A town in Turkey, modern Turkish name Trabzon, the ancient Greek colony of Trapezos, but known in mediaeval history as Trebizond. When Constantinople fell to ravaging Crusaders in 1204, when the Fourth Crusade turned horribly wrong, one branch of the Byzantine dynasty fled to this town, and proclaimed an Empire of Trebizond, supported by the great Queen Tamara of Georgia, to whom they were related by marriage.

They only ever ruled the coast, what is now the eastern part of Turkey's Black Sea coast, and a little bit of the interior, but they generally maintained friendly relations with neighbouring Ottomans and later Mongols, surviving as a valuable trade route.

But after supporting a conspiracy against the Ottoman Emperor, the little empire was crushed on 16 August 1461 and the whole dynasty later put to death. Nevertheless it outlasted the Byzantine Empire itself, which had fallen in 1453.

  1. Alexius I 1204-1222
  2. Andronicus I Gidos 1222-1235
  3. John I Axouchos 1235-1238
  4. Manuel I 1238-1263
  5. Andronicus II 1263-1266
  6. George 1266-1280
  7. John II 1280-1284
  8. Empress Theodora 1284-1285
  9. John II again 1285-1297
  10. Alexius II 1297-1330
  11. Andronicus III 1330-1332
  12. Manuel II 1332
  13. Basil 1332-1340
  14. Empress Irene Palaeologina 1340-1341
  15. Empress Anna Anachoutlou 1341
  16. Michael 1341
  17. Anna Anachoutlou again 1341-1342
  18. John III 1342-1344
  19. Michael again 1344-1349
  20. Alexius III 1349-1390
  21. Manuel III 1390-1417
  22. Alexius IV 1417-1429
  23. John IV Calojoannes 1429-1458
  24. David 1458-1461
After the First World War there was talk of re-creating a Greek state of Pontus in the area, but the Greek population was removed in the forcible exchanges of those times.

Rose Macaulay wrote a novel The Towers of Trebizond in 1956.

The Empire of Trebizond

Trebizond, a Byzantine successor state, owed most of its tenuous existence to the contemporary belief that its princesses were of unsurpassed beauty. Leaders of the surrounding hostile Turkoman federations, Ak Koyunlu in particular, would line up for their hands in marriage, in exchange for allowing Trebizond to exist. This, combined with generous tribute payments, allowed it to curiously endure for over 250 years, a thin strip of land hugging the south-eastern Black Sea coast, surrounded entirely by enemies.

Founded and run by the Byzantine Komnenus family in 1204 in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, Trebizond harboured a small Greek island of culture, rarely counting over 10,000 people; yet due to its position as a Western terminus of the Silk Road, the "Empire" was wealthy disproportionate to its numbers. Medieval Trebizond was a flourishing centre of science and the arts, being a repository of translated Arabic & Persian texts, and left behind huge, richly painted monasteries and churches. Their imposing Soumela Monastery, perched high on a forested mountain and containing lush artwork and frescoes, still impresses today. The emperors, in another stroke of luck, were endowed with numerous princesses and few princes, which helped keep the succession struggles that paralyzed their Byzantine cousins manageable.

The little Empire actually outlived the Byzantines, ending in 1461 when then-Emperor David overplayed his hand. Believing he had successfully tempted the Burgundian duke and the Pope into an anti-Ottoman league, and cobbling together the surrounding little emirates through royal marriage, David had the temerity to ask Ottoman sultan Mehmed "the Conqueror" for a refund on some of the tribute he'd paid them. A short war later, Trebizond was captured, and David and three of his sons were beheaded. It was the last self-governing Greek state until Greece's own independence in 1829.


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.