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Pharnavaz I of Iberia

Pharnavaz I of Iberia

Overview
Pharnavaz I was the first king of Kartli
Kartli
Kartli is a historical region in central-to-eastern Georgia traversed by the river Mtkvari , on which Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, is situated. Known to the Classical authors as Iberia, Kartli played a crucial role in ethnic and political consolidation of the Georgians in the Middle Ages...

, an ancient Georgian
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 kingdom known as Iberia
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

 to the Classical
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 sources, who is credited by the medieval Georgian written tradition with founding the kingship of Kartli and the Parnavaziani dynasty
Pharnabazid Dynasty
The Pharnabazid or P’arnavaziani is the name of the first dynasty of Georgian kings of Kartli preserved by the Georgian historical tradition. Their rule lasted, with intermissions, from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD. The main male line is reported to have become extinct early on and...

. He is not directly attested in non-Georgian sources and there is not definite contemporary indication that he was indeed the first of the Georgian kings.
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Encyclopedia
Pharnavaz I was the first king of Kartli
Kartli
Kartli is a historical region in central-to-eastern Georgia traversed by the river Mtkvari , on which Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, is situated. Known to the Classical authors as Iberia, Kartli played a crucial role in ethnic and political consolidation of the Georgians in the Middle Ages...

, an ancient Georgian
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 kingdom known as Iberia
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

 to the Classical
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 sources, who is credited by the medieval Georgian written tradition with founding the kingship of Kartli and the Parnavaziani dynasty
Pharnabazid Dynasty
The Pharnabazid or P’arnavaziani is the name of the first dynasty of Georgian kings of Kartli preserved by the Georgian historical tradition. Their rule lasted, with intermissions, from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD. The main male line is reported to have become extinct early on and...

. He is not directly attested in non-Georgian sources and there is not 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 Parnavaz "accumulated a legendary façade" and emerged as the model pre-Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 monarch in the Georgian annals. Based on the medieval evidence, most scholars locate Parnavaz’s rule in the 3rd century BC: 302-237 BC according to Prince Vakhusht
Vakhushti
Vakhushti was a Georgian prince , geographer, historian and cartographer.- Life :A son of King Vakhtang VI of Kartli , he was born in Tbilisi, 1696...

, 299-234 BC according to Cyril Toumanoff
Cyril Toumanoff
Cyril Leo Heraclius, Prince Toumanoff was an United States-based historian and genealogist who mostly specialized in the history and genealogies of medieval Georgia, Armenia, the Byzantine Empire, and Iran...

 and 284-219 BC according to Pavle Ingoroqva.

Medieval texts and historical context


According to the c.
Circa
Circa , usually abbreviated c. or ca. , means "approximately" in the English language, usually referring to a date...

 800 chronicle The Life of Kings, Parnavaz had a distinguished genealogy, tracing back to Kartlos
Kartlos
Kartlos or K'art'los was the legendary establisher and eponymous father of Georgia, and the mythic ancestor of Georgians, namely its nucleus Kartli...

, the mythical ethnarch
Ethnarch
Ethnarch, pronounced , the anglicized form of ethnarches refers generally to political leadership over a common ethnic group or homogeneous kingdom. The word is derived from the Greek words and ....

 of Kartli. His paternal uncle, Samara, held the position of mamasakhlisi ("father of the house") of the Georgian tribes around Mtskheta
Mtskheta
Mtskheta , one of the oldest cities of the country of Georgia , is located approximately 20 kilometers north of Tbilisi at the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. The city is now the administrative centre of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region...

. Parnavaz’s mother is claimed to have been an Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian. The entire story of Parnavaz, 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 "Parnavaz" is also an illustrative example with its root par- being based upon the Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 farnah, the divine radiance believed by the ancient Iranians to mark a legitimate dynast (cf.
Cf.
cf., an abbreviation for the Latin word confer , literally meaning "bring together", is used to refer to other material or ideas which may provide similar or different information or arguments. It is mainly used in scholarly contexts, such as in academic or legal texts...

 khvarenah
Khvarenah
' or ' is an Avestan language word for a Zoroastrian concept literally denoting "glory" or "splendour" but understood as a divine mystical force or power projected upon and aiding the appointed. The neuter noun thus also connotes " royal glory," reflecting the perceived divine empowerment of kings...

). The dynastic tag Parnavaziani ("of/from/named for Parnavaz") is also preserved in the early Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

n 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 Parnavaz was understood to have been the founder of a Georgian dynasty.

Perhaps the most artistically rounded section of the Georgian annals, the narrative follows Parnavaz’s life from birth to burial. The little Parnavaz’s family is destroyed, and his heritage is usurped by Azon
Azo (Georgian history)
For other uses, see AzoAzo also known as Azon was a legendary ruler of Georgians of ancient Kartli claimed by medieval Georgian annals to have been installed by Alexander the Great, king of Macedon .- Medieval tradition :His name and origin are differently given by the medieval Georgian chronicles...

 installed by Alexander the Great during his mythic campaign in Kartli. He is brought up fatherless, but a magic dream, in which he anoints himself with the essence of the Sun, heralds the peripeteia
Peripeteia
Peripeteia is a reversal of circumstances, or turning point. The term is primarily used with reference to works of literature. The English form of peripeteia is peripety. Peripety is a sudden reversal dependent on intellect and logic...

