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David the Builder

David the Builder - King of Georgia David IV Bagrationi (1089-1125) was born in 1073 in Kutaisi (Western Georgia). He was one of greatest statesmen and generals of the medieval world. His father was King of Georgia Giorgi II.

David IV pursued a purposeful policy, taking no unconsidered step. He was determined to bring order to the land, bridle the unsubmissive secular and ecclesiastical feudal lords, centralise the state-administration, form a new type of army that would stant up better to the Seljuk (Turkish) military organization, and then go over to a methodical offensive with the aim of expelling the Seljuks first from Georgia (1110-1122) and then from the whole of the Transcaucasus.

In 1103 was held ecclesiastical congress, known as the Ruis-Urbnisi Synod. David combined two offices: courtial ("Mtsignobartukhutsesi") and clerical (Bishop of Chkondidi). This was a very significant step towards centralising state-power. David the Builder united this two offices in one person and created new institution of "Chkondidel-Mtsignobartukhutsesi".

David IV created absolutely new type of army. He resettled a Kipchak tribe of 40,000 families from the Northern Caucasus in Georgia. Every family was obliged to provide one soldier with a horse and weapons. This 40,000 strong Kipchak-army was entirely dependent on the King. Kipchaks were settled in different regions of Georgia. Some were settled in Inner Kartli ("Shida Kartli", now territory of so-called "South Ossetia"), others were given land along the border. They were quickly assimilated in Georgia.

In 1110 Georgian troops captured Samshvilde (Eastern Georgia). Seljuks were compelled to leave this territory. In 1116 the Seljuks were expelled from Tao-Klarjeti (South Georgia, in XVI-XIX centuries and since 1921 territory of Turkey). In 1118 the Georgian troops routed the Seljuks wintering on the banks of the Araks.

In 1120 David IV moved to Western Georgia and, when the Turks began pillaging Georgian lands, he duddenly attacked then. Only insignificant Seljuk forces escaped. The King David then entered Shirvan and took the town of Kabala.

In 1120-1121 the Georgian troops attacked the Seljuk settlements on the eastern and south-western approaches to the Transcaucasus. In 1120 King David began the assault of Tbilisi.

On August 10, 1121, great army of Seljuks (with more than 300,000 soldiers) encamped in the vicinity of Manglisi-Didgori. King David had 40,000 Georgian troops, 20,000 Kipchak, about 500 Ossetian mercenaries and a force of 200 European Crusaders. The Georgians won a crushing victory at Didgori on August 12, 1121. In 1122, after heavy fighting, the Georgian troops entered Tbilisi. After this battle David the Builder moved his residence from Kutaisi to Tbilisi, making it his capital.

In 1124 David finally conquered Shirvan and took a number of fortresses in Armenia. In 1123 he had taken Ani from the Muslim Emirs.

Georgia was completely liberated from the Seljuks. The process of uniting the Georgian lands and the creation of a united Georgian feudal monarchy was consummated by King David. Moreover, Georgia annexed Northern Armenia, Shirvan (territory of modern Azerbaijan) and the Northern Caucasus.

The important component of "Sword of the Messiah" appeared in the title of David the Builder. It is engraved on a copper coin of David's day: "King of Kings, David, son of Giorgi, Sword of the Messiah".

By decree of David IV was builded the Gelati Cathedral in Kutaisi. He was also founder of Gelati Academy and author of literary works. The Gelati Academy was the most prominent centre of medieval Georgian culture. It was David's plan that Gelati should become a "second Athens". In medieval Georgia there was another Academy of this kind at Ikalto (Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia).

"A History of the King of Kings David" (written in the last years of David the Builder and immediately after his death) is included in the collection of old Georgian Chronicles 'Kartlis Tskhovreba' ("A History of Georgia").

David the Builder died in 1125, and his son Demetre ascended the throne. King David was Sainted by the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church.