IBERIANA-2 – იბერია გუშინ, დღეს, ხვალ

• K. Pipia -“Abkhazian Statehood”– Myth or Historical Reality?

• Abkhazia – აფხაზეთი

 

 Kakhaber Pipia

Kakhaber Pipia

 Doctor of History, Professor of  Sokhumi State University

 

 “Abkhazian Statehood”– Myth or Historical Reality?

  

From the beginning of 20thcentury  Ru­s­­sian imperialistic forces and Abkhazian separatistically di­s­p­o­s­ed circles started planned, purposeful ideological battle aga­inst Georgian-Abkhazian cultural-historical unity. The separ­at­e­­ist researchers as much as possible are trying to “prove” as if Abkhazia never had been the part of Georgia and it had been de­­veloping independently. They were claiming unilaterally as if in antique period there had been already existed “Abkhazian na­ti­­onal state” and these researchers are carrying out pro­pa­gan­da of the century-old, 2000-2500-year history of “Abkhazian sta­te­ho­od” which of course, is a total absurd. In this situation, study of separate issues in the history of Abkhazia becomes especially topical. Presenting important issues of the history of Abkhazia from objective historical perspective will help Georgian and Abkhazian people in cultural reintegration, that is the basis for political unity.

In recent period very important works have been developed on the studies of issues of Abkhazian history, although separate issues require special study. In current situation, from the point of science and state strategy, we find it highly significant study issue of status of Ap­­sils’ and Abazgs’ Unions. In the presented work, there is studied the issue of po­li­ti­­cal status of Apsils’ and Abazgs’ ,,kingdoms” on the base of an an­a­ly­sis of antique sources; It is shown that modern Abkhazian te­r­­ritory was an organic part of Georgian cultural-political wo­r­ld in antique period and the “theory” about the existence of  “Ab­khazian state” has no real proof.

According to archeological findings, the territory of Ab­­k­hazia from the oldest time was included at Western-Ge­or­gi­an,Colchian cultural area. During the whole era of early, mi­d­dle and late Bronze age, the same picture is fixed in the ter­ri­to­ry of Abkhazia as in other regions of western Georgia, by ma­­terial culture point of view, with some local peculiarities. So Ab­­khazian population by ethno-cultural point of view, in III-I mi­l­lenniums B.C. did not differ from the rest part of the po­pu­la­­tion of Colchis and it represented an organic part of Old Ge­o­r­­­gian, Colchian world.

In the 6th century B.C. it was formed the state of Col­c­h­­is on the Eastern shores of the Black sea. Its borders, ac­co­rd­ing to antique sources, was spread from the sector of modern Ga­g­ra-Bichvinta to the region of Chorokhi issues [24, 5; 10, 236-245]. So modern Ab­­khazian territory was completely included in the frame of Co­­­lchis Kingdom and it was not differing from other parts of the Western Georgia with political sign. Also in the sources of VI-I centuries B.C. there is no hint that in Abkhazia did live et­h­­nically different population. On the contrary, Ancient authors, He­­cataeus of Miletus (6th century B.C.) and Pseudo-Scylax of Ca­r­ianda (4th century B.C.) definitely pointed that only Col­ch­i­an tribes –Colchis itself, Koles and Koraxes inhabited on the mo­dern territory of Abkhazia [5, 61-62]. So Abkhazia represented an or­g­a­­nic part of the  united state-political and ethno-cultural space of an ancient Colchis.

The kingdom of Colchis from the period of creating was multitribal country. In the period of existence of united Co­­lchis kingdom, these various tribes were united into ad­mi­ni­str­a­tive-territorial entities – “Skeptukhia” and were obeying to the central authorities [21, 73-74]. in II century B.C. the united kingdom of Col­chis was divided into various “Skeptukhias”. Some tribes who were included in Colchis kingdom reached a significant in­­dependence. Though, Apsils and Abazgs who are believed un­­i­laterally by Abkhazian researchers as immediate ancestors of modern Abkhazians, for this period are not seen yet on the field of history. Despite of complete political failure, Ab­kh­a­zi­an territory was not torn away from the common-Colchian cul­tu­ral-political area. From the beginning I century B.C. even du­ring ongoing political cataclysms, at first during Mitridates Eu­pa­­tor (120-63 B.C.) time and then after the conquest by Rom­ans, Colchis was maintaining its territorial integrity.

