The Georgians are one of the most ancient peoples of the world. They have traversed a difficult path of historical development. As a nation at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia has long been marked by war. From the 1st century BC to the 18th c AD the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Ottomans and Russians, have all attempted to possess this beautiful land, but none have ever conquered it completely or permanently. As a result our history became one of skilled survival - preserving our culture against overwhelming odds again and again. To protect against invaders an elaborate system of watchtowers alerted the people to an attack (many of which still exist) and precious religious icons and relics would disappear into caves and hidden mountain fortresses. Villages in the most remote mountain valleys would escape the invaders attention entirely, thus some of the oldest and most superlative Frescoes are found in the highlands. Recorded history in Georgia goes back over an incredible 3000 years, and our culture is far older. Preserved for millennium by the sheer stubbornness of its people, the basic dimension of our national character has remained intact. Ask any Georgian what they are most proud of as a "Kartuli" and this will probably come to mind. Try scrolling through our interactive timeline below, to learn more
319 Christianity was introduced to Georgia
337 Christianity was announced to be a state religion
430 Peter the Iberian (from Iberia) founded Georgian monastery near Bethlehem
1008 Georgia unided under the reign of King Bagrat III
1121 King David the Builder with the army of about 55.000 defeats the 200.000 Muslim coalition troops at Didrori, in Eastern Georgia.
1221 Mongol Ghengis Khan Army defeats two Georgian Armies near Tbilisi
1551 Persian invaded and destroyed Vardzia
1783 The Treaty of Georgievsk signed between Russia and the Kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti
2003 The Georgian Rose Revolution
2004 Mikhail Saakashvili wins the presidential elections in Georgia
Dmansis Hominid & BC period
Primitive man can be traced in Transcaucasia, particularly in Georgia, back to the most ancient period of the Paleolithic, viz. the Chellean epoch. The most age-old traces, about 2,5 million years, are found in Eastern part of Georgia, near Dmanisi. Recently discovered Dmanisi hominid in the foothills of the lesser Caucasus provides a remarkable link with humankind's first transition from Africa to Europe and then Asia. It is no surprise to find numerous Stone Age settlements and archaeological sites spread through the Georgian Heartland.
Quite numerous on the territory of Georgia are primitive man's cave stations of the Neolithic period: Odishi, Kistriki, Anaseuli, Zemo Alvani, etc.
The development of agriculture and cattle breeding, smelting of copper and bronze, general technical progress led, in the middle of the 4th millennium B.C., to a breakthrough in the sphere of the economic and social life of society. The beginning of the 3rd millennium B.C. laid the foundation of a new stage - the Bronze Age. This period in Georgia is marked by a high indigenous culture
Origin of Wine
All evidence points out that the earliest wine production was in Georgia. (the evidence is clear, wine was first made here)
It is undoubtedly true that every square meter of the Georgia lowlands has been fought over and lived on by thousands of different clans and tribes. In Georgia's proto-history many indigenous, Indo-European and Middle Eastern tribes battled over the land.
The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages saw vigorous development of economy all over the territory of Georgia, along with a high level of various crafts, expansion of trade relations, accompanied by an increase of social inequality. By the end of the latter half of the 2nd millennium B.C. the prerequisites appeared for the emergence of an early class society. It is noteworthy that Georgian tribes began to consolidate during the Late Bronze Age, as is demonstrated vividly by the emergence of a material culture on a vast territory inhabited by kindred tribes, as well as by the formation of large tribal confederations. At the end of the 2nd-beginning of the 1st millennium B.C. in the south-eastern region of historical Georgia two major tribal unions arose; that of the Diaochi (Taochi, Tao) and the Kolkha, both continuing to the 8th c.B.C.
Jason and the Argonauts
The wealth and power of the Kolkha were reflected in the ancient Greek myth of the Argonauts. The first European tourists, the Argonauts, came to Georgia (the home of Media) and the legend of the Golden Fleece originated here. If Jason did exist and did come to Georgia is was probably around 300 BC. It is not known if there was a real Medea, but in this time Georgia was well know for its metal skill, linens, wine and herbal remedies.
In mid-8th cent. B.C. the Diaochi were destroyed as a result of Urartian invasions. The ascendancy of the Kolkha and their opposition to the Diaochi also contributed to this. Part of the lands of the Diaochi passed to the Kolkha. Shortly afterwards the struggle started between Urartu and the Kolkha. In the 720s B.C. the KolKha fell under Cimmerian incursions from the north. The Kolkha and the Diaochi were essentially early class confederations that disintegrated in mid-8th cent. B.C.
One of the ancient Kings of the Meskhi tribe was called Mita, and is now thought to be the famous King Midas of the golden touch. As the Bronze Age era was marked by high quality gold and silver and copper artefacts, and a culture that was a strange fusion of Kurgan, Trialeti and various pre Hittite "migr"'s. All of Midas's wealth didn't help him save his kingdom, he was conquered by the Cimmerians who destroyed his kingdom.
