople, however, could hardly accept his provocative aggressiveness and military-political moves against Armenian King Smbat Bagratuni because of its confrontation with the Arabs, which obviously interfered with the empire's far-reaching designs. This deserves a more detailed investigation.

According to Georgian and Armenian sources, King Adarnase II of "the Kartvelians" was a strong political leader, his military-political and diplomatic power stretching far beyond the Georgian political area proper to involve Armenia. This became obvious in 890 when, after the death of King Ashot Bagratuni, his son Smbat and his brother Abas, Smbat's uncle, both claimed the throne. Adar-nase II seized the opportunity presented by the conflict to invade Armenia and, despite Abas' frantic efforts to prevent his movement inside the country, reached Smbat and "after removing his mourning clothes dressed him in royal attire."21

This had little in common with the diplomatic rules of the time: Smbat ascended the throne thanks to the active diplomatic (and, possibly, not only diplomatic) support of the Georgian king: he was not only present at the coronation but interfered in the domestic affairs of the neighboring state to establish an acceptable political regime there. The fact that the Georgian king's political activity went far beyond the diplomatic limits was confirmed by the strong indignation of certain groups of the Armenian political establishment (Abas Bargatuni, in particular). Driven by indignation, he decided to act: on the way back, "[Atrnerseh] was taken prisoner, put in irons, and locked in the fortress of Kars."22 Smbat Bagratuni had to use his diplomatic skills and military force to release his patron.23

This means that Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi confirmed Adarnase II's special (or even central) role in establishing political order in Armenia. Some Armenian authors tend to overestimate the role Smbat Bagratuni played in Adarnase Bagrationi's coronation ceremony (about which Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi also wrote) and to ignore the role of the Georgian king in putting Smbat on the Armenian throne. Viada Arutyunova-Fidanyan, for example, deemed it necessary to point out the following when writing about Adarnase II: "Adarnase ... King of Kartli24 (888-923) was

18 Z.V. Udaltsova, "Diplomatia," in: Kultura Vizantii. Vtoraya polovina VII-XII vv., Moscow, 1989, p. 246. In 812, Constantinople had to recognize, for the first time in its history, the imperial status of the King of the Francs: "Karl August, crowned by God, great and peaceful Roman Emperor;" the Byzantine imperial court, however, specified: "From that time on, it became the official rule to supply the title basileus (of the Byzantine emperor.—Z.P.) with 'of the East Romans (Byzantines)'. This means that Karl was recognized as an emperor of "the Frankish rather than Roman kingdom." (G.G. Litavrin, "Politicheskaya teoriya v Vizantii s serediny VII do nachala XIII veka," in: Kultura Vizantii. Vtoraya polovina VII-XII vv., pp. 69-70; Z.V. Udaltsova, op. cit., p. 250). Later, in 927 the Byzantine rulers recognized the Bulgarian king as a basileus (see: Z.V. Udaltsova, op. cit.).

19 See: Z.V. Udaltsova, op. cit., p. 241.

20 G. Ostrogorsky, "Die byzantinische Staatenhierarchie," Seminarium Kondakovianum, Vol. 8, 1936, pp. 43-44; Z.V. Udaltsova, op. cit., p. 246.

21 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 122.

22 Ibidem.

23 Ibid., pp. 122-123.

24 Regrettably, V.A. Arutyunova-Fidanyan and some other historians (but not Georgians) tend to misinterpret the title of the "Kartvelian King" and believe that they were kings of Iberia (historical Kartli). A.N. Ter-Gevondyan, another Armenian historian, wrongly wrote about Adarnase II as "prince of Kartli" (see: A.N. Ter-Gevondyan, op. cit., p. 240; italics mine—Z.P.).Ya.N. Lyubarsky, another prominent Russian student of Byzantium, made a similar mistake. When


crowned by Smbat I the Martyr (italics mine.—Z.P.);"25 when writing about Smbat Bagratuni,26 she stubbornly ignored the role the Georgian king played in Smbat's ascension to the Armenian throne.

In the late 9th century, his interference in the domestic affairs of Armenia and hectic activities inside and outside his country earned Adarnase II international recognition, made him one of the most prominent regional political figures, and enabled him to claim the leading role throughout the Transcaucasus. This first became obvious in 904 when he tried to interfere in the conflict between the Kingdom of "the Abkhazians" and Smbat Bagratuni, King of Armenia. The crisis between the West Georgian state and Armenia of the Bagratides went back to the last quarter of the 9th century when the Armenian Bagratides joined in the fracas over the so-called Kartlian heritage (in fact, Shida Kartli, the historical domain of the Kartlian kings and later erismtavari).27 Unable to reconcile himself to another attempt of the king of the Abkhazians Konstantine III (893-922) (Konstanti according to the Chronicle of Kartli and Konstandin according to Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi) to capture Shida (Inner Kartli), the Armenian king besieged Uplistsikhe, the region's administrative and political center.28

Adarnase II at first sided with the Armenians.29 In a critical situation, the conflicting sides agreed to peace talks, at which King Konstantine III represented the Abkhazians. In an effort not to allow the king of "the Abkhazians" to retain Shida Kartli, the Georgian king disrupted the talks, took Konstantine III prisoner, and transferred him to Smbat Bagratuni. For some time, the West Georgian king remained his prisoner; later the Armenian king let him go.30 Under the peace treaty between Armenia and Konstantine III, the Armenian king returned "Uplitsikhe and all of Kartli" to the king of "the Abkhazians." The treaty was further confirmed by a dynastic marriage.31

Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi explained this by the desire of the people of Egrisi (Lazica) to have a "stronger king."32 We cannot exclude the possibility that the ambitious ruler of Tao-Klarjeti (very much concerned about the much closer relations between the two kings and the fact that Kon-

analyzing the information supplied by Theophanes Continuatus about the arrival in Constantinople (in 922-923) of Ashot Bagrationi, son of Adarnase II, Lyubarsky referred to the latter as the Kartlian king and specified that "traditionally the kings of Kartli also had the title of curopalates; when his father died, Ashot came to Constantinople to claim the title" (Prodolzhatel Feofana, Zhizneopisanie vizantiyskikh tsarey, Prepared for publication by Ya.N. Lyubarsky, Second revised edition, Aleteya, St. Petersburg, 2009, p. 250). The commentator obviously confused two different titles—the "King of Kartli" and the "King of the Kartvelians." In fact, the Kartvelian kings, who officially claimed the right to be the legal heir to the kings and erismtavari of Kartli (historical Iberia, that is, the East Georgian kingdom) at that time (in the first quarter of the 10th century) did not control the whole territory of Tao-Klarjeti inherited from Ashot Bagrationi, the last head of the Kartlian state he founded in the early 9th century. This new Georgian unit was conventionally called the Tao-Klarjeti Princedom (or country of the curopalates); it was also called the Kartvelian (not Kartlian) Kingdom. At that time, the name Kartli was applied to the much smaller territory of Shida Kartli (Inner Kartli).

25 See: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, Ob upravlenii imperiey, Text, translation and commentaries edited by

G.G. Litavrin and A.P. Novoseltsev, Moscow, 1989, p. 408; Note 15 to Chapter 43, available at [http://www.vostlit.info/ Texts/rus11/Konst_Bagr_ 2/text45.phtml?id=6402].

26 See: Ibid., p. 407, Note 11 to Chapter 43.

27 For more detail, see: N.A. Berdzenishvili, Problems of Georgian History, Vol. VIII, Tbilisi, 1977, p. 305; M.D. Lordkipanidze, "The Domestic and International Status of Georgia between the 980s and 1080s," in: Essays of the History of Georgia, Vol. III, Tbilisi, 1979, pp. 191-192; A.P. Abdaladze, Relationships among the Political Units of the Transcaucasus in the 9th-11th Centuries, Tbilisi, 1988, pp. 169-211 (all in Georgian).