In 65_35/33 B.C. Colchis as a separate, whole adm­ini­s­t­r­a­tive-political entity was subdued to Rome. In 35/33 B.C. Ma­­r­cus Antonius took Colchis in the kingdom of Polemonic Po­­n­tus, which was a vassal of Rome. In the era of Augustus (27 B.C._14 A.D.) Colchis, for a short period, was the part of Po­ntus-Bosporan kingdom (14-8 B.C.), then in 3/2 B.C. _ 17 A.­D. is the part of united kingdom of Pontus-Cappadocia. Dur­ing an Emperor Tiberius ruling (14-37 A.D.) Colchis was the tu­­t­o­rial country with Pontus and it was under the protectorate of Rome itself; Caligula (37-41 A.D.) delivered the kingdom of Po­­n­tus with Colchis to Polemonids again; during Nero (54-68) Co­l­chis was occupied by Romans and it became the part of the pr­o­­vince of Galatia; During the rule of Vespasian (69-79) Co­l­c­his was the part of united Cappadocia-Galatia, so called “Cap­pa­docian complex”; From Domitian (81-96) it was part of the province of Cappadocia [26, 28-57].

Therefore, during all period of I century B.C. – to I ce­n­t­­u­­ry A.D. Rome carried out inconsistent and changeable east­ern policy and consequently, all those changing’s of the politi­c­al status of Colchis and all fulfilled activities in Eastern Black sea region was being spread on the whole territory of Colchis, in­­clu­­ding its utmost Northern-Western part. So During carried out frequent administrative-territorial reorganizations in the East by named Emperors, the territorial integrity of Colchis was not broken and modern Abkhazian territory was again the part of Colchis.

In the beginning of II century A.D. political situation was sharply changed in the Eastern Black sea area. On the ter­ri­­­tory of united kingdom of Colchis, appe­ared separate political un­­i­ons –“kingdoms” of Mac­ron-Heniokhes’, Lazs’, Absils’, Ab­­azgs’ and San­igs’, which after the immediate leaving  of pro­v­incial rule of Rome, were setting some political rela­tions with Empire and were getting formal indepe­ndence.

Flavius Arrian (nearly 95-175) gave us very important in­­formation about mentioned political entities. Arrian calls the ru­­lers of these new unions “Basileuses” (Arr., PPE, 11), which in Greek means at first “king”. Correspondingly, the part of the re­searchers consider them as kings, though they often put this term in quotes. The real political power of these rulers is bet­ter ex­pressed in Russian term with diminutive form –“царьки”.

Naming as “Basileuses” the rulers of Apsils’ andAb­a­z­gs’ by Arrian is the only factual proof by which Abkhazian se­paratist researchers and ideologists, for whom is not strange in the base of sources and especially in antique sources by ma­ni­p­u­lating of poor, often unclear data, to get maximum political pro­­fit, they claim that from the beginning of II century it alre­ady existed “Abkhazian state” and they consider this point as the period of creation of the Apsils’ and Abazgs’ “kingdoms”, and are carrying out the propaganda of multi centurial history of ”Abkhazian statehood” [1,7-8; 3, 21-22; 16, 32-53; 17, 12-15; 30, 4-5].

Fixating of fact of  Apsil-Abazgs’ “Basileuses” by Ar­r­i­­an, in the hands of Abkhaz separatist-ideologists, who are try­ing by all means to create “national history” of Abkhazs and hi­s­t­ori­ographycal justification of an “independent Abkhazian sta­te”, at first it seems as a quite strong argument. But it is at first, the facts and historical realities are showing an obviously   op­posite of it.

