The Byzantine Period


The Byzantine Period

The reign of Diocletanus (285-305) was also the period when Christianity began to spread to the Black Sea region. It was in this period that ordinary citizens and soldiers who happened to be Christians were subjected to what was undoubtedly the last great wave of persecution and when St Eugenios, accepted by Christians as the patron saint of Trabzon, smashed an idol of Mithras on Boztepe Mountain, for which he was sentenced to death. At the same time, Christian soldiers were being arrested and put to death. Later, Christianity was to become the official religion of the state and the garrison cities where the ground was saturated with the blood of these early martyrs were to become sacred places. The local tribes, who had been converted to Christianity, were to become, through their religion, loyal citizens of the Empire. Diocletanus carried out a number of administrative reforms to stem the rising tide of chaos in his empire and secure unity.  He divided the huge territories of the Empire into four regions, two to be ruled by Augustos and two by Caesar, thus aimimg at more efficient admini tration.

Diocletanus, who laid the foundations of centralised bureaucracy, carried out a number of reforms in the army as well, restoring the former discipline. One of the four regions into which the Empire had been divided included its eastern territries.

After the death of Diocletianus, who had left the western half of the empire to Maximianus (who ruled jointly with him) and continued to rule the eastern half of the empire, which was richer, from izmit (Nikomedia), there was a period of chaos until Constantine became sole monarch in 324 A.D. Constantine began to build a city on the site of the old Greek colony of Byzantium in the same year, officially declaring it open in 330 A.D.

He had declared Byzantium/Constantinopolis/İstanbul to be the capital of his state, and it became the sole capital in 476 A.D, when the Eastern Roman Empire became the sole heir of the Roman Empire.

As a result of the reforms of Diocletianus the Roman Empire had been divided into four large prefectures, each of which was sub-divided into twelve dioceses. Trabzon, which was in the Pontos Polemoniacus province of the Pontus Diocese of the Eastern Prefecture was administered by civilian governors of limited authority, while in military terms it was under the Duke of Armenia.

The document known as Notitia Dignitatum (considered to date from the beginning of the 5th century), which is an official list of those in employed in the palace and the administration, provides more detailed information about the way in which Trabzon was administered. According to this document, in Trabzon, which was one of the 7 castellons of the Duchy of Armenia, was the headquarters of the Second Pontic Legion. At the same time there were also garrisons consisting of infantry at Sürmene and cavalry at Rize. If it is borne in mind that the eastern boundary of the Byzantine empire had receded as far as an area to the east of Rize by the 5th century, the strategic importance of the region becomes clear.

Trabzon, which had been a base and harbour from which armies were equipped for campaigns on the eastern boundaries of the empire in the reigns of Vespasian, Nero and Hadrian, served the same functions in the Byzantine period as well. Even though successful battles had been fought by Justinian I (527-565) in the west of the empire, its defences against Persia in the east were weakened.

In this period Justinian had attached the necessary importance to Trabzon, repairing its walls and strengthening its defences. He had had aqueducts built to meet the city's water requirements, naming them after the patron saint of the city, St Eugenios. He also had a number of the city's churches rebuilt and restored, together with Rize Castle, thus strengthening the defences of that city and built a system of defences in strategic places in the region in an attempt to protect his eastern border, which had by then receded to a point to the east of Rize.

Due to the fact that the Can/Tsan/Sanni (formerly Dril) tribe, which inhabited the mountainous regions around Trabzon had not been entirely subdued, they made frequent raids on the Byzantine settlements and supply routes in the area and plundered them. Justinian had sent Tzitas, one of the local commanders, to subdue the Cans, who inhabited the area between Canca (near Gümüşhane) and Cape Araklı, and bring them completely under Byzantine rule. Tzitas succeeded. He had the thick forests in the area cut down and roads built. He had towers built to guard the roads and worked hard to christianise the Cans and recruit them to guard the eastern borders of the empire.

