Empire of Trebizond (brown) and
surrounding states in 1300
Although their prospects of reconquering Constantinople
were reduced following the loss of Sinope
in 1214, the Emperors of Trebizond pressed their claim on the Imperial throne after the Nicaean reconquest of Constantinople in 1261, which extinguished the feeble Latin Empire
, when the Empire of Trebizond had settled into the role of a minor state, primarily concerned with its profitable role as the Western terminus of the Silk Road
through a unique form of diplomacy: “Most of the emperors were blessed with a progeny of marriageable daughters,” writes Donald Nicol, “and the beauty of the ladies of Trebizond was as legendary as the wealth of their dowries.”
The Trapezuntine monarchy proved to be the longest surviving of the Byzantine successor states. The Despotate of Epirus slowly disintegrated through the 13th and 14th centuries, coming under the control of the restored Byzantine Empire c. 1340. While the Empire of Nicaea had become the resurrected Byzantine Empire, it came to an end in 1453 with the conquest of Constantinople
by the Ottoman Empire
. The Empire of Trebizond lasted until 1461 when the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II
conquered it after a month-long siege
and took its ruler and his family into captivity.
Its wealth and exotic location endowed a lingering fame on this polity in Western European eyes. Cervantes
described the eponymous hero of his Don Quixote
as “imagining himself for the valour of his arm already crowned at least Emperor of Trebizond.” Rabelais
had his character Picrochole, the ruler of Piedmont, declare: “I want also to be Emperor of Trebizond.” Other allusions, as well as works set in this distant monarchy, continue into the 20th century.