Empire of Trebizond

The Empire of Trebizond or the Trapezuntine Empire was a monarchy and one of three successor rump states of the Byzantine Empire that flourished during the 13th through 15th centuries, consisting of the far northeastern corner of Anatolia (the Pontus) and the southern Crimea. The empire was formed in 1204 after the Georgian expedition in Chaldia,[5] commanded by Alexios Komnenos a few weeks before the sack of Constantinople. Alexios later declared himself Emperor and established himself in Trebizond (modern day Trabzon, Turkey). Alexios and David Komnenos, grandsons and last male descendants of deposed Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos, pressed their claims as "Roman Emperors" against Byzantine Emperor Alexios V Doukas. The later Byzantine emperors, as well as Byzantine authors, such as George Pachymeres, Nicephorus Gregoras and to some extent Trapezuntines such as John Lazaropoulos and Basilios Bessarion, regarded the emperors of Trebizond as the “princes of the Lazes”, while the possession of these "princes" was also called Lazica,[6] in other words, their state was known as the Principality of the Lazes.[7] Thus from the point of view of the Byzantine writers connected with the Laskaris and later with the Palaiologos dynasties, the rulers of Trebizond were not emperors.[8][9]

After the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade overthrew Alexios V and established the Latin Empire, the Empire of Trebizond became one of three Byzantine successor states to claim the imperial throne, alongside the Empire of Nicaea under the Laskaris family and the Despotate of Epirus under a branch of the Angelos family.[10] The ensuing wars would see the Empire of Thessalonica, the imperial government that sprung from Epirus, collapse following conflicts with Nicaea and Bulgaria and the final recapture of Constantinople by the Empire of Nicaea in 1261. Despite the Nicaean reconquest of Constantinople, the Emperors of Trebizond would continue to style themselves as "Roman Emperors" for decades and continued to press their claim on the Imperial throne. Emperor John II of Trebizond officially gave up the Trapezuntine claim to the Roman imperial title and Constantinople itself 11 years after the Nicaeans recaptured the city, altering his imperial title from "Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans" to "Emperor and Autocrat of all the East, Iberia (i.e. Lazica) and Perateia".[11]

The Trapezuntine monarchy would survive the longest among the Byzantine successor states. The Despotate of Epirus had ceased to contest the Byzantine throne even before the Nicaean reconquest and was briefly occupied by the restored Byzantine Empire c. 1340, thereafter becoming a Serbian dependency later inherited by Italians, ultimately falling to the Ottoman Empire in 1479. Whilst the Empire of Nicaea had restored the Byzantine Empire through restoring control of the capital, it ended in 1453 with the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans. Trebizond would last until 1461 when the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered it after a month-long siege and took its ruler and his family into captivity,[12] marking the final end of the Roman imperial tradition initiated by Augustus 1,488 years previously. The Crimean Principality of Theodoro, an offshoot of Trebizond, lasted another 14 years, falling to the Ottomans in 1475.

Empire of Trebizond

Map of the Empire of Trebizond shortly after the foundation of the Latin Empire in 1204, featuring the short-lived conquests in western Anatolia by David Komnenos (later reconquered by the Empire of Nicaea) and Sinope (later conquered by the Sultanate of Rum).
Map of the Empire of Trebizond shortly after the foundation of the Latin Empire in 1204, featuring the short-lived conquests in western Anatolia by David Komnenos (later reconquered by the Empire of Nicaea) and Sinope (later conquered by the Sultanate of Rum).
StatusSuccessor of the Byzantine Empire,
client state of the Kingdom of Georgia (1204–1212/13),[A] vassal of the Mongol Empire (1243–1336)
Common languagesGreek (official)
Laz, Western Armenian
Eastern Orthodoxy
GovernmentRepublican monarchy
Notable emperors1 
• 1204–1222
Alexios I
• 1238–1263
Manuel I
• 1280–1297
John II
• 1349–1390
Alexios III
• 1459–1461
Historical eraLate Middle Ages
April 13, 1204
• Submission to the Mongol Empire
• Permanent loss of Sinope
• John II renounces Imperial claims
15 August 1461[1]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Byzantine Empire
(Angelos dynasty)
Ottoman Empire
(Trebizond Eyalet)
Republic of Genoa
Principality of Theodoro
1 the full title of the Trapezuntine emperors after 1282 was "the faithful Basileus and Autokrator of All the East, the Iberians and Perateia"


Trebizond already had a long history of autonomous rule before it became the center of a small empire in the late middle ages. Due to its natural harbours, defensible topography and access to silver and copper mines, Trebizond became the pre-eminent Greek colony on the eastern Black Sea shore soon after its founding. Its remoteness from Roman capitals gave local rules the opportunity to advance their own interest. In the centuries before the founding of the empire the city had been under control of the local Gabras family, which - while officially still remaining part of the Byzantine Empire - minted its own coin.

The rulers of Trebizond called themselves Megas Komnenos ("Great Comnenus") and – like their counterparts in the other two Byzantine successor states, the Empire of Nicaea and the Despotate of Epirus – initially claimed supremacy as "Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans." However, after Michael VIII Palaiologos of Nicaea recaptured Constantinople in 1261, the Komnenian use of the style "Emperor" became a sore point. In 1282, John II Komnenos stripped off his imperial regalia before the walls of Constantinople before entering to marry Michael's daughter and accept his legal title of despot.[13] However, his successors used a version of his title, "Emperor and Autocrat of the entire East, of the Iberians and the Perateia" until the Empire's end in 1461.[14]


Fourth Crusade and foundation of the Latin Empire
The path of the Fourth Crusade and the political situation of what once was the Byzantine Empire in 1204 AD.

