The first decades of the 9th century saw the rise of a new Georgian state in Tao-Klarjeti. Ashot Courapalate of the royal family of Bagrationi liberated from the Arabs the territories of former southern Iberia, including the Principalities of Tao and Klarjeti, as well as the Earldoms of Shavsheti, Khikhata, Samtskhe, Trialeti, Javakheti and Ashotsi, which were formally a part of the Byzantine Empire, under the name of “Curopalatinate of Iberia”. In practice, however, the region functioned as a fully independent country with its capital in Artanuji. The hereditary title of Curopalate was kept by the Bagrationi family, whose representatives ruled Tao-Klarjeti for almost a century. Curopalate David Bagrationi expanded his domain by annexing the city of Theodossiopolis (Karin, Karnukalaki) and the Armenian province of Basiani, and by imposing a protectorate over the Armenian provinces of Kharqi, Apakhuni, Mantsikert, and Khlat, formerly controlled by the Kaysithe Arab Emirs.
First King of United Georgia Bagrat III from the Royal House of Bagrationi
The first united Georgian monarchy was formed at the end of the 10th century when Curopalate David invaded the Earldom of Kartli-Iberia. Three years later, after the death of his uncle Theodosius the Blind, King of Egrisi-Abkhazia, Bagrat III inherited the Abkhazian throne. In 1001 Bagrat added Tao-Klarjeti (Curopalatinate of Iberia) to his domain as a result of David’s death. In 1008-1010, Bagrat annexed Kakheti and Ereti, thus becoming the first king of a united Georgia in both the east and west.
Although they were subsequently beset by various other invaders, principally Arabs, Mongols, Persians, and Turks, the Georgians retained a greater or lesser degree of independence for over 1,000 years. Thus after 1008, all Georgian principalities were united into the unified Kingdom of Georgia (1008-1466) under the Bagrationi dynasty, which had been established by Ashot I (Ashot the Great) in the end of the 8th century.
Before adoption of Christianity, the cult of Mithras and Zoroastrianism were commonly practiced in Iberia from the first centuries AD. The cult of Mithras, distinguished by its syncretic character and thus complementary to local cults, especially the cult of the Sun, gradually came to merge with ancient Georgian beliefs. The western Georgian Kingdom of Iberia became one of the first states in the world to convert to Christianity in 327 AD, when the King of Iberia Mirian II established it as the official state religion. However, the date varies based on numerous accounts and historical documents, which indicate Iberia adopting Christianity as a state religion in AD 317, 324, etc. According to Georgian chronicles, St. Nino of Cappadocia converted Georgia to Christianity in AD 330 during the time of Constantine the Great. By the middle of the 4th century though, both Lazica (formerly the Kingdom of Colchis) and Iberia adopted Christianity as their official religion. During the 4th and most of the 5th centuries, Iberia (known also as the Kingdom of Kartli) was under Persian control. The Kingdom was abolished and the country was ruled by the governors appointed by the Shahs. At the end of the 5th century though, Prince Vakhtang I Gorgasali orchestrated an anti-Persian uprising and restored Iberian statehood, proclaiming himself the King. After this, the armies of Vakhtang launched several campaigns against both Persia and the Byzantine Empire. However, his struggle for the independence and unity of the Georgian state did not have lasting success. After Vakhtang’s death in 502, and the short reign of his son Dachi (502-514), Iberia was reincorporated into Persia as a province once again. However this time the Iberian nobility were granted the privilege of electing the governors, who in Georgian were called erismtavari. By the late 7th century, the Byzantine-Persian rivalry for the Middle East had given way to Arab conquest of the region.
This close association with Armenia brought upon the country an invasion (65 BC) by the Roman general Pompey, who was then at war with Mithradates VI of Pontus, and Armenia; but Rome did not establish her power permanently over Iberia. Nineteen years later, the Romans again marched (36 BC) on Iberia forcing King Pharnavaz II to join their campaign against Albania.
During this time Armenia and Pontus were actively expanding at the expense of Rome, taking over its Eastern Mediterranean possessions. However, the success of the anti-Roman alliance did not last long. As a result of the brilliant Roman campaigns of Pompey and Lucullus from the west, and the Parthian invasion from the south, Armenia lost a significant part of its conquests by 65 BC, devolving into a Roman-Parthian dependency. At the same time, the Kingdom of Pontus was completely destroyed by the Romans and all its territory including Colchis were incorporated into the Roman Empire as her provinces. The former Kingdom of Colchis was reorganized by the Romans into the province of Lazicum ruled by Roman legati. The following 600 years of Georgian history were marked by struggle between Rome and Persia(Iran) including Parthians and Sassanids who were fighting long wars against each other for the domination in the Middle East including Syria, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Albania, and Iberia. In the 2nd century AD, Iberia strengthened her position in the area, especially during the reign of King Pharsman II who achieved full independence from Rome and reconquered some of the previously lost territories from declining Armenia. In the early 3rd century, Rome had to give up Albania and most of Armenia to Sassanid Iran. The province of Lazicum was given a degree of autonomy that by the end of the century developed into full independence with the formation of a new Kingdom of Lazica-Egrisi on the territories of smaller principalities of the Zans, Svans, Apsyls, and Sanyghs. This new Western Georgian state survived more than 250 years until in 562 when it was absorbed by the Byzantine Empire.
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