At the last period of its conflict with Byzantium (late 6th – early 7th century)
Arsen K. Shahinyan
Key words – Iranian marzpanate of Iberia (Varǰan-Wiručān), Iranian marzpanate of Albania (Ārān), Byzantine-Iranian wars, Principality of Iberia (K‘art‘li), Principality of Albania (Ałuank‘), Ērismt‘avaris of K‘art‘li, išxans of Ałuank‘.
During the Byzantine-Iranian last two wars in history, via of 572–591 and 603–628, there have been fundamental changes in a political system of the Christian marzpanates, which had being existed since the partition of Anterior Asia between the Roman Empire and Sasanian Iran in 387. The marzpanates of Iberia (Varǰan-Wiručān) and Albania (Ārān) belonging to Iran had gained a political independence under the presiding and hereditary princes and this fact was recognized by official Constantinople.
In this article for the first time in scientific literature, the author considers the genesis of the national institutes of the “presiding princes” in Iberia (K‘art‘li) and Albania (Ałuank‘) as a creation, on the political map of the Southern Caucasus (Transcaucasus) of the states, namely hereditary principalities, under the auspices of Constantinople. He also specifies the time of their genesis de facto and de jure, the borders of distribution of the sovereign power by those “presiding princes” and their residences under the conditions of the constant changing of the geopolitical situation in Anterior Asia.
The author shows that these national institutes of the “presiding and hereditary princes” – of Khosrovids (Chosroids) in Iberia, and Mihranids – in Albania, were legally issued by the Byzantine authorities in 589 and 629 respectively, considered as a peculiar structure in the general system of administrative management of the vast empire. All those high titles in the Byzantine hierarchy, which were awarded to the early representatives of these national institutes by emperors, and the magnificent insignias of the power sent them, are visually testify to it. Therefore, the “presiding princes” of Iberia and Albania were considered in Constantinople as the Byzantine administrators in the countries of the Christian Caucasus. At the same time, this fact did not prevent them to conduct quite independent and balanced foreign policy in any way.
Emperor of Maurice (582–602) recognized the first autonomous principality of K‘art‘li created directly at the borders of Byzantium at the beginning of the 570th, and appropriated the title of “curopalates” to its presiding prince (ērismt‘avari) of Guaram (Gurgen) I only in 589 – after having received an official application from Tbilisi.
The next ērismt‘avari, Step‘anos I the Great, who had been approved in 591 as the governor of the Byzantine Iberia by emperor of Maurice, during the so-called “Twenty-five years’ war” of 603–628, when Khosrow II the Parviz won victories over the Greeks, occupied Jerusalem in 614, right then replaced his Byzantine suzerain of Heraclius I 610–641) with this Iranian. So Step‘anos reunited the Byzantine part of Iberia with Mtskheta (Mc‘xet‘a) as its center and Iranian part of Iberia with Tbilisi (T‘bilisi) as its center within the one principality.
The Byzantine sovereignty in K‘art‘li at the last time was approved only under
Guaram II, after 659, when Muslims had finally erased Sasanian Iran from the political map of the Anterior Asia. This Iberian ērismt‘avari also received the Byzantine imperial court title of “curopalates”.
Varaz-Grigor was confirmed in 629 to the position of the presiding prince (išxan) of neighboring Ałuank‘ by Heraclius I, who had come to him to his residence in Gardman. This išxan also received, most likely, a high Byzantine court title. Nevertheless, in 632/3 Varaz-Grigor recognized the suzerainty of the last Persian king of kings of Yazdegerd III (632/3–651). As a result he achieved also an appointment of his son of J̌uanšēr by the šahanšah as a sparapet, i.e. supreme commander of the armed forces of Ałuank‘.
Only after falling of Sasanian Iran, the išxan and sparapet of Ałuank‘ J̌uanšēr (636/7– 681) became about 659 a citizen of the new emperor of Constant II (641–668), having received other high Byzantine imperial court title of so-called “proton patricius” and magnificent insignias of the power.
As one more major manifestation of the sovereignty in Iberia it is possible to consider stamping for the first time in the Georgian history of national coins by ērismt‘avaris, and in Ałuank‘ – establishment of the independent institute of the military administration, via sparapet.