Table of Contents
The Undying Empire:
A Trapezuntine Timeline by Eparkhos

(Reserved for Intro)

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Introduction.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1204-1446)
Part I: The Battle of Kapnanion........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1447-1449)

Part II: Hail, the Conquering Prince Comes!....................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1449-1450)
Part III: The Alexandrian Army..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1450-1459)
Part IV: Keeping the Trebizond..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1450-1459)
Part V: War of the First Holy League................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1459-1462)
The Balkans After the Treaty of Haskovo....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1462)
Part VI: An Old Tiger...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1460-1465)
Part VII: Succession........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1465)

Part VIII: The Brother's War...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1465-1466)
Part IX: The Struggle for Regency.....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1466-1467)
Part X: Fish of Bronze.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1467-1468)
Part XI: Counterstrike....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1468)

Part XII: Administering an Empire....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1468-1473)
Part XIII: A Matter of Faith.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1469-1476)
Part XIV: Aftokrator, Aftokephalos?.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1474-1476)
Part XV: The Paphlagonian War.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1475-1478)
Part XVI: The War of the Three Alexanders....................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1477-1482)
Part XVII: Coming to Brasil................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1478-1481)

Part XVIII: Notaras' War....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1477-1482)
Anatolia and the Surrounding Regions.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1484)
Part XIX: Protas Nikas........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1481-1484)
Part XX: Siege......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1484-1485)

Part XXI: A Brief Interlude.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1484-1485)
Part XXII: Union (Fields of Saint Eugenios).....................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1485-1487)
Part XXIII: Recovery...........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1486-1495)
Part XXIV: The Spider's Web.............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1486-1495)
Part XXV: Gog and Magog................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1495-1497)

Part XXVI: Oak and Ash and Thorn.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(1481-1500)
 
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An Introduciton
Introduction

As one empire died, another rose.

In the spring of 1204, the ancient city of Constantinople fell to an army of Latins[1]. The Byzantine[2] Empire had been in decline since the 1180s, when Andronikos Komnenos had overthrown his young cousin Alexios II and declared himself emperor, only to be overthrown in turn by Isaakios II Angelos, who was in turn overthrown by his brother Alexios III Angelos. This cycle of coupes had bankrupted the empire and seen its once organized administrative system collapse into a network of provincial governors, rebels and local warlords who nominally answered to Constantinople. It was obvious to any outside observer, that the moribund state would make an easy target for conquest. One of these outside observers was the Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, who used his position to re-route a crusade to Constantinople, nominally in support of Isaakios II’s son Alexios. After Alexios and Dandolo had a falling out, the Latins sacked Constantinople, ending some twelve centuries of direct rule dating back to Augustus himself, and then set about partitioning the remains.

However, Dandolo was not the only foreign ruler to note the weakness of Byzantium. As the Latins were camped before the walls of the Eternal City, Queen Tamar of Kartvelia dispatched an army westward. Two of Andronikos Komnenos’ grandsons, Alexios and David Megas Komnenos, had escaped the purges following their grandfather’s downfall and fled to Kartvelia, and Tamar now intended to prop them up as puppets to secure her own realm. Only a few weeks before Constantinople fell, the brothers entered Trapezous, capital of Byzantine Pontus, to a jubilant crowd. They pressed further on, taking Sinope and Pontoherakleia on the Black Sea in the following months, but attacks from the Seljuk Turks forced the brothers to split their forces, with Alexios rushing back to Trapezous to repel a siege in 1206. In 1208, David and his army were routed by one of the warlords, Theodoros Laskaris, at the Battle of Sangarios and forced to withdraw back to Sinope. With her borders secured, Tamar pulled most of her support after Sangarios and left the brothers to their own devices.

In the following decades, the Trapezuntine Empire began to wither away. Alexios I was a capable ruler, as was his son Manouel, but Manuel’s sons were less so. In 1214, Sinope fell to the Seljuk Turks, and Trapezuntine control in the interior, which had once stretched as far south as Theodosiopolis (Ezurum) was chipped away at by the wild Turkmen tribes of the eastern Plateau. The dwarf empire was also deeply divided, with the Greek landholders and courtiers (the Skholaroi faction) competing with the local Lazic soldiers and merchants (the Amytzantarantes faction) for the emperor’s favor. By the turn of the 14th century, the Trapezuntine Empire had been reduced to a thin strip of mountainous coast stretching from the Iris River (Yeşilırmak) in the west to the Georgian frontier in the east, with the southern border being the peaks of the Pontic mountains. There was also a number of small ports and coastal territories, called Perateia, that lay across the Black Sea and nominally answered to Trapezous. Practically, they were the seignoria of the Gavras family, and thus they shall not be elaborated upon.

