Legends

Georgia is an ancient country, with its roots back in the mists of time. It is a country whose history is intimately connected with the myth and legends which surround it, and which has preserved many such legends up to the present day.

PROMETHEUS

According to the Greek myth, the Caucasus was where the titan Prometheus was chained by Zeus as punishment for teaching mankind knowledge of fire. In the Georgian epic, Prometheus is known as Amirani of Amirani, who was tied to a rock on the side of Mt Kazbek so that a vulture could feed upon his liver, which was never diminished, though continually devoured. He was delivered from this confinement afterwards by Hercules who killed the bird of prey. Today, 4000 meters up the side of Kazbek there is a cave that is said to have been the prison of Prometheus,

THE ARGONAUTS

In order to regain the throne of Iolcus from his wicked half brother, the hero Jason was sent on a quest to find the Golden Fleece in the faraway land of Colchis, today’s western Georgia, even now known as Kolkheti. Colchis was ruled by the powerful Aeetes, son of the sun god Helios, who jealously guarded the Fleece, which he set in a sacred grove, protected by an unsleeping dragon. After a perilous journey, Jason arrived in Colchis, and demanded the fleece. Aeetes promised to give it to him only if he could perform certain tasks. First, Jason had to plow a field with fire-breathing oxen that he had to yoke himself. Then, Jason sowed the teeth of a dragon into a field. The teeth sprouted into an army of warriors. Jason was quick-thinking, however, and before they attacked him, he threw a rock into the crowd. Unable to determine whence the rock had come, the soldiers attacked and killed each other. Finally, Aeetes made Jason fight and kill the sleepless dragon that guarded the fleece. Fortunately, Aeetes’s daughter, the beautiful Medea, had fallen in love with Jason. Medea was an expert with potions, and gave Jason a magic potion that made the dragon sleep. Jason, Medea and the rest of the Argonauts returned to Greece with the Golden Fleece. In gratitude for her help, Jason had promised to love Medea forever. On his return, however, he decided to spurn Medea, and marry the princess of Corinth. Betrayed, Medea killed the sons born to her by Jason, and murdered Jason’s bride by giving hera dress that caught fire when she put it on. Jason, cursed by the gods for abandoning Medea, died alone and miserable. Medea, some say, returned to Georgia where she continued her work with potions. She became a famous practitioner, and today the word ‘medicine’ is derived from her name. Even now, many Georgian women are called Medea – or Mediko for short.

THE LEGEND OF TBILISI

The foundation myth of the city takes us back to the reign of Georgia’s mighty fifth century monarch Vakhtang Gorgasali. Out hunting with his falcon in the wooded Mtkvari valley, just a short distance from his then capital city of Mtskheta, the king noticed a pheasant. Sending off his falcon to retrieve the bird, he suddenly lost sight of it. After searching for a while, he found the pheasant had fallen into a hot spring, and had been cooked to perfection. Seeing the tremendous benefits of having such wondrous springs close at hand, he decided to found a new capital city on the site, and name it Tbilisi, or warm waters. Another version of the tale says Gorgasali shot a deer, who fell into the spring only to reemerge unharmed, either way, it was the benefits of the hot spring water that convinced the king to move his capital here.

While the city may have been founded due to the sulfur springs, there were a number of other factors that recommended it too. It’s defensible position between tow mountain ranges, its position on a trade route and it’s strategic location, to name a few. In fact, archaeology tells us that the site was settled long before Vakhtang Gorgasali started hunting in the area, but the Tbilisi’s days as a capital started with him and his missing pheasant.