Queen Tamara and the “Golden Age” of Georgia

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Queen Tamara and the “Golden Age” of Georgia
M. Zichy. Shota Rustaveli presents his poem to Queen Tamara


В previous article it was told about the origin and early life of the famous Georgian Queen Tamara, about her unsuccessful marriage with the youngest son of the murdered Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky, expelled from Rus', and her second marriage to David Soslan. Today we will talk about Tamara as the great queen of Georgia and a little about the famous poem by Shota Rustaveli “The Knight in the Skin of a Leopard (Tiger)”.



Tamara at the head of Georgia


It must be said that Tamara’s second husband, David Soslan, did not have any special talents as a statesman. According to the general opinion of all researchers, it was Tamara who was the main one in this couple, and even her title sounded like “mepe” - king, and not “dedopali” (“king’s wife”). And her husband was just the commander-in-chief of the Georgian army. Moreover, in 1207 David died (according to some sources, he was killed), and Tamara appointed her son George as her nominal co-ruler.


Queen Tamara in the illustration of E. Markov’s book “Essays on the Caucasus: Pictures of Caucasian life, nature and stories»

By order of Tamara, a “direct” road was laid from central Georgia to the south - to Meskheti, monasteries and temples, bridges and irrigation canals were built.


Queen Tamara on the fresco of the church built on her orders in Betania

Victories were won in Shirvan, Shamkhor, Ganja and Dvina. In Ganja, after a victory in the battle with the army of Atabak Abu Bekr, they managed to capture the caliph’s banner, which later adorned the icon of Our Lady of Khakhul in the Gelati monastery. The chronicle cites the words with which Tamara then addressed her army:

“My brothers, do not let your hearts tremble with fear, if there are so many of them and you are few, because God is with us... Trust only God alone, strengthen your hearts with your truth before Him and have endless hope in the cross of Christ. Rush to their country with the help of the Most Holy Theotokos and head towards the enemy with the power of the invincible cross.”


Golden cross of Queen Tamara, rubies, emeralds, pearls

Her letter to the Seljuk Sultan Rum Suleiman Shah Rukn-ed-din is also given:

“You rely on a lot of gold and donkey drivers, but I do not rely on wealth or the strength of my army, but on the strength of Almighty God and the holy cross, which you blaspheme. Now I am sending all my army to meet you; Let God’s will be done to me, but not yours, His righteousness, but not yours.”

In addition, she is credited with creating the anthem “Prayer of the Georgians for Victory in Shamkhor.”

About the campaign in Iran in 1210 the chronicle says:

“None of the Georgians went on a hike to these places, neither the king nor the prince.”

Tbilisi University professor N. Berdzenishvili wrote in 1971 that Tamara

“conquered from the Pontic Sea to the Gurgen Sea and from Speri to Daruband and all the Caucasian imers and amers to the Khazar and Scythia.”

On part of the Armenian lands, a Georgia-friendly state of the Mkhargrdzeli (Zakaryan) brothers was created. Kars, Tabriz (Tabriz), Khlat, Qazvin, Rom-Gur and Erzurum were conquered, Georgian troops reached Sinop and Heraclea, which belonged to Byzantium - here the Kingdom of Trebizond was founded in 1204, the indigenous population of which were Laz Georgians. Tamara placed her nephew Alexy on his throne, who became the founder of the Great Komnenos dynasty. The northern border of the Tamara state ran from Nikopsia (near modern Gantiadi) to Derbent, and in the south it reached the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates. The Seljuk Sultan Suleiman Shah Rukn-ed-din, who opposed Georgia (according to the chronicles, he demanded that Tamara convert to Islam), suffered a terrible defeat in Basiani (near Erzurum), was wounded and almost captured.


In 1204, an uprising of the highlanders - Khevsurs and Pshavs (Pkhovtsev) was suppressed, who were since then prohibited from building traditional towers.

In the chronicle, written already during the reign of Tamara’s son, George IV, it is written that she

“she defended the kingdom inseparably, reconciled everyone and established peace for everyone.”

