Georgian from Persian (Farsi vahrka-tanū) means - "wolf-bodied", a possible reflection of the wolf cult in ancient Georgia. Beginning in the late 13th century, numerous Georgian princes and kings took the name Vakhtang. Toumanoff observes that the name Vakhtang has no Classical equivalent and infers that the king’s sobriquet Gorgasal - given to Vakhtang because of the shape of the helmet he wore - was rendered by the 6th-century Roman historian Procopius as Gurgenes (Greek: Γουργένης). Toumanoff's identification of Vakhtang with Gurgenes has not been universally accepted.
Vakhtang I "Gorgasali" (Georgian: ვახტანგ I გორგასალი c. 439 or 443 - 502 or 522), of the Chosroid dynasty, was a king of Iberia, natively known as Kartli (modern eastern Georgia) in the second half of the 5th and first quarter of the 6th century. Gorgasali is a sobriquet meaning in Iranian "wolf’s head". He led his people, in an ill-fated alliance with the Eastern Roman Empire, into a lengthy struggle against Sassanid Iranian hegemony, which ended in Vakhtang's defeat and weakening of the kingdom of Iberia. Tradition also ascribes him reorganization of the Georgian church and foundation of Tbilisi, Georgia’s modern capital.
Dating Vakhtang's reign is problematic. Professor Ivane Javakhishvili assigns to Vakhtang’s rule the dates c. 449-502 and Professor Cyril Toumanoff the dates c. 447-522. Furthermore, Toumanoff identifies Vakhtang with the Iberian king Gurgenes known from Procopius' Wars of Justinian.
Vakhtang is a subject of the 8th or 11th century vita attributed to Juansher which intertwines history and legend into an epic narrative, hyperbolizing Vakhtang's personality and biography. This literary work has been a primary source of Vakhtang’s image as an example warrior-king and statesman, which has preserved in popular memory to this day. He emerged as one of the most popular figures in Georgia's history already in the Middle Ages and has been canonized by the Georgian Orthodox Church.