28 See: "Matiane Kartlisa," in: Kartlis tskhovreba, p. 262; Letopis Kartli, Translated, introduced and commented on by G.V. Tsulaya, Tbilisi, 1982, p. 51.

29 See: H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 153, available at [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus/Drash/frametext5.htm].

30 See: Ibid., p. 154.

31 "Matiane Kartlisa," p. 263; Letopis Kartli, p. 52 (see also: Z.V. Anchabadze, Iz istorii srednevekovoy Abkhazii. VI-XVII vv., Sukhumi, 1959, p. 121).

32 H. Draskhanakerttsi, History of Armenia (786-925), Text in Armenian with Georgian translation, research and indices published by E.V. Tsagareyshvili, Tbilisi, 1965, p. 114 (translated into Russian as "even worse oppressor" (see:

H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit.).


stantine III regained Kutaisi) wanted to change the political regime in Western Georgia. In this context, it seems doubtful that Smbat Bagratuni set King Konstantine free "to demonstrate that he was grateful to the king of Virka (Adarnase II.—Z.P.), who was of Konstantine III's father-in-law."33 The Armenian author wants to convince us that Smbat Bagratuni liberated the king of "the Abkhazians" because the king of Virka (Adarnase) wanted this. This, however, contradicts another piece of information supplied by the Armenian Catholicos, according to whom "the king of Virka was very angry because Kostantid had been released contrary to his will (italics mine.—Z.P.). In his irritation, he began secretly arming his warriors against his unpretentious avenger Smbat."34

Later events confirmed beyond doubt that Konstantine III had been set free without consulting Adarnase Bagrationi and that Smbat Bagratuni had infringed on the hegemonic designs of the king of the "Kartvelians." Certain facts suggest that after finding out about Adarnase II's suspicious activities in Western Georgia, Smbat Bagratuni decided to set his recent enemy King Konstantine III of "the Abkhazians" free and return him Kartli to avoid an "Abkhazian-Kartvelian" consolidation. This buried Adarnase's hopes of capturing Kartli. This was not all. It seems that the Armenian king performed a U-turn in his attitude toward the "prisoner" because of certain developments in Byzantium.

I have already written that in the 880s-890s, the Byzantine leaders tried to draw the Armenian kings onto their side. Leo VI the Wise, for example, recognized the priority of Smbat Bagratuni in the Armenian political expanse and conferred the title of "favorite son" on him, which, de facto, registered Byzantine sovereignty over Armenia. As could be expected, this irritated Caliph al-Mu'tadid (892-902) to the extent that he demanded that ruler of Azerbaijan Muhammad Ibn Abi'l Saj al Afshin (who earlier, in 892,35 declared Smbat king of Armenia in the name of the Caliph) should start punitive actions.36 At first Smbat managed to pacify the irritated ostikan of Azerbaijan37; later Afshin invaded Armenia and destroyed it,38 but the Caliphate failed to remove Smbat Bagratuni from the patronage of Byzantium and had to accept him, once more, as king.39 This means that by 904 the Byzantine emperor still retained a certain amount of control over Smbat Bagratuni, his "favorite son," despite the frantic opposition of the Caliphate.

At the same time, the Byzantine Empire cooperated (probably on an even greater scale) with the Kingdom of "the Abkhazians." Despite the fact that late in the 8th century the "Abkhazian" Kingdom, the sovereign West Georgian state,40 came into being on the anti-Byzantine wave to spite Constantinople,41 throughout the 9th century the relations between the empire and official

33 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit.

34 Ibidem.

35 See: Z.M. Buniyatov, Azerbaijan v VII-IX vv., Baku, 1965, p. 209; A.N. Ter-Gevondyan, op. cit., p. 240.

36 For more detail, see: Z.M. Buniyatov, op. cit., pp. 209-211.

37 According to Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi, Smbat sent a pacifying letter to Afshin in which he expressed his surprise at the ostikan's anger: "Why are you getting angry and bearing down on us for no reason at all? If it is because I became friends with the emperor, I did it in your interests as well." (H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 130, available at [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus/Drash/frametext4.htm]; italics mine.—Z.P.).

38 See: Ibid., pp. 134-135; Z.M. Buniyatov, op. cit., pp. 209-210.

39 Calif al-Muktafi (902-908) cut down the dues, recognized Smbat as his vassal, and once more sent him "magnificent royal gowns and a royal crown..." (H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 149; italics mine.—Z.P.).

40 For more on the national and state makeup of the Kingdom of the Abkhazians, see: Z. Papaskiri, "'Ab-khazskoe' tsarstvo—gruzinskoe gosudastvo," in: Istoricheskie razyskania, Annual of Scholarly Papers of the Abkhazian Branch of the Ekvtime Takaishvili All-Georgia Historical Society, VIII-IX, Tbilisi, 2006, pp. 68-106, available at [http://sites.google.com/site/saistoriodziebani/dziebani 2005-2006]. The same text can be found in: Z. Papaskiri, I vosstala Gruzia ot Nikopsii do Darubanda, Tbilisi, 2009, pp. 24-54, available at [http://sites.google.com/site/zpapaskiri/ publications-russian] (see also: Z. Papaskiri, Abkhazia. Istoria bez falsifikatsii, Second revised edition, Tbilisi, 2010, pp. 24-54).

41 For more detail, see: S.N. Janashia, "On the Time and Conditions in Which the Abkhazian Kingdom Appeared," in: Proceedings in 3 vols, Vol. II, Publishing House of the AS of the GSSR, Tbilisi, 1952, pp. 331-333 (in Georgian);


Kutaisi gradually improved to develop, in the 880s, into a partnership and close cooperation. Relations improved when the imperial leaders resolutely supported, both diplomatically and militarily, fugitive Crown Prince Bagrat, who fought for his legitimate right to the throne of the Leonidas in Western Georgia.42 From that time on, the Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of "the Abkhazians" maintained good-neighborly relations; their cooperation continued in the first half of the 10th century, which is confirmed by Byzantine43 and Georgian44 sources. This background suggests that the Byzantine emperor could have interfered, in a most active and determined way, in the conflict between Smbat and the king of "the Abkhazians" to demand that his "favorite son" immediately set free Konstantine III, his loyal ally. I have written above that this buried the King of "the Kartveli-ans'" hopes of capturing Kartli.

As could be expected, Adarnase II never forgave the perfidy of his former partner and ally. Resolved to depose and execute him and add Armenia to his domains, he started by luring onto his side those Armenian nakharars (headed by Honorary Nakharar Khasan, "ishkhan and manager of all royal possessions,"45 who refused to obey Smbat. Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi wrote that "Khasan transferred the Ani fortress to Atrnerseh (italics mine.—Z.P.)."46 Smbat, however, moved faster: he meted out cruel punishment on the rebellious nobles, but instead of fighting the King of "the Kartve-lians," he invited him to enter a peace treaty.47

As an Armenian historian, Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi kept within his own (and medieval Armenian) historiographic tradition: Smbat Bagratuni was presented as a powerful potentate who had to fight Adarnase II, a mere instrument in the hands of the Armenian nakharars. "They (the mutinous nakharars.—Z.P.) decided to murder [king] Smbat and make [Atrnerseh] king of Armenia. In this way, they persuaded him to join their perfidious [coup]."48 The Armenian Catholicos went even further; he wrote that Adarnase II demonstrated complete obedience: "Atrnerseh ... repented ... and pleaded the king for forgiveness. And the merciful [king] ... gave him peace, yet took his elder son as hostage."49

Very much like their predecessors, contemporary Armenian historians treat the events of 904 in a very tendentious way. Viada Arutyunova-Fidanyan, for example, was obviously carried away by the passionate medieval Armenian author when she wrote that Smbat Bagratuni "was invariably merciful toward his defeated royal neighbors (Konstantine of Abkhazia and King Atrnerseh) (italics mine.—Z.P.)."50 Margarita Darbinyan-Melikyan, who translated Hovhannes Draskhanakertsi's work into Russian, offered a strange comment, to say the least, to what the Armenian chronicler had

Z.V. Anchabadze, op. cit., pp. 101-104; Z. Papaskiri, "'Abkhazskoe' tsarstvo—gruzinskoe gosudastvo," pp. 89-90; idem, Abkhazia. Istoria bez falsifikatsii, p. 42.