In spite of these many domestic problems, the empire flourished domestically during this period. Pontus had long been essentially autonomous from Constantinople, with the Gavroi ruling as independent princes from the 1070s to the 1140s, and the following governors answering only nominally to the capital. This had produced a well-oiled bureaucratic system that efficiently managed the lands under Trapezous’ control, allowing the Megas Komnenoi to collect taxes and manage the estates of their underlings in a manner that often surpassed that of the self-proclaimed Byzantine Emperors who had re-established themselves in Constantinople under the Palaiologoi. Trapezous also grew into a major trade center in the latter half of the 13th Century. The Mongol razing of Baghdad in 1258, while very unfortunate for both the Baghdadites and the sum of human knowledge, had shifted the Silk Road northwards, with Tabriz taking the place of Baghdad and Antioch being replaced by Trapezous itself. Custom duties made Trapezous immensely rich, with the city growing into a trade hub that attracted merchants from as far west as Brittany. Unfortunately, none of the emperors invested this money into a professional army, instead spending it on such trival things as astronomy and math.

However, this prosperity was not enough to limit the aforementioned domestic tensions, and in the 1330s everything went to hell. In 1330, Alexios II was killed by an early outbreak of plague and was succeeded by his neurotic and paranoid son, Andronikos III. Andronikos executed all but one of his male relatives, with his brother Basileios escaping to Constantinople. After a year and a half, Andronikos died in another bout of plague and Basileios was recalled from his Palaiologian exile by the Amytzantarantes. After deposing and blinding Andronikos’ son Manouel II, Basileios ascended to the throne. The Skholaroi revolted, and it took more than a year for them to be put down, during which time they pillaged much of the eastern part of the realm. After putting down the revolt of the Skholaroi, the navy then revolted and attempted to restore Manouel II. This also took the better part of a year to defeat, and in its aftermath Basileios executed everyone even tangentially involved in the revolts. He then divorced his wife, Eirene Palaiologina, and remarried a Kartvelian woman. This prompted the excommunication of the entire Trapezuntine church structure, which in turn prompted a mass naval battle between the Trapezuntines and the Byzantines. While the fleet was absent, a band of Turkmen invaded and came within three miles of Trapezous before being repulsed. Meanwhile, Eirene Palaiologina began slowly poisoning her ex-husband by unknown methods, finally killing him in 1340.

After Basileios’ death, records become sketchy. Suffice to say, Trapezous was in a state of anarchy. Eirene briefly seized the palace with the help of the surviving Skholaroi, one of Alexios II’s daughters, Anna Anakhoutlou, departed from her monastery and overthrew Eirene with the aid of the Amytzantarantes. Anna was cooped a few months later by Mikhael Megas Komnenos, who was then counter-couped a few days later and forced to flee for his life. However, a distant cousin of Basileios, Ioannes Megas Komnenos, was recalled from exile in Konstantinoupoli by the Skholaroi and deposed Anna in 1342. However, Ioannes was an utter idiot and the Skholaroi began to fight amongst themselves as well as with the surviving Amytzantarantes. By this point, the plague was beginning to burn its way through the lower classes, ultimately killing more than a third of the entire Trapezuntine population. After two years on the throne, the megas doux[4] Nikephoros summoned Mikhael Megas Komnenos--Ioannes father--from exile and within a few months Mikhael had returned to the throne. While all of this was unfolding, the Turkmen were raiding heavily and seizing border fortresses, while the Genoese were annexing ports left and right. Finally, by 1350 the various factions had bled themselves white and reluctantly agreed to allow Alexios III, Mikhael’s son, to remain on the throne.

