Trebizond Empire

Trebizond Empire

 

a state in northeastern Asia Minor that flourished from 1204 to 1461, with its capital at Trebizond (Greek, Trapezus; present-day Trabzon). The Trebizond Empire was founded during the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire, after Constantinople fell to the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade. In April 1204, Alexius and David Comneni, grandsons of the Byzantine emperor Andronicus I, took Trebizond, with the help of troops provided by the Georgian queen Tamara; from there they went on to capture the neighboring coastal regions, containing the cities of Sinope, Amastris, and Heraclea. Alexius Comnenus became emperor, reigning from 1204 to 1222. His authority, however, extended over only the eastern part of the empire, which contained the city of Trebizond; the western part was under the domination of David Comnenus. The Trebizond emperors came to be called the Grand Comneni.

In 1214 the Trebizond Empire lost Heraclea and Amastris to the Nicaean Empire and Sinope to the Seljuks. As a result, its territory was reduced to a narrow strip along the coast, cut off from the rest of the Greek lands. Inhabited mostly by Greeks, Georgians, and Armenians, the empire maintained an alliance with Georgia and engaged in trade, prospering as an entrepot between the northern Black Sea littoral and the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East. Viticulture and the growing of grain were its other important economic pursuits. Within the empire, the feudal lords were accorded considerable independence, enjoying, for example, judicial authority over the dependent peasants, or paroikoi, and the right of mortmain. They also were allowed to recruit retainers from among their subjects.

The decline of the Trebizond Empire began in 1243, when it became a tributary of the Mongols. In the early 14th century it fought against the Ak-Koyunlus. In 1456 the Ottoman Turks imposed a tribute on the weakened state, and in 1461 the sultan Mehmed II finally conquered it, making it a province of the Ottoman Empire.

REFERENCES

Uspenskii, F. I. Ocherki iz istorii Trapezundskoi imperii. Leningrad, 1929.
Karpov, S. Trapezundskaia imperiia i gosudarstva Evropy v XI1I-XV vv. [Moscow] 1974. (Dissertation abstract.)
Miller, W. Trebizond: The Last Greek Empire. London, 1926.

A. P. KHAHDZAN

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Perched in the Pontic Alps, the mist-wrapped Sumela was the most important monastery in the Trebizond Empire, conquered by the Ottomans in 1461.