Tamar of Georgia

Zach – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian. Today’s topic is a powerful woman named Tamar of Georgia.

Anna – Tamar of Georgia. My, I do like her style. Very Roman, wouldn’t you say? Though she is painted in an Persian ideal of beauty. No one’s perfect.

Zach – She was the queen of Georgia from 1184 to 1213. But before we get to that, let’s introduce our panel. First we have my co-host, Anna Komemne, woman historian and Byzantine princess. Then we have Gaspar Correia, conquistador and “historian.” Then we have Matilda of Tuscany, woman countess and soldier. Then we have Leif Ericson, Viking explorer who may have been the first European to set foot on North America. (Good thing Buffalo Calf Road isn’t here. She’d probably shoot him.) Then we have Tomoe Gozen, woman samurai and taker of heads.
Anna – Thank you all for coming.
Tomoe – It is honor to be here.
Leif – Yeah, sure. Whatever. Where’s the roast pig?
Anna – We don’t have a roast pig, but we do have bacon cheeseburgers Zach purchased.
Leif – I guess that’ll do.
Gaspar – Show some respect, Viking. Zach had to fight through a dozen trolls armed with only the Toothpick of St. Thomas as a weapon to obtain these bacon blessed delicacies.
Matilda – I think I might stay in this time period for the ease of obtaining bacon alone.
Zach – Yes, bacon is distracting, but let’s get on task here.

Gaspar – Yes, let us return to the….mmmm….bacon. I think I may have just drooled on myself. Just a little.

Zach – Tamar or Tamara of Georgia ruled as queen, second to none. Her father, George III didn’t have any male heirs so he proclaimed her as heir and co-ruled with her for a short time before his death. Then she was left alone on the throne surrounded by advisers and nobles that just wanted to use the young girl for their own goals. In the Georgian language they called her “king” because they didn’t really have a word for a female ruler. She started off with a church council to cement who was boss. She wanted to show that she was a protector of Christianity. Georgia was surrounded by enemy Turks.
Anna – Yes, they were highly influenced by us Romans.
Gaspar – She means “Byzantines.”
Anna – Watch your mouth.
Zach – At this council Tamar said, “Judge according to righteousness, affirming good and condemning evil. Begin with me – if I sin I should be censured, for the royal crown is sent down from above as a sign of divine service. Allow neither the wealth of the nobles nor the poverty of the masses to hinder your work. You by word and I by deed, you by preaching and I by the law, you by upbringing and I by education will care for those souls whom God has entrusted to us, and together we will abide by the law of God, in order to escape eternal condemnation.… You as priests and I as ruler, you as stewards of good and I as the watchman of that good.”
Matilda – I can relate to the next part. The court of nobles chose a husband for her. I hated my first husband. But they chose a Russian noble named Yuri. Yuri was a good soldier and won several victories for the Kingdom of Georgia, but it turns out he wasn’t as great a husband. He was a drunk and an amoral jerk and Tamar shipped him off to Constantinople.
Tomoe – He was dishonorable and deserved exile. I would have cut his head off.
Matilda – I could have used you in my court.
Anna – Anna then cemented her power by bringing the nobles in line. With their help she gathered an army. Georgia hadn’t been expansionist since the days of her grandfather and she was about to follow in the family tradition.

Like its culture, Georgia’s armies were a mix of Byzantine, Russian and Persian influences.

Zach – So, she began by invading all her weaker neighbors, most of them Persian or Turkish tribes that hadn’t been swallowed by the Seljuqid Empire, who were still enjoying their conquest of Turkey.

Map of Medieval Georgia. Yellow is the country, gray is countries Georgia made into vassal states and green is Muslim Empire.

Tomoe – Conquests were good, but this worried Muslim neighbors. They feared Georgia and began to plan invasion. Tamar also planned. The Turkish Sultan sent an emissary to Tamar. This not good because letter say he take Tamar for concubine. This dishonored Tamar and one of Tamar’s samurai…um…nobles, slapped emissary so hard he was knocked out.
Matilda – Good for her!
Gaspar – But their problems did not end there. The Sultan then sent steam and alchemy powered drill machines to dig under Georgian fortresses. Only with the help of their centaur allies did Georgia fight off this subterranean invasion.
Leif – Really? Amazing. I did not see this in my studies. What I read was this: When news of Turkish invasion grew, Tamar sent out more alms for the poor so they could spend less time begging and working and more time praying for safety of country. She went up on a nearby hill and prayed with a holy icon for victory. Like me, she is a good Christian.
Gaspar – Wait, you’re a Christian? But you’re a Viking!
Leif – So?
Gaspar – Never mind.
Zach – The Sultans then invaded Georgia. Tamar frantically assembled an army from her nobles and the lands they gave orders to. They marched south to meet the Turks. The Turkish army made camp and rested for the night. The Georgians saw their chance and launched a surprise attack on the camp. The Turks fought bravely and almost won but in the end, the Georgian army proved too much and overran the camp. In the fighting the Sultan was wounded and had to retreat and then the Georgian army captured the Turkish battle banner, causing panic and flight of the Turkish army. It was a huge victory that told everyone that Georgia was the big boy on the block. This was in 1203

Like other eastern armies, Georgia used a lot of cavalry in the open terrain. They were also used to mountains and had hardened, veteran infantry from their previous wars of expansion. The Sultan’s father had practically ruined the empire and he was trying to rebuild it.

Anna – The next year, the Crusaders attacked and occupied my beloved Constantinople and in the ensuing chaos the Roman Empire began to fall. In this power vacuum, Georgia saw an opportunity. She took her cousin, the exiled Alexios Komemnos, one of my family might I add, and put him on the throne of the city of Trebizond. Tamar created an “empire” but in reality it was a client state of Georgia. It is strange that this Trebizond out lived both the Georgian and the Roman empires.
Zach – This lady was hard core. She managed at a young age to get all the squabbling nobles that wanted the throne for themselves to support her, increased her kingdom’s borders, fought off the Turks and created a successful eastern Christian kingdom on the shores of the Black Sea. Not bad.

I must sincerely apologize, I cannot hear thy words over the tumultuous sound of how awesome I am.

Matilda – This woman ruler created a golden age for Georgia and even now they look back on her as a legend.

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One comment on “Tamar of Georgia

  1. paulgenesse says:

    Wow, I bow to to her awesomeness. Thanks for the post, Zack, and company–except you, Gaspar, you troglodyte.

    Paul Genesse

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