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Sergej KARPOV*

Byzantium controlled the Black Sea area completely in the second half of the twelfth
century. The famous chrysobulls granted to the Venetians in 1082 and to the Genoese in
1155 did not really sanction effective penetration on their part into the Black Sea ports.1
Not that there was any real reason for them to want to do so, given that the main trade
routes between East and West bypassed the Black Sea on their way from Baghdad to the
Mediterranean ports. Barred to foreigners, the whole Black Sea area served as an exclu-
sive resource base for Constantinople, supplying the city with grain, fish, and salt.
Byzantium strengthened its tentative dominance over the Azov Sea basin, and probably
dispatched officials and tax collectors to the region.2 The ports of the southern Crimea
acknowledged Byzantine authority, although the area around Chersonese, the regional
capital, had its own semi-independent administration.
In the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, Byzantium found itself in profound
economic, political, and social crisis. Regionalism was on the rise, the case of the Pontos
being indicative: there was not a single noble family from the region among the
Constantinopolitan elite. The Paphlagonians, who had backed the revolt of Andronikos I,
the ex-governor of Oinaion, in 1182, were detested as arrivistes in Constantinople,
Eustathios of Thessalonike calling them barbarians in comparison with the Hellenes.3
Trebizond continued to mint its own local coinage under the rule of the Angelos dynasty,4
just as it had under the semi-independent Gabrades. The crusaders struck an exhausted
empire in decline. Exposed to Turkic attacks, the Pontians were well aware of the danger:
in 1194 or thereabouts, Turkmen captured Amisos (Samsun), which was to remain part of
the sultanate of Iconium until 1204. Pavrai (Bafra) may well have shared the fate of
Amisos ca. 1200,5 and Kerasous may also have fallen to the Seljuks: the sultanʼs subjects
seized goods from a Byzantine ship that run aground nearby, and Alexios III intended to
apply the droit de marque against them in 1200.6

* Moscow Lomonosov State University.

1. Cf. LILIE, R.-J., Handel und Politik zwischen dem Byzantinischen Reich und den italienischen
Kommunen Venedig, Pisa und Genua in der Epoche der Komnenen und der Angeloi (1081-1204),
Amsterdam, 1984.
2. KAZHDAN, A. P., Vizanijskij podatnoi sborschik na beregah Kimmeriskogo Bospora v konze
XII v., in Problemy obschestvenno-politicheskoi istorii Rossii i slavyanskih stran, Moscow, 1963,
pp. 97-101.
3. EUSTAZIO DI TESSALONICA, La espugnazione di Tessalonica, ed. KYRIAKIDIS, S., Palermo, 1961,
pp. 32.33-34.35. Cf. also NIKETAS CHONIATES, Historia, ed. VAN DIETEN, J. A., Berlin - New York,
1975, pp. 243.36-244.47.
4. BENDALL, S., The Coinage of Trebizond under Isaac II (A.D. 1185-95), Museum Notes 24,
1979, pp. 213-217, pl. 44.
5. SAVVIDES, A. G., O Buzantinov" Povnto", oi Seltzouvkoi kai oi Ntanismentivde" Touvrkoi,
Archeion Pontou 47, 1996-1997, p. 96.
6. Cf. CAHEN, C., Pre-Ottoman Turkey, London, 1968, pp. 117, 164.

