Queen Tamar – One of the most powerful women in the history of Georgia
While the biggest challenge facing most eighteen-year-olds is deciding which career to embark upon; it is difficult to imagine that at this age, a young lady named Tamar became the Queen of Georgia.
In 1166, King Giorgi III and his wife Burdukhan had a daughter, Tamar. Giorgi declared Tamar as co-ruler for the remainder of his lifetime. Noblemen of the time swore an oath to the 12-year-old monarch. Fate gave Tamar a great burden to carry – the leadership of a nation.
Father and daughter ruled the kingdom together for five years but in 1184, King Giorgi died and 18-year old Tamar became the ruler of Georgia. The country welcomed their new ruler with open arms and they referred to her as ‘King Tamar’ since her father didn’t have a male heir.
Tamar reigned throughout the ‘Golden Age’ of Georgia and became a very successful ruler. She held the title “King of kings and queen of the queen of the kingship of Abkhazians, Georgians, Ranta, Kakhta, and Armenians, and all the east and west”. During her reign, Georgia became the strongest kingdom in the Caucasus region.
In 1185, Tamar was forced to marry the son of Andrei Bogoliubsky, Yuri. However, the couple divorced once Yuri’s true character came to light and after this he was expelled from Georgia.
Many Middle Eastern rulers wanted to marry Tamar, but she rejected them all. Finally, she agreed to marry a second time in order to continue her legacy and she married Davit-Soslan Bagrationi, a descendant of King George I. Tamar and David Soslan were in charge of the domestic and foreign affairs of the country.
During Tamar’s reign there were several important battles, most notably the battles of Shamkor (1195), and Basiani (1203).
In 1195, under the leadership of Abu Bakr, a joint Muslim military campaign was planned against Georgia. Before the battles, Tamar gave encouraging speeches to soldiers, mostly notably at Shamkor, where she told them; “My brothers! Do not allow your hearts to shiver because of the multitude of enemies, God is with us. Trust the only God, turn your hearts to him in rectitude.” Queen Tamar then climbed the hill to the Metekhi Church without shoes and prayed without ceasing until the good news arrived that the battle had ended with victory. The Queen was very religious. In the evenings she would pray tearfully on her knees, asking God to strengthen the country and the Church of Georgia.
Despite being a queen, she was very humble and even distributed her needlework to the poor. According to one historical source there was a time when, shortly after preparing to attend a religious service, Queen Tamar was told that a beggar outside the monastery was asking for help. Having finished getting dressed, she went out to help but could not find anyone. Tamar felt bad, believing that by denying the poor she had denied Christ. Tamar removed her belt, as it was the reason for her being late, and presented it as an offering to god.
Along with Tamar’s political success, she was also instrumental in developing Georgia’s economy. Agricultural production increased thanks to modern irrigation systems being built and at the same time, water pipelines were installed in many cities.
Along with the highly developed agricultural techniques, there were also highly skilled craftsman working in Georgia at the time and this in turn created the basis for a boom in domestic and foreign trade.
The Queen followed a strict regime, involving regular fasting, a stone bed, and litanies chanted in bare feet. This, of course, affected Queen Tamar’s health. The best doctors of the time were unable to diagnose her illness. Tamar died of an unknown disease, not far from Tbilisi.
The burial place of Queen Tamar is not known. Some sources claim that her tomb is in Gelati, while others argue that it is in Jerusalem.