Chapter VI: ARMENIAN KINGDOM IN CILICIA (FROM 1080 TO 1375)
Establishment of Rubenids dynasty.
After the devastating raids of Seljuks thousands of Armenians moved toward Cilicia - region of Armenia Minor situated between the Taurus and Amanus mountains close to Mediterranean coast. The Armenian population in Cilicia gradually became predominant. In 1080 a certain Prince Ruben, that the historians believe to be descendant of the Bagradouni and Ardzrouni dynasties, asserted authority over the local Armenian and Greek princes. Ruben became founder of a new glorious royal House of Rubenids that ruled over Cilicia for more than 300 years.
Ruben I and his successors maintained close contacts with the Crusaders. As a result, the new Armenian Principality, which later became Kingdom, imitated the principles of State organization accepted in European countries. A number of new ranks and titles were established. Armenian Nakharars became Knights and Barons, Sparapets were often called Constables etc. The Armenian Cilician noblemen used the Latin and French languages alongside the Armenian. Intermarriages between the members of the Armenian and European noble families were widespread.
The first rulers of Cilicia.
The first Armenian rulers of Cilicia, such as Constantine I and Thoros I led successful warfare against both Saracens and Greeks. The next ruler, the bellicose Leon I was less fortunate, as the Emperor John II Comnenus arrested him and seized all of his domains. Later Leon I and his elder son Ruben were murdered in prison, but Leon's younger son Thoros known as Thoros II was spared.
5 years later, Thoros II escaped to Cilicia to declare the country's independence. Then the Emperor Manuel I Comnenus sent his commander Andronicus (later known as Emperor Andronicus I Comnenus) to punish the fugitive prince. However, Thoros defeated the Greek army several times. Unable to subject Thoros, the Greeks even concluded a military alliance with Sultan of Konya, but the troops of the latter were also routed by Thoros.
Leon II and the Crusaders.
During the ruling of Leon II, when Cilicia enjoyed the period of a prosperous development, the Third Crusade was proclaimed in Europe. The Roman Emperor Frederic I Barbarossa, the French King Philip II Augustus and the English King Richard the Lion-Hearted assembled their forces to recapture Jerusalem from Saladin. Arriving in Asia Minor, Frederic Barbarossa proposed an alliance to Leon II. The Armenian King promised to supply the Europeans with food and horses. Although Frederic I was tragically drowned in the Calycadnus River in Cilicia, Leon II continued to support the Crusaders. Wishing to reward Leon II for his loyalty, Henry IV, the son of Frederic Barbarossa, sent him a splendid crown. Other leaders of the Third Crusade also promised their friendship and protection. Nevertheless, the European monarchs and the Popes of Rome were never disinterested toward the Armenian state. Some religious concessions and the further reunion of the Armenian and Catholic churches were stipulated as an important condition.
The Cilician Armenian Kingdom was reinforced after Leon II gained the long-term conflict over the Latin princes of the neighboring Antioch Principality. The Armenian King captured Antioch twice. He also marked the end of his ruling with victories over the Sultans of Konya and Aleppo.
The Armenian Renaissance.
While the inhabitants of the Greater Armenia eye-witnessed the loss of their national statehood and numerous foreign invasions, the Cilician Armenians lived in wealth and prosperity. Good geographic location involved the country into an intensive international trade. Science and culture flourished. This period of Armenian history is regarded as the brilliant Age of Ecclesiastical manuscript painting. The school of genius Thoros Roslin was especially famous. Theology, philosophy, rhetoric, medicine and mathematics were taught in a large number of new schools and monasteries. New significant names appeared in the Armenian literature, such as: Nerses Shnorhali, Matthew of Edessa, Vardan Aygektsi and Sembat the Constable.
Hetum I and the Mongols.
Meanwhile, the enormous Empire of Mongols expanded on the East, and the Turks were consecutively ousted from the Greater Armenia, Syria and Mesopotamia. During the ruling of Hetum I, Mongols approached the borders of Cappadocia and Cilicia. A far-sighted politician, Hetum I was prompt to establish the good relations with Khan Batu. Later, when Khan Mangu assumed the title of Great Khan, Hetum I made a long trip to the Golden Horde with the many sumptuous presents. As a result the military alliance with the Mongols was reaffirmed. The Mongols supported Hetum I in his conflict against the Sultans of Konya and Aleppo. The next Armenian kings also maintained friendly connections with the Khans of Golden Horde. The situations drastically changed however, as the Mongols declined in power and were gradually converted to Islam.
Cilician Kingdom in danger.
By the beginning of the 14th century, the aggressive Mamelukes dynasties becoming stronger and dangerous, the Armenian Kings had no way out but seeking protection of the European monarchs. The King Leon IV repeatedly sent messengers to Rome promising the reunion of the Armenian and Catholic churches. Later his brother Oshin I tried to make alliance with Philip V, King of France. Also Leon V, Oshin's son asked Philip VI to render assistance. But the European leaders, although sympathetic, were not able or willing to intervene.
End of Rubenids.
Leon V was the last king of the Rubenids dynasty. Then, the descendants of Armenian branch of the royal Lusignan family ruled Cilicia. The country was already depleted as a result of the permanent Moslem invasions. As a matter of fact, the Christian Cilicia was doomed. The surrounding Moslem states feared new possible Crusades and often considered the Cilician Armenia as an eternal source of conflicts and an eternal pretext for European Kingdoms to interfere.
Fall of the Kingdom.
Under the ruling of Constantine IV, the Cilician Armenians gained perhaps their last victory, defeating the troops of Mamelukes near Alexandria. After Constantine's death in 1364 the Cilician throne remained unoccupied for more than 2 years. Finally, Leon VI, the last Armenian King, was elected in 1366. 8 years later, after a series of fatal battles against the superior enemy he locked himself in the Kapan fortress, but soon surrendered. The Mamelukes sent him to Egypt when he remained imprisoned for several years. Later the King of Castile mediated for his liberation. Leon VI died in Paris in 1393.