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About Gonio Fortress
Gonio Fortress, Apsaros - (1st Century) Historical Fortress in Adjara, Khelvachauri Municipality, seaside resort Gonio. The Gonio-Apsaros archaeological-architectural museum-reserve is located in the northern part of historical Chaneti, at the confluence of River Chorokhi to the black sea, 12 km far from the southern Batumi.
The Gonio-Apsaros Fortress had unique strategic importance: it protected the entrances of the Chorokhi and Adjaristskali valleys, connecting inner regions of southwestern Georgia with the Black Sea coast. Because of its location, Gonio fortress became one of the pillars of the Roman Empire and then for Byzantine and Ottoman too. The Gonio fortress has been a museum-reserve since 2010. There are exhibits dated back from the early years of the nineteenth century to the 80's.
Gonio Fortress has a rectangle shape. Its length is 228 meters and its width is 195 meters. The fortress area is 44,460 sq. m. The wall is fortified with 18 towers.
Gonio is a complex structure with its towers. The castle has had many restorations in its history. The walls clearly reveal several layers of construction. The oldest of these are rectangular large and faceted squares, and the most recent - a layer of cobblestones in the upper part of the walls. As for the oldest layer of the fortress, it is built with huge boulders. There are one meter thick boulders with an average height of 80 cm and a thickness of 70 cm. This lower part of the walls is the oldest. Its height is five meters, and at the corners where the towers are erected, seven meters. The thickness of this wall is about three and a half inches. According to archaeological materials and references to Greek-Roman writings, it dates to pre-feudal times. The walls are generally well protected. Local people say: "People were standing from Kvariati to Gonia and they gave the stones to each other." It must probably be about the little stones, otherwise, it would be difficult to hand big boulders on the lower walls even with buffalo carts. There is also a layer of Byzantine-era (VI-VII century) buildings. Some restoration work must have been carried out during the time of the Genoese in Gonia (XIII-XIV centuries).
The fortress wall has 18 towers. The largest of these are the four towers erected at the corners of the wall. There are stone stairs with each tower inside the fortress. There are tunnels left in the ground. There was an ornamented door at the main entrance to the castle even at the beginning of the XXI century. Professor Andrey Krasnov wrote about this door in 1915: "The door was protected during the last period, but it was taken by foreign archaeologists and they left only less interesting ruins for visitors."
Gonio-Apsaro’s history is closely linked to the myth of Argonauts. It is widely known that the King Aeetes buried his son Apsaros. Then, he was killed by the escapee Jason. According to the legend, one of Christ’s 12 disciples-Matatha is buried there as well.
There was the left tributary of the Chorokhi next to the castle in old times. This fact is described in folk legends. According to legend, this river was originally a navigational one: from ancient times boats sailed to Artvin. Later, this branch of Chorokhi was closed and it turned into a lake. This is how the lake was created, known as Gonio Lake now.
Archaeological excavations revealed remains of Roman barracks, glass items, coins, as well as remains of baths from the second half of the first century with water reservoirs of the period, cave dwellings, and bath mosaics in a large area. The mosaic is mainly made of alternating pink and dark stones. Different types of geometric ornaments are presented, mainly chess and rhombus-shaped ornaments. The remains of the monumental church dated to the VI century AD are found at Akhalsofeli, with 24m length and width up to 18 meters. They are well preserved. In the second century, there were five cohorts of the Romans. During this period it was a well-fortified castle-town. I-III century buildings have been discovered in the fortress: baths, barracks, sewage and water supply systems, wells, etc. The Roman Empire, then Byzantium, and the Italian city-states (Genoa and others) were very interested in this strategically important fortress during the centuries.
In the late Middle Ages, Gonia and Chaneti are owned by the Jakeli or the Vardanidze. In 1547 Chaneti was conquered by the Ottomans. The Vardanidze-Gurieli struggle for the liberation of Gonia-Chaneti did not have a result. It remained in Turkish possession until 1878 when under the San-Stefano treaty it was taken by the Russian Empire along with Adjara.
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