Under Alexios’ long reign, Trapezous stabilized and slowly began to recover. Unfortunately, the damage from the two decades of sheer anarchy was immense, and in spite of his best efforts Alexios was unable to mend them. The navy and army both recovered to some extent, and the administration was able to extend itself over the entirety of the rump empire. Trade was also revived after the Black Death burned itself out, which also aided the reconstruction. In 1390, Alexios was succeeded by his son Manouel III. This period also saw the rise of the Ottoman Empire under Bayezid the Thunderbolt, who was pressing steadily closer to Trapezous. To counter this growing threat, Manouel cast his lot in with the fierce Uzbek conqueror Timur-i Lang in his invasion of Anatolia in the first years of the 15th Century. Timur utterly crushed the Ottomans, capturing Bayezid himself and pushing the Ottomans back to the Bithynian hills. Manouel took advantage of this chaos to seize several ports on the Black Sea, but this drew the ire of the Timurid viceroy of Armenia, Halil Mirza. Mirza campaigned against the Trapezuntines and forced them to pay tribute or be destroyed, which they did. However, this drove Manouel to make an alliance with the Qara Qoyunlu[5], former mercenaries of Timur who had taken to ravaging Armenia. This alliance was strengthened and later expanded to include the splinter Aq Qoyunlu[6] under Manouel’s son and successor Alexios IV, the agreements being secured with the marriage of various Trapezuntine princesses.

However, even with these foreign entanglements growing to be of increasing magnitude, the inherently Byzantine nature of the Megas Komnenoi was apparent. The reign of Alexios IV was rocked with domestic strife, with his sons and brothers all struggling to make themselves the heirs apparent[7]. In 1428, Alexios appointed his son Alexandros as his co-emperor, a move which infuriated his other son Ioannes. Ioannes traveled to Kartvelia and enlisted the help of the king there in overthrowing his father, returning to Trapezous with a Kartvelian fleet the next year. Ioannes executed his father and his immediate supporters, Alexandros barely escaping with his life. While watching his home city fade away over the horizon from the deck of a Genoese merchantman, Alexandros swore his undying enmity for his brother and promised to himself that he would unseat his brother or die trying[8].

Ioannes’ reign sees an attempted Ottoman invasion repulsed after the enemy fleet goes down in the notorious winter storms of the Black Sea. This, however, is the exception from the rule as Ioannes is frequently troubled by Turkmen raiders from all directions, some of which are nominally vassals of the Qoyunlus. He fails to repulse these, instead adopting a tactic of attempting to bribe them into leaving him alone. (‘Once you have paid the Dane-geld….’). This did little to stop the raiding but did put him deeply in debt to the Genoese, who wormed their way into power and soon began to regard Trapezous as a vassal in all but name.

To complete this introduction, let us survey Trapezous’ environs in the year 1446. To the west is the Çandarid beylik, who have long since been eclipsed by the Ottomans and no longer hold anywhere near the power they had under Suleyman Shah some century and a half previous. To the south are the Aq Qoyunlu and the Qara Qoyunlu, two bickering Turkmen federations who are allied with Trapezous, but not so allied that they would jeapordize their domestic stability by trying to reign in the raiding bands who frequently trouble Trapezous. Indeed, they are far from westphalianically[9] sovereign and raiders from the western side of their realm are known to cross their breadth to attack the lands to their east, and vice versa. To the east is the Principality of Samtskhe, a vassal of the Kartvelian kings whose lord is eying up Trapezous with increasing brazeness. To the north-east is Kartvelia itself, which has been weakened by internal disputes for several years but is still standing strong under Giorgi VIII. In the Black Sea are the Venetians and Genoese, who both view Trapezous as a prize cut to be fought over.

And to the south and distant west lie the Ottomans, who have recently repulsed the collective efforts of Central Europe at Varna and are now turning their attention to polishing off the statelets that had been freed from their rule by Temur-i Lang, Trapezous chief among them….

[1] ‘Latin’ was the Byzantine term for all Catholic Europeans; For their part, the Latins called the Byzantines Greeks.
[2] For the sake of accessibility, I’ll be referring to certain locations and historical figures by the Latinized names. Apologies to the hardcore karthavousists out there.
[3] Kartvelia and Kartvelian refer to the Kingdom of Georgia. I live in the United States about an hour’s drive from the state of Georgia, so I’m using these terms for my own sake.
[4] Commander of the navy
[5] ‘Qara Qoyunlu’ literally means ‘Horde of Black Sheep’
[6] Literally ‘Horde of White Sheep’
[7] Trapezuntine succession was semi-elective, with the heir apparent being chosen from amongst the many ranks of Komnenoi princes or, on occasion, sons-in-law.
[8] This is the Point of Divergence; Alexandros will never reconcile with his brother as he did OTL.
[9] Here meaning ‘sovereign in a manner such as proscribed by the Treaty of Westphalia’, which is considered to be the definition of modern sovereignty.
 
