Kastron, Rabaḍ and Arḍūn: the Case of Artanuji
A famous passage in Konstantinos Porphyrogennetos’s De Adminstrando Imperio (DAI) tells the story of a Byzantine manoeuvre that almost went very wrong. In 923, two deaths exacerbated tensions between different branches of the ruling Bagrationi family in Iberia. On the death of Adarnase, his Georgian title of king, mep‘e of K‘art‘li, passed to his eldest son Davit‘. However, it was unclear who would receive his Byzantine court title of kouropalatēs, which was in the gift of the Byzantine emperor. At the same time, the death of the ruler of the kastron of Artanuji had meant that this crucial centre of Bagrationi power had passed into the hands of a certain Ashot ‘Kiskasis’ (‘the Nimble’). DAI tells us that Ashot the Nimble feared the rising power of his son-in-law Gurgen, who had himself been making overtures to the Byzantines. So Ashot decided to offer his kastron to the Byzantines. This appeared to present the Byzantine emperor Romanos Lekapenos with an opportunity to take direct control of a key potential strategic and economic outpost for Byzantine power in Transcaucasia.