Bagrationi Dynasty

The Bagrationi family was a royal dynasty in Georgia from the 9th century to 1810. Most researchers believe that they are from the ancient Georgian province of Speri and belonged to the Laz (Chan) tribe (N. Marr, I. Orbeli, E. Takaishvili, S. Janashia…). Others think that they formed from the Pharnavazid dynasty of Georgian kings (P. Ingorokva, G. Mamulia…). Some Armenian scientists believe that the Bagrationi family originated from one of the Armenian provinces (N. Atonits, K. Tumanov) and was connected to the Armenian Bagratuni dynasty, who ruled Armenia (Shirak) between the 9th century and 1045. Their second branch (so-called Kviri Kain) ruled over the kingdom of Tashir-Dzorageti (Kvemo Kartli, the first center was in Samshvilde, then in Lore) between the 10th century and 1118.

In the 10th-15th century sources, this dynasty is mentioned as Bagratuniani/Bagratoniani, Bagratovani, and Pankratovani. 16th-18th century sources refer to them as Bagrationi. As it seems, this family name is derived from Bagrati. Some believe that this is the Persian word Bagadata – given by God.

According to the 11th-century Georgian historian Sumbat Davitis Dze (Sumbat, son of David), the first Georgian eristavi (prince) was Guaram (6th century). According to him, Bagrationis were of Jewish origin. Solomon’s (successor of King David) seven children went to Armenia, three of them stayed there and established the Armenian Bagratuni dynasty while the remaining four brothers went to Georgia. One of them was Guaram, who became eristavi of Kartli. The Bagrationi family of Kartli (later Georgia) originated from here. Two brothers became eristavis in Kakheti and the last one in Kambechovani (Kiziki). The legend about the Bagrationi family being of Jewish descent reveals the tendencies of the Middle Ages authors to foreignize the ruling dynasty or aristocracy. This claim is unfounded. This legend was common in both Georgian and Armenian literature. A similar narrative can be found in the story of the Byzantine emperor, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (10th century). According to this narrative, the Bagrationi family established in Georgia 400 or 500 years ago, i. e. in the 5th or the 6th century. This point of view agrees with the dates provided by Sumbat Davitis Dze about the first Georgian (eristavi of Kartli) Bagrationi becoming eristavi (because the eristavi institution appeared in the 6th century). According to Juansher, the second historian of the 11th century, Guaram, the first eristavi of Kartli was the grandson of King Vakhtang Gorgasali and a nephew of Mihrdat the 5th from his mother’s side. Therefore, via his mother’s lineage, he was connected to the Pharnavazid dynasty. Juansher does not provide information about Guaram’s lineage from his father’s side. The attempt to consolidate information from Juansher and Sumbat Davitis Dze was made in the recordings of The Commission of the Wise Men (Stsavlul Katsta Komisia). According to this record, Guaram, eristavi of Kartli, was “Khsoroiani (i.e., Pharnavazid) from mother’s side and Bagrationi from his father’s side”. Vakhushti Batonishvili provides similar information. The 7th-century Armenian historian, bishop Sebeos, connects the Bagrationi Family to the dynasty of Georgian Kings. According to him, the Bagrationi family was a branch of the Pharnavazid dynasty.

