Author Topic: The Age of Tamar - The Naming Problem  (Read 612 times)

Jubal

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The Age of Tamar - The Naming Problem
« on: November 14, 2017, 08:09:23 PM »
So, one of the CPP's annoying but genuine struggles is with its name. The prosopography element, whilst it's arguable the extent to which what I'm doing is truly prosopographical in the traditional sense, it at least uncontroversial - the trouble really comes with defining the chronological and geopolitical scope of the project, and with the difficulty of what to call that part of it. As such, I'm writing this post to work through my current reasoning & see if I get anywhere.

Georgia has pretty clear (ish) periodisation available here in terms of the development of the Georgian state. During the Macedonian dynasty's control of the Byzantine Empire, Georgia became something of a Byzantine satellite, with its leaders taking Byzantine titles, strong Byzantine religious influence, and at point during the period, direct Byzantine military intervention in the area. During the 11th century, Byzantine influence in eastern Anatolia declined rapidly, with and a collapse in the 1070s/80s following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. Georgia, after a number of setbacks against the Turks, managed by the late 11th and early 12th century to emerge having largely dispensed with Byzantine titles and influence, as a unified state that over the following decades became the major regional power by the second half of the 12th century. It is this period, which lasted until the 1220s and the Mongol invasions, which my project covers.

The main term for the period is often the Georgian "Golden Age" - a phrase any serious historian should dismiss out of hand, it being far too loaded to be analytically sensible. The Georgian state was undoubtedly capable of very significant power projection in the later 12th century, but we should not use terminologies that automatically assume that all the impacts of this were fundamentally "good". Referring to the "Age of Tamar" is also a poor start, and risks the period and its complexities fading into the background compared to the already practically (and indeed literally) hagiographical images of Tamar's leadership.

As to other options: one of the standard possible shorthands for medieval periodisation, that of dynasty, is unavailable (the Bagrationid family having been in place well before this period started and for centuries afterwards). One could maybe refer to a "long twelfth century" as some people have done for periodising UK economic history, but I find that rather dissatisfying, not least because it presupposes a start date that covers the C12th in full whereas it's pretty arguable up until the 1120s or so. Geography doesn't help much either - Georgia is often excluded from definitions of both "North Caucasus" and "South Caucasus" whilst not being large enough to really justify "Caucasus" as a whole except perhaps for a few years in Tamar's reign (and even then it's dubious).

I'm currently thinking that "High Medieval" is my best option, but I'm still not really certain - I'm worried that this term links Georgia too much to historiographical trends in Europe which it may or may not have actually shared, and I'm not wholly comfortable with "high" and its rather non-neutral connotations. It's an improvement upon "Golden Age", but there may still be a better option - I just haven't come up with it yet!
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Glaurung

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Re: The Age of Tamar - The Naming Problem
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2017, 12:43:19 AM »
This sounds like a difficult one. I'm obviously no expert on the period, but it sounds as if all the obvious alternatives are unsatisfactory for one reason or another. Is there any other reference you could use? E.g. the "Panther Skin" period (assuming it was composed then). Or some other cultural feature that was typical of the period but not before or after.

Another, possibly less useful, alternative: define the temporal and spatial coverage at the start of each relevant work, and give it an abstract reference, e.g. "Bob". If you can make it an English-word acronym for something that's vaguely meaningful and accurate, even better.

Jubal

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Re: The Age of Tamar - The Naming Problem
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2017, 12:11:20 PM »
The Knight in Panther Skin was composed in the period, but I think evoking it would be too specific - the work very heavily references and links to a very specific 1180s/90s cultural milieu, particularly with eg its justifications of female rulership.

At the moment I still suspect that High Medieval is my best shorthand, though "Central Medieval" or "Middle Medieval" might be better - one can definitely use the concepts of an "early medieval" or "Arab/Byzantine" Georgia, and a "post-Mongol" or "late-Medieval" Georgia - my only problem with "High Medieval" is that, like terms like "High Church" or "High Elf", it gives the idea of the middle period being fundamentally elevated (and from the perspective of the Georgian state's ability to project power this may be true, but the more I can get away from using that as the basis of naming my periods, the happier I'll be).
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