Well this is something entirely new. How the Empire of Trebizond will survive against the Ottomans or the other Turkmen confederations is going to be very interesting, to say the least. Subbed.
 
Trebizond really got its worked cut out for them.
It was really a shame Alexios I got super unlucky. Hopefully his descendants can regain the Black Sea coast at least. Watched.
 
Watched
Seems like a really tight spot to get out of. Wonder how they'll do it. Im thinking a coalition of sorts will have to be formed and aimed at The Ottomans for any of the minor powers to stay alive.
 
Part I: The Battle of Kapnanion (1447-1449)
Part I: The Battle of Kapnanion

For the better part of a century, Shi’ites in Iran had congregated in the plateau town of Ardabil. The Safavi family, well-known sufi mystics, had first come to Ardabil in the 1320s as the Ilkhanate was collapsing in on itself. For many years they had practiced there, creating a center of art and learning amongst the dry terrain of that region and imbuing a deep respect for their dynasty amongst their courtiers and subjects, be they natives or from as far abroad as Yemen or Africa. But, as always, this positive change was perverted for the personal advancement of an ambitious man. This man was Sheikh Junayd, the fourth sheikh of the Safavi. In 1447, he ascended to this office after his father’s death and set about converting the latent influence of his dynasty into concrete military strength. His murid[1] corps was swiftly organized and began raiding against the eastern bands of the Qara Qoyunlu, whom he believed were sufficiently distracted by the Aq Qoyunlu. Unfortunately for Junayd he was wrong, and in early 1448 Jahan Shah appeared before Ardabil with a large host. The moderate Safavis, who had never been happy with Junayd, immediately surrendered the city. As Junayd and the murids fled out the western gate, Jahan entered through the eastern gate and appointed the former sheikh’s uncle, Ja’far, as sheikh.

With their home lost to them, Junayd led his followers westward into Armenia, where they lived like bandits and were continuously driven further eastward by bands of Turkmen who resented the threat to their (mis)rule of the Armenians. Finally, hungry and exhausted, the exiled Safavis arrived at the Pontic mountains in late 1448. As they had journeyed, they had frequently heard of the richness of Trapezous and its environs, of how it was a city of gold and spices where even the poor were monstrously fat. They had also heard of the misfortune of the Trapezuntines, of how they had no army to speak of and were considered weak by even the most feeble of the Turkmen tribes. With few other options, the sheikh decided to roll the dice. In the spring of 1449, he declared the God had appeared to him in his sleep and told him to drive the infidels from Trapezous and establish righteous rule in the great city. Cheered by this message from the heavens, the murids eagerly followed Junayd across the mountains into the Trapezuntine empire.

They met little resistance. Ioannes IV was more worried about renewed Genoese aggression than any threat posed by some band of jumped-up cultists that had gotten their teeth kicked in by a bunch of Turkmen savages. As such, he had delayed calling the men of Pontos to arms out of fear of angering the various landholders of the region or, more respectably, causing a famine. Trapezous and her environs had been troubled by several minor foot shortages during previous years due to mudslides and slave raids carrying off many outlying farmers, and given his already unpopular position Ioannes was cautious about creating a potential ‘sign from God’ that he needed to be overthrown. However, this left him with no time to prepare his men in the slightest when he was forced to rush them to arms after word of Junayd’s approach reached him.

The Skholai--who were, after all, nominally professional soldiers--were both understrength and under-capable, their ability having been dulled by years of palace life. This forced Ioannes to rely upon the mustered footmen who were, as aforementioned, woefully unprepared due to his hesitancy to muster them without cause, and affix his flag to a mess of unruly and inexperienced militiamen and a handful of Genoese mercenaries whose loyalties were suspect. Well, more suspect than mercenaries’ loyalties usually are. Nonetheless, when the Trapezuntine army mustered in the capital in mid-April 1449 Ioannes was confident that he would soon be victorious. After all, the Turks had done it, and if they could do it why couldn’t the superior Ponts? And so, some 1,500 sons of Trapezous went to their deaths.