First of all, it is not defined yet areApsils and Abazgs an immediate ancestors of modern Abkhazs and it is not ex­cl­u­d­­ed that these tribes might have Georgian origin. But even if it wo­uld be proved, the identity of Abkhazs and Apsil-Abazgs, the existence of tribal unions of Apsils’ and Abazgs’ in the be­gi­nning of II century is not strong proof to suppose the ex­is­ten­ce of “Abkhazian state”.

Besides this, we must take into account that the term “Ba­s­i­leus” by mostly spread etymology, means “head of pe­o­ple” and besides king, it may mean the principal, “Arqont”, so­m­e­­t­i­mes tyrant, prince, leader, foreman, the first or the pro­m­in­ent in his circle. As T. Khaukhchishvili showed exactly in pe­r­i­­od which  is interesting for us, this term was used with dif­fer­ent meaning [23, 31-48].

So this term had various meaning among old authors and they often did not fixate sharp difference between “king” and “ruler”. For example, by Strabo’s (64/63 B.C. – 24 A.D.) in­­fo­r­mation, in I century A.D. Heniokhs had four Basileuses (Strabo, XI, 2, 13), and Svans were ruled by Basileus and by the council with 300 men (Strabo, XI, 2, 19). Of course, these “Ba­­sileuses” were the leaders of the tribe’s unions. It is in­te­re­st­ing that analogous situation is seen with Roman authors. For ex­­a­mple, Tacitus (55-120 A.D.) in his “History” calls the le­a­d­er of “Sedokhezs” as “king” (Sedochezorumregis), who in­ha­bi­t­ed in the southern-eastern part of the Black sea region and this tribe was not known to other sources at all and there had a she­lter  rebelled Aniket (Tac., Hist, III,  48).

Therefore naming the rulers of Apsils and Abazgs and the rest of unions of Colchis as “Basileuses” is notsignify­cant pro­of to consider these rulers as kings as well as political enti­ti­es under their rule to be called as kingdoms, the subjects of in­de­pendent statehood.

In addition, political situation which was in Eastern Bla­ck sea region, from the beginning of II century, analyzed in co­­n­text of Roman diplomacy, does not give an opportunity to co­nsider named unions as states.

Roman Empire during hundreds of years could widen its borders not only by military strength but with exquisite di­p­l­o­­macy as well [19, 30]. For Roman policy it was not strange to create an illusion of independence for conquered nations to be able to ru­­le them better. Roman Empire which was created by foreign ex­pansion had a complicated administrative-political structure. Al­most all eastern provinces were created on the basis of pre­vi­o­usly independent kingdoms. There were side by side Hel­leni­st­ic cities, city centre’s with local old-eastern traditions, Roman co­lo­nies and municipiums. Besides this, all provinces included aut­onomous temple territories – satrapies and little even ep­h­e­m­eral kingdoms. Romans respected local traditions, habits in co­n­quered countries, relied on local laws and ruling or­ga­ni­za­ti­on, they more or less were taking  into account the level of de­v­e­lopment of concrete country and were carrying out a very ca­r­e­ful policy towards local population. According to Roman pra­c­tice, conquered population was under the control of military un­its of Empire and obeyed to the heads of occupying military un­its – prefects. Though the military authority of Empire was not due to carry out direct  administrative duties for local, in­di­geno­us people. These functions were carried out by the pro­mi­n­ent representatives of tribes’ or communities’ unions. Their du­ty was to have direct contact with their tribe members, to co­l­­lect taxes and organize calling up of compatriots in Roman ar­my units. The representatives of local aristocracy and the le­a­d­ers of tribal organizations were accountable to the prefects of Ro­­man military unit. Briefly, the local noblemen, backed by the heads of Roman military units, were the direct rep­res­enta­ti­v­es of Roman authorities [7, 233; 13, 71; 4, 46; 8, 61; 20, 298]. The administrative-political structu­re of Roman province was this kind.

