Little, if anything, is known about Rustaveli from contemporary sources. His poem itself, namely the prologue, provides a clue to his identity: the poet identifies himself as "a certain Rustveli." "Rustveli" is not a surname, but a territorial epithet which can be interpreted as "of/from/holder of Rustavi." Later Georgian authors of the 15th-18th centuries are more informative: they are almost unanimous in identifying him as Shota Rustaveli, a name which is preserved on a fresco and a document from the formerly Georgian Monastery of the Holy Cross at Jerusalem. The fresco was described by the Georgian pilgrim Timote Gabashvili in 1757/58, and rediscovered by a team of Georgian scholars in 1960. The same Jerusalem document speaks of Shota as a sponsor of the monastery and a "high treasurer," thus echoing a popular legend that Rustaveli was a minister at Queen Tamar’s court and retired to the monastery at an advanced age. Both a folk tradition and the 17th century royal poet Archil identify Rustaveli as a native of the southern Georgian region of Meskheti, where his home village Rustavi was located (not to be confused with the modern-day city of Rustavi near Tbilisi). He is assumed to have been born between 1160 and 1165. A legend states that Rustaveli was educated at the medieval Georgian academies of Gelati and Ikalto, and then in "Greece" (i.e., the Byzantine Empire). He must have produced his major work no earlier than the 1180s and no later than the first decade of the 13th century, most probably c. 1205-1207.
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