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Pontos, Black Sea Region Turkey travel guide

A travel guide of Turkey Black Sea Region (Antique Pontus Πόντος of Anatolia)

Turkey Travel guide, Turkey travel tips and photos

Turkey Travel tips, guide, photos

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World travel tips, guide, info, photo galleries

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Sinop city travel
Sinop travel
situated on a narrow peninsula at Turkey’s northernmost point, Sinop is like a Black Sea island with its good-natured people and streets where time passes slowly.

pontian greek Development of the Pontic Greek Dialect
Development of the Pontic Greek Dialect
Will Pontic Greek continue to be spoken? Bortone (2009) believes Pontic Greek spoken in the Pontos in Asia Minor today will probably disappear. The challenge is to keep the Pontic Greek dialect alive. The more recent work of researchers like Emeritus Professor Peter Mackridge, Assistant Professor Pietro Bortone, Dr Theofanis Malkidis, Ömer Asan, Dr Anthi Revithiadou and Dr Vassilios Spyropoulos have increased our knowledge of the dialect.


Time For to Discover the Black Sea Highlands

Time For to Discover the Black Sea Highlands

Discover the Black Sea highlands in September when time is suddenly rent by a blanket of fog or the cry of a vulture, and make the acquaintance of nature in its most beautiful aspect.

Greek settlements pontos map
Formation of the First Greek Settlements in the Pontos

According to Liddell and Scott’s An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, the word Pontos stands for the sea, especially the open sea. In time, the word Pontos became associated with the north-eastern portion of Asia Minor that borders the Black Sea (see Map 1).1 The Greeks first called the Black Sea, Aξεινος πóντος (inhospitable, unfriendly pontos), but later it was called Εϋξεινος πóντος (hospitable pontos) when they became aware of its wealth in the lands around it ...

Chrypto-christians Trabzon Pontos Matsouka

Crypto-Christians of the Trabzon Region of Pontos

The crypto-Christians (also called cryphi, klosti, Stavriotes, Kromledes) were Christian Greeks who due to the Muslim persecution against Christians publicly declared themselves Muslims. However, in secret, they upheld their Greek language, customs and Christian religious practices...

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Ayder. From the Ardeşen fork on, the Firtina River

 Kackars Wonderland in the clouds

Glacier lakes on one side, yellow rhododendrons on the other, the Kaçkars offer an inviting natural environment. Leaving Rize behind, we start our adventure through the Ayder, Lower Kavron and Upper Kavron Highlands 

Ilgaz
 
Ilgaz National Park ski center travel Turkey *for winter vacation



Even if you like it, snow in the city wears a person out. And if it catches the city unawares, it can mean some pretty tense and annoying days. Dense snowfall in a virgin, unspoiled natural environment in contrast, white as far as the eye can see, is not an ordeal but a pleasure. And Ilgaz, with its natural beauty and texture, can afford you that pleasure.

Gorele Kerasus Pontos images

 Gorele - Modern Coralla Kerasus Giresun

A misty green plateau recedes into the distance. The tinkle of goat bells mingles with the strains of a 'kemençe'. The local folk sway back and forth in native costume. This is Black Sea Giresun's 'Görele' and, as its name indicates, it's well worth seeing.

Imagine a lake secluded amidst pine trees in the foothills of the mountains... Another of the Black Sea's hidden treasures confronts me at Borçka. From there I head first to Macahel on the Georgian border with its natural beauty and beautiful people, and then to the endless valleys of Şavşat
 Smoky mountains and secluded lakes Borcka Savsat
Imagine a lake secluded amidst pine trees in the foothills of the mountains... Another of the Black Sea's hidden treasures confronts me at Borçka. From there I head first to Macahel on the Georgian border with its natural beauty and beautiful people, and then to the endless valleys of Şavşat 
turkey travel guide travel tips turkey

Travel Turkey

Turkey considered as the gateway between Europe and Asia is an Eurasian country located on the Mediterranean stretching across the Anatolian peninsula in southwest Asia and the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. It is bordered by the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea.  Turkey is a fascinating country where many important civilizations have flourished since 9,000 BC. Turkey was home from the ancient Hittites, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines to the Ottomans which have left behind them superb architectural, archaeological and historical heritage. Modern Turkey is a secular and democratic Moslem country, founded in 1920 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and from that time, Turkey has been suffering big changes and one of the most notable is its rapidly economic development. Despite of its traditional and Islam roots, Turkey is decidedly western oriented country and today is considered as a candidate to be part of the European Union, which will permit to the country grow up more.

