Tsurtaveli, a 5th
century Georgian writer, is the author of the
hagiography "Torture of Shushanik",
the oldest surviving piece of Georgian literature.
The story describes how the Kartlian
"Pitiakhsh" (regent) Varsqen betrayed his
homeland and faith for the Persians,
converted to their religion and tortured his wife Shushanik to
force her to convert as well. It is known from
his work that Jakob Tsurtaveli was a court priest of
the Kartlian Pitiakhsh in the township of
Tsurtavi, and that he was an
eyewitness to the tragedy he describes.
His work was written between 476 and 483, after
the agonizing death of Shushanik. This work
marks the beginning of the history of Georgian
literature. Jakob Tsurtaveli was a literary
master, and by virtue of this talent he was able to
create a highly artistic work instead of merely
writing a biographical account. The heroine of
the work is a woman who defies her husband, a man who
betrayed his homeland and faith. In resisting
him, she defended not only her own dignity but also
her faith and the independence of her homeland.
This work has been translated into many
languages. In 1978, Georgian society
commemorated the 1500th anniversary of the
composition of Torture of Shushanik.
Between 1979 and 1983, UNESCO and the world
community commemorated this milestone as