Geographically, the Empire of Trebizond consisted of the narrow strip along the southern coast of the Black Sea and the western half of the Pontic Alps, along with the Gazarian Perateia, or southern Crimea (soon losing to Genoese Gazaria and Theodorite Gazaria).

The core of the empire was the southern Black Sea coast from the mouth of the Yeşilırmak river, a region known to the Trapezuntines as Limnia, possibly as far east as Chorokhi river, a region then known as Lazia; Anthony Bryer has argued that six of the seven banda of the Byzantine theme of Chaldia were maintained in working order by the rulers of Trebizond until the end of the empire, helped by geography. Geography also defined the southern border of this state: the Pontic Alps served as a barrier first to Seljuk Turks and later to Turkoman marauders, whose predations were reduced to a volume that the emperors could cope with.[15] This territory corresponds to an area comprising all or parts of the modern Turkish provinces of Sinop, Samsun, Ordu, Giresun, Trabzon, Bayburt, Gümüşhane, Rize, and coastal parts of Artvin. In the 13th century, some experts believe the empire controlled the Gazarian Perateia, which included Cherson and Kerch on the Crimean peninsula. David Komnenos, the younger brother of the first Emperor, expanded rapidly to the west, occupying first Sinope, then coastal parts of Paphlagonia (the modern-day coastal regions of Kastamonu, Bartın, and Zonguldak) and Heraclea Pontica (the modern-day Karadeniz Ereğli), until his territory bordered the Empire of Nicaea. The expansion was, however, short-lived: the territories west of Sinope were lost to Theodore I Laskaris by 1214, and Sinope itself fell to the Seljuks that same year, although the emperors of Trebizond continued to fight for its control over the rest of the 13th century.[16]



Medieval Trebizond 2
Fortification plan of Trebizond

The city of Trebizond was the capital of the theme of Chaldia, according to the 10th century Arab geographer Abul Feda it was regarded as being largely a Lazian port. Chaldia had already shown its separatist tendencies in the 10th and 11th centuries, when it came under the control of a local leader named Theodore Gabras, who according to Anna Comnena regarded Trebizond and its hinterlands "as a prize which had fallen to his own lot" and conducted himself as an independent prince. The Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos confirmed him as governor of Chaldia, but kept his son at Constantinople as a hostage for his good conduct. Nevertheless, Gabras proved himself a worthy guardian by repelling a Georgian attack on Trebizond.[17] One of his successors, Gregory Taronites, also rebelled with the aid of the Sultan of Cappadocia, but he was defeated and imprisoned, only to be made governor once more.[18] Another successor to Theodore was Constantine Gabras, whom Niketas describes as ruling Trebizond as a tyrant, and whose actions led Emperor John II Komnenos in 1139 to lead an expedition against him. Although that effort came to nothing, this was the last rebel governor known to recorded history prior to the events of 1204.[19]


The empire traces its foundation to April 1204, when Alexios Komnenos and his brother David took advantage of the preoccupation of the central Byzantine government with the encampment of the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade outside their walls (June 1203 – mid-April 1204) and seized the city of Trebizond and the surrounding province of Chaldia with troops provided by their relative, Tamar of Georgia.[4] Henceforth, the links between Trebizond and Georgia remained close, but their nature and extent have been disputed.[20] However some scholars believe that the new state was subject to Georgia, at least in the first years of its existence, at the beginning of the 13th century.[2][3]

Both men were the grandsons of the last Komnenian Byzantine emperor, Andronikos I Komnenos, by his son Manuel Komnenos and Rusudan, daughter of George III of Georgia. Andronikos I had been deposed by Isaac II Angelos, while Manuel was blinded (a traditional Byzantine punishment for treason) and died not long after. Alexios and his brother, David, ended up at the court of Queen Tamar of Georgia, who gave them military support to return to Byzantine territory. Vasiliev explains that she had been motivated to do so after the Emperor Alexios III Angelos stole the gifts Tamar had given to a group of visiting monks as they passed through Constantinople.[21] While Michel Kurskanskis has argued in support of Vasiliev's interpretation, he disagrees with Vasiliev over the intent of Tamar's intervention: Vasiliev has argued that the Queen intended to create a buffer state to protect the Georgian Kingdom, while Kurskanskis believes she supported the brothers in their attempt to reclaim the Byzantine throne in Constantinople.[22]

After marching from Georgia, and with the help of their paternal aunt Queen Tamar, Alexios and David occupied Trebizond in April 1204.[23] That same month Alexios was proclaimed emperor at the age of 22, an act considered by later writers as the moment the Empire of Trebizond was founded.

Up to the civil wars

Alexios III Megas Komnenos
Alexios III, from the chrysobull he granted to the Dionysiou monastery on Mount Athos.

The date Alexios entered Trebizond may be narrowed down even further. Sergey Karpov has identified a lead seal of Alexios, on one side "the image of a strategos in the peaked helmet led by hand by St. George" with the inscriptions Ἀλέξιος ὁ Κομνηνός [Alexios Komnenos] and Ὁ Ἅ(γιος) Γεώργιος [Saint George] on either side; on the obverse is a scene of Ἡ Ἁγία Ἀνάστασις [The Holy Resurrection] with the corresponding inscription. Karpov interprets the significance of this image and the inscription as portraying the most important achievement of his life, St. George inviting the victorious prince to enter Trebizond and opening the gates of the city with his left hand. The importance of St. George was that Easter—the date of the Resurrection—in 1204 fell on 25 April, while the memorial date of St. George was 23 April. "So I dared to assume," writes Karpov, "that the seal points out the date of the capture of Trebizond."[24]

