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Chosroid dynasty

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Title: Chosroid dynasty  
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Subject: Mirian III of Iberia, Vakhtang I Gorgasali, Klarjeti, Ashot I of Iberia, Guaram I of Iberia
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Chosroid dynasty

House of Chosroids
Country Georgia: Iberia, Kakheti
Titles King (მეფე/mep'e),
Prince (ერისმთავარი/erismtavari)
Founder Mirian III of Iberia
Final sovereign Juansher of Kakheti
Founding 284

The Chosroids (Khosro[v]iani, Georgian: ხოსრო[ვ]იანი) were a dynasty of the Georgian kings and later of the presiding princes of the early Georgian state of Iberia, natively known as Kartli, from the 4th to the 9th centuries. Of Iranian origin and possibly a branch of the Mihranid House, the family accepted Christianity as their official religion c. 337, and maneuvered between the Byzantine Empire and Sassanid Iran to retain a degree of independence. After the abolition of the Iberian kingship by the Sassanids in c. 580, the dynasty survived in its two closely related, but sometimes competing princely branches – the elder Chosroid and the younger Guaramid – down to the early 9th century when they were succeeded by the Georgian Bagratids on the throne of Iberia.


According to the early medieval Georgian tradition, the first Chosroid king Mirian III (Mihran) (ruled 284-361 AD) was installed, through his marriage to an Iberian princess (daughter of the last Georgian Arsacid king Aspacures I), on the throne of Iberia by his father whom the Georgian chronicles refer to as "Chosroes", Great King of Iran.[1] This being during the rule of the Sassanid dynasty over Iran, it is assumed that the Iberian dynasty might have been related to the Sassanids. However, the exact kinship between the two dynasties remains unclear. The name Chosroes (Khusraw) was not used by the Iranian Sassanids until some time later; hence, either the Georgian annals are mistaken in the name of Mirian’s father, or "Chosroes" was taken as a general term meaning "king".

Professor Cyril Toumanoff suggested that the Chosroids were a branch of the Mihranid princely family, one of the Seven Great Houses of Iran, who were distantly related to the Sassanids, and whose two other branches were soon placed on the thrones of Gogarene and Gardman, the two Caucasian principalities where the three nations – Armenians, Albanians, and Georgians – commingled.[2] The Georgian historian Giorgi Melikishvili, however, doubted the Iranian origin of the Chosroids and considered them a local dynasty that had invented a mythological foreign ancestry, not an unusual thing in feudal genealogies.[3] Either way, the Georgian tradition might have exaggerated Mirian's pedigree so as to make him the son of the Great King of Iran.[4]

Early Chosroids

The ascendance of the Mihranid lines to the thrones of Caucasia was, in fact, a manifestation of the victory of the Sassanids over what remained in the region of the Arsacid Dynasty of Parthia whose Armenian branch was now in decline and the Georgian one had already been extinct.[5]

As an Iranian vassal king, Mirian III (ruled 284-361), the founder of the Chosroid Dynasty, participated in the Sassanid war against the Roman Empire. However, in the Peace of Nisibis of 298, Rome was acknowledged its suzerainty over eastern Georgia, but recognized Mirian as the king of Iberia. Mirian quickly adapted to the change in the political fabric of Caucasia, and established close ties with Rome.[6] This association was further enhanced after the female Christian missionary, Nino, converted Mirian, his wife Nana and household into Christianity in or around 337. However, the Sassanids continued to vie with Rome for influence over Iberia, and succeeded in temporarily deposing Mirian's Romanophile successor, Sauromaces II,[7] in favor of the pro-Iranian Aspacures II in 361. The Roman emperor Valens intervened and restored Sauromaces to the throne in 370, although Aspacures’ son and successor, Mihrdat III (r. 365-380), was permitted to retain control of the eastern part of the kingdom.[8] However, by 380, the Sassanids had successfully reasserted their claims by reuniting Iberia under the authority of Aspacures III of Iberia (r. 380-394) and began to extract tribute from the country. The Romans evidently admitted the loss of Iberia in the aftermath of the 387 Treaty of Acilisene with Iran. The growth of Iranian influence in eastern Georgia, including the promotion of Zoroastrianism, was resisted by the Christian church and a part of the nobility, the invention of the Georgian alphabet, a crucial instrument in the propagation of Christian learning, being the most important cultural legacy of this struggle.[9] The Chosroid kings of Iberia, albeit Christian, remained generally loyal to their Iranian suzerains until Vakhang I Gorgasali (r. 447-522), perhaps the most popular Chosroid king of Iberia traditionally credited also with the foundation of Georgia’s modern-day capital Tbilisi, reversed his political orientation in 482, bringing his state and church more into line with current Byzantine policy. He then led, in alliance with the Armenian prince Vardan I Mamikonian, an open revolt against the Sassanids and continued a desperate, but eventually unsuccessful, struggle until the end of his life.[10]