In the reign of Heraclius (610-641), Persia's invasion of Anatolia was intensified and the Persian army advanced as far as Istanbul. Heraclius divided his Anatolian territories into military zones known as “thema” and instigated a new system of defence. Divisions of troops were stationed in these areas, known as “thema” (which means “army corps”) and the soldiers were given land which their children could afterwards inherit.

Historians have recorded that Heraclius launched three campaigns against Persia between 622 and 628. Heraclius made use of the Karadere-Satala road to supply his troops in 622 and 623 and spent the winter of 625 in the Black Sea region, to which he had withdrawn via Sivas. When the Persian army marched through the whole of Anatolia and reached Kadıköy, Heraclius was at Sürmene, near Karadere to the east of Trabzon. He managed to communicate fairly easily with his beseiged capital from Sürmene and also held talks with the leaders of the Caspian Turks and created a Byzantine-Caspian alliance. He defeated the Persians in 628 and returned victoriously to the capital.

Another Byzantine emperor who used Trabzon as a base for his eastern campaigns was Basil II (976-1025), who in the last years of his life annexed Georgia and Vaspuragan. Basil, who spent the winter of 1021-22 in Trabzon prepared a fleet here for his Abhazian campaign. Meanwhile, King Smbad (1018-1041) of Armenia and Ani sent a delegation to the Byzantine emperor in Trabzon in the hope that the fate that had befallen his Georgian allies would not befall him as well. He offered an agreement whereby his land would belong to Byzantium after his death. His neighbours, King Senekerim of Vaspuragan and Ibn ad-Dairani, also sent ambassadors to Trabzon, selling their kingdoms to Byzantium for money.

The year in which Byzantine won the first of its victories over Persia (622) was also the year in which the Prophet Mohammed emigrated from Mecca to Medina. Just when the Iranian armies were at the gates of Istanbul, Mohammed learnt from the chapter entitled “Romans”, which had come down to him from heaven, that within a few years the defeated Romans would recover and emerge victorious and that believers would find relief that day. Thus, the fire-worshipping Sassanians, who had been defeated by the Romans, collapsed at the first Muslim attack after the death of the Prophet. Byzantium, on the other hand, had lost its eastern territories in its wars with Persia.

The Muslims, who entered Byzantium in the time of Omar (634), defeated the Byzantine army in the Battle of Yermuk in 636. The Arabs drove the Byzantines out of Egypt in 636. The Muslim Arabs, under the command of Muaviye, Governor of Syria, even invaded as far as Kayseri to the north. The Arab armies, which launched a fresh series of attacks in 663, managed to advance as far as izmir and istanbul and in 674 they besieged Istanbul.

The exhausting wars that Byzantium had fought first with the Persians and then with the Arabs at the beginning of the 7th century had reduced much of Anatolia to ruins and greatly reduced its population as well. Byzantium had defeated the Bulgarians and other Slavs in the Balkans and brought the prisoners of  war to Anatolia to use them as a defence against the Arabs.

The Muslim Arab armies heading for Anatolia were about to launch an attack on Trabzon as well and in 705-711 they advanced as far as Ankara, at the same time heading for the Trabzon region. In 717, Leon of Isaura, strategos of the Anatolikon thema, succeeded in driving the Arabs out of Trabzon and it was he who later became Emperor of Byzantium.

In the centuries that were to follow, the Turks to the east, who were then in the process of Islamisation, had reached the Balkans in the Islamic army via the north coast of the Black Sea, whence they established contacts with the Byzantines. Turko/Altaic peoples such as the Bulgars, Uz, Pechenegs and Hungarians served in the Byzantine army in the struggle between Byzantium and the Arabs.

Many Turkic tribes which had adopted Islam arrived from the Maveraünnehir (on the other side of the Amu Darya) region,to be stationed along the borders of Byzantium and in the course of a struggle which lasted centuries a number of renowned  Turkish  commanders such as Afşin, Aşnas, Inak, Boğa el-Kebir and Vasıf el-Türki emerged.

