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The Armenian Apocalyptic Tradition: A Comparative Perspective

Kevork Bardakjian, Sergio La Porta


BRILL, May 28, 2014 - BIBLES - 818 pages

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'The Armenian Apocalyptic Tradition: A Comparative Perspective" comprises an


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The Georgian Nimrod
Stephen H. Rapp,]r.

Having weathered the escalating perils of the first eight circles, Dante stood
on the verge of descending into the ve1y center of Hell. 1 There, along the rim
of the icy pit leading to the imprisoned Satan, the author-tumed-fictional-
adventurer glimpsed several "towers; the primordial giants of the Hebrew
Bible and the titans of Classical literature. Among them was Nimrod, whom
Genesis w famously depicts as "the first on Earth to become a mighty war1ior.
He was a mighty hunter befo re the Lord . . . ." 2 The lrif'emo's Nimrod, however,
was a rather different figure: he was incapable of intelligible speech, and from
his savage mouth"-/a fiera bocca-poured the incomprehensible syllables
"Raplzel mai amecclze zabi ahni." This Nimrod was nothing more than anima
confu,m. Dante's guide Virgil explained:

Elli stcssi s'accusa; questi c Ncmbrotto per lo cui mal coto pur un linguag-
gio ncl mondo non s'usa. Lascilmlo stare e non parliamo a voto; che cosi e
a Jui ciascun linguaggio come 'I suo ad altrui, ch'a nullo e noto.

He is his own accuser. This is Nimrod, because of whose vile plan the
whole world no longer speaks a single tongue. Let us leave him and waste
not our speech, for every language is to him as his to others, and his is
understood by none.3

Nimrod's spectacular transformation from a "mighty hunter before the Lord"


to a babbling and sinful primeval giant requires explanation. His impos-
ing physical stature stands in marked contrast to his fleeting appearance in
the Hebrew Bible. Including Genesis 10 Nimmd surfaces j ust three times

I Georgian transliterations observe n slightly n1odificd version of the sys1.c1n used by the
Library of Congress, CJSA, and acijusted to match n1ore closely the Annenian Hiihsch1nann
l\,leillet-Benveniste sche1ne. For Georgian transcription, see Rapp zoo3, 45-6.
2 Gen 10 :9. llibl lc;,I iranslations arc based on Rible 2001.
3 Dante Aligh ieri. Divi11e Comedy, "The Inferno; XXXI.67- 8L I have followed the text and trans
lat ion of the Princeton Dante Project (http://etcweb.princelon.edu/dante/i,1dex.htmf), last
accessed 10 February zo14. See also Stolovn 1998-1999, 51-62..
4 l-lcrc I have relied upon van dcr Hon~t 1990, 220-- 32..

~ KONINKLIJKE BRI LL N"V, LEIDEN, 20l<I I DOI 10.UG3/97S900<t2702G8_009


rH G0RG I AN Nl~1 1l()D 189

in canonical texts: 1 Chronicles 1:10 identifies Nimrod as the son of Cush and
"the first to be a mighty one on the Ea1th." and Micah 5:6 a lludes to the land
of Nimrod," Mesopotamia, in connection with a prophecy about the defeat of
the Assyrian Empire. As we should expect, Nimrod is enti rely absent from the
New Testament
Nimrod is a figure of great antiquity. But how the ancient Hebrews imag-
ined him is poorly understood. The picture sharpens in the late Hellenistic
Age, when Jewish exegesis increasingly took up his memory. One of the eadi-
est such exegetes was Philo of Alexandria who, in his pursuit to comprehend
monotheism in a multi- and cross-cultural world, creatively combined Judaic,
Greek, and Hellenistic thought. Philo substituted Genesis's ambiguous depic-
tion of Nimrod with one that was categorically negative. His Nimrod was an
enemy of God and he proposed a false etymology for the giant's name, deriv-
ing it from Hebrew marad, "rebellion" or "clesertion."5 Fu1ther, Philo explicitly
associated Nimrod with tl1e antediluvian giants of Genesis 6 and the fabled
tower-the Tower of Babel-of Genesis 11.6 In the same century, tl1e historian
Josephus similarly depicted Nimrod in hisJewish Antiquities:

'E~~PE TE cdrrouc; 1tp6c; TE o~p LVTOO 6Eo0 )((XI X<XT<X<ppOVY)CrtV NE~pWOY)<;, oc;
uiwvoc; Ev ~v Xaou TOO Nwxou, TOAY)poc; OE )((XL )((XTC( XEtpa YEVVotToc;: EltEL6EV
oov ()(UTOU<; -i} T<il 6E<iJ OLOOV()(L TO 01' EXE!VOV EuomoVElV, (VAC( T-i)v tOl()(V apET-i}V
Totfrm 1totpi.XELV otuTotc; ~yE1cr9m, xai 1tEp1[cr-ra OE xaT' oAiyov Etc; wpotVv{oa Tee
rrpayotT<X 6vwc; olhwc; vo{(wv a1tocrT-i}<1E<V TOU<; av6pw1touc; TOO <p6~ou TOU
rrapcc TOii 9E00, Et xpwEVO{ TJ') ()(UTOU ouvaEL OLCITEAO!EV, &uvE1cr6oti TE TOV
8Eov 1t&A1v ~1tEiAE1 T-i}v ~v E1tlXAucrm 0EA~cravToc 1t6pyov yap oixooo~crEtv
Uq>YJA6TEPO'J ~ TO liowp (X'J()(~~V()(l OUVY)SEtl'), ETEAEUCTEcr9m OE )((XI tjc; TWV
rrpoy6vwv a1twAEiotc;.

They were incited to this insolent contempt of God by Nebrodes, grand-


son of Ham the son of Noah, an audacious man of doughty vigour. He
persuaded them to atttibute their prosperity not to God but to their own
valour, and little by little transfonned the state of affairs into a tyranny,
holding that the on ly way to detach men from tl1e fear of God was by
making them continuou sly dependent upon his own power. He threat-
ened to have his revenge on Goel if He wished to inundate the ea1th again;

5 De gi9,111tibus, uip. 15 (Philo 1981, 70-1).


6 van dcr llorst 1990, 221- 2 .
1()0 KAPP

for he would build a tower higher than the water could reach and avenge
the destruction of their forefathers.7

Josephus's Nimrod was not only the mastermind behind the Tower of Babel
but a greedy tyrant and despiser of the true God.8
Philo, Josephus, and associated authors significantly shaped the represen-
tation of Nimrod for ccntu1ies to come, well into the medieval Christian and
Classical Islamic epochs. Their inOuence is evident in a wide range of Near
Eastern texts, including-but by no means limited to-the Pseudo-Clementine
Book of the Rolls, Eusebius's Chronicle,9 The Book of the Cave of Treasures,
the Apocalypse of Ps.-Methodius, and the histories of Movses Xorenac'i and
al-Tabari. 0 Indeed, Nimrod exegesis cuts across a broad swath of both time
and space, and it circulated within a broad spectrum of socio-cultural and
linguistic contexts and within all three great monotheisms of Afro-Eurasia.
Among the vibrant pre-modern literature devoted to Nimrod, Old Georgian
apocryphal and apocalyptic treatments remain obscure. This essay seeks to
rectify tl1is neglect and to demonstrate that the Georgian Nimrod was a prod-
uct of the intense cross-cultural interplay involving the rivaJ yet intimately
interconnected Bywntine/Easte rn Ch,istian, lranian/Mazdean, and Islamic
Commonwealths.
In order to fully appreciate the Nimrod traditions preserved in Georgian, we
must briefly consider the provenance and early evolution of original Georgian
literature. The Georgian script emerged from the culturally transcendent
waves of Christianization sweeping across the whole of southern Caucasia,
eastern Anatolia, and no,them Iran in the fourth and fifth ccnturies_ll In his
extant vita, the Armenian cleric Mast<Jc'-also knov111 as Mcsrop- is credited
with inventing of not only the Armenian script but also its Georgian and

7 j ell'ish Antiquities, l.u_~-u4 (Josephus 19:io, 54-5). An Old Georgian translation of th is text
wns prodt1ccd 1n or around th~ twelfth ccnnir)': loscb P'laviosi 1987-88.
8 Adopting a si.t11iJar a1>proach, Augustine re,.,.orke<l Genesis 10 so as to portray Ni1nro<l as
a hunte r "against" the Lord: City oj God, cap. 16. D.G. White notes tJ1at ".. , it is Ham's son
Nin1rod. a 'hunter against the Lord' in Augustine, ,vhose outrage of the To,ver or Babel
caused tJ1c nations to be 'scattered over the canh: In a Christian perspective in ,,.,hid1
genealogy \\'tlS allimportant, Nimrod beco1nes the ancestor of 1nonstrous races (\"lhite
1991, 65). See also Cohen 1999, zi-4
9 For Hoon1parison of the accounts about the prin1ordial giants (inch1ding Nin1rod), St."C
Alnirav 2003, n5- 21.
1o There are yet other features of the late antique and early Jnedieval Nin1rod stOI)' that v,rill
not l,e considered here. e.g., Nilnrod's nUeged oonne<.:tion ,vith Abrahu1n.
,, Sec esp. Gamqrclid1.c 1989.
'rHE GEORG I A N N IMR()O

