A new step in the history of Christian monasticism in eastern Georgia is associated with thirteen Syrian monks, led by John, who came to Iberia (K‘art‘li) in the mid-sixth century C.E. They were the bearers of a Syrian tradition that implied the combination of an heroic ascetic endeavor and an apostolic mission. They came as spiritual heirs of St. Nino, a Cappadocian virgin who converted Georgia to Christianity in the beginning of the fourth century. Their vitae were first composed by a certain hagiographer named John-Martyrius, but this work does not survive. In the tenth century, the head of the Georgian Church and the distinguished ecclesiastical writer Arsenius II (955–980) depicted their lives and deeds based on different oral and written sources. Later, other unknown authors also wrote additional hagiographical works about these Syrian ascetics. At the beginning of their ascetic and ecclesiastical careers, the thirteen Syrian monks settled on Zedazeni mountain with their spiritual supervisor, John. John later sent them to different corners of the Iberian kingdom in opposition to paganism and Zoroastrianism. They founded monasteries and became influential religious leaders during the second half of the sixth century. Through their vitae, composed by Arsenius and other unknown authors, it is possible to trace the process of transforming the small ascetic communities established by Syrian monks into great feudal organizations. These monasteries had an important impact on the Georgian social and cultural landscape during the Middle Ages.

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