Trabzon (see other names, Turkish pronunciation: [ˈtrabzon]) is a city on the Black Sea coast of north-eastern Turkey and the capital of Trabzon Province. Trabzon, located on the historical Silk Road, became a melting pot of religions, languages and culture for centuries and a trade gateway to Iran in the southeast and the Caucasus to the northeast. The Venetian and Genoesemerchants paid visits to Trebizond during the medieval period and sold silk, linen and woolen fabric; with the Republic of Genoahaving an important merchant colony within the city called Leonkastron that was similar to Galata near Constantinople (north across the Golden Horn) in present-day Istanbul. Trabzon formed the basis of several states in its long history and was the capital city of the Empire of Trebizond between 1204 and 1461.

During the Ottoman period, Trabzon, because of the importance of its port, became a focal point of trade to Iran and the Caucasus. The population of the urban center is 1,254,350 (2011 census). The Turkish name of the city is Trabzon. It is historically known as Trebizond, Trapezund, Tribisonde and Trapezus. In Latin, Trabzon was called Trapezus, which is the latinization of the Ancient Greek Τραπεζοῦς (Trapezous), the first name of the city. (τράπεζα meant “table” in Ancient Greek; note the table on the coin in the figure.) Both in Pontic Greek and Modern Greek, it is called Τραπεζούντα (Trapezounda). In Ottoman Turkish and Persian, it is written as طربزون. During Ottoman times, Tara Bozan was also used. Some western geographers used this name instead of the Latin Trebizond. In Laz it is known as ტამტრა (T’amt’ra) or T’rap’ Georgian it is ტრაპიზონი(T’rap’izoni) and in Armenian it is Տրապիզոն Trapizon. The 19th-century Armenian travelling priest Byjiskian called the city by other, native names, including Hurşidabat and Ozinis. The oldest area associated with the Kartvelians was northeastern Anatolia, including the Iron Age monarchy of the Diauehi (early-Georgians), later known as the culturally important region of T’ao-Klarjeti (part of Turkey since 1921), where they pre-dated the Hittites. In classical antiquity the city was founded as Τραπεζοῦς (Trapezous) by Milesian traders (756 BC).

It was one of a number (about ten) of Milesian emporia or trading colonies along the shores of the Black Sea. Others include Sinope, Abydos and Cyzicus (in the Dardanelles). Like most Greek colonies, the city was a small enclave of Greek life, and not an empire unto its own, in the later European sense of the word. Early banking (money-changing) activity is suggested occurring in the city according to a silver drachma coin from Trapezus in theBritish Museum, London. Trebizond’s trade partners included the Mossynoeci. When Xenophon and the Ten Thousandmercenaries were fighting their way out of Persia, the first Greek city they reached was Trebizond (Xenophon, Anabasis, 5.5.10). The city and the local Mossynoeci had become estranged from the Mossynoecian capital, to the point of civil war. Xenophon’s force resolved this in the rebels’ favor, and so in Trebizond’s interest. The city was added to the kingdom of Pontus by Mithridates VI Eupator and it became home port for the Pontic fleet. When the kingdom was annexed to the Roman province of Galatia in 64–65, the fleet passed to new commanders, becoming the Classis Pontica. Trebizond gained importance under Roman rule in the 1st century for its access to roads leading over the Zigana Pass to the Armenian frontier or the upper Euphrates valley.

New roads were constructed from Persia andMesopotamia under the rule of Vespasian. In the next century, the emperor Hadrian commissioned improvements to give the city a more structured harbor.A mithraeum now serves as a crypt for the church of Panaghia Theoskepastos in nearby Kizlara, east of the citadel and south of the modern harbor. Trebizond was greatly affected by two events over the following centuries: in the civil war between Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger, the city suffered for its support of the latter, and in 258 the city was pillaged by the Goths, despite reportedly being defended by “10,000 above its usual garrison’, and being defended by two bands of walls. The division of the Byzantine Empireafter the Fourth Crusade in 1204: The Latin Crusaders established the Latin Empire in Constantinople, while the Byzantine Greeks maintained control over the Empire of Nicaea, Empire of Trebizond and the Despotate of Epirus. Although Trebizond was rebuilt after being pillaged by the Goths in 258, the city did not soon recover. Only in the reign of Diocletianappears an inscription alluding to the restoration of the city; Ammianus Marcellinus could only write of Trebizond that it was “not an obscure town.” Christianity had reached Trebizond by the third century, for during the reign of Diocletian occurred the martyrdom of Eugenius and his associates Candidius, Valerian, and Aquila.