Caucasian Albanian counterparts. 12 \.Yhile certain details of the original fifth-


centu1y tradition may have been altered following the schism between the
Armenian and eastern Georgian churches in the early seventh century, there
are many reasons to believe that the invention of the three scripts did, in fact,
belong to a single regional process in which Mastoc' was involved and that he
perhaps supervised. Whatever the precise circumstances of their 01igin, the
Caucasian scripts were deliberately created by Christians ruound the year 400
with the aim of directly ow1smitting biblical, paoistic, and other ecclesiasti-
cal texts to the peoples of soud1ern Caucasia. Although it may not have been
the intention, the introduction and popularization of scripts enabled original
literatures. Soon after, the newly-converted easte rn Georgians-especially the
K'art'velians13-began to compose original ecclesiastical works in the form of
hagiographies. The oldest known specimen of original Georgian literature, The
Pa1:.sion c!f"St. Susaniki, was composed towards the end of the fifth centmy.14 It is
especially notewo1thy that Susaniki's Georgian vita, which is attributed to the
holy woman's confessor lakob C'urtavcli (Jacob of Tsurtavi), showcases the suf'.
fering and eventual demise of an Armenian princess in the Anncno-Georgian
marchlands, Gugark'-Somxit'i. This is one of numerous proofs demonstrat-
ing that the conversion of southern Caucasia did not occur within shaq>ly-
defined ethno-linguistic pockets as subsequent sources-both med ieval a nd
modern-routine ly and confidently assert. In the case of eastern Georgia an
ethnically-based "national" church arose much later in the seventh century.
The whole of Caucasia, stretching from the steppes of southern Russia
to northern Iran and from eastern Anatolia to the Caspian Sea, has long
been one of Afro-Eurasia's most vibrant crossroads. It was a cosmopolitan
crucible where ideas and cultures have mingled ru1d blended since remote
antiquity.15 The peoples of Caucasia not only took advantage of a multi-
tude of cultural choices available to tl1em but also actively shaped and cre-
ated their own distinctive identities, histories, and cu ltures. Georgian

12 The assertion in the ca. 800 Life qfthe Ki11.qs of ,he invention ofthe Georgian script by the
early .HelJenistlc P'arnavaz. king of easte1n Georgia, is patently fi:ilse: 1'he Lije ojthe Kin,qs,
in K'art'lis c'xovreba,1955-59, 1:z6; repr. as K~1rt 1/i.s c'x.ovreb<, 1998, v.1.
t3 Tht~ K'art'vclians \'t'Crc the doi-ninant cthno~linguistic conunnnity of K'Art'li (~.)i<>m~o}, a
to ponym roughly equivalent to Greek lheria and Armen ian Virk"( t././>flp). fo r tl,e evolving
and coutested meaning of "Georgia," see the essays in Pa iCadze 199:i and "Sak'art'velo" in
Rapp 2003, 413-40.
14 Came.bay cmidisa fafcu1iki$i dcdofl'a/isay (\j.><lo/>vu va~ob> o;:ioo6oJOlso <l:a<l:"''(Pi::?O-
b,a). For the Georgian text, see Abuladze 1963-64, 1:u-29. For the Classical Armenian
vi/a, see Al,u}aJze 1938 and Mt1ksoudh1n 1999.
15 &>c Rapp 2005 ""d Rnpp 2006.
192 IIAPP

traditions about Nimrod belong to this syncretic, adaptive, and cross-cu ltural
environment.
The p1incipal med ieval Georgian references to Nimrod (Nebrot'i, 6aM,romo)
occurwithin the initial components of K'a.rt'lLsc'xovreba, the so-called Georgian
Chronicles or Georgian Royal Annals. We first encounter Nimrod in the
ca. 800 L!feoftheKings.16 For centuries this narrative, which showcases the prc-
Christian history of various eastern Georgian peoples, has been erroneously
credited to the eleventh-century archbishop Leonti Mroveli. Elsewhere, how-
ever, I have shown thatMroveli was not the origina l author but an editor. 17 The
initial passages of The l[fe of the Kings are devoted to the ed111ogenesis of the
major peoples of Caucasia, which it traces to eight eponymous giant-brothers,
the direct descendants of the biblical Togarmah (T'argamos, m,M 0,arob).18
According to the anonymous historian, "these eight together served the hero
Nimrod, who was the first king of the entire Earth"(~, ata M3,603a :JMO>M
iom .laro63~ab 6aiMromb 3aot">b,, Mroaa~o O~M jo<">3a~o aa'lla ~M3~ob,
J;:iaa,,6ob,).'9 The most prominent of the brothers, the Armenian forefather
Hayk (lwJl/, Georgian f-laos, J,,.,1,), summoned his siblings-including
K'art'los (d>Mmc::?rob), the primogenitor of the eastern Georgian K'art'velians-

16 The life ofthe Kings is the ini1ia l and core text of the composite work known as C'xorebay
k'art'velt'a mep'et'a (obe,t',al,.," ;],,<,.,~.,, aa'3a<>).
17 Rapp:wo:i,ch.1. esp.157-68.
J8 See Happ 2003, 130-41 and ch. 2, "lh1yk and K'arc'los: Evolution of ti Ctn1<.:t1sian ()rigtn
Myth; 169-96. The Chro11icle of Hippolytus of Kome, both in its original Greek and m,~<li
eval Annenian adaptation, ,\ias especiaHy jnfluential. See also: Kekelidze 1964, 88~4 and
Abu1adz.e 1961, 223-43. For the role of T'argnn1os in N. ~ta"'s infarnous Japhetic 1'hoory,
sccSJe7..kint:~2001. 219-20.
19 The Life ofthe Ki119s, in K'art'lisc'xovreha 1955-59, 1:6,-s:Thomson 1996, 6. The ol<lest s ur
viving "'itness of K'art'lls c'xo11reba is a n1anuscript of the medieval Armenian adaptation
known as Patmul'f\v,1 Vmc' ( '1Jwu,1fmp/uC, <lpwg, literally, Ilistory ofthe Goorgians ). For
the critic.al edition o f the text, see Abuladze 1953, repr: as K'art'lis c:mvreba 1998, ,~2. Jt,va.s
copied bet,,..-een 1274 and 13u (Thomson 1996, x.1). In 1nost cases, the Am1enian adapt.a
lion dosely follows the Gt'Orgian original. ll should be noted that Thomson's Rewriti11g
Caucasian J1istory provides translations of both the rnedicva l Georgian and Arn1cnian
variants.. The Arn1enian adaptor explicitly equates Nimrod v.rith Si>J an<l Kronos
(Abuladze 1!)53, 159: Thomson 1996, 180). This tradition may be traced to the eightb-
cx,nu,.ry Movscs Xorenac'~ I fistory of the Arme,1ia,,s, l.7 (Movses Xorenac'i !n8. 81). for
"''hon1 see also the-) follov,.ing note. 'f'he irlentification of Nin1rod v.'lth Bel ,,....as routinely
accepted by subsequent Armenian authors, e.g., T'on1va Arcn1ni 1985, (.2 (83--7) and
\'ovhunnes Drasxnnakertc'i 1987, ll.1 (68). For another tradition oonJh!<.:tiJlg Nimrod
and Caucasia, in this case regarding lands. in v.ha, is now Azerbaijan, sec n. 81 be.lo"'-
THE (;EOR(; I AN N I MROD l93

and staged a rebellion against the despot. This is a great irony because con-
temporaries-who repeated traditions which ultimately derive from Philo
and Josephus. and which also are featured in the eighth-century History of
tlzeArmenians by Movses Xorenac'i and the anonymous Primary History of the
Arme11ia11s20 -frequently depicted Nimrod as a rebe l against God. Nimrod
assembled his giants and troops and marched to Adarbadagan (cf. Azerbaijan)
in southeastern Caucasia from where he launched an offensive against the
Caucasian eponyms. All sixty of Nimrod's giants were slain in the initial skir-
mish. The embittered Nimrod advanced against the brothers, engaging them
at Mt. Mas is. In an epic confrontation, Hayk bested Nimrod with an arrow that
"struck Nimrod's chest. [went] through [his J plate of bronze, and came out
behind" (.},j<" aJ;JM~b 6"3iMMmouuo, 'lJOOOMb '113~0 M3o~obuo, ~o
306"03~M 'll-.:JM3om ). 21
Hayk subsequently declared himself "king" (me!J'e, a3'l33). an act that
according to 71ze Life ofthe Kings inaugurated indigenous kingship in Caucasia.
Although they basked in the glory of their colossal victory, the Caucasian
1"'argamosiamzi (mol",3oaMuoo660),22 the progeny ofTogarmah, feared Nimrod's
descendants would return to exact vengeance.23 Their suspicions were well
founded. Under the rule of the giant Ap'ridon "the Iranians, the descendants
of Nimrod, ga ined strength in the East'' (bM~M ao3Mom306 306"d~o31",~3l,
UJoMU6o ao3M atob o~aMuo3~om306", 6"om3b360 6"3iMMmou60). His general

20 Movses Xorenac'i ,978, l.7 and 1.,0-u (81 and 85-8). claims th,H Nimrod-i.e., Bel-and
~layk, the eponyn1ou..<t ancescor of the Arn1enians, \\l'ere conte1nporarie.1,.. Ac l.10 the histo
ria.n details Hayk's rebeUion against Bel and the colossal struggle betv,een the tlvo, \\hich
ended in Silt's death. h should be emphasized tha1Xoren11c'i does not mention K'art'los
or the ocher Caucasian cponyms. Xorcnac'i and t he Georgian author of 11,e l.iJe of th<!
Kings seen1 to he cirav{ing upon a co1n 1non source/tradition; there is no evidence of direct
trans1nission fron1 the former to the latter. The earlier Primary 1-/istory ofAr,nenia (trans.
Tho1nson, i11 tLn appendix co fi..1ovsis Xorenac'i 1978, 358) i\lso repotlS lhe clash bet\>Jeen
Hayk and Bel. Once again, K'art'los and the other brothers are not specified .
21 The life ofthe Kings, in K'art'lis c'xovreba 1955-59, i:7.,: Thomson 1996, 8.
~:: The tradition identifying the Arn1enians as deS(...-etlda nts of Togarmah {T'orgonl,
fi>npqnil) is an old one. h is found, e.g., in 1hc fift h-century histories of Agat'angdos
(Agat'angelos 1976, cap. 16 ["this race of T'orgom"I) an<l in the Epic Hi.,tories often mis
attributed to P'a1Astos Buzand (Epic flb,tories 198g, preliminary state,nent, Ul.x.ili ("the
realm ofT'orgom"J, 1111J V.}(X)<. [""the house of T'orgomJ). Movs~s Xorenac'i 1978, l.5, 9-10,
12 (74, 84- 6, 92) concurs. The anonymous l'rimary History ofArmenia (Movses Xorenac'i
1978, 358) specifies Japheth. Kori\VO, ho\\ever. describes the Annenjans as the ..sons of
1\Sket1az": \lurk' 1\1aSloc'i 1981, cap. 1. For Askenuz, see Terhul, 2001-2, 116, n. 47.
23 I.e., Th.cl.({e oftire Kill[/S, in K'art'lis c'.mvreba ,955- 59, 1:10.
194

~~ .,~ .
r,:f),~17..t, d'_~,, / l:-"""'.?. tie ,,,,, ,,,.,h),I
7th
/J?Jet,; ,,t;.4.
. ,;(,,./ ,~,/4,/,/ ~ft.,vr.J ,.fi,1//,-,1 1,y,;,I;,~ /m::J'*~.,.