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After 1204 the Byzantine Empire was no longer in a position to conceal its impo-
tence,7 and the revelation was to have a profound effect on the situation in the Black Sea
area. In 1204 Pontos was left to its own devices. At that very moment, Tamara, the mighty
queen of Georgia, put troops at the disposal of Alexios and David, the grandsons of
Andronikos I, the Byzantine emperor who had been dethroned and killed in Constantinople
in 1185. The two would henceforth be known as the “Grand Komnenoi.” Initially setting
about the task of restoring Byzantium, the brothers succeeded in occupying both Paphla-
gonia and Pontos – where the Pontians welcomed them as liberators – and approached
the Propontis. However, lacking the resources for such an ambitious project, they were
defeated by the combined forces of the Seljuks and the Empire of Nicaea in 1214.
Although they had lost all their territories west of Sinope, Alexios set about creating a
Pontic Empire after Davidʼs death in 1212 and continued to style himself emperor of
The historical borders of the Empire of Trebizond stretched from Vati (Batumi) to
Sinope and later Amisos or Kerasous. The Grand Komnenoi were also acknowledged
as sovereigns of the southern Crimea (Chersonese and Sougdaia), which sent tribute to
Trebizond, and possibly the Taman peninsula and the Azov Sea area as well. The Seljuks
disputed the claims of the Pontic state and did what they could to retain control of
Sougdaia, at the very least. Nevertheless, neither Trebizond nor Rum proved capable of
successfully governing the cities of the Crimea, and both lost ground to the Tatars, who,
making their first appearance in the area in 1223, had conquered all the territory between
the Volga and the Danube by the 1240s.
The emergence of the vast Tatar-Mongol Empire brought about an entirely new situ-
ation in the Levant, reversing old trade routes and creating new ones, destroying many
great and ancient trade centers and contributing to the growth of others. The great Silk
Road of antiquity, which connected China to Central Asia and thence the Black Sea
region, was once again a reality.
The Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258. The last crusader strongholds in Palestine and
Syria fell to the Mamluks in 1291, and the popes retaliated with a trade embargo on
Mamluk Egypt. In the meantime, the Mongols had established new capitals in Tabriz and
Sultania in Persia and in Sarai Berke, Hajitarkhan in the Kipchak Khanate (the Khanate
of the Golden Horde). The best and most direct route to these cities was via either
Trebizond or the Sea of Azov and the Don estuary. The route to India and China via
Trebizond and Tabriz opened up in the 1280s. Later, in the early fourteenth century, Tana
(Azak, Azov) and Caffa (ancient Theodosia) were to become important gateways to the
great eastern trade.
The Tatars maintained tight security along the caravan routes connecting the Black
Sea ports to Central Asia and the Far East. However, the upsurge in commercial activity
experienced during the first half of the fourteenth century was short-lived. The gradual
disintegration of the Mongol Empire, coupled with the political and economic crisis of
the middle decades of the century,8 meant that it was no longer possible to travel with any
degree of comfort and security from Tana or Trebizond to Karakorum or Delhi. Moreover,
the breakdown in long-distance trade led to an increase in the importance of local
commerce and saw trade restricted to local products.

7. TREADGOLD, W., A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford, 1997, p. 706.
8. KARPOV, S. P., The Black Sea and the Crisis of the Mid-XIVth Century: An Underestimated
Turning Point, Thesaurismata 27, 1997, pp. 65-77.

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Caffa and Tana were principally involved in the export of luxury oriental commodi-
ties – pearls, spices, silk, raw cotton, gold, furs, and jewelry – and local products, the most
important of which were grain, fish (particularly sturgeon), caviar, and hides. Common
import goods included cloth manufactured in Western Europe, cotton textiles, and a good
deal of silver. The most important local goods available on the Pontic shores were wine,
olive oil, hazelnuts, soft fruits, timber, and alum. The slave trade was a constant presence
in the ports of the northern and eastern Black Sea and in Muslim Sinope to the south, but
never in Trebizond, where it was occasional in character.9
Grain and fish supplies from the Black Sea had always been of vital importance for
Constantinople. The Byzantine emperors tried to keep their inland sea closed to foreign-
ers wherever possible, although they occasionally made exceptions for their northern
neighbors; above all for the Russians, to whom they granted special privileges of unre-
stricted trade in the tenth century, although these were probably soon lost. Byzantine
trade itself decreased from the twelfth century onward: Constantinopleʼs exclusive privi-
leges and high taxation made it more and more unprofitable for provincial merchants.
However, local trade does seem to have successfully supplied the empireʼs provincial
Italians gained access to the Black Sea in 1204, and the Venetians made several
attempts to navigate its waters between 1206 and 1261, a period during which they
dominated the Latin Empire economically.11 Nonetheless, Venetian vessels were not
regular visitors to the Black Sea ports, and even though Venetian trade in Latin-domi-
nated Constantinople was thriving,12 the Republic failed to set up a single trading station
in the Black Sea area. The most likely explanation is that Venice did not have the finan-
cial and human resources required to colonize the region, given that the Serenissimaʼs
efforts were focused on firmly establishing its presence in Constantinople, Crete, and the
Peloponnesos. Veniceʼs rivals the Genoese were in effect barred from the Black Sea
during the period of Venetian control of the Straits. The Pisans may well have been alone
in trying to establish a small settlement, Porto Pisano, in the Azov Sea area. In 1261

