Heraclius I of Kakheti

  (Redirected from Erekle I)

Heraclius I (Georgian: ერეკლე I, Erekle I; Persian: ارگلی خان‎, romanizedEreglī Khān) or Nazar Alī Khān (Persian: نظر علی خان‎, romanizedNaẓar ʿAlī Khān; Georgian: ნაზარალი-ხანი, romanized: nazarali-khani) (1642–1709), of the Bagrationi dynasty, was a Georgian monarch who ruled the kingdoms of Kakheti (1675–1676, 1703–1709) and Kartli (1688–1703) under the protection of the Safavid dynasty of Iran.

Heraclius I
Nicolaes Davidszoon. Georgiaens Koningh.jpg
Imaginary portrait by Nicolaes Witsen, late 17th century
King of Kakheti
PredecessorArchil of Imereti
SuccessorDavid II of Kakheti
King of Kartli
PredecessorGeorge XI of Kartli
SuccessorGeorge XI of Kartli (restored)
Died1709 (aged 66–67)
Isfahan, Iran
SpouseAna Cholokashvili
IssueDavid II of Kakheti
Teimuraz II of Kakheti
Constantine II of Kakheti
FatherPrince David of Kakheti
MotherElene Diasamidze
ReligionGeorgian Orthodox Church, then Shia Islam
KhelrtvaHeraclius I's signature

Early lifeEdit

He was son of Prince David of Kakheti (1612-1648), son of King Teimuraz I, by his wife Helene née Princess Diasamidze (died 1695). Taken to Russia when the pro-Persian king Rostom of Kartli defeated Teimuraz in 1648, he was raised and educated at the Romanov court at Moscow where he was known as Tsarevich Nicholas Davidovich (Russian: Царевич Николай Давыдович). In 1662, he returned to take over the then-vacant crown of Kakheti at the invitation of local nobility, but was defeated by the rival prince Archil who enjoyed Iranian support.

Nicholas had to flee back to Russia where he featured prominently and was best man of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich in his wedding to Natalia Naryshkina in 1671 and stood in high favor with the Russian court.

It is believed by some[who?] that he was a natural father of Peter the Great. The writer Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy researching the biography of Peter the Great, informed Joseph Stalin that he had unearthed some documents which suggested Peter's father was a Georgian king. He thought he would ingratiate himself with Stalin by telling him this. Instead Stalin was appalled and forbade Tolstoy to mention the matter ever again.[1]

Royal careerEdit

In KakhetiEdit

In 1675, Archil conflicted with the shah's government, abandoned Kakheti and defected to the Ottoman Empire. Prince Nicholas capitalized on the ensuing turmoil, returned for a second time and was proclaimed as King of Kakheti Heraclius (Erekle) I. Earlier, in 1666, shah Suleiman I had succeeded Abbas II on the Iranian Safavid throne. In 1674, Suleiman I asked him to decisively end his stay in Russia,[2] ordered him to Isfahan and promised to confirm him as king if Heraclius apostatized to Islam. The king refused to become Muslim and the shah's subject, citing the oath of allegiance given by his ancestor, Alexander II of Kakheti (r. 1574–1605), to Feodor I of Russia.[citation needed] Hence, he was deprived of the crown, being allowed, however, to settle to Isfahan. Kakheti was subsequently under direct Safavid rule.[2]

In KartliEdit

In 1688, when the government of Iran declared its recalcitrant subject George XI of Kartli deposed, Heraclius acceded to the shah's pressure. He converted to Islam[3] assuming the title of Nazar Alī Khān in 1676. In reward, Heraclius was confirmed as King of Kartli and given a Persian army to win over the crown. To buttress Heraclius's authority, the shah appointed 'Abbās-qolī Khan, formerly a beglarbeg of Ganja, as Persian viceroy in Kakheti (residing at Qara-Agach). The khan failed, however, to prevent George XI from staging a comeback in 1691 and blockading Heraclius (Nazar Alī Khān) in Tiflis, his capital. It was not until 1696 that George admitted defeat and came to Isfahan to offer his submission to the new shah, Soltan Hosayn.

At the same time, the shah grew increasingly dissatisfied with Nazar Alī Khān's administration. Having spent most of his life in Russia and Iran, his lack of knowledge of Georgian national traditions he had already estranged his subjects. A vacillating ruler, addicted to strong drink, though capable at times of being brave, philanthropic and reformist, he never really achieved a firm control of his possessions, or made himself popular with the populace of Kakheti. Meanwhile, George XI managed to gain the favor of Shah Hosayn and was reconfirmed as King of Kartli in 1703, while Nazar Alī Khān was removed from the throne and ordered to Isfahan where he was invested by Hosayn as King of Kakheti and appointed the commander of the shah's personal guard. He was never able to return to his kingdom, however, and died at the Persian capital in 1710, being succeeded on the throne by his son, David II (Imām Qulī Khān), who had run Kakheti during Nazar Alī Khān's absence at Isfahan.


Royal charter of Erekle I.

Heraclius I married, in 1677, Ana, daughter of Prince Shermazan Cholokashvili (died before April 1716). They were the parents of two sons and two daughters:

  • David II (Imām Qulī Khān) (1678 – 2 November 1722), King of Kakheti (1703/1709–1722).
  • Princess Elene (Banjanum) (1687 – 27 April 1750), who in 1715 married King Jesse of Kartli.
  • Teimuraz II (c. 1690 – 8 January 1762), King of Kakheti (1729–1736, 1738–1744) and of Kartli (1744–1762).
  • Princess Ketevan (died 1718), who married Prince Abel Andronikashvili.
  • Princess Mariam (c. 1698 – 1732), who married in 1714 Prince Edisher Cholokashvili and became a nun in widowhood, with the name of Makrine. She was a hymnist and copyist of religious texts.

Heraclius I also had several natural children born of unknown concubines, of which better known are:

Little is known of Heraclius's other children:

  • Ismail
  • Rostom (1685–1703)
  • Vakhtang (died 1695)
  • Demetre (1688–1700)
  • Gorgasal (died 1697)
  • George
  • Reza Quli Mirza
  • Mustafa Mirza



  1. ^ Martin McCauley, Stalin and Stalinism: Revised 3rd Edition, 2013, p. 94
  2. ^ a b Rayfield 2013, p. 211.
  3. ^ Islamic desk reference By E. J. van Donzel, pg.111


  • Lang, David Marshall (1957), The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, 1658-1832. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Mikaberidze, Alexander (ed., 2007). Erekle I. Dictionary of Georgian National Biography. Accessed October 9, 2007.
  • Rayfield, Donald (2013). Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia. Reaktion Books. ISBN 978-1-78023-070-2.
Preceded by
King of Kakheti
Succeeded by
Interregnum under the Persian governors
Preceded by
George XI
King of Kartli
Succeeded by
George XI (restored)
Preceded by
Interregnum under the Persian governors
King of Kakheti
Succeeded by
David II (Imām Qulī Khān)