FIGURE I Platefrom the 1821 English tra11s/ation ofMik'ayel C'amc"yanc"s History


of Armenia (Patmut'iwn Hayoc', '~wu,tfnq~~L\J ZwJng), origi11a/ly
published i11 Vienna, ,7X,- 86. "Strctcl1cd on the9row1d, the vanquishU
8elus die.t And gallant flaicus cfai,ns the victor's pri:.ef'.
'l'H E GEORG I A N N l~1 ROJ) 195

Arda mi came to K'art'li [i.e. eastern Georgia] and destroyed all the cities and
fortresses ofK'art'li" (aM30~, j,<"im~,~ ~., cl::,a-;:ib"'16, lJM3:Jc:?6o j,~,j6o ~.,
oob::,60 ;J,<"im~ob,60). 24 Ap'ridon (Faridun) and Ardami (Ardavan) are cen-
tral characters in the Iranian epic as preserved in Ferdosi's Sah-ntime. 25 Their
inclusion here is an indication of Caucasia's long-standing membership in the
Iranian Commonwealth.
The lr,rnian imperial dynasty, the House of Nimrod- the Nebrot'ianni
(6::,MIMmo,660), quickly asserted its dominance over eastern Georgia. But the
tide was reversed when Alexand er the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid
Empire emboldened peoples living along the periphery of Iran to assert their
sovereignty. The L[fe of the Kin9s reports the establishment of indigenous
Georgian kingship in the early Hellenistic period by a certain P'arnavaz (reg.
299-234 llCE), whose mother is identified as an Iranian from lsfahan.26 When
P'arnavaz's son and successo r Saunnag (reg. 234-159 BCE) failed to produce
a male heil; he adopted Mirvan (reg. 159-109 BCE), an Iranian (i.e., Parthian)
prince with the blood of Nimrod flowing through his veins. In due course
Mirvan was enthroned as the third king of the K'art'vclians. 27 In fact, from the
first king P'arnavai to the end of late antiquity, eastern Georgia's monarchs-
imagi ned and real-had intimate biological conn ections to t he ruling elite of
Ir,111. Th.e Life of the Kin9s even alleges that the first king of eastern Georgia
to embrace Christianity, Mirian Ill (reg. 284-361), was a son of the Sasanian
Great King "K'asre," i.e., Khusrau.28 This asse rtion is a meticulously constructed
exaggeration: in reality Mirian established an acculturated K'art'velian branch
of the Parthian Mihranid house known locally as the Chosroids (Xosroianni
(bMli<"iMo.>660 ]/Xuasroanni (b-;:i,li<"iM.>660]). However, these Mihranids had

24 The Life ofthe Klngs. in K'art'lis c'xovreba 1955-59, 1:1223-24 and 13G-1: Thomson 1996, 16.
25 See Rapp 2009. For the lrano-Caocasian nexus, soo no"' Rapp 1:014.
2(i 11,e Life ofthe Ki119s, in K'art'li$ c'xovrcba 1955- 59, i:2019 Whereas there is every reason to
believe that eastern Georgian kingship ,vas established in early Hellenjstic ti1nes, many o f
the details supplied by Tlte Life ofthe Kings are legendary.
27 11,e Life ofthe Ki119s, in K'art'lisc'.<ovreba 1955- 59, 1:27- S.
28 The l{fe o.f the Kings, in K'art'lis c:..:ovreba 1955-59, 1:64-7. ln merlieval Georgian historiog
raphy, "Khusr-Ju"' is often used as a generic naine for the Iranian Great King in lnuch the
stune ,vay that caesar,vas used for the Ro1nan and Byz.antinc enlperor. The Sasa nian kings
of kings during Mirian's reign were Bahnim II (reg 274- 293), Bahriim Ill (reg. 293), Narseh
(reg. 293-302), Hormizd 11 (reg. 302-309), and Shaprir 11 (reg. 309-379). Khusrau (Xusro)
I ruled nearly t,\10 centuries laler(reg. 531--579). MirWn's ntune is son1etirnes .rendered in
Old Georgian as Mihran and Mircan.
196 KAPP

intermarried with the Sasanians. 29 Despite the close ties to Iran, positive asso-
ciations with Nimrod were shunned.
This negative tradition contrasts with the most substantial reference to
Nimrod in medieval Georgian literature, which is contained within another
ca. 800 component of K'art'lis c'xovreba: the anonymous Life of Vaxtan,q
Gor,qasa[i.30 This narrative is devoted to King Vaxtang I (reg. 447-522),3 1 the
most renowned member of the Chosroid house. Uze Lifeqf Vaxtan,q is the first
work of Georgian historiography to focus narrowly on a particular ruler. Its
author adapted this approach from hagiographical models, which tended to
concentrate on a holy man or woman . The text's overall function is to estab-
lish Vaxtang's unique ,md unsurpassed legitimacy. As a late antique king
governing in the Christian Near East, it is hardly surprising that the anony-
mous historian associates Vaxtang with the Roman{Byzantine Empire and
especially its emperor, who claimed a unique and privileged status over all
Christendom. What is often not appreciated, however, is that Vaxtang's royal
authority is repeatedly described in terms that arc remarkably consistent
witl1 those applied by the Sasanian court. The anonymous historian presents
him as a Christian king whose sacred loyalties lie with the Christian God.
Yet Vaxta ng was simultaneo11sly made to be a hero-king in the Sasanian sense
and not a monarch in accordance with the Roma no-Byzantine Eusebian theo-
iy.32 Possessing xwarrah (di.debay, ~o~;Jb,.o., "greatness, glory"),33 the divinely-
bestowed radiance enshrouding legitimate Iranian monarchs, Vaxtang is
unfailingly depicted asa hero" (qmiri, 03o<"io) and a "giant" (qoliat'i, 0M~o>o,o).
As an Iranian-like ruler he commanded a corps of mighty champions,
bumberazis (~;:,a~a<">,t6o). But as hero-king he was made to eclipse them

2.9 Sanadze 2001 has argued that l\'lirians father. Rev, ,vas th~ grandson of the Sasanian fireat
KingShap(tr I (reg. 240-270).
30 This text is the first and core con)poneni of the. hybrid V1. ork kn01A'll <s C'xorcbay va.:<
1

tang 90~9<L~/isa (obcmo1>.>" 3,b(!l.163 0 M<'>0,~ok), tradit ionaJJy credited to Juanser


Juan.Serian L
31 There is cortsiden,ble disagreerneot .t1bout the precise regnal dates of Georgian kings and
princes before Bagratid , irnes. ( have given precedence to the dates established in the
ntunerous v~orks hy Cyril 1'oun1anoff. See "-~peciallyToumanoff 1990 an<l Toun1nnoff 1969.
3z Thus, eastern Georgia, along \o\ith its Arrnenian, Caucasian Albanian. and Northern
Cc1ucnsit1n neighbors, .::onstiu1ted the 11orth\\1estern corner of tJ1e pre-lshunjc Iranian
Con1n1on\\ea1th. for Annenia, see, e.g., Garsciian 1985 and Russell 2004. See also
Green,vood 2002. For Northern Caucasia, see Colarusso 2002,,
33 Unlike Classical t\rnlenian, 1ned ieval Georgian does not seen'l to hnve appropriatal the
Iranian \,ord :nv(lrrah directly. For J\rn1cni,1n p'afk' ( r/iwnp), sec Epic flistories 198!), 552.
THE GEORG IAN N IMR ()J) 197

