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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 09 December 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 DECEMBER 2017 19 TRAVEL The ancient walls of Trebizond imperial historian. Furthermore, a number of famous politicians and actors were born in the Trebizond area in modern times, highlighting how important this area has been to Hellenic culture and history. It’s worth commenting on what is known about the role of women in Trebizond. Several rulers, such as Eudokia of Trebizond and Maria of Trebizond. However, many of the royal women were married to Turkish or Muslim leaders in order to maintain friendly relations. Male rulers also married Christian women including from the royal houses in Georgia and Constantinople. Now it’s time to use the word inevitable. Just like Xenephon and his troops inevitably came across Greeks after their long march, it was inevitable that the Hellenes of Trebizond would quarrel in the same ways that had affected the Byzantine Empire over the centuries. In fact, being Greek, or rather Byzantine, meant it would be inevitable for Trebizond to experience a series of civil strife and political assassinations for decades. Inevitably, this precipitated a slow decline for Trebizond, with outlying provinces being taken by the Ottomans. Stability was restored late in the 14th century. The Greeks of Trebizond became known for building numerous churches and public buildings that are evident when one visits picturesque modern-day Trabzon. A visit to the city will reveal the high walls of the old Upper Town which are meant to resemble the walls of medieval Constantinople, the churches of Saint Ann, Saint Constantine, Panayia Chrysokephalos, Saint Andrew, Saint Eugene, Agia Sophia, and Aghios Chris- tophoros just to name a few. Most of the churches have been converted to mosques or had stints over the years as such. A number of fortresses and monasteries are also evident in areas that were once included in the Empire of Trebizond. I should point out that churches and other public buildings can be traced back to the ninth century, existing when the area was under the direct control of Constantinople. Some historians inexplicably tell us that the Ottomans captured the entire Asia Minor by 1350. However, Philadelphia in the south and 100 km inland from the city of Smyrna held out for many years. Philadelphia somehow managed to heroically survive until 1390 despite being surrounded by formidable enemies for so many years and of course the other city that remained inde- pendent was Trebizond. When Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans in 1453 after a heroic fight to the death, the Byzantine Empire effectively came to an end. However, the Hellenes of Trebizond who were predominantly Pontic (Pontian) and held onto their Byzantine heritage essentially inherit the title of the last Hellenic Empire. As Xenephon can testify, all good things come to end. He was alive when the Spartan hegemony of Greece came to end against Thebes in 371 BCE and of course he was overwhelmed when his troops of 10,000 finally ended their land journey after reaching Trebizond. The last empire of the Hellenes came to a sudden end when the Ottoman Sultan decided to end the reign of King David (ruled from 1459-1461). After a monthlong siege, Trebizond suc- The Hagia Sophia of Trebizond cumbed on the sacred day of 15 August 1461. Interestingly, the Byzantine province of the Morea (Peloponnese) held out against the Ottomans, lasting until 1460. The impact of this civilisation can still be felt in the numerous churches and other buildings scattered across the modern city. There are approximately 100,000 Muslims in the area once occupied by the Empire of Trebizond who speak a dialect of Greek. Most of these people live outside Trebizond in about fifty villages and towns. During the final years of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, Pontians as well as other Christians were killed or starved to death (death marches). There was discussion by the Allied powers in Europe to create a Pontus state based on the provincial boundaries of the old Empire of Trebizond. Like many Allied promises over the years, supported by Eleftherios Venizelos, this never eventuated and by 1923 the sad population exchange between Greece and Turkey resulted in almost 1.5 million Hellenes (including Pontus) being sent to Greece. Also, tens of thousands of people from Pontus were forced to migrate to Russia and neighbouring countries. This extinguished the Hellenic presence in Trebizond, over 460 years after the end of the Empire of Trebizond. I’m not sure what Xenephon would make of Trebizond today. One thing that is certain, he would be surprised that the Hellenes are no longer there to greet him and his weary troops. *Billy Cotsis is the author of ‘From Pyrrhus to Cyprus: Forgotten and Remembered Hellenic Kingdoms, Territories, Entities and a Fiefdom’.
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