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Istanbul is often described as "the crossroads of Europe and Asia"...
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Ankara is a huge university town and you'll find the streets of Kizilay...
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The third largest, and one of the most beautiful provinces is Izmir...

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Trebizond, Pontos. A view of the city around 1890.
Trebizond, Pontos. A view of the city around 1890.

HISTORY OF TRABZON AND PONTUS

At the Edge of Civilization

Ancient Greeks imagined the Black Sea as a distant, frightful and barbaric place the outer edge of the civilized world. They called it Pontos Auxenios, the Inhospitable Sea, before an early exercise in the art of public relations turned the name into Euxenios, the Truly Hospitable Sea.
The ancient world's earliest contact with the area goes back to sometime around 1000 BC. Its tale was told in the epic of Jason and the Argonauts. Jason, seething with rage at the usurpation of his father's kingdom in Thessaly by an uncle, was persuaded to leave his homeland to seek the Golden Fleece in "cloud-bedecked
Colchis" at the far end of the Black Sea where few ever went and even fewer returned. He set out aboard the Argo with a band of young rowdies, the heroes of a generation before the Trojan War. Bold, greedy and desperate, and like Columbus' crew! outcasts for various reasons, they banded together to undertake the ultimate journey. They faced murderous moving rocks (the Symplegades, at the northern end of the Bosphorus), violent women (Amazons, inhabiting the land around the estuary of Yesihrmak, near today's Terme), killer birds (at the Isle of Aretias, now Giresun Island) and an endless array of hostile tribes. Against all odds they succeeded in capturing the Golden Fleece, somewhere near today's Hopa, by enlisting on their side the terrible passions of Medea, daughter of the king of Colchis.

Abraham Ortelius:  Argonautica. Illustrissimo Principi Carolo Comiti Arenbergio, Baroni Septimontii, Domino Miravartii, Equiti Aurei Velleris, etc

Abraham Ortelius: Argonautica. Illustrissimo Principi Carolo Comiti Arenbergio, Baroni Septimontii, Domino Miravartii, Equiti Aurei Velleris, etc

The story of Medea's desperate illicit love for Jason was told by Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica (circa 200 BC). It is considered the earliest account of a "romantic" love affair, replete with infatuation at first sight, erotic dreams, vacilla tions and a growing recklessness leading to a midnight escapade followed by the betrayal of her father and murder of her own brother. It makes nice reading. By contrast, the Medea of Euripides deals with a later phase of the life of the barbarian princess, where, betrayed and homesick, she turns to violence once again. The tragedy uses her to make a scathing commentary, the earliest known, on the social condition of women. It is fascinating to think that Medea was in effect a Laz princess and that her language is still spoken in the land of her birth. It is the only pre-Hellenic tongue of Asia Minor surviving today.
In 400 BC an army of ten thousand mercenaries led by the Athenian Xenophon made its way through the Pontic mountains in retreat from the the Battle of Cunaxa.in Persia. In the Anabasis, Xenophon recalls fighting against no less than seven indigenous nations: the Taochi between Erzurum and Artvin, the Khaldi/Khalybes around Gumushane, the Scytheni further westward, the Macrones in the hinterland of

Trabzon, assorted Colchians at the coast, Mossynoeci near Giresun and Tibareni around Ordu. The Mossynoeci struck him as particularly exotic:
"Some boys belonging to the wealthy class of people had been specially fattened up by being fed on boiled chestnuts. Their flesh was soft and very pale, and they were practically as broad as they were tall. Front and back were colored brightly all over, tattooed with designs of flowers. They wanted to have sexual intercourse in public with the mistresses whom the
Greeks brought with them, this being actually the normal thing in their country."