The struggle between the Muslim Arabs and Byzantium which began in the 7th century and lasted until the 1lth century must also be seen as the beginning of the period when the Seljuk Turks islamised Anatolia and established the Turkish presence there. Sorties which, up to the Battle of Malazgirt, had been for purposes of exploration or pillage turned into a drive to settle and establish a country for themselves in Anatolia. Thus, after the victory at Malazgirt in 1071, the Turcomans extended their territory to cover much of Anatolia and in the first years after the victory the Turkish armies also conquered the Trabzon region.

The cıty of Trabzon ıs a major centre of hıstory, culture and art on a coast where verdant forests soar down to meet the blue waters of the Black Sea. The city expanded, both physically and economically, after the Ottoman conquest and a number of Turco-Islamic structures were built. Its powerful economy, together with the madrasas (seminaries), which were centres of learning and refinement, made it the heart of the region. The city enclosed within the walls grew rapidly in the Byzantine period, stretching from Değirmendere to Ayasofya (St Sophia). However, the madrasas, commercial buildings and khans, arcade, bazaars, public baths, mosques and public fountains built in later years made it a typical Ottoman city. Harbours, roads and bridges were built to provide land and sea access to the citv.

The flourishing culture of Trabzon has provided the right environment for men of science, art and culture throughout the centuries. Trabzon produced a number of leading poets, scholars and scientists in the Ottoman period. Among  them were Mehmet Aşık and Şakir Şevket, who carried out a great deal of research into the history of the city and its historic buildings. Today Trabzon is continuing to flourish in a manner befitting its history and, in spite of having lost many of its urban characteristics due to migration it still preserves many memories of its past.

No detailed study dealing with the Turkish buildings of Trabzon as a whole and emphasising its architectural and artistic heritage has yet been made. At this point a summary of the work in this direction carried out so far has been added.

In 1075 a Byzantine army under the command of Theodore Gavras, which had been despatched to Trabzon to drive the Turcomans out of Trabzon and the surrounding area recaptured the territories that had been lost. Theodore Gavras, who returned to Istanbul after his victory, was appointed governor of the Haldia Thema, which included Trabzon and the surrounding area and of which Trabzon was the centre, by the Byzantine Emperor, Alexios Komnenos (1081-1118).

In Trabzon Theodore Gavras acted quite independently of the Emperor and defended Niksar and Şebinkarahisar against the forces of Emir Danişment, extending the borders of Trabzon as far as the Bayburt region, at the same time defending Trabzon from Georgian raids. In the region which stretched from Samsun to Gümüşhane he had a number of castles built to form a defence system to keep the mountain passes leading to the coast under control, thus dominating the coast from Samsun to a point to the east of Trabzon.

After Theodore Gavras, who was killed in a battle against the army of smail, son of Danişmend Gazi, on the bank of the Çoruh River near Bayburt in 1098, his son Gregori Gavras (Taronites) was appointed governor of Trabzon (Duke of Haldia) in 1103.

Gregori had been kept in Istanbul as a hostage while his father was governor of Trabzon. His father had him kidnapped in1091, but afterwards sent him back. Like his father, he acted independently when he became governor. He formed an alliance by marrying his daughter into Emir Danişmend's family in 1106 and consolidated his presence in the castle at Şebinkarahisar. It was probably because of this action that he was captured by troops arriving from the capital under the command of Ioannes Komnenos and sent to Istanbul. However, he was later pardoned and recovered his former position.

Constantine Gavras, who had been appointed governor of Trabzon before 1119, also obtained the support of the Turcomans in the area and ruled the area semiindependently of Byzantium. Constantine Gavras was in control of Trabzon until the end of 1140 and formed an alliance with Mengücekli İshak, one of the Turcoman emirs in the region; they encountered the armies of Melik Gazi Danişmend and Artuklu Belek in 1120 near Şiran. However, the allied forces of Constantine and Mengücekli tshak suffered a heavy defeat with many losses. Five thousand of Constantine Gavras's troops were killed and he he was taken prisoner by Mengücekli lshak Bey. The latter managed to save his life because he was the son-in-law of Artuklu Belek and Constantine Gavras was set free upon payment of a ransom of 30,000 dinars.

