Georgian (ქართული) literature is one of the most ancient traditions in the world.
The earliest Georgian literature dates back to hagiography pieces in the fifth century AD.
Since then, the country has nurtured dozens of talented writers, who have enriched and developed Georgian poetry, prose, fiction, and non-fiction. Not that widely known in the world, Georgian writers are gaining international fame slowly with just a few works translated into English or other languages.
The beginning of its history dates back to the fourth century, to the epoch when the country was converted to Christianity. Poetry as an important part of Georgian literature also can be traced back to the very beginning of Georgian writing and even farther, to the ancient layers of pagan folk poetry. In spite of this, Georgian poetry is Christian in its essence as is Georgian literature.
The oldest genre of Georgian poetry is hymnography, followed by the plentiful diversity of lyrical genres like elegy, ode, epic, and sonnet. Throughout its history Georgian poetry looks like an open cultural construction: it undergoes different aesthetic epochs and cultural contexts, standing at the crossroads of Western and Eastern civilizations; overcomes the difficulties of Russian colonialism and Soviet totalitarianism; and constructs the strong models of post-colonial consciousness.
The Knight in the Panther’s Skin (Georgian: ვეფხისტყაოსანი) is an epic poem written in the 12th century by the Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli (Georgian: შოთა რუსთაველი) (1172-1216) - one of the greatest contributors to Georgian literature.
Consisting of 1666 stanzas and 6500 lines, its story embodies the medieval knightly ideals of chivalry, friendship, courtly love and courage. The poem describes how Avtandil (Georgian: ავთანდილი), a young Arabian nobleman, helps his friend Tariel (the knight in the panther’s skin), to rescue an Indian princess from sorcerers. The object of love, Nestan-Darejan, is an allegorical embodiment of Queen Tamar. These idealized heroes and devoted friends are united by courtly love, generosity, sincerity, dedication, and proclaim equality between men and women, which is a recurring theme. The poem is regarded as the "coronation of thought, poetic and philosophical art of medieval Georgia".
Although the poem takes place in the fictional settings of exotic "India" and "Arabia", events in these distant lands are but a colorful allegory of the rule of Queen Tamar of Georgia, and the size and glory of the Kingdom of Georgia in its Golden Age. Dedicated to Tamar the Great (Georgian: თამარი) it is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Georgian literature. Several manuscripts of the poem were lost or destroyed during the numerous invasions of Georgia but oral traditions preserved it and the first print edition was made in 1712 in Tbilisi.
By the way, the first printed book in Georgian was published in Rome in 1629 by Niceforo Irbachi (Nicholas Irubakidze-Cholokashvili) (Georgian: ნიკოლოზ ჩოლოყაშვილი; ნიკოლოზ ირუბაქიძე-ჩოლოყაშვილი), a Georgian Orthodox priest, politician and diplomat. The book was a Georgian Alphabet with prayers, which was later accompanied with a Georgian – Italian dictionary.
Credits to georgiabout.com, citylore.org, theculturetrip.org