|King David the Builder|
Like in many other countries, Georgian people also gave titles to their kings. David IV earned the title “the Builder” as he was an outstanding king in Georgia’s history. He ascended to the throne while Seljuks were oppressing the country. It was a hard time for Georgia, people stopped agricultural and architectural works and the country was divided. In both the clergy and the lay society, there were many traitors. People who were oppressed by the enemy migrated in the mountains.
16-year-old David the Builder who ascended to the throne in such hard situation had a very difficult task ahead, but he started to solve the problems. Firstly he subordinated traitor heads of the state who prevented Georgia from unification. Most of them were expatriated and the others were killed by the king in the battle of Ertsukhi. Secondly David the Builder banished worthless churchmen from the church (he held Ruis-Urbnisi Synod in 1103) and he appointed the honored people instead. The king strengthened the church that was serving orthodoxy and religious life for people. This fact was very meaningful for Georgians.
Before David the Builder’s governance a permanent Georgian army did not exist. The king invaded northern borders. With his diplomatic skills and by force he could consolidate the northern entrance. He brought 40.000 Kipchaks (Mongolian tribes) to Georgia who were oppressed by Vladimir. Together with Kipchaks the king created an army. The clever and provident king knew that the country needed a regular force. The hired army could easily betray, but the soldiers settled in Georgia with their families would be faithful. David the Builder was leading the army disciplines and trained them himself.
The king was solving country’s problems and he was invading the Seljuks territories by small battles at the same time. An unknown historian says: “The king was not standing in the back part of the army like soldiers, but he was going ahead of everyone and would encourage the army with lion’s voice that seemed to destroy the surroundings.”
The troubled Mohammedans gathered and decided to fight against Georgian King David IV. The sources of foreigner historians count 600,000 warriors in the enemy’s army. According to the Georgian historians, the number of enemies was around 300,000 people. The army of David the Builder counted only 56,000 soldiers from which there were 40,000 Georgians, 15,000 Kipchaks, 500 Ossetians, 100 French crusaders (as it is known, crusades have already started by that time).
The decisive battle was held on the field of Didgori in 1121. The talented military leader David IV chose the battle point (the environs of Trialeti and Didgori) foreseeing that the location would give privilege to Georgian army against the enemy. Before the battle he proclaimed, if the soldiers fought bravely, with the love for motherland and the god, they would defeat not only the enemy but the devil as well. The King ordered the army to block the gorge of Nichbisi. This way they had nowhere to escape and had to either fight and win or lose. The battle started in the middle of the two mountains. The noise of the war made the land shaking. As a result of the correct arrangement of the troops, right battle location and the strength of the king’s own example, also the soldiers’ devotion and courage the enemy was defeated. The battle finished with the brilliant victory of the Georgian army.
“Turk armies were destroyed that day. The rivers and the ravines were filled with dead bodies.” Many historians described that battle, including Ibrahim Al Asiri, Al Jais, Al Farooq, French Chancellor Gotye. All of them mentioned courage and providence of David the Builder, also his attitude towards Muslim inhabitants. The king’s tolerance towards Muslims who stayed in Georgia on their free will is especially worth mentioning.David the Builder not only saved the country but also brought independence to the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi in 1122. After that the king liberated Ani, the city in Armenia that was invaded by the enemy for 60 years and Shirvan.
David the Builder passed away in 1125. He was buried in Gelati.
David the Builder was an educated King. He was aware that the country’s development depended on educated people. For educational missions, the king annually sent 40 young people abroad (to Byzantium). After Gelati was built, he opened the academy, an educational institution where he gathered outstanding scholars like Ioane Petristsi, Arsen Ikaltoeli, Ioane Tarichisdze, or the elder monk Teofile. One of them Arsen Ikaltoeli to continue his work, moved to Kakheti, to Ikalto’s Academy. Another one, the philosopher Ioane Petritsi, before settling in Gelati worked in Bulgaria in Bachkovo Monastery (also known as the Petritsoni Monastery) which was built by a famous Georgian commander who served Byzantium’s royals.
The grave of David IV is in the southern entrance of Gelati monastery.
Many poems, novels, researchers and scientific letters were devoted to his life and work. A great scientist and a public figure Arsen Ikaltoeli wrote such epitaph on his grave:
“I, who unified twelve kingdoms, expelled Turks, Persians and Arabs from Georgian, stretched the border from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, can rest in peace now.”
The monastery built by David the Builder became his burial place.