42 For more detail, see: Z. Papaskiri, "Specifying the Foreign Policy Orientation of the 'Abkhazian' Kingdom," in: Georgian Diplomacy. An Annual, Vol. 6, Tbilisi, 1999, pp. 325-335. The same publication can be found in: Z. Papaskiri, Georgia Rebelled from Nikopsia to Daruband, pp. 184-195 (all in Georgian).

43 This is confirmed, in particular, by the messages of Patriarch of Constantinople Nicholas the Mystic to the "Abkhazian" kings which bear obvious traces of friendly and allied relations between the Kingdom of the "Abkhazians" and the Byzantine Empire late in the 9th-first third of the 10th century (see: Georgika. Information of Byzantine Writers about Georgia. The Greek text with Georgian translation published and commented on by S.G. Kaukhchishvili, Vol. IV, Part II, Tbilisi, 1952, pp. 212-218).

44 The good relations between Kutaisi and Constantinople were reflected in the information supplied by "Matiane Kartlisa" that King Giorgi II of the "Abkhazians" sent his two sons to Byzantium (see: "Matiane Kartlisa," p. 270; Letopis Kartli, p. 56; Z. Papaskiri, "Specifying the Foreign Policy Orientation of the 'Abkhazian' Kingdom," p. 333).

45 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 156, available at [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus/Drash/frametext5.htm].

46 Ibidem.

47 See: Ibid., p. 157.

48 Ibid., p. 156.

49 Ibid., p. 157.

50 V.A. Arutyunova-Fidanyan, "Obraz Vizantii v armyanskoy srednevekovoy istoriografii X veka," Vizantiysky vremennik, Vol. 52, Moscow, 1991, p. 119.


written: Smbat Bagratuni "took his unfaithful nakharars from him (Adarnase II.—Z.P.),51 blinded them all by putting out their eyes, and sent some of them to the Byzantine emperor and others to the Egerian king."52 The Russian translation reads: "Smbat sent his blinded nakharars to the Byzantine emperor as a sign of his 'filial' respect for his 'father' and to the Abkhazian king his loyal vassal (italics mine.—Z.P.)."53

This is absolutely illogical: no matter how much our Armenian colleagues want to accept as true everything Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi wrote in his time about the omnipotence of the kings of Armenia, in this case the very mention of the "Egerian" king together with the emperor of Byzantium shows that the West Georgian king was an authoritative leader and that Smbat Bagratuni highly respected him. We cannot exclude the possibility that Konstantine III, who did not need a stronger rival (Adarnase II) in the Georgian political expanse, sided with the king of Armenia who dispatched the disgraced nakharars to him to show his gratitude.

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The peace between the king of "the Kartvelians" and Smbat Bagratuni proved short-lived; later (in 909-910) Adarnase II moved once more against the Armenian king on the side of Yusuf ibn abu-Saj54 (Abul Kasim according to Georgian sources)55 appointed in 908 by Caliph al-Muktadir (908932) a new viceroy of Arminia-Azerbaijan.56 Ruler of Vaspurakan Gagik Artsuni and Shapukh Bagratuni sided with the Georgian leader to fight together with the Arabian emir. Smbat was defeated.57 No matter how hard he tried, the Armenian king failed to appease the stern ruler of Arminia-Azerba-ijan with diplomatic means. Yusuf ibn abu-Saj invaded Armenia; having plundered it he moved on to Georgia where he plundered Tbilisi, Kartli, Samtskhe, and Javakheti.58

Adarnase II's aggressive actions against the Armenian king helped the Arab Caliphate to go ahead with its plans, which infringed on Byzantine interests in the East. Yusuf ibn abu-Saj's inroad undermined the position of Smbat Bagratuni and his main ally King Konstantine III of "the Abkhazians" in Eastern Georgia. At the same time, the invasion of Samtskhe-Javakheti did not chip the Georgian ruler's political image; in fact, it strengthened his political position. There is every reason to believe that this was when he captured Shida Kartli.59

The hegemonic ambitions of the "Kartvelian" king became even stronger after Smbat Bagratuni died the death of a martyr in 914 when the power struggle intensified in Armenia. Adarnase II became involved on the side of Smbat's son Ashot ("Erkat"), who finally ascended the throne with his active diplomatic (and probably military) support. This is confirmed by none other than the main chronicler of Armenia, Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi, who wrote that it was the king of "the Kartvelians" (the

51 The fact that the treacherous nakharars of Smbat Bagratuni were in Tao at the court of Adarnase II means that he initiated the march on the Armenian king.

52 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit. The king of "the Egerians" is the king of "the Abkhazians." When writing about the "Egerian country," the author meant Egrisi, that is, Western Georgia. Since the late 8th century, it was called Abkhazia (the country of the kings of "the Abkhazians"). The fact that he who wrote in the first quarter of the 10th century called the kings of "the Abkhazians" the kings of the Egrissi ("Egerian" kings) means without a doubt that the Georgian neighbors knew which of the states was called Abkhazia late in the 8th century (see: M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodalnykh gosudarstv," in: Ocherki istorii Gruzii, Vol. II, Tbilisi, 1988, pp. 285-286; Z. Papaskiri, "'Ab-khazskoe' tsarstvo—gruzinskoe gosudastvo,", pp. 92-93).

53 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., Note 19, Chapter XLI.

54 See: A.P. Abdaladze, op. cit., p. 48; V.G. Silagadze, Arabian Rule in Georgia, Tbilisi, 1991, p. 167 (in Georgian).

55 See: Matiane Kartlisa, Translation, introduction and notes by M.D. Lordkipanidze, Tbilisi, 1976, p. 74, Note 82; Letipos Kartli, pp. 51-52.

56 See: Z.M. Buniyatov, op. cit., p. 212.

57 See: Ibid., pp. 212-213; V.G. Silagadze, op. cit., p. 166.

58 See: Z.M. Buniyatov, op. cit., pp. 213-214; V.G. Silagadze, op. cit.

59 This is indirectly confirmed by the information supplied by Crown Prince Vahushti that King Giorgi II of the Abkhazians conquered Kartli "after Adarnase II Curopalates was already dead" (Vahushti, "History of the Georgian Kingdom," in: Kartlis tskhovreba, Vol. IV, Tbilisi, 1973, p. 793).


king of Virka) who "having realized that God was on Ashot's side and that God helped him to succeed in all good deeds,60 achieved complete understanding with Ashot's army and crowned him, whereby he reigned instead of his father (italics mine.—Z.P.)."61 Driven by his unbounded desire to glorify the Armenian Royal House of Bagratuni, the Armenian Catholicos spared no effort to denigrate the decisive role of the Georgian leader in settling the Armenian crisis; he went as far as saying that the Georgian king was nothing short of a vassal of the Armenian royal court. According to the Armenian chronicler Adarnase II, after crowning Ashot Bagratuni, recognized that "his was the dignity of an autocrat (italics mine.—Z.P.)."62

It is absolutely clear, however, that this time (very much as before when he put Smbat Bagratuni on the throne), Adarnase II was acting on his own initiative and in his own interests. In fact, this showed, once more, the far-reaching political ambitions of the king of "the Kartvelians" and his obvious desire to become the only ruler in the Georgian and Armenian political expanse. Significantly, at this time, the Byzantine influence in the region was at its lowest.63 According to Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi, Emperor Leo VI (886-912), who was resolved to help Smbat Bagratuni, died before he could do anything. His brother Alexander (912-913), who ascended the throne after him, was too preoccupied with political troubles at home to bother about the Armenian king.64

In 918, Adarnase II acquired a serious problem on his own doorstep in the person of Gurgen (eristavt-eristavi), another member of the Bagrationis of Tao-Klarjeti; in 919-920, in the conflict over the Albanian region of Uti, driven by his mounting political ambitions, he moved against Armenian King Ashot "Erkat."65 Later, in 922-923, Gurgen became even more actively involved in the Uti contest, in which he stood against King Adarnase II of "the Kartvelians" and Armenian King Ashot. Very concerned about Gurgen's ambitions, Adarnase II joined forces with the Armenian king.66 Since Constantinople patronized Ashot Bagratuni, it could probably engineer an alliance to tame the unruly Georgian curopalates.