The similar situation was in Colchis too. In 63 A.D. af­ter engagement of Nero in provincial system of Colchis, Rom­ans maintained division of country into historically established ad­ministrative-political entities – “Skeptukhias”. In Eastern Bla­ck sea region the supreme authority of inhabited tribes and its territorial organization, was considered the heads of dis­loc­a­t­­ed Roman garrisons, providers of Roman policy there. For exa­­mple, the head of the garrison Apsarus (modern Gonio) was res­ponsible for supervision of Zydrits (influence of Iberia was nor spread on it yet) and Macron-Heniokhs, Phasis Roman gar­ri­son was controlingLazs, and Sebastopoliscastelum had to con­troll“Skeptukhias” of Sanigs’, Abazgs’ and Apsils’. Tho­ugh, as we pointed out military representatives of Rome were not due to fulfill a direct administrative functions towards lo­cal population. Immediate contact with indigenous population of Colchis, collecting taxes, organizing call up of contingent at Ro­­man assistance army units and other  issues of local self-go­v­ernance was in the competence of “Skeptukhs” [27, 195-197].

Now about Apsil-Abazgs and created  “kingdoms” and its Basileuses in Colchis at the beginning of II century. The ma­­in aim of these “kings” were to establish order on places,in ca­se of need to assist Rome with military service. They did not in­­herit authorities but as Arrian often repeats, they got it from Ro­man Emperors –from Trajan and Hadrian (Arr., PPE, 11), the­ir territory is included in eastern united defense system of Ro­mans and by military point of view, it obeys to the Com­ma­n­­der-in-chief of Cappadocia, and local population of Colchis is un­­der control of dislocated Roman garrisons in their seaside ci­ti­es [2, 47-48; 11, 365; 24, 36-37].

Therefore, the real rights and obligations of Colchis un­­i­ons who were Rome’s “friend and ally”, in fact did not va­ry from the functions of officials of  Roman provinces and its pre­ce­­ding “Skeptukhias”; these “Basileuses” essentially were ad­m­i­­nistrators of Roman Empire [9, 27], who had to provide in con­nec­ti­on with Roman garrisons submission of inhabited tribes of Black sea region to Rome; Their real rights were quite rest­ric­t­ed and they were carrying out concrete interests of Roman ad­m­­i­ni­stration of Cappadocia province there.[1] Moreover, even the founding of these “kingdoms” in some extent, was con­diti­o­n­­ed by political interest of Rome.

            We, of course, don’t exclude that local processes played so­­me role in creating these political entities, an activation of “Skeptukhias” and its strive for independence, but despite local ba­­sics, it is evident that without the sanction, support or pe­rh­aps, initiative of Rome, these “kingdoms” would not be esta­bli­shed.

The real power of the rulers of “kingdoms” on the terri­to­­ry of Colchis did not spread out from the frames of some self-go­v­ernance and creation of these “kingdoms” was an initiative of Rome and to prove this we may bring this circu­mstance that de­livery of “king’s power“ happened during the ruling of Tra­jan, in conditions of Roman forces’ concentration when Trajan not only abolished the kingdoms of Judea and Nabataeans which were depended on Rome but he overthrew  the states of Arm­enia and Parthia and announced these territories as pro­vi­n­ces. In this situation, of course, it would be illogical for  Trajan to give an independence to Apsil-Abazgs and other tiny poli­ti­cal entities of Colchis. For Trajan it was no di­fficulty to obey Col­chis which at the beginning of his reign, re­ally was already out of influence of Rome. But because of concrete political si­tu­ation in East, far-seeing Emperor  thought that it would be mo­re profitable to solve  Colchis problem with diplomaticway [28, 34-39; 29, 35-60].

