The success of Vilnius town is symbolized in the legend about the Grand Duke Gediminas who was hunting in the sacred forests of Sventarage Valley. Tired after the successful day’s hunt,Grand Duke decided to spend the night in nearby. While sleeping he dreamt a huge great iron wolf standing on the top of the hill and the sound of hundreds of other wolves filling the nearby fields and forests with their howls. Upon awakening, the Duke asked the head priest Lizdeika to interpret the meaning of the dream. And the priest told him: “What was bound for the ruler and the Lithuanian State, is therefore: the iron wolf represents a castle and a city which will be founded by you on that spot. This city will be the capital of the Lithuanian lands and the habitat of their rulers, whose fame and reputation about their deeds will be known all over the world.” Having announced Vilnius his “royal town”, Gediminas set the circumstances for its following development as a political, economical and cultural center of Lithuania. The so called Upper Castle, the fortress on the Castle Hill, was used for defense purposes.
Vilnius is one of the oldest cities in Lithuania. Vilnius was first mentioned in written sources in 12th century. In 1323 it was declared to be a town, but it was between 1503 and 1522 that Vilnius built walls around its city. After a few centuries it became a powerful, rapidly grew, and an all-round developing city. Thus, in 1579, the first in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the university is built there, which easily becomes an important European center of culture and science. Political, economical and social life here was also very intensive.
During that time of development in Vilnius, they accepted all people from other countries and migrants who desired to move and stay there. That created quite a number of different communities in Vilnius and all of them created very unique efforts in the city. As time passed, strong Polish, Russian, Jewish, German, and Karaite communities established in the city. Each of them in their own ways contributed to the forming of the city in science, in crafts and in trades.
The city was increasing quickly, in the beginning of the 19th century it was the third largest city in Eastern Europe, with only Moscow and St. Petersburg being larger. Now Vilnius is so quickly growing its like you can hear it buzzing. But it still has some of its wonderful history and are recovering some of its lost history.