Simultaneously, the empire increased its diplomatic activities in Georgia and Armenia on the initiative of Patriarch of Constantinople Nicholas the Mystic,67 who was involved in personal correspondence with many secular and religious figures in the neighboring countries.68 One of his letters to the Armenian Catholicos reveals that he had also written to King Adarnase II of "the Kartvelians." According to the Patriarch of Constantinople, in his letters he called on the Georgian leaders "to for-

60 Some think that Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi pointed "to the idea of the sacral nature of royal power not typical of Armenian political thought" (V.A. Arutyunova-Fidanyan, "Obraz Vizantii v armyanskoy srednevekovoy istorio-graphii...", p. 118).

61 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 177; John of Drasxanakert, op. cit., p. 195.

62 Ibidem.

63 See: A.P. Kazhdan, Vneshnepoliticheskoe polozhenie imperii v seredine IX-seredine X veka, p. 190.

64 See: H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., pp. 171, 177. It should be said that some historians (M.O. Darbinyan-Meli-kyan) doubt what Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi wrote about the attempts of the Byzantine leaders to help Armenia; they believe that this happened not in 912-1913 but before 910 (see: H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., Note 106, Chapter XLV, available at [http://www. vostlit.info/ Texts/rus/Drash/primtext5.phtml]).

65 John of Drasxanakert, op. cit., pp. 234-235.

66 See: A.P. Abdaladze, op. cit., p. 155.

67 See: Nicholas the Mystic twice, in 901-907 and in 912-925, filled the post of Patriarch of Constantinople (for more detail, see: N. Volkov, "Nikolay Mistik, Patriarkh Konstantinopolsky (896-925)," in: Pribavleniya k tvoreniyam sv. Ottsov, Part 20, Book 2, 1861, pp. 163-265, available at [http://www.bogoslov.ru/tso/text/344159 /index.html].

68 All those who studied his letters to secular and spiritual leaders of the neighboring states agree that they contain valuable information about the empire's foreign policy contacts at the state and Church levels (see: A.P. Kazhdan, R.M. Bartikyan, "Poslanie konstantinopolskogo patriarkha Nikolaya I," in: Nicholas I, Patriarch of Constantinople: Letters, edited and translated by R. J. H. Jenkins, L.G. Westerink, Washington, 1973 (Review), Istoriko-filologichesky zhur-nal, I, 1976, p. 277. For more detail about Nicholas the Mystic, see also: Ya.N. Lyubarsky, "Zamechaniya o Nikolae Mis-tike v svyazi s izdaniem ego sochineniy," Vizantiysky vremennik, Vol. 47, Moscow, 1986, pp. 101-108), even though this information should be used with caution.


get mutual disagreements and turn to friendship, unity, agreement, and peace among themselves and with all the ishkhans of Armenia and Alvank; to unite so as to fight together against an ungodly enemy—the sons of Apusech—so as not ... to perish together and ... cause trouble for the neighboring peoples."69

This shows that the Armenian Catholicos attached great importance to Adarnase II's position; this explains why he personally "tried to convince the king of Virka to follow his advice and persuade him to embark on the road of peace, friendship, and complete harmony with all the ishkhans and teras of the Armenian and Virka countries ... who took an oath in writing."70 The talks between the king of "the Kartvelians" and the Armenian Catholicos were successful: they agreed on a joint plan which probably envisaged that the Georgian leader would help Ashot Bagratuni to ascend the Armenian throne.

It was the Armenian Catholicos Ioann who prepared Ashot Bagratuni's visit to Constantinople in 914,71 where he was "received with pomp and in a much grander style than other grand princes."72 Ashot also enjoyed military support. It is believed that he returned to Armenia with Byzantine troops which took part in several military operations.73 Later, when Ashot "Erkat" had consolidated his power, Sebuk, the new ruler of Azerbaijan, recognized his ambitious title of shakhan-shah.74 Still later, however, when the Armenian king fell into the trap of his own intrigues, Constantinople refused to tolerate his diplomatic meanderings any longer. It put John Kourkouas at the head of the army which invaded Armenia and was beaten back from Dvina by the joint forces of Bagratuni and Sebuk.75

It seems that Adarnase II, a recent ally of the Armenian king, had nothing to do with the antiByzantine maneuvers; by that time, he was one of the pillars of Constantinople in the region, which is fully confirmed by the fact that after his death in 923 his son Ashot, who succeeded him on the throne, received the title of curopalates from Byzantium. Some of the Byzantine sources (in a work by so-called Theophanes Continuatus)76 supply a very detailed description of the sumptuous reception of

69 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit, p. 189, available at [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus/Drash/frametext6.htm]. It should be said that when commenting on this letter, M. Darbinyan-Melikyan never missed the opportunity to stress, once again, that the status of the Armenian kings was higher than that of the Georgian leaders. "When writing about the curopalates and the leaders of the Abkhazians and other ishkhans of Armenia and Alvank," writes she, "Nicholas the Mystic says nothing about King Smbat I. If he did not know that he had died, he should have mentioned Smbat I, whom Byzantium placed higher than the other feudal potentates of the Transcaucasus, above the curopalates and the head of the Abkhazians... (italics mine.—Z.P.)" (see: Ibid., Note 42, Chapter LIV).

70 Ibid., pp. 189-190.

71 Ibid., Note 82, Chapter LIV. There is another date of the visit. In the past, prominent Russian scholar of Byzantium A.A. Vasiliev agreed with A.J. Saint-Martin that Ashot had visited Constantinople in 921 (A.A. Vasiliev, "Vizantiya i araby. Politicheskie otnosheniya Vizantii i arabov za vremya Makedonskoy dinastii. Imperatory Vasily I, Lev VI Filosof i Konstantin VII Bagryanorodny (867-959)," in: Zapiski istoriko-filologicheskogo fakulteta Imperatorskogo S.-Peterburg-skogo universiteta, Part LXVI, St. Petersburg, 1902, pp. 216-217). According to A.P. Kazhdan, this happened after the 920 message of Nicholas the Mystic "to Armenian Catholicos Ioann, in which he called on all Caucasian rulers to discontinue their feuds and unite for the fight against the Arabs. After that, an imperial ambassador arrived in Armenia with numerous gifts. He invited Armenian King Ashot III to revive their union and friendship. In 921, Ashot himself visited Constantinople, where the emperor received him with honors..." (A.P. Kazhdan, Vneshnepoliticheskoe polozhenie imperii v seredine IX-seredine X veka, p. 191; italics mine.—Z.P.).