By the time of Justinian, the city served as an important base in his Persian Wars, and Miller notes that a portrait of the general Belisarius “long adorned the church of St. Basil.” An inscription above the eastern gate of the city, commemorated the reconstruction of the civic walls following an earthquake at Justinian’s expense. The city regained importance when it became the seat of the theme of Chaldia. Trebizond also benefited when the trade route regained importance in the 8th to 10th centuries; 10th-century Muslim authors note that Trebizond was frequented by Muslim merchants, as the main source transshipping Byzantine silks into eastern Muslim countries. The Italian maritime republics such as the Republic of Veniceand in particular the Republic of Genoa were active in the Black Sea trade for centuries, using Trabzon as an important seaport for trading goods between Europe and Asia.Some of the Silk Road caravans carrying goods from Asia stopped at the port of Trebizond, where the European merchants purchased these goods and carried them to the port cities of Europe with ships. On his return voyage from Asia,Marco Polo ended his overland journey at the port of Trebizond and sailed to his hometown Venice with a ship. Following the Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, Trebizond came under Seljuk rule.

This rule proved transient when an expert soldier and local aristocrat, Theodore Gabras took control of the city from the Turkish invaders, and regarded Trebizond, in the words of Anna Comnena, “as a prize which had fallen to his own lot” and ruled it as his own kingdom.Supporting Comnena’s assertion, Simon Bendall has identified a group of rare coins he believes were minted by Gabras and his successors. Although he was killed by the Turks in 1098, other members of his family continued his de facto independent rule into the next century. The Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) and the Sack of Constantinople by the Latin Crusaders in April 1204 led to the dissolution of theByzantine Empire. The Empire of Trebizond was formed in 1204 as one of the three Byzantine Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire. Located at the far northeastern corner of Anatolia, it was the longest surviving of the Byzantine successor states, until its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1461. Geographically, the Empire of Trebizond consisted of little more than a narrow strip along the southern coast of the Black Sea, and not much further inland than the Pontic Mountains. Its demographic legacy endured for several centuries after the Ottoman conquest in 1461, as a substantial number of Greek Orthodox inhabitants, usually referred to as Pontic Greeks, continued to live in the area during Ottoman rule. On his return voyage from Asia in the late 13th century, Marco Polo ended his overland journey at the port of Trebizond, then the capital of the Empire of Trebizond, and sailed to his hometown Venice with a ship; passing by Constantinople (Istanbul) on the way, which was retaken by the Byzantines in 1261.

A year earlier, in 1260, Niccolò and Maffeo Polo(the father and uncle of Marco Polo) were residing in Constantinople, then the capital of the Latin Empire. They foresaw a political change, liquidated their assets into jewels and moved away. Their decision proved wise, as Constantinople was recaptured in 1261 by Michael VIII Palaiologos, the ruler of the Empire of Nicaea, who promptly burned the Venetian quarter in the city and reestablished the Byzantine Empire. Captured Venetian citizens in Constantinople were blinded, while many of those who managed to escape perished aboard overloaded refugee ships fleeing to other Venetian colonies in the Aegean Sea. Constantinople remained the Byzantine capital until it was conquered by theOttoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453, who also conquered Trebizond eight years later, in 1461. Trebizond Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire in the year 1900. The last Emperor of Trebizond, David, surrendered the city to Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire in 1461. Following this takeover, Mehmed II sent many Turkish settlers into the area, but the old ethnic Greek, Laz and Armenian communities remained. According to the Ottoman tax books (tahrir defterleri), the total population of adult males in the city was 1,473 in the year 1523. Approximately 85% of them (1,252 adult males) were Christian, 13% of whom (197 adult males) were Armenian, and 15% of them (221 adult males) were Muslim. However, a large portion of the local Christians were Islamized and Turkified by the end of the 17th century, according to a research by Prof. Halil İnalcık on the tax books (tahrir defterleri) of the Ottoman Empire. Trabzon was the capital of the Ottoman Eyalet of Trebizond (1461–1867) and later of the Ottoman Vilayet of Trebizond (1867–1923) in the northeastern part of Anatolia.

During the reign of Sultan Bayezid II, his son Prince Selim (later Sultan Selim I) was the sancakbeyi of Trabzon, and Selim I’s son Suleiman the Magnificent was born in Trabzon on November 6, 1494. The Ottoman government often appointed local Chepni and Laz beys as the regional beylerbeyi. It is also recorded that some Bosniak beys were also appointed by the Sublime Porteas the regional beylerbeyi in Trabzon. The Beylerbeylik of Trabzon (Trabzon Beylerbeyliği) had always sent troops for the Ottoman campaigns in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. Trabzon had a wealthy merchant class during the late Ottoman period, and the local Christian minority still had a substantial influence in terms of culture. A number of European consulates were opened in the city due to its importance in regional trade and commerce.