History of Georgia

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The state and cultural power of Kartli (Iberia) in the Classical period was one of the major factors in the process of the becoming of the Georgian people. It was at that time that a fairly stable East-Georgian (Kart) nationality took shape, which subsequently played the role of a link in the creation of the Georgian nation. This process was completed somewhat later - during the spread of the influence of the Christian Church throughout Georgia and the emergence of a single Georgian feudal 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). Along with representatives of the local nobility students from abroad were also taught at the school. It was the alma mater of the famous Greek philosopher and rhetorician Themistius who says that his father Eugenius had also learned wisdom at that school.
Christianity destroyed Old Georgian literature and began to create a literature of its own, mostly translated. The oldest books translated then were the Gospels and the Old Testament, done from Greek and Syriac originals. Soon original works, mostly hagiographies, appeared. The Old Georgian "Passion of Shushanik" was written in the 5th century. Another such work by an anonymous author, "The Martyrdom of Evstatk Mtskheteli", came down to us from the 6th century.
Monuments of church architecture, as well as ruins of some secular buildings (e.g. the fortress of Ujarma) have survived to this day. The basilica-type churches of Bolnisi and Urbnisi, dating from the 5th century and the unique cruciform domed Jvari church of the end of the 6th-beginning of the 7th century near Mtskheta, at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari (Kura), are most significant monuments of architecture. These monuments, dating from the 5th-6th cent., attest to the high level of building art in Georgia.
In the 4th-6th centuries the Georgian people fought against Persian and Byzantine conquerors to preserve independence.
Egrisi was repelling the Byzantines and Kartli (Iberia) the Persians. In mid-5th century Vakhtang I Gorgasal became king of Kartli (Iberia), heading the struggle against the Persians. He paved the way for transferring the capital of Georgia from Mtskheta to Tbilisi. The territory of Tbilisi had been inhabited from Neolithic times, i.e. 4 to 5 thousand years ago. By the middle of the 5th century the population of Tbilisi had grown considerably. The transfer of the capital from Mtskheta to Tbilisi was accomplished by King Dachi, Vakhtang I's son and successor.
The struggle against the Persians was waged by the population of the entire Transcaucasia. Vakhtang Gorgasal practically created an anti-Iranian coalition comprising, besides the Georgians, the Armenians and Albanians. However, this struggle was unsuccessful: the King of Kartli (Iberia) fell in battle early in the 6th century. After his death the Iranians began to act with added fierceness and zeal. In 523, having subdued Kartli (Iberia), they moved into Western Georgia. Their intention to seize Egrisi became the casus belli between Persia and Byzantium. This war lasted 20 years, mostly on the territory of Egrisi, laying it waste.
The valorous and selfless struggle of the Georgian people, the flexible policy and diplomacy, resorted to by the rulers of Georgia, saved the country from catastrophe. Byzantine historians (Agathias, Menander and others) extolled the courage and industry of the Georgians.
In 572 the Kartli (Iberia) and rose in arms and expelled the Persians. Local administrative-state government or Saerismtavro was instituted in Kartli (Iberia). This early feudal state actually served as the basis for the creation of the future united Georgian monarchy.
In the 7th-8th cent. important socio-political changes took place in Georgia. The principalities (samtavros) of Kakheti, Hereti and Tao-Klarjeti, as well as the western Georgian state - the Kingdom of Abkhazia - took shape in this period.
This period is significant also for the obtaining external political situation. The invasions of the Arabs in mid-7th century and their sway undermined considerably the economic development of the country, Kartli (Iberia) suffering the hardest. The struggle against the Arabs assumed a popular character, involving Georgia's neighbors as well - the Armenians and Albanians. From the middle of the 8th century the Arab sway became unbearable, leading to an intensification of popular activity. The forces fighting against the Arabs united their efforts under the banner of Christianity. The selfless struggle waged by the Georgians ultimately resulted in a gradual shrinking of the Sphere of Arab influence, which had extended to Tbilisi for a relatively long time.