Queen Tamar

compiled by Tata Jagiashvili

Tamar of Georgia. An illustration from Letopis' Gruzii, edited by B. Esadze, 1913. Wikimedia Commons.




c. 1213

Queen Tamar was the first female sovereign of Georgia, leaving an indelible mark on the country's rich heritage. From her strategic ascent to co-ruler at the age of 18-a groundbreaking move by her father, King George III, in a patriarchal medieval society-to overcoming opposition and leading a transformative reign marked by a cultural renaissance and military triumphs, Tamar's story is a testament to her resilience and visionary leadership. Her reign is often referred to as the Golden Age of Georgian history. Even though Georgia was governed by several queens, only Tamar was given the title of “mepe” or “king.” 

Personal Information


Queen Tamar, Tamar of Georgia, Tamar Bagrationi 

Date and place of birth

1160; Georgia 

Death and place of death

 1213; at Agarani Castle, Georgia 


Mother: Burdukhan; She was the daughter of Khuddan, an Alan princess, and served as the queen consort of George III. This marriage was aimed at strengthening ties with powerful northern  neighbors.  

Father: George III of Georgia; He was the 8th  king of Georgia from 1156 to 1184. His reign, and  that of Tamar, are seen as the 'golden age' of Georgian history, the era of empire, diplomatic  success, and military triumphs. 

Sister: Rusudan (1158/1160 - ?) was Queen Tamar’s younger sister. She married Manuel  Komnenos (1145 - 1185?), the eldest son of Byzantine emperor Andronikos I Komnenos. They  had two sons: Alex and Davit Komnenos. After Andronikos' deposition and demise, Manuel was blinded and may have died as a result of his injuries. According to  accounts, Rusudan, along with her sons, sought refuge in Georgia, fleeing Constantinople. 

Marriage and Family Life

First Marriage: The nobles ordered Queen Tamar to get married in order to have a military leader and provide a successor to the throne. They selected Rus Prince Yuri (1160 - ?), the son of Prince Andrei I Bogolyubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal, who had been living as a fugitive in the North  Caucasus. Yuri was brought to Georgia for his union with Tamar in 1185. Over time, Tamar became disillusioned with her husband, leading to their divorce in 1187. Yuri's reputation painted him as a heavy drinker with dark tendencies, including sexual misconduct, torture, and sodomy. As a result, Yuri faced exile from Georgia to Constantinople in 1188. 

Second Marriage: The Queen chose her second husband herself. It was David Soslan (? - 1207),  an Alan prince and a skilled military commander, who became a crucial ally, helping Tamar  overcome rebellious nobles who had rallied behind Yuri. David Soslan's role as Tamar's spouse–depicted in art, charters, and coins–was solely determined by the need for the male aspects of 

kingship. However, he retained a subordinate position, sharing the throne with Tamar and lacking independent authority. His power was derived entirely from his reigning spouse. 

Son: Lasha Giorgi/George IV (1191/4 - 1222/23), the son of Queen Tamar and David Soslan,  was the king of Georgia in 1213-1223. He continued Tamar's policy of strengthening the  Georgian feudal state. The Mongol expedition in 1221–1222 resulted in defeat for Georgia, with  George IV severely wounded. He died at the age of thirty-one  and was buried in Gelati monastery. He was succeeded by his sister Rusudan.  

Daughter: Rusudan (1194-1245), the daughter of Queen Tamar and David Soslan, ruled Georgia from 1223-1245. Rusudan was unable to preserve the advancements of her mother and brother, and her death marked the beginning of the end of the Georgian Golden Age.  


Short version: The details of Queen Tamar’s education are not known.


Orthodox Christianity. She was canonized by the East Orthodox church as the Holy  Righteous King Tamar, and received  her own feast day (May 14) called Tamaroba. 


Queen Tamar's life ambitions and her transformation of gendered assumptions were profoundly  influenced by the intricate political circumstances she navigated. In 1177, her father, King George  III, faced a rebellion from local nobles aiming to depose him in favor of his nephew, Demna. Supporters of the rebellion considered Demna the legitimate heir of his assassinated father, David V. George III quelled the uprising, imprisoning or executing the rebels. Subsequently, recognizing the need to secure the legitimacy of his family's rule, George III initiated Tamar into government affairs, and in 1178, when she was eighteen, he crowned her as co-ruler. In a patriarchal medieval society, where women were typically relegated to subordinate roles, Tamar's ascent to co-ruler was a groundbreaking move by her father, King George III. 

This strategic move by George III was implemented to legitimize Tamar's future reign in the absence of male heirs. For six years, Tamar and George III ruled jointly, but upon his death in 1184, Tamar faced challenges to her reign. As the first female ruler in Georgia's history, her legitimacy was questioned by skeptical nobles. 