9. VERLINDEN, CH., L'esclavage dans l'Europe médiévale, II. Italie. Colonies italiennes du
Levant latin. Empire Byzantin, Ghent, 1977; KARPOV, S. P., Venezianskaya rabotorgovlya v Trape-
zunde (konez XIV-nachalo XV v.), Vizantijskiye ocherki 4, 1982, pp. 191-207; IDEM, Rabotorgovlya
v Yuzhnom Prichernomorʼye v pervoi polovine XV v. (preimuschestvenno po dannym massarij
Kaffy), VV 46, 1986, pp. 139-145.
10. LAIOU, A. E., Byzantine Traders and Seafarers, The Greeks and the Sea, ed. VRYONIS, S.,
JR., New Rochelle, N.Y., 1993, pp. 79-96; LAIOU, A. E., Byzantium and the Black Sea, 13th-15th
Centuries: Trade and the Native Populations of the Black Sea Area, Bulgaria Pontica 2, Sofia,
1988, pp. 164-201; EADEM, Observations on the Results of the Fourth Crusade: Greeks and Latins
in Port and Market, Medievalia et Humanistica, n.s., 12, 1984, pp. 47-60; TUMA, O., The Puzzle of
a Decline and a Rise: The Byzantines and the Italians on the Sea, BSl. 54.1, 1993, pp. 53-57;
OIKONOMIDES, N., The Economic Region of Constantinople: From Directed Economy to Free
Economy, and the Role of the Italians, in Europa medievale e mondo bizantino. Contatti effettivi e
possibilità di studi comparati, ed. ARNALDI, G., and CAVALLO, G., ed., Rome, 1997, pp. 221-238;
MATSCHKE, K.-P., and TINNEFELD, F., Die Gesellschaft im späten Byzanz. Gruppen, Strukturen und
Lebensformen, Cologne, 2001.
11. MOROZZO DELLA ROCCA, R., and LOMBARDO A., Documenti del commercio veneziano nei
secoli XI-XIII, II, Turin, 1940, pp. 478-479, 541, 662; SORANZO, G., Accenni a navigazione di
Veneziani e Provenzali nel Mar Nero durante lʼImpero Latino dʼOriente, Archivio veneto 15, 1934,
pp. 305-311.
12. JACOBY, D., The Venetian Presence in the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204-1261):
The Challenge of Feudalism and the Byzantine Inheritance, JÖB 43, 1993, pp. 141-201.

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Michael VIII Palaiologos, the emperor of Nicaea, asked the Genoese to put their fleet at
his disposal in his war against Venice and attempts to retake Constantinople. In reward,
Genoa received unlimited tax exemptions on trade across his empire.13 A few months
later the Byzantines captured Constantinople and restored the old empire without foreign
aid. Still, treaties had to be observed, especially now that the Venetians were preparing a
naval expedition against Michael VIII, who had no seaworthy fleet to put to sea against
them. Consequently, the Genoese soon began to develop their activities, establishing
settlements in Galata and Pera in the 1260s, then in the Crimea (Caffa), and on the Pontic
shores – Trebizond and Vatiza (Fatsa) – in the 1280s. The latter required treaties to be
signed with both the khan of the Golden Horde and the emperor of Trebizond, from
whom they obtained concessions, although the terms were less favorable (local duties of
3-5 % of value) than the exemption from taxation they had been granted in Byzantium.14
It did not take the Genoese long to establish a network of trading stations large and
small covering the shores of the Black Sea.15 The region became increasingly attractive,
and traders could multiply their investment many times over despite the commercial risks
involved. The Venetians did not arrive in the region for some time, although they did
establish trading stations in Soldaia (Sougdaia) ca. 1287, Trebizond in 1319, and Tana in
1332. They adopted a different approach from their Ligurian rivals, eschewing a network
of settlements in favor of a finely tuned and skillfully executed system of navigation in
which convoys of merchant galleys were escorted by military vessels with skilled archers
The Italians followed exactly the same sea routes the Greeks had done previously and
settled in old Greek towns and villages. Local pilots familiar with prevailing conditions
in the Black Sea shared their knowledge of currents and winds, and in their turn the
Italians carried Greek merchants and merchandise. Economic cooperation was a feature
of Italian colonization from the very start. The Italians did not even invent new place
names, simply modifying Greek ones to accord with their pronunciation. Thus Kafas
became Caffa, Symbolon Cembalo, Amisos Simisso, Amastris Samastro, Sougdaia
Soldaia, and Sevastopolis Sebastopoli. However, the Italians did bring with them both
cutting-edge contemporary naval technology and an unrivaled level of commercial and
financial experience, including commenda contracts, double-entry bookkeeping, credit
societies, insurance, and a good deal more. Greek merchants were not excluded from this
trade; rather, they worked with the Italians as important, though minor, partners. The
Greeks were simultaneously teachers and pupils: indeed, the Greeks (and Armenians)
were to become the leading businessmen in the region between the sixteenth and nine-
teenth centuries, the period of Ottoman expansion.

