This is a good article. Click here for more information.

Pharnavaz I of Iberia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
King of All Iberia
Pharnavaz I relief (2).jpg
Relief of King Pharnavaz
1st King of Iberia
Reign 302–237 BCi[›]
299–234 BCii[›]
284–219 BCiii[›]
Predecessor Azo of Iberia
(office created)
Successor Saurmag I of Iberia
Spouse Durdzuk woman
Issue Saurmag I of Iberia
Dynasty Pharnavazid dynasty
Father Georgian prince[1]
Mother Persian woman[2]
Born 326 BC[3]
Mtskheta, Kartli
Died 237, 234 or 219 BC
Mtskheta, Kingdom of Iberia
Burial Armazi, Kingdom of Iberia (undisclosed)
Religion Georgian paganism (God Armazi)

Pharnavaz (Georgian: ფარნავაზი Georgian pronunciation: [pʰɑrnɑvɑzi]) also transliterated as Parnavaz or Farnavaziv[›] was the first king of Kartli, an ancient Georgian kingdom known as Iberia to the Classical sources, who is credited by the medieval Georgian written tradition with founding the kingship of Kartli and the Pharnavazid dynasty. Based on the medieval evidence, most scholars locate Pharnavaz’s rule in the 3rd century BC: 302–237 BC according to Prince Vakhushti of Kartli, 299–234 BC according to Cyril Toumanoff and 284–219 BC according to Pavle Ingoroqva.[4]


According to the Georgian royal annals, Pharnavaz descended from Uplos, son of Mtskhetos, son of Kartlos, who was one of the powerful and famous eight brothers, who from their part were descendants of Targamos, son of Tarsi, the grandson of Japheth, son of the Biblical Noah. He is not directly attested in non-Georgian sources and there is no definite contemporary indication that he was indeed the first of the Georgian kings. His story is saturated with legendary imagery and symbols, and it seems feasible that, as the memory of the historical facts faded, the real Pharnavaz "accumulated a legendary façade" and emerged as the model pre-Christian monarch in the Georgian annals.[5]

According to the c. 800 chronicle The Life of Kings, Pharnavaz had a distinguished genealogy, tracing back to Kartlos, the mythical ethnarch of Kartli. His paternal uncle, Samara, held the position of mamasakhlisi ("father of the house") of the Georgian tribes around Mtskheta.[6] Pharnavaz’s mother is claimed to have been a Persian woman from Isfahan,[2] whom Prince Teimuraz of Georgia and Patriarch Anton II of Georgia identifies with a daughter of King Darius III.[7] The entire story of Pharnavaz, although written by a Christian chronicler, abounds in ancient Iranian-like imagery and mystic allusions, a reflection of the archaeologically confirmed cultural and presumably political ties between Iran and Kartli of that time. The name "Pharnavaz" is also an illustrative example with its root par- being based upon the Persian farnah, the divine radiance believed by the ancient Iranians to mark a legitimate dynast (cf. khvarenah).[8] The dynastic tag Parnavaziani ("of/from/named for Pharnavaz") is also preserved in the early Armenian histories as P'arnawazean (Faustus 5.15; fifth century) and P'arazean (Primary History of Armenia 14; probably the early fifth century), an acknowledgment that a king named Pharnavaz was understood to have been the founder of a Georgian dynasty.[5]

Perhaps the most artistically rounded section of the Georgian annals, the narrative follows Pharnavaz's life from birth to burial.[9] Aged 3,[10] small Pharnavaz's family is destroyed, and his heritage is usurped by Azon installed by Alexander the Great during his campaign in Kartli. Alexander's invasion of Iberia, remembered not only by the Georgian historical tradition, but also by Pliny the Elder (4.10.39) and Gaius Julius Solinus (9.19), appears to be memory of some Macedonian interference in Iberia, which must have taken place in connection with the expedition mentioned by Strabo (11.14.9) sent by Alexander in 323 BC to the confines of Iberia, in search of gold mines.[3]

Pharnavaz is brought up fatherless, but a magic dream, in which he anoints himself with the essence of the Sun, heralds the peripeteia. He is persuaded by this vision to "devote [himself] to noble deeds". He then sets off and goes hunting. In a pursuit of a deer, he encounters a mass of treasure stored in a hidden cave.[11] Pharnavaz retrieves the treasure and exploits it to mount a loyal army against the tyrannical Azon. He is aided by Kuji of Colchis, who eventually marries Pharnavaz's sister.[12] The rebels are also joined by 1,000 soldiers from Azon's camp; they are anachronistically referred to by the author as Romans, and claimed to have been entitled by the victorious Pharnavaz as aznauri (i.e., nobles) after Azon (this etymology is false, however).[5]