Junayd and his followers entered Pontos through one of the eastern passes, moving through a small pass girded on either side with cliffs of dizzying height. After crossing the mountains they had descended onto the narrow coastal plain and gone east, intent on taking Trapezous. They had been halted at the small fortress of Athena (Pazar), however, due to the fortress’ excellent location and the unexpected ferocity of the defenders, whose homes would be despoiled and their families slaughtered or worse if they were to fail. This bought enough time for Ioannes and his army to arrive via sea, landing just east of Athena on 2 May. Junayd withdrew inland to avoid an encirclement, swinging eastward to appear at Ioannes’ flank. The emperor, inexperienced in the ways of war, gave chase. After several days of skirmishing, the Safavis finally gave battle near the small village of Kapnanion. Ioannes was confident in his victory, as there were only five hundred or so Safavis, and because of this he met the enemy on grounds of his own choice, always a mistake.

Junayd made his stand on a small ridge within sight of the sea, barren except for a small forested ditch at its peak. The Safavis were entirely light footmen, unarmored and armed only with bows and swords. The Trapezuntines, on the other hand, had at least some armor and were armed with a mixture of bows, axes and spears. As the battle began, Ioannes arrayed his men in three columns, with his most heavily armored men in the center and the more lightly armed men in the flanks. He advanced directly up the hill, seemingly unaware of why this was a bad idea. Junayd’s men peppered their opinions with arrows and darts, the Trapezuntines finding it difficult to defend themselves due to their difficult footing and their tightly organized formation. The Trapezuntines were also having a hell of a time shooting back, both due to their bad position and the fact that many of the inexperienced soldiers had left their bows strung in the camp, which had resulted in them being ruined by the fog. After half an hour of slow advancement, the Trapezuntines finally reached the peak of the hill. Here, the weight of numbers and the heavier nature of the Trapezuntine force began to make itself apparent, and in spite of their devotion to their Viceroy-of-God, the Safavis began to waver. Ioannes sent his left flank forward, hoping to turn the Safavi flank and encircle them.

However, as the left advanced beyond their comrades and began to turn, another wave of Safavis rushed up from the far side of the hill. The fresh fanatics slammed into the Trapezuntine flank and hurtled them back, the tired Ponts offering little defense to the murids. With their left being pushed back down the hill, the already tired Trapezuntines began to waver. Victory was still close, however, and Ioannes detached the Skholai, who were in the rear of the center, to go and reinforce the left. However, the sudden absence of the elite troops panicked the rear ranks of the center, and in panicked shouts many of them proclaimed that Ioannes had taken the best soldiers and fled the field. This was patently untrue--Ioannes was himself in the thick of the fighting--but given the coup-prone nature of the Empire many soon believed the Skholai had in fact left them to die. This caused the Trapezuntine morale to collapse because if the officers were panicking and running because of some secret, imagine how any of the footmen would fare? The wavering turned into a route, with the rear ranks of men turning and fleeing down the hill. The sudden absence of the men behind him caused the middle ranks to turn and flee, followed by the front ranks. Within minutes, the entire Trapezuntine army had routed, all running towards the sea and the ships there. The Safavis gave chase, hacking down dozens of men as they followed their enemies down the hill. Ioannes, realizing the battle was lost, galloped away with the Imperial standard, ending any chance of a recovery.

Ioannes was forced to ride his horse into the sea to escape the disaster, being pulled aboard one of his galleys. Most of the army, however, was not so lucky. Only a few dozen men escaped to the fleet, with most being butchered by the Safavi or drowned in the surf. The battle was a complete Safavi victory, with Ioannes fleeing back to Trapezous with his tail between his legs. The Safavis followed, most of the garrisons fleeing into the mountains with their families after the battle.

In late May, Junayd appeared before the walls of Trapezous. While he had been victorious, he had lost more than a quarter of his force in the battle and was thus unwilling to take any risks. As such, upon viewing the great walls of the capital, he knew that he could not take the city by force. Even if he were able to starve them out, his men would be insufficient to even garrison the city. Instead, he went about as if he were going to conduct a siege, erecting a camp and digging siege works. Then, on the third day, he sent a messenger to Ioannes and demanded a vast sum of tribute. The emperor, by this point thoroughly cowed, meekly agreed.