13. BALARD, M., La Romanie génoise (XIIe-début du XVe siècle), I, Rome - Genoa, 1978,
pp. 45-55.
14. Cf. KARPOV, S. P., Il problema delle tasse doganali nei rapporti tra Venezia e Trebisonda
(XIV-prima metà del XV secolo), RSBS 3, 1984, pp. 161-171; IDEM, Italyanskie morskie respu-
bliki i Juzhnoe Prichernomorye v XIII-XV vv.: Problemy torgovli, Moscow, 1990, pp. 220-224;
KRAMAROVSKY, M. G., The Golden Horde and Levant in the Epoch of Fr. Petrarca: Trade, Culture,
Handcrafts, Rivista di bizantinistica 3, 1993, pp. 252, 257.
15. Cf. LOPEZ, R. S., Storia delle colonie Genovesi nel Mediterraneo, Bologna, 1938 (reprinted
Genoa, 1997); BALARD, La Romanie génoise, pp. 1-2.
16. THIRIET, F., Les Vénitiens en Mer Noire. Organisation et trafics (XIIIe-XVe siècles),
Archeion Pontou 35, 1979, pp. 38-53 ; KARPOV, S. P., La navigazione veneziana nel Mar Nero XIII-
XV sec., Ravenna, 2000; STÖCKLY, D., Le système de lʼincanto des galées du marché de Venise (fin
XIIIe-milieu XVe siècle), Leiden - New York - Cologne, 1995.

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Cooperation coexisted alongside rivalry and conflict. It should not be overlooked that
the “Latins” or “Franks” had conquered Byzantium, and that they were imposing a spe-
cific religious and economic regime on the whole of “Latin Romania.” And while neither
the Crimea nor Trebizond was under their direct control, both were still affected by the
situation in general and the existence of Italian trading stations on their territory. Although
the Genoese and Venetians were more tolerant in religious matters than the French cru-
saders, they, too, tried to replace the upper echelons of the Greek clergy with Latin priests.
Moreover, there were Roman Catholic monasteries in every Italian settlement, whose
relations with the Greek clergy and Tatar administration were unfriendly at best.
The problematic relations between the Italians and the local populations were, to some
extent, social in origin. While merchants cooperated with the Latins despite their rivalry,
the everyday folk of Trebizond tended to regard them as both heretics and selfish oppres-
sors,17 a sentiment that sometimes received clerical backing. Local rulers were mainly
concerned about their income from taxes levied on Italian traders, and fraudulent or
irregular payments could and did create problems, which could escalate into military
conflict. This was the case when the emperors of Trebizond and Tatar khans exhorted
local citizens to rise up against the Genoese or the Venetians. Wars and clashes tended to
conclude in favor of the maritime republics or in a compromise by which the local ruler
was obliged to lower duties and pay indemnities.
The Latins were a tiny minority in their Black Sea settlements except, perhaps, for
thirty or forty thousand Latins in Caffa. Given that the colonists were mostly men who
rarely – especially initially – brought their families with them, those who intended to stay
for a long period either married local women or took them as concubines. Confrontation
coexisted with cooperation.18
The events of 1204 brought about conceptual changes in an imperial ideology
founded on the ecumenical character of the Empire of the Romans protected by Almighty
God, and embodying taxis in a world ruled from Constantinople, the blessed capital of
Orthodoxy, by a unique, sacred, and autocratic emperor. Only he who possessed the
imperial city, confessed the Orthodox faith, and followed Roman laws could be fully
legitimate.19 In their bid for legitimacy, the Grand Komnenoi of Trebizond – as well as
the Laskarids of Nicaea, the Angeloi Doukai of Epiros, and other sovereigns – attempted
to harness themselves to this Byzantine heritage by initially adopting conventional values
and ideological traditions. They put a great deal of thought into formulating their concep-
tual position as emperors who did not rule from the imperial city, which was in the hands
of a non-Orthodox and not entirely Roman ruler, and each chose exactly the same model:
the creation of a “new Constantinople” in Nicaea, Trebizond, or even Tùrnovo, given that

17. KARPOV, S. P., Grecs et Latins à Trébizonde (XIIIe-XVe ss.). Collaboration économique,
rapports politiques, in État et colonisation au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance, Lyon, 1989, pp. 413-
18. Cf. OIKONOMIDÈS, N., Hommes dʼaffaires grecs et latins à Constantinople (XIIIe-XVe siè-
cles), Montreal - Paris, 1979; LAIOU-THOMADAKIS, A., The Byzantine Economy in the Mediterranean
Trade System, XIIIth-XVth Centuries, DOP 34-35, 1982, pp. 177-222; EADEM, Byzantium and the
Black Sea, 13th-15th Centuries, pp. 164-201.
19. For details cf. AHRWEILER, H., Lʼidéologie politique de lʼEmpire byzantin, Paris, 1975;
KARAYANNOPOULOS, I. E., H politikhv qewriva twn Buzantinwvn, Thessalonike, 1988; PERTUSI, A., Il
pensiero politico bizantino, ed. CARILE, A., Bologna, 1990; IRMSCHER, J., Il pensiero politico a
Bisanzio, in Lo spazio letterario della Grecia Antica, II, Rome, 1995, pp. 529-561; KAZHDAN, A. P.,
Vizantijskaya kulʼtura (X-XII vv.), St. Petersburg, 1997, pp. 102-124; Kulʼtura Vizantii., vols. I-III,
Moscow, 1984-1991 (chapters on political thought).

