World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000081958
Reproduction Date:

Title: Colchis  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of cultural references in Divine Comedy, Kingdom of Iberia, Diauehi, Classical Anatolia, Kutaisi
Collection: Colchis, Former Countries in Asia, Former Monarchies of Asia
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Kingdom of Colchis

c. 13th century BC–164 BC
Colchis and Iberia
Capital Aia
Languages Kartvelian languages
Government Monarchy
Historical era Iron age
 •  Established c. 13th century BC
 •  Conquest of Diauehi 750 BC
 •  Disestablished 164 BC
Today part of  Georgia
Colchis and Iberia in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC
Central and southern parts of Colchis, 3rd to 1st centuries BC - 1st century AD
Colchis between the Black and Caspian Seas. London, 1529

In Greater Caucasus and north of the Lesser Caucasus was divided between Kolchis in the west, Caucasian Iberia in the center and Caucasian Albania in the east. To the southwest was Armenia and to the southeast Atropatene.

The Colchians were the population native to Colchis. They are assumed to have been early Kartvelian-speaking tribes, ancestral to the contemporary groups of Svans, Mingrelians and Lazs.[1] Ancestors of the Colchians were probably established on the Black Sea coast from as early as the Middle Bronze Age.[2]

For centuries, until its annexation by Iberia.[4][5]

Colchis is also an important land in Greco-Roman mythology, most notably as the kingdom of Medea and the Golden fleece, destination of the Argonauts.


  • Geography and toponyms 1
  • Physical-geographic characteristics 2
  • History 3
    • Prehistory and earliest references 3.1
    • Qulha (Kolkha) and Persian rule 3.2
    • Greek colonization 3.3
    • Under Pontus 3.4
    • Under Roman rule 3.5
  • Rulers 4
  • Colchis in mythology 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Geography and toponyms

The kingdom of Colchis, Kolkhis[6][7][8][9] or Qulha[10][11][12] which existed from the 6th to the 1st centuries BC is regarded as an early ethnically Colchians was used as the collective term for early Kartvelian tribes which populated the eastern coast of the Black Sea in Greco-Roman ethnography.[13] According to the scholar of the Caucasian studies Cyril Toumanoff:

Colchis appears as the first Caucasian State to have achieved the coalescence of the newcomer. Colchis can be justly regarded as not a proto-Georgian, but a Georgian (West Georgian) kingdom. . . .It would seem natural to seek the beginnings of Georgian social history in Colchis, the earliest Georgian formation.[3]

A second South Caucasian tribal union emerged in the 13th century BC on the Black Sea coast.[14][15] According to most classic authors, a district which was bounded on the southwest by Greater Caucasus, which lay between it and Asiatic Sarmatia, on the east by Iberia and Montes Moschici (now the Lesser Caucasus), and on the south by Armenia. There is some little difference in authors as to the extent of the country westward: thus Strabo makes Colchis begin at Trabzon, while Ptolemy, on the other hand, extends Pontus to the Rioni River. Pitsunda was the last town to the north in Colchis.

Map of Colchis and Iberia by Christoph Cellarius printed in Leipzig in 1706

The name of Colchis first appears in Aeschylus and Pindar. The earlier writers only speak about it under the name of Aea (Aia), the residence of the mythical king Aeëtes: "Kolchian Aia lies at the furthest limits of sea and earth," wrote Apollonius of Rhodes.[16] The main river was the Phasis (now Rioni), which was according to some writers the south boundary of Colchis, but more probably flowed through the middle of that country from the Caucasus west by south to the Euxine, and the Anticites or Atticitus (now Kuban). Arrian mentions many others by name, but they would seem to have been little more than mountain torrents: the most important of them were Charieis, Chobus or Cobus, Singames, Tarsuras, Hippus, Astelephus, Chrysorrhoas, several of which are also noticed by Ptolemy and Pliny. The chief towns were Dioscurias or Dioscuris (under the Romans called Sebastopolis, now Sukhumi) on the seaboard of the Euxine, Sarapana (now Shorapani), Phasis (now Poti), Pityus (now Pitsunda), Apsaros (now Gonio), Surium (now Vani), Archaeopolis (now Nokalakevi), Macheiresis, and Cyta or Cutatisium or Aia (now Kutaisi), the traditional birthplace of Medea. Scylax mentions also Mala or Male, which he, in contradiction to other writers, makes the birthplace of Medea.

Physical-geographic characteristics

Kolchis was centered in the low country south of the Caucasus along the Black Sea

In Likhi Range, connecting the Greater and the Lesser Caucasus Mountain Ranges. The central part of the region is Colchis Plain, stretching between Sokhumi and Kobuleti; most of that lies on the elevation below 20 m above sea level. Marginal parts of the region are mountains of the Great and the Lesser Caucasus and Likhi Range.

