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Colchis, or Aea-Colchis (Georgian form - Kolkheti), in ancient geography district of Asia Minor, at the eastern extremity of the Black Sea, bounded on the N. by the Caucasus. The name of Colchis first appears in Aeschylus and Pindar. It was inhabited by a number of tribes whose settlements lay chiefly along the shore of the Black Sea. Colchis (Kolkha, Kolkheti) is old name of Western Georgia.

Since ancient Colchian tribes maintained very close, in some cases even genetic, contacts with the ancient inhabitants of the Aegean Basin (Pelasgians) and Asia Minor. Homer was well aware not only of the myth of the Argonauts, he knew about the existence of Aea-Colchis and ancient Colchian tribes. In the Iliad (II, 856), Halysones , a Pelasgo-Colchian tribe is mentioned for the first time. "Halysones came from the eastern silver-making town Halyb". Strabo identifies the tribe of Halysones with the ancient west-Georgian (Colchian) tribe of Halybes (or Khalib/Khaldi).

The capital of Colchis was the city Aea (now Kutaisi).

In the end of the 2nd millenium BC and first centuries of the 1st millenium BC on the territory of Western Georgia was the oldest Georgian Kingdom of Kolkha (Colchis), in the 6st century BC -7th century AD Georgian Kingdom Egrisi. Other ancient Georgian State was Diaokhi (end of the 2nd millennium BC-4th century BC. Later Kingdom of Iberia). In the 7th-9th centuries AD Kolkheti was under ruling of the Byzantine Empire. In the 10th-15th centuries this territory was a part of the united Georgian Kingdom, in the 15th-16th centuries part of the Westgeorgian Kingdom of Imereti. In the 16th century-1860's major part of this territory was under ruling of the autonomous Principality of Samegrelo (Mingrelia). In 1860's this Principality was abolished by the Tsarist Russian Empire. In 1918-1921 Kolkheti was a part of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. In February 25, 1921 Georgia was occupied by the Soviet Russia. In 1921-1991 Kolkheti was part of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. In April 9, 1991 was restored the state independence of Georgia by the authority of the first President of the Republic of Georgia, Dr. Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

Colchis was celebrated in Greek mythology as the destination of the Argonauts, the home of Medea and the special domain of sorcery. The legend of the Argonauts relates that once upon a time in Aea-Colchis there ruled the mighty King Aeetes, son of Helios, father of Medea. Alongside with other numerous riches he possessed the Golden Fleece (Okros Satsmisi in Georgian) - the skin of a sheep with golden fleece.

Ancient authors (Palephatus , Dionysius of Miletus , Strabo, Appian, Charaxes of Pergamon and others) give a different interpretation of the Golden Fleece. Evidently, by this notion we should mean a whole complex of cultural achievements of ancient tribes, and mainly sheep-breeding which was widespread among the ancient west-Georgian tribe of Tibareni (Tibaren) and highly developed metallurgy among the Halybs (Khalib /Khaldi) and Mossynici (Mosiniks ). Ancient Greeks considered Halybes to be "the inventors of iron". Materials of material culture discovered in Georgia dating back to the 3rd-2nd millennia BC speak of the high level of development of metal processing, gold in particular, thus corroborating the reality of the historic basis of the myth of the Golden Fleece.

At the time of the Roman invasion it seems to have paid a nominal homage to Mithradates the Great and to have been ruled over by Machares, his second son. On the defeat of Mithradates by Pompey, it became a Roman province. After the death of Pompey, Pharnaces, the son of Mithradates, rose in rebellion against the Roman yoke, subdued Colchis and Armenia, and made head, though but for a short time, against the Roman arms. After this Colchis was incorporated with Pontus (64 BC).


  • Akaki Urushadze. "The Country of the Enchantress Medea", Tbilisi, 1984, 25 pp (in Russian and English)

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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04