The last great Georgian king died on this day in 1798. His name was Erekle II in Georgian (in Russian Irakly II, and in Latin Heraclius II, which are all different versions of the same name, Heraclius). By the time of birth Heraclius II was about the same age as Mozart’s father, Leopold, and only a few years older than Giacomo Casanova and the philosopher Immanuel Kant.
In the time of young Heraclius II, Georgia found itself between the interests of two major Muslim forces – the Ottoman Empire and Persia. Georgians were Christians, and these two great powers alternately occupied their territories. However, Heraclius II managed to carve out de facto independence and reign as king over a relatively large part of Georgian territory. He bore the title of king of two kingdoms – Kartli and Kakheti – which lay in the area around present-day Georgian capital of Tbilisi. This city was also the capital of Heraclius II (in Russian, Tbilisi was once called Tiflis). Just to mention, Stalin (a Georgian by birth, with the surname Dzhugashvili) was born a hundred years later in the same general area where Heraclius II ruled.
To preserve the country from external attack, Heraclius II finally decided to place himself under the protection of the Russians, who were, at that time, spreading their empire to the Caucasus region. The Russians seemed a more favourable solution than the Ottomans and Persians, if only by being Orthodox Christians like the Georgians. However, Heraclius’s decision did not show itself as a good one. Shortly after his death, the Russians absorbed Georgia into their own empire, and the Georgians lost their independence for a long time.