Gonio-Apsaros fortress
Georgia, Adjara

In the town of Gonio in Adjara, 15 kilometers south of the city of Batumi on the left bank of the Chorokhi River, near the border with Turkey, is the oldest fortress in Georgia - the Gonio-Apsaros fortress, which is a 4.5 hectare site.
The history of the fortress dates back several millennia. The oldest archaeological strata excavated by archaeologists on the territory of the fortress date back to the XV-XVII centuries BC. Beyond the southern wall of the fortress burial sites dating from the 5th century AD were found. e. There is a legend that the name Apsaros comes from the ancient Greek myth of the Argonauts. According to legend, it was at this place that the son of King Aet, Apsirt, who was killed by Jason, was buried.
The first mention of the fortress belongs to Pliny the Younger (I century A.D.). The name "Gonio" was first mentioned in the message of the Trebizondian historian Michael Panaret in the XIV century.
Many legends and myths are associated with the Gonio-Apsaros fortress. There is a grave on the territory of the fortress, which today is considered to be the grave of the Apostle Matthew - one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, whom the Savior accepted into his circle instead of Judas Iscariot. According to one version, the apostle Matthew after the death of Christ came to the fortress of Gonio and stayed here to preach. The tomb of the Apostle Matthew is located on the territory of the Roman Praetorium (from Latin literally “the tent of the commander”). Since the Gonio-Apsaros fortress at the beginning of our era was built as a stronghold of the Roman troops, the residence of the Roman general commanding the garrison was called praetorium in this case. From the praetorium there were huge stone pedestals in the form of crosses, which supposedly stand above the tomb of the Apostle Matthew.
Throughout its history, the Gonio fortress was first owned by the Romans, after which in the VI century the Byzantines came to Apsar, and in 1547 the Gonio-Apsaros fortress was captured by the Ottoman Turks. In the XVII century, as is known from history, the Ottoman Empire conquered Adjara, Turkish troops stood in the fortress for a very long time, and the stunning baths were rebuilt in the eastern baths. Nevertheless, significant signs of Roman civilization still survived throughout the fortress. For example, the original sewer pipes laid in the 2nd century by the Romans, amazing stone tees for the necessary pipe layout, the powerful foundations of the barracks and the wonderful building of the Praetorium. Even the huge stone pedestals remained from the latter in an absolutely amazing way.
Only in 1878 as a result of the Russo-Turkish war under the San Stefano treaty, the Gonio fortress, like the whole of Adjara, was returned to Georgia, which at that time was under the protectorate of the Russian Empire. In the Soviet period, Adjara became autonomy, which remains to this territory until now.
Today, the Gonio-Apsaros fortress is a monument of the Roman period in the history of Adjara. The layout and architecture of the fortress have not changed much over all the centuries of its existence. Despite the fact that a mosque of the Turkish garrison was built opposite the alleged tomb of St. Matthew, and the Roman baths were converted into oriental baths, the general architecture of the fortress remained the same as it was two thousand years ago under the Romans.
The total length of the walls of the fortress is 900 meters, and the height is 5 meters. Initially, 22 towers with a height of 7 meters were built along the perimeter of the fortress, but some of them were destroyed over time and today the fortress has only 18 towers. The fortress had 4 entrances and exits, today only the western entrance is intact.
Gonio-Apsaros fortress was an important strategic point. Its main function was to protect the entrances to the gorge of the Chorokhi and Acharistskali rivers, which connected the inner regions of the country with the Black Sea coast. The eastern border of the Roman Empire passed through this territory, which made the Gonio fortress not only an important strategic point, but also the economic and cultural center of Eastern Rome, as evidenced by the ruins of a hippodrome and Roman theater found by archaeologists, presumably operating in the 1st-3rd centuries. AD It is believed that it was on this territory that the first Georgian state associations originated, and in the Byzantine period, the territory of the fortress was a stronghold for Genoese merchants.
Archaeological excavations of the Gonio-Apsaros fortress have been conducted since the 60s of the XX century. Among the finds are ceramic, bronze, silver and gold objects, copper coins of Justinian I and other artifacts. In 1974, a treasure dated to the 2nd-3rd centuries AD was accidentally discovered on the territory adjacent to the fortress. e. Based on the enormous historical and cultural significance of the Gonio Fortress, the Government of Georgia declared it a reserve museum in 1994 and since then there has been ongoing and fruitful scientific work. There is a museum on the territory of the fortress, where you can see part of the items found, however, the most valuable finds, including the treasure found, are exhibited in the Batumi Archaeological Museum.

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