Trebizond, empire of

Trebizond, empire of,

1204–1461. When the army of the Fourth Crusade overthrew (1204) the Byzantine Empire and established the Latin Empire of ConstantinopleConstantinople, Latin Empire of,
1204–61, feudal empire established in the S Balkan Peninsula and the Greek archipelago by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade (see Crusades) after they had sacked (1204) Constantinople; also known as the empire of Romania
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, several Greek successor states sprang up. These were the empire of NicaeaNicaea, empire of,
1204–61. In 1204 the armies of the Fourth Crusade set up the Latin Empire of Constantinople, but the Crusaders' influence did not extend over the entire Byzantine Empire.
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, the despotate of EpirusEpirus, despotate of.
When, in 1204, the army of the Fourth Crusade set up the Latin Empire of Constantinople on the ruins of the Byzantine Empire, an independent Greek state emerged in Epirus under Michael I, a member of the Angelus family.
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, and the empire of Trebizond. The last of these was founded by two members of the former imperial ComnenusComnenus
, family name of several Byzantine emperors—Isaac I, Alexius I, John II, Manuel I, Alexius II, and Andronicus I—who reigned in the 11th and 12th cent., and of the historian, Princess Anna Comnena.
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 family, David and his brother Alexius I (reigned 1204–22) of Trebizond, who took the titles of Grand Comnenus and emperor, which were assumed by all his successors. The empire comprised the entire southern coastal region of the Black Sea except its westernmost section, which belonged to Nicaea. Trebizond (modern TrabzonTrabzon
or Trebizond
, city (1990 pop. 144,805), capital of Trabzon prov., NE Turkey, a port on the Black Sea. A commercial and transportation center with renovated port facilities, it exports food products and tobacco. Iron, lead, and copper are found nearby.
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), the capital, and Sinope (SinopSinop
, anc. Sinope, town (1990 pop. 25,537), capital of Sinop prov., N Turkey, on the Black Sea. A small port, it has an excellent harbor but lacks adequate communications with the interior of Turkey. Ancient Sinop was founded by colonists from Miletus in the 8th cent. B.
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) were the chief cities.

The western part of the empire was the conquest of David Comnenus, who soon lost his dominions to Nicaea. The empire of Trebizond was further diminished when Sinope fell (1214) to the Seljuk TurksTurks,
term applied in its wider meaning to the Turkic-speaking peoples of Turkey, Russia, Central Asia, Xinjiang in China (Chinese Turkistan), Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, Iran, and Afghanistan.
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, and the emperor became a vassal of the sultan of Iconium; for the remainder of its existence Trebizond was restricted to the SE Black Sea coastal region. When the Byzantine Empire was restored (1261) under Nicaean leadership, Trebizond remained separate and independent, although it was often forced to pay tribute to the succeeding dominant powers of Asia Minor.

After the Mongol invasion the empire experienced tremendous economic prosperity. It became the commercial route through Asia Minor, leading into the great trade route to East Asia that the Mongols had opened, and its position on the trade routes from Russia and from the Middle East to Europe furthered its importance. Its commercial life was controlled by the Genoese and the Venetians, and the empire profited much from the added opportunity to export the produce of its own rich hinterland. The empire reached its greatest prosperity under Alexius II (1297–1330).

With the decline of Mongol power after 1320, Trebizond suffered increasingly from Turkish attacks, civil wars, and domestic intrigues. In this period the emperors attempted to gain strength by marrying the princesses of the Comnenus dynasty to Turkish princes. Relations between Trebizond and the Muslims were generally friendly, but after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople (1453), David Comnenus, the last emperor of Trebizond, promoted an alliance of the non-Ottoman Asian states against Sultan Muhammad IIMuhammad II
or Mehmet II
(Muhammad the Conqueror), 1429–81, Ottoman sultan (1451–81), son and successor of Murad II. He is considered the true founder of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey).
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. In 1461, Muhammad forced David to surrender. A few years later the sultan had him put to death together with all the Comnenus males but one, and Trebizond was annexed to the Ottoman EmpireOttoman Empire
, vast state founded in the late 13th cent. by Turkish tribes in Anatolia and ruled by the descendants of Osman I until its dissolution in 1918. Modern Turkey formed only part of the empire, but the terms "Turkey" and "Ottoman Empire" were often used
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. At the height of its wealth and power the court of the Grand Comneni was a great artistic and cultural center and made Trebizond the last refuge of Hellenistic civilization.


See studies by W. Miller (1926) and J. Monfasoni (1984).