At the beginning of the 13th century, Georgia was a powerful
economically-advanced state, in which feudal relations had reached their
highest stage of development. Her many large towns played an important part
in her political life.
Together with the king, the higher feudal aristocracy administered the
Country and sought to extend its prerogatives.
Many of Georgia's Christian and Muslim vassals, who were evidence of her
might, endeavoured to win independence when the situation was favourable.
However, supported by the nobility, the towns and the army, the king
neutralized the trend towards decentralization and compelled the "eristavt-eristavis"
and his vassals to serve him obediently.
Georgia's vassals felt that the death of Queen Tamar and the coronation of
the young King Giorgi Lasha, son of Tamar, was a suitable time for giving
effect to their designs.
The first to take action was the atabag of Gandza. He refused to pay the
annual tribute. His example was followed by other vassals. King Giorgi Lasha
used military force to reestablish his rule in Gandza, Nakhichevan, Khlat
and Arzrurn. Political equilibrium was restored.
Georgia was known in the world as a strong power.
The European Crusaders requested aid from the Georgian king against the
Seljuks. The Roman Pope, Honorius III, wrote to Lasha Giorgi asking him to
take part in a planned crusade against the Seljuks. Georgia responded to
this request by preparing to join in that crusade.
Bui these plans were unexpectedly wrecked: from the east Georgia Was
attacked by a hitherto unknown enemy, the Mongols.
The social system and cultural make-up of united feudal Georgia took final
shape in the llth-12th'centuries.. Although in the subsequent difficult
situation Georgia was weakened economicaly and split politically, the
consciousness of her unity lived on. The foundation of unity laid in the
llth-12th centuries ideologically rallied the politically disunited parts of
Georgia. Several independent states (the kingdoms of Kartli, Kakheti and
Imereti, and the principality of Samtskhe-Saatabago) emerged at the close of
the 15th century on the ruins of united Georgia, but the idea of their unity
did not die,; and advanced Georgian leaders always hoped to reunite the
The significance of those centuries was very great for Georgia's subsequent
history. Suffice it to note that the name of the great Georgian poet and
Shota Rustaveli, is associated with Georgia of the latter half of the
12th and beginning of the 13th century.
Shota Rustaveli was not
a historian, and his epic poem is not a historical work. But the artistic
images of his poem recapitulate the Georgia of the 12th-13th centuries.
Georgia was, a large, multi-national state in that period. Her kings had
suzerainty over the rulers of Georgian and non-Georgian lands. Great states
like. Arabia and India, whose kings received tribute from; many countries,
are allegorically inferred in "The
Knight in the Panther's Skin".
Friendship and co-operation among nations were of the utmost significance to
multi-national Georgia. On the whole, the Georgian court pursued a policy of
toleration towards other nationalities and religions. As a true son of his
epoch, Shota Rustaveli championed brotherhood and mutual assistance
irrespective of nationality and religion.
Young Tamar's accession to the throne was marked by enormous difficulties,
but the life and reign of Tamar brilliantly bore out Rustaveli's aphorism of
gerius: "Lion-cubs are equal, be they male or female".
The coronation of Tamar gave Rustaveli the historical background for his
sublime description of the coronation of Tinatin. Like Tamar, Tinatin was a
queen; while Avtandil drew his royal' dignity only from being her husband.
Georgian life gave rise to the cult of women propounded in Rustaveli's poem.
In the latter half of the 12th and beginning of the 13th century Georgia was
an advanced, economically developed country. There was busy internal and
foreign trade, which was of immense significance to the country's economy.
Great merchants were vigorously involved in social and political life. The
merchants in "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" are active in social life,
have close businessrelations with kings and act as their advisers. The army,
officials and population were the mainstay of the central state-power.
Ideologically, the Georgian king drew his power from the theory of equality
before God and the divine origin of the Bagrationi family.
An advanced thinker, who kept in step with the times, Rustaveli championed a
strong central state-power. He lauded the submissiveness of the loyal
vassal, extolled the strong and benevolent monarch, idealised the monarchy
and sang of love and devotion to the homeland. These were advanced ideas in
Thus, the feudal Georgia in which he lived was the foundation of Rustaveli's
art, and his "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" is a poetical hymn dedicated
to that Georgia.