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Part XI: Counterstrike (1468)


Part XI: Counterstrike (1468)

The Trapezuntine navy was the pride of the eastern empire, its maintenance requiring several dozen pounds of gold per year and its crews being excepted from the bandon system. It was charged with the defense of Trapezuntine interests across the Black Sea, the eradication of piracy and the protection of merchantmen traveling to and fro the great entrepot. Because of the tireless efforts of the megas doux and his subordinates in these fields, Trapezous was one of the richest cities of the Middle East. However, all of these were subordinate to the foremost duty of the aftokrator’s great galley fleets. In times of war, the Trapezuntine fleet was to sweep the Black Sea of all foreign vessels, drive enemy ships into port and trap them there, starving the trading ports and fishing centers of their livelihood until they were forced to yield to the aftokrator’s will. They had done this in the early 1460s in the war with the Ottomans, and they would do it again in the late 1460s as Trapezous and the Çandarids marched to war.

The latter half of the reign of Alexandros I and the reigns of his successors had seen the navy plateau in terms of material and manpower, but it was still a formidable force. In the spring of 1468, the Imperial navy numbered some forty-two galleys and several dozen transports and other craft, stationed either in Trapezous itself or out on pirate-hunting expeditions. Psarimarkos was still the megas doux, by now respected amongst all classes of society for his experience and the valor displayed at Eragli and in a clash with a group of corsairs off of the Kerch Strait. Discipline and hard-won experience (as well as a decrease in Genoese involvement in the region due to financial constraints) had turned the Trapezuntine navy into the foremost power of the Black Sea, and both Psarimarkos and Mgeli were confident that they would win a series of easy victories in any conflict.

The Çandarid navy, on the other hand, was a sorry excuse for a flotilla. The Çandarid beys had primarily focused on landward expansion for generations, leaving their navy as the province of the trade comptroller. With their fleets languishing as a penniless backwater, there were few volunteers willing to be payed peanuts for hard galley work, and so the beylik’s fleet had been forced to resort to piracy to even sustain itself. Ironically, the Trapezuntine fleet had sent more Çandarids to the bottom in their anti-piracy campaigns than they would throughout the entire war. The maritime defenses of the beylik, meanwhile had been left in the hands of local administrators and councils, and thus their strength and quality varied wildly from city to city. Sinope, one of the chief ports of the Black Sea, boasted a series of impressive fortifications, whereas many of the minor ports were defended only by a single seawall or not at all. With enemy forces and defenses as pathetic as they were, Psarimarkos’ staff had drawn up plans for aggressive actions against the Çandarids.

Operations began in late April, just as Iskender’s raiding host was moving into the Lykos valley. Psarimarkos had suspected that war was brewing and so had had all of his ships recently provisioned and their crews reinforced so he could sail at the first sign of conflict. As soon as word reached the capital of the Turkish invasion, the megas doux weighed anchor. With him were thirty-three galleys and sixteen transports, a strike force sufficient to both crush the Çandarid navy and seize any unexpected maritime fortifications. After exiting Trapezous, the Trapezuntine fleet turned westward, bearing directly upon their intended target of Sinope. Psarimarkos considered the Çandarid navy to pose so little a threat that he didn’t even attempt to conceal his advance. After two delays that forced them ashore at Ordu to escape rough weather with the loss of a supply craft, the Imperial fleet arrived at Sinope on 6 May. They had met several picket ships en route and thus were not entirely unopposed, but despite the best efforts of the Turkmen they were unable to muster anything more than seven galleys and a handful of small craft. The Trapezuntines rode at anchor for two days, waiting for another patch of choppy seas to die down before they began the attack on 9 May 1468.

Before the battle begins, a quick geography lesson. Sinope sits astride a narrow peninsula that juts out into the Black Sea. The city itself lies upon the narrowest section of this peninsula, with the city’s land walls guarding the approaches from the mainland (southwest). However, the northwesternment section of the peninsula blossoms outward into a rocky headland. The city’s primary bank is formed to the south of the city itself, between this headland and the mainland.