As we have already pointed out, “Skeptukhias“, created on the basis of tribal organizations, had been always expressing the trend to be transformed from administrative entities into se­pa­rate principalities. At the end of I century A.D.in co­ns­equ­ence of mi­litary-political weakening of Empire in east, “Skept­ukhias“ got factual independence and during the ruling of Do­mi­tian (81-96) the influence of Rome on Colchis had only for­mal cha­ra­cter [6, 13-14]. In such situation, Emperor Trajan in 106-114, dur­ing the pe­riod of preparation of grand march against Parthia and Arm­e­nia, for keeping an influence of Rome in Colchis ag­ain and mai­ntaining factual superiority on existed “Ske­ptuk­hias”, gave the rulers formal independence, in fact it was some self-go­ver­na­nce in domestic issues. By this way, the “king” of  Aps­ils Julian and the “king” of AbazgsResmaga went on stage who as other  “kings”, as it seems, were local “Skeptukhs”.

Solving the issue of Colchis by this way was con­dit­io­ned with the following circumstances: as it seems, Rome in this ti­­me did not have an essential material interest in Colchis. For Ro­me the main thing was geopolitical location. Eastern Black sea region had great military-strategic importance as for Ar­me­nia and as for North Caucasus. It represented safe back and pro­­fi­table bridge-head  against Parthia in the battle for Ar­me­nia. The geopolitical importance of Colchis was grown dra­ma­tic­ally at the beginning of II century when Trajan  started pre­para­tion for grand eastern march which was aimed to ove­rt­h­row the kingdoms of Parthia and Armenia. Trajan was pre­pa­ring for this unprecedented campaign with great eagerness. He pe­r­sonally analyzed the military-technical side and studied in det­ails the situation around the borders of Parthia and Armenia. Ro­mans during working out the tactics of military activities, paid an important attention to the factor of Alans. In this si­tua­ti­on, Trajan did not avail from vision the weakness of Roman’s po­­sitions in Eastern Black sea region, from where by so called  ma­in line of “Meotian-Colchis”, Northern-Caucasian nomads co­uld freely penetrate into Roman principalities of  Asia. If we ta­ke into account that the provision of food and additional fo­r­ces of Roman army in Armenia, was carried out from Black sea, mainly from Trapezunt, it will be clear that in case of in­va­si­on in Transcaucasia, Alans could easily penetrate in back of Ro­mans and cut the main communications going from Tra­pe­zunt to Armenia, and Trajan, of course, was not able to admit this. In this situation, in 106-114, during wide-scale activities for strengthening the flanks of future military battle, Trajan ga­ve formal independence to existed “Skeptukhias” on the ter­rit­o­ry of Colchis, and their  rulers “royal authority” by which he pro­vided their ally in contradiction with Parthia and Armenia and reduced the threat of invasion of Northcaucasian nomads thro­­ugh Colchis.  Local “kings” with connection to Roman gar­ri­sons could establish order better, protection of navigation and tra­de, bringing the new contingent for filling the Roman allied-as­sistance forces and what is the most important controlling ma­in line of “Meotian-Colchis” and North Caucasian crosses. So, totally controlled “kings” by Rome, in comparison with pre­­vious “Skeptukhs”, could protect the geopolitical interests of Rome more effectively in region [26, 29-39, 103-110].

Also delivering the power to local ‘kings” did not cre­ate the threat of losing the region because these “kings” were un­der  constant  supervision of Roman garrisons dislocated in cen­tre’s of Colchis shore. Besides this, by natural-geographic lo­­cation Colchis essentially belonged to Roman, Pontic world. From the north and south it is comprised between Caucasus’ and little Caucasus’ mountain ranges and from east with Likhni ri­­dge. So Colchis almost from all sides except west –sea di­re­c­t­i­­on, was difficult to be reached which subserved to be org­ani­c­a­l­ly linked with Roman world [2, 37]. Colchis had tight political-eco­n­o­­mical connection and geographic closeness with Empire and the­re was no danger that local rulers, after getting some in­de­pe­n­­d­ence, would break connection with Rome and would carry out totally own policy. From these new created unions the most po­werful  were – the “kingdoms” of Makron-Heniokhs and La­zi­ca and even they were completely under political influence of Ro­me during the whole II century and they could not carry out any independent activities without the will of Empire.

