Georgia (Russ. Grusia; Pers. Gurjistan; anc. Iberia), the name formerly applied to that part of western Asia comprised in the Russian Transcaucasia, lying between the Caspian and the Black seas, and the Caucasian and Armenian mountains; area, about 70,000 sq. m. Within its boundaries are included the Russian governments of Kutais, Tiflis, Elisabeth-pol, Baku, and Erivan, and the districts of Sa-katal, Sukhuin, and Tchernomore. These are the extreme limits of ancient Georgia, but in modern times the name has generally been confined to the territory bounded N". by the Caucasus, E. by Shirvan, S. by the range of the Armenian mountains separating the valley of the Kur from that of the Aras, and W. by a branch of the Caucasian range, having an area of about 25,000 sq. m. The surface of the entire country is mountainous, but many of the valleys, especially that of the river Kur, which flows through it from W. to E., are of great fertility. The climate is agreeable and healthful, and the soil produces in abundance all the cereals, hemp, flax, and cotton, and many fine fruits, particularly grapes, from which much wine is made.
For a more particular description of the country see Russia and the articles on the modern governments and districts.-The Georgians, or ancient Iberians, including their kindred, the Suanethians, Mingrelians, and Lazians, form the main race of the southern division of the Caucasian group of the Mediterranean family of the human species. Their, name is believed to be derived from the Per-siau gurj (Gurjistan,the land of wolves"). They call themselves Kartveli or Kartlians, after the province Kartlia of the former Georgian empire. The Armenians call them Virk.
The Georgians proper occupy the country comprised within the more limited of the boundaries above given, and embracing Kartlia on the Kur, Kakhetia, N. E. of Kartlia, and. other districts. West of them are the Mingrelians, who occupy Mingrelia, and Guria, on the Black sea. The Suanethians inhabit the southern slope of the Caucasus N. E. of the Mingrelians. These three divisions belong to the Russian empire. The Lazians in the sanjakate of Lazistan, pa-shalik of Trebizond, are subjects of Turkey. While the Armenians, who control most of the traffic of the country, are timid and intent on gain, the Georgians are bold, reckless, turbulent, and extravagant. They are also indolent, apathetic, and ignorant, seldom giving any signs of animation except when on a drinking bout. The lower classes are chiefly cultivators of the soil, which they work in the same way that their ancestors did centuries ago. The Georgian men are noted for their athletic forms and the women for their beauty, although the features of the latter are regular and handsome rather than beautiful, and are wanting in expression. The general characteristics of the race are finely chiselled brows, large, black, liquid eyes, prominent semi-aquiline nose, and voluptuous mouth.
Before marriage the women endeavor to keep their waists as small as possible by means of a girdle, which they wear almost continuouslv; this results in a large development of the bosom, which is much admired. It is said that in former times the belt was never removed until the nuptial day, when it was cut by the dagger of the bridegroom. Many such ancient customs, now obsolete in the neighborhood of Tiflis, are still preserved in the mountains and isolated districts. Before the Russian domination a large trade in slaves was carried on with Turkey, the Georgian nobles deriving their chief revenue from the sale of their serfs, the men for the Turkish armies, the women for the harems; but the traffic is now interdicted, and the relations between the upper and lower classes are much modified. The Persians and Mussulmans from the north of India also purchased many women from this region for their harems, paying sometimes as high as 20,000 piastres for a remarkably beautiful one. The Georgian stock consequently is largely disseminated throughout Mohammedan countries.
The Georgians are nominally members of the Greek church, and have had the Bible in their language since the beginning of the 10th century; but the priests are generally as ignorant as the people.-Nothing certain is known of early Georgian history. The statements of the Greek .and Latin writers are confused and lead to various conclusions. George Rawlin-son thinks that the territory was anciently in the possession of a people called by Herodotus Saspeires or Sapeires, whom we may identify with the Iberians of later writers." The Col-chians and Albanians were probably their neighbors. Their legends trace their origin to Targamos, a descendant of Japhet, and claim Mtzkhetos as the founder of the ancient capital Mtzkhta, which stood about 15 m. N. W. of Tiflis. The first Georgian empire seems to have been ended by the Scythians, who invaded it in the 7th century B. C. It is probable that it afterward formed a part of the Persian empire, was conquered by Alexander the Great,' and regained its independence at his death. Pharnavas was the first or one of the first kings of the second Georgian empire. Mir-van. in the latter part of the 2d century B. C., and his son Pharnaj, sovereigns of Persian descent, introduced Parseeism, which led to a revolt.
The king of Armenia came to the aid of the Georgians, and put his son Arshag on the throne, thus founding the dynasty of the Arsa-cides. In 65 B. C. the Georgians or Iberians came into contact with the Romans, and were compelled by Pompey to sue for peace. In the beginning of the 3d century A. D. the kingdom became highly prosperous, but in the following period the Persians made destructive invasions. Early in the 4th century the Georgians were converted to Christianity by St. Nina, a captive woman. At the death of Stephanos I. in 574, Guram, a Jew who had been his general-in-chief, ascended the throne. In 635 the Arabs overran the country, but did not succeed in subverting Christianity. Subsequent kings suffered much from their aggressions, and the Armenian dynasty of the Ba-gratides, who succeeded the Guramides, eventually became vassals of the caliphs. Bagrat III. liberated his country from foreign domination, and David III. (1089-1126) extended his dominions over a part of Armenia and as far as Trebizond. Queen Tamar III. (1184-1206) reduced several of the tribes north of the Caucasus, and her son George IV. vanquished the Persians, converted many of them to Christianity, and rendered valuable aid to the crusaders.