"The Knight in Leopard (Tiger) Skin"


At the end of the 1188th century, two famous poems were composed in Transcaucasia. In XNUMX, in Shemakha, by order of Shirvanshah Akhsitan Nizami, he wrote the poem “Leili and Majnun”. And Rustaveli clearly read it, because he says at the beginning of his poem:

This story, brought from Iran long ago,
On the hands of people rolled like a pearl grain.
It was only destined for me to sing it in a Georgian way.

Rustaveli wrote his poem “The Knight in the Leopard (Tiger) Skin” (“Vepkhistkaosani”) after 1189, we already talked a little about it in first article.


Soviet postage stamp issued in honor of the 800th anniversary of Rustaveli

About this poem I. Mozheiko wrote:

“The pinnacle of the Western chivalric romance, not achieved in the West, a masterpiece of oriental fairy tale, born in a Christian state, the apotheosis of the ideas of humanism and the ideals of the Renaissance, born before the Renaissance.”

Many consider Queen Tamara to be the heroine of the poem, and some even call it “custom-made”, because Rustaveli directly says:

“I was ordered to glorify the queen with a new word.”

And also:

“Let us sing the praises of Queen Tamar, revered holy.”

Probably Tamara, who also read Nizami’s poem, wanted to have something similar. But she didn’t seem to like the result very much. Although Rustaveli called his heroine by a different name, his hints turned out to be more than transparent:

She is dearer to me than life, a merciless tigress.
Let it, not named by me, be displayed here.

What could have caused Tamara's anger? For example, the story of how Nestan-Darejan ordered the death of the groom:

Common sense does not dictate,
So that I could be the cause of this bloody rage.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Do this, brave hero, endowed with the strength of a lion:
Having killed the groom on the sly, do not fight with your squad.

We may be talking about the murder of the one mentioned in first article Prince Demna, in love with Tamara. The reaction of the heroine’s aunt, Davar (Rusudan in real life), described in the poem, who beats (!) her after learning about the death of her groom, is completely offensive for Tamara:

You, harlot (!) led Mirbara (Tariel's position) to murder!
Why should I pay for your deeds with blood?
............................................................
And Davar attacked the princess with great abuse,
Screaming, she tore her hair, beat her and mocked her.
The sun-faced princess only sighed and languished.

But “Sunny-faced” is Tamara’s constant epithet. And Rustaveli himself, as if realizing that he had written “unnecessarily,” suddenly declares in the “Introduction”:

My pen was a reed, my ink was a lake of agate.
Those who listened to my creations were struck down by the blade of damask steel.

That is, he admits that he crossed some line and wrote something so seditious that reading his poem is literally life-threatening.

Meanwhile, the author of the great work was a fairly high-ranking nobleman, for some time he even held the post of chief treasurer of Georgia and was able to allocate funds for the repair of the Jerusalem Monastery of the Holy Cross.


Shota Rustaveli on a fresco at the Monastery of the Holy Cross, Jerusalem

Moreover, Rustaveli constantly reports that he knew Tamara well and informally, for example:

“I continue to be proud of the one whom I once praised.”

And at the same time, official chronicles write very sparingly about him, and his great work is not mentioned or quoted by contemporary poets. Some researchers believe that having reached the peak of power, Tamara began to be burdened by her former comrades, who knew too much about her youth, relationships with her father and aunt Rusudan, as well as with her first husband. And therefore Rustaveli could write his poem as a kind of memoir - already in disgrace and retirement. And he, again, directly hints at this in the “Introduction”:

“For the sake of the one for whom the heart is full of sorrow.”

And the “tigress” (probably still a “leopard”) Tamara in the poem is called “merciless” - not brave, not fearless and not the wisest. Agree, this is a very ambiguous compliment, in which one can hear the resentment of the poet who was deceived in his expectations.