Later Chosroids

After Vakhtang I's death in 522, the family went in decline and exercised only a limited authority over Iberia, the government being effectively run by the Tbilisi-based Iranian viceroy through the compromise with local princes. When Bacurius III of Iberia died in 580, the Sassanids seized opportunity to abolish the monarchy, without much resistance from the Iberian aristocracy. Dispossessed of the crown, heirs of Vakhtang I remained in their mountain fortresses – the senior Chosroid branch in the province of Kakheti, and the minor one, the Guaramids, in Klarjeti and Javakheti. A member of the latter branch, Guaram I (r. 588-590), revolted, in 588, from the Sassanid rule and pledged his loyalty the Byzantine emperor Maurice, being bestowed with the high Byzantine dignity of curopalates. He succeeded in restoring the autonomy of Iberia in the form of a presiding principate, a rearrangement that was accepted by Iran in the peace of 591, which divided Iberia between Byzantium and Iran at Tbilisi.[11] Guaram's son and successor, Stephanus I (r. 590-627), transferred his allegiance to the Sassanids and reunited Iberia, eventually drawing a vigorous response from the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (610-641), who, in alliance with the Khazars, campaigned in Iberia and captured Tbilisi after an uneasy siege in 627. Heraclius I had Stephanus flayed alive and gave his office to the pro-Byzantine Chosroid prince Adarnase I of Kakheti (r. 627-637/42).[12]

Reinstated by Heraclius, the Chosroid dynasty were persistent in their pro-Byzantine line, but Stephanus II (637/642-c. 650) was forced to recognize himself a tributary to the Arab Caliphate which would eventually become a dominant regional power. Following the death of Adarnase II (r. c. 650-684), the rival Guaramid branch, with Guaram II (684-c. 693), regained power, and the elder Chosroid branch again withdrew into their appanages in Kakheti, where it produced a notable member, Archil, a saint of the Georgian Orthodox Church, martyred at the hands of the Arabs in 786. Upon Archil’s death, his elder son Iovane (died c. 799) evacuated to the Byzantine-dominated region of Egrisi (Lazica) in western Georgia, while his younger son Juansher (r. 786-c. 807) remained in Kakheti and married Latavri, daughter of Prince Adarnase of Erusheti-Artani, the forefather of the Georgian Bagratid dynasty.[13]

The main Chosroid branch outlived its younger Guaramid line, extinct since 786, by two decades. With Juansher’s death in c. 807, it too died out. The Chosroid possessions in Kakheti were taken over by the local noble families who formed a succession of chorepiscopi down to the 11th century, while the Guaramid estates passed to their relatives from the Bagratid dynasty.[14]

List of the Chosroid rulers

Kings of Iberia

Princes of Kakheti and Presiding Princes of Iberia

  • Adarnase I, Prince of Kakheti, c. 580–637; Presiding Prince of Iberia, 627–637
  • Stephanus I (II), Prince of Kakheti and Presiding Prince of Iberia, 637–c. 650
  • Adarnase II, Prince of Kakheti and Presiding Prince of Iberia, c. 650–684
  • Stephanus II, Prince of Kakheti, 685–736
  • Mihr, Prince of Kakheti, 736–741
  • Archil “the Martyr”, Prince of Kakheti, 736–786
  • Iovane, Prince of Kakheti, 786–790
  • Juansher, Prince of Kakheti, 786–807

See also


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