HISTORY OF TRABZON AND PONTUS


During the Mithridatic Wars of 66-63 BC, Roman legions were lured to their deaths by bowls of hallucinogenic mountain honey left for them by Heptacomete tribesmen in the passes of the
Kaçkar range. 600 years later, the Byzantine historian Procopius had this to say about the people of Trabzon mountains: "From ancient times the Tzani have lived as an independent people, without rulers, following a savage manner of life, regarding as gods the trees and birds and sundry creatures besides, and worshipping them, and spending their whole lives among mountains reaching to the sky and covered with forests, and cultivating no land whatever,
but robbing and living on their plunder." Similar sentiments were echoed eleven centuries later by the Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi: "The people of the Trabzon region consist of Laz who are truly savage people, and exceedingly obstinate."'

PONTIC ANATOLIAN ROCK TOMBS ARCHAELOGY PONTUSGREEK CHURCH ORDU KOTIORA PONTOS

Greeks and Natives


Of course such "facts" were tainted to no small extent by colonialist prejudice or imperial arrogance. It seems that long before the arrival of Greeks a sophisticated commercial culture existed in
Colchis, the fertile "elbow" of the Black Sea that extends between Trabzon and the foothills of the Caucasus. The region prospered in the Bronze Age through marine trade between Anatolian cities and the Eurasian steppes, and later between Persia and the Greek west. Like the tales of Eldorado in early Spanish America, its wealth may have given rise to legends such as the Golden Fleece.
Gold came from the north, while copper was mined in the Pontic Mountains in the
Above and right: Not much has changed since the Mossynoeci 3rd millenium BC. It supplied most of Asia Minor during the Copper and Bronze Ages.
The Colchians were a branch of Georgians and spoke the same language before their dialect evolved into Laz/ Mingrelian.They set up a unified kingdom in the 6th century BC but more often lived in separate tribal units. Sadly, they left no written record of their achievements. The Khaldi, their western neighbors, mined iron and silver near modern Gumüshane (Argyropolis, or "Silvertown"),where rich silver ores continue to be exploited to the present day.

Zilkale castle

Zilkale castle


Greeks came at first as raiders, then as settlers. By the 7th century BC they had set up trading colonies along the shore, the most important of which was Sinope, settled by Ionians from the city of Miletus. By the 4th century BC Sinope had spawned Amisus (Samsun), Cotyora (Ordu), Cerasus (Giresun), Trapezus (Trebizond, Trabzon) and Bathys (Batumi). Greek colonization was concentrated mainly on the coast as far as Trapezus with only a few isolated outposts further east. All settlements were strategically located at the seaward end of the main trade routes that crossed the Pontic Mountains. Their importance was proportional to that of the route they commanded. Almost all contemporary Black Sea towns are their direct descendants.
At the turn of the 1 st century BC :Vlithridates Eupator, the Hellenized Kim of Pontus, created an ephemeral empire stretching from Heracleia (Ereğlli) in the west to the Caucasus Mountains. Rulin~from Sinope, he battled the rising power of republican Rome for half a century before he was defeated by Pompey at Zeln (modern Zile, near Tokat). A final show of resistance by a follower was crushed on the same battlefield by ,Julius Caesar, who dismissed the event with the laconic epigram: vini vidi, vici.