And subsequently, reading Rustaveli’s great poem was not encouraged in Georgia, and the first printed edition of “The Knight,” published in 1714, was burned at the request of the Georgian church, whose hierarchs believed that this work had a bad influence on the morality of the flock.

Death of the Queen


Oddly enough, historians do not know the exact date of Tamara’s death: most often they talk about 1213, but it cannot be ruled out that this happened in 1207 or 1210. The queen died in a certain Agarani castle, the location of which, again, is not exactly known. Perhaps this is the Kojori fortress, which is located in the Mtskheta region near Tbilisi. The place of her burial is also unknown; According to legend, the funeral was carried out in secret, since Tamara was afraid of desecration of her grave. Perhaps this was due to the promise of Sultan Rukn-ed-din, defeated in the Battle of Basian

“get to her even after death.”

There is a completely implausible legend that seven (according to other sources - nine) identical coffins were made, only one of which contained the queen’s body: Tamara’s trusted bodyguards buried them in different places, and then committed suicide (or stabbed each other swords) to maintain secrecy. And the crusader Des Bois, who lived in the 13th century, wrote to the Archbishop of Besançon:

“I learned from rumors, and then established the truth of this matter through trustworthy ambassadors, that from Iberia Christians, called Georgens (Georgians), with countless cavalry and infantry, inspired by God's assistance, very heavily armed, came out against the unfaithful pagans and with a quick onslaught had already taken three hundred fortresses and nine large cities, of which the strong took possession, and the weak were reduced to ashes...

The above-mentioned are coming to liberate the land of sacred Jerusalem and conquer the entire pagan world. Their noble king is sixteen years old, he is like Alexander in courage and virtue, but not in faith (that is, not a pagan, but a Christian). This young man is carrying with him the bones of his mother, the powerful Queen Tamara, who during her lifetime made a vow to visit Jerusalem and asked her son: if she dies without having been there, to take her bones to the Holy Sepulcher. And he, remembering his mother’s request... decided to transport her remains, whether the pagans wanted it or not.”

But this evidence, as you understand, is based only on some rumors.

The “Encyclopedic Dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron” reports on the Georgian legend, according to which Tamara did not die, but “sleeps in a golden cradle": she "will wake up and reign"When it comes to her"the voice of human sorrow».

Georgia after Queen Tamara


The period of Tamara’s reign is called the “golden age” of Georgia; this country reached the peak of its development, but perhaps overstrained itself in its imperial ambitions. Already on January 18, 1223, Tamara’s son George IV died in a battle with the Mongols of the corps of Jebe and Subedei.


George IV on the fresco of the monastery in Betania

He was succeeded by his sister Rusudan, under whom Georgia in 1225-1227. suffered a series of defeats from the Khorezm Shah Jalal ad-Din Mankburna (he caused a lot of trouble even to Genghis Khan and his successor Ogedei), and in 1236 was defeated by the Mongols, whose power was forced to recognize in 1240.


Georgian coin from the reign of Rusudan. Image of Christ with the inscription:
"Queen of queens, glory of peace and faith, Rusudan, daughter of Tamar, protectress of the Messiah"

Tamara's grandson David VI became a vassal of the Hulagid state. The illegitimate son of George IV, David VII, who succeeded him, had not the Georgian, but the Turkic nickname “Ulu” - “Elder” (since he had a junior co-ruler - the son of Rusudan David Narin). David traveled to Karakorum and was forced to take part in Mongol operations against the Assassins of Alamut and in their campaign against Baghdad. After he refused to provide troops for the war in Egypt, the Mongols ravaged Samtskhe. Tamara's great-grandson Demeter II retained power only in eastern Georgia and in 1289 was executed at the headquarters of Ilkhan Arghun. His youngest son, George V, managed to unite the country for some time. He was succeeded by David IX, under whom Georgia suffered greatly from the plague epidemic; its territory was invaded several times by the Mongols. Under Bagrat V and George VII, the country was completely devastated by Tamerlane, which led to the disintegration of the state into several loosely connected kingdoms and principalities.