We see that Ioannes Komnenos II (1118-1143) conducted an unsuccessful campaign in the Canik area but deprived the Haldia Thema of its semi-independence. In the course of this campaign, Ioannis Komnenos (Çelebi), son of Isaac Komnenos, joined the Seljuks and married the daughter of Sultan Mesud. It is probable that Constantine Komnenos died some time after this campaign. In the middle of the 1160s Nicephoros Palaiologos was appointed the new Duke (governor) of the Haldia Thema, which was once again an integral part of the Byzantine Empire.

The name “Gavras” is definitely not Greek, Pontic Greek or Laz in origin. It is known that several members of this family, whose origins lay in the Haldia Thema, served the Seljuk royal family. One of these persons was ihtiyar ad-din Hasan bin Gavras, a vizier of Sultan Kılıç Aslan II.

The Trabzon Byzantine Kingdom of the Komnenos Dynasty

The last member of the Komnenos dynasty, Andronikos Komnenos (1183-1185), who had previously served as governor in the Black Sea region, was removed from his throne in the course of a popular uprising and Isaakios II of the Angelos dynasty (1185 - 1195) was made king in his place. Andronikos Komnenos and his son Manuel were brutally murdered and Manuel's two small children, Alexios and David, were imprisoned. Queen Thamar of Georgia, who was the children's maternal aunt, had the children kidnapped, also removing the royal treasures of Byzantium.

Alexios, the elder of the two brothers heading for the coast of Georgia, was then four years of age. At that time, when Istanbul was embroiled in the chaos of rebel- lion, it was invaded on 17 July 1203 by the Crusaders and Alexios IV was put on the throne. In January 1204, the people of the city again rebelled, killing Alexios IV, this time installing his father's son-in-law, Murtzuphlos V on the throne. However, the Crusaders came to an agreement among themselves and launched an attack on the city on 13 April 1204, plundered it for three days and estab- lished a Latin state in Istanbul.

After this event the heirs to the Byzantine throne and nobility fled from the capital and, with the support of the local people in the places where they had taken refuge, founded states which could be considered a continuation of Byzantium. One of these was the state founded in Iznik by Theodore Laskaris.

Shortly before this event took place Alexios and David, heirs of the Komnenos dynasty, appeared again on the shores of the Black Sea with an army provided by Queen Thamar the Great of Georgia (1184-1212), with whom they had taken refuge. In 1204 they captured Trabzon.

The elder brother Alexios declared himself ruler of Trabzon and his younger brother Davis, marched along the coast with his army and captured Samsun, Sinop and Ereğli. However, he was prevented from advancing further by Theodore Laskis. The latter, with the support of the Latins in Istanbul, recaptured Amasra and Ereğli, expelling the Komnenos princes from the area to the west of Sinop.

It was at this time that the Seljuks entered the arena. In  1214 they captured Alexios just off Sinop and also gained control of the city. Later, an agreement containing a large ransom and annual taxes, together with a promise to send troops for the Seljuk army when needed for a campaign was arrived at and Alexios Komnenos I (1204-1222) was allowed to return to Trabzon, this time as a vas- sal king of the Seljuk sultan.

The dream cherished by the Komnenos  family  of  recovering  the Byzantine throne had come to an end because their contacts with the west had been broken by the Seljuk conquest of Sinop. However, they had founded a state that was now a vassal of the Seljuks on the coast at Trabzon, which was now surrounded on all sides by Turcomans.

