Siege of Trebizond (1461)

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Siege of Trebizond (1461)
Part of the Byzantine–Ottoman Wars
Medieval Trebizond 2.png
Fortification plan of (central) medieval Trebizond (modern Trabzon, Turkey). Current remains in red
Date 15 August 1461
Location Trebizond, Empire of Trebizond
Result Empire of Trebizond incorporated into the Ottoman Empire
 Ottoman Empire Empire of Trebizond
Commanders and leaders
Ottoman Empire Mehmed II
Ottoman Empire Mahmud Pasha Angelovic
David of Trebizond

The Siege of Trebizond was the successful siege of the city of Trebizond, capital of the Empire of Trebizond, by the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed II, which ended on August 15, 1461.[1] With the last members of the Palaiologan dynasty having fled the Morea the previous year for Italy, Trebizond became the last outpost of Byzantine civilization; with its fall, that civilization came to an end.[2] "It was the end of the free Greek world," wrote Stephen Runciman, who then noted that those Greeks still not under Ottoman rule still lived "under lords of an alien race and an alien form of Christianity. Only among the wild villages of the Maina, in the southeastern Pelopennese, into whose rugged mountains no Turk ventured to penetrate, was there left any semblance of liberty."[3]


In 1456, Ottoman troops under Hizir Pasha assaulted Trebizond but were unable to capture the city. However, Trebizond Emperor John IV agreed to pay tribute to the Porte. When David became Emperor in 1459, he sought to stop paying the tribute. Uzun Hasan, the husband of David’s niece, asked Mehmet II to stop collecting the tribute. This provided Mehmet II his desired pretext to march on Trebizond.[4]

The explanation for Mehmet's actual motivations for capturing Trebizond differ in the original sources. William Miller quotes Kritoboulos as stating that David's "reluctance to pay tribute and the intermarriages with Hassan and the Georgian court provoked the Sultan to invade the Empire."[5] On the other hand, Halil İnalcık cites a passage from the 15th century Ottoman historian Kemal Pasha, who wrote:

The Greeks used to live on the coasts of the Black and the Mediterranean Seas in the good habitable areas which were protected by the surrounding natural obstacles. In each area they were ruled by a tekvour, a kind of independent ruler, and they gave him regular taxes and military dues. Sultan Mehmed defeated and expelled some of these tekvours and wanted to do the same with the rest. The goal was to take away from these people all sovereignty. Thus he first destroyed the tekvour of Constantinople; he was considered as the principal tekvour and head of this people. Later on he had subdued successively the tekvours of Enos, Morea, Amasria (Amastris) and annexed their territories to the empire. Finally the Sultan's attention was drawn to the tekvour of Trebizond.[6]

Buildup to the Siege[edit]

Mehmet II planned to attack Trebizond by both sea and land. His fleet was stationed at Gelibolu before the campaign.[7] Mehmet ordered his fleet through the Dardanelles and into the Black Sea. His fleet had 300 ships.[8] The Ottoman land forces marched to Trebizond through Anatolia. Mehmet’s army had 80,000 infantry and 60,000 cavalry.[9] On the way to Trebizond, Mehmet first conquered the city of Sinop. Next he met with Uzun Hasan and his mother, Sara Hasan.[10] Sara failed to persuade Mehmet to stop his campaign. However they did reach an agreement. Because of these talks, Uzun Hasan did not defend Trebizond from Mehmet’s army. Mehmet next moved his troops through the mountains and approached Trebizond from the south.[11] Trebizond was surrounded.

The Siege[edit]

Mahmud Pasha, Mehmet’s Grand Vizier, warned Emperor David to surrender. The Sultan also advised David to capitulate.[12] Mahmud worked with his cousin, a Trebizond nobleman named George Amirutzes, to influence David.[13] David agreed to surrender with conditions. David wanted to receive land that was equal in value to Trebizond and also asked Mehmet to marry his daughter. Mehmet was reluctant. He wanted David to surrender unconditionally. However, Sara Hasan persuaded Mehmet to accept the surrender. The siege ended without bloodshed.[14] The Ottomans had captured Trebizond.


After the battle, Ottoman Janissaries took over Trebizond’s royal castle. Emperor David escaped to Thrace.[15] However, the rest of Trebizond’s male population became slaves. Some of these slaves were inducted as Janissaries.[16] The Trebizond Empire ceased to exist. The battle also had a political impact for Mehmet. Trebizond had been the symbolic last remnant of Greek Christian rule in the region.[17] Pope Pius II sought revenge for Trebizond’s fall. Yet no Christian nations joined a Crusade.[18]


  1. ^ Babinger, Franz. Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time, edited by William C. Hickman and translated by Ralph Manheim (Princeton: University Press, 1978), pp. 191-97
  2. ^ As pointed out by Donald M. Nicol, The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261–1453, second edition (Cambridge: University Press, 1993), p. 401
  3. ^ Runciman, The Conquest of Constantinople: 1453 (Cambridge: University Press, 1969), p. 176
  4. ^ Babinger, pp. 190f
  5. ^ Miller, Trebizond: The last Greek Empire of the Byzantine Era: 1204-1461, 1926 (Chicago: Argonaut, 1969), p. 100
  6. ^ Inalcik, "Mehmed the Conqueror (1432-1481) and His Time", Speculum, 35 (1960), p. 422
  7. ^ Babinger, p. 191
  8. ^ Freely, John. The Grand Turk: Sultan Mehmet II, Conqueror of Constantinople and Master of an Empire (New York: Overlook Press, 2009), p. 67
  9. ^ Freely, p. 67
  10. ^ Freely, p. 68
  11. ^ Babinger, pp. 191f
  12. ^ Babinger, p. 195
  13. ^ Lowry, Heath. The Nature of the Early Ottoman State (Albany: State University of New York, 2003). p. 123
  14. ^ Babinger, pp. 194f
  15. ^ Freely, p. 69
  16. ^ Babinger, p. 195
  17. ^ Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire 1300-1650: The Structure of Power (Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), p. 31
  18. ^ Babinger, p. 198