Its territory mostly corresponds to what is now the western part of Samegrelo, Imereti, Guria, Adjara, Abkhazeti, Svaneti, Racha; the modern Turkey’s Rize, Trabzon and Artvin provinces (Lazistan, Tao-Klarjeti); and the modern Russia’s Sochi and Tuapse districts.[17]

The climate is mild humid; near Batumi, annual rainfall level reaches 4,000 mm, which is the absolute maximum for the continental western Eurasia. The dominating natural landscapes of Colchis are temperate rainforests, yet degraded in the plain part of the region; wetlands (along the coastal parts of Colchis Plain); subalpine and alpine meadows.

The Colchis has a high proportion of Tertiary relict plants and animals, with the closest relatives in distant parts of the world: five species of Rhododendrons and other evergreen shrubs, wingnuts, Caucasian salamander, Caucasian Parsley Frog, eight endemic species of lizards from the genus Darevskia, Caucasian adder, Robert's vole, and endemic cave shrimps.


Colchian hairpin
Colchian coin of Dioscurias, Late 2nd Century BC. Obverse: Two pilei surmounted by stars Reverse: Thyrsos, ΔΙΟΣΚΟΥΡΙΑΔΟΣ

Prehistory and earliest references

The eastern Black Sea region in antiquity was home to the well-developed Bronze Age culture known as the Colchian culture, related to the neighboring Koban culture, that emerged towards the Middle Bronze Age. In at least some parts of Colchis, the process of urbanization seems to have been well advanced by the end of the 2nd millennium BC, centuries before Greek settlement. The Colchian Late Bronze Age (15th to 8th century BC) saw the development of significant skill in the smelting and casting of metals. Sophisticated farming implements were made, and fertile, well-watered lowlands and a mild climate promoted the growth of progressive agricultural techniques.

Colchis was inhabited by a number of related but distinct tribes whose settlements lay along the shore of the Black Sea. Chief among those were the Machelones, Heniochi, Zydretae, Lazi, Chalybes, Tabal/Tibareni/Tubal, Mossynoeci, Macrones, Moschi, Marres, Apsilae, Abasci,[18] Sanigae, Coraxi, Coli, Melanchlaeni, Geloni and Soani (Suani). These Colchian tribes differed so completely in language and appearance from the surrounding Indo-European nations that the ancients provided various wild theories to account for the phenomenon.

Herodotus regarded the Colchians as Ancient Egyptian[19][20][21][22] race.

Herodotus states that the Colchians, with the Ancient Egyptians and the Ethiopians, were the first to practice circumcision, a custom which he claims (without historical proof) that the Colchians inherited from remnants of the army of Pharaoh Sesostris. Apollonius of Rhodes states that the Egyptians of Colchis preserved as heirlooms a number of wooden tablets, which show, with considerable accuracy, seas and highways.

According to Pliny the Elder:

The Colchians were governed by their own kings in the earliest ages, that Sesostris king of Egypt was overcome in Scythia,[23] and put to fight, by the king of Colchis, which if true, that the Colchians not only had kings in those times, but were a very powerful people.[24][25]

Many modern theories suggest that the ancestors of the

  • Colchis in Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)
  • Colchian coins
  • Strabo on Colchis
  • Herodotus on Colchis
  • Pliny on Colchis
  • Golden graves, archeological evidences
  • Colchis (German)
  • Colchis (German)

External links

  • Braund, David. 1994. Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia 550 BC-AD 562. Clarendon Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-814473-3
  • Gocha R. Tsetskhladze. Pichvnari and Its Environs, 6th c BC-4th c AD. Annales Littéraires de l'Université de Franche-Comté, 659, Editeurs: M. Clavel-Lévêque, E. Geny, P. Lévêque. Paris: Presses Universitaires Franc-Comtoises, 1999. ISBN 2-913322-42-5
  • Otar Lordkipanidze. Phasis: The River and City of Colchis. Geographica Historica 15, Franz Steiner 2000. ISBN 3-515-07271-3
  • Alexander Melamid. Colchis today. (northeastern Turkey): An article from: The Geographical Review. American Geographical Society, 1993. ISBN B000925IWE
  • Akaki Urushadze. The Country of the Enchantress Media, Tbilisi, 1984 (in Russian and English)