A few days later, Junayd and his followers departed with a massive train of tribute, making their way south into the lands of the Aq Qoyunlu, after which they vanished from history. The tribute was no small fund, but the greatest loss to Trapezous was not the tribute payment but rather its prestige. Across the Caucasus and beyond, the Trapezuntine army was now mocked for its cowardice and inability, with an anonymous Latin mercenary even advising the King of France that the city could be taken with fifty knights. No where did this message ring more clearly than Genoa, where a certain exiled prince appeared before the Doge shortly after word of the battle arrived….

[1] Translates as either ‘Slaves to the divine’ or ‘Those who are happy to die’, I have conflicting sources
 
Nice battle. I was expecting the Trapezuntines to win the battle. It's interesting they didn't because it seems it's setting the stage for something important to come.
Junayd and his followers departed with a massive train of tribute, making their way south into the lands of the Aq Qoyunlu, after which they vanished from history.
Does this mean the Safavids will not come back? Interesting butterflies if that's the case...
 
Great Stuff! Here I thought I was reading a Trebizond wank instead got the equivalent of Ned Stark's head being chopped off, right in Season 1.
Gonna follow this one for sure.
 
It would seem Alexandros sees an opportunity to regain the Throne, although one should trust the Genoese as one should the Venetian, that is not at all.
 
Part II: Hail, the Conquering Prince Comes (1449-1450)
Thanks, I hope you enjoy it!
Interesting, looks like Trebizond will have uphill battle to keep alive.
Definitely. Although it does have a favorable geographic position, which will make things less bleak than they could be.
We will watch wour wareer with great interest !
Wow! It's here earlier than I expected.

Long live Trebizond, the Heirs to Roma!
This is different. Subbed.
Well this is something entirely new. How the Empire of Trebizond will survive against the Ottomans or the other Turkmen confederations is going to be very interesting, to say the least. Subbed.
Trebizond really got its worked cut out for them.
It was really a shame Alexios I got super unlucky. Hopefully his descendants can regain the Black Sea coast at least. Watched.
Watched
Seems like a really tight spot to get out of. Wonder how they'll do it. Im thinking a coalition of sorts will have to be formed and aimed at The Ottomans for any of the minor powers to stay alive.
Already watched; this scenario had a great potential.
The Trapezuntines will definitely have a rough road ahead of them. I hope you'll enjoy that story.
Can't really say I saw that coming. Loved the update.
Great Stuff! Here I thought I was reading a Trebizond wank instead got the equivalent of Ned Stark's head being chopped off, right in Season 1.
Gonna follow this one for sure.
Would you say it was a good surprise or a bad surprise? Genuinely curious.
Nice battle. I was expecting the Trapezuntines to win the battle. It's interesting they didn't because it seems it's setting the stage for something important to come.

Does this mean the Safavids will not come back? Interesting butterflies if that's the case...
Oh no, this whole section was OTL. Junayd Shaykh died in exile in Anatolia, and the Safavids who conquered Persia were descended from Ja'far Shaykh. The butterflies come from the reaction in the west, particularly Genoa.
It would seem Alexandros sees an opportunity to regain the Throne, although one should trust the Genoese as one should the Venetian, that is not at all.
As always, there will be a balancing act between the two republics.
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Hail, the Conquering Prince Comes

After being forced into exile in 1429, Alexandros Megas Komnenos had gone west to Constantinople. He spent several years living off of the charity of his sister, who at that time was the empress consort of the Palaiologian Empire, but in 1436 he ran afoul of one of the major court factions. Forced to flee for his life once again, Alexandros had gone to Lesbos, which was under Genoese rule. He had ingratiated himself with the Gattiliusos who ruled the island, eventually marrying one Maria Gattiliuso to secure an alliance with the lord of the island, Dorino. In spite of his many paideiac[1] skills, he had been unable to rouse the Genoese to his cause for several years, instead being left to languish on the Aegean island. However, his relations with the Gattiliuso secured him from several demands for his head, which were sent to the Genoese by both Trapezous and Constantinople.

In 1447, this decade-long purgatory finally ended. David[2], the idiot brother of both Ioannes and Alexandros, had attacked the Genoese factory[3] at Caffa and nearly destroyed the city. This aroused the ire of the Doge, and Alexandros was summoned to Genoa in preparation for an expedition to place him upon his throne. He had only made it to Sicily, however, before he was ordered to return to Lesbos. Ioannes had paid a great indemnity on behalf of his brother, and the Genoese had abandoned their planned expedition. However, Alexandros had only been on Lesbos for a few more months before news reached him of the disaster at Kapanion. ‘Borrowing’ one of his father-in-law’s vessels, Alexandros made for Genoa once again.