Vasiliev points out that the brothers occupied Trebizond too early to have done so in response to the Crusaders capturing Constantinople; Alexios and David began their march on Trebizond before news of the sack of Constantinople on 13 April 1204 could reach either Trebizond or Georgia. According to Vasiliev, however, their original intention was not to seize a base from which they could recover the capital of the Byzantine Empire, but rather to carve out of the Byzantine Empire a buffer state to protect Georgia from the Seljuk Turks.[25] Kuršanskis, while agreeing with Vasiliev that Tamar was motivated by revenge for Alexios Angelos's insult, proposed a more obvious motivation for the brother's return to Byzantine territory: they had decided to raise the banner of revolt, depose Alexios Angelos, and return the imperial throne to the Komnenos dynasty. However, not long after they had gained control of Trebizond and the neighboring territories, news of the Latin conquest of Constantinople reached them, and the brothers entered the competition for recovery of the imperial city against Theodore I Laskaris in western Anatolia (ruler of the "Empire of Nicaea") and Michael Komnenos Doukas in mainland Greece (ruler of the "Despotate of Epirus").[26]

For most of the 13th century Trebizond was in continual conflict with the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm and later with the Ottoman Turks, as well as Constantinople, the Italian republics, and especially the Republic of Genoa. It was an empire more in title than in fact, surviving by playing its rivals against each other, and offering the daughters of its rulers, who were famed for their beauty, for marriage with generous dowries, especially with the Turkish rulers of inland Anatolia. The common view is that the Empire of Trebizond relied heavily upon wealth gained from its trade with Genoese and Venetian merchants to secure for itself the resources necessary to maintain independence.[27]

The second son of Alexios I, Manuel I (1238–1263), preserved internal security and acquired the reputation of a great commander. His accomplishments included capturing Sinope in 1254.[28] He was the first ruler to issue silver coins, which were known as aspers.

Borders of the empire c. 1300.

The destruction of Baghdad by Hulagu Khan in 1258 diverted the western terminus of the Silk Road north to the Black Sea, and due to its link with their local capital at Tabriz, Trebizond accumulated tremendous wealth under the suzerainty of the Mongols.[29] Western travelers used Trebizond as their starting point for journeys into Asia; these travelers included Marco Polo, who returned to Europe in 1295 by way of Trebizond. The troubled reign of Manuel's youngest son John II (1280–1297) included a reconciliation with the restored Byzantine Empire and the end of Trapezuntine claims to Constantinople. Trebizond enjoyed a period of wealth[30] and influence during the long reign of John's eldest son Alexios II (1297–1330). During his reign, the city of Erzurum was also under Trebizond Empire occupation for a while around the 1310s.[31]

From the civil wars to the end of the 14th century

Trabzon, Hagia Sophia Ἁγία Σοφία (39484827385)
The Hagia Sophia church of Trebizond, today a museum.

Following the death of Alexios II, Trebizond suffered a period of repeated imperial depositions and assassinations, despite a short period of stability under his youngest son Basil (1332-1340). Two groups struggled for ascendency: the Scholaroi, who have been identified as being pro-Byzantine, and the Amytzantarantes, who were identified as representing the interests of the native archontes. The years 1347-1348 marked the apex of this lawless period. The Turks took advantage of the weakness of the empire, conquering Oinaion and besieging Trebizond, while the Genoese seized Kerasus. In addition, the Black Death spread from Caffa to ravage Trebizond and other Pontic cities. Bending under the weight of the disasters that accumulated on his states, Emperor Michael abdicated in 1349 in favor of his nephew, Alexios III, who gradually brought the partisans of both factions under control.

Under the rule of Alexios III, Trebizond was considered an important trade center and was renowned for its great wealth and artistic accomplishment. It was at this point that their famous diplomatic strategy of marrying the princesses of the Grand Komnenos to neighboring Turkish dynasts began. However, Anthony Bryers has argued against thinking this empire was a wealthy polity, stating that while the income from taxes levied on this trade was "by Byzantine standards" substantial, as much as three quarters of the income of the Emperor came from land "either directly from the imperial estates or indirectly from taxes and tithes from other lands."[32]

In the 15th century

A reduced Trebizond with surrounding states in 1400

The last years of the fourteenth century were characterized by the increasing Turkish threat. This threat was not from the small Turkmen emirates that bordered Trebizond's borders, but from the dynasty of the Osmanli, a new Turkish power emerging from western Anatolia that would soon consolidate the Ottoman Empire. Although their expansion was temporarily checked by Tamerlane at the Battle of Ankara in 1402, by the 1430s the Ottomans had recovered their fortunes, seizing large segments of Greece and finally capturing Constantinople itself on 29 May 1453. Manuel III (1390–1417), the second son and successor of Alexios III, had allied himself with Tamerlane, but the mighty conqueror soon left Anatolia, and the empire he had built crumbled with his death. His son Alexios IV (1417–1429) continued the tradition of political marriages by marrying two of his daughters to rulers of two neighboring Muslim empires: Jihan Shah, khan of the Kara Koyunlu, and Ali Beg, khan of the Ak Koyunlu. His eldest daughter Maria became the third wife of the Byzantine Emperor John VIII Palaiologos.

Alexios IV's eldest son, John IV (1429–1459), could not help but see that his Empire would soon share the same fate as Constantinople. The Ottoman Sultan Murad II first attempted to take the capital by sea in 1442, but high surf made the landings difficult and the attempt was repulsed.[33] While Murad's son and successor, Mehmed II, was away laying siege to Belgrade in 1456, the Ottoman governor of Amasya attacked Trebizond, and although defeated, he took many prisoners and extracted a heavy tribute.[34] Genoese document records the seizure of one of their ships at that port in 1437 by a military Galley at the orders of Emperor John IV.[35]

Byzantine Greek Soldiers Alexander Manuscript Thessaly
A 14th-century miniature Greek manuscript depicting Byzantine Greek soldiers from the Empire of Trebizond.

