Gori was an important military stronghold in the Middle Ages and maintains a strategic importance due to its location on the principal highway connecting eastern and western parts of Georgia. In the course of its history, Gori has been invaded by the armies of regional powers several times. The city was occupied by Russian troops during the 2008 Russia–Georgia war.
Gori is located 86 kilometers (53 mi) west of Georgia's capital Tbilisi, at the confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Greater Liakhvi, 588 meters (1,929 ft) above sea level. The climate is transitional from moderately warm steppe to moderately humid. Summer is usually hot. The average annual temperature is 10.6 °C (51.1 °F), minimal in January (−1.0 °C or 30.2 °F) and maximal in July and August (21.4 °C or 70.5 °F). The maximum precipitation falls in May (76 mm or 3.0 in) and minimum in February (34 mm or 1.3 in). Precipitation here averages 603 mm.
The territory of Gori has been populated since the early Bronze Age. According to medieval Georgian chronicles, the town of Gori was founded by King David IV (r. 1089-1125) who settled refugees from Armenia there. However, the fortress of Gori (Goris-Tsikhe) appears to have been in use already in the 7th century, and archaeological evidence indicates the existence of an urban community in Classical Antiquity. In 1299, Gori was captured by the Alan tribesmen fleeing the Mongol conquest of their original homeland in the North Caucasus. The Georgian king George V recovered the town in 1320, pushing the Alans back over the Caucasus mountains.
With the downfall of the medieval Georgian kingdom, Gori – strategically located at the crossroads of major transit routes – was frequently targeted by foreign invaders, and changed its masters on several occasions. It was first taken and sacked by Uzun Hassan of the Ak Koyunlu in 1477, followed by Tahmasp I of Persia in the mid-16th century. By the end of that century, Gori briefly passed to the Ottomans through the 1578-90 Ottoman-Persian War, and became their major outpost in Georgia until being recovered by the Georgians under Simon I of Kartli after heavy fighting in 1599. The town was once again garrisoned by the Persians under Shah Abbas I in 1614.