He arrived in late 1449, finding the atmosphere of the city violent. Many members of the vast Genoese merchant class had invested heavily in the Black Sea trade, which was already under threat by the Ottoman Turks. Trapezous had, at least nominally, been one of the great guaranteors of the security of this trade, and if they had nearly been destroyed by a host of brigands (as it was being reported in the West) then the entire region could be easily cut off. Amongst this anger there was also a great deal of avarice, as many saw Trapezous’ weakness as an opportunity to seize the city for themselves and vastly increase their city’s wealth. Both sentiments were expressed heavily amongst the oligarchic families who dominated Genoese politics, and so Alexandros found himself having to compete with those who desired the outright annexation of Trapezous for military support.

Alexandros appeared before the Doge and his council on 27 August. His exact speech has been lost to history, but the later chronicler Giogiorgios records the broader notes of his message. The exiled prince first spoke of the great difficulties which beset the Trapezuntine Empire, and of how they would be an unreliable ally for the Genoese were his brother to remain upon the throne. He cited David’s raid on Kaffa, Ioannes’ incompetence at Kapanion as well as an attempt to make an alliance with the Venetians that Ioannes had made nearly a decade previous. He then began to spoke of the riches of Trapezous, the Jewel of the Black Sea, and of how the Genoese would gain immensely from reducing it to a tributary. However, he warned, its distance and wealth meant that it would be impossible to administer except by appointing a captain[4]. This captain would have immense power and would send whichever family he hailed from into the stratosphere, so to speak. As such, a direct acquisition of the city would horrifically upset Genoese domestic policies, in such a way that it may prove more of a hindrance than a help. Instead, he said, the best policy for the Genoese to adapt was to install him upon the throne; he would pay tribute and act in all ways in accordance with the Doge’s desire, thus enriching the republic without endangering it as a direct accusation would. He needed only a small force to unseat his brother, and once this was done all the riches of the Black Sea would be given over to Genoa. Evidently, the council found his speech persuasive, and they recommended to the Doge that Alexandros be given his force. Lodovico di Campofregoso, the sitting Doge, agreed.

While Alexandros had Genoese approval for his campaign, the Italians still wanted plausible deniability in case things went wrong. As such, instead of directly providing Megas Komnenos with a fleet and soldiers, the Genoese instead gave him a lump sum of money with which to hire mercenary soldiers and ships. Over the next several months, he assembled a force of a dozen ships--a mixture of merchantmen and ‘privateers’--and a motley army of Genoese crossbowmen, other Italian mercenaries, some Provençal knights, and a number of exiled Greeks. The total force came to six-hundred and fifty men, all of varying loyalties. Alexandros put out from Genoa in late October, making a harrowing passage of the central Mediterranean and reaching Lesbos[5] in December. Here, Alexandros’ fleet was reinforced with five Lesbian galleys and several dozen Gattiliuso retainers, among them two of his brothers-in-law. After waiting for the fierce winter winds to die down, Alexandros’ force put out from Mytilene in late February.

The exiled prince’s force arrived at Trapezous in early April. The passage had been difficult, with the fierce storms of the Black Sea making an unseasonal recurrence and forcing Alexandros’ fleet to make an unexpected landfall at Sinope to avoid sinking. Ioannes had been aware of his brother’s approach, but had been unable to muster an army to meet him. Most of Trapezous’ population despised their current monarch due to the numerous failures of his reign, and the men sent out into the countryside to muster militia ‘disappeared’, many of them voluntarily. Ioannes was also unable to raise a mercenary host, as the Genoese had explicitly ordered their soldiers not to take any contracts with the Trapezuntines, the Kartvelians were engrossed in a civil war and the Turkmen were more interested in plundering the Trapezuntines rather than defending them. As such, Ioannes was left with few options other than barricading himself inside the city citadel with a few loyal guards. However, this did not mean that he did not attempt to prepare for his brother’s invasion. The megas doux, who could tell the way the wind was blowing, had taken the entire Imperial fleet out on a pirate-hunting expedition as soon as news reached him of Alexandros’ expedition, and Ioannes attempted to recall him several times. With this failing, he then armed several merchantmen in the harbor to act as a makeshift fleet; they also fled. Finally, he mustered the city watch--who were more akin to a police department than an army[6]--and sent them to the walls.

