Early history According to an old legend, the present-day territory of Tbilisi was covered by forests as late as the 5th century A.D. 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 either substituted by a hawk or other small birds of prey in the legend). The King's falcon allegedly caught/injured a pheasant during the hunt, after which both birds fell into a nearby hot spring and died (from the burns received in the hot water). 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") therefore was given to the city because of the area's numerous sulfuric hot springs that came out of the ground.
Archaeological studies of the region have revealed that the territory of Tbilisi was settled by humans as early as the 4th millennium B.C. The earliest actual (recorded) accounts of settlement of the location come from the second half of the 4th century A.D, when a fortress was built during King Varaz-Bakur's reign. Towards the end of the 4th century the fortress fell into the hands of the Persians after which the location fell back into the hands of the Kings of Kartli (Georgia) by the middle of the 5th century A.D. King Vakhtang I Gorgasali (reigned in the middle and latter halves of the 5th century) who is largely credited for founding Tbilisi was actually responsible for reviving and building up the city and not founding it. The present-day location of the area which Gorgasali seems to have built up is spread out around the Metekhi Square (Abanot-Ubani historical district).
Tbilisi becomes a capital King Dachi I Ujarmeli (beginning of the 6th century A.D.), 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 Ujarmeli 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 favorable and strategic location which placed the city along important trade and travel routes between Europe and Asia.
Foreign domination Tbilisi's favorable and strategic location did not necessarily bode well for its existence as Eastern Georgia's/Iberia's capital. Located strategically in the heart of the Caucasus between Europe and Asia, Tbilisi became an object of rivalry between the region's various powers such as Persia, The Byzantine Empire, Arabia, and the Seljuk Turks. The cultural development of the city was therefore heavily dependent on who ruled the city at various times. Even though Tbilisi (and Eastern Georgia in general) was able to maintain a certain degree of autonomy from its conquerors, the foreign domination of the city began in the latter half of the 6th century and lasted well into the 10th century A.D.
From 570-580 A.D., the Persians took over Tbilisi and ruled it for about a decade. In the year 627 A.D., Tbilisi was sacked by the Byzantine/Khazar armies and later from 736-738, Arab armies entered the town under Marwan II Ibn-Muhammad. After this point, the Arabs established an emirate in Tbilisi. It must be noted that the Arab domination brought a certain order to the region and introduced a more formal/modernized judicial system into Georgia. In 764, Tbilisi was once again sacked by the Khazars, which was still under Arab control. In the year 853 A.D., the armies of Arab leader Bugha Turk (Bugha the Turk) invaded Tbilisi in order to establish a Caliphate. The Arab domination of Tbilisi continued until about 1050 A.D, due to the fact that local Georgians were unsuccessful in their drive to expel the Arabs. In 1068, the city was once again sacked, only this time by the Seljuk Turks under Sultan Alp Arslan.
 Tbilisi as the capital of a unified Georgian state and the Georgian Renaissance In 1122, after heavy fighting with the Seljuks that involved at least 60,000 Georgians and up to 300,000 Turks, the troops of the King of Georgia David the Builder entered Tbilisi. After the battles for Tbilisi concluded, David moved his residence from Kutaisi (Western Georgia) to Tbilisi, making it the capital of a unified Georgian State. From 12-13th centuries, Tbilisi became a dominant regional power with a thriving economy (with well-developed trade and skilled labour) and a well-established social system/structure. By the end of the 12th century (A.D.), the population of Tbilisi had reached 80,000. The city also became an important literary and a cultural center not only for Georgia but for the larger civilized world as well. During Queen Tamar's reign, Shota Rustaveli worked in Tbilisi while writing his legendary epic poem, The Knight in the Panther's Skin. This period is widely known as "Georgia's Golden Age" or the Georgian Renaissance.
 Mongol domination and the following period of instability
Tbilisi, ca. 1890-1900Tbilisi's "Golden Age" did not last for more than a century. In 1236 A.D., after suffering crushing defeats to the Mongols, Georgia came under Mongol domination. The nation itself maintained a form of semi-independence and did not lose its statehood, but Tbilisi was strongly influenced by the Mongols for the next century both politically and culturally. In the 1320s, the Mongols were forcefully expelled from Georgia and Tbilisi became the capital of an independent Georgian state once again. An outbreak of the plague struck the city in 1366.
From the late 14th until the end of the 18th century, Tbilisi came under the rule of various foreign invaders once again and on several occasions was completely burnt to the ground. In 1386, Tbilisi was invaded by the armies of Tamerlane (Timur). In 1444, the city was invaded and destroyed by Jahan Shah (the Shah of the town of Tabriz in Persia). From 1477 to 1478 the city was held by the Ak Koyunlu tribesmen of Uzun Hassan. In 1522 A.D., Tbilisi came under Persian control but was later freed in 1524 by King David X of Georgia. During this period, many parts of Tbilisi were reconstructed and rebuilt. From the 17-18th centuries, Tbilisi once again became the object of rivalry only this time between the Ottoman Turks and Persia. King Erekle of Georgia tried on several occasions, successfully, to free Tbilisi from Persian rule but in the end Tbilisi was burnt to the ground in 1795 by Shah Agha-Mohammad Khan. At this point, sensing that Georgia could not hold up against Persia alone, Erekle sought the help of Russia.
Tbilisi under Russian control In 1801, after the Georgian kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti joined the Russian Empire, Tbilisi became the center of the Tbilisi Governance (Gubernia). From the beginning of the 19th century Tbilisi started to grow economically and politically. New buildings mainly of European style were erected throughout the town. New roads and railroads were built to connect Tbilisi to other important cities in Russia and other parts of the Transcaucasus (locally) such as Batumi, Poti, Baku, and Yerevan. By the 1850s Tbilisi once again emerged as a major trade and a cultural center. The likes of Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, Iakob Gogebashvili, Alexander Griboedov and many other statesmen, poets, and artists all found their home in Tbilisi.
The city was visited on numerous occasions by and was the object of affection of Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Lermontov, the Romanov Family and others. The Romanov Family established their residence (in Transcaucasia) on Golovin Street (Present-day Rustaveli Avenue).
Throughout the century, the political, economic and cultural role of Tbilisi with its ethnic, confessional and cultural diversity was significant not only for Georgia but for the whole Caucasus. Hence, Tbilisi took on a different look. It acquired different architectural monuments and the attributes of an international city, as well as its own urban folklore and language, and the specific Tbilisuri (literally, belonging to Tbilisi) culture.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Tbilisi became the capital of an independent Georgia.