Georgian is believed to have separated from Megrelian and Laz in the first millennium BC. Based on the degree of change, linguists (e.g. Klimov, T. Gamkrelidze, G. Machavariani) conjecture that the earliest split occurred in the second millennium BC or earlier, separating Svan from the other languages. Megrelian and Laz separated from Georgian roughly a thousand years later.
Georgian has a rich literary tradition. The oldest surviving literary text in Georgian is the "Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik" ( Tsamebay tsmindisa Shushanikisi, dedoplisa ) by Iakob Tsurtaveli, from the 5th century AD. The Georgian national epic, "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" ( Vepkhistqaosani ), by Shota Rustaveli, dates from the 12th century.