Pontic Houses from region

Pontic Houses from region


The new masters of Asia Minor attached great importance to the western Black Sea cities of Heracleia, Amastris. Sinope and those of the transmontane interior like Amasia, Comana (Tokat), Neocaesaria (Niksar) and Colonia (Şebinkarahisar). They were perfectly content to leave the eastern coast to local potentates and client kings. The Greek colonies here remained on the margins of the Empire and of history until Byzantine times. Some of them prospered from trade but none showed significant cultural achievement or the political muscle to dominate the native peoples of the hinterland. The overall Hellenization that occurred in other parts of Asia Minor did not take place on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. There seems to have been more of a movement in the opposite direction. In the 2nd century AD, Arrian reported that Greek inscriptions in Trapezus were full of mistakes "because they were written by barbarians." Somewhat later the church historian Epiphanios refers to Trapezus as "a city of the Laz", using the term in the derogatory sense that is still employed today.
Very few pre-Christian monuments survive from the Pontic cities. All we have is the bare knowledge that Cerasus had an acropolis where the Byzantine fortress how stands, that Trapezus had a fine temple of Mithra, or that a temple of Athena existed at Athinai (modern Pazar).
If there are few records from the Greek colonies, there are even fewer about the surrounding nations. We have only passing and inaccurate comments oh their subdivisions and customs. Except for Laz, a derivative of Georgian, little is known about the languages of the region. According to Strabo, the Tzani, who dominated the mountains between Trabzon and Giresun, spoke a related Caucasic language. The remaining dozen or so tongues are all together obscure, even though some survived until Ottoman times.
A big step in the direction of greater integration between natives and colonials came with Christianity. The Greek-speaking cities seem to have adopted Christianity in the 4th century along with the rest of the Roman Empire. The Laz and other tribes of the mountains embraced the Byzantine Church in the 6th, when the Laz King Tsatse converted. Thereafter they became, in Procopius' words, "Christians of the most thoroughgoing kind". They began to have closer contact with the
Greeks and acquired various Hellenic cultural traits, including in some cases the language.
The interaction was hot always a comfortable one: Incensed by the high-handed behavior of Byzantine governors, Laz lords turned to the Persian Shah for help in 526 AD, precipitating a long round of wars between the two empires. During the early years of Justinian's reign (527-565) generals Belisarius and Narses fought numerous battles in eastern Anatolia and along the Black Sea coast, erecting in the process an extraordinary chain of fortifications to defend the eastern marches of the Roman Empire. Many of these still survive and served as the model for all subsequent Byzantine (and Ottoman) military architecture. For the first five centuries of their existence they withstood countless raids by Persians from the east, Georgians from the north and Arabs from the south. They finally fell to the great conquering waves of the Turks.
Turks made their appearance on the Anatolian scene in the 11th century. In 1071 they destroyed the Byzantine army at Manzikert (Malazgirt, near Lake Van) and overran the interior plateau in one big sweep. The Black Sea coast was not affected by the conquest immediately, but the indirect effects were momentous. Soon Byzantine political authority began to disintegrate and autonomous fiefdoms under hereditary lords replaced imperial provinces. One of these lords, Alexis I Comnene, military ruler of western Black Sea, assumed the imperial crown in 1081. The old centralized administration of the Empire began to evolve towards Europeanstyle feudalism. Surprisingly, the results were not all that bad. Freed from the heavy hand of central government, the provinces actually began to flourish. There was an overall revival of trade, art, literature and religious and civil architecture. In the Black Sea area this trend culminated with the most fantastic and unusual
episode of the region's history: the Trebizond Empire of the Grand Comneni.