Information provided by Juansher and Matiane Kartlisa refutes that the first erismtavari of Kartli were from the Bagrationi lineage. According to these sources, the first Bagrationi among erismtavari of Kartli was Ashot. Juansher tells us that Ashot’s father, Adarnase Bagrationi, approached Archil eristavi in Kartli, who permitted Adarnase to settle in Shulaveri and Artani. Afterward, Archil’s son Juansher married Adarnase’s daughter Latavri. Thus, in the 8th century, the erismtavari of Kartli and Bagrationi family became relatives, and consequently title of erismtavari transferred to the Bagrationi family. Ashot Bagrationi, son of Adarnase, became the ruler of Kartli: “God blessed the kinghood of Ashot Kurapalates, who ruled over Kartli and its borders” (Matiane Kartlisa). Records about Adarnase and his son arriving in Kartli from Armenia are present in the work of 13th-century Armenian historian Vardan Bardzberdetsi. There is a theory (N. Shoshiashvili) that both Kartlis Tskhovreba and Vardan took this information from the same unreliable source: it is unrealistic that eristavi of Kartli would allow Armenian nobleman to rule over the country. According to more modern Georgian sources (Ioane Sabanisdze, Moktsevai Kartlisai, Giorgi Merchule), Adarnase and his son were not the contemporaries of Archil eristavi, but members of the house of eristavi who ruled in Karli at the end on 8th century. Adarnase was erismtavari (Ioane Sabanisdze, Moktsevai Kartlisai) of Kartli and did not come from Armenia. There is a tendency to connect Georgian Bagrationi to Armenian Bagratuni. For example, there are texts that points to the Jewish origin of both families (Movses Khorenatsi, Sumbat Davitis Dze, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus). Naturally, this legend was artificially created and has no credence. The similarities between Georgian and Armenian names do not indicate their mutual origin.

The first Georgian Bagrationi, whose origins we can confirm with certainty, is Ashot. Giorgi Merchule, in his literary work The Vita of Grigol Khandzteli, mentions Ashot as Bagratuni. Ashot is the founder of the Bagrationi dynasty of Tao-Klarjeti (see Ashot I Kurapalates). After the death of Ashot, Bagrationis of Tao-Klarjeti, i.e. Kingdom of Iberians, split into two branches: Bagrationis of Tao and Klarjeti. Among the Bagrationis of Tao, the first one to receive the title of King of Iberians (in 888; some believe it was in 897 or 899) was Adarnase II Kurapalates. Afterward, only his descendants carried the title of the King of Iberians. The king of united Georgia, Bagrat III belonged to this family. The Klarjeti branch of the Bagrationi family perished in the 11th century. Georgian feudal monarchy reached its peak strength during the rule of the following Bagrationi kings: Davit Aghmashenebeli, Giorgi III, and Tamar. From the second half of the 15th century (after the collapse of the unified feudal kingdom of Georgia), members of the Bagrationi family ruled in Kartli, Kakheti, and Imereti. Among them, King Constantine II, son of Demetre, was a king of the Kingdom of Kartli. Also, he was the grandson of Alexander I the Great, king of unified Georgia. Descendants of Constantine II ruled in Kartli until 1685. In 1685, the Mukhranbatoni branch of the Bagrationi family took the throne of Kartli. Mukhranbatoni bloodline traces its roots to 1512, to Bagrat Mukhranbatoni. The first king of Kartli from the Mukhranbatoni family was Vakhtang V, and the last was Iese.

The founder of the Bagrationi family branch in Kakheti was the last king of unified Georgia, Giorgi VIII, who established the Kingdom of Kakheti. In 1744, a member of this family, Teimuraz II became the king of Kartli while his grandson Erekle was king of Kakheti. In 1762, Erekle II became the king of United Kartl-Kakheti. After the death of Giorgi XII (28 December 1800), the last king of this family, the kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti fell apart and became a part of the Russian Empire (1801).

The founder of the Bagrationi family branch in Imereti was Bagrat VI, who in 1463 announced himself king of Imereti and defeated the last king of united Georgia, Giorgi VIII at the Chikhoti battle. Giorgi VIII, after he was captured by Kvarkvare Atabagi (1465), occupied Kartli. After his death, his son Alexandre attempted to become the king of Imereti. He finally succeeded in taking the throne of Imereti in 1498 (see Alexandre II). Bagrationi of Imereti descended from this Alexandre. The last king of Imereti was Solomon II, who lost the throne when the Kingdom of Imereti dissolved and became part of the Russian Empire in 1810.

Famous surnames Gruzinski and Imeritinski appeared in Russia and stem from the Bagrationi royal dynasty. Bagrationi played a prominent role in the Russian Empire. Many of them became famous scientists and military figures.

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V. Guchua

N. Shoshiashvili