The commander of the Çandarid, one Ahmed Paşa, arrayed his forces in the city’s bay. He believed that the Trapezuntines would sail directly into the harbor to attack him, as there was in his mind no other way to attack the city. As such, he positioned is forces in the following manner; he arranged his light craft (emphasis on the craft, as many of these vessels had been confiscated from their owners and didn’t even qualify as ships, let alone military vessels) in an arc stretching across the harbor. He held back his galleys and several armed transports, afraid that putting them in the line of battle would expose them to direct attack and weaken them significantly. However, the absence of heavier ships unnerved the commanders of the lighter ships and many of them intended to turn and run for shore as soon as battle was joined. Thus, Ahmed inadvertently sabotaged his own plan, as he had hoped to dash out into the harbor and catch the Trapezutines in their flank.

Psarimarkos’ plan needs no introduction, as it went off without a hitch. Shortly after dawn on the ninth, the Trapezuntine fleet weighed anchor and moved into battle lines. Eighteen of the galleys formed up in ranks, leaving the transports in the rear under the protection of the remaining fifteen galleys. The formation of galleys made for the Çandarid line-of-battle, with many of the light craft turning and fleeing while they were still outside of bowshot. Those few who remained were ground beneath Trapezuntine prows as they were sunk or boarded depending on the whim of the Pontic commanders. One of the galleys, the Agios Nikolaos, rammed a commandeered fishing vessel and sliced cleanly through it to ram a merchantman behind her. As this naval massacre was occuring, Ahmed roused the rowers and boatsmen aboard his personal force of valleys and beat to, hoping to intercept the main galley force. However, rather than taking them in their flank they would in turn be out-maneuvered, as six Trapezuntine galleys from the reserve emerged from one of the Black Sea’s infamous fog banks and slammed into the Turkish flank. In rushing to meet their opponents, the Çandarids had accidentally advanced past a bank of shoals that Ahmed had believed guarded his flank, and so they were caught completely unawares. The lead Trapezuntine galley slammed into its Turkish counterpart less than half an hour after the battle began, and within fifteen minutes all but one of the Çandarid vessels had gone down. This remaining ship had been captured, eight young Trapezuntine sailors having leapt onto the deck of the other ship when they suspected the slave rowers of the galley of being massacred and captured it against astronomical odds. Seven of the eight sailors died or succumbed to their wounds, with only Loukas Ratetas surviving. Remember that name.

With the Çandarid navy either run aground and abandoned or at the bottom of the Black Sea, Psarimarkos then turned his attention to Sinope. The city’s sea walls were heavily defended, albeit by a mixture of mercenaries and panicky militiamen, and the megas doux was unwilling to risk an assault against the walls. However, Psarimarkos still believed that the city could be taken by his forces, and so he ordered his fleet to establish a blockade until he could figure out a way in. Sinope’s fortresses were poor to non existent on its north-western side, so the megas doux was sure that he could take the city if he could just land men on the headland. Unfortunately for him, the Sinopians had left that section of the wall abandoned for good reason; The headland was surrounded on all sides by dangerous shoals and rocks that made approach nigh-on impossible, and even if they could be passed the shoreline was a forested cliff. For several days, the conundrum puzzled Psarimarkos, and he was unable to find a solution. Then, the answer came from an unexpected quarter.

On the night of 15 May, a group of sailors were drinking their wine rations and discussing their predicament. After several hours of drinking a Kartvelian sailor, one Bagrat, stood and announced that he would reach the headland or die trying. His colleagues egged him on, and a few minutes later Bagrat was crashing through the surf with a sailing rope tied around his waist. The sailor nearly drowned a half-dozen times as the cold water rushed over him, and was cut to ribbons by the rocks. In spite of this, Bagrat was able to drag himself to the headland and pulled himself up a concealed gully. He pulled his rope around a nearby tree, fell asleep, and then swam back to the ship on the morning tide the next day. Psarimarkos was informed of this and immediately realised the opportunity dropped into his lap. That night, several dozen men were pulled across to the headland on small rafts, ultimately landing four hundred men before daybreak.

