Cultural History: Georgia: Antique (Classical) Period
Antique (Classical) Period
Toward the mid-6th century BC, the tribes living in southern Colchis were incorporated into the 19th Satrapy of Persia. The advanced economy and favorable geographic and natural conditions of the area attracted Greeks, who colonized the Colchian coast, establishing trading posts at Phasis, Guuenos, Dioscurias, and Pitius during the 6th-5th centuries BC. According to archaeological discoveries, Colchis emerged as an economically and culturally advanced state during this period, with evidence of key elements of a strong civilization: civic structure (territorial-administrative divisions) and central state authority (the royal dynasty of the Aeetids); intensive urban life; a complex taxation system; and cultural manifestations, including architecture. The eastern part of Georgia is believed to have been partially under the Achaemenid Empire. During this period various eastern Georgian tribes struggled for leadership, with the Kartlian tribes eventually prevailing. At the end of the 4th century BC the Kartli (Iberia) Kingdom, the first eastern Georgian state, was founded.
One of the important Early Antique Period sites excavated during the pipeline construction is Ktsia Valley, located in the Borjomi District. The site, which sits on a bank of the Ktsia River at 2,000 meters above sea level, contains older layers dating from the Kura-Araxes culture, as well as the remains of a much larger settlement dating from the 6th-4th centuries BC.
Most of the structures at the site were built of flat stones fixed with clay, with evidence of structures that apparently supported flat roofs. An altar made of clay mixed with straw, and the head of a bull (an animal thought to have had ritual significance and associated with fertility and the moon) made of the same material, were also found. Generally, pottery was wheel-thrown; handmade items were rare. Ornaments were either engraved or embossed. One fragment of a polished red ceramic vessel seems to have been imported. Agricultural activity was somewhat restricted, perhaps because of the elevation, although cattle-breeding was important. Barley and oats (species well-adapted to the local environment) were cultivated. During the final stages of the settlement’s existence, it was destroyed by fire several times, possibly as a result of conquests.
The Hellenistic period is usually said to extend from the accession of Alexander the Great to the throne of Macedonia in 336 BC to the death of Cleopatra VII of Egypt in 30 BC. During the late 4th-early 3rd centuries BC, the eastern Georgian Kartli Kingdom emerged as a powerful force and created a single Georgian civilization. According to written sources from medieval Georgia, Parnavaz, the representative of the aristocracy in Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia, defeated his rival Azo and declared himself King of Kartli. Parnavaz created a system of military, fiscal, and administrative units, subdividing the country into several counties, called saeristavos, which paid tributes to the king. Parnavaz also established a single national cult around the supreme deity, Armazi, who personified the supreme ruler of the state. During the 3rd century BC, the Kartli (Iberia) Kingdom grew in power and expanded to the west. Incessant warfare characterized the following two centuries, with the kingdom forced to defend itself against numerous invasions. When the close association between Armenia and Pontus (currently located in north Turkey) resulted in an invasion by Pompey in 66-65 BC, King Artag of Kartli was forced to become a subordinate ally of Rome.
Numerous important sites in Georgia dating from this time have been excavated, including cities, temples, and cemeteries. However, until the pipeline project, no settlements had been found in this location. The project conducted the excavation at Skhalta, which included both a settlement and a cemetery. The structures there were quadrangular, built of stone and possibly mud brick. The population mostly engaged in animal husbandry, along with gardening, viticulture, and cultivation of wheat and flax.
Sixty graves were excavated at Skhalta, including square stone tombs and pit burials. There were bones of sacrificial sheep and goats on the surface of the graves, and human remains inside them.
In the first century AD the Kartli (Iberia) Kingdom was under the cultural influence of Rome and the Parthian Empires, later replaced by the Sassanian Empire in 226 AD. Evidence of close political and cultural relationships between Rome and Kartli are well represented on a noteworthy stone inscription discovered at Mtskheta, which notes that the Roman Emperor Vespasian supported Mithridates, “the friend of the Caesars” and king “of the Roman-loving Iberians,” in reconstructing the fortification of Mtskheta in 75 AD. During this period, a trade road running from India to Greece crossed the territory of Kartli. Kartli controlled the most important passes of the Central Caucasus, which meant it protected the central Asian domains of Rome from the invasion of aggressive nomadic tribes from the northern Caucasus. Consequently, the Romans profited from a strengthening of Kartli. The importance of the Kartli Kingdom to Rome grew in the 2nd century. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius in the 2nd quarter of the 2nd century AD, King Pharsman II of Kartli visited Rome, where a statue was erected in his honor.
During the following two centuries, the new Persian Empire led by the Sassanid dynasty made control over the South Caucasus a main objective of its expansion. Kartli stood firmly with Rome and opposed the Persian Empire. An impressive expression of its Roman orientation was the declaration of Christianity as the state religion. During the 1st century AD, the Apostle Saint Andrew brought Christianity into Georgia, a small part of the population adopted it. Finally, in 326 AD, during the reign of King Mirian, a Cappadocian woman, Saint Nino converted Kartli to that religion. Many scholars argue that the Georgian alphabet was created in the 4th or 5th century AD to make religious scripture more accessible to Georgians. The oldest examples of Georgian writing are from two 5th century AD inscriptions, one found in a church in Bethlehem, and the second in the church of Bolnisi Sioni, currently in the southern part of Georgia. Although Georgian historical tradition attributed the invention of the Georgian alphabet to Parnavaz I of Kartli in the 3rd century BC, there is no clear evidence of it prior to these inscriptions from the 5th century AD.
The writing of the Georgian language has progressed through three distinct forms; Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri, and Mkhedruli. At times these graphic forms were used together and shared some of the same letters. The most recent alphabet, Mkhedruli, contains more letters than the two earlier versions, although those extra letters are no longer needed for writing modern Georgian.
[ TOP ]