“Prince Heraclius, ruler of Georgia, is known throughout the Empire” – LONDON EVENING POST, 1761
25 September, 2014
“Prince Heraclius, ruler of Georgia, is known throughout the Empire” – LONDON EVENING POST, 1761
“We always display our striving for Europe, but there were times when Europe, in turn, was interested in Georgia. The fact that the European press wrote about Georgian King Erekle II on front pages means that Europe considered Georgia to be its easternmost border. It was considered a wall of Europe and at the same time the best defender of this wall – with Erekle II leading the garrison.” – says Giorgi Kalandia, doctor of historical science, professor, and director of the Georgian National Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography.

– There exists a legend that Beethoven dedicated his Ninth Symphony to Erekle II. This claim is, however, doubtful because in Beethoven’s time, Erekle II wasn’t widely known or popular. However, I wouldn’t disregard this claim completely, since the British and European press in general observed Erekle II’s political life and military career with great hope.

– What does the British press tell us?

– Materials about Erekle II that we got our hands on date from 1642 to 1798. We know that Erekle II was born in 1720 and his name became popular with the British press from 1752. Since that year, the main pages consistently feature Erekle II. For example: PUBLIC ADVERTISER. LONDON. 15. 11. 1772 writes that “Prince Heraclius from Georgia” is a candidate for the Persian throne, who heroically bested Shah-Sef and took his throne in Isfahan… Naturally, this information is exaggerated because Erekle II never took any offices of power in Isfahan and never had any claims to the Persian throne. However, he did indeed defeat two other claimants for that throne in battle and this seems to have been taken with a lot of hope by European society. After 1754 they wrote: “We were informed from Persia, that “Prince Heraclius, whose exploits have made great a noise in the world, was drawing all his forces into the provinces bordering upon the Caspian Sea.” Dublin wrote in 1744: “Georgia is a great country in Asia, lying between the Caspian Sea to the east and Black Sea to the west…” –This means that Erekle II was so relevant and popular that there were myths about his country circulating. The LONDON EVENING POST, 1761, wrote: “After the death of Shah Nadir, the name of Prince Heraclius, who found his glory in the empire’s civil war, became known”… Erekle II was never involved in a civil
war, but it is known that one after another, he defeated enemies sent by Persia against Georgia and this found quite a resonance in foreign press. The same newspaper later writes: “According to a letter received from Amsterdam, Prince Heraclius is the new conqueror of Persia.”

– As you mentioned above, not only British press wrote about Erekle II…

– Yes… Then there’s also: “According to latest news from Persia, which were confirmed in Astrakhan, Prince Heraclius from Georgia with his powerful army has already conquered several cities and half of Isfahan” – from Hamburg, 1752, March 13th… This information is interesting because it shows that Erekle II was known not only in England, but in Germany, Russia and Netherlands… European society was observing Erekle II with great hope, it seems. But information about him was grossly exaggerated. In the age when values of Western civilization were nearly destroyed by Persian and Ottoman Empires’ onslaught (forces of the latter even managed to reach Vienna) and then a ruler of Kartl-Kakheti appears, a Christian king who manages to fight the enemy and defend the Western Civilization. This is precisely the reason why European society looked at Erekle II with hope. One of such hopeful passages was written in 1766: “Prince Heraclius from Georgia, who served the Prussian King as a lieutenant in armed forces of Friedrich the Great, started a fight for liberation of his homeland from the Ottomans upon his return.” Erekle II never served in Prussian Army, but Friedrich the Great once said that the world had two rulers – him in the West and Prince Erekle in the East.
However, there aren’t just myths and exaggerations floating around. For example, this title tells the truth: “A personal letter from Leghorn reveals that Prince Heraclius from Georgia has completely defeated the 50-thousand-strong army of Erzurum’s Pasha.” We know that Erekle II has numerous times defeated large Muslim coalitions, so even the exaggerations have a truthful basis. And the fact that exaggerations took place also has its own explanation. European society, the Western Christian world, had great hopes resting on Erekle Bagrationi, who was caught in pincers of strong Eastern empires and fought for preserving Western civilization and Christian values.
We were given information about Erekle II by the National Library of Ireland – more than 500 printed pages. For this, I want to thank the Georgian Embassy in Ireland, Mr. Giorgi Zurabishvili and Mrs. Natia Kalandia.

– How will you introduce interested parties to this material?

– Our purpose is to have this material translated fully into Georgian by both students and professionals and then published in both Georgian and English as a collection. We Georgians like glorifying ourselves and are very proud of our history, and it would be nice to let foreign readers to take a look at our king glorified not in Georgian, but in English too… Historians, including myself, will also become actively involved in this. We’ll try to show readers what parts of this collection are exaggerated and which are true. This is why we want this collection to be published in both languages, since it is the best proof of a strong European interest in Georgia.

– Historians are going to find out many new things about Erekle II, no doubt…

– Historians are given an opportunity to once again take an appraising look at Erekle II. We know that due to the Treaty of Georgievsk there still exist conflicting opinions of him. These letters, however, once again prove how powerful his authority was. We don’t have a single politician of such scale who has so much written about him. And not only English, but German and Russian press wrote about King Erekle II in a buoyed manner. I am not comparing him to David the Builder, but Erekle II is the only Georgian male monarch who caused such a clamor abroad. Queen Ketevan also caused quite a ruckus in her time, but not in press and definitely not in foreign publications… Thus, sitting in one of the libraries of the world and reading about your monarch is quite satisfying.

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