Ancient Nokalakevi (Region of Mingrelia)
Nokalakevi (Georg. ნოქალაქევი) ( literally meaning “place where a town was”) – Nokalakevi is the place where an important ancient Georgian city was situated. Roman and Byzantine historians knew the city as Archaeopolis, but in the later Georgian chronicles it is called Tsikhegoji, “the fortress of Kuji”, its eponymous and semi-legendary third-century BC founder. The capital of the western Georgian kingdom of Egrisi (Lazica) in the 4th-8th centuries AD, it served as a battlefield during the Lazic War (542-562) between the Byzantine and Persian Empires.
During the war, the city was attacked by the Persians three times but never taken. In 737-738, the city was destroyed by the Arab commander, Marwan ibn-Muhammad, known to Georgians as Murvan Kru (Murvan the Deaf) because he was so oblivious to their pleas for mercy in his rampage throughout Georgia. Subsequently, Tsikhegoji declined to a small village. It saw only a relative revival when Princes of Mingrelia built there one of their palaces in the 16th century. Archaeological studies have demonstrated that the site was inhabited in the early 1st millennium BC.
The settlement grew larger in the 5th-4th centuries BC. The majority of the visible structures were built between the 4th to the 8th centuries AD when Archaeopolis functioned as the capital of Lazica. Remains of the original walls of a royal palace, acropolis, rich burials, baths, and the early Christian churches can be seen running up the mountain and along the cliffs that border the Tekhuri River. Rich collections of local and foreign coins found at the site indicate a high level of contacts with neighbouring countries, specifically with the Byzantine Empire.