The Orbeli (Georgian: ორბელი) were the powerful family in the twelfth and thirteenth century Georgia.[1] They possessed lands in Lower Kartli, among them were Amirspasalars, Mandaturt-ukhutsesi, Atabags and later Viziers. They fled Georgia in 1177 and returned during the reign of David Ulu.

CountryOrbeti and Lori Fortress
Founded12th century
FounderIvane Orbeli
TitlesAmirspasalar (Lord High Constable) and Mandaturtukhutsesi (Minister of the Interior)


The feudal family of Orbeli were possibly descended from one of the most powerful Medieval Georgian nobles of Liparitid-Baguashi. During the anti-Seljuk campaigns led by David IV, his loyal amirspasalar or commander-in-chief, Ivane Orbeli was granted possessions over newly incorporated Samshvilde (formerly known as Orbi), in 1110. 13th century Armenian historian, Stepanos Orbelian states that they received many estates from the rulers of Georgia, including the fortress of Orbeti, "settled in the borough of Orbeti and, after a long time, were called Orbuls", that is, Orbels, after the name of this fortress. In 1118 the domains of the Tashir-Dzoraget kingdom were annexed by David IV and were given to Orbeli's.

Rise of OrbeliEdit

In 1161, George III took Ani from Shaddadids and appointed his general Ivane Orbeli as its ruler. According to Armenian chronicler Vardan Arawele'i (c. 1267), it was Sumbat II Orbeli who had been responsible for putting George III on the throne in 1156, but twenty years later, it seems, the kingmakers turned against their protégé after a dispute over control of the city of Ani and paid heavily for doing so. In 1177, Ivane Orbeli headed an abortive insurrection against George III on behalf of his son-in-law and George's nephew Demetrius, who was considered by many to be a legitimate royal heir of his murdered father, David V. according to Vardan Arawele'i, George had usurped his elder brother David V by arranging his murder and had then suppressed the succession of David's son. he also notes that David was murdered by "Sumbat' and lvane [Orbeli]" in a plot of the Orbels. They had made an agreement with George III, David's brother, that he would appoint them generals. Ivane Orbeli was indeed rewarded by George III with the post of amirspasalar on his coronation. meanwhile Stepanos Orbeliani denies any family involvement in the murder of David V and says that George had sworn to David V that he would rule only until Demetrius (David's son) reached his majority, but then reneged on his vow. He claims that the Orbeli's had been the witnesses of this vow and that they led the 1177 revolt to restore Demetrius, who was now adult, to his rightful position. Since Demetrius had married the daughter of Ivane — Rusudan Orbeli, the family's interest in the revolt is clear. Demna's cause was little but a pretext for the nobles, led by the pretender's father-in-law, the amirspasalar ("constable") Ivane Orbeli, Ivane Orbeli, the viceroy of Ani and the head of the powerful and ambitious Orbeli clan, to weaken the crown.[2] The nobles of the realm declared Prince Demetrius a "true and lawful King of Georgia". The insurgents crowned Demetrius the king at the Agara Castle and marched, with 30,000 men, to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. George III “summoned” Kipchak mercenaries lead by Kubasar, mountaineer Dvals and ruler of Shirvan, Akhsitan I, jointly they hardly managed to gather 5,000 troops. However, Orbeli’s plan of a surprise attack failed. George III relied mainly on crack troops provided by the Kipchak mercenaries and Caucasian mountaineers. By forceand diplomacy, he induced many of rebelled nobles to surrender. Orbeli, however, refused to comply and retired to the citadel of Lore (now Lori, Armenia). The royal army quickly overran the fiefdoms of rebel lords and put Lore under siege. Ivane sent his brother Liparit and nephews Eligum and Ivane to the Eldiguzids in Tabriz for help, but this new army came too late, his forces completely exhausted before the reinforcements could arrive. Demetrius was the first to surrender. George III was able to crush the revolt and embarked on a crackdown campaign on the defiant aristocratic clans; Ivane Orbeli was put to death and the surviving members of his family were driven out of Georgia. after which a Kipchak named Kubasar was appointed spasalar of Lori.

One brother, Ivane, succeeded in restoring part of his family's holdings in Georgia during the reign of queen Tamar (1184-1213). The other brother, Eligum, fled to the Atabegs of Azerbaijan and became Muslim. His descendants — Orbelian — eventually gained control of the Armenian principality of Syunik.


family tree of House of Orbeli
Ivane Orbeli
Sumbat Orbeli
Liparit OrbeliIvane Orbeli
Eligum OrbeliSumbat OrbeliTarsaich OrbeliSumbat Orbeli
Liparit Orbeli


  1. ^ A history of Georgia. (2014). Tbilisi: Artanuji Publ.
  2. ^ Khazanov & Wink 2001, pp. 48–49.