Two states arise
Ancient Georgian tribes and tribal unions had cultural relations with various peoples of the East: the Hittites, Mitanni, Urartians, etc. They maintained good neighborly relations with the Armenians and North Caucasian tribes. In the 8th-7th cent. B.C. the Karts, Megrels, Chans and Svans came to the fore among the Georgian tribes, each tribe having a language, territory and customs of its own. Later on these tribes united and, as a result of their consolidation in the 6th-4th cent. B.C., two state confederations took shape in Eastern and Western Georgia.
In the 6th cent. B.C., in the Valley of Egrisi in Western Georgia a state emerged, which ancient Greeks referred to as "the land of the Kolkhi". As far back as in the 6th cent. B.C. the Kingdom of Kolkha (now referred to as the Kingdom of Egrisi) struck its own silver coins known in special literature as "white Colchian coins".
The advanced economy and favorable geographic and natural conditions of Coichis attracted the Greeks; they colonized the Black Sea coast, setting up their settlements: Phasis (in the vicinity of present-day Poti), Gyenos (Ochamchiré), Dioscurias (Sukhumi), Anakopia (Akhali Atoni) and Pityus (Bichvinta). The fabulously wealth city of Colchis (Poti) was originally a Greek colony and known for its famous School of Rhetoric and Philosophy. Many other settlements were subsequently made up and down the black sea coast by this famed civilization. Later the historian Herodotus mentions Georgian troops forming part of the infamous army of Xerxes during the invasion of Greece, and describes their weapons and dress.
The Kingdom of Kartli
The formation of the Kingdom of Kartli (Iberia) (Iberia) with Mtskheta as its capital, dated to the end of the 4th cent. B.C. and linked to the name of King Parnavaz I (the founder of the Parnavazid dynasty). The Meskhians, who preserved and carried over cultural and religious traditions inherited from the Hittites and other nations of Asia Minor, played an active role in the creation of the kingdom, where the god of the Moon Armazi and the goddess of fertility Zadeni (both names of Hittite origin) became the chief deities. During Parnavaz I's reign Armazis-tsikhh,the citadel of the capital, and an idol representing the god Armazi, were erected. According to Kartli (Iberia)s Tskhovreba ("History of Georgia"), Parnavaz I created the Georgian script. But recent researches testifyed that Georgian scripts are created in II-I milleniums B.C. Noteworthy to mention that Georgian language is related to famous Shumerian language. Archaeological finds show that from early times Mtskheta had been an advanced and powerful city. This is graphically corroborated by the monuments of architecture (acropolis, etc.), unearthed in the city and its environs. The Kingdoms of Kartli (Iberia) (Iberia) and Kolkhis were one of the first state formations in the Caucasus.
Ancient Georgian states maintained political and economic ties with Achaemenid Iran, the Seleucids, Pontus, etc. Thus, in the 6th-4th cent. B.C. the Kingdoms of Kartli (Iberia) and of Kolkha played a significant role in the economic and political life of the ancient world.
The Silk Road began in the third century BC when emissaries of the Han dynasty made contact with kingdoms in central Asia. This east-west trade route would profoundly affect world history, from silk to spices to inventions such as gunpowder, printing blocks, and the water wheel, it become a conduit of the best and most valued of civilization. Of the two primary routes, the northern route goes directly through Georgia, indeed somewhere here is where traders got off their riverboats and began to walk by mule and camel.
In the year 65 B.C. the Roman Empire expanded its influence into the territory of the confederated West Georgian tribes but was pushed back by Colchian and Iberian (West and East Georgian) tribes. In the fourth century A.D., because of the hegemony exercised by the Lazes (a Colchian tribe), the Laz Empire was founded.
The Legions of Rome
After the Romans pushed into Persia they set their eyes on Georgia as well. Sending famed general Pompey to the regions in 66 BC to tame the local tribes, he is famous here for building a stone bridge during his siege of Mtskheta which was still used until quite recently, remains of which can still be seen. Soon all of Caucasia fell to Roman rule, but it did not last long, and by the first century BC Georgia was considered an ally not a subject state.
In the 330s Christianity was proclaimed the state religion of Georgia. This marked the beginning of vigorous development of arts and letters. Members of the high society of Kartli (Iberia) and Egrisi were well acquainted with the literature and philosophy of the East and the West. Among them were eminent scholars-philosophers: Peter the Iberian and Joané the Laz (5th cent.). Centers of culture and enlightenment also existed in Georgia, some being of international significance. In the 4th century a school of rhetoric and philosophy functioned not far from the town of Phasis (modern Poti).