A Make-believe Empire:
The Empire of Trebizond


The Empire of Trebizond was already foreshadowed in the 1080s by the exploits of Theodore Gabras. Gabras, a local nobleman, received from Emperor Alexis Comnene the title of Duke of Khaldia and made a knightly career fighting the encroaching Turkish beys. His son and grandson maintained virtually independent status until 1140. The limits of their fiefdom, defined by the fortress of Oinaion (Ünye) in the west, the southern outposts of Colonia
(Şebinkarahisar) and Bayburt, and an undefined zone .beyond Rhizaion (Rize) in the Laz country, corresponded exactly to the later frontiers of the Trebizond Empire.
In 1204, the armies of the Fourth Crusade, consisting of the Venetian navy and a motley force of European knights, captured and sacked
Constantinople. They murdered the Byzantine Emperor and crowned one of their own, Baudouin of Flanders, Emperor of the East. A few days later Alexis Comnene, a descendant of his namesake of the 11th century, landed at Trebizond with an army of Georgians and declared himself the lawful Emperor of Byzantium, Basileus and Autocrator of the Romans.
Unfortunately, there were also other contenders for the lost throne: a Lascaris in Nicaea (Iznik), and another Comnene in Epirus (Albania). Their internecine fighting delayed the Byzantine recapture of Constantinople until 1261. Eventually it was the ruler of Nicaea who carried the prize, but by that time the self-styled Grand Comneni of Trebizond were too well entrenched to give up their claim to empire. After a while they consented to downgrade their title to a humbler "Basileus and Autocrator of All East, of Georgians, and of Lands Overseas". They retained as their banner the single-headed Comnene eagle rather than the Byzantine double-headed eagle.
Surviving against all odds for two more centuries, they outlasted the fall of Byzantium in 1453 by eight years.
Two factors played a role in bringing about this unexpected resilience. One was trade. Trebizond had always been an important port for Asian caravans. But its hour of glory came after 1258 when the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan captured Baghdad, devastating the old commercial centers of the eastern Mediterranean basin. Thereafter the great Silk Route was diverted northward. Persian, Chinese and Armenian merchants now carried the riches of Far Asia, through the Taklamakan Desert and 28
Khyber Pass, by way of Samarkand, Tabriz and Erzurum, to the port of Trebizond. From there Greek and Italian ships took the merchandise to Constantinople and points West. Located at the crossroads of world trade, Trebizond began to make more money than it knew how to spend.
The other factor was the great indigenous families of the region, the so-called mesokhaldaioi ("True Khaldians") who basked in their new role as power brokers behind the imperial throne. These families had their strongholds in the countryside and probably descended from the original tribal aristocracies of the Pontic mountains. When they did not quarrel among themselves, they fought against the party of the scholarioi, the refugee courtiers who had arrived from Constantinople with the imperial family in 1204. Through a series of bloody civil wars (one of which totally destroyed the city in 1340) they succeeded in creating a delicate system of political balances where the emperor often functioned as no more than a figurehead.
Too rich and with too many vested interests involved, Trebizond could no longer return to the Byzantine fold. To maintain the legitimacy of its rulers it was obliged to keep up the pretense of an imperial Byzantine government-in-exile (echoes of Taiwan'?). A combination of wealth, astute diplomacy and the legendary beauty of Comnene princesses assured its survival vas-a-vas its warlike neighbors. For two centuries it shone as a brilliant city state on an alien horizon, a lone Christian Outpost in the Muslim Orient. It became a center of arts and learning. In the decadent style of its upper classes and the complexity of its faction-ridden politics it rivaled the contemporary Italian city-states of the early Renaissance. Pundits in Constantinople
sneered at the Laz Principality". But when Constantinople had run out of funds to fix the leaking roof of its imperial palace, the imaginary Empire of Trebizond was still able to plate the domes of its churches with gold and to endow the most spectacular monasteries in Mt. Athos in Greece, having already built one in every gorge, cliff and mountaintop of its own territories.
