Georgian Surnames

Shota Rustaveli

(1172-1216)

Author of the Georgian national epic, "The Knight in the Panther's Skin".

The meaning of the surname Rustaveli is landlord of Rustavi or a man from Rustavi. Rustavi was a city in Meskheti, South Georgia.

Little is known for certain of Rustaveli's early life. According to Georgian legend, he was orphaned as a child and was brought up by an uncle who was a monk. Such a background may be reflected in the poet's religious and philosophical preoccupations. Rustaveli later composed a series of odes to the first Woman King of Georgia Tamari (c. 1160–c. 1210), who reigned during the high point of Georgian power and cultural attainment. As a reward, Tamari appointed him treasurer of the court. Tradition has it that Rustaveli fell in love with her.

On the basis of his "The Knight in the Panther's Skin", some scholars credit Rustaveli with the creation of the Georgian literary language. Reflected in his poetry are Chinese, Persian, and ancient Greek philosophy, including direct quotations from Plato.

Shota Rustveli (a fresco in the Jerusalem Monastery of the Cross)