It was in the reign of Andronikos (1222-1235) in Trabzon that a breakdown in relations occurred between the Komnenos family and the Seljuks, just at the time when the Mongols had captured Sudak, then one of the most important trading centres on the north coast of the Black Sea (1223) and plundered it. Andronikos's fleet had sailed to Sudak and appropriated the goods of Muslim merchants fleeing from the Mongols, after which they had invaded the city. The fleet, which was returning to Trabzon with the plundered goods, was forced to sail past Sinop because of a storm and Reis Hayton, who was in command of the fleet at Sinop, appropriated the ships and took Andronikos's commanders prisoner. Andronikos, taking advantage of the fact that the Seljuk king Alaeddin Keikubat (1220-1237) was occupied with events on his eastern border at the time, advanced on Sinop, attacked the city, plundered it and rescued his ships and commanders.

Alaeddin Keikubat, upon hearing of this, sent a fleet under the command of Melik Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev and an army under the command of Atabeki Mübarizeddin Ertokuş to attack Trabzon via Gümüşhane and Maçka. Intensive fighting took place when the Seljuks attacked Trabzon from both sea and land in 1228 and the uncle of Reis Hayton and Keyhüsrev was wounded. However, a violent storm that broke out just as the city was falling caused the two rivers that flowed on either side of Trabzon Castle to burst their banks. The Seljuk army was forced to retreat to the mountains by floods and heavy rain, Melik Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev was captured by peasants near Maçka and brought to Trabzon. However, Andronikos treated him well and sent him to the sultan under guard. At that time Trabzon recognised Celaleddin Harzemşah as sovereign. After the victory of the Seljuk army over that of Harzemşah at Yassıçimen in 1230, those who had managed to flee from Harzemşah's army took refuge in Trabzon territory.

After this war the Komnenos family were again vassals of the Seljuks and were obliged to contribute 200 cavalrymen with spears or 1000 soldiers to the Seljuk army, and to send one member of the family to the Seljuk court.

After the Seljuks were defeated by the Mongols at Kösedağ in 1243, the kings of Trabzon became the vassals of the Mongols and from 1256 onwards they developed good relations with the İhanlı family, who were the heirs of the Mongols in the west, growing extremely wealthy from the trade road that had been built to Tebriz, the Ilhanlı capital. However, at the beginning of the l4th century this trade was taken over by the Genoese colony in Trabzon, which was ruled by a consul. At that time, there were two colonies in Trabzon, that of the Genoese and a Venetian colony as well and both groups had acquired many privileges, particularly in the reign of Alexios II (1297-1330).

In a period when Mongol rule in Anatolia was weakening and a number of Turkish beyliks (the equivalent of principalities) were emerging the Kingdom of Trabzon made a great effort to consolidate and extend its borders but its efforts were hindered by the Turcoman groups in the area and the territory of Trabzon was attacked by the former. One by one  the  passes in the mountain range which afforded access to the coast from the hinterland and the castles guarding these passes were captured by the Turcomans and the lands of the Trabzon Kingdom receded as far as Harşit Creek to the east of Samsun, all that remained to the kingdom being a few castles on the coast.

In 1277 Georgios, King of Trabzon (1266-1280), made an attempt to capture Sinop but was repulsed by the Chepnis, who lived in areas around the city and completely lost control of the area to the east of Samsun as well. According to Panaretos, who was the court historian, in the reign of Ioannes II (“the  good”) (1280-1297), the Halibia (now Ünye) area passed entirely into the hands of the Turks. Further reference to Panaretos's chronicles reveals that in 1301 the Chepni leader Kuşdoğan attacked Giresun and Bayram Bey, who had captured the Ordu and Giresun area, organised two campaigns against Trabzon in 1313 and 1322.

Hacı Emir succeeded his father, Bayram Bey, upon his death and founded the Hacı Emiroğulları Beylik in the l4th century on land that lay within the present Ordu and Giresun provinces and because Bayram Bey and his heirs had sworn to islamise the region and make it T'urkish, it was referred to in Ottoman documents of the next century as Vilayet-i Bayramlu.

