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Cilician Armenian (1071-1375 AD)

Prince RoubenDuring the period of Byzantine expansion circa 1000 AD, the Byzantines confiscated the lands of Armenian nobles in the east, and allowed them to relocate to lands seized from the Turks in "lesser Armenia" or Cilicia. The region encompassed Cilicia Trachia, a high and barren plateau, and Cilicia Pedias, a fertile plain watered by the Taurus River, and was located along the Mediterranean coast in Anatolia opposite Cyprus. Following the disasterous Byzantine defeat at Manzikert in 1071 AD, the Seljuks overran the Armenian Kingdom of Ani, killing King Kakig II, causing contingents of Armenian nobility lead by Prince Rouben to seek refuge in Cilicia. Rouben fought the local dukes to unify Cilicia and established his principality (the Rubenid Dynasty) in 1080 AD with the sufferance of the Byzantines.

Prince Levon I Under pressure from the Seljuk Emirate of Rum, the Armenians gave support in 1098 AD to the Crusaders of the 1st Crusade, who passed through Cilicia on route to Antioch and Jerusalem. Thereafter, Byzantium sought to reestablish its authority in the region. John II Comnenus sent an army to occupy Cilicia in 1137 AD, overwhelming the Armenian resistance and dragging Prince Levon (Leo) I to Constantinople in chains. His son, T'oros, was able to escape from prison and organize an Armenian resistance, which fought Byzantine incursions lead by Manual I Comnenus until 1180 AD. During this same period, contingents of "Frankish" mercenaries and Knights of the crusading orders (Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonics) found themselves in Cilician service after the County of Edessa was "sold" by the Crusaders to the Byzantines in 1150 AD and affectively abandoned to the Ayyubids. After the fall of Palestine, many of the Orders retired to strongholds in Cilicia.

In 1187 AD, Prince Levon (Leo) II became ruler, and by 1199 AD had been recognized as King of Cilicia by Byzantium, the Ayyubids, and the German Imperialists. Known as "the Magnificent," Levon II's reign was characterized by relative peace and prosperity, derived in large part from the profits of the rich trade that flowed from the Middle East through the Cilician port city of Ayas. Levon II died in 1219 AD, leaving the kingdom in regency to his minor daughter Zabel. When she came of age, she was married to Prince Het'um (Hethlum) in 1226 of the rival Osim family, thus launching the Hethumid dynasty.

Het'um I ruled from 1226-1270 AD, and is best known for traveling to Karakorum in Mongolia in 1253-1256 AD to make an alliance with Mangu Khan. Thereafter, King Het'um's Armenians and Bedouin allies joined an Ilkhanid force in storming Aleppo in 1259-1260 AD and advancing as far as Damascus and Jerusalem. However the news of Mangu Kahn's death in Mongolia forced the Mongol commander Hulaghu (Mangu's brother) to withdraw. Later, a Mongol army with contingents of Crusaders, Georgians and Cilician Armenians invaded Syria in 1281 AD but was repulsed at Homs.

The kingdom reached the zenith of its power and influence around the end of the 12th century with the ascendance of King Levon II. Thereafter, it declined as the Hethumid dynasty ended in 1342 AD with the death of Levon IV (then living in exile in France). Cicilia fell within the sway of the Lusignan Cypiots, who claimed the kingdom through matrimonial ties. The final Lusinian dynasty gave way with the surrender of the Cilician capital at Sis to the Mamluks in 1375 AD. Even then, the Armenian stronghold at Anazarba held out against the Mamluks until it was surrendered in 1428 AD (and later razed by the Seljuks in 1467 AD).


The Cilian Armenian list includes the following element types:

3Kn (Gen) Armenian nobility; classed in DBM as Irr Kn (F). One element could be depicted as/with knights from the Crusader orders.
3Ax (option) Armenian foot (DBM Irr Ax (O))
3Sp (option) Armenian foot (DBM Irr Sp(I)). Can include an element of Frankish mercenary foot sergeants.
2Ps Armenian archers. Can include an element of Frankish mercenary crossbowmen.

To field this army with all element options, you would need 9 Knights (including a CnC figure), 18 Armenian foot suitable for Auxilia and/or Spears, and 6 archers as Psiloi -- a total of 51 figures if you differentiate the Armenian Ax from the Sp, or 33 if your Armenian foot do double duty.

Missing from the list but found in many historical Cilician armies is a force of Light Horse reflecting Mongol and/or Bedouin allies and Armenians "disguised" as Mongols.


The long and extensive list of enemies includes Seljuk Turk (III/73ab), Komnenan Byzantine (IV1ab), Syrian (IV/6), Early Crusader (IV/7), Later Crusader (IV/17), Ayyubid Egyptian (IV/20), Lusignan Cypriot (IV/26), Mamluk Egyptian (IV/45), Ilkhanid (IV/46), Anatolian Turkoman (IV/49), Ottoman (IV/55), Jalayirid (IV/67), and Timurid (IV/75). Interesting enough, many of the foes were also allies at other points in time.

Camps and BUAs

With an aggression of 1, the Cilicians will fight many of their battles on their home "Hilly" terrain, where BUAs are optional. A typical BUA might be a fortified stronghold (e.g. a Crusader stronghold) typically built in the mountains guarding a pass. A typical array of tents or pavillions would make a suitable camp, as well as animals or other baggage.


See Stephenson's article below.

Other Resources

Adventures in Cilician Armenia by Martin Stephenson, Slingshot (2001).

The Castles of Cicilian Armenia

In print, there are references to Cilician Armenians in Ian Heath's Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096 - 1291, (Wargames Research Group, 1978) and Armies and Enemies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 (Wargames Research Group, 1982).

And from the De Bellis Bookstore, The Cilician Kingdom of Armenia by S. P. Cowe (Brill Academic Publishers, Aug. 1997). See also the various Osprey titles related to the Crusades.

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Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.

Last Updated: Sept. 16, 2001