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the king of Bulgaria laid claim to the same legacy.20 The emperor of Nicaea could utilize
the newly elected ecumenical patriarch, who, although resident in Nicaea, nonetheless
styled himself patriarch of Constantinople, to strengthen his position. For their part, the
Komnenoi of Trebizond focused their ideological arguments on their ancestry: they were
the only legitimate male descendants of the main and direct line of the venerated
Constantinopolitan dynasty of the Komnenoi. Unlike the Angelos or Doukas families,
they were not responsible for the downfall of the empire, and were in a better position to
appeal to royal legitimacy than other rulers. Their choice of the epithet “Grand” (Megaloi)
was intended to draw attention to this fact, while the use of the same title as their ances-
tors in Constantinople (∆En Cristw'/ tw'/ Qew'/ pisto;" basileu;" kai; aujtokravtwr ÔRwmaivwn)
was also designed to highlight their status as the senior branch of the family. Although
their rivals pointed to the fact that Andronikos I, their grandfather, was a tyrant and called
them “snakeʼs posterity,”21 this argument did nothing to counter the dynastic legitimacy
of the brothersʼ claims.
Although the adoption of the imperial ideology of old was a simple and natural step,
the fact that every one of the rivals claimed to be the unique basileus, eschewing local or
regional titles, made it extremely difficult to find a symbol for the newly founded state,
some consolidating idea embodied in the person of a patron saint. Seals and coins, in
particular, from the reign of the first Grand Komnenoi provide us with circuitous and
fragmentary data that sheds light on this ideological dilemma. One of the seals of Alexios
I, the only one of its type to have come down to us intact, presents him as a strategos in a
pointed helmet guided by St. George; the Anastasis is depicted on the obverse.22 This
could well be intended as a chronological reference: the chronicle of Michael Panaretos
informs us that the Komnenoi captured Trebizond in April 6712 (1204),23 a year in which
Easter fell on 25 April and St. Georgeʼs day on 23 April. Can we assume that the seal
represents two key dates in Alexiosʼs life: his entrance into Trebizond, led by the saint
whose feast was celebrated on 23 April, and his proclamation as emperor two days later?
Constantinople fell to the crusaders on 12-13 April; the news could well have reached
Alexios by the end of the month, which would mean he was aware that the flight of
Alexios V had opened up imperial vistas for the Komnenoi. St. George was venerated by
both the Byzantine Komnenoi and the Bagratids of Georgia, who had played an important
role in the Komnenian Black Sea expedition of 1204, and it is not by chance that the
image of St. George is also to be found on copper coins dating from the reign of the
thirteenth-century Grand Komnenoi.24 A seal belonging to Alexiosʼs brother David

20. Cf. KARPOV, S. P., Posle 1204 g.: Trapezund – vtoroi Konstantinopolʼ?, in Rim,
Konstantinopolʼ, Moskva. VI Mezhdunarodnyi seminar istoricheskih issledovanyi “Ot Rima k
Tretiemu Rimu,” Moscow, 28-30 May 1986, Moscow, 1997, pp. 135-143; GJUZELEV, V., Bulgarien
zwischen Orient und Okzident. Die Grundlagen seiner geistigen Kultur vom 13. bis zum 15.
Jahrhundert, Vienna, 1993; POLYVYANNYI, D. I., Kulʼturnoe svoeobrazie srednevekovoi Bolgarii v
kontekste vizantijsko-slavyanskoi obschbosti IX-XV vv., Ivanovo, 2000, pp. 139-140.
21. For details, see KARPOV, S. P., Trapezunskaya imperiya v vizantijskoi istoricheskoi litera-
ture XIII-XV vv., VV 35, 1973, pp. 154-164.
22. SPINK, Auction 127, Byzantine Seals from the Collection of George Zacos, Part 1, London,
Wednesday, 7 October 1998, N 93, pp. 48-49; GOUNARIDES P., vEna molubdovboullo tou Alexivou
AV Megalokomnhnouv, Symmeikta 13, 1999, pp. 247-261. I am grateful to Prof. J.-Cl. Cheynet for a
discussion of the matter and for kindly sending me the Spink catalogues.
23. Micah;l tou' Panarevtou peri; tw'n Megavlwn Komnhnw'n, ed. LAMPSIDES, O., Archeion
Pontou 22, 1958, p. 61.4-5.
24. KURSANSKIS, M., Une nouvelle monnaie de lʼEmpire de Trébizonde, RN, ser. 6, 14, 1972,
pp. 269-270 (copper coin of John I, son of Alexios I, 1235-1238); SOKOLOVA, I. V., Mednye monety

