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Svanetia (Georgia)


Last modified: 2013-12-07 by ivan sache
Keywords: svanetia | lion |
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The Svanetian lion

On the Georgian Parliament site, there is a page about the Svaneti flag (page no longer online), showing a banner and the following text:

For centuries this land was Georgia's stronghold. Here Georgian was spoken and banners floated featuring a mighty lion, the heraldic beast of King David the Builder and Queen Tamar.

Ivan Sache, 25 June 1999

A picture in The Georgians, by David Marshall Lang, 1966, p. 23, is captioned:

Svanian 'lion' standard. Would become inflated during the cavalry onrush, to strike terror into the foe.

The author further says:

Two thousand years ago, Strabo spoke of the Svans as a powerful fighting nation capable of putting 200,000 warriors in the field; nowadays, the entire body of Svanian speakers numbers no more than 25,000.

The number need not be exaggerated, as it may have been an ancient custom in the Caucasus that if one nation was attacked all were attacked, as was the case in the uprising by Shamyl in the XIXth century, and the present Chechen revolt. The Svanetians live in Northwest Georgia, with capital Mestia, high up in the Caucasus mountains. 2.000 years ago they probably lived in the foothills, but not much is known.
This 'banner' confirms in a way that the animal on the Svanetian flag on the site of the Georgian Parliament is a lion - possibly the drawer of that image had no idea what a lion looked like...

Jarig Bakker, 2 April 2002