The rise of an early Georgian kingdom of Colchis

A major Georgian tribal union emerged in the 13th century BC on the eastern Black Sea coast which resulted in creation of the powerful Kingdom of Colchis in the western Georgia. According to most classic authors, this early Georgian kingdom stretched from the borders of Pontus and included territories as far as the river Corax (present day Bzyb river, Abkhazia, Georgia).

The kingdom of Colchis bordered another early Georgian state of Iberia to the east. The written history of modern-day Abkhazia largely begins with the coming of the Milesian Greeks to the coastal of Colchis in the 6th-5th centuries BC. The Greeks found maritime colonies along the eastern shore of the Black Sea, with Dioscurias being one of the most important principal centers of trade with the neighbouring tribes. This city, said to be so named after Dioscuri, the twins Castor and Pollux of classical mythology, is presumed to have subsequently developed into the modern-day Sokhumi. Other notable colonies were Gyenos, Triglitis, and later Pityus, arguably near the modern-day coastal towns of Ochamchire, Gagra, and Bichvinta, respectively.

The peoples of the region were notable for their number and variety, as classical sources testify. Herodotus, Strabo, and Pliny appreciate the multitude of languages spoken in Dioscurias and other towns. The mountainous terrain tended to separate and isolate local peoples from one another and encouraged the development of dozens of separate languages and dialects complicating the ethnic makeup of the region. Even the most well-informed contemporary authors are very confused when naming and locating these peoples and provide only very limited information about the geography and population of the hinterland. Furthermore, some classic ethnic names were presumably collective terms and supposed considerable migrations also took place around the region. Some scholars identify Pliny the Elder’s Apsilae of the 1st century AD and Arrian’s Abasgoi of the 2nd century AD with the probable proto-Abkhaz- and Abaza-speakers respectively, while others consider them proto-Kartvelian (Georgian) tribal designations. The identity and origin of other peoples (e.g., Heniochi, Sanigae) according to the scholars were proto-Kartvelian.