When the governor of Sinope awoke to find four hundred Trapezuntines scaling the north-western land walls, he knew the game was up. He surrendered, hoping to avoid a sack, but this message was not communicated to the soldiers directly on the walls. Because of this, fighting there continued for the better part of the hour, and Psarimarkos considered the city to have been taken by storm, which meant that the city was subject to the Law of the Ram[1]. After the obligatory days of sack in which a great amount of precious metal and spices were carried off, the total value of the port had been decreased by a goodly margin. In spite of this, the megas doux was still able to gleefully write to Mgeli and inform him of the capture of one of the great ports of the Black Sea.

The combined impact of Mavrokastron and the fall of Sinope was to force the Çandarids to unilateral surrender. Iskender’s realm was now splintering as the various Turkmen bands revolted or declared themselves/the candidate for their choice as the true bey. Pir Ahmet had also invaded the far south of the Çandarid beylik, and would need to be dealt with swiftly. As such, Iskender sued for peace with Trapezous in late July. Alexios’ terms were as fastidious as they were broad. All Çandarid territories east of the Halys[2] would be ceded to Trapezous[3], as well as Sinope and all territories in the coastal mountains as far west as Abana.

Over the next two years, Trapezous would integrate these new conquests as part of the Empire. However, the most dramatic impact of the Çandarid War of 1468 would only begin two years later. Suleyman III, the Çandarid bey, would be beset on all sides by foreign and domestic enemies, and would be forced to ask the Trapezuntines for protection as a vassal…..


[1] The Law of the Ram was the closest thing to a human rights code in the pre-modern era and was adopted across pretty much all societies by a mixture of morality and common usage. If a city surrendered before besiegers had placed a ram or other such siege engine to the walls, then they would be spared a sack; If not, then vae victis.
[2] Kizilirmak River
[3] This region’s population was majority Armenian, and Armenians were a sizeable minority across all of the newly conquered territories and certain parts of the Lykos valley. As shall be seen in the next update, these new acquisitions would see a policy of tolerance towards heretical Christians adapted out of common interest against the infidel Turkmen.
This brings up an interesting question. Does anyone have any knowledge of Late Byzantine heraldry? I know the Trapezuntines would've used the mangra (double-headed eagle) as a symbol, but not much else.
@Sārthākā, @Averious
Following 'Arms and the Military in Late Byzantine Society' and 'The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300-1600', the total population of Anatolia in 1450 was 7 million, with about four living along the coast and the other three in the interior/eastern mountains. Bartusis estimates that there were some 2.5-3 million Greeks in Anatolia at this time, falling from 4 million in 1300. The other ~4 million are presumably Turks or Armenians, most likely 3 1/2 million Turks and 1/2 million Armenians.
Figures for Trapezous itself will come in tomorrow's update.
As a note on the heraldry, if you look into the sources of the major Magnate families that would survive into the late Empire, as well as those that rose up along the way, you'll find the use of more and more heraldric symbols by the major players.

Overall the army would still make use of widely used icons such as crosses or the eagle, but those in the personal retinue of a major General or Commander would bear his heraldry--an example being the black eagle of the Komnenoi being attested by Mongol scholars who came into contact with the Great Komnenoi's personal troops.

Also, to note, if you're looking for inspiration I'd suggest looking to Georgia, as following the various events after the rise of Trebizond the Komnenoi Emperors dropped any pretenses to the Roman title itself and simply used a derivative for their own Empire while taking Georgian and Lazican influences. The title would become "Emperor and Autocrat of all the East and Perateia", effectively starting a new Imperial Tradition, descended from the Roman one, in the far-east of Anatolia.
Added note;

The effective 'look' of the eagle used by Trebizond changed as it evolved, with its final form being a double-headed eagle attested to being put into use following the fall of Constantinople in 1453;


As for heraldry inspirations? You're likely looking at a lot of lions, eagles and abstract shapes, an example being the CoA used by the Royal House of Georgia;


The Grand Komnenoi Household apparently used a CoA akin to this, but I've yet to find much in the way of its description besides the obvious;



Interesting addition, a Matrilineal Branch of the Palaiologi, the Asen Palaiologi, used this as their CoA;