all, behaving as a virtual bwnberazi of bumberazis. 34 The Christian Chosroid


monarchs of eastern Georgia thus ushered in a new age that witnessed the
creative synthesis of Iranian-like kingship and the Christian faith.35
The Life of Vaxtang's first allusion to Nimrod occurs when the king was a
teenager.36 In reaction to a raid by the Alans (Ovsis)S 7 and to lingering con-
cerns about Iranian despotism, Vaxtang made preparations for wai and assem-
bled his nobles in the royal city of Mc'xet'a, reassuring them of his fitness to
rule. The spaspetijuanser praised Vaxtang and the ChristiaJ1 God, describing
his master as "the best of all the kings of K'art'li and superior to your fathers,
in all respects perfect, like unto the hero Nimrod .. : (-;:i3:x,Moauo 3"'3:Jc:.''~
a:J<!l:JOl> .:J~<">mc::,,obm~ ~~ a,a,m, '11a6m~ -;J'!JMMuo, 3"'3c:,>om,33 1><">-;:ic::,,o,
a1>3,3l>o 6ao<">Mm 33o<'iob . ..}.38 As we shall see, such affirmative assessments
of Nimrod were not uncommon elsewhere in the Near East, especially beyond
the direct political reach of Rome/Byzantium.
The most elaborate Georgian allusion to Nimrod is found in the account
detailing Vaxtang's campaign in Roman Anatolia.39 A border dispute,
Constantinople's perceived disrespect for the eastern Georgian crown, and
Sasanian encouragements prompted Vaxtang to lead K'art'velian, Iranian.
and A,menian troops into Roman territo,y. Although the king acknowledged
that "we [K'art'velians] share in the religion of the Greeks, confess ing Christ
who is the true God of all" (~, 11-;:ia6'o, 3,<'im 1>:x,;:ic::,,u, 'ha~, 03<'idj>m,b
,~au,<'i3oac::,, j<'iol>!!Jal>~. MM3Jc::,, ~MU ~aa<"imo 3acl3,<'io!!Jo 1raac::,,m,),40
this act nevertheless constituted an assault upon another Christian polity.
Complicating matters, Vaxtang's non-Georgian wai-riors "slew whatever minis-
ters of the church they found; but King Vaxtang ordered the Armenian troops
and all the Iranians not to slay ai1yone from among the clergy, but to take them
p,isoner" (bMC::,,M l,j;<",l,60 MM3ac::,, JjM3:J~au :JJC::,,:JUOo1 311>;:i<'im,, ~.,J.
Jc::,,ao~au; bMC::,,M 3,b!!J,63 aa'!laa>G ~o6M 1,j,>a,,) UM3bomol>,m, ~, 1ra-
3c::,,m, l,j,<",l,a,;, M>Ol~ ,<'i,301> .lJc::,,30~36 aMval>am,3,6'1>, .. .}.41

34 fo r this Iranian-like imagery, see: Rapp 2003, 153-6 and 204- 13; Rapp 2-001: and Rapp 2009.
35 Late r the Georgian Bagratids deliberately abandoned the Iranian bappings of their pre-
decessors and orient~d lheir 1nodels of authority und elitea11<l Christ kin t."\tlture tov.a.rds
BY7.anthu11 and, in the process, clai1ned descent fron1 the King-Prophet David.
36 See the lexicon ed ited by Sa1jve lndze. Sarjveladze, and Xafomia 1986, 2:209, "Nebrot'L'
37 For the Ovsjs/1\lans, see Alemany 2006 and Alen1any 2000.
38 711e Life ()j lf,xt<mg, in K'ort'lis c'x()vrcba 1955-59, ,:148ui_19: Thomson 1996, 164- I lcrc,
Tho1nson rend~rs 9u1iri {330<'>0) as "giant.. ;,vhereas I prefer .,hero.*
3!) See also Rapp 2003, 218-22 and Martin-Hisard 1983, 216 and 236.
40 The Life ofVa:,tang, ln K'ari'lis c~ovreba.1955-59, 1:i601G-17 ; 'fhomson 1996, 175.
41 -n,e Lift oJVaxta119. in K'art'lis c'.<ovrcbo 1955- 59, i:16o7 _ 9 ; Thomson 1996, 175.
198 KAPP

At this pivotal moment Vaxtang addressed his troops. First, he observed


that when the first Christian K'art'velian king Mirian had faced a similar pre-
dicament, the Iranians and eastern Georgians had been vanquished by the
Romans. Vaxtang next drew attention to miracles associated with the fourth-
century Christian Roman emperors Constantine the Greatandjo,~an, the suc-
cessor of Julian the Apostate. The allusion to Jo,~an sets up a later passage in
which, as Michel van Esbroeck has 1ightly noted, \/axtang is granted "the right
to do penance and to rule over Georgia, exactly as Jovian did after Julian .. !'42
Then, having mentioned the conversion of the Armenian king Trdat, Vaxtang
is made to speak about Nimrod:

bM~M O>J;:J:J6, aJ'J~<'>6M J><'>m~ob.:.6M, 6.:.m;ib36M aa~am.:. J><'>-


0>~0b,m.:.6M, MMaa~6o ~~ab am.:.3<'>MO>b.:. '15a~" ~,~306ao;::i~ b,Mm
fi;::ia6, aa~am>3.>6, MMaa~6o 3><'>m 6,mab360 6a~MO> 3ao<">ob60,
MMaa~o ;::i'Qo6.><">ab :raa~m, aa~am.:. 3.:.aMfi6~.> a;::iaa.>6,b, '15a~"
MMaa~o ~Mab.:. d.>~om, 3om<><'>o<> O>OJ>6b, aMoa3<>6a~>, J>6'.)G>Mm>
~, ;l;::i<'>ooJO>> ;l;::iaomo o~aMMO~>. <">,aam;::i a'l5Ma 3,6~0~6.> d,~o
aobo, MMaa~ ~,aaM<">llo~6ab BM3a~6o 6.:.mal360 6M;ib6o, 3o~<">aa-
~ob d:J;:Jd~M Ja6.:.~ J>~>JO, t'>Ma~ob.:. ,fa.:.~ claja6.:. J3> MJ<'>>~,
~.:, b.:.t'>obb.:.~ Jaob~o, ~.:, 3.><'>:JaMb aobb.:. aMoJaM~> >,l;:JMOO>> ~.:,
JO<'>om.:., bM~M J;:)~O J.:.<'>O>> ~.:, b.:.<'>J3a~m.:.6o O>J06mob.:. ~.:, '15;::i<'>-
a;::ib6ob.:.6o cla;Ja6,; <">,3am;::i a,mob.> 6,m~ob,3,6 aa<'> cla;::id~ao~,
~,o6a~a"~ ~.1aa. ~., ;Ja6, a,b clo6, 6>d<">aoo ~" JMdJ:JOO, MMaa~
aa<"> cl;ib,d~aoa~ ,<">b 3.,3M6a"~ m;f;::ia6~,. aM;::i3M6aoa~ ,<">b
O>JO>Ma;:J~Ob.> \,o~d6a 3obo . . .

You, O inhabitants of K'art'Ii,4 3 kin to the kings of K'mi'li, today stand


in the rank of mt'avari [i.e., p1ince] [appointed] by us kings who are
descended from the hero Nimrod, who before all [other] kings became
renowned on the Earth. With his strength he led a lion as if it were a kid;
on foot he captured wild asses and gazelles. For his strength became so
great that all the descendants of Noah obeyed him, so tliat he was able to
build a city in which he used gold for the stones and silver for the bases.
He surrounded it with bricks and mo1ta1~ the tops of the gates and win-
dows he fashioned from rubies and emeralds, from whose light the night

42 van Esbroeck 1989, 264- 5.


,13 The Armenian adaptation reads"And you inhabitants of Georgia (Le., K'art'lil and ]ran .. :
(1\bu.li1dre J953, 156). The 1\r1nenian historian \far<lan Are\\elCj ad11pte<l P<lt,nui'bvn
l>roc"s account of Nimrod and the 'lower (Thomson 1989. 131, 147).
THI: <1EOR(;IAN NIMR()O 199

cou ld not become dark. Within it he built pa laces and pavilions which it
is impossible for us to conceive, and the skill which he devoted to each
detail is incomprehensib le ...44

The imagined Vaxtang also associated Nimrod with the building of the Tower
of Babel:

