In the 6th century BCE, Greek merchants founded the colony of Dioscurias, which retained its economic significance until the 1st century BCE. In 65 BCE, the Romans arrived in this land, establishing the fortress of Sebastopolis on the site of the Greek colony.

In the 6th century, the Byzantines invaded the coast, capturing and destroying the Roman fortress. During the reign of Emperor Justinian I (482-565), Sebastopolis was rebuilt and experienced a new period of prosperity. In the 730s, Arab invaders entered the region. Although they failed to establish a permanent presence, Sebastopolis was once again destroyed. The settlement became known as Tskhum from 736 onwards.

Starting in the 12th century, Tskhum once again became a trade center, this time under Genoese influence. By the late 13th century, trade piers appeared, and in 1354, a Genoese consulate was established. During the Middle Ages, Tskhum became part of the Georgian Kingdom and served as the summer residence of Georgian kings. The city was temporarily occupied by Turkey in 1451 and was liberated during the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812.

In 1846, Tskhum received the status of a trading port, and in 1848, it was designated as a port city. In 1866, it changed its name to Sukhumi.

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