Saint Tamara


Tamara was canonized by the Orthodox Church, and in the Lives she is called Tamara the Great.


One of the icons of Saint Tamara

The formal reason for canonization was her services in the Christianization of the Caucasian tribes and the construction of new monasteries, some of which were founded outside of Georgia - for example, the Iversky Monastery on Mount Athos and the Petritsonsky Monastery in Bulgaria. Moreover, she

“provided the bishops and their thrones with donations, freeing the churches from dues and taxes.”

In “Kartlis Tskhovreba” (a chronicle that existed from the 8th century and was supplemented until the 13th century) you can read:

“Prosperity reigned not only in Tamara’s own kingdom, but also for all Christians. And she notified everyone who raped Christians to immediately submit, having fear and love for her.”

Currently, in Akhaltsikhe and Tbilisi, May 14 is celebrated as the day of Queen Tamara - Tamaroba.


Monument to Tamara in Akhaltsikhe

The portrait of this queen can also be seen on the Georgian 50 lari banknote:

22 comments
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  1. +11
    6 May 2024 05: 36
    Thank you for the article!
    Like it or not, Shota Rustaveli has surpassed his muse in the hierarchy of modern Georgia and is depicted on the 100-larri banknote.
    1. +2
      6 May 2024 10: 31
      Here, by the way, the devil will break his leg - which banknote is considered more prestigious? Higher denomination? Or - less, as more widespread? Like in the USA: Washington is on the 1 dollar bill, and on the 100 dollar bill is Franklin, who was not president. The same is with the degrees of merit in orders: the first degree seems to be the main one, but the second or third is higher from the point of view of mathematics smile
  2. +9
    6 May 2024 05: 41
    Curious and educational. I could not leave such work without a positive assessment.
    * * *
    Tamara was canonized by the Orthodox Church, and in the Lives she is called Tamara the Great.

    We count and count, count and count, appropriating ourselves (or someone else) the right of God's mercy...
    What to do with this:
    “You shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth; do not worship or serve them.”

    They have Queen Tamara...We have Nicholas II...
    And there are portraits in every office... It’s good that there’s no need to change them for the last quarter of a century...
    1. +4
      6 May 2024 07: 30
      Quote: ROSS 42
      They have Queen Tamara...We have Nicholas II...

      Not certainly in that way.
      The Holy Blessed Queen Tamara is the closest saint to the entire Orthodox world.
      1. +6
        6 May 2024 10: 39
        Tamara is the closest saint to the entire Orthodox world
        In my opinion, Bandera is a saint too. Was recently canonized wink
        1. +3
          6 May 2024 11: 22
          Quote: Dutchman Michel
          To my mind,

          The fact of the matter is that according to you, no one included him, this is a lie.
          1. +3
            6 May 2024 17: 06
            The fact of the matter is that according to you, no one included him, this is a lie
            All public pages were at one time filled with this information. Even if this is not the case, the very discussion about canonizing Bandera already speaks volumes
    2. +4
      6 May 2024 08: 32
      We count and count, count and count, appropriating ourselves (or someone else) the right of God's mercy...

      That's for sure. They imposed such saints on God - from among those who are burning in hell, that he is probably going nuts.
  3. +4
    6 May 2024 05: 43
    They completely forgot to mention the place of the Cumans in the state of Tamara and the creation of the short-lived Nicene Empire
  4. +2
    6 May 2024 07: 54
    Very interesting and informative, many thanks to the Author.
  5. +6
    6 May 2024 10: 34
    Moreover, in 1207 David died (according to some sources, he was killed)

    As far as I understand, David-Soslan was definitely killed.
    I had to read about the opening of his grave and the examination of his remains. Damage to the skull (most likely from a mace) and fractures characteristic of a fall from a horse were found.
    1. +8
      6 May 2024 11: 00
      As far as I understand, David-Soslan was definitely killed.
      I had to read about the opening of his grave and the examination of his remains. Damage to the skull (most likely from a mace) and fractures characteristic of a fall from a horse were found.