Although I've always found the Polish Branch of the Laskarids, and their CoA, an interesting one--and intend to poach it for my TL, lol;

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Out of curiosity, would it be possible to have a map showing the borders of Trebizond? I am having some difficulty imagining what they currently look like.
Out of curiosity, would it be possible to have a map showing the borders of Trebizond? I am having some difficulty imagining what they currently look like.
From what I undestand, it’s pretty much all the Turkish Black Sea coast stopping a 100-200 kilometer from Bosporu.
I would honestly love a map of 1468 Hellas and Anatolia since there's probably huge territorial changes involved thanks to the decline of the Ottomans and the expansion of the Empire of Trebizond.
However, the most dramatic impact of the Çandarid War of 1468 would only begin two years later. Suleyman III, the Çandarid bey, would be beset on all sides by foreign and domestic enemies, and would be forced to ask the Trapezuntines for protection as a vassal…..
My, how the tables have turned. Karamanids and Ottomans are probably biting chunks out of the beylik. Opportunity was too good to pass up.


Out of curiosity, would it be possible to have a map showing the borders of Trebizond? I am having some difficulty imagining what they currently look like.
same here
I would honestly love a map of 1468 Hellas and Anatolia since there's probably huge territorial changes involved thanks to the decline of the Ottomans and the expansion of the Empire of Trebizond.
My, how the tables have turned. Karamanids and Ottomans are probably biting chunks out of the beylik. Opportunity was too good to pass up.
Trapezuntine Empire c.1469.png

That's actually way smaller than I thought, but I don't have time to edit it now.

Thanks for the heraldry suggestions.


Okay, two things: One, today's update is going to be a bit choppy, since it's cut out of an overly long segment I intended to post. Secondly, I'm changing the date on the Chandarid vassalization to 1476 instead of 1470 to even out the flow of the story.
Trapezuntine Empire c.1469.png

That's actually way smaller than I thought, but I don't have time to edit it now.
This is pretty small.

Here's another larger map I made for this tl @Eparkhos:

Okay, two things: One, today's update is going to be a bit choppy, since it's cut out of an overly long segment I intended to post. Secondly, I'm changing the date on the Chandarid vassalization to 1476 instead of 1470 to even out the flow of the story.
Bruh don't sweat it. All your timelines are awesome and well-written.
Part XII: Administering an Empire


Apologies in advance if this one was a bit choppy, I cut it out of a larger update segment.
Part XII: Administering an Empire (1468-1473)

The borders of the Trapezuntine Empire had remained static or nearly so for centuries, with the last major acquisition of land outside of the Pontic heartland having occurred in the mid-13th century, more than two hundred years before the regency of Mgeli and Keteon. While the conquests of Alexandros I had expanded the realm of the aftokrator considerably, the conquests of the Lykos and the Çanikids had not nearly brought as much new territory or subjects into the realm as had Alexios’ victory of the Çandarids. Mgeli had won an impressive victory, but Keteon’s stewardship of the conquests would have to be nearly as impressive to succeed.

The Trapezuntines had inherited from their Byzantine predecessors a highly centralized and hierarchical bureaucracy. This was excellent for seeing to stable, well-controlled territories and maximizing the income of the government, but was very difficult to expand into new conquests. Even when it could be successfully transferred, the introduction of this all-encompassing tax structure had a tendency to anger the new subjects and cause no few number of revolts. The regency couldn’t afford to put down these numerous revolts, as even with the bandon system, the Trapezuntine army had a very small pool of manpower to draw from. Thus, the institution of this institution had to be done very cautiously to prevent the loss of the new conquests, while still making good use of the extra territory.