John IV prepared for the eventual assault by forging alliances. He sent an envoy to the Council of Florence in 1439, the humanist George Amiroutzes, which resulted in the proclamation of the Union of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, but this proclamation brought little help. He gave his daughter Theodora (also known by the name of Despina Khatun) to the son of his brother-in-law, Uzun Hasan, khan of the Ak Koyunlu, in return for his promise to defend Trebizond. He also secured promises of help from the Turkish emirs of Sinope and Karamania, and from the king and princes of Georgia.[36] Through Theodora and the daughter of Alexios IV of Trebizond (also named Theodora), the Safavid dynasty of Iran that succeeded the Ak Koyunlu, would be of direct partial Pontic Greek ethnicity from its very beginning.

After John's death in 1459, his brother David came to power. David intrigued with various European powers for help against the Ottomans, speaking of wild schemes that included the conquest of Jerusalem. Mehmed II eventually heard of these intrigues and was further provoked to action by David's demand that Mehmed remit the tribute imposed on his brother.[36]

Mehmed's response came in the summer of 1461. He collected a sizable army at Bursa, and in a surprise move marched on Sinope, whose emir quickly surrendered. Then the Sultan moved south across eastern Anatolia to neutralize Uzun Hasan. Having isolated Trebizond, Mehmed quickly swept down upon it before the inhabitants knew he was coming, and placed it under siege. The city held out for a month before David surrendered on August 15, 1461. With the fall of Trebizond, the last independent remnant of the Byzantine Empire, as well as the Roman Empire from which the Byzantine Empire sprang, was the Empire of Trebizond's offshoot, the Principality of Theodoro. On December 5, 1475 it would also fall to Ottoman rule.[37]

In the relatively limited territory of the kingdom of the Grand Komnenoi (known as the “Empire of Trebizond”) there was enough room for three dioceses: Trebizond, which was the only diocese established far in the past, Cerasous and Rizaion in Lazika, both formed as upgraded bishoprics. All three dioceses survived the Ottoman conquest (1461) and generally operated until the 17th century, when the dioceses of Cerasous and Rizaion were abolished. The diocese of Rizaion and the bishopric of Of were abolished at the time due to the Islamisation of the Laz and of the region respectively. Possibly the diocese of Cerasous was deactivated for the same reasons.[38]

In popular culture

The Empire of Trebizond acquired a reputation in Western Europe for being "enriched by the trade from Persia and the East that passed through its capital," according to Steven Runciman, "and by the silver-mines in the hills behind, and famed for the beauty of its princesses."[39] Donald Nicol echoes Runciman's observations: "Most of the emperors were blessed with a progeny of marriageable daughters, and the beauty of the ladies of Trebizond was as legendary as the wealth of their dowries."[40] Its wealth and exotic location endowed a lingering fame on the polity. Cervantes described the eponymous hero of his Don Quixote as "imagining himself for the valour of his arm already crowned at least Emperor of Trebizond." Rabelais had his character Picrochole, the ruler of Piedmont, declare: "I want also to be Emperor of Trebizond." Other allusions and works set in Trebizond continue into the 20th century.[41]

See also


  1. ^ "Some scholars believe that the new state was subject to Georgia, at least in the first years of its existence, at the beginning of the 13th century."[2][3]


