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Georgia’s First Treaty With United Europe – Analysis

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The Association Agreement is not the first historic agreement Georgia has ever signed with Europe. In fact, there is a big precedent. In 84 B.C. a treaty between Western Georgia (Colchis) and the Roman Republic was signed

By Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua and Dr. Emil Avdaliani*

In June 2014, the European Union and Georgia signed the Association Agreement, which entered into force on July 1, 2016. The agreement aims at enhancing political and economic relations between the EU and Georgia. This involves following through with a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which means the removal of customs tariffs, an approximation of trade-related laws and regulations. This would help Georgia move closer to EU standards. The DCFTA should boost trade and economic growth in Georgia as well as bring it closer to the EU’s single market.

The agreement is not only about immediate economic benefits. It primarily involves attaching Georgia to Europe geopolitically away from the Russian sphere of influence. For Moscow, this is bad news leading the Kremlin employ all possible tools to prevent Georgia’s “defection” to the Western world.

However, surprisingly, the Association Agreement is not the first historic agreement Georgia has ever signed with Europe. In fact, there is a big precedent. In 84 B.C. a treaty between Western Georgia (Colchis) and the Roman Republic was signed. As Res Publica Romana is considered as a rough prototype of the modern EU, the 84 B.C. treaty is a first Europe-Georgia agreement we know of. Now to the details of this ancient treaty.

Mithridatic Wars (first half of the 1st c. B.C.) are of special interest for Georgian historians – Colchis and Iberia (Eastern and Southern Georgia) were involved in the full-scale European war for the first time.

Mithridates VI Eupator, king of Pontus, chose different patterns for those countries: that of satrapy for Colchis, and military alliance – for Iberia.

In 85 B.C., being in great despair, with his armies and fleet totally destroyed by the  Romans, Mithridates VI  had to satisfy demand of the Colchian rebels – they needed their own kingdom to be restored with Eupator’s son as a king. His name was Mithridates Philopator Philadelphos (App. Mithr. 64).

We do not know much about him: he was left in charge of Pontus, Bosphorus and Colchis as his father marched westwards to face the Romans. Then he fought Fimbria, the Roman general, bravely, but unsuccessfully. As king of Colchis, Philopator issued the coins, both silver and copper, with Pontic dynastic eight-pointed star on the reverse, and rather strange for his new country, lotus on obverse (http://geonumismatics.tsu.ge/en/catalogue/types/?type=23). He did not put his name on the coins. They are without inscriptions. Was he afraid of his father, for conspiring against him, having Colchians as allies?! We shall never know. Yet, Mithridates Eupator was to be feared much. Indeed, with Rome obsessed with civil war, and the Greeks having had no final choice whom they could entrust the Greek affair, Colchis felt itself hopelessly isolated. Eupator’s reaction was quick and brutal, as usual. First capture, then golden chains and death was bad epilogue for Philopator (84 B.C.). But he is not to be blamed. Junior, perhaps, did the best he could to gain the support of the Republic, but in vain.

One Greek inscription can provide some information about Philopator looking for strong ally. N375 from OGIS could be about him (Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae. Supplementum Sylloges Insc­rip­tio­num Graecorum. Edidit Wilhelmus Dittenberger. Volumen Prius. Lip­si­ae. MDCCCCIII, pp. 580-582): King Mithridates Philopator Philadelphos, son of king Mithridates, to the Roman people, his friend and ally, for the kindness and charity toward him, dedicates by proxy of his ambassadors… (T. Dundua. History of Georgia. Tbilisi. 2017, pp. 80-83 https://www.academia.edu/35768659/History_of_Georgia).

One could feel sorry for Junior. He could even become Rome’s formal ally in order to secure the safety of the country, much more depended on his Pontic garrisons. Indeed, he needed his copper issues just to pay them since the Colchians totally ignored the small change. But that was pocket-money. With, perhaps, no banking-system in Western Georgia, those soldiers were thought to keep most of their salaries at home – in trapezas (banks) of Sinope, or Amisus. Then lotus-type silver issues used to be transferred there. Thus they could be brought upon Eupator’s suspicious eyes. Philadelphos did his best for his coins to look like old Pontic satrapal issues. He did his best to secure his headquarters. As the lotus-type copper is mostly grouped in the hinterland town of Surion/Vani, it is thought to be his capital.

Alas, Philopator was granted no time. Appian, Greek author, narrates about his punishment – he was brought by force. And archaeology reveals the traces of heavy clashes and fire in the early 1st c. B.C. layers of Eshera, suburb site of Dioscurias at the coastal strip, and Vani itself.

*Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua, Dr. Emil Avdaliani, Institute of Georgian History, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University

Emil Avdaliani

Emil Avdaliani

Emil Avdaliani has worked for various international consulting companies and currently publishes articles focused on military and political developments across the former Soviet sphere.

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