Georgia was only the second country in the world to convert to Christianity. Saint Nino of Cappadocia brought Christianity here in AD 330, thought parts of the country on the Black Sea were converted two centuries before. She made a cross from grape vines and bound it together with her own hair, and this has remained the cross of the Georgian Church to this day. Georgia's early acceptance of Christ had huge implications in the future for it permanently oriented the country to the west, to Rome, and later to Europe as a whole.
After the death of Muhammad in 632 Arab armies swept north through Iran, and captured Tbilisi in 645 and installed an Emir here. While not interested in colonizing eastern Georgian they forced King Stepanoz II to pay tribute and obey their commands. Georgian culture was thus allowed to continued to develop uninterrupted and for trade, especially along the Silk Road, to continue to flourish. By the tenth century Arab rule in western Georgia had weakened and the Byzantine Empire was rapidly expanding and Basil II was able to retake most of Georgia and unite east and west as one nation.
David the Builder
Despite its turbulent history and powerful neighbours, Georgia managed to unite itself into a strong kingdom by the 12th century. David the Builder, 1089-1125 was Georgia's most prominent king, and almost single-handedly initiated the countries golden age. His war against the Turks fortuitously coincided with the Crusades and he was able to stop paying tribute in 1096 and defeated them completely in 1121. Humane treatment of Muslims during this period set a standard for tolerance that was unique in those times and is a hallmark of his enlightened rule. Using his military acumen David was able to vastly expand his Kingdom into modern day Armenia and eastward toward the Caspian Sea.
The Georgians played a central role in the Crusades, and sent many knights to Palestine to fight in the wars in Palestine. The famous red and white Crusader cross was based on the Georgian Battle flag, which is the national flag today.
Georgia reached its zenith during the rule of King Tamara (a Queen honoured with the title of King), David's granddaughter, when Georgians enjoyed a cultural renaissance, evidenced by monastery building and a fresco and ornamental design art movement. Richly appointed churches sprang up across the newly formed empire, many atop mountains and still in place today. Georgian culture exponentially in this golden age, schools, bridges and monasteries were built and a literary tradition begun. It was to King Tamara that Shota Rustaveli dedicated his epic poem The Knight in the Panther Skin, which is still memorized by Georgian school children today.
The horror of the plague reached Georgia earlier than most of Europe, and in 1366 it devastated the local population and effectively ended the golden age.
The great Mongol general Tamerlane invaded Georgia not less than eight times, starting in 1386. Their huge armies were insurmountable and in the end surrender was the only option. Dividing the kingdom into three principalities they play the nobles off of each other and the king, and collected tribute from all. Georgian knights were then enlisted in the Mongol army and their technology and tactics were instrumental in the terrifying siege of Baghdad.
Persian and Ottoman Invasions
During the 16th century Georgia found itself trapped between two expanding empires, the Ottoman Turks to the west and the Persians to the east. The fall of Constantinople and the corresponding change in trade routes greatly weakened Georgia and its future was in grave peril. The Persian Shah Tahmasp invaded four times and Tbilisi was captured and burned and many slaves were taken (Georgian women were very valued for their beauty and men were valued as economic advisors). Eventually the kingdom was divided into two spheres of influence, the west to the Turks and the East to the Persians. For the next 250 years Georgia would not have her independence.
Only in the 18th century under the father and son Bagrationi Kings, was Georgia able to become independent again and rebuilding of the nation could commence. Despite rebellious princes, occupying armies, raiding parties from the north they were able to forge a strong new kingdom. Convinced that Georgia could not survive on its own they turned to Catherine the Great of Russia and forged an alliance. In 1783 a treaty was signed making Georgia a protectorate of the Russian Empire.
Georgia's last colonizer - Russia - began its annexation in 1801, after abrogating its prior treaty, and soon after killed the entire Georgian royal family. This great humiliation was impossible to fight and soon the Russian presence was felt everywhere, indeed in some place their troops quartered their horses in Georgian churches. As a result the country spent over 150 years as a part of the Russian empire, first as a province, then after the communist revolution, as a Soviet Republic.
On 26th May, 1918 Georgia declared independence, which did not last long, only till 1920.
Even in the modern age Georgia retained its knack for self-preservation and independence, always fiercely maintaining its language, religion and culture. Indeed, it was the wealthiest of the Soviet Republics and by the end of the era was hosting 2.5 million tourists year.
In 1991 Georgia unilaterally declared its independence from the USSR. A year later the country proudly became the 179th member of the United Nations.
Upon the break-up of the Soviet Union, alliance with the west was quickly sought in order to cement the newfound freedom, but stability was difficult to achieve. Separatists in Abkazia supported by the Russians started a war which ended up in the regions majority Georgian population being forced from their homes and becoming internal refuges. Though the situation is now stabilized and peaceful the conflict is still not resolved.
In November 2003 the completely non-violent Rose Revolution re-invigorated the process of self-definition. Today Georgia is a presidential Democracy and is lead by its young new President Mikhail Saakashvili.