... <'\M3:Jc:::'0 3030> a,U 30~<'\33~U >~3a<'\o U>3o1 ~~OU> U>3>c:::>U>,


<'\M3:Jc:::'0 :JJ36a .>~l,,,3>c:::>>~ b,<'\obb.>~ 'l\~';'.)~:)01> '113~>. ~> ;)6:JM,
<'\,01.> .>~30~3U Q>~ ~,> 0boc:::'6:JU aw,'l)60 QOl,.,60. bMc:::'M 3001.><'\Q.>
3.>63c:::>M 1,.,'11~3.><'\o .1,3<'\o1,., ~ cla30~.> 1,.,'11~3.><'\1,., 3.><'\UJ-;:Jc:::>->301,b,
33<'\~,<'\., -;:idc:::>a~au 1>,;Jaa~ aM;Jaa~6o, <'\,aam-;:i ~,~6aoM~., M;j<'\M ~.,
3:JQbc:::'o; <'\.>3301-;:i 3-;:i60013.>3M 30~3aa .><'\U J:Jc:::'aVO'lJ;)O.> Q:JQ bc:::'o1,,,
3ma<'\o1,,, 3oU, <'\M3;)c:::'0 ;)3'haooU 3dc:::>>'1J<'\O.>~ 1,,,33"<'\MU.> JQ330U.>3.>6.
~.> 3u3.> 3-;:i6oo, 1,,>'l\<'\.> b.>30 '11J~O>.> 3J6~o,,> 'llaooU.>O>.>, <'\M3c:::'oU.>3.>6
'113l>c:::>03l, .>~.>3o.>66o. ~., o;J36.> 8""33c:::'0 J"OO O>JO>M 6,m3b.>3ocn-;:i<'\cn
a30tr.'.J3c:::' (1)J01M 36.>1,,>, ~.) a<'\~.><'\.> 3<'\f\~31, -;:i<'\cno;:i<",cn.>U ~<',1,,,
aMtr.:JUOb cn:suob,1,,, ~., v.><'\30~31>.
hMc:::>M 630<'\MmU 36001.> 1,,3,<'\1,-;:ic:::>om, <'\;j-;:i,: a3 3,<'\ 3o;J.>3c:::> .>633 -
c:::>M'llo, <'\Maac:::>o ~.>~306ao-;:ic:::> 3,<'\ ~a<'\mo1,., 303<'\ am,J<'\MO>1,., '113~,
.>~3Mb3c:::'ol,.,1,,,, 3.>633~ ;J.>c:::>.>;Jom 3.>3om, <'\.>33m-;:i ~33<'\mo }'13.><'\.>3U
;J.>c:::>.>;Jb 3.>3.>U 30~<'\3 3.>3Mfio630.>~3~3 1,.,3Mmbo1,.,, <'\M33c:::>o-3u3
~3"1, a,bc:::>M03c:::>"~ 6,'1136301,, a,3,1, '11361,,, <'\M33c:::'1,., '11M<'\o1, .,<",1,
am, 31>3, <'\Mac:::'ou,3,6 .,~aM3>c:::>U 3'113 ~., 3.>3M3c:::>36 301'3,6 M<'\60
a~o6.><'\a6o: 6oc:::'M1,o ~,> ~3M60. <'\.>3301-;:i 33M6U.> 3.>3M.>J-;:JU U.>3Mmbom
b3 l>-;:ic:::>63c:::>o ~ 01.>30, <'\Maac:::>o '1133'11,33001, 3-;:i'11J1,.,, "V v .><'\33~
cl36~.>. ~ ~,>Jl\3~ M<'\a33 3~06.><'\30,> dM<'\oU, 3:J'lJ<'\.>(!> 1,,> ~.) '.IG0c:::'.>U.>,
~., 3,6-;:i6a3a6 6.>01ab360 31'3, 3om,<'\o, 306 06:JOMl>, <'\,3am-;:i v.><'\-;:i -
3c:::>a6o,6 ';'.)'1J"c:::'1,.,, hMc:::>M a3'13MO> '11a6o a3'13M~3l, 8""3ac:::>m> 'ha~
aa'1J301>, .><'\, aa~ tJ>30>> -;:)J>b.>bJb;)c:::'Ol> 3M3o~al, 33';'.)'13;) QOU>, <'\M3-
c:::'01,., cla6 36a?,_,3l, boc:::>3> 3oUo, ;)<'\U.> '11M<'\o1, d3J<'\>obl,.,; '110'113,6
ao1,a,6 306.>;J,<'\36ab 333M6o 1,.,'1Jc:::'O1,,60, 33'13360 ~"-;:J03M0~3l, a3'13M-
?,.,1,,> ~> 3do30~36 U03c:::>> h>J;)U>. 3ado6 30boc:::'M1, cl36 jot'\1,,, do6.> ~.>
30Jb6ab ~a3<'\ma,6."

[F]inally he raised it up to a height of three days' jo urney; he constructed


steps in the walls by which t() ascend, since he wished to go up to the
sky and see the inhabitants of Heaven. But when he had gone through

44 11,c Life oJVa:da119. in K'nrt'lis c'xomba 1955- 59, 0:161 10 - 16121; Thomson 1996, 1n,
200 RAPP

the 1-one of the air and had entered the zone of the sta rs, the builders
were no longer a ble to build because the gold and silver melted. For in
those regions the force of the fire of the ether is such t hat it flames from
the powerful turning of the fi rmament. He heard there the conversa-
tion of the seven companies of Heaven, of which the sons of Adam were
te1Tified. Each man with his own family became a speaker of his own
language; no more did they mutually comprehend their neighbor's
speech, so they departed.
Then he said to Nimrod in the Persian la nguage: r am the angel
Michael, who has been appointed by God over the principality of the
East. Depart from this city, because God will hide this city until the mani-
festation of paradise, which is located close to this building of yours.
Between them is this mountain, from which rises the Sun and from which
flow out two rivers, the Nile and the Gihon. For the Gihon brings out of
paradise a scented tree and an herb which blends with musk. Now go
hence and dwell between the two rivers, Euphrates and Jila; let these
kinsmen (go] as each may wish, because they arc sent by the Lord. Your
kingdom will rule over all kings. But in the last ti mes will come the ruler
of Heaven, whom you wish to see, among a despised people. Fear of him
will dispel the delights of the world; kings will abandon their kingdoms
and seek poverty. Then God will see you in distress and save you."4 5

45 The Life of 10.xum.9, in K'art'lis c'xovrcl>a 1955- 59. i:16121 - 16220: Thomson 1996. 177- 9.
The medjeval .t\rmeninn adaptation, Pahnut'ilvn Vra c', offers a slightly diA"erent account:
'" . . . At the appropriate time your Lord will come to you in humillty: he will ue among
peoples "'ho rnock and rave, and h1:ued by the1n he ,-. ill die. He ,,viii co1nc and find you in
1

I-te ll, in 'Tartaros, and ,viii drav. you thf'..nce. Rising up from <leath, he ,viii build tOr you a
to,ver and stainvay leading up to God.' ~laving sajd thjs, he cast around then1 the odor of
paradise: they inhaled, lost their senses, and were consoled. They forgot their plans a nd
the languages they had kno""' previously- seven tongues- and they adopted fo reign
lan guages according to their number" (/l UJtumzw;; <fw<fni QWJ wn J./;q St11& ,i/;/l /l
fun(m111h. bt qmwl1/> /> dt2 w1u1wlm1Jwg bt l1wmwl!ft <f1111nlJ1111ng. u,
/> fmgwl,t
wu,/;guwi dbnwl1/1. 11, (JWJ qmwut qJ.11q /> u"t2 qdnfung f, SwpU1Wf!nC1!1. 11, hwfJt,
qJ.t;q w!Ju1/1. bt 1w111ugl1w1 /1 uwhn,wfJt' 2/1ut ,it;q w2u1w11w(J In uw1J11m/uu1
t1wl1t1n1 wn Uumnuuo: l:;1 qwJu wuwgt.w( tw111J q&npw,p /> lll1mn1 fl/lW/utn/l&.
/;1 w11pbgw[1, qtfw)l /;gwC, /11 1f/u/wwp/;gwC, bt 1fnnwgwu q/11nph111pqu In q1bqnw.
qn11 q/1utt/1u 1wnw211 Lw,,a!, 1Lqmu. bt w1tf,1l ww1w11 1bqmu l]Uut (<}[n]wJ
/lt11bw&g:), Abuladze lfJ53, 1588_22:Thomson 1996, 179. Thomson (179, n. 66), notes "The
to,ver and stainvay lending to heaven are in1portant themes in the Teachbtg [ofGregory]."
for v.1hich sec Thon1son 1970.
THE (;f;QRC, IAN NIMR()O 201

Vaxtang then conveyed the confusion of languages:

~j ~>-;:i6aaali 3""3:J~Olj j,~,;Jo ~j v>l'>3o~ali. ~j ~>-;:i6a36, .lo6~-;:i-


M>~ atl",, b3a~60 .lo6~MJO>1,, lio6~o-lio6~a0)1,, JMMa6o-JMMali, ~Jl'>-
da66o-li,~aMd6aoi li, ,3 ~, a,3-;:i3-a,3-;:i3aoili, 1>3,1",li6o-li.3.>Mliaoili;
bM~M 30M3J~O a6, >U-;:JMJ~Mo ow,, ~ j alia >Mo.>6 cl-_s~o a6,6o,
MMaa~6o 6a~MMOlOU.>a~a 'ls1",,b3o~ali.

So they all left the city and depaned. And he left the speakers of Indian
to India, the Sinds to Sindet'i, the Romans to Rome, the Greeks to Greece,
Ag and Magug [i.e., Gog and Magog] to Maguget'i, the Iranians to Iran.
Now the first language was Assyrian, and these were the seven languages
which were spoken before [the time ofl Nimrod.46

Finally, the imagined Vaxtang alluded to the source of this tradition about
Ninuod:

,aouo,)1, aM3ooib.>M, MMaa~ a,a,oi, f,-;:ia6oi, ~>'l}>MJ~"~ a3aMj


vo360 alia, bM~M aa c1-;:ic::,a,6 1,,~aMoiMa.>6 a,od-;:i~, oi;Ja,~ ,aoul,,,
,aou aoaM claova6,1",, a,a,a,6 fi-;:ia6a,6 aoMo.>6 bb.>MJ" ;]1",o'li6a'lio
6o6M1i aoaM.
,6-;:i >M.> jMoli(!>ali aMli~3,a~a aoo~a~~ali a,a,60 11-;:ia66o b>MJb,
~j a-;:i6ooi3,6 aM-;:J~-;:JM~Ol, alia M> ~Jl'>da66o ao~a,Moi ~Md3,6,6?
~j a,6 obo~, 6a~MMOl :1GM:1GMbJ0>U> clo6, ~ j oJ'li6,: 030 >MU
JOMJJi:::'0 8M3J~Olj aa'llJ'' ~j ~,6oa~o> av ,aa~o1,, 3ooi>Maa~
ao;J,a~ ~,~306a~-;:i~ ,I'>1i d,~,~ 1,3,1",lioi, .. ."

Therefore I tell you that our fathers kept this book hidden. But divine
zeal gave me the strength to relate this, whereby also our father Mirian
accepted the Gospel of Christ through Nino. Did not our fathers receive
tribute up to the coming of Christ'? But from then on we have become
weak, and behold the Greeks wage war against [us]. He [Christ] saw
Nimrod in Hell and saved him. He is the first of all kings; and Daniel also
bears witness that Michael was appointed to suppo1t the Iranians .. .47

In this way, the imagined Vaxtang asserted that he and his predecessors had in
their possession a secret text about Nimrod.

