The Caucasus is a region situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, located between the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east. It is a diverse and mountainous area that spans several countries, and it has played a significant role in the history and geopolitics of the surrounding regions.
In Parzival, Wolfram includes a mention of the Caucasus as the location of the Grail Castle, also known as the Castle of the Grail or Munsalvasche. This is the dwelling place of the Fisher King, the wounded guardian of the Holy Grail.
“The Grail, it dwells in a castle
Der Grâl, er weilet in einer Burg
In der 'Cotdû' heißet sie,
Sô rîchelîch und sô vreudeclîch
Grâlburg nâht niemen mê.
So richly and so joyously,
No one knows the Grail Castle more.“
The term Cotdû is often associated with the Caucasus, although the exact location and identification of this castle remain subjects of scholarly debate.
The Caucasus | Antiquity to the 9th century AD
Antiquity | 1st Millenium BC
The Caucasus region has a rich and ancient history, with various tribes and cultures inhabiting the area. It was a crossroads for trade routes connecting the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and beyond. The region was influenced by the Persian Empire to the south and the Scythians to the north.
Roman and Byzantine Periods | 1st – 6th centuries AD
The western part of the Caucasus, including present-day Georgia, came under Roman and later Byzantine influence. This period saw the introduction of Christianity to the region. Georgia, in particular, became an early adopter of Christianity in the fourth century, making it one of the oldest Christian nations.
Sassanian Persia | 3rd – 7th centuries
The eastern part of the Caucasus, including parts of modern-day Azerbaijan and Armenia, fell under the influence of the Sassanian Persian Empire. The region experienced a blend of cultural influences from both the Byzantine and Persian empires.
Arab Conquest | 7th – 8th centuries
The Islamic Caliphate, led by the Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphs, expanded into the Caucasus in the seventh century. This period saw the Arab-Muslim conquest of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The region underwent a process of Islamization and Arabization during this time.
In the northern Caucasus, the Khazar Khagenate, a semi-nomadic Turkic state, played a significant role. The Khazars controlled key trade routes and were involved in interactions with both the Byzantine Empire and the Caliphate.
Khazars and the Caucasus
The Khazars, based in the North Caucasus, were involved in diplomatic and military relations with the Byzantines and the Caliphate. The Khazar Khaganate served as a buffer between the Muslim world and the Byzantine Empire.
The Christian kingdoms of Iberia (Georgia) and Caucasian Albania (not to be confused with the present-day Albania) emerged as important entities during this period. Both kingdoms had cultural and political ties with the Byzantine Empire.
Arrival of the Alans and the Huns
In the early centuries of the Common Era (AD), the Caucasus experienced migrations and invasions by various groups, including the Alans and the Huns, contributing to the region’s ethnic diversity.
Parzival | Wolfram von Eschenbach, 1200–1210