David the Builder

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David the Builder

David IV of Georgia known as David the Builder (Davit Agmashenebeli in Georgian) (1073 - January 24, 1125), from the House of Bagrationi, was King of Georgia from (1089 to 1125). One of the greatest statesmen and generals of the medieval world, he reunited the kingdom and brought most Caucasian nations under Georgia’s rule.


Early Life

The only son of King Giorgi II (r. 1072-1089), he was born in Kutaisi, Western Georgia in 1073. David’s childhood coincided with Georgia’s hard times.

Medieval chronicles describe Prince David as a wise and courageous person, brilliant at both sciences and military art. Despite his age, David was actively involved in the kingdom’s political life and together with a team of progressive Georgian nobles set a plan for Georgia’s revival.

His father Giorgi, though courageous, had no success in maintaining the country’s integrity. The country had been ravaged by the Seljuk invasions and internal wars and disastrous earthquakes by 1089, when Giorgi II was forced to abdicate in favour of his 16-years-old son David, who was to become an architect of Georgia’s “golden age”.


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 stand 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 1093, he arrested Liparit Bagvashi, a long-time enemy of the Georgian crown and expelled him from Georgia in 1094. After the death Liparit’s son Rati, David abolished their princedom of Kldekari in 1103.

He slowly pushed the Turks out of Kartli, liberating more and more land from them as the Seljuk Turks were now forced to focus not only on the Georgian armies but the newly begun crusades in the eastern Mediterranean. By 1099 David IV's power was considerable enough that he was able to refuse paying tribute to the Turks, but he had not finished the unification by far, for that he needed stronger internal power from which he might create a unified and strong military force.

In 1103 an ecclesiastical congress known as the Ruis-Urbnisi Synod was held. 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 these two offices in one person and created new institution of "Chkondidel-Mtsignobartukhutsesi".

Next year, David’s supporters in Kakhet-Heretian Kingdom captured the local ruler Aghsartan and reunited these provinces with the rest Georgia.

Military Campaigns

1104 brought major success to David as he liberated Kartli and Kakheti from the Seljuks. In 1105, at the Battle of Ertsukhi, David routed the Seljuk forces, leading to momentum that helped him secure the towns of Samshvilde, Rustavi, Gishi, Kubala and Lore between 1110 and 1118.

Problems began to crop up for David now, his population, having been at war for the better part of twenty years needed to be allowed to become productive again. As well, his nobles were still making problems for him, along with the city of Tbilisi which still could not be liberated from Muslim grasp. Again David was forced to solve these problems before he could continue the reclamation of his nation and people. For this purpose, David IV radically reformed his military. He resettled a Kipchak tribe of 40,000 families from the Northern Caucasus in Georgia in 1118-1120. 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, others were given land along the border. They were quickly assimilated into Georgians.

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

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.

In August 1121, a great army of Seljuks invaded Eastern Georgia to put end to David’s advance. The battle fought near Didgori ended in a crushing victory of the Georgians on August 12, 1121. David chased the panicked enemy far in Turkey. Following the battle David moved on Tbilisi, which fell after heavy fighting in 1122, becoming the capital for the first time in many hundreds of years.

In 1123, David’s army liberated Dmanisi, the last Seljuk stronghold in southern Georgia. In 1124, David finally conquered Shirvan and took the Armenian city of Ani from the Muslim Emirs, thus expanding the borders of his kingdom to the Araxes basein.

Humane treatment of the Muslim population, as well as the representatives of other religions and cultures, set a standard for tolerance in his multiethnic kingdom. It was a hallmark not only for his enlightened reign, but for all of Georgian history and culture.

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".

Cultural Life

King David the Builder gave close attention to the education of his people. The king selected children who were sent to Greece "so that they be taught languages and bring home translations made by them there". Many of them later became well-known scholars.

At the time of David the Builder there were quite a few schools and academies in Georgia, among which Gelati occupies a special place. King David's historian calls Gelati Academy "a second Jerusalem of all the East for learning of all that is of value, for the teaching of knowledge - a second Athens, far exceeding the first in divine law, a canon for all ecclesiastical splendor". Besides Gelati there also were other cultural-enlightenment and scholarly centers in Georgia at that time. There was a higher school at Ikalto - the Ikalto Academy.

King David was an author of religious poem “Galobani Sinanulisani” (Psalms of Regret).

"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 on January 24, 1125, and his son Demetre ascended the throne. King David was canonized by the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church.



  • Prince Demetre
  • Prince Vakhtang (Tsuata)
  • Princess Tamar, married Shah Abul Muzaffar Manuchahr II, Shirvanshah (d. ca. 1154), became a nun in widowhood.
  • Princess Katay (Irene), married Isaakios Komnenos Sebastocrator, Prince of Byzantium
  • Princess Tamar, married Prince Jadaros of Ossetia


H.M. The Most High King Davit, son of Giorgi, by the will of our Lord, King of Kings of the Abkhazians, Kartvelians, Ranians, Kakhetians and the Armenians, Shirvanshah and Shahanshah of all the East and West, Sword of Messiah.


David the Builder’s epoch greatly influenced the national perception of the Georgians. They are still proud of David’s victories and dream of his glorious reign.

The nation’s current flag is based on David’s standard. The Order of David the Builder is one of the most prestigious decorations awarded by Georgia.

After being elected President of Georgia, Georgia’s current leader Mikheil Saakashvili took an oath at David the Builder’s tomb at Gelati Monastery on the day of his inauguration on January 25, 2004. Mikheil Saakashvili said it was symbolic, when he took spiritual oath at the grave of King Davit, who brought unity and prosperity to Georgia. Many across the impoverished country hope that Mikhail Saakashvili will manage to do the same.


  • Mariam Lordkipanidze. "Georgia in the 11th-12th centuries", Tbilisi, 1987, pp. 80-118 (in English)
  • Grand Larousse Encyclopιdique, 5, Paris, 1962, pp. 452-453 (in French)
  • Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome, 1950, pp. 641-643 (in Italian)

de:David der Erbauer ka:დავით აღმაშენებელი

Preceded by:
Giorgi II
King of Georgia Succeeded by:
Demetre I

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