Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Georgia is a still a relatively unknown country to most of the world, only just beginning to discover the majesty and mystery of this small country nestled in the Caucasus. From a history of human habitation dating nearly 2 million years to being one of the first societies to adopt Christianity, Georgia is full of fascinating facts.
Georgia is home to many Ancient Greek myths. The most notable is that of Jason and the Argonauts who searched for the Land of the Golden Fleece. Another lesser-known myth asserts that the monster Typhon fled to the Caucasus after he battled Zeus. Even the legend of Prometheus has been tied to Georgia. The legacy of the ancient Greeks and their fascination with ancient Georgia is still present today. For example, the Pheasant derives its name from the Phasis River (Rioni River), while the city of Batumi obtained its name from the Greek word “bathus/bathys” meaning “deep.”
Of the most influential people in Georgia’s history, two of its most important and influential figures are women--St. Nino and Tamar Mepe. St. Nino is credited with converting the Georgian people to Christianity in 4th Century CE, making Georgia one of the first places in the world to officially adopt the religion. Christianity in Georgia would come to take a pivotal role in Georgian culture and history, with the Georgian Orthodox Church becoming a powerful cultural and political force in the country’s history and an integral part of its cultural identity, all made possible thanks to St. Nino. Tamar Mepe, who reigned from 1184-1213 CE, expanded the success of her predecessor, Davit Aghmashenebeli, and brought Georgia to its greatest cultural and military height. Under Tamar Mepe, Georgia controlled the entire eastern half of the Black Sea, the peoples of the North Caucasus, and brought all of Azerbaijan, and most of eastern Turkey and northern Iran, into its control.
During the period of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921), women enjoyed the right to vote, which was still not occurring in countries such as France, the United Kingdom, and the USA. In the Democratic Republic of Georgia’s first and only parliament, five women were elected to parliament. Georgia also boasts the world’s first democratically elected Muslim woman, Peri-Khan Sofieva, who lived in what is now Karajala, Azerbaijan, and served as its elected representative.
Centuries before the Renaissance (14-16th Centuries) introduced European thought to humanism, Georgian literature was already talking about the virtues of humanity. Shota Rustaveli, who lived during the reign of Tamar Mepe, wrote his chef d’oeuvre, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, in the 12th Century. In his masterpiece, Rustaveli advocates for gender equality, humility and honor from the ruling class, and the presence of freedom, love, friendship, and sincerity in humankind.
The boundary between Europe and Asia crosses through the Caucasus, and, depending on which one you choose, Georgia is either wholly in Europe, wholly in Asia, or both. Interestingly, there are three main boundaries which would place Georgia in both continents. One option has eastern Georgia, which is in the Caspian Sea’s watershed, in Asia, and western Georgia, which is in the Black Sea’s watershed, in Europe. A second option uses the Rioni, Q’virila, and Mt’k’vari Rivers, where the areas north of these rivers are in Europe, and the areas south are in Asia. This would mean that Kutaisi, Zest’aponi, Tbilisi, and Rustavi are all transcontinental cities. A third boundary uses the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, which puts parts of Adjara, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Tbilisi, and Kvemo Kartli in both Asia and Europe.
From 2012-2018, Georgia was one of the around a dozen countries in the world which had more than one capital city. Georgia’s capital city moved between Tbilisi and Kutaisi, but, for those brief six years, both cities served as the capital of Georgia, with the judiciary, presidency, and government located in Tbilisi while the Parliament of Georgia was moved to an ultra-modern purpose-built building in western Kutaisi.
What other interesting tidbits do you know about Georgia? Let us know in our comment section!