The Caucasus or Caucasia is a region at the border of Europe and Asia, situated between the Black and Caspian Seas. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains which contains highest mountain peak —-Mount Elbrus.
Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (AD 77-79) derives the name of the Caucasus from the Scythian “KROY-KHASIS” (ice-shining, white with snow). The northern portion of the of the Caucasus is known as the CISCAUCASUS and the southern portion as the TRANSCAUCASUS. The CISCAUCASUS contains the larger majority of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. It includes South western Russia and northern parts of Georgia and Azerbaijan. The TRANSCAUCASUS is bordered on the north by Russia, on the west by the Black Sea and Turkey, on the east by the Caspian Sea and on the south by Iran. It includes the Caucasus Mountains and surrounding lowlands. All of Armenia, Azerbaijan (excluding the northern parts) and Georgia (excluding the northern parts) are in South Caucasus.
The main Greater Caucasus range is generally perceived to be the “dividing-line” between Asia and Europe. The highest peak is Mount Elbrus (5,642m) is generally considered as the highest peak in Europe.
Located on the peripheries of Turkey, Iran and Russia, the region has been an arena for political, military, religious and cultural rivalries and expansionism for centuries. Throughout its history, the Caucasus was usually incorporated into the Iranian world. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Russian Empire conquered the territory from Iran. The Caucasus region would later be conquered by the Ottomans, Mongols, local kingdoms and Khanates, as well as, once again, Persia.
The Caucasus is an area of great ecological importance. The region is included in the List of 34 world “biodiversity hotspots” It harbours some 6,400 species of higher plants, 1,600 of which are endemic. to the region. Its wildlife includes Persian leopards, brown bears, wolves, bison, olden eagles and hooded-crows. Among invertebrates, some 100 spider species are recorded in the Caucasus. Over 70 species of forest snails of the region are endemic. Some relict species of vertebrates are Robert’s snow vole, Caucasian salamander, Parsley frog and Caucasian grouse. The natural landscape is one of mixed forest, with substantial areas of rocky ground above the tree line. The Caucasus Mountains are also noted for a dog breed —— The Caucasian Shepherd Dog.
In Greek mythology, the Caucasus or Kaukasos, was one of the pillars supporting the world. After presenting man with the gift of fire, Prometheus (or Amirani in Georgian version) was chained by Zeus, to have his liver eaten daily by an eagle as punishment for defying Zeus’ wish of not giving the “secret of fire” to humans.
The Roman poet Ovid, placed Caucasus in Scythia and depicted it as a ” cold and stony” mountain which was the abode of “personified hunger”. The Greek hero Jason sailed to the west coast of Caucasus in pursuit of the Golden Fleece, and there met Medea, daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis.
In Persian mythology, the Caucasus is sometimes identified with the mythic CAFCUH or MOUNT QAF which is believed to surround the known world. It is the battlefield of SAOSHYANT and the nest of the SIMURGH.