History of Georgia

Article Index


The growing of cereals and leguminous plants, as well as wine-making was especially developed in Georgia's agriculture. According to Acad. I.Javakhishvili 420 varieties of grapes were grown in Georgia. Also widespread were such industrial crops, as flax, hemp, etc. Flax had been cultivated here from ancient times and, together with wax and honey (abundantly produced by well-developed apiculture), featured prominently in home and foreign trade. Animal husbandry was also well developed for use as draft animals and also for making meat and dairy products, leather and wool. Poultry farming also played a significant role, and sericulture was of great importance since silk was an item of export.
The 11th-12th centuries witnessed a high level of development of feudal Georgia's culture - philosophy, historiography, philology, letters, architecture, monumental painting, miniature, metalwork and pottery. Shota Rustaveli's great epic poem "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" was created at the turn of the 12th to 13th century. Scholarly and literary work flourished at centers of culture existing within Georgia and abroad. The antecedents of the highly developed culture of 12th-cent. Georgia had been prepared by the preceding period. The Iviron monastery on Mt. Athos, the Georgian monastery on the Black Mountain, the monastery of the Holy Cross in Palestine, the Petritsoni monastery in Bulgaria - these were Georgian centers where intensive scholarly and cultural work was carried on.
The culture of the country was determined by the development of education, which attained considerable progress at the time under discussion. Schools were mainly attached to churches and monasteries. The system of education in Georgia was in fact fully subordinated to Christian ideology. The view is justified according to which alongside schools of rhetoric there were primary schools in various towns. It is not fortuitous that buildings for schools (seminaries) are found near the monasteries of Opiza, Oshki, Shatberdi, Berta, Khandzta, and others.
Schools under the auspices of churches and monasteries were official; the subjects there were theology, hymnography, liturgics and Georgian manuscript book-writing. At the same time in the families of members of the royal court and feudal lords children were educated by private tutors. The larger churches were designed not only for cultic and monastic activities but served also as centers of school education.
Close acquaintance with the Byzantine system of education played a significant role in the progress of school education in 11th-12th cent. Georgia. Many Georgians received education in Byzantium, some of them subsequently becoming outstanding scholars (e.g. Eprem Mtsiré). Giorgi Mtatsmindeli sent eighty Georgian youths to Byzantium to receive education and be instructed in the rules of divine service at the Iviron monastery.
King David the Builder gave close attention to the education of his people. This fact was not overlooked by the Armenian chronicler Vardan Bardzmerts who wrote that "David took great care of the Iberian people, who sought knowledge". The king selected forty children who were sent to Greece "so that they be taught languages and bring home translations made by them there". Three of them later became well-known scholars.
At the time of David the Builder there were quite a few schools and academies in Georgia, among which Gelati occupies a special place. King David's historian calls Gelati Academy "a second Jerusalem of all the East for learning of all that is of value, for the teaching of knowledge - a second Athens, far exceeding the first in divine law, a canon for all ecclesiastical splendor" Life of David . King of Kings , translated by Katharine Vivian, manuscript, p.12).
Gelati Academy was the first one to be established in the period of developed feudalism, it answered the actual needs of the day, anticipating the ideological movement that paved the way for the Georgian Renaissance.
Besides Gelati there also were other cultural-enlightenment and scholarly centers in Georgia at that time. There was a higher school at Iqalto - the Iqalto Academy. Its existence is attested by the ruins preserved in the yard of the monastery, most probably forming a single building. Windows are discernible, as well as the base of a pulpit, etc. The founder and first rector of the academy was Arsen Iqaltoeli who came to Iqalto from Gelati in the 1120s. Among other centers of higher education mention is also made of an academy at Gremi.
Intensive literary, philosophical and translation work was carried on at Georgian centers of culture and education outside Georgia {the Iviron monastery on Mt.Athos, the monastery on the Black Mountain in Syria, Petiitsoni monastery in Bulgaria, etc.). In this period a number of original works were written and important monuments of world culture were translated into Georgian, facilitating the advance of national scholarship and literature.
Of the Georgian scholars who flourished outside Georgia Giorgi Mtatsmindeli, Eprem Mtsiré and Giorgi Khutsesmonazoni (Mtsiré) acquired renown.