Leo I, Prince of Armenia

Last updated
Leo I
Lord of Cilicia / “Lord of the Mountains”
Levon I.gif
Lord of Armenian Cilicia
Predecessor Constantine II
Successor Thoros II (in 1144/45)
DiedFebruary 14, 1140(1140-02-14) (aged 59–60)
SpouseBeatrix (Beatrice) of Rethel
Issueone/two unnamed daughter(s)
(?) Constantine
Thoros II
Mleh I
House Roupenians
Father Constantine I
MotherAn unnamed great-granddaughter of Bardas Phokas

Leo I [1] (Armenian : Լեիոն Ա), also Levon I [2] [3] or Leon I, [4] (unknown [2] [ not in citation given ] – Constantinople, February 14, 1140 [2] ) was the fifth lord of Armenian Cilicia [3] or “Lord of the Mountains” [2] (1129 [2] [3] /1130 [1] -1137 [1] [3] ).

Armenian language Indo-European language

The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken primarily by Armenians. It is the official language of Armenia. Historically being spoken throughout the Armenian Highlands, today, Armenian is widely spoken throughout the Armenian diaspora. Armenian is written in its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, introduced in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots.


He learned to exploit the open, yet restrained, hostilities between the Byzantine Empire and the Crusader principalities of Edessa and Antioch. Most of his successes benefited from Byzantium’s pre-occupation with the threats of Zengi (the atabeg of Mosul) from Aleppo and the lack of effective Frankish rule, especially in the Principality of Antioch. [3]

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. Both the terms "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are historiographical terms created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".

County of Edessa

The County of Edessa was one of the Crusader states in the 12th century. Its seat was the city of Edessa.

Principality of Antioch former country

The Principality of Antioch was one of the crusader states created during the First Crusade which included parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria. The principality was much smaller than the County of Edessa or the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It extended around the northeastern edge of the Mediterranean, bordering the County of Tripoli to the south, Edessa to the east, and the Byzantine Empire or the Kingdom of Armenia to the northwest, depending on the date.

He expanded his rule over the Cilician plains and even to the Mediterranean shores. In his time, relations between the Armenians and the Franks (the Crusaders), two former allies, were not always as courteous as before: a major cause of dissension between them was the ownership of the strongholds of the southern Amanus, and on the neighboring coasts of the Gulf of Alexandretta. [4]

Mediterranean Sea Sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean between Europe, Africa and Asia

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.

Armenians ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland

Armenians are an ethnic group native to the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.

Gulf of Alexandretta bay

The Gulf of Alexandretta or İskenderun is a gulf of the eastern Mediterranean or Levantine Sea. It lies beside the southern Turkish provinces of Adana and Hatay.

Leo was captured after being invited to a meeting by the Byzantine Emperor John II Comnenus, who had sworn a false promise of peace. [5] Leo and two of his sons were taken captive and imprisoned in Constantinople where Leo died shortly after. [3]

Constantinople capital city of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Byzantine Empire, and also of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261), until finally falling to the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). It was reinaugurated in 324 from ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, and dedicated on 11 May 330. The city was located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul.

His early life

Leo was the younger son of Constantine I, lord of Armenian Cilicia. [2] It is likely that his mother was the great-granddaughter of Bardas Phokas. [2]

Constantine I or Kostandin I was the second lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains”. During his rule, he controlled the greater part of the regions around the Taurus Mountains, and invested much of his efforts in cultivating the lands and rebuilding the towns within his domain. He provided ample provisions to the Crusaders, for example during the difficult period of the siege of Antioch in the winter of 1097. He was a passionate adherent of the separated Armenian Church.

Bardas Phokas was a notable Byzantine general in the first half of the 10th century, and father of Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas and the kouropalates Leo Phokas the Younger.

When Constantine I died, Leo’s brother Thoros I succeeded him; [3] Leo may have ruled in the eastern part of “the Mountains” during the lifetime of his brother (although the basis of this proposition is not known). [2] Sometime between 1100 and 1103, [2] Count Baldwin II of Edessa gave his sister in marriage to Leo; [3] but the name and origin of his wife are not known with certainty. [2] It is also possible that his wife was Baldwin II’s sister-in-law, a daughter of the Armenian Gabriel of Melitene. [2]

Toros I, also Thoros I, was the third lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains”.

