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Trabzon

History

Trabzon’s recorded history begins around 746 BC, when Miletus colonists came from Sinop and founded a settlement, Trapezus, with an acropolis on the trápeza (table) of land above the harbour.

The town did reasonably well for 2000 years, occupying itself with port activities, until the Christian soldiers of the Fourth Crusade seized and sacked Constantinople in 1204, forcing its noble families to seek refuge in Anatolia. The imperial family of the Comneni established an empire along the Black Sea coast in 1204, with Alexius Comnenus I reigning as the emperor of Trebizond.

The Trapezuntine rulers became skilful at balancing their alliances with the Seljuks, the Mongols, the Genoese and others. Prospering through trade with eastern Anatolia and Persia, the empire reached the height of its wealth and culture during the reign of Alexius II (1297–1330), after which it fell to pieces in factional disputes. Even so, the Empire of Trebizond survived until the coming of the Ottomans in 1461, holding out for eight years longer than Constantinople.

When the Ottoman Empire was defeated after WWI, Trabzon’s many Greek residents sought to establish a Republic of Trebizond echoing the old Comneni Empire, but the Turks were ultimately victorious, and Atatürk himself declared Trabzon ‘one of the richest, strongest and most sensitive sources of trust for the Turkish Republic’.