  1. ^ This is the date determined by Franz Babinger, "La date de la prise de Trébizonde par les Turcs (1461)", Revue des études byzantines, 7 (1949), pp. 205-207 doi:10.3406/rebyz.1949.1014
  2. ^ a b Vasiliev, A.A., “The Foundation of the Empire of Trebizond 1204-1222”, Speculum 11 (1936), pp. 3-37·
  3. ^ a b Ostrogorsky, G., Ιστορία του Βυζαντινού κράτους 3 (Athens 1997), pp. 102, 305.
  4. ^ a b Hewsen, Robert H. (2009). "Armenians on the Black Sea: The Province of Trebizond". In Richard G. Hovannisian. Armenian Pontus: The Trebizond-Black Sea Communities. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, Inc. pp. 47, 37–66. ISBN 1-56859-155-1.
  5. ^ A. A. Vasiliev, "The Foundation of the Empire of Trebizond (1204–1222)", Speculum, 11 (1936), pp. 18f
  6. ^ Karl von Hahn, Известия древних греческих и римских писателей о Кавказе, II, pp. 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210
  7. ^ 1867-1953., Vasilʹev, A. A. (Aleksandr Aleksandrovich), (1936). The foundation of the Empire of Trebizond 1204-1222. Medieval Academy of America. OCLC 43154237.
  8. ^ Finlay, George. The History Of Greece From Its Conquest By The Crusaders To Its Conquest By The Turks And Of The Empire Of Trebizond, 1204-1461, By George Finlay. 1st ed. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and sons, 1851. Print.
  9. ^ Vasilev, A. A. The Foundation Of The Empire Of Trebizond 1204-1222. 1st ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Medieval Academy of America, 1936. Print.
  10. ^ Alexander A. Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire, Vol 2. 324–1453, second edition (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1958), p. 506: "... on the territory of the disintegrated eastern empire, three independent Greek centers were formed; The empire of Nicaea and the empire of Trebizond in Asia Minor and the Despotat of Epirus in Northern Greece."
  11. ^ "Establishment of the Empire of Trebizond by the Grand Komnenoi, 1204". Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor. Foundation of the Hellenic World. Retrieved 2018-01-21.
  12. ^ William Miller, Trebizond: The last Greek Empire of the Byzantine Era: 1204-1461, 1926 (Chicago: Argonaut, 1969), pp. 100-106
  13. ^ Donald M. Nicol, The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261-1453, second edition (Cambridge: University Press, 1993), p. 74
  14. ^ See the discussion in N. Oikonomides, "The Chancery of the Grand Komnenoi: Imperial Tradition and Political Reality", Archeion Pontou 35 (1979), pp. 299-332
  15. ^ Bryer, "Greeks and Türkmens: The Pontic Exception", Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 29 (1975), pp. 117ff
  16. ^ As documented by Charitopoulos Evangelos, "Diocese of Cerasous. Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor"
  17. ^ Miller, Trebizond, p. 12
  18. ^ Some authorities identify Taronites with the known son of Theodore Gabras, Gregory Gabras. See Anthony Bryer, "A Byzantine Family: The Gabrades, c. 979 – c. 1653", University of Birmingham Historical Journal, 12 (1970), p. 176
  19. ^ Miller, Trebizond, p. 13
  20. ^ Eastmond, Antony. "Narratives of the Fall: Structure and Meaning in the Genesis Frieze at Hagia Sophia, Trebizond". Dumbarton Oaks Papers 53 (1999), 219–36.
  21. ^ A. A. Vasiliev, "The Foundation of the Empire of Trebizond (1204-1222)", Speculum, 11 (1936), pp. 18f
  22. ^ Michel Kuršanskis, "L'Empire de Trébizonde et la Géorgie", Revue des études byzantines, 35 (1977). pp. 243-247
  23. ^ Michael Panaretos, Chronicle, ch. 1. Greek text in Original-Fragmente, Chroniken, Inschiften und anderes Materiale zur Geschichte des Kaiserthums Trapezunt, part 2; in Abhandlungen der historischen Classe der königlich bayerischen Akademie 4 (1844), abth. 1, pp. 11; German translation, p. 41
  24. ^ Karpov, "New Archival Discoveries of Documents concerning the Empire of Trebizond", Gamer, 1 (2012), pp. 75f
  25. ^ Vasiliev, "Foundation", p. 19
  26. ^ Kuršanskis, "Trébizonde et la Géorgie", pp. 243-245
  27. ^ Hewsen, "Armenians on the Black Sea", p. 48
  28. ^ Maria Nystazooulou, "La dernière reconquête de Sinope par les Grecs de Trébizonde (1254-1265)", Revue des études byzantines, 22 (1964), pp. 241-9
  29. ^ E.S. Georganteli, "Trapezuntine Money in the Balkans, Anatolia and the Black Sea, 13th-15th centuries", in T. Kyriakides (ed.), Trebizond and the Black Sea (Thessaloniki, 2010), p. 94
  30. ^ Zehiroğlu, A.M. "Astronomy in the Trebizond Empire", (2016), pp. 2-5
  31. ^ Zehiroğlu, Ahmet M. ; "Trabzon Imparatorluğu 2" 2016, Trabzon, (ISBN 978-605-4567-52-2) ; pp.133-134
  32. ^ Bryer, "The Estates of the Empire of Trebizond. Evidence for their Resources, Products, Agriculture, Ownership and Location", Archeion Pontou 35 (1979), p. 371. He also includes revenue from such typical medieval sources as "the profits of justice, imperial trade and mining, confiscations and even piracy."
  33. ^ Miller, Trebizond, p. 85
  34. ^ Miller, Trebizond, pp. 87f
  35. ^ S. P. Karpov, "New Documents on the Relations between the Latins and the Local Populations in the Black Sea Area (1392-1462)", Dumbarton Oaks Papers: Symposium on Byzantium and the Italians, 13th-15th centuries, 49 (1995), p. 39
  36. ^ a b Nicol, Last Centuries, p. 407
  37. ^ Nicol, Last Centuries, p. 408
  38. ^ As documented by Charitopoulos Evangelos, "Diocese of Cerasous. Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor", (3/7/2007)
  39. ^ Runciman, A History of the Crusades - the Kingdom of Arce and the Later Crusades (Cambridge: University Press, 1975), p. 126
  40. ^ Nicol, Last Centuries, pp. 402f
  41. ^ Miller, Trebizond, pp. 117ff

Sources and research

Primary sources

Secondary sources

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  • Anthony Bryer, Peoples and Settlement in Anatolia and the Caucasus, 800–1900, Variorum collected studies series, London, 1988.
  • Bryer, Anthony (1980). The Empire of Trebizond and the Pontos. London: Variorum Reprints. ISBN 978-0-86078-062-5.
  • Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer, Geschichte des Kaiserthums Trapezunt (Munich, 1827–1848)
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  • Émile Janssens. Trébizonde en Colchide. Bruxelles: Presses universitaires de Bruxelles, 1969,
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  • Levan Urushadze, The Comnenus of Trabizond and the Bagrationi dynasty of Georgia. — J. "Tsiskari", Tbilisi, No 4, 1991, pp. 144–148: in Georgian.
  • Fyodor Uspensky, From the history of the Empire of Trabizond (Ocherki iz istorii Trapezuntskoy Imperii), Leningrad, 1929 (in Russian).
  • Zehiroğlu, Ahmet M. (2016). Trabzon İmparatorluğu 2 [The Empire of Trebizond (Vol.2) (1222-1382)] (in Turkish). Istanbul. ISBN 978-6054567522.
  • Zehiroğlu, Ahmet M. (2018). Trabzon İmparatorluğu 3 [The Empire of Trebizond (Vol.3) (1382-1451)] (in Turkish). Istanbul. ISBN 978-6058103207.