72 H. Draskhanakerttsi, op. cit., p. 198.

73 See: A.N. Ter-Gevondyan, op. cit., p. 244.

74 See: Ibid., p. 245.

75 See: Ibidem.

76 The visit of the Georgian curopalates to Constantinople was described by Pseudo-Symeon Magister (for more detail, see: A.P. Kazhdan, "Khronika Symeona Logofeta" (the Logothetenchronik), Vizantiysky vremennik, Vol. XV, Moscow, 1959, pp. 132-138) and by Continuatus of George Hamartolos' "Chronicle" (for more detail, see commentaries by Academician S.G. Kaukhchishvili to the work by Theophanes Continuatus Georgika. Information of Byzantine Writers about Georgia..., pp. 331-333, footnote).


the new Georgian leader77 at the imperial court.78 It should be said that the new curopalates did not receive the title of King of "the Kartvelians" which had belonged to his father and which was bestowed on David Bagrationi, his brother.79

On the Relations between Constantinople and the Bagrationi of Tao-Klarjeti

Starting in the 920s, Constantinople consistently refused to grant the high Byzantine court title of curopalates to the king of "the Kartvelians" to avoid concentration of power in the hands of one member of the House of Bagrationi.80 For this reason, none of the later curopalates—Sumbat I Bagrationi (f 958), Adarnase III (f 961), or Adarnase IV (f 983)—was titled the king of "the Kartvelians."81 This proves that from the very beginning the Byzantine rulers were irritated with the national institution of sovereign state (royal) power in Georgia and that earlier (at the turn of the 890s), it appeared contrary to the will of the Byzantine emperor and without his permission.82 This also explains why the imperial leaders persisted in their rejection of the royal status of the kings of "the Kartvelians" and avoided giving the Georgian kings (and even the kings of united Georgia) the title of basileus.

In short, inside the Georgian political expanse, the king of "the Kartvelians" was regarded (albeit formally) as the head of the House of Bagrationi, whereas outside it, in Byzantium, the current curopalates was regarded as such. On the whole, the empire skillfully manipulated the court titles, including the title of curopalates, and arranged the titles as it saw fit. The title of curopalates meant that its bearer was a vassal of the empire who enjoyed special favors and honors bestowed on him by Constantinople,83 and, to a certain extent, it raised his political rating.

Nevertheless, the Byzantine Empire did not carry much political weight inside the Iberian curopalates-dom. From time to time, members of the House of Bagrationi openly resisted the empire's encroachments on their sovereignty. The Bagrationis' refusal to obey became obvious under Romanos I Lekapenos (919-944) when imperial powers tried to seize Ketseon, a badly needed toehold against Theodosiopolis (Erzurum)84 built by Emperor Theodosius (408-450) (captured by the

77 In his work Theophanes Continuatus did not specify who was meant by "Ivir curopalates" who had visited the capital of the empire in 922-923; Academician Kaukhchishvili, however, who relied on his painstaking analysis of information supplied by the Byzantine chronicler arrived at a well-justified conclusion that it was Ashot Bagrationi, son of curopalates Adarnase (see: Theophanes Continuatus, Georgika. Information of Byzantine Writers about Georgia. , pp. 330-331, footnote). Prominent Russian student of Byzantium Ya. Lyubarsky who published the Russian translation of the "Chronicle" of Theophanes Continuatus was of the same opinion (see: Prodolzhatel Feofana, Zhizneopisanie vizantiyskikh tsarey, p. 250. On the work of Theophanes Continuatus see also: A.P. Kazhdan, "Iz istorii Vizantiyskoy khronografii X v. 1. O sostave tak nazyvaemoy 'Khroniki Prodolzhatelya Feofana,'" Vizantiyskiy vremennik, Vol. XIX, Moscow, 1961, pp. 76-96).

78 See: Prodolzhatel Feofana, Zhizneopisanie vizantiyskikh tsarey, pp. 249-250.

79 See: M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodalnykh gosudarstv," p. 323.

80 See: Ibidem.

81 See: Ibidem.

82 See: Z. Papaskiri, "Establishment of the Institution of the 'King of Kartvelians' and Some Problems of the Relationships between Byzantine and Tao-Klarjeti," in: Jubilee Days of Academician Ilya Vekua, The Sukhumi Branch of the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Abstracts of Papers Presented at the Scientific Conference, Tbilisi, 1995, p. 75; idem, "Specifying the Foreign Policy Orientation of the 'Abkhazian' Kingdom," p. 330; M. Lordkipanidze, Z. Pa-paskiri, "Emergence of New Kingdoms-Princedoms in Georgia and Their Place in International Relations. Internal Diplomacy (9th-first quarter of the 10th century)," in: Essays on the History of Georgian Diplomacy, Vol. I, Tbilisi, 1998, pp. 191-193 (all in Georgian).

83 See: D. Obolensky, "The Principles and Methods of Byzantine Diplomacy," in: XII Congres Internationale D'Etudes Byzantines, Ochride, 1961. Rapports II, p. 58; M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodalnykh gos-udarstv," p. 323.

84 See: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., pp. 417-418; Note 16, Chapter 45, available at [http://www. vostlit.info/Texts/rus11/Konst_Bagr_ 2/text45.phtml?id=6402].


Arabs in the mid-7th century). From that time on, the issue figured prominently on the Byzantine Eastern political agenda.85 Late in the 9th century, it acquired special urgency; in 895, Byzantium made a failed attempt to recapture the city; in 901-902, it twice tried to drive the Sarrasins out without much success.86

The Byzantine leaders obviously needed Ketseon.87 Here is the story told by Constantine Por-phyrogennetos: "Ruler Leo, the basileus88 and Ruler Roman89 and our royal dignity, many times tried to capture the fortress of Ketseon so as to bring their troops" [into it] ... "and they tried to convince the curopalates and his brothers90 that as soon as Theodosiopolis was taken they would have the fortress back. The Ivirs (Iberians) refused because they liked the people who lived in Theodosiopolis91 and did not want to see it plundered. They objected to Ruler Roman and all our royalty: 'If we do this we shall dishonor ourselves in the eyes of our neighbors, for example, the Magister and Exousiastes [ruler] of Avasgia,92 Vasparakanite,93 and the rulers of the Armenians.94 They might start saying that the basileus treats all Ivirs, as well as the curopalates and his brothers, as ungodly people; he does not trust them and, therefore, took the fortress away from them. It would be much better if the basileus dispatched a turmarches95 or a basiliscus to install himself in the fortress of Ketseon and supervise it." Unwilling to see Theodosiopolis plundered or, more likely, not to interrupt the bread supplies, they disobeyed and never surrendered the fortress, despite the written promises that it would be returned to them as soon as Theodosiopolis was captured.96

85 For more detail, see: A.N. Ter-Gevondyan, "Pervy etap obrazovaniya arabskoy pogranichnoy oblasti (assugur)," in: Kavkaz i Vizantiya, Issue 2, Erevan, 1980, pp. 21-27.

86 See: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit.

87 The exact site of the fortress remains unknown. At one time, Academician Brosset wrote that the fortress Ketseon of Constantine Porphyrogennetos was the Georgian town of Kajta kalaki ("the town of kajes, forest deities, demons) on the River Chakvistskali or Artaani, or more likely Tsunda (M. Brosset, Additions et eclaircissements a l"Histoire de la Georgie, St.-Petersburg, 1851, p. 146). P.I. Ingorokva identified Keteson with "Kajta kalaki," but placed it on the southern borders of Georgia in the upper part of the Euphrates Gorge, on the so-called Kartli Route (later known as "Gurji-Bogaz" (P.I. Ingorokva, Georgi Merchule, Georgian Writer of the 10th Century, Tbilisi, 1954, p. 61, in Georgian). Academician Kaukhchishvili placed Ketseon in about the same locality (at Ash-kala) (Constantine Porphyrogennetos, "De administrando Imperio," in: Georgika. Information of Byzantine Writers about Georgia, p. 266). According to well-known Belgian student of Byzantium E. Honigman, Ketseon was close to "Kartlis-keli (Turkish Gurji-Bogaz) on the road leading from Theodosiopolis" to Tao within the domains of the Iberian Bagratides (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 418, Note 18, Chapter 45). E. Danielyan believes that the fortress was situated in the village of Kes, to the west of Ar-zurum (E. Danielyan, "Lokalizatsiya krepostey Kets i Mazdat," Vestnik obshchestvennykh nauk, No. 8, 1976, pp. 75-76; Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit.).

