ARMENIAN PONTUS: Trebizond-Black Sea Communitie
by Richard G. Hovannisian
From early antiquity, the Armenian people developed a rich and distinctive culture on the great highland plateau extending from eastern Asia Minor to the Caucasus.
The plains, river valleys, and mountain ribs of the Armenian Plateau are separated from Black Sea littoral by the imposing Pontic mountain range. Nevertheless, associations between Armenia and Pontus date back to the era of the Persian Achaemenian Empire beginning in the sixth century B.C.Later in 401-400 B.C., the Greek general Xenophon traversed the Armenian Plateau as an escape route from the Persian heartlands to Trapezus (Trebizond) on the Black Sea, his account of that adventurous journey affording one of the earliest written descriptions of ancient Armenia. Economic and cultural interaction between Armenia and Pontus increased during the centuries of Roman dominion in Asia Minor and especially during the time of the medieval Greco/Byzantine Empire of Trebizond. Thriving, enlightened Armenian communities developed all along the extensive narrow corridor from Batum in the east to Samsun and Sinope in the west, while the curious Armenian enclave of Hamshen in the eastern Pontic hinterland retained much of its Armenian character long after its population was forcibly Islamized in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.