Further reading

  • Eastmond, Antony (2004). Art and Identity in Thirteenth-Century Byzantium: Hagia Sophia and the Empire of Trebizond. Routledge. ISBN 0754635759.
  • Eastmond, Antony, ed. (2016). Byzantium's Other Empire: Trebizond. Ege Yayinlari. ISBN 6059388000.

External links

Alexander of Trebizond

Alexander Komnenos or Skantarios Komnenos (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος/Σκαντάριος Κομνηνός) was a co-emperor of the Empire of Trebizond, first with his father Alexios IV of Trebizond then, after several years in exile, with his brother John IV.

Battle of Köse Dağ

The Battle of Köse Dağ was fought between the Sultanate of Rum ruled by the Seljuq dynasty and the Mongol Empire on June 26, 1243 at the defile of Köse Dağ, a location between Erzincan and Gümüşhane in modern northeastern Turkey; the Mongols achieved a decisive victory.

David Komnenos

David Komnenos (Greek: Δαβίδ Κομνηνός) (c. 1184 – 1212) was one of the founders of the Empire of Trebizond and its joint ruler together with his brother Alexios until his death. At least two lead seals and an inscription found on a tower in Heraclea Pontica attest that he was the first of his family to use the style Megas Komnenos. Ηe was the son of Manuel Komnenos and grandson of the Emperor Andronikos I.

Fatih Mosque, Trabzon

The Fatih Mosque is a mosque in Ortahisar district of Trabzon Province, Turkey. It was originally built in Byzantine times as the Panagia Chrysokephalos Church (Greek: Παναγία Χρυσοκέφαλος, "Panagia the Golden-Headed"), serving as both the catholicon for the see of Trebizond, and a church for a monastery until the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1461. The Fatih Mosque also displays the most beautiful samples of the Ottoman writing arts.

Georgian expedition to Chaldia

Georgian intervention in Chaldia and Paphlagonia was undertaken by Queen Tamar of Georgia in 1204. The Empire of Trebizond was founded on the Black Sea coast as a result of this expedition.

Hagia Sophia, Trabzon

Hagia Sophia (Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, meaning "Holy Wisdom" Turkish: Ayasofya) is a museum, formerly Greek Orthodox church which was converted into a mosque in 1584, and located in Trabzon, in the north-eastern part of Turkey. It dates back to the thirteenth century when Trabzon was the capital of the Empire of Trebizond. It is located near the seashore and two miles west of the medieval town's limits. It is one of a few dozen Byzantine sites still extant in the area. It has been described as being "regarded as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture."


Kalepark (originally called Leonkastron; and later Güzelhisar, meaning "Beautiful Castle" in Turkish) was built by the Genoese and Venetian merchants as a medieval fortress on the east side of Trabzon, Turkey. The fortress was built on a rocky outcrop strategically overlooking both harbors of the city: the summer harbor at a distance to the west, and the winter harbor just to the east of it.

The Genoese initially made arrangements with the local government to obtain the land to secure their trade, but the relationship between the rulers of the Empire of Trebizond and the Genoese inside the fortress over time became problematic.

In the 1740s, a palace was built for the Ottoman Governor Ahmet Paşa at the same location, which was destroyed by a fire in 1790.

The castle was frequently shelled during World War I by the Russian naval forces, due to its easily accessible location near the Black Sea coast.

Lazia (Pontus)

The Theme of Lazia or Greater Lazia (Greek: θέμα Μεγάλης Λαζίας; Laz: ლაზონა Lazona) was the easternmost subdivision of the medieval Empire of Trebizond (1204–1461) located in mountainous interior of the eastern Black Sea, northeast Anatolia (modern Turkey). Its name was derived from native Lazs, who were natives of this area.

List of Trapezuntine emperors

This is a list of the Trapezuntine emperors from the foundation of the Empire of Trebizond in 1204 to its fall to the Ottoman Empire in 1461. The Trapezuntine Emperors ruled Trebizond (Greek: Trapezus), one of the three Byzantine Greek states that claimed direct succession to the Byzantine Empire, which had been usurped by the Latin Empire in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade. Out of the three states, the Empire of Nicaea succeeded in displacing the Latin Emperors in 1261 and restoring the Byzantine Empire under the Palaiologos dynasty. The Empire of Trebizond would come to outlast the restored Empire centered in Constantinople, and continued to use the imperial title, albeit slightly changed, until its fall.

The Byzantine Empire was the direct legal continuation of the eastern half of the Roman Empire following the division of the Roman Empire in 395. As such, the Byzantine Emperors continued to style themselves as "Roman Emperors", the term "Byzantine" being coined by Western historiography in the 16th century, long after the Empire had fallen. By the time of the Fourth Crusade, the standard title used by the Byzantine ruler was "[Name] in Christ the God, faithful Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans" (in Greek: [Name] ἐν Χριστῷ τῷ Θεῷ, πιστός βασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτοκράτωρ Ῥωμαῖων). This title was adopted by the Emperors of both Nicaea and Trebizond in 1204 following the establishment of the Latin Empire, and by the short-lived Empire of Thessalonica in 1225, becoming rival claimants to the Roman imperial title.After the recapture of Constantinople by Michael VIII Palaiologos of Nicaea in 1261, envoys were sent to John II of Trebizond, requesting that he cease using the imperial emblems and titles, and offering the third daughter of the Emperor, Eudokia, in marriage along with the title of Despot. John married Eudokia in Constantinople in 1282. From then on, the Trapezuntine rulers adopted the formula "in Christ the God, faithful Emperor and Autocrat of all the East, of the Iberians and of Perateia" (ἐν Χριστῷ τῷ Θεῷ, πιστός βασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτοκράτωρ πάσης Ἀνατολῆς, Ἰβήρων καὶ Περατείας), rather than "... of the Romans". This title first appears in legislative texts in the signature on a chrysobull by Alexios III. "Of all the East" and "of the Iberians" are overstatements seeing as the region of Iberia (referring to caucasian Iberia, or "Kartli", not to the Iberian Peninsula) itself had already been lost by the Empire at this point. "Perateia", which was preserved in the title until the very end of the Empire (unlike "Iberia" which was dropped c. 1334), refers to the lands under Imperial rule in the Crimean peninsula.The rulers of Trebizond also styled themselves as Megas Komnenos ("Grand Komnenos") to emphasize their descent from the Komnenos dynasty, which had ruled the Byzantine Empire in 1081–1185.Byzantine authors, such as Pachymeres, and to some extent Trapezuntines such as Lazaropoulos and Bessarion, regarded the Trapezuntine Empire as being no more than a Lazian border state. Thus from the point of view of many of the Byzantine writers, particularly those connected with the ruling Laskaris and later Palaiologos dynasties, the rulers of Trebizond were not emperors.

