Tbilisi formerly known as Tiflis, is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Kura River with a population of roughly 1.5 million inhabitants. Founded in the 5th century by the monarch of Georgia's ancient precursor Kingdom of Iberia, Tbilisi has served, with various intervals, as Georgia's capital for more than a thousand years. Under the Russian rule, the city was the seat of the Tsar's viceroy and has served, from 1801 to 1917, as the Imperial capital of the entire Caucasus, including Georgia's current neighbors.
Located on the southeastern edge of Europe, Tbilisi's proximity to lucrative east-west trade routes often made the city a point of contention between various rival empires throughout history and the city's location to this day ensures its position as an important transit route for global energy and trade projects. Tbilisi's varied history is reflected in its architecture, which is a mix of medieval, classical, and Soviet structures.
Historically, Tbilisi has been home to people of diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, though it is overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox Christian. Notable tourist destinations include cathedrals like Sameba and Sioni, classical Freedom Square and Rustaveli Avenue, medieval Narikala Fortress, pseudo-Moorish Opera Theater, and the Georgian National Museum.
According to an old legend, the present-day territory of Tbilisi was covered by forests as late as 458. One widely accepted variant of the legend of Tbilisi's founding states that King Vakhtang I Gorgasali of Georgia went hunting in the heavily wooded region with a falcon (sometimes the falcon is replaced with either a hawk or other small birds of prey in the legend). The King's falcon allegedly caught or injured a pheasant during the hunt, after which both birds fell into a nearby hot spring and died from burns. King Vakhtang became so impressed with the hot springs that he decided to cut down the forest and build a city on the location. The name Tbilisi derives from the Old Georgian word "Tpili" meaning warm. The name 'Tbili' or 'Tbilisi' ('warm location') was therefore given to the city because of the area's numerous sulphuric hot springs that came out of the ground. Additionally, archaeological studies of the region have revealed that the territory of Tbilisi had at least some human presence as early as the 4th millennium BCE.
King Dachi I Ujarmeli, who was the successor of Vakhtang I Gorgasali, moved the capital from Mtskheta to Tbilisi according to the will left by his father. It must be mentioned that Tbilisi was not the capital of a unified Georgian state at that time (therefore did not include the territory of Colchis) and was only the capital of Eastern Georgia/Iberia. During his reign, King Dachi I was also responsible for finishing the construction of the fortress wall that lined the city's new boundaries. Beginning from the 6th century, Tbilisi started to grow at a steady pace due to the region's favourable and strategic location which placed the city along important trade and travel routes between Europe and Asia.
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