Part VI: An Old Tiger
The Karamanid beylik had ruled in southern Anatolia for more than two centuries, ever since their founders, a minor Azeri tribe, had migrated into the region in the chaos following the Battle of Köse Dağ. Over the following years, they had carved out a niche for themselves in the thunderdome that was the dying Seljuk Sultanate, cementing themselves as overlords of the lands between the eastern mountains and the western lakes. They defeated a score of Seljuk and Mongol invasions in the late 1200s and early 1300s, and for a time it appeared as if they would re-unify the plateau. However, a row of bad luck saw the Karamanids lose their edge, and they were left to sit impotently as the Ottomans eclipsed their realm. The invasion of Temur-i Lang in 1402 should have given them a new lease on life, but indecision and internecine strife prevented them from returning to their heights of power. A series of brief wars with Ottomans saw the Karamids pushed into the far east, with their backs to the mountains. Only a promise of protection from the Mamluks kept them from being swept into the dustbin of history, and for the next thirty years they hobbled on as a dying state, beset with internal problems. But as the Ottoman Empire began to struggle and was then decisively defeated in Europe, the bickering dynasts of the region put aside their differences and seized the opportunity to revive themselves. The Karamids may have been an old and moribund realm, but as the ghazis who had found their realm once said, “There is nought more dangerous than an old tiger, for as he senses his end he becomes most fierce and is filled with a determination to die fighting….”
In the 1460s, the Karamanid Beylik was facing down a prospective civil war. Bey Ibrahim II had ruled since the 1420s, and with his death one of the great statesmen of the beylik’s history would pass forever into history. Ibrahim had been the one who had preserved his inheritance as similar states were absorbed into the lands of the Sublime Porte, and it was he who had reorganized the Karamanid army after decades of neglect. It was hardly a strong force, but at a standing 10,000 horsemen strong it was still a decent deterrent. However, Ibrahim now found himself having to use it against one of his own sons. He had named his firstborn son, Işak, as his heir apparent, and this had caused one of his other sons, Pir Ahmet, to rise in revolt in the far north of the beylik. Pir Ahmet had secured the support of a good number of Turkmen bands, and he was now preparing to march on Konya. Civil war was imminent and it seemed that Ibrahim’s life’s work would go up in smoke.
But then, word came from the east. An army of crusaders had invaded Rumelia, and the Italians had also declared war against the Sublime Porte, laying siege to the Dardanelles themselves. Ibrahim called for a truce between his sons, the three men meeting at Karaman in the winter of 1460-61. The bey proposed the following; They would attack the Ottomans in Anatolia, drive them into the sea and then partition their conquests between them. Both of his sons would become as rich as caliphs, and any bloodshed between the brothers would be prevented. Both Işak and Pir Ahmet found this reasonable and agreed. Ibrahim mustered all the men of Karaman to arms, convening a host of 40,000 horsemen at Konya that spring. After some conversation, Ahmed the Red, the Bey of the Çandarids was invited to join them in this campaign. Ahmed bore a personal grudge against Mehmed II and so agreed, adding another 20,000 men to the coalition. In May 1461, the two hosts crossed the frontiers of their respective polities, beginning an undeclared war with the Ottomans.
Before the war begins in earnest, I’m sure many of you are wondering why the Karamanids and their ilk are confident that they can drive the Ottomans out of Anatolia altogether? After all, the Ottomans had begun their rise in Anatolia, so surely it was the beating heart of the empire, surely? No. As the Ottomans had pushed into Europe, they had neglected the poorer Anatolian regions that had first spawned them. As they moved further north and west, they transferred many of the most loyal Turkmen bands to Europe to help secure their new conquests, leaving Anatolia under the lackadaisical rule of a single governor, whose office was in Kutahya, in the western part of the region. This meant that the hard-living Turkmen bands who made up the majority of Anatolia were barely overseen, which gave them more than enough free time to develop resentment towards the Imperial government, who they regarded as having gone soft on their conquest spree. The wars in Europe, especially after the beginning of the First War of the Holy League, had seen many of the garrison forces in Anatolia transferred across the Hellespont to Europe. This left Ottoman Anatolia understrength, undersecured and anything but under control. Ibrahim expected that he could rally the Turkmen to his cause and drive out the Ottomans wholesale.
He very nearly succeeded. Over the 1461 campaign season, Karamanid and Çandarid horsemen ranged across Anatolia. As expected, the Turkmen quickly took up arms against the Sublime Porte, swelling the total strength of the allied force to nearly 100,000. Minor Ottoman garrisons were taken by surprise and either surrendered or were massacred, while the dozen or so major garrisons were surrounded and besieged. Ibrahim Bey and his army advanced as far as Kutahya itself, but were unable to bring the governor, Yunus Paşa, to battle. With no large Ottoman host to oppose them, the Karamanids and Çandarids swiftly overran all of Anatolia, bar only a section of Ioania along the Buyuk Menendres whose sanjakpaşa had managed to fortify and seal the passes leading eastward. Ibrahim enacted a policy of encouraging minorities, such as Greeks or Armenians, to revolt on the logic that it would cause the Ottomans more damage than it would them. Over the following months, the surviving garrisons were slowly worn down or starved out. By 1463, when a relief army finally arrived from Europe, only Kutahya, Ankara and a few coastal cities were still standing, the rest having been reduced to ash and rubble. However, this did little but fill Mehmed with a terrible resolve, and he swore that he would destroy the rebel beyliks and grind them into dust. He set out with his army to meet the Çandarids--who were the obvious weakest link--in the spring of 1463, moving overland into Paphlagonia.