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depicts King David, making a traditional allusion to the biblical prophet protecting its
owner. There are no special references beyond a citation of Davidʼs royal blood as the
grandson of an emperor.25 However, another of Davidʼs seals featuring St. Eleutherios
– who was probably an Illyrian bishop or a priest and koubikoularios in Tarsia – has
sparked off a good deal of debate.26 The use of the saintʼs image on the seal has been
explained with reference to either his name – meaning “Liberator” (V. Laurent) – or t
o Davidʼs aspirations to seize a key part of Tarsia on the Sangarios River, the right to
which he had disputed with Theodore Laskaris in 1205-1208 (A. Bryer). D. Korobeinikov
recently proposed a third explanation: that Davidʼs seal marks a victory won on 15 De-
cember (St. Eleutheriosʼs day) probably in 1206, when David raised the siege of Hera-
kleia Pontika with Latin help.27 All three hypotheses are equally valid, though none is
entirely convincing. The only thing we can state with certainty is that the Grand Komnenoi
were searching for a patron saint for their state and that St. Eleutherios was not incidental
to that search. A seal belonging to a certain Katakalon Gabras, an otherwise unknown
figure from the second half of the twelfth century whose seal has only recently attracted
academic attention, also depicts St. Eleutherios as a bishop.28 Given that our knowledge
of Gabras is limited to his belonging to the family of Pontian archontes, we are presented
here with a clear but inexplicable link between the saint and the Pontic ruling class.
Consequently, the Grand Komnenoi appealed to the Virgin,29 St. George,30 the pro-
phet David, St. Eleutherios (of Tarsia?), and later St. Eugenios to protect their state.
Curiously enough, Theodore Gabras, a famous local saint of a military character, was not
considered a suitable palladium for the Empire of the Grand Komnenoi. There were prob-
ably two reasons for this: first, the saint shared a Christian name with their main enemy,
Theodore Laskaris; second, and more important, the aspirations of the Grand Komnenoi
at this stage transcended the creation of a local Pontic state to encompass the restoration
of the Byzantine Empire. Consequently, a warrior saint who had disputed the power of
their Constantinopolitan ancestors did not suit their purposes.
In fact, the Grand Komnenoi only selected their patron saint after they had lost
Paphlagonia to Laskaris and Sinope to the Seljuks – events that brought it home to them
that their main goal should be the creation of a Pontic state, a task for which St. Eugenios
was now adequate. And although his veneration was only completed during the reigns of

Trapezunskoi imperii iz sobraniya Ermitazha, Numizmatika i epigrafika 14, 1984, pp. 69-70 (coins
from the reigns of John I and George, 1267-1280).
25. For details, see KARPOV, S. P., U istokov politicheskoi ideologii Trapezundskoi imperii
(O proishozhdenii titula MEGAS KOMNHNOS), VV 42, 1981, pp. 103-105.
26. LAURENT, V., Sceau inédit de David Comnène, libérateur du Pont et co-fondateur de lʼempire
de Trébizonde, Archeion Pontou 19, 1954, pp. 151-160; KARPOV, U istokov, p. 105 n.; BRYER, A.,
David Komnenos and Saint Eleutherios, Archeion Pontou 42, 1988-1989, pp. 161-188.
27. KOROBEINIKOV, D. A., Severnaya Anatoliya v XI-XV vv.: Naslediye Vizantii v epohu tyurk-
skikh zavoevanij, Ph.D. thesis, Moscow, 1998, pp. 208-209.
28. SPINK, Auction 135, Byzantine Seals from the Collection of George Zacos, Part 3, London,
Wednesday, 6 October 1999, N x-288, p. 63.
29. Probably in line with Byzantine tradition, Andronikos I Grand Komnenos struck the image
of the Theotokos on his copper trachea: METCALF, D. M., and ROPER, I. T., A Hoard of Copper
Trachea of Andronicus I of Trebizond (1222-1235), Numismatic Circular 83, N 6, 1975, pp. 237-
238; VEGLERY, A., and MILLAS, A., Copper Coins of Andronicus I, Comnenus Gidon (1222-1235),
Numismatic Circular 85, N 11, 1977, pp. 487-488; BENDALL, S., Andronicus I of Trebizond,
Numismatic Circular 88, 1980, pp. 400-401; KOROMILA, M., The Greeks and the Black Sea from the
Bronze Age to the Early Twentieth Century, Athens, 2002, pp. 423, 425.
30. KOROMILA, The Greeks and the Black Sea, pp. 423, 425 (coins from Dr. P. Protonotariosʼs
private collection).

