Christianity and the Georgian Empire
In the last centuries of the pre-Christian era, Georgia, in
the form of the kingdom of Kartli-Iberia, was strongly influenced
by Greece to the west and Persia to the east. After the Roman
Empire completed its conquest of the Caucasus region in 66 B.C.,
the kingdom was a Roman client state and ally for some 400 years.
In A.D. 330, King Marian III's acceptance of Christianity
ultimately tied Georgia to the neighboring Byzantine Empire,
which exerted a strong cultural influence for several centuries.
Although Arabs captured the capital city of Tbilisi in A.D. 645,
Kartli-Iberia retained considerable independence under local Arab
rulers. In A.D. 813, the Armenian prince Ashot I became the first
of the Bagrationi family to rule Georgia. Ashot's reign began a
period of nearly 1,000 years during which the Bagratids, as the
house was known, ruled at least part of what is now Georgia.
Western and eastern Georgia were united under Bagrat V (r.
1027-72). In the next century, David IV (called the Builder, r.
1099-1125) initiated the Georgian golden age by driving the Turks
from the country and expanding Georgian cultural and political
influence southward into Armenia and eastward to the Caspian Sea.
That era of unparalleled power and prestige for the Georgian
monarchy concluded with the great literary flowering of Queen
Tamar's reign (1184-1212). At the end of that period, Georgia was
well known in the Christian West (and relied upon as an ally by
the Crusaders). Outside the national boundaries, several
provinces were dependent to some degree on Georgian power: the
Trabzon Empire on the southern shore of the Black Sea, regions in
the Caucasus to the north and east, and southern Azerbaijan
Data as of March 1994