According to an old legend, the present-day territory of Tbilisi was covered by forests as late as 458 AD. 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 ot 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 AD, 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 AD. 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 cliff and the latter-day Abanot-Ubani neighborhood.