      Pchelina’s statement that the burial she found under the floor of the Nuzal chapel is the grave of David-Soslan is considered erroneous by modern historians. Today, the “working version” claims that this is the grave of the Alan leader Os-Bagatar. Georgian historians generally consider the version of the murder of David-Soslan to be fabricated by Ossetian historians.
  6. +1
    6 May 2024 11: 36
    “Georgiy Saakadze” is a film of my childhood. It seems to be a patriot, but he was forced to serve the Shah of Persia. As far as I remember from the film, a tragic fate.¿
    1. +4
      6 May 2024 19: 26
      Quote: andrewkor
      He seems to be a patriot, but he was forced to serve the Shah of Persia.

      As far as I remember history, it was still the Turks. His opponent, King Teimuraz, walked under the Persians.
      Well, patriotism and the fight against foreign invaders often and densely consisted in the fact that the Georgians subject to the Shah went with his troops against their fellow tribesmen who were under the rule of the Sultan. And vice versa
  7. +6
    6 May 2024 14: 17
    The article is rather weak.
    Nothing is said about the economic basis of medieval Georgia, about the invitation of the Polovtsians to fight the Seljuks, about the role of Armenians in the economic life of the country, about relations with the northern highlanders, for example the Lezgins.
    Well, the map of “great Georgia” given by the author cannot but cause a smile. There, the Georgian territory extends right up to Tuapse in the north-west :).
    By the way, all ancient and powerful peoples love to draw fantasy maps of their power; it all looks, of course, comical.
    1. +4
      6 May 2024 14: 50
      Did you accidentally confuse Tamara with her great-grandfather David the Builder? Just recently there was an article about him and how he invited the Cumans to fight the Seljuks. Well, what about the “economic basis” (already sounds scary) and
      the role of Armenians in the economic life of the country
      - this, sorry. like the whole “economy”, it’s somehow not very interesting to most readers on this resource. Perhaps the Armenians themselves, who will be pleased to learn about their great role? But seriously, this is a topic for a separate article. I don’t think this very role can be adequately reflected in one paragraph.
      1. +6
        6 May 2024 17: 11
        Did you accidentally confuse Tamara with her great-grandfather David the Builder? Just recently there was an article about him and how he invited the Cumans to fight the Seljuks
        The Cumans left this region only after they were driven out of there by the Mongols who came there. Under Tamara, there was even a special tax to pay for Polovtsian services
        1. +2
          7 May 2024 11: 44
          The history of the appearance of the Polovtsians in Georgia is important; it is told in the article about David the Builder. The Polovtsians lived under David's great-granddaughter Tamara, some of their descendants probably still live among the Georgians - this is obvious, what is the question? Of course, they were part of the Georgian army. And why do you think we constantly focus on this? In the same way, one can repeat with manic persistence when talking about each war that Tatar, Buryat and Kalmyk detachments fought as part of the Russian army from a certain time - but why? It's obvious.
          1. +1
            7 May 2024 12: 56
            And why do you think we constantly focus on this?
            And then, that the Polovtsy were an important military and state instrument there, and not just some incomprehensible ethnic group.
    2. +9
      6 May 2024 17: 09
      By the way, all the ancient and powerful peoples love to draw fantasy maps of their power, it all looks, of course, comical
      Their “glorious” and “thousand-year” history, written by local academics, looks even more comical wink
    3. +3
      7 May 2024 10: 22
      Only one thing can be said about the economy: just like Justinian the Great, Tamara spent enormous amounts of money on the scale of Georgia to expand the “empire,” and when the money ran out, the heirs were unable to defend their previous conquests. 600 years before her, Justinian left and right spent the money of his predecessor Justin on expansion and urban planning, who accumulated enormous wealth, and ultimately left the Empire in a severe crisis.
  8. +3
    7 May 2024 10: 22
    And I managed to work on the ship "Shota Rustaveli"))) Interesting historical essay, thank you.