Kingdom of Iberia during the reign of Pharnavaz I

In the ensuing battle, Azon is defeated and killed, and Pharnavaz becomes the king of Kartli at the age of 27.[3] He is reported to have acknowledged the suzerainty of the Seleucids, the Hellenistic successors of Alexander in the Middle East, who are afforded by the Georgian chronicles the generic name of Antiochus.[5]

Pharnavaz is also said to have patterned his administration upon an "Iranian" model.[14]

Pharnavaz had introduced a military-administrative organization based on a network of regional governors or eristavi.[16] The insignia of the eristavi, received from the king, constituted a sceptre, a special signet ring, belt and armament.[17] Iberia had in total seven eristavis, in Colchis,[18] Kakheti,[19] Khunani[20] (modern-day northern Azerbaijan), Samshvilde[21] (Kvemo Kartli), Tsunda[22] (included Javakheti, Kola and Artaani), Odzrkhe[23] and Klarjeti.[24] The kingdom had one spaspet who was under the direct control of the royal power based in Inner Kartli.[25]

The hierarchic structure created by Pharnavaz was the following: king; commander-in-chief (spaspet) of the royal army; eristavis; middle commanders (atasistavis tsikhistavis) of the garrisons stationed in the royal strongholds; junior commanders (asistavis) who were the younger sons of the aristocratic families; mercenary professional warriors from the neighboring countries and all the soldiers organized around the entire kingdom.[26]

It is evident that the division of Iberia by Pharnavaz into saeristavos served first and foremost a military aim, namely the organization of people for the purpose of defence. This organization was not so much directed against other countries. Back then the total population of the kingdom would have been, including foreign captives and the population of the tributary areas, about 600,000, which could raise a fairly big army not less than 100,000. According to Strabo the Iberian army numbered 70-80,000 so it appears that each saeristavo had 10,000 soldiers.[27]

While Georgian and Classical evidence makes the contemporaneous Kartlian links with the Seleucids plausible (Toumanoff has even implied that the kings of Kartli might have aided the Seleucids in holding the resurgent Orontids of Armenia in check[28]), Pharnavaz's alleged reform of the eristavi fiefdoms is most likely a back-projection of the medieval pattern of subdivision to the remote past.[29]

Pharnavaz is then reported to have embarked on social and cultural projects; he supervised two building projects: the raising of the idol Armazi – reputedly named after him – on a mountain ledge and the construction of a similarly named fortress.[29]

Pharnavaz made alliances with various North Caucasian peoples during his reign, to whom he called upon for help against both Macedonia and internal foes. He took a Durdzuk woman in marriage, in order to consolidate the alliance of Iberia with the Durdzuks, who helped him consolidate his reign against his unruly vassals.[30] Similarly he married his sister to a Sarmatian chief.[31]

According to the Georgian royal annals he also created the Georgian script and made the Georgian language an official language of the kingdom:[32]

This account is now considered legendary, and is rejected by scholarly consensus, as no archaeological confirmation has been found.[33][34][35] Georgian linguist Tamaz Gamkrelidze offers an alternate interpretation of the tradition, in the pre-Christian use of foreign scripts (alloglotography in the Aramaic alphabet) to write down Georgian texts.[36] The existence of a peculiar local form of Aramaic in pre-Christian Georgia has been archaeologically documented.[37]

The chronicles report Pharnavaz's lengthy reign of 65 years.[5][38][3]

Upon his death, he was buried in front of the idol Armazi and worshipped. His son Saurmag succeeded him to the throne.[40]

Pharnavaz and Arrian's Pharasmanes[edit]

Several modern scholars have been tempted to make identification between the Pharnavaz of the medieval Georgian tradition and the Pharasmanes of the Greco-Roman historian Arrian, a 2nd-century AD author of Anabasis Alexandri. Arrian recounts that "Pharasmanes (Фαρασμάνης), king of the Chorasmians", visited Alexander the Great with 15,000 horseman, and pledged his support should Alexander desire to campaign to the Euxine lands and subdue Colchians, whom Pharasmanes names as his neighbors. Apart from the similarity of the names of Pharasmanes and Pharnavaz (both names are apparently based on the same root, the Iranian farnah), it is interesting to note that the king of Chorasmia in Central Asia reports Colchis (today’s western Georgia, i.e., the western neighbor of ancient Kartli/Iberia) to be a neighboring country.[41] Some Georgian scholars have suggested that the Greek copyists of Arrian might have confused Chorasmia with Cholarzene (Chorzene), a Classical rendering of the southwest Georgian marchlands (the medieval Tao-Klarjeti), which indeed bordered with Colchis and Pontus.[40][42]

According to Arrian:[43]


King Pharnavaz's street in Batumi.