Further reading

  1. ^ Antiquity 1994. p. 359. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia:Значение слова "Колхи" в Большой Советской Энциклопедии; The Cambridge Ancient History, John Anthony Crook, Elizabeth Rawson, p. 255
  2. ^ David Marshal Lang, the Georgians, Frederich A. Praeger Publishers, New York, p 59
  3. ^ a b CToumanoff. Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, p 69,84
  4. ^ David Braund, Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC-AD 562, Oxford University Press, USA (September 8, 1994)
  5. ^ W.E.D. Allen, A history of the Georgian people (1932), p. 123
  6. ^ Castles of God: Fortified Religious Buildings of the World, Peter Harrison p196
  7. ^ Greek Tragedy, Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz p151
  8. ^ Dark of the Moon, Tracy Barrett p190
  9. ^ Ancient Epic, Katherine Callen King The Argonautica before Appolonius
  10. ^ The Pre-history of the Armenian People, Igor Mikhailovich Diakonov, p75
  11. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1, p1040
  12. ^ Archaeology at the north-east Anatolian frontier, Claudia Sagona, p35
  13. ^ Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia, 550 BC-AD 562, David Braund Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. Pp. 359
  14. ^ D. Braund, Georgia in Antiquity: A History of Colchis and Transcaucasian Iberia 550 BC–562 AD, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  15. ^ James Stuart Olson, An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires, p. 242
  16. ^ Apollonius, Argonautica, II.417.
  17. ^ Andrew Andersen, History of Ancient Caucasus, p. 91
  18. ^ According to some scholars, ancient tribes such as the Absilae (mentioned by Pliny, 1st century CE) and Abasgoi (mentioned by Arrian, 2nd century CE) correspond to the modern Abkhazians (Chirikba, V., "On the etymology of the ethnonym 'apswa' "Abkhaz", in The Annual of the Society for the Study of Caucasia, 3, 13-18, Chicago, 1991; Hewitt, B. G., "The valid and non-valid application of philology to history", in Revue des Etudes Georgiennes et Caucasiennes, 6-7, 1990-1991, 247-263; The Kartvelians, 2005, translated by Irene Kutsia)
  19. ^ Approaching Chaos: Could an Ancient Archetype Save 21st Century Civilization? Lucy Wyatt p208
  20. ^ The Blessing of Africa: The Bible and African Christianity, Keith Augustus Burton p73
  21. ^ African Presence in Early Asia, Runoko Rashidi, Ivan Van Sertima p59
  22. ^ Letters of certain Jews to Monsieur Voltaire, containing an apology for their own people, and for the Old Testament: Antoine Guénée p464
  23. ^ The Shrines and Sepulchres of the Old and New World: Records of Pilgrimages in Many Lands, and Researches Connected with the History of Places Remarkable for Memorials of the Dea, Or Monuments of a Sacred Character; Including Notices of the Funeral Customs of the Principal Nations, Ancient and Modern, Volume 1, Richard Robert Madden, Newby, 1851, p293
  24. ^ An Universal history, from the earliest account of time, Volume 10, George Sale, George Psalmanazar, Archibald Bower, George Shelvocke, John Campbell, John Swinton, p136 B.II.
  25. ^ Plin, I, xxxiii, c. 3.
  26. ^ Miniature Empires: A Historical Dictionary of the Newly Independent States, James Minahan, p. 116
  27. ^ Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, p 80
  28. ^ The Making of the Georgian Nation: 2nd Ed, Ronald Grigor Suny, p 13
  29. ^ Pompey, Nic Fields p29
  30. ^ Rayfield, Donald (2013). Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia. ReaktionBooks. p. 28.  
  31. ^ The Origin of Pagan Idolatry, George Stanley Faber p409
  32. ^ The Facts on File Companion to Classical Drama, John E. Thorburn Colchian Bulls p145
  33. ^ The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the Fall of the Persian Empire, Trevor Bryce p171
  34. ^ World Mythology: An Anthology of Great Myths and Epics, Donna Rosenberg p218
  35. ^ Celebrate the Divine Feminine: Reclaim Your Power with Ancient Goddess Wisdom: Joy Reichard p169
  36. ^ John Canzanella: Innocence and Anarchy p58
  37. ^ Margaret Meserve: Empires of Islam in Renaissance Historical Thought p250
  38. ^ Diane P. Thompson: The Trojan War: Literature and Legends from the Bronze Age to the Present p193
  39. ^ Andrew Brown: A New Companion to Greek Tragedy p66
  40. ^ Mark Amaru Pinkham: The Return of the Serpents of Wisdom The Amazons, The Female Serpents


See also

Apollonius of Rhodes named Aea as the main city (Argonautica, passim). The main mythical characters from Colchis are:

According to the Greek mythology, Colchis was a fabulously wealthy land situated on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world. Here in the sacred grove of the war god Ares, King Aeëtes hung the Golden Fleece until it was seized by Jason and the Argonauts. Colchis was also the land where the mythological Prometheus was punished by being chained to a mountain while an eagle ate at his liver for revealing to humanity the secret of fire. Amazons also were said to be of Scythian origin from Colchis.

