The Paroian Collection of Cilician Armenian Coins


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1080 – 1375  A.D. 


The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, sometimes referred to as Armenia Minor or kingdom of Lesser Armenia, was situated between the Taurus and Amanus mountains along the Mediterranean coast in Anatolia (southern Turkey), opposite Cyprus.


Starting with the 9th century, mass movements of Armenians to central and southern Anatolia began to take place. The first wave of emigrants accompanied the Armenian nobility, whose lands had been seized by the Byzantine emperors and were granted in return, domains in Cappadocia and Asia Minor. The second wave took place after the disastrous Byzantine defeat at Manzikert in 1071 A.D. and the devastating Seljuk invasion that overran the Armenian Kingdom of Ani.


The Armenians came to serve the Byzantines as military officers and governors; they were given control of important cities on the Byzantine Empire’s eastern frontier.  When Imperial power in the region weakened (after the Battle of Manzikert), some of the Armenian lords seized the opportunity to set themselves up as sovereign Lords. Philaretus Brachamius, a Byzantine general of Armenian origin, invited many Armenian nobles to settle in his domain, giving them land and castles, in the hope of establishing an Armenian dynasty. However after his death, the remains of his dominion disintegrated into local lordships.


After a series of long struggles, one of these lords, Prince Roupen, a descendant of the Bagradouni and Ardzrouni dynasties, succeeded in establishing his authority in the region around 1080 A.D.  Thus, the foundations of the independent Armenian princedom of Cilicia and of the future kingdom were laid under Roupen’s leadership and that of his descendants who ruled over Cilicia for more than 300 years.


In 1199, Prince Levon II, who came to the throne in 1187, managed to have himself recognized as king by the three great powers of the times, the Germanic Empire, Byzantium and Saladin. With Levon the Great or Magnificent and known as Levon I in the royal succession, Armenian Cilicia lived through its period of greatest splendour.


In the late 14th century, Cilicia was invaded by  the Mamluks. The fall of Sis, the capital, in April 1375, put an end to the kingdom. Its last King Levon V or Leo V ( Lusignan of Cyprus, of French origin ), eventually was granted safe passage and died in exile in Paris in 1393 after calling in vain for another Crusade. The title was claimed by his cousin, James I of Cyprus, uniting it with the titles of Cyprus and Jerusalem.


The Armenian Princes and later the Kings, maintained close contacts with the Crusaders. 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. It is of interest to note, that on the 12th of May 1191, Levon I as the groomsman, attended the wedding of  King Richard the Lionheart, (king of England) in Cyprus.  Another interesting fact is that the Genoese and Venetians through treaties with Cilician Armenia had established colonies in Ayas (port), which served them as terminal to the East.  Marco Polo, for example set out on his journey to China from Ayas in 1271.


The Cilician period produced some fine examples of Armenian art, notably the 13th century illuminated manuscripts of Toros Roslin. The kingdom did not last very long in the history of mankind, but most certainly, made an immense mark on the European civilization, its way of life, its trade, commerce and laws and above all its architecture.


The Roupenian dynasty was the first to issue a series of coins bearing the Armenian characters.  Previously the kings of Greater Armenia had struck coins patterned after early Greek coins with Greek characters.