Archaeological Monuments of Khelvachauri Municipality (Gonio Fortress)

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Giorgi Tavamaishvili


Gonio Fortress is a historical, architectural and archeological monument of special importance in Khelvachauri Municipality, its past is reflected in Greek-LatinGeorgian manuscript sources and in epigraphic monuments. Gonio Fortress is still the object of intensive archeological research.

Gonio is identified with the Apsaros-Apsarunt mentioned in ancient and Byzantine sources. It is clear from the archaeological date that the settlement existed here long before the construction of the fortifications. The oldest archeological material found in the Gonio area dates back to the Early Iron Age. A mining and metallurgical center was functioning in the surroundings of Apsaros, which is dated with VIII-VII centuries B.C. Recent discoveries confirm that this territory was inhabited even in the Classical antiquity. The tombs of the locals of 5th century B.C turned out at the south gate of the castle. Economic-cultural life has been on the rise since the Hellenistic period. Evidence of this is the ceramic and numismatic material found in the Fortress and the surrounding area.

Apsaros, as a fortress was first referred in the work dated 77 A.D. It is not excluded that the Romans built a temporary wooden fortress in Apsaros. The construction of the stone fence seems to have begun at the turn of the I-II centuries. The bath, water supply system and collector, barracks ruins at the south of the gate, agro technical areas, in the south-west part of the castle, the remains of the principality in the central part are dated II-III centuries A.D.

Apsaros was transformed into a boarder camp from the second half of the III century A.D. Apsaros fortress temporarily ceased to function by the 4th century A.D. In the central and outside parts of the fortress for the end of the layer of I-III centuries A.D trace of destruction is confirmed. At the north gate, burnt layers are exposed. At this level are tracked stone shells, cores and stones of envy. Archaeological material reveals that from the middle of the 4th century A.D. including the first half of the 6th century A.D. the castle was actually abandoned.

After the 8th century A.D Apsar is not mentioned in written sources. In the era of the strength of feudal Georgia, the name "Gonia" takes its place. A study of the fortress districts did not reveal a developed medieval cultural layer, and it indicates that Gonio fortress had lost its former significance and the territory of the fortress was less used.

In the Era of Tamar, after the creation of Trabzon Empire, Gonia was part of the Empire. In the 90s of XIII of Century the province of Rize-Gonia separated from Trabzon Empire and joined feudal Georgia. In 1547, the Ottomans conquered Chaneti and later the "small town of Gonia". They repaired a fortress, built curbs on the walls, renewed the water supply system, built a bathhouse in the thermal baths and built a chapel in the middle of the fortress. The Ottomans turned Gonio Fortress into an outpost to control the conquered lands and annex West Georgia. After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, according to a document of the Congress of Berlin of 1878, Gonio returned to Georgia with other territories.

Khelvachauri, Gonio Fortress, Apsaros, Byzantium, Ottoman Empire
Published: Apr 20, 2021

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History and Archaeology