46 The Life of Va:'Ctan9. in K'art'/is c'xovreba 1955-59, 1:i6z21-1632; Thontson 1996.179.


47 '111c Life of Vaxtai1r1. in K,u1'/is c'xovn,l>n 1955- 59, i,632 _ 9 ; Thomson 1996, 179.
202 RAPP

The last substantial reference to Nimrod in early Georgian literature occurs


in The Life of Nino, an anonymous hagiographical work of the ninth or tenth
century. This vita has co me dov111 to us in multiple recensions that are closely
related: one is embedded in K'art'lis c'xovreba and the others are transmitted
in manuscripts containing the medieval hagiographical corpus Mok'c'evay
k'art'Ll.~ay. literally "The Conversion of K'art'li."48 The Life of Nino features an
extended account of the fourth-century conversion of the eastern Georgian
king Mirian which came to pass through the intercession of a foreign woman
named Ni.no. Like the related life of Vaxtang, K'art'lis c'.wvreba.'s recension of
Nino's vita reports the existence of a text about Nimrod in the possession of
the easte rn Georgian kings. But here the author offers a few additional details:

(!1> vo3600, MM3Jt::?O JjM6(!1, aot<\o,6 aa'llak 6JOMMOlo1>o, (!1> a,1,0,


vo36l,., clo6, JMJ> VJMOt::?O a1>t<\am: .,~cla6ao,1,, a,1, 2,M~t::?ol,.,1,,
J3, OIJM tao om 6:JOMMOlO1, 3o3,t<\m, MMa:Jt::?O a68""!:!1,: "3a J>M
3oj,~. MM3:Jt::?O ~>(!1306:io-;:Jt::? J>M ~at<\mo1 ao;t, am,3MM~1,,
ta~> ,~3MU>Jt::?ob,b,; 3,63:i~ d>t::?>jom a,3om, t<\,aam';'.J ~a:JMOlO
,}'l3>M>3b j~,jb, a,3,1,, bMt::?M ';'.JJ-;:J>6,bJb:Jt::?"'> tJ>am, 3MJ0(!1:Jb
aa';'.J'B:J 030 ook, MMat::?ok-030 cla6 36~31, bot::?3> JMk dMMOU
d:J-;:JM>o bu,. clocla,6 3oua,6 3,6,j,t<\36ab 3aaM60 liM<lJt::?Ol,.,60; aa'lla6o
(!1>-;:J6JM0(!1:J6 3J'lJM~1,3 (!1> JdO:J0(!1J6 1,oot::?>b>JJ1,>; a,6 3obot::?Ml,
itot<\l,., do6, ~> o>Jl,6:Jl, dJ6." 3,clo6 3';'.Jt::?Obb3, IJM 3:J'lJ:J3>6 3oM-
o>6, t<\,3:JOl';'.J d-;:Jat::?60 vo3660 (!1> ,b,t::?60 av,3:JOM(!1:J1, (!1> 6J?>MMmol,
vo3600> (!136JOOJ0(!1>, (!1> 7laaj36, 1>-;:JMJOt::?O jt<\o1>(!)a1> 1,:;'G-;:Jt::?01,,.

King Mirian possessed The Book <if'Nimrod,4 9 and in that book he found
written as follows: "At the building of the tower there came a voice from
Heaven to Nimrod, which said: '1 am Michael, who have been cha rged
by God with the principality of the East Depart from this city, because
God protects this city. But in the last time will come the ruler of Heaven,
whom you wish to see [and who] is despised among the people. Fear of

48 11Mdoa3"' ;J.,<'>m~oli.,.o. For a review of the rccensions and pertinent scholarly litcrncurc,
see Rapp an<l Crego 2006; sec'! also Alexitize 2002i and Lerner 2004. For the "ne,v~ recen
sions ( N/Sin. 48 and N/Sin. 50) discove red at St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt Sinai after
n fire in the n1id197os, see co111 2005, 408-9 and 4.10-n.
49 1'he Armenian arlapt.ation of K'art'lis c'xo1rr:ba rea<ls: ..i\n<l 1'.1irian possesserl a hook
which related the history of the race o f Nimrod [Nebrot'] and of the building of K'alan"
( t,, Ut,pt,wfJ ntflr.p qt,pn ,rt,. llfl U/Wlmftp JlUflWQII wqq/1!1 1,t,ppn(/pWJ UL
2J>lw1p,liwfll1 P.wqwflliwJ). Abuladzc 1953, 10111 _13; Thomson 1996, 115.
'l' H CitORG I J-\ N N l ~t l't ()D 203

him will disp el t he delights of the world. Kings will abandon their king-
doms and seek poverty. 1-fe will look on you in you r distress, and save
you ." Then Ki ng Mirian understood that the old and new books bore wit-
ness and The Book ofNimrod confirmed it. 1-fe was possessed with a desire
for the religion of Christ. But the secret enemy fought aga inst him and
prevented him from confessing Christ .. _so

This passage either repeats the earlier testimony of th e ca. 800 l.!fe of Vaxtanll
or shares with ita lost common sou rce.51 Rut owing to the similar phrasing, it is
extremely probable that the anonymous aut hor of The life ofNino was imme-
diate ly familiar with Vaxtang's royal biography. We must ask, however, whether
th e historian of The Life of Vaxtang himself concocted the Georgian trad it ion
about Nimrod or whether he appropriated or drew heavily upon an existi ng
indige nous one. Ultima tely, the fragm entary nature of the received manusc,ipt
tradition does not allow us to say anything concrete.
One thing is Clea,~ there exist two disti nctive tradit ions a bout Ni mrod in
early m edieval Georgian literature that arc preserved in separate texts. Both
sources were composed by anonymous authors at the end of the eighth/start
of the nint h centu ry. The fi rst, woven into the ca. 800 L,ife of the Kings, por-
trays Ni mrod as "the first king of the ent ire Ea rth." Accord ing to its author, the
eponymous a ncestors of the major Caucasian peoples, including 1-fayk and
K'art'los were Nimrod's contemporaries. This effectively inserts them into the
remote history of the Hebrew Bible. Moreover, mighty Nimrod and his legions
of giants are made to be the chief enemies of the Caucasians. Nimrod's demise
is presen ted by the ninth-century author as the catalyst for the establishment
of indigenous kingship in Caucasia: the Arm enian primogenitor Hayk "made
himself king over his brothers and over the oth er peoples neighboring the bor-
ders" (!!?> a,clo6 J>MU .ltr 030 Ol'_lUO aa'Oall? cla, m, 0>'_lUC1 'ball?> lib;:i -
>m>o> 6,mali, 3m, 'h:Jll?>, a, u~Ml>a~m, l,.,'bs::!J>MO>.> aoum,li, ).52 Accordi ng
to The Life of the Kin9s, K'art'velian kingshi p was not founded by K'art'los but
rather many generations later, following the conquest of Iran by Alexander

50 111e Life ofNino, in K'art'lis c'.w vreba 1955- 59. 1:10514_23; Thomson 1996, 114- 15.
51 The fe,v refe.rences to Ni1nro<l in Bagrati<l-e ra historiography of the n1edieval e poch
also hea rke n back io The Life of Vaxfcmg and The Life of the Kings. e.g., the thirteemh-
cenl ury fstoriani da ,,:;,na,ii Sarav<11t<ledt'ani, in K'<,. rt'fis c~tovrt b<1 1955-59, 2:3, 23- 4, 58,
and 76. Still later allusions co Nimrod ancl his building-of theTowerofBabel include Joane
Savt'eli, Abdul,nesiani, XJ.91 (in LolaSviJi 1978), and King 1"ei.n1uraz II (T'bnsariani 19651
zuo.).
52 71,e Life ofthe Ki119s, in K'art'lis c'.rovreba 1955- 59, 1:721 _ 22; Thomson 1996, 9.
204 RAPP

the Great, when P'arnavaz "became king over all K'a,t'li and Eguri" (aa'!la
o.Ja6, w,3a~u, ;j,Mm~u, ~, a3JMb ta~>).53 But P'arnavaz is reported
to have had an Iranian lineage and his royal authority, like his pre-Christian
companions in The L!/e ofthe Kings, is highly reminiscent of the later Sasanians.
Mirvan, the third K'art'velian monarch, was an Iranian and a Nimrodid.
The Life of the Kings alleges that Saurmag "brought from Iran a descendant
[literally "son"] of Nimrod ... and he adopted him as a son .. : (3,clo6 3Moa3,6,
U~>MU;JO>OO> cl30~0 6JOMMO>OUO ... ~, ~,030<'>, 030 cl30~,~---).54
While P'arnavaz, Saunnag, and Mirvan are historical figures, their represen-
tations in The l.!fe of the Kings are more mythical and legenda,y than histori-
cal. Yet the history of historiogTaphical li terature and the origin and intended
purpose of the Nimrod tradition divulge a great deal about Georgian attitudes
and values at the end oflate antiquity. In this way. the beginning of indigenous
Caucasian kingship was deliberately fused to the biblical Nimrod, giving east-
ern Georgia a direct link to remote biblical history.55 Nimrod is depicted not
simply as the first king upon the Earth but as an Iranian. The Achaemenid and
Sasanian 56 monarchs were deemed to he the descendants of Nimrod, and thus
the old tensions between Caucasia and Iran were traced back to the earliest
possible time.
The second Georgian tradition is preserved in The l,{fe ~{Vaxtan,9 Gorgasali.
Harkening back to his fleeting appearance in Genesis, Nimrod is portrayed as a
giant of extraordina,y strength. In accordance with the contemporaneous Ufe
~{the Kings, he was the world's first monarch, though here Nimrod is said to
have subj ected all of Noah's progeny to his authority. In this tradition Nimrod is
credited with erecting the Tower of Babel. The undertaking Slatted as an opu-
lent city made of precious metals and gems. Ninu-od desired to feast his eyes
on Heaven, and the city was raised to a height that was a three days' climb.
Standing on the summit Nimrod heard "the conversation of the seven compa-
nies of Heaven; and the languages of the world thereafter fell into a state of
confusion. No longer did all men and women speak "Assyrian" and the other