Alexandros’ force entered Trapezous itself on 2 April. With no fleet to oppose them, Alexandros’ force sailed directly into the harbor. After dealing with a few particularly stupid guardsmen, the city watch disbanded, allowing him to quickly secured the port and began unloading his followers directly on the quay. They then fanned out through the city, securing the lower town in less than an hour with only some sparse skirmishing with a few militiamen. The upper town and citadel were separated from the lower town by a narrow causeway, and it was here that the first real fighting broke out. The Trapezuntines were outnumbered, but they had the better position and were fighting in defense of their homes, whereas the mercenaries were fighting for money. The morale of desperation allowed the Trapezuntines to hold the causeway for more than an hour, but in a lull in the fighting Alexandros appeared in the gap between the armies. Unarmed and unarmored, he strode out from amongst the ranks of his men. He appealed to his brother’s loyalists, speaking of the need for a united Trapezous to resist the many outside threats who circled around their blessed kingdom. Ioannes was an incompetent who endangered all of them and their families, and remaining loyal to this môme was a worthless errand. Stirred by his speech, many of the Trapezuntine forces threw down their arms.

The rest of Ioannes’ loyalists then withdrew into the citadel, which was the most heavily fortified part of the city and designed to resist attack from all directions, both from outside the walls as well as from within the city itself. As such, rather than attempting to assault the fortresses Alexandros instead drew siege lines. After two days of siege, a defector contacted Alexandros and offered to surrender the citadel in exchange for clemency and a high court position. Alexandros agreed, and the next day a wave of his men rushed in through the opened side gate. Following a final round of desperate fighting, the city had fallen completely to the new emperor. Ioannes was killed outright in recompense for his assassination of their father, while David was blinded and then extradited to Genoa, where there had been a bounty on his head ever since his Caffa raid.

Alexandros was crowned as emperor on 6 April 1449, with his wife and seven-year-old son Alexios also being crowned upon being summoned from Lesbos after the empire was secured. The rest of the Imperial family was secured in the palace, both to prevent their flight and thus potential claim to the throne as well as securing a massive supply of hostages for Alexandros in case of civil war. By the end of the month, he had secured the entirety of the Trapezuntine Empire--Ioannes had never been terribly popular--and had assumed all the necessary offices of government. He resumed the previous tribute payments to the Ottomans, as well as beginning his promised payments to the Genoese. The latter payments were lower than the initially agreed upon amount, with Alexandros blaming the discrepancy upon pirates acting in the Aegean. The Genoese grumbled about this, but were unwilling to foot the bill for another expedition against the Trapezuntines. That is, other than a small expedition launched by a minor family that went down in one of the Black Sea’ infamous storms.

I’ll leave it here for now. Tomorrow, we’ll go over the beginning of Alexandros’ reign in detail, and the massive changes that the new emperor brought about….

[1] Paideia was the Byzantine art of speaking
[2] To be completely frank, a good portion of the blame for the fall of Trapezous itself can be placed squarely at the feet of David Megas Komnenos and his various short-sighted programs.
[3] ‘Factory’ was the contemporary term for a colony.
[4] The use of ‘captain’ here refers to a semi-hereditary governor, not the ‘captain of the populace’, which was one of the many titles of the Doge.
[5] For the sake of professionalism, I will not be making any Lesbian/lesbian puns
[6] Even then, they were less akin to a modern police department and more the thief-takers of 18th Century London

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As always, thanks for reading.
 
So this is where the butterflies really start to get rolling. Interested to see how Alexandros rules the Empire as sole ruler instead of what happened OTL.

Also, I expect the Safavids to still make an appearance somehow. Maybe not a Shahdom but they might be important players to whatever Persian dynasty arises there.
 
Oh no, this whole section was OTL. Junayd Shaykh died in exile in Anatolia, and the Safavids who conquered Persia were descended from Ja'far Shaykh. The butterflies come from the reaction in the west, particularly Genoa.
Great writing then. I sincerely thought this was a divergence from OTL. Keep up the great work!
I’ll leave it here for now. Tomorrow, we’ll go over the beginning of Alexandros’ reign in detail, and the massive changes that the new emperor brought about….
Hopefully Alexandros proves to be a more capable emperor than his brothers.
 
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