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Trapezus, formerly known as Trebizond, (Τραπεζούς in Classical Greek, Τραπεζούντα (Trapezounda) in Modern Greek and Trabzon in Turkish), is a city on the Black Sea coast of north-eastern Turkey (Lat 41° 2' 60N Long 39° 43' 37E). It is the capital of Trabzon Province. It lies astride the road from Istanbul to Iran and was an important meeting point for international trade. It formed the basis for several empires over its history, including one of the same name. The population of the city is 214,949 (2000 census).


Ancient and Medieval

Originally founded as Trapezus by traders from Miletus (traditionally in 756 BC), the city was one of a number (about ten) of Milesian emporia, or trading colonies along the shores of the Black Sea. Others include Sinope, Abydos and Cyzicus (in the Dardanelles). Like most Greek colonies, the city was a small enclave of Greek life, and not an empire unto its own, in the later European sense of the word. When Xenophon and the "ten thousand" Greek mercenaries fighting their way out of Persia reached Trapezus, it was the first Greek city they had reached (Xenophon, Anabasis, 5.5.10).

The city was added to the kingdom of Pontus by Mithridates VI Eupator and it became home port for the Pontic fleet.

When the kingdom was annexed to the Roman province of Galatia in 64-65 AD, the fleet simply passed to new commanders, becoming the Classis Pontica. Trapezus gained importance under Roman rule in the 1st century AD because from its roadstead a road over the Zigana Pass led to the Armenian frontier or the upper Euphrates valley. New roads were constructed from Persia and Mesopotamia under the rule of Vespasian, and Hadrian commissioned improvements to give the city a more structured harbor. A mithraeum now serves as a crypt for the church of Panaghia Theoskepastos in nearby Kizlara, east of the citadel and south of the modern harbor. The city was pillaged by the Goths in 258, and, although it was afterwards re-built, Trapezus did not recover until the trade route regained importance in the 8th to 10th centuries.

After the Fourth Crusade in 1204, a Byzantine successor state was founded there with support of Queen Tamar of Georgia, the Empire of Trebizond, which ruled part of the Black Sea coast from Trabzon until 1461, when its ruler, David, surrendered to Mehmed II, ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Following this takeover Mehmet sent many Turkish settlers into the area, but the old ethnic Armenian, Greek and Abkhaz communities remained. During the late Ottoman period, the city had a great Christian influence in terms of culture, and a wealthy merchant class who created several Western consulates. Persecution in the early 20th Century forced many of them out and the population exchange of 1924 ended their presence altogether.

Modern era

Trabzon was captured during World War I by forces under the command of the Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich of Russia. Following the Treaty of Sevres and subsequent Treaty of Lausanne, Trabzon was once again a part of Turkey. The city is still a busy trading centre, more so after the collapse of the Soviet Union, although the shipping industry fell into decline after the rail route between Ankara and Erzurum, and the road to Iran.

During World War II the shipment activities were limited because the Black Sea had become a battle field; the most important export products such as tobacco and hazelnut were of no value and so the living standards were affected badly.

Trabzon still has a sizable community of Greek-speaking Muslims, most of them originally from the vicinities of Tonya and Of. However, the Pontic language (known as Ρωμαίικα) is spoken mostly by older generations.