The Genoese played an important role in the affairs of the empire. The Italian merchant state had aided the Byzantines it recapturing their capital from the Venetians and received in exchange a virtual monopoly on naval trade in the Orient, including the right to set up warehouses and colonies
on the Byzantine coastline. It soon exacted the same concessions from Trebizond. A walled Genoese colony was created facing the city at Leontoeastron (now Kale Park by the seashore) where representatives of some of the most illustrious Genoese families took residence: the Lercaris, delta Voltits, Ugolinos and Colornbos, who may have included the ancestors of Christopher, the future explorer. They controlled commerce, manipulated political factions and occasionally fought the Greeks on city streets. Identical privileges were granted in 1319 to the rival Venetians to balance out the overbearing power of the Genoese.
The two Italian powers ensured extensive cultural interaction with the west. The Venetian colony, for example, maintained a full-fledged orchestra of Italian musicians. A stream of European travelers came to admire the city, including the Venetian Marco Polo, the Englishman Geoffrey de Langley and the first great travel writer of the Spanish tradition, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo. Conversely, it was the Trebizondborn Cardinal Bessarion (1403-1472) who during his brilliant career at the court of the Medici first introduced Platonic philosophy and Greek scholarship to Renaissance Italy.
At the obverse of the western connection were equally intimate (and equally ambiguous) ties with the Empire's Turkish neighbors. The Turks made a major effort in the 1220s to capture Trebizond but were eventually forced to settle for an annual tribute. In the chaotic period that followed the Mongol invasion of the 1250s, a variety of independent Turkish lords made raids into the Empire's territory. They included the Beys of Sinop and Bayburt and the rulers of many other ephemeral states that succeeded each other in eastern Anatolia. A wave of semi-nomadic Turcomans, ancestors of today's Cepnis, gradually penetrated the hinterlands of Giresun and actually held the second city of the Empire for a while.
But relations were by no means all hostile. A genuinely friendly alliance with the Muslim potentates seems to have existed between the Comneni and Timur (Tamerlane) who overran Persia and Anatolia at the turn of the 15th century, and the dynasty of the White Sheep who ruled Tabriz and Erzurum later that century. The Great feudal families of the Empire often preferred a Turkish alliance to one with the Italians, and occasionally even to one with their own Greek rulers. In 1311 Alexis II embarked on a joint naval expedition with the Bey of Sinop against Genoese colonies. In 1358 a leader of the Ünye Turcomans was officially recognized as an imperial vassal and married a daughter of Alexis 111.
In the complex web of the Empire's diplomatic relations the hands of the pretty princesses of the Comnene house figured prominently. In the reign of Alexis III, it seems to have grown into a regular export business. A sister and five daughters of this monarch were presented for marriage to
various Turkish rulers. A sixth was sent to Constantinople to marry a son of Emperor John V Paleologue, but the old monarch, struck by her good looks, decided to take her instead. By degrees the beauty of the princesses of Trebizond acquired a quasilegendary status in the popular imagination, east and west. Travellers felt obliged to comment on it. Ambassadors reported on the prospects of imperial daughters. The ultimate case came with Despina Hatun, the pious daughter of John IV Comnene (1429-1458). She was married to Uzun Hasan, Bey of the White Sheep. After the fall of Trebizond her husband
tried, at her instigation, to galvanize European opinion against the victorious Ottomans. The effort failed but in the process the tale of the Christian lady held "captive" in partibus intideluum developed into a permanent fixture of European mythology, spawning an entire genre of 15th century popular romances. Among others they inspired Don Quixote to undertake his quest for Dulcinea.