88 Emperor Leo VI the Philosopher (886-912).

89 Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos (919-944), co-ruler of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos.

90 The crowned scholar did not mention the curopalates by name, but there is a well-justified opinion that the reference is to Ashot (son of Adarnase II) and his brothers David, Bagrat, and Sumbat (Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 418, Note 20, Chapter 45). It should be said that recently historians believed that the reference was to Adarnase II himself (see: Z. Papaskiri, "The Georgian Political World in the 'Byzantine Commonwealth' (First Half of the 10th Century)," in: Is-toriani. Collection of Scholarly Papers Dedicated to the 70th Birthday of Roin Metreveli, Tbilisi, 2009, p. 171, in Georgian).

91 In another part of his work Constantine Porphyrogennetos pointed out that "the Iberians preserved their love and friendship with the people who lived in Theodosiopolis, Avnikiot, Mantsikierts, and all of Persia" (see: Konstantin Ba-gryanorodny, op. cit., p. 197).

92 The reference probably is to well-known Western Georgian leader, Giorgi II, King of the Abkhazians (922-957) (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 418, Note 21, Chapter 45).

93 Some think that this refers to King Gagik I Arzruni of Vaspurakan (908-943) (Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 418, Note 22, Chapter 45).

94 Reference is to the Ani Bagratides (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, p. 418, Note 23, Chapter 45).

95 Commander of a turma (squadron) "part of the military contingent of a province who was also commandant of that part of the military-administrative unit in which his turma is stationed" (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 418, Note 24, Chapter 45) (for more detail, see: V.V. Kuchma, "Obespechenie bezopasnosti vyzantiyskoy armii v voennykh kam-paniyakh kontsa X veka," in: V.V. Kuchma, Voennaya organizatsiya Vizantiyskoy imperii, St. Petersburg, 2001, p. 345).

96 See: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., pp. 197-199; Constantine Porphyrogennetos, op. cit., pp. 265-266.


The disagreements over the fortress revealed much more important border disagreements between the empire and the Georgian Bagratides. The Basean area moved to the fore in a diplomatic contention: the Georgian curopalates insisted on his right to "the entire Phasiana and the fortress of Avnik ... because he possessed the chrysobulls of blessed Basileus Romanos and our kingliness. He sent the document to us with Protospatharius Zurvanel,97 his azat."98 After scrutinizing the documents, the Byzantines dismissed them as "having no power" because the chrysobull of Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos contained merely a "promise of the curopalates, who confirmed it with an oath signed in his own hand to remain loyal to our royal dignity, fight our enemies, defend our friends, capture fortresses, and perform other feats to please us." In turn, Romanos I Lekapenos promised that "if he (the curopalates.—Z.P.) remains as loyal and as reasonable as he is today, then he and his relatives will preserve their power and their domination while [the basileus] will not change his borders but preserve them in conformity with the agreements with the previous basileuses and will not violate his borders."99

The Byzantine rulers insisted that they had never tried to push the Georgian leader "out of the old territory of his country."100 Moreover, Constantinople preferred the curopalates to remain in power and to "dominate" those "places of the Agaryans" which "he himself or his relative Adranase,"101 a magister, had conquered or would conquer "using their own resources."102 On the other hand, Constantinople was of a different opinion about the territories which the Georgian curopalates "had not conquered using his own resources," namely Theodosiopolis, Avnik, and Mastat,103 because they were situated "on this side of the River Erax, that is, Phasis".104 Constantine Porphyrogennetos pointed out that "the basileus and his army repeatedly routed it . burnt down its villages, while the curopalates never plundered it. After its villages had been devastated by our kingly troops, the Ivirs stole up, captured them, and tried to seize the fortress... When Theodosiopolis was taken, the Ivirs approached [Mastat] and captured it. Therefore, they had no grounds for demanding the fortresses of Mastat and Avnik (italics mine.—Z.P.)."105

Learned Emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetos pushed these arguments aside: since "the curopalates is a loyal and true slave and friend" of the empire, Byzantium should meet him halfway and "in accordance with his request establish the border along the Erax, that is, Phasis."106 He suggested that the Georgians acquire "the left side, in the direction of Iviria [Iberia]," while "the right side, which looks toward Theodosiopolis and the fortress and villages," should remain in Byzantine possession. Constantine Porphyrogennetos concludes the passage by stressing once more that "true ... right does not justify the curopalates' claims either to the lands on this side of the river or on the other side," since "it was our kingly troops which took the Theodosiopolians prisoner and burned the land; at no time did the Ivirs

97 Some think that Zurvanel (Chordvanel-Chorchaneli), mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogennetos, was father of well-known Georgian military and Church figure of the latter half of the 10th century John-Tornike (see: Constantine Porphyrogennetos, op. cit., pp. 267-268). It should be said that V.A. Arutyunova-Fidanyan was wrong when she tendentious-ly wrote that he belonged to the Armenian (Chalcedonian) creed (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., pp. 418-420, Note 26, Chapter 45).

98 See: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 199.

99 Ibidem.

100 Ibidem.

101 This refers to curopalates Adarnase (| 961) (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 420, Note 29, Chapter 45).

102 Constantine Porphyrogennetos, op. cit., p. 269.

103 According to researchers, Mastat/Mastaton was a fortress to the east of Erzerum (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., pp. 420-421, Note 30, Chapter 45; for more detail, see: E. Danielyan, op. cit, pp. 79-80).

104 As was correctly pointed out in many publications, in this case "the Arax is not confused with the Phasis (Rio-ni)" and that "on its upper reaches," the Arax "was called the Basen (Fasianh)" (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 421, Note 31, Chapter 45).

105 Ibid., p. 201.

106 Ibidem.


move against Theodosiopolis and plunder it without our troops. At all times they treated the Theodosi-opolians as friends and traded with them. They only talked about capturing Theodosiopolis, but never wanted this. I have written that our kingly troops, acting out of love for the curopalates, wanted to make the River Erax, or Phasis, the border between the sides. This means that [the Ivirs] should be satisfied with these domains and not demand more107 (italics mine.—Z.P.)."

According to Constantine Porphyrogennetos' fairly long story, the Georgian Bagratides won the diplomatic contention with Constantinople on the border issue. Guided by political considerations, the Byzantine leaders pushed aside the weighty legal arguments in favor of good relations with the Georgians, who thus acquired parts of the Basean area.

The "diplomatic scandal" around the fortress of Artanuji was more confirmation that the Bagratides of Tao-Klaijeti were fairly independent of the empire. It all started when one of the Bagratides (Ashot known as Kiskas)108 decided to transfer the fortress to the Byzantine emperor because of hostile relations with his son-in-law Gurgen. It seems that Romanos I Lekapenos tried to profit from this; his instructed one of the top-ranking nobles—patricius and drungarius of the fleet Proto-spatharius Constantine—who was expected to dress Ivir Kurkeny,109 another member of the House of Bagratides, "in the gown of a magister" in the name of the emperor, and had to travel to Tao-Klarjeti for this purpose—"to urgently go to Patricius Asoty . and accept his fortress of Ardanutsi."110

Protospatharius Constantine hastened to fulfill this mission; "he entered ... the fortress of Patricius Asoty" and, with suitable ceremonies, hoisted the banner of the empire over the fortress of Artanuji. In this way, "everyone learned that Patricius Asoty ... had presented the fortress of Ardanutsi to the basileus."111 Constantine Porphyrogennetos wrote that "as soon as they saw this, the Ivirs and Magister Kurkeny and Magister David, brother of curopalates Asoty, wrote to the basileus: 'If Your Majesty agrees to this and your kingly troops move into the interior of our country, we shall stop serving Your Majesty and ally with the Sarrasins since we can wage battles and wars against the Eastern Romans. If forced, we might move our troops against the fortress of Ardanutsi, as well as against its environs and the Eastern Roman Empire itself112 (italics mine.—Z.P.)." This diplomatic demarche of the Georgian Archons proved successful: the emperor, who feared that the Georgians might "ally with the Sarrasins and move the Persian troops against the Eastern Roman Empire," decided to retreat and shifted the blame to his envoy who had allegedly acted "according his own wrong decision."113 This was followed by another "order (of the emperor.—Z.P.) full of insults and threats." The emperor ordered Patricius Constantine to immediately leave the fortress together with "Asoty, son of late curopalates Adranase, and bring him to Constantinople to confer on him his father's title of curopalates." After receiving the order, the imperial envoy immediately "left Patricius Asoty ... in his fortress of Ardanutsi ... took Asoty, son of curopalates Adranase, and brought him to the city where the basileus made him curopalates."114

' Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., pp. 201-203.