Unfortunately, Keteon and her underlings had little experience in governing such a disparate populace as that which had been annexed after the Çandarid War. The pre-war population of the Trapezuntine Empire was roughly 330,000, of which roughly 200,000 were Lazes and 125,000 Rhomeoi, with the rest being Turk and Latin citizens. The vast majority of the population was rural, with Trapezous having 50,000 residents (both native and non-citizen) and the combined population of the other ports coming to some 20,000. The population was almost entirely Orthodox, with small Muslim and Latin and Armenian Christian minorities. Because of the homogeneity of the Empire, a simple (comparatively) code of law was applicable to the entire population equally. However, this level of homogeneity was non-existent in the new conquests. Some 150,000 new subjects of the Empire lived in the lands west of the Lykos, divided between several religious, linguistic and cultural groups. Religiously, there were some 75,000 Orthodox, 45,000 Muslims (mostly Sufi Sunni with a small number of Alevis) and 25,000 Armenians, with a handful of Latins intermixed. None of these religions were homogenous, with their being Orthodox Turks, Muslim Greeks and Orthodox Latins scattered across the provinces. There were 60,000 Greeks, 30,000 Turkmen, 30,000 Seljuks[1], 25,000 Armenians and a smattering of other ethnic groups. All of these ethnic groups expected to be treated according to their own individual law codes (the Paphlagonian Greeks had been cut off from rule by their coreligionists for so long that they had developed their own legal and social codes). Handling this complex mosaic of ethnic groups would have been a difficult challenge for even the best of governors, and Keteon could only hope that she was up to the task.

The first actions of the administrators were, if not harsh than at the very least somewhat hostile. In late 1468, the regentess declared that all subjects of the aftokrator would follow the single pre-existing law code, the Hexabiblos[2]. This kept the legal process simple and required only a single set of judges and lawyers to administer, but denied many of the new minority communities their hoped-for privileges. Even the Çandarids had allowed non-muslims to operate their own legal system outside of the sharia courts, and many educated Armenians and Seljuks began to grumble about this new reform. Sensing the brewing trouble, Keteon appeased the religious minorities through a variety of methods. Many of the more strict and/or alien laws were amended to give discretion to the judges; many prominent Armenians and Muslims were then promoted as judges in areas with Armenian and Muslim majorities.

The tax code was also altered and expanded to fit the new conquests. Keteon was a deeply pious woman, and spent a good deal of time obsessing over theological doctrine and other heavenly matters. She was greatly concerned with the fate of her subjects’ souls, and despite the fact that any attempt at mass conversion would be suicide she was determined to spread the holy word of Orthodoxy in her new territories. As such, in hopes of turning the more mercurial (and thus threatened) of her subjects to the righteous way, she enacted a new religious tax code in 1470. Latin, Armenian and other heretical Christians have their hearth taxes increased by 5%, while Muslims face an increase of 10%, an ironic reversal of the jizya tax. Once again, this causes no little amount of grumbling, but the region is fairly prosperous and no one’s livelihood is endangered. Many of the heretical Christians actually begin to take pride in their elevated position, as they now rank above the infidels who had dominated them for generations. Keteon also began the gradual introduction of the bandon system by extracting a labor tax to build a line of fortresses along the new frontier. The fortresses were soon completed, but the Empire was stretched to its limit in garrisoning the extended frontier and a handful of Turkmen raiders managed to slip across the border in the first years of the 1470s.

However, in spite of all of these taxes, Keteon would take an unprecedented step in 1469, when she issued the Chrysobull of 1469. Other than the taxes, no persons would be persecuted for practicing their religion. This didn’t apply to proselytizing their faith--Muslims would be burned at the stake and heretical Christians would have their hands and forearms cut off--but if the heretics and heathens kept to themselves then they would be left alone. This utterly infuriated the church of course, and many historians both ecclesiastical and secular consider it to be one of the chief causes of the Schism of 1470, but the general consensus is that it was the right decision. The Armenians likely would’ve born the persecutions with a great deal of unhappiness, but any attempt to persecute the Muslims for merely practicing their faith would be a good way to get jihaded by one of the many Turkmen beyliks.