The Sümela Monastery (Greek: Παναγία Σουμελά, Turkish: Sümela Manastırı) stands at the foot of a steep cliff facing the Altındere valley in the region of Maçka in Trabzon Province, Turkey. It is a major tourist attraction located in the Altındere National Park. It lies at an altitude of about 1200 metres overlooking much of the alpine scenery below. The monastery was founded in the year 386 (during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I, AD 375 - 395) by two Athenian priests - Barnabas and Sophronius according to the Turkish Ministry of Culture [1]. Legend states that they found an icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain and decided to remain in order to establish the monastery.

The Sümela Monastery (Greek: Παναγία Σουμελά, Turkish: Sümela Manastırı) stands at the foot of a steep cliff facing the Altındere valley in the region of Maçka in Trabzon Province, Turkey. It is a major tourist attraction located in the Altındere National Park. It lies at an altitude of about 1200 metres overlooking much of the alpine scenery below. The monastery was founded in the year 386 (during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I, AD 375 - 395) by two Athenian priests - Barnabas and Sophronius according to the Turkish Ministry of Culture. Legend states that they found an icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain and decided to remain in order to establish the monastery.


Enter the Turks



In mid-15th century the Ottomans, one of the many heirs of the wreckage of the first Turkish state in Asia Minor, set out to
systematically rebuild an eastern Empire. Mehmet 11, known as Fatih "the Conqueror", knocked out decrepit Byzantium in 1453. In 1458 he took Amasra, the last Genoese holdout on the Black Sea. The same year saw the end of the Isfendiyaroklu, the Turkish dynasty of Sinop and Kastamonu. In 1461 a sweeping campaign along the Black Sea coast brought the Trebizond Empire to an end.
After a break of 400 years, the Pontic shores, along with the rest of Anatolia and the Balkans, were again integrated into a centralized administrative structure. Removed from the vortex of political rivalries the cities of the coast reverted to a marginal status within a larger unity. Until the 17th century they lived on as peaceful and prosperous, if uninteresting, provincial centers.
In keeping with Ottoman practice, twothirds of the Greek population of Trabzon were removed to other parts of the Empire at the time of the conquest. A majority were settled in
Istanbul where they formed the core of the capital's "Phanariote" families of Christian Greeks, exercising immense influence in the 17th and 18th centuries. They included the Ypsilantis,
whose descendants would eventually lead the Greek independence movement.
Few Turkish immigrants were brought into the newly conquered territories apart from Trabzon. The (Çepni tribesmen already formed an important element of the population of the Giresun highlands, but further east, the penetration of Turkish control proceeded very slowly. During the governorship of the future
sultan Selim I in Trabzon (1490-1512) many highland clans came to terms for the first time with Ottoman rule. The Laz were converted to Islam; others followed suit after the collapse of Georgian power in the Caucasus during the
1540s. Yet others, like the Greek-speaking valleys dwellers of Of and Maçka, and possibly the highlanders of Hemşin came around in the 1680s. Some retained their ancestral dialects. Evliya Çelebi, traveling to Trabzon in 1641, reported at least three languages spoken there in addition to Turkish and Greek. Some who had earlier adopted Greek now learned Turkish, developing their own inimitably accented version of it. Still others retained the Greek language but became devout Muslims.
In direct continuation of the habits of the Trebizond Empire, the maintenance of law and order in remote areas was entrusted shortly after the conquest to dercbeyis, literally Lords of the Valley. Some of them were Turkish officers but most seem to have been local chieftains. In the Gümüshane-Torul region, Christian derebeyis still existed 150 years after the conquest. Initially these lords served as auxiliaries to the Pasa of Trabzon. When central authority began to wane in the I 8th century, they reappeared yet again as virtually independent petty sovereigns. The Haznedaroglus, Tuzcuoglus and Uzunoglus maintained their own troops, fought their own battles, and were not averse to some oldfashioned banditry or sea piracy in lean times. Their power was only broken at the cost of prolonged and bloody conflicts during the modernizing reign of Mahmut II (1808-1839). Some of their surviving seigneurial residences are among the highlights of a Black Sea tour.
Christian Greeks remained too. Concentrated in the coastal towns, notably Giresun where they formed a majority until sometime in the 19th century, as well as Tirebolu, Trabzon and Batumi, they kept to their age-old traditions of commerce and seafaring. The precipitous decline of commerce in the 17th century reduced their status and significance; its revival after the 1820s once again brought them into prominence. Wealthy Greek patricians of Trabzon, followed by those of Batumi, Samsun and Giresun, set up shipping firms, banks, insurance companies, churches, schools and magnificent private houses during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. After a while some began to envisage a revived Pontic State centered in Trabzon. Russia played an important part in encouraging these aspirations. The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1776 recognized the Czar as the "protector" of the Orthodox Christian subjects of the Sultan, thereby opening up a sore that would fester for 150 years with ultimately tragic consequences. It allowed Russia and eventually other European powers to exploit the Christian "issue" to pry the Ottoman Empire apart. Under pressure the Sultan was forced to make concessions and grant special privileges to his Christian subjects. This in turn led to grave social imbalances and a growing perception that the Christian minorities constituted a menace to the Ottoman state.