Therefore, an independence of political unions’ of Co­l­c­his  was a complete fiction. They were under total control of Ro­­me, represented part of defence zone of Empire and they we­­re obliged with the same geostrategic and military-comm­u­n­i­­cative functions as in provincial system of Rome itself or be­ing in kingdom of Polemonic  Pontus.

The “kingdoms” of Apsils and Abazgs itself were very un­i­mportant with territories too. The territory of both “kin­g­d­oms” comprised only 50-60 km narrow seashore stripe from the river modern Ghalidzga to Sebastopolis. In this situation, it is clear that one cannot speak about any statehood of these po­li­­tical unions. “Royal authorities” of Apsils’ and Abazgs’ really did not spread out from the functions of Roman officials and the “kingdoms” which were under their  rule, did not differ gre­atly from the countries included in the provincial system of Ro­me. Besides this, Romans did not consider Apsils’ and Abazgs’ uni­ons, as it seems, as serious power. If on the land of Makron-He­niokhs, Lazs and Sanigs who were a little bit stronger  “kin­g­doms” (correspondingly in Apsarus, Phasis and Sebastopolis) we­re dislocated Roman garrisons which were controlling local ru­lers, the unions of Apsils and Abazgs on the neighboring ter­ri­tory of Sanigia was controlled by the garrison being in Seba­st­opolis. Apsils’ and Abazgs’ “kingdoms” were so weak that Ro­man authority did not need to have immediate military for­ces on the territory of these unions as the guarantee of their ob­e­dience. It was enough that Apsils’ and Abazgs’ tiny unions we­­re surrounded by strong neighbors –Lazs and Sanigs. So the ru­­lers of Apsils and Abazgs had to be totally oriented on Rome be­­cause without support of Empire, strong neighbors would de­­stroy them easily. Therefore, because of weakness of Apsils’ and Abazgs’ “kingdoms” and minimal probability of carrying out an independent policy, Roman garrisons did not stand on the­se territories [26, 144-145].

Direct dependence of Apsils’ and Abazgs’ political un­i­ons on Rome, did not continue for a long time. As it seems, they could not maintain formal status and lost an “inde­pen­de­n­ce” soon. It is worth to note that after ArrianApsil-Abazgs’ “ki­n­­gdoms” and its “Basileuses” were not mentioned in any so­u­rces. It is not excluded that they at the second half of II cen­tu­ry were included in the kingdom of Lazica which was on the way of raising.

Therefore, Apsil-Abazgs’ “kingdoms” were created on the territory of old Colchis, they represented heirs of “Ske­ptu­k­hias”, existed administrative-territorial entities and in some mo­ment of history, in conditions of united political organ on the territory of Western Georgia, because of created concrete  po­litical conjuncture, they directly obeyed to Roman Emperors  and benefited with some self-governance which they could not ma­intain. Though, their ephemeral independe­nce was generally Col­chis event because Rome delivered “royal authority” not on­­ly to Apsil-Abazgs” “Skeptukhs” but to all rulers of tribe un­i­­ons existed on the territory of Colchis. So even in II century in the period of existence of Apsil-Abazgs’ “kingdoms”, modern Ab­k­hazia was an organic part of common-Colchian, Georgian po­litical world.

After all foresaid, talking about the existence of “Ab­kh­a­­zian statehood” is meaningless and Apsil-Abazgs’ “kin­g­d­oms” must be considered  as unions with some kind of self-go­v­e­­rnances. Apsil-Abazgs’ “Basile­uses” during Arrian were lo­s­ing even this formal title, only Lazica (Egrisi) got the signs of statehood and was formed as united Western-Georgian Ki­n­g­d­om.

 

 

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[1]N. Berdzenishvili had an interesting idea about the real rights and obl­iga­ti­ons of noted “kings”. According to researcher, Rome was interested in “tra­d­i­ng of colonies” (mostly obtaining slaves) and these “kings” had to be tra­de agents. Roman garrisons were the guarantee of protection of  worked out sta­tus.” [18, 503].

 

 

 

 
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