17_Karpov.indd 291 12/07/05 4:51:24


Alexios II (1297-1330) and Alexios III (1349-1390), the first silver aspers of John I
(1235-1238) and Manuel I (1238-1263), as well as the copper coins of Manuel I and
George (1266-1280), all contain depictions of St. Eugenios31. He was to feature on all
subsequent aspers of the Grand Komnenoi.
Hagia Sophia of Trebizond was built and decorated during Manuelʼs happy reign.
The church was perceived as the embodiment of the empire while Hagia Sophia of
Constantinople remained in invadersʼ hands. The church was considerably elevated, and
the best icon painters were employed to create a special iconographic program.32 According
to A. Bryer, the cathedral of the Golden-Headed Virgin (the Chrysokephalos) was fully
remodeled between 1214 and 1235, rendering it suitable for imperial coronations and
funerals.33 Large-scale building and fortification projects and the consecration of new
churches and monasteries all had an important role to play in highlighting Trebizondʼs
status as an imperial capital.
Thus the Grand Komnenoi did not at first attempt to modify the old Byzantine concep-
tion of supremacy, focusing on re-creating a “small Byzantium” on the Pontic shores
until the end of the thirteenth century, and considering neither the Laskarids nor Palaio-
logoi to be true and legitimate emperors. Nevertheless, post-1214 political realities
demonstrated the necessity of consolidating their local power, of which St. Eugenios
became the true symbol and protector. The imperial ideology of the Grand Komnenoi did
not change until 1282 when Michael VIII Palaiologos and John II Grand Komnenos
reached a dynastic compromise.34
Following the foundation of the Empire of Trebizond in 1204, its church, which
recognized the authority of the ecumenical patriarchate, had addressed the patriarch
– resident in Nicaea at the time, and a supporter of the Laskarids, the rivals of the Grand
Komnenoi – requesting greater autonomy within the territories controlled by the Pontic
sovereigns. The special rights of the metropolis of Trebizond were formally recognized
on 1 January 1260. On the eve of the recapture of Constantinople from the Latins, Michael
VIII Palaiologos claimed that Trebizond lay within the orbit of his interests, and con-
cluded an alliance with Manuel I, the capable emperor of Trebizond. When Michael VIII
proposed a matrimonial alliance and conciliation with the “governor” of Trebizond,
Manuel insisted on the local church being granted broader autonomy as a precondition
for further negotiations. His aims differed from that of the Palaiologoi: Manuel wanted
to consolidate his empire and insure that it became a key player in the Greek world.
Michael VIII decided to agree to some of Manuelʼs demands, and induced the patriarch
to assemble the synod and pass a special proposal. The charter itself explains the political
motivation behind the concessions, since it stated that they contributed to the unification
(e{nwsi") of the Romans and to the conclusion of a matrimonial alliance.35 However,
the planned marriage did not take place during Manuelʼs reign because of his refusal to
accede to Michaelʼs demands to drop the imperial title of the Grand Komnenoi.

31. RETOWSKI, O., Die Münzen der Komnenen von Trapezunt, Numismaticheskij sbornik 1,
Moscow, 1911, pp. 113-302; MATTINGLY, H., The Platana Hoard of Aspers of Trebizond, Proceedings
of the Royal Numismatic Society, Numismatic Circular, ser. 5, 19, part 2, 1939, pp. 120-127;
SOKOLOVA, Mednye monety; EADEM, Trapezundskie aspry s imenami Manuila I i Ioanna II Komni-
nov, Numizmatika i epigrafika 11, 1974, pp. 129-143.
32. EASTMOND, A., Art and Identity in Thirteenth-Century Byzantium. Hagia Sophia in Trebizond
and the Construction of Empire in Exile, Ashgate, 2004.
33. BRYER, A., Une église “à la demande du client” à Trébizonde, in IDEM A., Peoples and
Settlement in Anatolia and the Caucasus, 800-1900, London, 1988, pp. 216- 232.
34. KARPOV, S. P., Srednevekovyj Pont, New York, 2001, pp. 134-137.
35. OUDOT, J., Patriarchatus Constantinopolitani acta selecta, Rome, 1941, p. 86.