107 ]

108 Kiskasi (Georgian), lively, animated (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 422, Note 4, Chapter 46, available at [http://www.vostlit.info/Texts/rus11/Konst_Bagr_2/text46.phtml?id=6403]).

109 This person is usually associated with Gurgen eristavt-eristavi (| 941), a well-known member of the House of Bagrationi mentioned above. In around 918, he became the main rival of King Adarnase II of the Kartvelians. Academician S.N. Janashia, in turn, did an excellent job, which allowed him to prove absolutely correctly and beyond any doubt that Kurkeny of Constantine Porphyrogennetos was eristavt-eristavi Gurgen (see: S.N. Janashia, "Information Supplied by Constantine Porphyrogennetos about the Bagrationi of Tao-Klarjeti," in: Proceedings, Vol. V, Tbilisi, 1987, pp. 258-266, in Georgian).

110 Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 205.

111 Ibid., p. 207.

112 Ibid., p. 209.

113 Ibid., p. 211.

114 Ibidem.


This settled the crisis.115 The attempt of the Byzantine leaders to acquire Artanuji, a point of key importance in Georgia and the Transcaucasus,116 failed. This means that the Byzantine Empire carried little political weight in Georgia; its influence was obviously not enough to dispose of the Georgian territories as it wanted. Academician Javakhishvili was quite right when he wrote that dependence on the empire had been purely formal and that the relations between Byzantium and the Georgian states looked more like an alliance between senior and junior kingdoms than political dependence.117 Indeed the fact that Constantinople dispatched officials (in particular patriciuses) on diplomatic missions to Georgia speaks of the high degree of sovereignty of the Georgian Bagratides. Such missions were only sent to sovereign states.118

This should not be taken to mean that Tao-Klarjeti was completely independent of Constantinople.119 Academician Javakhishvili's formula "an alliance of senior and junior kingdoms" aptly described the situation. Even if the entire Georgian political expanse (the Kingdom of "the Abkhazians," the Kakhetian Chorepiscopal state, and Ereti)120 could not be regarded as part of the Byzantine Commonwealth, the Kingdom of "the Kartvelians," was seen as such.

Certain Aspects of the Relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of "the Abkhazians" in the First Half of the 10th Century

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Byzantium demonstrated even more caution when dealing with the Kingdom of "the Abkhazians," and with good reason. As distinct from the Tao-Klarjeti alliance formed by Ashot Bagrationi, this political unity took shape amid sharp confrontation with the Byzantine Empire.121 Throughout the 9th century the relations between the "Abkhazian" Kingdom and Byzantium remained strained

115 Academician Javakhishvili, in turn, dated this event to 923-944 (see: I.A. Javakhishvili, "History of the Georgians," Book II, in: I.A. Javakhishvili, Works, Vol. II, Tbilisi, 1983, p. 112, in Georgian). Today, it seems that P.I. In-gorokva supplied a more exact date (see: P.I. Ingorokva, op. cit., pp. 62, 102). In his work, Constantine Porphyrogennetos clearly pointed out that the members of the House of Bagrationi were fighting for the title of curopalates after the death of Adarnase II curopalates (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 207) and that his son Ashot received his title when the incident had been settled (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 211). This means that this event took place no later than 922-923.

116 Constantine Porphyrogennetos pointed to the strategic, commercial, and economic value of Artanuji, the center of Tao-Klarjeti and residence of Ashot Bagrationi, who founded this new Georgian political entity. "The fortress of Arda-nutsi is very strong; it offers a big rebate like a small town. Goods from Trabzon, Iviria, Avasgia, from all the Armenian countries, and from Syria are brought here and the fortress profits hugely from this. The environs of the fortress of Arda-nutsi, which is called Artsi, are vast and fertile; they are the key to Iviria, Avasgia, and the Miskhi" (see: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., p. 205).

117 See: I.A. Javakhishvili, op. cit., p. 112. P.I. Ingorokva was of the same opinion (see: P.I. Ingorokva, op. cit., pp. 58-68).

118 See: Z.V. Udaltsova, op. cit., p. 253.

119 For more detail, see: Sh.A. Badridze, "From the History of the Political Structure of the 'Kartvelian Kingdom,'" in: Proceedings of the Tbilisi State University, Vol. 113, Tbilisi, 1965, pp. 255-261 (in Georgian).

120 In this respect, the title of Patricius, which belonged to King Adarnase of Ereti in the early 10th century, speaks volumes (see: "Matiane Kartlisa," p. 264; Letopis Kartli, p. 52; M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodalnykh gosudarstv," p. 227). This means that although the Byzantine emperors hardly possessed real power in the East Georgian political units (the Kakhetian Chorepiscopal state and the Kingdom of Ereti), they still tried in one way or another to register their imperial ambitions when dealing with these states.

121 For more detail, see: S.N. Janashia, "On the Time and Conditions of the Emergence of the Abkhazian Kingdom," in: Proceedings, Vol. II, Tbilisi, 1952, pp. 331-333; Z.V. Anchabadze, op. cit, pp. 104-105.


and far from simple; in any case, there are no signs that the empire affected the political processes in Western Georgia in any noticeable way. From time to time, the interests of Constantinople and Kutaisi coincided; in some cases, the two states even acted together. This all changed around the 880s when Crown Prince Bagrat regained the throne of the king of "the Abkhazians" with the empire's active military and diplomatic support.122

There is every reason to believe that good-neighborly or even allied relations survived under King Konstantine III of "the Abkhazians" (893-922), who succeeded Bagrat I on the throne. This is confirmed by the fact that the "Abkhazian" Kingdom acquired Church sovereignty; "the Abkhazian" Catholicosate appeared, which was independent of the Constantinople Patriarchate. It seems that this happened at the request of the Abkhazian side against the background of the much warmer relations between Byzantium and Western Georgia established when Bagrat I ascended the throne. This was the first tangible result of political cooperation between Kutaisi and Constantinople.123

The process continued in the 920s-950s; this is confirmed by information extracted from letters written by Patriarch of Constantinople Nicholas the Mystic to the Georgian leaders, the kings of the Abkhazians among them. The letters to Exousiastes of Abasgia124 are seemingly addressed to one person—Grigor (King Giorgi II of "the Abkhazians"). Some think that at least one letter (No. 51) was addressed to Konstantine III, father of Giorgi II.125 Those who think so argue that the Patriarch of Constantinople applied the term "exousiastes" (ruler or potentate) and "splendid exousiastes" only to the king of "the Abkhazians."126 Historians have drawn our attention to the fact that the title exousiastes was higher than archon and that it was applied to closer political allies. The Greeks regarded exousiastis as representatives of Byzantine power in their countries.127 At the same time, Byzantine diplomats deemed it necessary, for political considerations, to recognize the "royal dignity" of the West Georgian leader.128 The so-called keleusis (orders) can be viewed as more confirmation of the high rating of the Kutaisi throne. The Byzantine emperors sent them to the rulers of neighboring countries; the orders to the "exousiastes of Abasgia" were addressed to the "Devout Ruler and Splendid Exousiastes of Abasgia"129 and stamped with a gold bulla of two gold soliduses.130 A similar bulla was invariably attached to the keleusis sent to the "Majestic (evSo^oxaoxov) Curopalates of Iberia."131

This means that the emperor treated the leaders of the two main Georgian political units more or less equally, therefore it is not quite right to say that the empire treated the kings of "the Abkhazians," "who had a fundamentally different value"132 in the eyes of the emperors, differently from the Iberian

122 See: "Matiane Kartlisa," p. 261; Letopis Kartli, p. 51 (see also: Z. Papaskiri, "Specifying the Foreign Policy Orientation of the 'Abkhazian' Kingdom," pp. 325-335; idem, I vosstala Gruzia ot Nikopsii do Darubanda, pp. 184-195).

