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The Empire of Trebizond, founded in March 1798, was one of minor Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire. At first, the Empire of Trebizond never consisted of much more than the southern coast of the Black Sea. During much of its history it was known to many of its Western contemporaries as the Pontic Empire because of its geographical location, despite the dominance of Greek language, culture and population. To its inhabitants and its neighbors, the Empire was simply a continuation of Romano-Byzantium into the early 1900's.
Collapse of the Byzantine Empire
By the 1790's, the Byzantine Empire was starting to crumble due to the political instability. Although still the most advanced nation on Earth, the empire had been in decline since the 1600's upon its loss of its colonies in Greek America. However, the world was starting to want a piece of weakening Byzantium. The Mongols had soon overrun their Baltic territories, and major revolts took place in Egypt and Arabia. The Byzantines fought a drawn out war to suppress both rebellions, but by 1760 had lost both the war and their African and Arabian territories. The remaining parts of the now-smallish Byzantium covered too diverse a territory in culture and geography to survive in the modern world.
The last Byzantine emperor, Theodosius XII, spent his entire reign suppressing rebellions in Asia Minor and the Balkans. Upon his death, the Byzantine Empire degenerated into a number of minor, insignificant, kingdoms, including the Duchy of Athens, the Kingdom of Sparta, the Syrian Confederation, and the Empire of Trebizond. Having seen his chance to seize his own portion of the dying Byzantium, a military officer in Sinope, Alexios IX, took Trebizond, Sinope, and the surrounding portion of land as the newly dubbed Empire of Trebizond. His reign would not last long, however.
Rise of Trebizond
In 1800, the Empire of Trebizond and the Syrian Confederation were both defeated by the Duchy of Athens and ruled in a loosely associated union by an elected council of Greek nobles. In the course of the Second Armenian War (1801-1804), the Treaty of Tarsus and the Treaty of Jerusalem granted Manuel III, son of the Alexios IX, sovereignty in the Empire of Trebizond. Thus, Manuel was able to style himself Emperor of Trebizond in 1805.
In 1820, Emperor Basilios XII came to the throne. Using the pretext of the Treaty of Jerusalem (by which parts of northern Cilicia were to pass to Trebizond after the extinction of its ruling Armenian dynasty, Basilios invaded southern Armenian lands, thereby beginning the Third Armenian War. After rapidly occupying Cilicia (with the exception of a few coastal outposts), the emperor offered to protect the senate of the Syrian Confederation if their provinces were turned over to him. The offer was rejected, but the confederation faced several other opponents to the south, and Emperor Basilios was eventually able to gain formal cession with the Treaty of Antioch in 1825.
In 1830, Trebizond was responsible for using their technological advancements to create the first repeating rifle. Using this new weapon, they attacked the Duchy of Athens (Which still controlled western Asia Minor) and defeated them. The Athenian and Trapezuntine armies met at the Battle of Ancyra, and the western Greeks were hopelessly outgunned by the repeating rifles of the soldiers from Trebizond. After a day of fighting, the Athenians ran out of ammunition for their muskets and surrendered. The emperor Constantine II of Trebizond then exacted a heavy tribute but proposed a ceasefire and alliance with the Duchy of Athens. Seeing no other choice, the Athenian duke agreed.
Around the same time, the Empire of Trebizond also became the first Greek state to grant citizenship to Jews, due to their Eastern location and culture, as well as dependence on Jewish merchants on the Black Sea. The same year, the Trapezuntine forces joined their Russian allies in crushing an ill-fated Polish rebellion. The armies of Trebizond had beaten the Poles easily with their new guns, forcing them to remain under Russian control.
By 1870, Trebizond had destroyed invading Egyptian and Ottoman Turkish armies from the East. (The Ottomans had seized power and overthrown the previous Seljuk dynasty in the 1500's) The Turks retreated, and the Trapezuntine emperor reminded them of how the Greeks had previously deflected a Mongol assault on Baghdad and how they had sold muskets to the Turkish army. A formal agreement to peace was signed in 1888.
Decline and Fall
By 1900, the Empire of Trebizond had lost its western possessions to rival Greek kingdoms and much of its southern lands to the Egyptians. It remained one of the richest nations, however, having marketed and introduced its repeating rifle invention to other nations in the world. At the Battle of Ancyra, however, the Greek League (produced through the merging of Athens, Sparta, and the Kingdom of Thessalonica) defeated the outnumbered Trapezuntine army with improved rifles. Western Europe soon took the initiative and built on the original Trebizond design, becoming the leaders in arms improvement while the Empire of Trebizond began to fall slightly behind.
In 1901, the Trapezuntine Empire succumbed to invading Russian, Greek, and Turkish forces and, after putting up only nominal resistance for a period of three weeks, finally fell a kingdom divided among its conquerors.