Colchis is also thought to be the possible homeland of the Amazons.[35][36][37][38][39][40]

In Greek mythology, Colchis was the home of Aeëtes, Medea, Golden Fleece, fire-breathing bulls Khalkotauroi[31][32] and the destination of the Argonauts.[33][34]

Jason and the Argonauts arriving at Colchis. Argonautica tells the myth of their voyage to retrieve the Golden Fleece. This painting is located in the Palace of Versailles.

Colchis in mythology

  • Aristarchus (65-47 BC), a dynasty under the authority of Pompey.

Note: During his reign, the local chiefs, sceptuchi, continued to exercise some power. One of them, Olthaces, is mentioned by the Roman sources as a captive of Pompey in 65 BC.

  • Kuji of Colchis (325 BC - 280 BC)
  • Akes (Basileus Aku) (end of the 4th century BC), king of Colchis; his name is found on a coin issued by him.
  • Saulaces, "king" in the 2nd century BC (according to some ancient sources).
  • Mithridates (fl. 65 BC), under the authority of Pontus.
  • Machares (fl. 65 BC), under the authority of Pontus.

Little is known of the rulers of Colchis;


Despite the fact that all major fortresses along the seacoast were occupied by the Romans, their rule was relatively loose. In 69, the people of Pontus and Colchis under Anicetus staged a major uprising against the Romans which ended unsuccessfully. The lowlands and coastal area were frequently raided by fierce mountain tribes, with the Soanes and Heniochi being the most powerful of them. Paying a nominal homage to Rome, they created their own kingdoms and enjoyed significant independence. Christianity began to spread in the early 1st century. Traditional accounts relate the event with Saint Andrew, Saint Simon the Zealot, and Saint Matata. The Hellenistic, local pagan and Mithraic religious beliefs would however remain widespread until the 4th century. By the 130s, the kingdoms of Machelones, Heniochi, Egrisi, Apsilia, Abasgia, and Sanigia had occupied the district from south to north. Goths, dwelling in the Crimea and looking for new homes, raided Colchis in 253, but were repulsed with the help of the Roman garrison of Pitsunda. By the 3rd-4th centuries, most of the local kingdoms and principalities had been subjugated by the Lazic kings, and thereafter the country was generally referred to as Lazica (Egrisi).

Under Roman rule

Mithradates VI quelled an uprising in the region in 83 BC and gave Colchis to his son Mithridates, who was soon executed being suspected in having plotted against his father. During the Third Mithridatic War, Mithridates VI made another his son Machares king of Colchis, who held his power but for a short period. On the defeat of Mithridates VI of Pontus in 65 BC, Colchis was occupied by Pompey,[29] who captured one of the local chiefs (sceptuchus) Olthaces, and installed Aristarchus as a dynast (65–47 BC). On the fall of Pompey, Pharnaces II, son of Mithridates, took advantage of Julius Caesar being occupied in Egypt, and reduced Colchis, Armenia, and some part of Cappadocia, defeating Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus, whom Caesar subsequently sent against him. His triumph was, however, short-lived. Under Polemon I, the son and heir of Zenon, Colchis was part of the Pontus and the Bosporan Kingdom. After the death of Polemon (8 BC), his second wife Pythodorida of Pontus retained possession of Colchis as well as of Pontus itself, though the kingdom of Bosporus was wrested from her power. Her son and successor Polemon II of Pontus was induced by Emperor Nero to abdicate the throne, and both Pontus and Colchis were incorporated in the Province of Galatia (63) and later in Cappadocia (81). Phasis, Dioscurias and other Greek settlements of the coast did not fully recover after the wars of 60-40 BC and Trebizond became the economical and political centre of the region.[30]

Under Pontus

The advanced economy and favorable geographic and natural conditions of the area attracted the Milesian Greeks who colonized the Colchian coast establishing here their trading posts at Phasis, Gyenos, and Sukhumi in the 6th-5th centuries BC. It was considered "the farthest voyage" according to an ancient Greek proverbial expression, the easternmost location in that society's known world, where the sun rose. It was situated just outside the lands conquered by Alexander the Great. Phasis and Dioscurias were the splendid Greek cities dominated by the mercantile oligarchies, sometimes being troubled by the Colchians from the hinterland before seemingly assimilating totally. After the fall of the Persian Empire, a significant part of Colchis locally known as Egrisi was annexed to the recently created Kingdom of Iberia (Kartli) in ca. 302 BC. However, soon Colchis seceded and broke up into several small princedoms ruled by sceptuchi. They retained a degree of independence until conquered (circa 101 BC) by Mithridates VI of Pontus.

Greek colonization

[28] In the 13th century BC, the Kingdom of Colchis was formed as a result of the increasing consolidation of the tribes inhabiting the region. This power, celebrated in

Qulha (Kolkha) and Persian rule


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.