NOKALAKEVI was a political center of Colchis (Egrisi) in Antique and early Christian times, the capital of the Kingdom of Lazika (IV-VIII cc.). It is located on the left bank of river Tekhuri, 17 km from the town of Senaki to the North-East (the river encircles the town from three sides).
According to the history tradition, the fortress town was first built by Egrisi Eristavi (Duke) Kuji (IV-II cc. BC). The old name of the township – Tsikhegoji (Fortress of Kuji) - is related to him. The Greek sources of later times call this township Archeopolis (in Georgian – Nokalakevi or Old Town, or ‘remnants of town’).
As some scholars prove, on the exact site of Nokalakevi was situated mythological town of Aya where Jason, Medea and Argonauts have stolen Golden Fleece. Construction of a fortress town here was determined by military and strategic reasons and plenty of population. Archeopolis was an impregnable fortress in the period of a Great War of Egrisi between Iran and Byzantium (542-562). In 736 the town was seized and pillaged by Arab commander, Marwan ibn-Muhammad (Murvan the Deaf). After that importance of Tsikhegoji went down. In XVI-XIX centuries Nokalakevi was a residence of Odishi sovereigns. Nokalakevi is surrounded by a fence having 3 km length. Its area is a territory of 19 ha and consists of 3 parts: Lower Town, middle fortress and citadel. The settlement was located on the riverside, garrison was encamped on the pla-NOKALAKEVI teau, and fortress citadel on the mountain (4 ha).
The palace of Egrisi kings (IV c.), three-nave Basilica (V c.), three-nave Basilica remade into a dome church (VI c.), three-level Palace (VI c.), gates with a tower and baths are located on the lower territory of the fortress. There is a Hall Church (VI-VII cc.) in the citadel. Fortification system of the township is in line with geographic environment. From three sides township was defended by river and steep walls, and from the relatively nature fortified Eastern part 3 fences had been built. The northern part was controlled by a Jikha (fortress) tower. Both local and imported ceramics, bronze items, necklace, copper and gold coins have been excavated on the territory of the fortress.
In Nokalakevi vats and graves of heathen period have been digged where the deceased had coins – Colchis Tetri – stuck in their mouths. Also in Nokalakevi were discovered two baths. One was for the use of a king and nobility, and the other for citizens and garrison. It should be noted that baths were equipped with the system of central heating.
Copyright © 2017. N. Elizbarashvili, B. Kupatadze
Copyright © 2017. “Dani” Publishing