Manuel I of Trebizond

Manuel I Megas Komnenos (Greek: Μανουήλ Α΄ Μέγας Κομνηνός, Manouēl I Megas Komnēnos) (died March 1263) was an Emperor of Trebizond, from 1238 until his death. At the time Manuel reigned, the Empire of Trebizond comprised a band of territory stretching along the southern coast of the Black Sea. Although Michael Panaretos, a 14th-century Greek chronicler, calls Manuel "the greatest general and the most fortunate" and states he ruled "virtuously in the eyes of God", the only event he documents for Manuel's reign is a catastrophic fire striking the city of Trebizond in January 1253. The major events of his reign are known from external sources, most important of which is the recovery of Sinope in 1254, which had been lost to the Sultanate of Rum forty years before.

Michael Panaretos

Michael Panaretos (Greek: Μιχαήλ Πανάρετος) (c. 1320 – c. 1390) was an official of the Trapezuntine empire and a Greek historian. His sole surviving work is a chronicle of the Trapezuntine empire of Alexios I Komnenos and his successors. This chronicle not only provides a chronological framework for this medieval empire, it also contains much valuable material on the early history of the Ottoman Turks from a Byzantine perspective, however it was almost unknown until Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer discovered it in the nineteenth century among the manuscripts of the Biblioteca Marciana of Venice. "Owing to this drab but truthful chronicle," writes the Russian Byzantist Alexander Alexandrovich Vasiliev, "it has become possible to a certain extent to restore the chronological sequence of the most important events in the history of Trebizond. This Chronicle covers the period from 1204 to 1426 and gives several names of emperors formerly unknown."

Nakip Mosque

The Molla Nakip Mosque is a mosque in Pazarkapi district of Trabzon, Turkey.

New Friday Mosque

The Yeni Cuma Mosque is a mosque in Trabzon, Turkey. It was built during Byzantine times as the Hagios Eugenios Church, dedicated to Saint Eugenius, the patron saint of the city.

It is not known exactly when the church was built, however researchers consider that it was a basilica. An inscription dated 1291 has been found near it. However, during the siege of Trebizond in 1222, Sultan Melik, enraged at the resistance of the city's inhabitants, is said to have ordered the upper walls torn down and the floors broken and pulled up, so it is likely the present structure was built in the years immediately afterwards.Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer, who visited Trebizond in the early 19th century, reports that he saw remains of paintings of the Emperors of Trebizond from Alexios I to Alexios III inside, each with an inscription giving the title and name of the subjects; although by the time Gabriel Millet inspected the building, the inscriptions had disappeared, Millet confirmed traces of the paintings remained to the left of the entrance: "one person wearing the loros; another seems to hold a scepter; to the right, a third kneels, presenting an object, no doubt the church which he founded, to a saint seated and dressed like a martyrs, in Byzantine costume."The present building has no narthex today, but there are three naves. The middle apse is rounded on the inside and pentagonal on the outside. The minaret was added at the area around the north door of the church, which was turned into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1461. The stone mihrab (altar niche) is of baroque style, and the mimber (pulpit) is of wood with no ornamentation.

Pontus (region)

Pontus (; Greek: Πόντος, translit. Póntos, "Sea") is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region and its mountainous hinterland (rising to the Pontic Alps in the east) in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος Εὔξεινος Pontos Euxeinos ("Hospitable Sea"), or simply Pontos.

Having originally no specific name, the region east of the river Halys was spoken of as the country Ἐν Πόντῳ En Pontōi, "on the [Euxeinos] Pontos", and hence it acquired the name of Pontus, which is first found in Xenophon's Anabasis. The extent of the region varied through the ages but generally extended from the borders of Colchis (modern western Georgia) until well into Paphlagonia in the west, with varying amounts of hinterland. Several states and provinces bearing the name of Pontus or variants thereof were established in the region in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, culminating in the late Byzantine Empire of Trebizond. Pontus is sometimes considered as the home of the Amazons, with the name Amazon used not only for a city (Amasya) but for all of Pontus in Greek mythology.