There was also the problem of depopulation, as the Çandarid War had sent tens of thousands of men to their deaths and left vast swathes of arable land abandoned. Never one to miss an opportunity, Keteon moved to use this opportunity to shore up her son’s rule in the newly conquered provinces. The Ottomans had recently clamped down on their Greek and Bulgarian subjects after a series of rebellions, and the regentess saw an opportunity. Over the first three years of the 1470s, several hundred refugees from Rumelia, both Greek and Bulgarian, were settled in much of the vacant land. There was a brief liturgical controversy as the Bulgarians insisted on their right to use Bulgarian in Orthodox masses when the state policy was to enforce Greek, but this was quickly resolved, with the newcomers accepting higher taxes in exchange for this boon. As expected, many of the settlers were grateful for being given means to escape Turkish rule and were fiercely loyal to both Alexandros II and his regents, putting down several small revolts amongst the Turks of their own accord. The presence of a large pseudo-diaspora in the region would sow the seeds for Notaras’ War in the 1480s, but that’s a story for another time….

However, not all of the vacant land was settled. A good deal of it--primarily the high steppe, where it would be difficult to grow staple crops at best--were turned over to groups of sheepherders, both Greek and Turkish. The Pontic wool trade had boomed in recent years, due to two chief reasons. The first was that the securing of the Lykos valley and the lands beyond had allowed shepherds to range further and bring their sheep to higher altitudes, where they grew shaggier. The second were the Latins. After the initial wave of Thuringian migrants in the 1450s, Alexandros had continued to encourage Latin workers to settle in the city. The primary groups of immigrants were from Germany (Thuringia and Pomerania) and from the Low Countries (Flemings). The continued waves of Germans encouraged the growth of the Trapezuntine gunsmithing and powdermaking industries, while the Flemings transferred their customs of weaving to their new homeland. The Trapezuntine weaving industry and the resultant trading section was booming, with the cheap wares of Pontic Flemings able to out-sell their more expensive counterparts in Armenia and Atropatene[3]. The expansion of state-sanctioned herding west of the Lykos allowed this industry to further expand, and thus further enrich the Empire.

Finally, there was the economic value of Sinope itself. The city had long been known as one of the chief ports of the Black Sea, and like Trapezous it could be reached fairly easily both galley and sail ship from any point in the basin. Several Italian gazettes had listed it as one of the five great ports of the Black Sea (the others being Constantinope, Caffa, Trapezous and Amisos), and so its incorporation bought a great deal of both money and prestige. Of course, the value of the city meant that it was a potential liability, as it could easily become the seat of a rebellion. As such, eparkhoi[4] of the city were rotated in and out on a yearly basis. The city quickly became a part of the Trapezuntine Empire in both name and spirit, as the local Greeks took well to governance by the countrymen and the extension of the capital’s trade networks merged the two cities' commercial classes together.

As all of this was unfolding, Trapezous was wracked with a religious dispute, as the Ecumenical Patriarch and Metropolitan Funa struggled for control of the Trapezuntine Empire and her ecclesiastical environs….

[1] As it was covered in BRSA; The Seljuks were semi-Turkish Muslims who had partially adapted Rhoman culture and were, as a whole, more settled than the Turkmen and in many cases often despised the newcomers.
[2] Alexandros had adopted the Hexabiblos
[3] Atropatene was the medieval name for ‘Greater Azerbaijan’ including the lands from the Greater Caucasus all the way south to Tabriz.
[4] Roll credits!
Ah schism, an ever present thorn in any Basileus and Aftokrator. Iconoclasm, Monothelitism, union with the Pope, and now secularism.
Well there is also the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch is most likely an Ottoman puppet and two (or three if you count Theodore) existing successor states of Byzantine Empire unlike OTL.
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What would the end solution be? Trebizond declaring their own independent Patriarch?
The Hagia Sophia in Trebizond was considered directly connected, through religious means, to the one in Constantinople. That's one of the few things we do know about the religious practices of the Empire of Trebizond.

There is functionally very little information on this area, which always surprised me. However, I can easily see Eparkhos simply acting like Trebizond already has its own independent Patriarch.
There is functionally very little information on this area, which always surprised me. However, I can easily see @Eparkhos simply acting like Trebizond already has its own independent Patriarch.
He could probably treat it as the same conditions when Constantinople was controlled by the Latins. Essentially he wouldn't recognize the authority of the puppet patriarch under the thumb of the Ottomans.


Sorry, everyone, I got a little caught up in writing. The next update addresses ecclesiastical matters, so I won't respond to any of the questions today.
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