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Let us try to evaluate the sense and magnitude of the privileges granted. (1) Given the
difficulties and dangers of the voyage from Trebizond to Nicaea, permission was granted
for the successor of the metropolitan of Trebizond to be elected by a provincial synod in
Trebizond. The patriarch could send a bishop or simple cleric to sit as his representative
on the synod. Furthermore, permission was granted for the newly elected metropolitan of
Trebizond to be ordained in situ by the patriarchʼs representative, if he was a bishop, and
otherwise by one of the local archpriests. The patriarchʼs representative did not possess a
right of veto, and the elections were carried out with the consent of secular powers and in
accordance with canon law.36 (2) The elected metropolitan could ordain bishops within
his ecclesiastical territory. This privelege did not extend to metropolitans and archbishops,
who remained under the jurisdiction of the ecumenical patriarchate, whose authorization
was required.37
Prior to the Fourth Ecumenical Council (451), metropolitans had been ordained by the
bishops of a given ecclesiastical territory rather than by the patriarch. The 28th canon of
the Fourth Ecumenical Council specified that the provinces of Asia, Pontos, and Thrace
were subordinate to the Constantinopolitan see, as a consequence of which their metro-
politans had to be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople after election. Although
the patriarch did not participate in the elections – which were carried out by the synod of
the bishops of every metropolis38 – and, indeed, was not even present at them, he con-
firmed the results of the vote and consecrated one of the three possible candidates. Another
custom had emerged prior to the tenth century: apart from consecrating metropolitans, the
patriarch also participated in their election by a synod of bishops in Constantinople, which
he himself convoked and whose members did not necessarily originate from the ecclesi-
astical province of the elected metropolitan. In the treatise by Euthymios of Sardes “On
the election of bishops” (late 8th to early 9th century) the practice of electing a metro-
politan exclusively at a synod in Constantinople was considered quite legal.39 J. Darrouzès,
who edited the treatise, considered provincial elections obsolete.40
Consequently, the charter of 1260 deviates both from canon 28 of the Fourth Ecu-
menical Council and from the ecclesiastical practice of the time. It permitted the metro-
politan of Trebizond to be elected at a synod of his diocese, waived any obligation for the
newly elected metropolitan to present himself for ordination in Constantinople, allowed
civil powers to participate in elections, and deprived the patriarch of his prerogative to
select one of the three candidates if an agreement could not be reached. Such a concession
probably confirmed the prevailing situation in Pontos at the time and resembles a juridical
extension of the rights and privileges of the see of Trebizond. Meantime the patriarch
tried to affirm his prerogatives with regard to other bishoprics within the Empire of
Trebizond and to prevent Trebizond from becoming the head of an autocephalous church
similar to that of Bulgaria or Serbia. In fact, the concessions do, to some extent, constitute
a compromise of interests, while the charter makes it clear that Michael VIII used eccle-
siastical privileges as a tool in the formation of his long-lasting “Trapezuntine” policy.
However, he was by no means the first ruler to do so: the Empire of Nicaea had pursued
a similar policy toward other Orthodox churches, granting autocephaly or special rights

36. Ibid.
37. Ibid., p. 88.
38. SOKOLOV, I. I., Izbranie arkhiereev v Vizantii IX-XV vv. Istoriko-pravovoi ocherk, VV 22,
1915-1916, pp. 208-210.
39. DARROUZÈS, J., Documents inédits dʼecclésiologie byzantine, Paris, 1966, p. 108.
40. Ibid., p. 11.

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to the archbishoprics of Serbia (1219), Bulgaria (1235), and Kiev (1250) in return for
their strengthening their relations with Nicaea and the community of Orthodox states.
Thus the policy of granting ecclesiastical privileges to Trebizond was not an isolated act;
rather, it was part of a well thought-out course of action on the part of the ecumenical
patriarchate and the emperors of Nicaea to use concessions to assure the position of
Nicaea as the true successor of Byzantium. Therefore, while the Church of Trebizond
acquired broader rights than Kiev in the matter of the election of metropolitans, it did not
achieve autocephaly as occurred in the case of Serbia and Bulgaria. The practice became
increasingly uncommon following the restoration of Byzantium in 1261, but was never
officially abrogated.
The Pontos Euxinos (or Mar Maggiore) became a real crossroads of civilizations
during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries.41 We find Byzantine frescoes in
the central Crimea and Seljuk ornaments on the walls of Armenian and Latin churches.
Caffa was a key center for Armenian and Greek book production and boasted a distin-
guished school of painters and miniaturists as well as Murano-style glass production.
Local artisans produced objects of Byzantine or Oriental design employing Western tech-
niques.42 A composite style was born which defies classification as Latin, Byzantine,
or Oriental.
The Latins not only exported goods and technology, they also imported Greek culture
from the Levant. Thus it was that they brought Greek manuscripts back to the West with
them, acquired the art of icon painting in the famous maniera greca, introduced oriental
fashions into fifteenth-century Italy, used Greek as their vernacular, and adopted Tatar
and Greek names. In a word, Greek culture did survive the Fourth Crusade and continued
to exert a considerable cultural influence in both Latin-dominated and Byzantine
(Trebizond, Mangoup, Chersonese) parts of the Black Sea region.

41. See KARPOV, S. P., Encounter of Civilizations in the 13th-15th centuries: East Meets West
on Pontic Shores, in Le prospettive europee di apertura allʼEuropa orientale e ai paesi del
Mediterraneo, ed. GOZZI, G., Ravenna, 2003, pp. 17-22.
42. KRAMAROVSKY, M. G., The Import and Manufacture of Glass in the Territories of the Golden
Horde, in Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East, ed. WARD, R., London, 1998, pp. 96-
100, 200-202; KRAMAROVSKY, The Golden Horde and Levant.

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