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The Woman King

Queen Tamar as depicted on a mural from Vardzia monastery. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Queen Tamar as depicted on a mural from Vardzia monastery. Photo: © Wikipedia Commons

One of the key figures in Georgian history is Queen Tamar. She ruled Georgia during its golden age between the 12th and 13th century when it underwent a major cultural and spiritual renaissance. And she still plays "a pivotal role in the complicated self-image of modern Georgians."

This period marked the peak of Georgian power. The Kingdom of Georgia then covered half of today's Armenia and Azerbaijan. Queen Tamar is also referred to as King Tamar, to symbolize her greatness and success as a ruler.

Nasmyth quotes his Georgian friend Marika talking about Georgian tradition:

We Georgians have a strong feeling for our past centuries; much stronger than Europeans. We feel very close to our 12th century – for some of us it's almost as if it were yesterday.

[p. 49]

The Golden age was a period of great literature and marked the creation of The Knight in the Panther's Skin (Vepkhvistkhaosani), written by Georgian epic-poet Shota Rustaveli. A Queen Tinatin appears as a character in this poem, which is thought to be a personification of Queen Tamar, with whom the poet was allegedly in love. The poem is about more than his alleged love to Queen Tamar: it describes the enlightenment Georgia experienced during the Golden Age.

Disguised within the depth of the texts, lies a purposeful code of chivalry espoused during Georgia's Golden age, a period of enlightenment in full bloom at the same time most European nations hurled themselves into the dubiously motivated Crusades. As Christian sword sought Muslim throat in the holy land, in Tbilisi, Georgians, Armenians, Jews and Muslims lived side by side in relative harmony.

[p. 82]

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