While all of this was going on, Trapezous was doing quite well. Alexandros’ reforms had enlarged the Trapezuntine army and improved its strength enough that the aftokrator no longer had to tremble at even the slightest movement of foreign states. Instead, he could act to advance his state as would any other monarch, something that Alexandros had every intention of doing to his greatest ability.
The Trapezuntines had been co-belligerents in the War of the First Holy League, although neither members of the titular alliance or a party to the peace deal. After Genoa had entered the war, Psarimarkos and a number of Trapezuntine galleys had descended upon an Ottoman fleet at Eragli and sent a dozen Turkish ships to the bottom with the loss of only one galley. They had then raided the Ottoman Black Sea, burning several dozen coastal towns and even briefly taking Burgas before being driven off by Mehmed himself. Hostility with the Sublime Porte had nominally ended at Haskovo, but Alexandros had no intention of giving up a march against such a deadly opponent.
As the War in Anatolia raged on at a fever pitch, Alexandros began to move against his immediate neighbors. His first target were the Çanikids, a loose confederation of Turkmen tribes who lived in the western Pontic mountains. They had been a continuous problem for generations of aftokrators, as their raids into Trapezuntine territories had left the western edge of their realm depopulated and disloyal. Alexandros had never been able to attack them directly, even disunited as they were, as they were nominally vassals of the Çandarids. War with the Çandarids would make a coalition with them against the Ottomans (more accurately, throwing them into the Ottoman maw and hoping it would tire them out before they reached Trapezous) impossible. However, with the Çandarids now busy in the west, there was no one left for the Çanikids to run too. Alexandros mustered many of the eastern bandons, raising a host of 10,000 including the eleutheroi. He personally led this army westward across the no-go zone between the two realms in the summer of 1461. The Çanikids were evasive and were difficult to bring to battle, but the nature of the terrain meant that they relied on the coastal plain to graze their horses. After several months of cat-and-mouse, Alexandros finally caught them out at one of the regional capitals, Ordu. The Çanikids were massacred and chased into the sea, with the few survivors being reduced to slaves. Alexandros renamed Ordu as Nikoupoli and re-settled it with Greeks, while a program was undertaken to settle the newly-conquered land and incorporate it into the bandon system.
After reducing the Çanikids, Alexandros then turned his attention south. The Çandarid advance had left the Ottoman far east intact, but cut off from the capital. More specifically, the lands of the Lykos Valley had been completely cut off from outside help, and Alexandros saw this as an excellent opportunity to expand his realm at the expense of the Turks. In the autumn of 1461, a Trapezuntine army crossed the mountains through the central pass. They went east along the mountains to the town of Paypurt (Bayburt), which was a large Ottoman garrison town. Not wanting to risk directly confronting the garrison, Alexandros instead laid an ambush. He selected a hill nearby to the city gate and concealed his troops behind it. He then sent a small force of horsemen to attack the gate, then ride away as if routed. The Turks gave chase and pursued them across to the hill and partway up it. As soon as they were sufficiently winded, Alexandros gave the signal and the Trapezuntines rushed out from behind the hill, overwhelming the Turks. They then raced back to the city and took the gatehouse, after which the city surrendered. It was too late in the campaign season to move on, so the Trapezuntines wintered there. The supply situation was difficult, as the passes back into Pontos were frozen, forcing the Trapezuntines to live off the land. They survived the winter in good order, however, and were able to move on come springtime.
The two other major cities of the Lykos valley, Koloneia and Neokaisereia (Koyulhisar and Niksar), respectively, both surrendered without a fight in early 1462. There was a problem with a number of irregulars and other skirmishers, which forced Alexandros to leave behind a garrison of several hundred men in both cities. In spite of this, the aftokrator pressed forward down the river all the way to the Black Sea, which was reached in late April. He declared victory in this campaign before embarking upon another the very same day. The Ottomans had conquered the Black Sea port of Amisos (Samsun) back in 1420, but its connection to the rest of the empire had always been tenuous at best. Now, with the Çandarids having overrun that small strip of land, the sanjak of the city, Iskender Paşa, was left in quite the predicament. After a great deal of deliberating, Iskender decided that the Trapezuntines were better rulers than the Genoese or even his fellow Turks. In June 1462, he swore fealty to Alexandros, retaining his position as governor of the city.
Almost as an afterthought, the Trapezuntines also annexed the small Principality of Hamamshen later that year. Hamamshen was a small, isolated valley that had been independent since the collapse of the Bagrationi Empire all the way back in 790. The last prince, whose name has been lost to history, was given estates in the newly-conquered west while taxes were kept low in the two villages to keep popular resentment low.
Ultimately, after several battles Mehmed and Ibrahim’s sons made peace in 1465. The war was an undoubted victory for the Karamanids and their allies, with the Ottomans being forced back to a coastal strip much resembling that of the Komnenian Empire. The Great Turkish War saw the balance of power in Anatolia drastically upset. Now it will be seen how Trapezous will handle this new balance of power….
 That is, it had a permanent strength of 10,000. In times of war, this number rose sharply to 50,000.
 Yes, really
 OTL, Mehmed helped improve conditions in this region by rotating many of these Turkmen to the Imperial frontiers, which either enriched or killed them.
 Known as Pontoherakleia before in the 1900s, but the Turkish name is more fitting
 Kelkit River
 There were three main passes across the Pontic mountains, one in the west, one in the east and one nearly directly south from Trapezous. This latter one corresponds to the modern E97 highway.
 The bey himself died in 1463
 There’s a lot I’m skipping over here for the sake of brevity. Uzun Hasan intervened on behalf of the Ottomans and annexed a good part of Karaman, then switched sides and annexed a good deal of Ottoman territory. The Karamanid Horde also split after Ibrahim’s death, but it wasn’t enough for Mehmed to turn the tide.