53 The Life of the Kings, in K'art'lis c'xovrebci 19-55-59, 1::!4r,-7; Thonlson 1996, 34. Eguri in<lt-
catcs the part of the \'l~tcn1 region of Egrisi along the Eguri River.
54 The L{/C ~fthe Kings, in K'art'lis c~Yovreba 1955-59, 1:27 16 -isi Thomson 1996, 39-40.
55 This is a conln1on oonvention in the oldest Georgian historiogra.phical and son1e hagio-
graphical texts. In addition to the links forged to Nimrod, Noah/Toganna h, and Alexander
the Great, 1'/u; Conversion qf KQrl'li <lirectly ties Christianization of easte.m Georgia to
Christ's Crucifixion.
56 The Arsaclds of Parthia seem to be excluded from this genealogy. Received Georgian his-
toriographical sources exhibit a pronounced antiParthian 1\rsacid bias.
TH (;ORG I A N N I M ROD 205

six languages that had preva iled before the building of the Tower. God Himself
then dispatched the Archangel Michael to instruct Nimrod to abandon his city
of gold and silver and instead to take up residence in Mesopotamia, between
the Euphrates and Jila Rivers. The archangel assured Nimrod that his kingdom
wou ld reign su preme over all other kingdoms, but Michael also foretold of the
ruler of Heaven appearing at the end of time among a despised people." The
tradition additionally relates how Christ had seen Nimrod in Hell and had
saved him. All of this, according to our early ninth-centu ry liistorian, was
recorded in a secret book possessed by the K'a1t'velian kings of old.
Here Nimrod's image is remarkably positive. While in this scheme all king-
ship cou ld ultimately be traced back to the biblical Nimrod, the monarchs of
eastern Georgia were endowed with a direct connection with Nimrod. But
whereas The L[fe of the Kings stresses that Caucasia's eponymous forefathers
had successfully liberated themselves from the tyrannical yoke of the first
monarch Nimrod and hence Iran, The Life of Vaxtnng represents K'att'velian
royal authority as a direct offshoot of the kingship es tablished by Nimrod the
Iranian. The Christian Vaxtang-or, at the very least, Vaxtang's ninth-century
historian-proudly flaunted the Nimrodid heritage of his family. 57 Eve n t he
building of the Tower is rendered in fairly positive terms,58 a lthough Nimrod's
yearning to see Heaven with his own eyes inadvertently resulted in the inepa-
rable linguistic division of humanity.
Exegetical, apoc1ypha l, and apocalyptic trad itions about Nimrod flourished
in the Byzantine Commonwealth and adjacent Christian communities in the
eighth and nind1 centuries,59 and d1is s urely fueled Georgian in terest in him.
But we must also wonder about local circumstances that contributed to the
elaboration of the Georgian Nimrod. In this regard, it should be remembered
that the most substantial Genrgim1 tradition about Nimrod is embedded in a
histo1iographical -and not an ecclesiastical-text.
Southern Ca ucasia was in a precarious politica l position in the eighth a nd
ninth centuries. The Armenian Arsakuni (Arsacid) dynasty had been dismantled

57 S..>e also Life ofVa.xta119, in K'art'lis c'XiJvreba 1955- 59. 1:181: 'l'homson 1996, 197- 8.
58 Nin1rods association with the Tov~~r of Babel is mentioned in a fe1Ar literary sources pro-
duced in the Bagratid period, e.g,: loane Savt'eli, Xl.91 {in Lolasvili 1978, Gio- 11). See also
The llistorics Md /Julogies ofthe Crowned, in K'art'lis c'>:ovrcl><, 1955-59, 2 :2 and 58~-r, and
C'axruxadze, XVJ.90 (in Lolasvili 1978, 581).
59 t\lthough The life oj.1Vino n1ay have been written as late as the te nth century. its allusion
to Nimrod derives from Georgian historiographical sources of the late eighth/early ninth
CClltl1ry.
206 HAPP

by the Sasanians back in 428,60 while royal autho,ity in the eastern Georgian
region of K'art'li limped through the sixth centu,y, finally meeting its end ca.
580.61 Just a few decades later, in the early seventh centu,y, hope was kindled
that K'art'velian political autonomy would be resuscitated. Heraclius's cam-
paign in Iran brought the emperor to eastern Georgia. As never before elite
K'art'velians-ecclesiastical, noble, and royal-comprehended the poten-
tial benefits of an alliance with Constantinople. Emboldened leaders of the
K'art'velian Church seized upon the situation to declare their ecclesiastical
autonomyancltheir confessiona l unity with the dyophysite Romano-Byzantine
Church.62 At the Third Council of Duin in 607/608 Armenian prelates excom-
municated the leaders of the eastern Georgian Church and a permanent
schism commenced. Tangible fruits stemming from the nascent all iance with
Byzantium were slow to materialize, however, in large measure because of the
Arab conquest of the second half of the seventh centu1y. Caucasian Annenia
and the greater part of eastern and centrnl Georgia were occupied by the Arabs.
The curtain finally fell on late antiquity.
From one end of pre-modern Eurasia to the othc1; moments of socio-
political tunnoil were not infrequently countered with bursts of intellectual
and cultural efflorescence. Thus, as the 1>rospects of restoring political auton-
omy remained dim, Georgian ecclesiastical cu lture prospered. The later eighth
century witnessed the unprecedented production of Georgian Bibles and the
writing, translation, adaptation, and copying of other Christian literature. The
litera1y revolution was not confined to the religious sphere. Between ca. 790
and the accession of the Bagrntid Asot I to the presiding principate in 813, tl1ree
Georgian historiographical works were composed: The Life ofthe K;ngs, The Life
of Vax.tang Gorgasa/;, and an untitled continuation of the latter by Ps.-Juanser
Juanscriani. These arc tl1c first known specimens of original Georgian histo-
riography. Collectively they constitute the "pre-Bagratid" phase of Georgian
historical literature. 1\vo of these pre-Bagratid texts-The Life of the K;n9s and
The Life <!f Vaxtang-contain the most substantial medieval Georgian refer-
ences to Nimrod.
The conjoining of existing oral traditions63 and newly fabricated ones into
coherent narratives about the origins and histo1y of Georgian dynastic author-
ity occurred at a time when local kingship had not existed for over a centmy.

60 Garsofan 1997, 92- 3.


Gt Toumanolh9G3, 378-82.
60 RaPf> "Dui11 111:
63 It is noc ilnpossible chat earlier \\rittcn craditions also existed.
THE GEORG IAN NIMROO 207

Both The l,ife of the Kings and The l.ife <!f Vaxtang advocate the necessity of
eastern Georgia being ruled by its own autonomous monarchy. These texts
sought to pave the way for the glorious return of a dynastic order by estab-
lishing its (allegedly) uninterrupted existence from early Hellenistic times and
throughout late antiquity.
It is worth repeating that the received memo1y of Nimrod was meant to
enhance the legitimacy of the prc-Bagratid Georgian kings. In his account of
th e ethnogenesis of the Georgian and otl1er prominent Caucasian peoples, the
anonymous author of The Life of the Kings portrayed Nimrod as the fiJst king
upon the Earth, founder of the Iranian kingship, and the chief adversary of the
ea rliest eponymous ancestors of the Caucasians. The inclusion of Nimrod thus
fixes the fable of Georgian origins in an ancient, Old Testament setting. Ilut it
also suggests that the Caucasian eponyms were considered deities alongside
th e other giants, including Nimrod himself.64 Antiquity is one the most potent
sources of legitimacy, and in a Christian environment biblical antiquity was
particularly desirable. The anonymous, contemporaneous author of The l.!fe (if"
Vaxtang Gorgasali drew upon a more positive depiction of Nimrod. Ignoring-
or perhaps ignorant of.-the oppressive and altogether negative image in The
Life of the Kings, Vaxtang's historian presents Nimrod in a favorable light. Here,
Nimrod plays a constructive role in God's master plan and in propheci es asso-
ciated with the Apocalypse. Most importantly, Vaxtang is made to boast openly
about his royal descent from Nimrod, the world's first king. In fact, a Nimrodid
pedigree is one of the primary bases of K'att'velian ro)al legitimacy mticulated
by the author of The L!fe of\faxtm19. This is to be expected because this text
and pre-Bagratid historiographical sources in general portray the early eastern
Georgian monarchs- including Christian ones, like the famous Vaxtang-as
Sasanian-like hero-kings. Thus, a claimed biological link to Nimrod enhanced
the legitimacy a nd authority of the easte rn Georgian monarchs.
Looking back to the kingship that had bee n and ahead to kingship as
it should be, our ca. 800 pre-Ilagratid historians located Georgian politica l
and social modes within a Near Eastern and especially an Iranian matrix.
Ilut wou ld the actual Mirian and Vaxtang have linked their kingly power
specifically to Nimrod? The extremely fragm entary and incomplete nature
of early Georgian manuscripts renders this a difficult question. With regards
to Nimrod and the trdditions described above, it is also fair to ask whether

