Prehistorical and medieval Georgia
Archaeological findings facilitate the tracing of the origins of human habitation on the territory of modern Georgia back to the early Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. Quite a few Neolithic sites have been excavated in South Ossetia, and in the Kolkhida Lowland, in the Khrami River valley in central Georgia. These regions were inhabited by settled tribes engaged in agriculture and cattle raising. Grain cultivation in Georgia during the Neolithic Period is confirmed by finds of flint sickles and saddle querns. Tilling of earth was done with stone mattocks. The Caucasus was viewed in ancient times as the primordial home of metallurgy. Georgia’s Bronze Age began at the start of the 3rd millennium BCE. Incredible finds in Trialeti show that central Georgia was occupied during the 2nd millennium BCE by cattle-raising tribes whose chieftains were men of considerable wealth and power. Finely wrought gold and silver vessels were found in their burial mounds; a few are engraved with ritual scenes indicative of Asiatic cult influence.
Origins of the Georgian nation
The ancestors of the Georgian nation appear in the annals of Assyria and, later, of Urartu, early in the 1st millennium BCE. The Diauhi (Diaeni) nation, ancestors of the Taokhoi, and the Kulkha were among these. The Kulkha were forerunners of the Colchians. Greeks became aware of the legendary wealth of Colchis quite early. The centuries immediately preceding the Christian era became witness to the growth of the significant kingdom of Iberia, the region that now encompasses modern Kakheti and Kartli, along with Samtskhe and adjoining regions of southwestern Georgia. Greek settlers from Miletus colonized Colchis that subsequently fell under the sway of Mithradates VI Eupator, king of Pontus. Roman general Pompey the Great’s campaigns led to the establishment of Roman hegemony over Iberia in 66 BCE and to direct Roman rule over Colchis and the rest of Georgia’s Black Sea shoreline.
Christianity was embraced by Georgia about 330 AD; its conversion is credited to a holy captive woman, St. Nino. During the succeeding three centuries, Georgia was involved in the struggle between Rome—and its successor state, the Byzantine Empire—and the Persian Sāsānian dynasty. Iberia came under the Persian Sāsānian control. Towards the end of the 5th century King of Iberia Vakhtang Gorgaslani (Gorgasal), a ruler of fabled valour reasserted Georgia’s national sovereignty. But the Sāsānian monarch Khosrow I (reign 531–579) abolished the Iberian monarchy. For the succeeding three centuries, local authority was exercised by vassals successively of Persia (Iran), of Byzantium, and, post 654 CE, of the Arab caliphs, who established an emirate in Tbilisi.
King Bagrat III (reigned 975–1014) united all the principalities of eastern and western Georgia into one state. Tbilisi, nevertheless, was not recovered from the Muslims until 1122, when it fell to King David IV. The pinnacle of Georgia’s power and prestige was reached during the reign of Queen Tamar (reigned 1184–1213).
Mangol invasions of Transcaucasia from 1220 onward, nonetheless, brought Georgia’s golden age to an end. Eastern Georgia became a vassalage under the Mongol Il-Khanid dynasty of the line of Hülegü, while Imereti (land to the west of the Suram range), remained independent under a separate line of Bagratid rulers. During the reign (1314–46) of King Giorgi V of Georgia there was a partial resurgence but the onslaughts of the Turkic conqueror Timur between 1386 and 1403 destroyed Georgia’s economic and cultural life from which the kingdom never recovered. Alexander I (1412–43) was the last king of united Georgia, under whose sons the kingdom was divided into bickering princedoms.