The third and last Georgian royal dynasty, Bagrationi dynasty, claims descent directly from Pharnavaz.[44] During the continuity of monarchy in Georgia, all Georgian kings saw themselves as heirs to the Kingdom of Iberia founded by King Pharnavaz.[45]

In Tbilisi there is a King Pharnavaz Street, Avenue, and also a statue of Pharnavaz. Also, there are streets named after Pharnavaz in Batumi, Kutaisi, Khashuri, Gori, Gurjaani, Sachkhere, Zestaponi and others. Some buildings, including schools and hotels, also bear his name, as well as about five hundred Georgians.[46]

See also[edit]


^ i: according to Prince Vakhushti of Kartli
^ ii: according to Cyril Toumanoff
^ iii: according to Pavle Ingoroqva
^ iv: alternative name forms can be Pharnabaz, Pharnabaze, Pharnabazo, Pharnabazus or Pharnaoz


  1. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 20, line of edition 17
  2. ^ a b Georgian royal annals, page of edition 20, line of edition 18
  3. ^ a b c d Toumanoff, p. 9
  4. ^ Rapp, p. 274.
  5. ^ a b c d e Rapp, p. 276.
  6. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 20, line of edition 17-18-19
  7. ^ Prince Royal Teimuraz, History of Iberia or Georgia, that is All of Sakartvelo, 1832, pp. 111-112
  8. ^ Rapp, pp. 275-276.
  9. ^ Rayfield, p. 60.
  10. ^ Toumanoff, p. 8
  11. ^ Rayfield, p. 61; Rapp, p. 276.
  12. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 3
  13. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 23, line of edition 12-13-14-15
  14. ^ Rapp, p. 275.
  15. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 25, line of edition 4
  16. ^ Rapp, p. 277; Suny, p. 12.
  17. ^ Gamkrelidze, p. 134
  18. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 9–11
  19. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 12–13
  20. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 14–15
  21. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 16–17
  22. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 18–19
  23. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 20–21
  24. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 22–23
  25. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 24–25; page of edition 25, line of edition 2–3
  26. ^ Gamkrelidze, p. 135
  27. ^ Henri J. M. Claessen, Peter Skalnik, The Early State, p. 263
  28. ^ Toumanoff, p. 185.
  29. ^ a b Rapp, p. 277.
  30. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 25, line of edition 5
  31. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 24, line of edition 2
  32. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 26, line of edition 8-9-10
  33. ^ Stephen H. Rapp Jr (2010). "Georgian Christianity". In Ken Parry. The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity. John Wiley & Sons. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-4443-3361-9. 
  34. ^ Seibt, Werner. "The Creation of the Caucasian Alphabets as Phenomenon of Cultural History". 
  35. ^ Donald Rayfield The Literature of Georgia: A History (Caucasus World). RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-7007-1163-5. P. 19. "The Georgian alphabet seems unlikely to have a pre-Christian origin, for the major archaeological monument of the 1st century 4IX the bilingual Armazi gravestone commemorating Serafua, daughter of the Georgian viceroy of Mtskheta, is inscribed in Greek and Aramaic only. It has been believed, and not only in Armenia, that all the Caucasian alphabets—Armenian, Georgian and Caucaso-Albanian—were invented in the 4th century by the Armenian scholar Mesrop Mashtots.<...> The Georgian chronicles The Life of Kartli - assert that a Georgian script was invented two centuries before Christ, an assertion unsupported by archaeology. There is a possibility that the Georgians, like many minor nations of the area, wrote in a foreign language—Persian, Aramaic, or Greek—and translated back as they read."
  36. ^ Nino Kemertelidze (1999). "The Origin of Kartuli (Georgian) Writing (Alphabet)". In David Cram, Andrew R. Linn, Elke Nowak. History of Linguistics 1996: Volume 1: Traditions in Linguistics Worldwide. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 228. ISBN 978-90-272-8382-5. 
  37. ^ Lang, David Marshall. Iran, Armenia and Georgia. In: Yar-Shater, p. 515.
  38. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 25, line of edition 14
  39. ^ Georgian royal annals, page of edition 25, line of edition 6-7-8-9
  40. ^ a b Rapp, p. 280.
  41. ^ Rapp, p. 279.
  42. ^ Giorgi L. Kavtaradze. The Interrelationship between the Transcaucasian and Anatolian Populations by the Data of the Greek and Latin Literary Sources. The Thracian World at the Crossroads of Civilisations. Reports and Summaries. The 7th International Congress of Thracology. P. Roman (ed.). Bucharest: the Romanian Institute of Thracology, 1996.
  43. ^ Arrian, Alexander the Great: The Anabasis and the Indica, p. 118 4-5-6
  44. ^ Salia, p. 129
  45. ^ Salia, pp. 130-133
  46. ^ Statistics Public Service Hall


Pharnavaz I of Iberia
Born: 326 BC Died: 234 BC
Preceded by
(office created)
King of Kartli
299 BC - 234 BC
Succeeded by
Saurmag I