The opposition to Tamar's political rule was led by the potter Kutlu Arslan. His faction demanded the establishment of an independent political structure called "Karavi," with the queen, referred to also as king, excluded from its activities. This marked a significant challenge to the existing power structure, reflecting a demand for the redistribution of state power in 12th-century Georgia. 

In the face of this opposition, Tamar demonstrated remarkable political courage. Instead of  resorting to force, she opted for negotiations. Two women, Khuashak Tsokali and Kravai Jackeli,  acted as negotiators, showcasing surprising, yet perhaps increasingly normalized, roles for women in the  country. Tamar's adept handling of negotiations secured her continued royal power, and the nobles' assembly gained increased decision-making authority on state issues.

These events underscore Tamar's resilience and strategic acumen in the face of political challenges. Her ability to navigate the complex dynamics of power struggles and negotiate effectively contributed to her lasting legacy as one of Georgia's most influential rulers. In transforming gendered assumptions, Tamar's legacy became a beacon of inspiration, showcasing the transformative power of leadership irrespective of gender. 



Tamar, the inaugural female monarch of Georgia, ruled during a tumultuous period marked by  global religious conflicts. Engulfed in wars for most of her life, she steered Georgia through  challenging times. 

Amidst the turmoil, Tamar's royal treasury prospered, giving rise to a cultural renaissance.  Ecclesiastical art, literature, and meticulously illustrated manuscripts flourished under her  patronage. She oversaw the construction of new cathedrals, elevating the artistic and literary  landscape of Georgia. 

In a striking departure from prevailing practices, Tamar outlawed torture, the death penalty, and  eschewed brutal punishments such as whippings, blindings, and castrations. Approving remarriages and upholding religious tolerance, she continued Georgia's tradition of embracing diversity. 

A pivotal moment in Tamar's governance was the establishment of the Empire of Trebizond on  the Black Sea coast in 1204. By the end of her rule, Georgia had attained the pinnacle of its power and fame in the Middle Ages. 

Military victories defined Tamar's reign, expanding the borders of the Georgian Kingdom.  Successful defenses against Seljuk Turks and neighboring powers solidified Georgia's reputation  as a formidable force in the region. The battles of Shamkori (1195) and Basiani (1202) stood as  triumphant highlights in Georgian military history. 

Tamar's economic policies spurred growth and prosperity. Reforms in trade, agriculture, and  currency stability contributed to the overall well-being of the kingdom. Aqueducts, bridges, and  strategically placed fortresses marked important engineering achievements during her era. 

Known for her religious tolerance, Tamar fostered an environment of coexistence among diverse  religious communities. Her reign was characterized by unusual equality, with peasants elevated to  nobility, nobles akin to princes, and princes adopting the stature of kings during what is now  referred to as Georgia's Golden Age. Tamar's legacy is a testament to her multifaceted impact,   military prowess, cultural flourishing, economic prosperity, and commitment to  tolerance and social harmony.


During the early years of Queen Tamar's reign, she grappled with formidable challenges, including opposition from the nobility and invasions by foreign forces. The pretext for these invasions was rooted in gender bias, with critics contending that Tamar's gender rendered her unfit to rule the country. 

Throughout her lifetime, Queen Tamar garnered widespread recognition, earning a reputation as a capable and visionary leader. This recognition has endured over time, with modern scholarship  recognizing her pivotal role in shaping Georgia's history. The significance of Tamar's acclaim  persisted even after her death, contributing to the continuing growth of her posthumous reputation, ultimately solidifying her status as one of Georgia's most revered rulers. 

Tamar's death was met with intense mourning among the Georgian people, the sounds of grief echoing as if the nation had been plunged into the depths of despair. The profound influence Tamar exerted on her nation was vividly encapsulated in "The  Life of Tamar, King of Kings," a prominent chronicle within the compendium known as Kartlis Tskhovreba (The Life of Kartli).  

Despite initial challenges and opposition rooted in gender norms, Queen Tamar's legacy evolved  into one of reverence and celebration. Her reputation underwent a profound change, with Tamar evolving from a ruler facing gender-based opposition to a respected and celebrated sovereign. 

In modern scholarship, Queen Tamar is acknowledged as a visionary leader who defied gender  norms, leaving an indelible mark on Georgian history. Her posthumously elevated reputation recognizes her not only as a key figure in medieval Georgia but also as a symbol of women's resilience and capability in leadership roles. 

Legacy and Influence

Queen Tamar's canonization by the Eastern Orthodox Church as the Holy Righteous King Tamar  highlights her revered status within the religious context. The establishment of her own feast day  on May 14 reflects the recognition of her virtuous and righteous rule. The unique bilingual Greco-Georgian colophon attached to the Vani Gospels manuscript, where she is referred to as a saint during her lifetime, underscores the deep religious and cultural significance she held for her contemporaries. 