123 For more detail, see: Z. Papaskiri, "On the Chronology of the Establishment of the Abkhazian Catholicosate," in: Shota Meskhia—90, Jubilee Collection Dedicated to the 90th Birthday of Shota Meskhia, Tbilisi, 2006, pp. 201-213 (in Georgian); the same publication can be found in: Z. Papaskiri, I vosstala Gruzia..., pp. 171-183.

124 Georgika. Information of Byzantine Writers about Georgia, pp. 212-218.

125 See: C. Toumanoff, "Chronology of the King of Abasgia," Le Museon, No. 69, 1956, p. 81; Nicholas I Patriarch of Constantinople. Letters, Washington. Text and Translation by R.J.H. Jenkins & L.G. Westerinck in: Corpus Fon-tium Historiae Byzantinae. VI. Washington, 1973. N. 547—549; I.Sh. Agrba, Vzaimootnosheniya Abkhazskogo tsarstva i Vizantii (konets VIII-X vv.), Synopsis of the PhD thesis, Moscow, 1989, p. 7; E.K. Ajinjal, Iz istorii Abkhazskoi gos-udarstvennosti, Sukhumi, 1996, p. 31.

126 I.A. Javakhishvili, op. cit., p. 110; M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodalnykh gosudarstv," p. 297.

127 See: Ibidem.

128 See: Georgika. Information of Byzantine Writers, p. 217; M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodal-nykh gosudarstv," p. 297.

129 Constantine Porphyrogennetos, op. cit., p. 292.

130 See: Constantine Porphyrogennetos, op. cit.; M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodalnykh gos-udarstv," p. 298.

131 Constantine Porphyrogennetos, op. cit., p. 291; M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodalnykh gos-udarstv," p. 298.

132 M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Emergence of New Feudal Principalities," in: Essays on the History of Georgia, Vol. II, Tbilisi, 1973, p. 435 (in Georgian).


curopalates. The "Abkhazians" were treated as independent rulers. As an argument in favor of the above, the fact that the members of the House of Bagrationi were "merely called archons (princes)" and "were awarded with Byzantine court titles"133 is not very convincing. I am convinced that the title of curopalates did not lower the authority of the leaders of the "Kartvelian" Kingdom: it added to their authority inside and outside the country. It has been proven by documents that the kings of "the Abkhazians" never declined Byzantine court titles, however, strange as it may seem, none of them was honored with the title of curopalates. Here is a tale-telling fact: the most powerful of the Kutaisi rulers, King Giorgi II of "the Abkhazians" (922-957), to whom I referred above, was mentioned only as a magister.134 The title "Devout Ruler and Splendid Exousiastes of Abasgia" was not higher than "Majestic Curopalates of Iberia."

In short, while the Kutaisi throne had more sovereignty than other Georgian units, Constantinople treated the Bagrationi as more important which is confirmed by the title of curopalates being repeatedly conferred on members of this dynasty as the leaders of the Georgian political expanse. This issue could have been passed over in silence; however, the quasi-scholarly speculations of some of our Abkhazian colleagues made this impossible. Historian Ermolay Ajinjal, well known for his anti-Georgian sentiments, insists that the Kingdom of "the Abkhazians" was an Abkhazian national state and refers to A. Kolautz when writing that "the rank of the kings of Abazgia was higher than that of the rulers of Iberia (italics mine.—Z.P.)."135

This does not mean that I refuse to admit that King Giorgi II of "the Abkhazians"was a powerful monarch. In the 920s-950s, he was the recognized leader of the Georgian political world and boldly interfered in the political processes in Eastern Georgia; in this way, he not only finally added Shida Kartli to his domains, but also established a de facto diktat of the Kutaisi throne over the Kakheti and Ereti. At that time, "the Abkhazian" Kingdom controlled the Northern Caucasus, which explains why the Byzantine rulers, probably with good reason, gave the "Devout Ruler and Splendid Exousiastes of Abasgia" the credit for Christianizing the Alans-Ossets. According to what Nicholas the Mystic wrote, the imperial leaders consulted Giorgi II about other important foreign policy problems (unrelated to the region) and took his opinion into account. "As for what you wrote about the Bulgarians," he wrote to King Giorgi, "I do not know what sort of Divine Will guides (the king of Bulgarians.—Z.P.), who still remains devoted to perfidious enmity and does not seek peace (italics mine.—Z.P.)."136

In the late 9th century, the Byzantine Empire had serious complications in its relations with Bulgaria, the ambitious leader of which, Simeon I, not only declared sovereignty, but also claimed the imperial throne. Nicholas the Mystic was directly involved in the conflict settlement; he called on the Bulgarian king to discontinue resistance and accept the emperor's supreme power.137 The empire lost the battle; Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos had not only to recognize the sovereignty of the Bulgarian state, but also accept the royal status of Peter, who ascended the throne after Simeon I.138 The very fact that the Patriarch of Constantinople, the main architect of imperial foreign policy, discussed vi-

133 M.D. Lordkipanidze, "Vozniknovenie novykh feodalnykh gosudarstv," p. 298.

134 See: Konstantin Bagryanorodny, op. cit., pp. 197, 203; Constantine Porphyrogennetos, op. cit., pp. 264, 277.

135 See: E.K. Ajinjal, op. cit., p. 14.

136 Georgika. Information of Byzantine Writers..., pp. 216-217.

137 According to the Patriarch of Constantinople, "the western (that is, Balkan) lands belong to East Romans' power, which means that the Bulgarians usurped them and, in violation of the law and in defiance of justice, temporarily took them away from the empire. Today, Simeon has gone even farther—he challenged the person chosen by God and the kingdom of God. Therefore he should be severely punished as a tyrant and a rebel; he can be destroyed even though he belongs to the same faith" (G.G. Litavrin, "Politicheskaya teoriya v Vizantii.," p. 76). Nicholas the Mystic was still peacefully disposed and called for an end to the "fratricidal war," whereby he considered it mandatory that "the relations between the empire and Bulgaria should be such that the supremacy and priority of the power of the basileus would cause no harm" (ibid., p. 76).

138 For more on the relations between Byzantium and Bulgaria, see: G.G. Litavrin, Bolgaria i Vizantitya v XI-XII vv., Moscow, 1960, pp. 254-255; A.P. Kazhdan, "Vneshnepoliticheskoe polozhenie imperii v seredine IX-seredine X veka," pp. 198-200.


tally important military and political issues with King Giorgi II of "the Abkhazians" is one of the best proofs of the high authority of this outstanding West Georgian leader outside his own country.


The above has proven that, at the turn of the 10th century, the Georgian political world was fairly closely connected with the Byzantine Empire and regarded as part of the Byzantine oecumene, or the Byzantine Commonwealth. This did not mean, however, that the Georgian leaders, either of the House of Bagrationi or the kings of "the Abkhazians," were nothing more than common vassals of the Byzantine emperors. There are grounds to say that relations with the empire developed within the framework of "an alliance of senior and junior kingdoms," although the Georgian political leaders pursued independent policies which frequently clashed with the empire's interests in the East.

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