One of the groups active on the borders of the Trabzon Kingdom was led by the son of Çoban Bey, son of the grand vizier of the Ilhans. The other was the Turcomans, who were known as Çobanlı or Çapanlu because of their loyalty to that group, which in turn were loyal to Sheikh Hasan-i Küçük, son of Temurtaş, who in turn had been governor of Anatolia at one time (1318-1322) and, declaring his independence at Sivas, had minted his own coins. In 1330-31 Sheikh Hasan, who had settled in the Byzantine Province (Rum vilayeti), now Amasya, captured Şebinkarahisar and, acting together with his brothers, founded a beylik. Sheikh Hasan marched on Trabzon in 1336 and had fought a fierce battle with those defending Boztepe Mountain and the city. However, he was forced to retreat by a sudden downpour. Panaretos informs us that Rüstem, son of Abdurahman, one of Sheikh Hasan's key commanders, died in this battle.

There were a number of Turcoman groups, all belonging to different clans, living in the mountains surrounding the Kingdom of Trabzon. In order to ensure the survival of trade, which was one of the major sources of revenue for the Kingdom of Trabzon, the latter took measures to keep control of the mountain passes. On the other hand the Turcomans had spread out all over the mountains, where there were rich pastures for their herds. There was no political union in Anatolia and the Turcomans were divided up into small beyliks and spent most of their time fighting amongst themselves. The Kingdom of Trabzon wanted to expel these groups, who had no strong army behind them, from the mountains, launched attacks and killed the Turcomans they captured, together with their children and animals. When the Turcomans heard of the attacks they pulled themselves together and advanced on Trabzon intent on revenge, burning and plundering all places as far as the city itself.

In August 1340 the Trabzon army attacked the Akkoyunlu clan, who were grazing their sheep in the mountains and took much booty away with them. Then on 4 August 1341 the Akkoyunlu clan advanced on Trabzon, intent on revenge. They besieged the city and many people died. Much of Trabzon was destroyed by a fire which broke out and the rotting corpses of the dead caused epidemics.

The Akkoyunlu clan again attacked Trabzon in 1343 but this time, too, were unable to capture the city. However, an outbreak of plague which broke out in 1348 wiped out four fifths of the city's population.

Panaretos goes on to say that Ahi Ayna Bey (Bey of Erzincan), Rikabdar Mehmet Bey (Emir of Bayburt), Tur Ali Bey (Bey of the Akkoyunlu) and the Çepni clan under the leadership of Bozdoğan all attacked Trabzon in 1348 but were unable to conquer it. The Turcoman groups, unable to attain their objectives individually,  formed  an  alliance  that  aimed  at  completely destroying the Kingdom of Trabzon. However, Alexios  III  (1349-1390) modified his policy in order to sow dissent among the Turcoman groups and, taking advantage of this, to make them allies of Trabzon. The most important tool in this plan were the princesses in the palace at Trabzon. He was going to marry  them to the Turcoman leaders in the area and use these marriages and the relationships that would emerge to prolong the life  of his kingdom. This clever policy had been much criticised by some Western historians. It is stated that when the Byzantine kings resorted to this policy they always used their illegitimate children. However, Alexios was only too aware that the whole of Anatolia was inTurkish hands and that his own state was virtually isolated on the coast, rendering its survival in this artificial environment impossible. Thus, he was able to ensure the survival of his state for longer than the Byzantine Empire itself.

The first marriage was aimed at the Turcoman alliance which attacked Trabzon in 1348. In 1351 he married his sister, Maria Komnen (Despina Hatun) to Kutluğ Bey, son of Tur Ali Bey, one of the Akkoyunlu beys, whose headquarters were in the Bayburt village of Sinor on the borders of Trabzon. Thus, he broke up the alliance and secured himself a powerful ally behind whose back he could shelter.

As the Dede Korkut tales belonging to the Kanlı Kocaoğlu Kanturalı clan indicate, the foundations of this alliance had been laid by a marriage, and it was to be cemented by other marnages in the future. Kutluğ Bey's son, Karayuluğ Osman Bey, married a daughter of Alexios IV (1417-1429) and Uzun Hasan, grandson of Karayuluğ Osman Bey married the sister of David, Theodora Komnen (Despina Hatun) in 1457.