The legacy of Queen Tamar extends beyond religious recognition into the realm of literature,  where she served as the muse for the epic poem "The Knight in the Panther’s Skin." The enduring  masterpiece by Shota Rustaveli not only immortalizes her in Georgian literary tradition but also  delves into complex themes of chivalry, love, and rulership. The symbolic crowning scene, paralleling George III's co-optation of Tamar, offers a rich allegory, suggesting the equality of  female and male leadership, a notion quite progressive for its time. 

The panegyrics dedicated to Queen Tamar, such as Chakhrukhadze's "Tamariani," showcase the  continued admiration for her legacy in Georgian culture. These poetic celebrations emphasize her  virtues, leadership, and enduring influence, reinforcing her image as a paragon of virtue and  strength. 

Queen Tamar's legacy also manifests in tangible ways through the numerous institutions and  structures named in her honor. This widespread recognition, from universities to airports, reflects  the enduring respect for her contributions across various facets of Georgian society. The continued use of her name in contemporary contexts serves as a testament to the lasting imprint she left on the cultural, religious, and political landscape of Georgia.  

In the realm of virtual storytelling, the inclusion of King Tamar’s Georgia in the popular game Civilization VI: Rise and Fall provides a modern avenue for exploring her historical significance. The game's portrayal of Tamar as a smart and diplomatic leader who supports the arts and defends her kingdom aligns with historical records, contributing to a broader understanding of her impact. 




The controversies surround the passing of Queen Tamar in 1213. Historical sources from the Tamar period indicate that she was buried in Gelati, yet the exact location remains unknown, giving rise to numerous legends and theories. One theory suggests that Tamar's burial site was intentionally concealed in a secret niche at the Gelati monastery to safeguard it from  desecration by adversaries. Another version proposes that her remains were reburied in a distant location, possibly in the Holy Land. 

Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov, who crafted the romantic poem "Tamara," drew inspiration from an old Georgian legend featuring a siren-like mountainous princess bearing the name Queen Tamar; this adds another layer of controversy. Lermontov's portrayal of the Georgian queen as a destructive seductress, although lacking historical basis, has significantly influenced discussions about Tamar's sexuality. 

Clusters & Search Terms

Current Identification(s)

History; Politics

Search Terms

Queen Tamar; King Tamar; Tamar the Great; Bagrationi Dynasty; Georgian Queen; Medieval  Georgia; 12th century; Female Monarch; Queenship 



1. Metreveli, Roin. Mepe Tamari. Tbilisi: Ganatleba, 1991. https://el.ge/articles/43195

2. Janashvili, M. Tamar Mepe. Tbilisi: Georgian Women’s Society of Tbilisi, 1917.  http://openlibrary.ge/bitstream/123456789/4996/4/tamar%20mepe.pdf

3. Javakhishvili, Ivane. The Life of Tamar, King of Kings. Georgian National Academy of  Science, 1944. https://dspace.nplg.gov.ge/bitstream/1234/58745/1/Cxovreba_Mefet Mefisa_Tamarisi_1944.pdf

4. Karitchashvili, D. Georgia in 12th Century. Tbilisi, 1902.  https://dspace.nplg.gov.ge/bitstream/1234/68254/1/Saqartvelo_Metormete_Saukuneshi.p df

5. Makalatia, Sergi. Tamar Mepe. Iverta Mkhare, 1990.  https://dspace.nplg.gov.ge/bitstream/1234/56813/1/Tamar_Mefe.pdf

6. “Civilization VI: Rise and Fall - Tamar Leads Georgia.” Civilization VI – The Official Site.  https://civilization.com/news/entries/civilization-vi-rise-and-fall-tamar-leads-georgia/


1. Metreveli, Roin. Mepe Tamari. Tbilisi: Ganatleba, 1991. https://el.ge/articles/43195

2. Janashvili, M. Tamar Mepe. Tbilisi: Georgian Women’s Society of Tbilisi, 1917.  http://openlibrary.ge/bitstream/123456789/4996/4/tamar%20mepe.pdf 

3. Javakhishvili, Ivane. The Life of Tamar, King of Kings. Tbilisi: Georgian National Academy of  Science, 1944. https://dspace.nplg.gov.ge/bitstream/1234/58745/1/Cxovreba_Mefet Mefisa_Tamarisi_1944.pdf  

4. Karitchashvili, D. Georgia in 12th Century. Tbilisi: 1902.  

https://dspace.nplg.gov.ge/bitstream/1234/68254/1/Saqartvelo_Metormete_Saukuneshi.p df 

5. Makalatia, Sergi. Tamar Mepe. Iverta Mkhare, 1990.  


6. Civilization VI: Rise and Fall - Tamar Leads Georgia. Civilization VI – The Official Site.  https://civilization.com/news/entries/civilization-vi-rise-and-fall-tamar-leads-georgia/