Safavid dynasty family tree

The oldest extant book on the genealogy of the Safavid family is Safvat as-safa and was written by Ibn Bazzaz in 1350, a disciple of Sheikh Sadr-al-Din Safavi, the son of the Sheikh Safi ad-din Ardabili. According to Ibn Bazzaz, the Sheikh was a descendant of a Kurdish man named Firooz Shah Zarrin Kolah who was from Sanjar, southeast of Diyarbakir. The male lineage of the Safavid family given by the oldest manuscript of the Safwat as-Safa is: "Sheykh Safi al-Din Abul-Fatah Ishaaq the son of Al-Sheykh Amin al-din Jebrail the son of al-Saaleh Qutb al-Din Abu Bakr the son of Salaah al-Din Rashid the son of Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Kalaam Allah the son of ‘Avaad the son of Birooz al-Kurdi al-Sanjari." Later Safavid Kings themselves claimed to be Seyyeds, family descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The great-grandson of Sheyk Safi, Sheik Joneyd, got married with Khadijeh Khanoum sister of Uzun Hassan and daughter of Ali Beyg by his wife Theodora of Trebizond, daughter of Alexios IV of Trebizond. Heydar, son of Joneyd, married Katherina who was a daughter of Uzun Hassan by his wife Theodora, daughter of a Bagrationi Georgian princess and John IV of Trebizond.

Siege of Sinope

The Siege of Sinope in 1214 was a successful siege and capture of Sinope by the Seljuq Turks under their Sultan, Kaykaus I (r. 1211–1220). Sinope was an important port city on the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey, at the time held by the Empire of Trebizond, one of the Byzantine Greek successor states formed after the Fourth Crusade. The siege is described in some detail by the near-contemporary Seljuq chronicler Ibn Bibi. The Trapezuntine emperor Alexios I (r. 1204–1222) led an army to break the siege, but he was defeated and captured, and the city surrendered on 1 November.According to Ibn Bibi's account, Kaykaus I decided to embark on the conquest after receiving reports from the frontier that Alexios' troops had been violating Seljuq territory. Upon this, he and his beys gathered those who had been to Sinope and drew up a plan for the conquest, deciding that a long siege would be required. However, a group of scouts (or according to another version of the story, nomads) captured Alexios when he was hunting with a company of 500 men. Upon receiving the captured emperor, Kaykaus I asked for the city's surrender in the name of the emperor, but received a negative response. According to Selçuk-nâme, 1000 troops led by a commander named Behram cut off the city from the sea, burning ships and killing a number of Greeks and Western Europeans in the process. Upon this, the city surrendered.Although the primary sources consistently named the leader of the Trapezuntine forces as Alexios, beginning with Fallmerayer earlier scholars used to place the death of David Komnenos, Alexios' younger brother and co-founder of the Trapezuntine empire, during the siege of Sinope. For example, Alexander Vasiliev wrote in 1936, "the name of Alexius, the first emperor of Trebizond, was of course more familiar ... than the name of his brother David, the real ruler of Sinope at that time. But since the name of David never occurs in the sources after 1214, we may positively conclude that it was David who was slain at the first Turkish capture of Sinope." Modern research, however, has shown that he died in exile as a monk in Mount Athos in 1212/3.The Seljuq capture of Sinope had important consequences: apart from a short period of Trapezuntine recovery in 1254–1265, the city henceforth remained in Turkish hands, cutting the small Trapezuntine state off from overland contact with the metropolitan Byzantine lands of the Empire of Nicaea in western Asia Minor. At the same time, the capture of its ruler forced the Trapezuntines to accept tributary status to the Seljuqs, which lasted until the failure of a Sejuq assault on Trebizond itself in 1222/1223. According to the Byzantinist Warren Treadgold, the loss of Sinope on the one hand "shielded Trebizond from further attacks from Nicaea", but also meant that "henceforth Alexios' claim to be Byzantine emperor rang hollow, and the Empire of Trebizond ceased to be of more than local importance."The Russian Byzantinist Rustam Shukurov argues that the consequences were even more severe for the Byzantine successor states. The loss of that part of northwestern Anatolia, writes Shukurov, "meant in fact that the Byzantine Greeks lost forever the possibility of a strategic initiative in the northern part of the Byzantine front." The sphere of Byzantine control was split into two enclaves, each blockaded by the ujs: a western Anatolian enclave that was destroyed and almost completely assimilated by the 14th century, and an eastern enclave consolidated by the Empire of Trebizond that survived much longer, into the 15th century. Further, the capture of Sinope provided the Seljuks access to new strategic routes of conquest, one aimed at Constantinople and the other at Crimea and the south Russian steppes.


Trabzon (Turkish pronunciation: [ˈtɾabzon]), historically known as Trebizond, is a city on the Black Sea coast of northeastern Turkey and the capital of Trabzon Province. Trabzon, located on the historical Silk Road, became a melting pot of religions, languages and culture for centuries and a trade gateway to Persia in the southeast and the Caucasus to the northeast. The Venetian and Genoese merchants paid visits to Trebizond during the medieval period and sold silk, linen and woolen fabric; the Republic of Genoa had an important merchant colony within the city called Leonkastron that played a role to Trebizond similar to the one Galata played to Constantinople (modern Istanbul). Trabzon formed the basis of several states in its long history and was the capital city of the Empire of Trebizond between 1204 and 1461. During the early modern period, Trabzon, because of the importance of its port, again became a focal point of trade to Persia and the Caucasus.


Trebizond may refer to:

Trabzon, a city in Turkey formerly known as Trebizond

Empire of Trebizond (1204–1461), a successor state to the Eastern Roman Empire

Vilayet of Trebizond (1867–1923), a province of Ottoman Turkey


Zilkale is a medieval castle located in the Fırtına Valley (literally: "Stormy Valley"), and is one of the most important historical structures in Çamlıhemşin district of Rize Province in the Black Sea Region of Turkey.The castle is built at an altitude of 1,130 m (3,710 ft), and sits at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Fırtına Creek (Turkish: Fırtına Deresi approximately 380 m (1,250 ft) below running at an elevation of 750 m (2,460 ft) southeast of it. The castle consists of outer walls, middle walls and inner castle. There are garrison quarters, and a possible chapel and head tower. It is believed that the castle was built in the 14th-15th century.

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