The second of these marriages took place because of the Hacı Emiroğullan clan, which had captured the land to the west of Trabzon. Alexios III, who had been travelling to Limnia, which was a base belonging to Trabzon located in the Çarşamba area in1356, had killed 14 Turks at Cape Yasun. On 13 November, 1357 Hacı Emir had marched towards Trabzon, plundering the Hamsiköy and Maçka areas in retaliation. Alexios III managed to prevent any more of these attacks by marrying his sister, Theodora Komnen, to Hacı Emir in 1358.

In 1360 a castle was built near Gümüşhane as a precaution against Hoca Latif, Emir of Bayburt, who posed a threat to Trabzon. Hoca Latif launched an attack on Ioannes Kabasites, governor of the Gümüşhane area and defeated him. However, Hoca Latif was ambushed and killed by the villagers of the Hortop are in the Maçka district of the province in 1361.

In 1362 Kılıç Arslan Kelkit, who was of Seljuk origin, captured Şebinkarahisar and attacked the castle of the Kingdom of Trabzon in the Şiran area. After battles fought in 1368, 1369, 1373 and 1374, Kılıç Arslan gained control of the region. In 1397 he marched on Trabzon.

We consider that there were in fact three objectives to this campaign, the first being to put obstacles in the way of the King of Trabzon; the second objective was to put obstacles in the way of Hacı Emir, who had set up headquarters at Niksar and was in control of land to the east of Samsun where the valley of the Yeşilırmak River and the delta where this river flowed into the sea are located. The third objective was to prevent the marriage between Eudokia, daughter of Alexios III and Tacettin Bey, founder of the Tacettinogullan Beylik, who was on bad terms with Kılıç Arslan, because it was during this campaign that Alexios III, together with his daughter, had set out for the place where the wedding was to be held and had arrived in Giresun. When Alexios III received news of the attack, he left his daughter in Giresun and returned to Trabzon. Having taken the necessary defensive measures he retunıed to Giresun and the marriage took place in October, 1379.

Another group which threatened Trabzon were the Çepni tribe, who had captured the Harşit Valley and settled there and also gained control of Tirebolu and Vakıfbekir. The Çepni, who had previously liberated the Sinop and Samsun region from the invasion of the Trabzon kings, had captured Giresun under the leadership of Kuşdoğan and under Bozdoğan had joined the Turcoman alliance to attack Trabzon had established a beylik on the land which lay to the east and west of the Harşit Valley.  Panaretos states that on 4 March 1380 Alexios III and his army raided the Çepni barracks at Kürtün in the upper part of the Harşit Valley and rescued a number of Trabzon people, who were being kept prisoner in the camp.

In the reign of Manuel I (1390-1417), who acceded to the Trabzon throne after Alexios III, Yıldırım Bayezit had added the Samsun area to the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Manuel, who had been forced to submit to Timur, sought an audience with the latter when he was passing through Trabzon and knelt before him. With a fleet of 20 ships and aid from Byzantium the  Komnenos  family fought against the Ottomans under the command of Timur's officers, and they also fought in Timur's army in the Battle of Ankara. According to the Spanish ambassador Clavijo, who went to see Timur after the Battle of Ankara in 1404, apart from the Castle in Trabzon, there were two towers, one belonging to the Genoese and one to the  Venetians.  We  know  that  certain  problems  arose between Trabzon and Genoa after this period. In the reign of Alexios IV (1417-1429), the Genoese had inflicted a defeat on the Trabzon fleet with three galleons and captured a monastery which they turned into a munitions store. In  1418 Alexios had been forced to pay war reparations to the Genoese in the form of wine and hazelnuts but  permission was refused for the repair of a ruined castle belong- ing to the Genoese, whereupon the Genoese consul at Kefe asked all Genoese to leave Trabzon and stop their trade with that city. In consequence, repairs on the castle began and the outbreak of a new war was prevented.