. 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. Parnavaz retrieves the treasure and exploits it to mount a loyal army against the tyrannical Azon. He is aided by Kuji, the lord of Egrisi
Egrisi
Lazica or Egrisi in Georgian |Georgia]], named after the Laz tribe, which at some time dominated the local ruling élite.The kingdom flourished between the 6th century BC and the 7th century AD. It covered part of the territory of the former kingdom Colchis and subjugated the territory of modern...

 (the Colchis
Colchis
In ancient geography, Colchis or Kolkhis was an ancient Georgian state kingdom and region in Western Georgia, which played an important role in the ethnic and cultural formation of the Georgian nation.The Kingdom of Colchis contributed significantly to the development of medieval Georgian...

 of Classical writers – Kuji is unattested elsewhere), who eventually marries Parnavaz's sister. The rebels are also joined by 1,000 soldiers from Azon's camp; they are anachronistically referred to by the author as Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, and claimed to have been entitled by the victorious Parnavaz as aznauri
Aznauri
Aznauri was a class of Georgian nobility; the term that was first applied to all nobles, but in the later Middle Ages narrowed to designate the petty nobles....

(i.e., nobles) after Azon (this etymology is false, however).

In the ensuing battle, Azon is defeated and killed, and Parnavaz becomes the king of Kartli at the age of twenty-seven. He is reported to have acknowledged the suzerainty of the Seleucids
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

, the Hellenistic successors of Alexander in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, who are afforded by the Georgian chronicles the generic name of Antiochus
Antiochus
-The Seleucid Empire:* Antiochus , father of Seleucus I Nicator, founder of the Hellenstic Seleucid Empire* Antiochus I Soter , king of the Seleucid Empire...

. Parnavaz is also said to have patterned his administration upon an "Iranian" model, and have introduced a military-administrative organization based on a network of regional governors or eristavi
Eristavi
Eristavi was a Georgian feudal office, roughly equivalent to the Byzantine strategos and normally translated into English as "duke". In the Georgian aristocratic hierarchy, it was the title of the third rank of prince and governor of a large province...

. 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
Orontid Dynasty
The Orontid Dynasty The Orontid Dynasty The Orontid Dynasty (also known by their native name, Yervanduni was a hereditary Armenian dynasty and the rulers of the successor state to the Iron Age kingdom of Ararat...

 of Armenia in check), Parnavaz's alleged reform of the eristavi fiefdoms is most likely a back-projection of the medieval pattern of subdivision to the remote past.

Parnavaz is then reported to have embarked on social and cultural projects; he supervises 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
Armazi
Armazi was, according to the medieval Georgian chronicles, the supreme deity in a pre-Christian pantheon of ancient Georgians of Kartli ....

. He is also alleged to have invented (or reformed) the Georgian alphabet
Georgian alphabet
The Georgian alphabet is the writing system used to write the Georgian language and other Kartvelian languages , and occasionally other languages of the Caucasus such as Ossetic and Abkhaz during the 1940s...

, which was actually devised after the adoption of Christianity (c. 337 AD), but the existence of a peculiar local form of Aramaic
Aramaic alphabet
The Aramaic alphabet is adapted from the Phoenician alphabet and became distinctive from it by the 8th century BC. The letters all represent consonants, some of which are matres lectionis, which also indicate long vowels....

 in pre-Christian Georgia has been archaeologically documented.

The chronicles report Parnavaz's lengthy reign of sixty-five years. Upon his death, he was buried in front of the idol Armazi and worshipped. His son, Saurmag
Saurmag I of Iberia
Saurmag was a monarch of Kartli listed as the second king in the traditional royal list of medieval Georgian chronicles. Professor Toumanoff suggest the years 234-159 BC as the period of his reign.The Life of Kings, written c...

, became a successor to the throne.

Parnavaz and Arrian's Pharasmanes


Several modern scholars have been tempted to make identification between the Parnavaz of the medieval Georgian tradition and the Pharasmanes of the Greco-Roman historian Arrian
Arrian
Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

, a 2nd century AD author of Anabasis Alexandri
Anabasis Alexandri
Anabasis Alexandri , the Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, is the most important source on Alexander the Great.The Greek term anabasis referred to an expedition from a coastline into the interior of a country. The term katabasis referred to a trip from the interior to the coast...

. Arrian recounts that "Pharasmanes (Фαρασμάνης), king of the Chorasmians", visited Alexander 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 Parnavaz (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
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 reports Colchis (today’s western Georgia, i.e., the western neighbor of ancient Kartli/Iberia) to be a neighboring country. 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
Tao-Klarjeti
Tao-Klarjeti is the term conventionally used in modern history writing to describe the historic south-western Georgian principalities, now forming part of north-eastern Turkey and divided among the provinces of Erzurum, Artvin, Ardahan and Kars...

), which indeed bordered with Colchis and Pontus
Pontus
Pontus or Pontos is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος...

.