The Georgian Chronicle

Translator's Preface

The Georgian Chronicle occupies an unusual position among Armenian historical sources. Unlike the majority of Armenian literary sources, this work was not originally composed in Armenian. The original was written in Georgian in separate sections by several individuals between the 6-13th centuries. Sometime in the late 12th or early 13th centuries, an unknown cleric translated or abridged the then extant Chronicle into Classical Armenian. It is this medieval Armenian rendering which is translated here. The Chronicle describes the history of Iberia/Georgia, Armenia's northern neighbor, from legendary times to the 12th century, and is a rich source of unique information on such topics as Caucasian ethnography, Armeno-Georgian relations, the history of Iran, the history of the Jewish community of Georgia and its role in the Christianization of the country; the birth of Islam, and the coming of the Saljuqs.

Considerable controversy surrounds this work. Since the Georgian original which the medieval Armenian writer used has not survived, the very nature of the work is in question. Was the Armenian a translation, an abridgement, or a version of the Georgian? Based on currently available Georgian sources, this question cannot be resolved. This is because until relatively recently, the only complete Georgian text was an early 18th century revision (work of a commission appointed by king Vaxtang VI) which, regrettably, expanded some passages and removed and/or rearranged other passages. This 18th century text also incorporated additional documents from the 13-14th centuries. Fortunately, the individual books of the Chronicle (pre-Vaxtang revision) survived as separate works. However, as a result of the zeal of Georgian editors, no full, unadulterated Georgian text of the Chronicle predates the Armenian version. For this reason alone the Armenian version is valuable.

All eight extant Armenian manuscripts derive from a single exemplar made between 1279 and 1311 and housed at the Matenadaran in Erevan, Armenia. M. F. Brosset published a French translation of it in Additions et éclaircissements à l'Histoire de la Géorgie (St. Petersburg, 1851). The Classical Armenian text, translated in the present volume, was published by At'. T'iroyan as Hamarhot patmut'iwn vrats' (Concise/Abridged History of the Georgians) in Venice in 1884. T'iroyan himself added the title, based on a colophon appearing in the Chronicle. All surviving copies are defective, terminating abruptly in mid-sentence. There is considerable variation in the spelling of names of people and places and occasional anachronisms, such as references to "Baghdad", and the "Turks" and "hejub" in inappropriate historical periods. To date the most detailed study of the Chronicle is Ilia Abuladze's comparative analysis of the Armenian text and the corresponding Georgian passages (Tbilisi, 1953, in Georgian). Yustin Abuladze (1901) concluded that the Armenian was a translation of the Georgian, and that since the Armenian is much shorter, the original Georgian must have been shorter. I. Javaxishvili, on the other hand, thought that the Armenian was an abridgement. S. Kakabadze considered it a variant or version of the Georgian. Father Nerses Akinian suggested that the translator/adaptor may have been an Armenian diophysite, perhaps Simeon Pghndzahanets'i. Apparently the Armenian chroniclers Mxit'ar of Ani (12th century) and Mxit'ar Ayrivanets'i (13th century) used the Chronicle in its Armenian edition, while the historian Step'annos Orbelean (d.1304) referenced the Chronicle in Georgian.

Unlike the Georgian original, which was a collection of individual books written by different authors having different styles, the Armenian version is one man's work. The style is straightforward and more chronographical than literary. Occasionally, Armenian equivalents for Georgian words are provided parenthetically, and it seems that the translator/adaptor had Armenian sources such as Agat'angeghos and Movses Xorenats'i by his side and drew upon them for additional details.

The present translation follows C. Toumanoff's proposed chronologies for the regnal years of kings and other officials, and also his distinction between Iberia (or East Georgia) prior to 1008 and Georgia (the union of East and West Georgia) thereafter. For further information on Iberia/Georgia see C. Toumanoff's Studies in Christian Caucasian History (Georgetown, 1963) [especially part II, States and Dynasties of Caucasia in the Formative Centuries, part IV, Iberia between Chosroid and Bagratid Rule, and Part V, The Armeno-Georgian Marchlands]; his articles "Chronology of the Early Kings of Iberia," in Traditio, vol. 25 (1969), pp. 1-33, and "Armenia and Georgia," [Chapter XIV in The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. IV, The Byzantine Empire, part I, (Cambridge, 1966), pp. 593-637]; W.E.B. Allen's History of the Georgian People (New York, 1971, reprint of the 1932 edition), and D.M. Lang's Lives and Legends of the Georgian Saints (Crestwood, N.Y., 1976).

The transliteration used here is a modification of the new Library of Congress system for Armenian, substituting x for the LOC's kh, for the thirteenth character of the Armenian alphabet (խ). Otherwise we follow the LOC transliteration, which eliminates diacritical marks above or below a character, and substitutes single or double quotation marks to the character's right. In the LOC romanization, the seventh character of the alphabet (է) appears as e', the eighth (ը) as e", the twenty-eighth (ռ) as r', and the thirty-eighth (o), as o'.

Robert Bedrosian
New York, 1991

A Note on Pagination

Rulers of Iberia/Georgia and of Western and Eastern Empires
Rulers of Armenia and Iberia/Georgia*

* These chronological tables, based on Toumanoff, open in separate windows, for persistence. Additional tables are available on another page of this site: Chronological Tables. Maps are available on our Maps Page.

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