64 'ferian 2001-2, 116: "By placing H.ayk among the Titans or the giants, Xorenac'i-or the tra-
dition ueWnd him-,;eems to imply thut the 11n~estorof the Annenians, like the mythical
anc,-.stors in the non-biblical genealogies, is descended from the gods."
208 KAPP

eas tern Georgian kings ever had access to a/the Book of Nimrod. 65 Today we
possess not a shred of tangible evidence proving the ex istence of such a text in
Georgia.66 Moreover, although tales about Nimrod can be found in a number
of apoc,yphal and apocalyptic works in a wide aJTay of languages throughout
western Eurasia and northern Africa, I am aware of no late antiqu e or early
med ieval text devoted to Nimrod and named for him.6 7 While we cannot com-
pletely discount the possibility that Georgian monarchs actually possessed a
text a bou t Nimrod, it is altogether tenable- a nd I think likely-that our early
med ieval authors ino-odu ced references to Nimrod in their texts in order to
acid an a ir of authenticity to their narratives.
What we can say with a bsolute certain ty is that ou r authors drew upon
a n extraordina1y asso1tment of complex Judeo-Christian stories a bou t
Nimrod that had been evolving and circulating throughout the Near East and
Medite,rdnean world for centuries. Although the author of 111e Life ofVaxtan.9
injected new elements into the tale, Nimrod exegesis had already circu lated
widely for the better part of a millennium.
The K'a1t'velians and their neighbors had abundant oppo1tunities to come
into contact with Nimrod literature. Caucasia was one of Afro-Eurasia's most
energetic zones of cross-cultural traffic, and oral and written traditions about
Nimrod cou ld have been introduced to the Georgians through a ny number
of routes and constituencies. Eastern Georgians had abundant contacts with
Christians throughout the Byzantine Commonwealth and beyond . In late
antiquity K'a rt'velian monks and monastic colonies thrived in Palestine and
Syria.68 Here, eastern Georgians would have acquired an intimate familiarity
with apocryphal and apocalyptic literatu re. Such traditions might weU have
been transmitted to the eastern Georgians, at least in part, through the inter-

65 Cf. Kekelidze 1973, 14, 19-23.


66 van Esbroeck 1996 has claimed that the Syriac Book of the Cm,e of 'treasures-which
existed in a n Old Georgian adaptation (for which see fu rt her)-was sometimes The llouk
of Nimrod.
67 See Rapp 2003, 218-19, for the alleged existence at St. Cathe1ine's r..itonastery on ~ft. Sinai
iJ1 EgYJ)t of" Greek mmHtseript titled 'ltTTopla N,~pw6 uleO Xovoav (Hislory ofNimrocl, so11
qf (..~ain]. For a scvcncccnthccnu1ry Georg-ion 1nanuscript conta ining traditions about
Nin1rod en1beddecl in an apocryphal text ahout :\da111 and Eve, seejanaSvifj 190L In this
text. Syriac is identified as the original language of all humans: Ni.lnrod is the fi.rst king
of che Babylonians: and Ninvod not onl)' initiates fire.,.,.orship but also erects several
cities in the EasL Note also that the infa1nous astronon1ical ueatise Lihcr ,Virnrod ,v,ls
v.rritten and circulated in n1edieval Catholic Europe. for a translation, see Dronke 1986,
Excursus JI.
68 Mcnabde 1968; see also Djoba<l1.c ,976.
1'HE ca :ORG JAN N I MROD 209

mediacy of the neighboring Armenians, who produced at least two apocryphal


works about the Tower of Babel.69
At first sight the Jewish Antiquities appears to be an attractive candidate
source, but the whole of medieval Georgian historiography-including The Life
of the Kin,qs, The L[fe of Vaxtan,q, and the hagiographical Life<?{ Nino-shows
no direct familiarity with Josephus.70 A number of other potential sources
must also be dismissed on comparable grounds, e.g.: Ps.-Clemcntine literature,
which negatively depicts Nimrod not only as the buiJder of the Tower, but
also as the instigator of astrol.ogy, magic, and fire worship";71 theApoca(ypse of
Ps.-Methodius, written in the late seventh centuiy, which describes Nimrod as
the world's first king;72 and Ephrem of Nisibis, who, in his fou1th-ce ntu1y com-
mentary on Genesis, has Nimrod oppose the construction of the Tower.
In an insightful investigation of the real and imagined m emory of ancient
Mesopotamia by late antique Christians living in what is now Iraq.Joel Walker
shows the commingling of positive and negative images of Nimrod in East
Syrian Chiistian liternture.73 In the late ninth century, an East Syrian bibli-
cal commentator reckoned the phrnsc "Be like unto Nimrod" a blessing. 74
Centuries earlier, the ca. 600 hagiographer of Mar Qardagh, a Christian
from northern Iraq who was stoned to death for his efforts to exterminate
Zoroastrianism, openly celebrated his saintly hero's purpo1ted lineage from
Nimrod.75 These e,xamples are strikingly reminiscent of the ca. 800 Ps.-Juanser
describing his hero Vaxtang as the best of all the kings of K'art'li and superior
to your fathers, in all respects perfect, like unto the hero Nimrod .. ." (.'.)3:1(.Moabo
IJMJJ~Ol> aa'BJ'' ;J,Am~ob,m, ~, a,a,m, 7la6m, i'.J'lJMMbo, ~MJ~OOl>Ja
1,<",i'.J~o, 31,0,31'0 6aoAMm 0aol">ob, . .. ).76 Indeed, the positive aspects of this
tradition circu lated in Georgia, where an early ninth-ccntuiy Christian histo-
rian publically associated his heroic king w ith Nimrod and eve n connected the
two biologically.

69 For "/11eExe9esi$011 thr1owcrand Co11cemi11.9 the Tower ofBabel,Stone1996a. 639. See also
Stone 2006 and Stone 199Gb.
70 Happ 2.003, 220. The Lnedieval Georgian translatjon ofJosei,hus'Jetvish Antiquilies derjves
from the cwelfth century and therefore could not have been used by the ca. 800 authors of
The Life qfVaxta11.9 and The Life ofthe Ki11.9s.
71 \!Va.Iker zooG-7, 5oz.
72. Ps. ~1e1 hodhiS1993: <ind the translation in Alexander 1985.
4

i3 Walker 2006-7, 500- 4.


74 \iValker, 2006-7, 503 and n. 98. For the source, as cited by Walker, see Levene, 1951, 85.
75 \.Valker zoo6, e.g., 19---.u,, z.48, and ::59.
76 "/Ire Life of Vaxta119. in K'<ut'lis c'xovrcba 1955- 59, 1:1481a- 19; Thomson 1996, 164-
210 IIAPP

Syriac literature is especially rich so far as Nimrod is concerned. Of special


interest is The Book of the Cave (!{Treasures, which survives from the sixth cen-
tury or later but whose essentials may go back as early as the fourth centu,y.n
In addition to its multiple and divergentSyriac recensions, TheCave(!fTreasures
was adapted into Georgian. The oldest surviving Georgian manuscript, now
housed in the State Historical Museum in K'ut'aisi in western Georgia, has
been dated on paleographic grounds to the fifteenth through sixteenth cen-
turies.78 However, the original adaptation must have been produced centuries
earlier. The wanior-giant Nimrod is a prominent character in all recensions,
including Syriac and Georgia n.79 Like other late antique a nd medieval tradi-
tions, The Cave of Treasures credits him wi th the introduction of "fire wor-
s hip; that is to say, Mazdaism/Zoroastrianism. He was renowned as a builder
of Mesopotamian cities, including Babylon, Nineveh, Seleucia, and Ctesiphon,
the last two of which became the twin capital of the Sasanian Empire. 80 111e
Cave of Treasures also relates that Chaldean magi consulted "the apocalypse/
revelation of Nimrod" (gelyiinii g.e Nemn.ief.} and discovered that a mighty king
would be horn in Judea, thus presaging the birth of Christ. s,
Ultimately, we ca nnot identify a ny kJ1own text, in any other language, as a
definite source of the Nimrod t raditions preserved in Old Georgian literature.
This is not surprising. Medieval Georgian historians were not in the habi t of
acknowledging their sources and influ ences. And in many cases these histo-
rians freely drew upon the rich, cross-cultural litera,y a nd oral storehouse of
the Near East as part of their effort to articulate a distinctively Geo rgian past.
In a study of "moral apocalypses" in the Byzantine world, theo logian Jane
Baun has remarked:

77 For a detailed exploration of the o riginal date of con1position, see Leonhard 20011 255-93.
78 Cave a/Treasures 199v-I9f)3, vii, for lhe date and other reda<.:tions. On the Georgian ver
sion o f 11,e Ca}'C of1'reasuros, sec also Avalichvili 1927- 1928.
79 Rapp 2-003, 22-0-2.
80 Cave a/Treasures 1927, 135-44. For a superior scholarI)' edition, see Cave of'Treas1tres 1987;
and t.he Georgian version, Cave oJ~Treasures 199~-93, chs. 24-7.
$1 Cave of1'rcasures 1927, 203- 205: cf. Cave qf1'rcasurr.s 1992- 93, ch. 27. It should be noced
that the Syriac Cave oJTreasuros associates Nimrod ,vith the southern Caucasian region
of Arerbaijru1 (A,U1orbaighi\n). Cave ofTre<isures 1927, 144; cf. Cave ofTre"sures !fJ9z-g3,
ch. 45 (Adribcjan).
'rHE GEORG IAN NIMR()O 2U

As has been obse1ved by [Paul) Alexander and others, strikingly simi-


lar tenninology and themes pervade Jewish and Christian eschatologi-
cal sources produced in the Eastern Roman and Persian empires from
Late Antiquity. The field expands in the Middle Ages with the growth of
Islam and the addition of new national groups to the Orthodox Christian
fold. A common apocalyptic and eschatological vocabu lary continued
to develop throughout the period among Jews, Christians and Muslim
living side-by-side in Byzantine, Slav, Ethiopian, Arab, and later, Turkish,
domains. The stimulation of this common life, whether conducted peace-
ably or in conflict, was always richly productive of prophetic revelation.82

The Georgian Nimrod is reminiscent of many other traditions, both oral


and written, circulating throughout the world of late antiquity. Infused with
local political meaning and significance, the two Georgian traditions about
Nimrod are a brilliant cross-cultural vestige of the dynamic, tightly-integrated
Caucasian, Near Eastern, and Eurasian worlds to which Georgia and its neigh-
bors belonged.

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