A trip down forest paths

Davit Jamburiani – Why? (and othe questions)

My initial post on this blog was at least partially the answer to who is Davit Jamburiani and why does he have a blog. Or at least why does he share one. But having answered why I suppose I should go through the other journalism questions.

Why did I pick a Georgian minor noble in the 12th century? Because it is a path less traveled really. There are many cultures and times that are popular within the SCA. The specific ones have varied over the years but as far as I can tell Georgian has never been a thing. Byzantium certainly and at least some interest in Persian, Arab, and Turkic but not Georgia.

Which means it is also a nice historical puzzle. Of course the SCA is a social group but it is a social activity with lots of individual activity between the social parts. You can research things, make things, and plan things. Some of these are even primarily solo activities. I like the idea of unraveling at least a little bit of a historical puzzle.

Of course that still leaves where and when as decent questions. Georgia itself is a tale of two parts. That is a gross simplification but it is enough to point out one of the big dynamics during the Golden Age. Western Georgia is a coastal region along the Black Sea and the area inland from there. The home of the Golden Fleece, Greek city states, and during the first millennium AD an area in the sphere of influence of the Roman Empire. The story of the creation of a unified Georgian kingdom is in many ways the story of the rise of one branch of the Bagrationi family in shifting alliance and opposition to the Byzantine Empire.

On the other hand Eastern Georgia, Kartli, was considered the homeland of the Georgian people. Unlike the area to the west it had stronger culturally and economically tied to the Persian sphere of influence throughout antiquity. Furthermore, with the Arab conquests starting in the 7th century most or all of eastern Georgia was at least nominally under Muslim rule until driven out by David IV.

I find this dynamic interesting. The initial consolidation of the united Kingdom of Georgia was based on the authority and prestige of western Georgia rulers who leaned heavily on their position as kings (mepe) but also on the titles bestowed on them by the Eastern Roman Empire such as kuropalates and later nobelissimos and kaisar. Their iconography was Byzantine. With the rise of David IV you can see a lessening of the ties to the Romans and the rise of both local Georgian styles and recognition that they are rulers of a multicultural kingdom that includes strong ties to the Persian cultural sphere and many Muslim subjects. There is good reason to feel that the Georgian Golden Age was able to flourish at least partially because of the First Crusade tying up Seljuk attention and allowing David IV to build up the country but it was not a Crusader state defined in opposition to Islam.

Svaneti is a highland region on the southern slopes of the Caucasus mountain range. One of the highest continuously occupied regions in Europe it is an area that is more isolated and poorer than the rest of Georgia but also a region that is sometimes promoted as being perhaps more authentically Georgian.

Initially I was thinking of a persona from roughly the 9th century and Svaneti held some interest because there were known trade routes crossing the Caucasus from Svaneti into the area occupied by the Alans. Unlike the Christian Georgians south of the Caucasus we have significant grave goods from the Alan region including the relatively famous clothing from Moschevaya Balka.

Yet the multicultural nature of the kingdom in the 12th century was ultimately more interesting. Still, back in the 21st century, an SCA persona needs a name. One could quibble that some of the Georgian and Soviet ethnographic research is very nationalistic but there is also great material. It turns out that the names in Svaneti are well documented from church records and legal documents. In Georgian of course but Roland Topchishvili has collected much of it which allowed me to document both the period spelling of David at Davit and many potential surnames.

#SCA #Davit