Trebizond, Pontos. Akrition Hospital (1914). The surgery room.

Trebizond, Pontos. Akrition Hospital (1914). The surgery room.


After the Russian annexation of the Caucasian buffer states early in the 19th century, the two empires came into direct conflict in the east. They clashed four times along the Kars-Erzurum and Batum-Trabzon fronts, in 1828, 1854, 1877, and 1915-18. Each time the Russians overran the highlands as far as Erzurum. During the fourth incursion they occupied the coast, too, and held the region as far as the Harşit River until 1918. Between the wars Russian commercial and political pull was felt throughout the region. Old-timers still reminisce about a period when "made in Russia" was the ultimate sign of quality, rich people hoarded "Russian gold" and "traveling to Russia" was a young man's dream. Many Greeks sought a Russian alliance, but so did many elements of the Muslim population of the coast, at least initially, including the ever-rebellious Laz.
The War of 1877 was the most traumatic of all. The heavy-handed treatment of Caucasian Muslims by Russia during it caused a massive wave of Muslim Circassians, Abkhazians, Georgians and Daghestanlis to seek refuge in Turkey. Many settled along the Black Sea coast, notably in Trabzon, Giresun and Ordu. Memories of 1877 in turn created a panicked flight of Muslim refugees before the Russian advance of 1916. During the occupation, local Greeks were accused of collaborating with the invaders. In the chaotic aftermath of the Russian withdrawal they formed armed units, in part to protect themselves against reprisals and in part to lay the groundwork for a Pontic Republic that many expected to ernerge from the melee. Muslims too, veterans of the bitter war of resistance against Russia in 1916, armed themselves in ad hoc militias to fight back. The Versailles Conference added to the confusion by awarding Trabzon as a seaport to the notional Armenian Republic that it presumed to create.
The Russian Revolution, followed by the Turkish Revolution which brought Mustafa Kemal to power in Ankara in 1920, sealed the outcome of the tug-of-war. Ankara was victorious in 1922 and in 1923 the Turkish Republic was declared. By the Treaty of Lausanne the same year all remaining Anatolian Greeks were expatriated in exchange for Turkish emigrants from Greece.

Greece and Turkey, the population exchange occurred. 1,300,000 Greeks were expelled from Turkey either in the fighting following Greece’s invasion of Anatolia or the subsequent official population exchange; 500,000 Turks were expelled from Greece.

Greece and Turkey, the population exchange occurred. 1,300,000 Greeks were expelled from Turkey either in the fighting following Greece’s invasion of Anatolia or the subsequent official population exchange; 500,000 Turks were expelled from Greece.


The Black Sea region was affected badly by these upheavals. There was a severe economic crisis that lasted through the 40s. But the irrepressible "Laz" were soon back in charge. Their land rapidly developed to become one of the richest in Turkey, first through the cultivation of tea, then through the entrepreneurial acumen of these heirs of Colchis who spread out all over the country in mass emigration during the 50s and 60s, managing to recapture the Golden Fleece everywhere they went.

More Article

Greek Colonies in the East

Iron Age Caucasia

Greek Colonies in the East

Greek Penetration of the Black Sea

Usefull links

Greek Penetration of the Black Sea
Encyclopedic Dictionary of Black Sea (Karadeniz Ansiklopedik Sözlük) by Özhan Öztürk
Travel to Black Sea’s blue and the mountains’ green and Turkish wedding
TRABZON GREEK: A LANGUAGE WITHOUT A TONGUE by Ömer Asan
Pontians: The Incredible Odyssey of the Black Sea Greeks
Colchis, Armenia, Iberia, Albania
Eastern Black Sea houses, Turkey
Black sea, CHERNOYE MORE, Karadeniz
 The cost of language, Pontiaka trebizond Greek



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