Because of its location on the crossroads between Europe and Asia, and its proximity to the lucrative Silk Road, throughout history Tbilisi was a point of contention between various global powers. The city's location to this day ensures its position as an important transit route for various energy and trade projects. Tbilisi's diverse history is reflected in its architecture, which is a mix of medieval, neoclassical, Beaux Arts, Art Nouveau, Stalinist and Modern structures.
Historically, Tbilisi has been home to people of multiple cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, though it is currently overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox Christian. Its notable tourist destinations include cathedrals Sameba and Sioni, Freedom Square, Rustaveli Avenue and Agmashenebeli Avenue, medieval Narikala Fortress, the pseudo-Moorish Opera Theater, and the Georgian National Museum.
Archaeological studies of the region have indicated human settlement in the territory of Tbilisi as early as the 4th millennium BC. According to legend, the present-day territory of Tbilisi was covered by forests as late as 458. One widely accepted variant of Tbilisi foundation myth 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 clear the forest and build a city on the location. The name Tbilisi derives from Old Georgian T'bilisi (თბილისი), and further from T'pili (თბილი, "warm""). The name "T'bili" or "T'bilisi" (literally, "warm location") was therefore given to the city because of the area's numerous sulphuric hot springs that came out of the ground.
King Dachi I Ujarmeli, who was the successor of Vakhtang I Gorgasali, moved the capital of Eastern Georgia/Iberia from Mtskheta to Tbilisi according to the will left by his father (Tbilisi was not the capital of a unified Georgian state at that time and did not include the Western territory of Colchis). During his reign, King Dachi I oversaw the construction of the fortress wall that lined the city's new boundaries. From the 6th century, Tbilisi grew at a steady pace due to the region's strategic location along important trade and travel routes between Europe and Asia.
Tbilisi's favorable trade location, however, did not necessarily bode well for its survival. 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 the Roman Empire, Parthia, Sassanid Persia, Arabs, the Byzantine Empire, and the Seljuk Turks. The cultural development of the city was somewhat dependent on who ruled the city at various times, although Tbilisi was fairly cosmopolitan.