Baldwin II of Jerusalem king of Jerusalem

Baldwin II, also known as Baldwin of Bourcq or Bourg, was Count of Edessa from 1100 to 1118, and King of Jerusalem from 1118 until his death. He accompanied his cousins, Godfrey of Bouillon, and Baldwin of Boulogne, to the Holy Land during the First Crusade. He succeeded Baldwin of Boulogne as the second count of Edessa when his cousin left the county for Jerusalem. He was captured at the Battle of Harran in 1104. He was held first by Sökmen of Mardin, then by Jikirmish of Mosul, and finally by Jawali Saqawa. During his captivity, Tancred, the Crusader ruler of the Principality of Antioch, and Tancred's cousin, Richard of Salerno, governed Edessa as Baldwin's regents.

Gabriel of Melitene was the ruler of Melitene. Along with Thoros of Edessa, Gabriel was a former officer of Philaretos Brachamios. Philaretos had installed Gabriel as the ruler of Melitene. Following the death of Philaretos in 1086 Melitene became completely independent of Byzantine control with the aid of the Danishmends. Eventually the Danishmends began harassing Melitene. Gabriel appealed to Bohemund I of Antioch for assistance.

In 1111, Sultan Malik Shah of Iconium entered Armenian territories, and two of the commanders of Leo’s brother were killed in battle. [3] Saddened by this loss, Leo was so enraged that he launched a savage attack against the Turks and drove them into retreat. [3] In 1118, Leo assigned by his brother [3] brought a contingent to help Prince Roger of Antioch at the siege of Azaz (today A'zāz in Syria). [1]

/Leo/ invited many famous warriors to join him, and allured them by great rewards. Forward in battle, he prepared himself, and often fought against the foreigners or infidels, took their forts and put all the inhabitants to the sword. He was the admiration of warriors, and the fear of foreigners or infidels, so that they called him the new Ashtahag.

Vahram of Edessa: The Rhymed Chronicle of Armenia Minor [6]

His rule

Armenian Cilicia and the Levant in 1135 CE. Map Crusader states 1135-en.svg
Armenian Cilicia and the Levant in 1135 CE.

Thoros I died in 1129 (or in 1130), and his son Constantine II died a few months later, in the course of a palace intrigue. [1] Other authors (e.g., Jacob G. Ghazarian, Vahan M. Kurkjian) suggest that Thoros I died without a male heir and was directly succeeded by Leo. [3] [4]

Conflicts with the Franks

In February 1130, Bohemond II, Prince of Antioch, whose ambition was to restore his principality, thought that the moment had come to recover Anazarbus (a former Antiochene town which had fallen into the possession of Thoros I). [1] He marched with a small force up the river Jihan towards his objective. [1] Leo was alarmed and appealed for help to the Danishmend emir, Ghazi. [1] As Bohemond II progressed carelessly up the river, meeting only light resistance from the Armenians, the Danishmend Turks fell on him and massacred the whole of his army. [1] However, it was due to Byzantine intervention that the Turks did not follow up their victory; and Anazarbus remained in Armenian hands – Michael the Syrian says that John II Comnenus at once started an offensive against the Turks. [1]

Soon after Bohemond II’ death, Leo protected in his rear by an alliance with the Danishmend emir, descended into the plain; after a brief unsuccessful siege of Seleucia, [3] he seized the three cities of Mamistra, Tarsus and Adana in 1131. [1] In 1133, Leo captured Sarventikar, on the slopes of the Amanus Mountains, from Baldwin of Marash. [1] But the Armenian hold over Cilicia was weak: bandits found refuge there, and pirates hung about its coasts. [1]

In 1136, the new prince of Antioch, Raymond I decided that his first action must be to recover Cilicia. [1] With the approval of King Fulk of Jerusalem he marched with Baldwin of Marash against Leo. [1] But Leo, with the help of Count Joscelin II of Edessa (who was his nephew), drove back the Antiochene army. [1] Triumphant, Leo agreed to have a personal interview with Baldwin of Marash, who treacherously made him prisoner and sent him off to captivity in Antioch. [1]

In Leo’s absence his three sons quarreled: the eldest, Constantine, was eventually captured and blinded by his brothers. [1] Meanwhile, the Danishmend emir, Mohammed II ibn Ghazi, invaded Cilicia, destroyed the harvest. [1] Shaken by these disasters, Leo bought his freedom by offering to give up the Cilician cities (Sarventikar, Mamistra and Adana) [4] to Raymond I; [1] in addition he paid 60,000 gold pieces and gave his son as a hostage; [4] but on his return home he forgot his promise. [1] A desultory war broke out again, till, early in 1137, Joscelin II patched up a truce between the combatants. [1] An alliance was then formed against the Emperor John II Comnenus, who was then pressing his claims against Antioch as well as Cilicia. [4]

The (re-)occupation of Cilicia by the Byzantines

In the spring of 1137, the imperial army, with the Emperor and his sons at its head, assembled at Attalia (today Antalya in Turkey) and advanced eastward into Cilicia. [1] Leo moved up in an attempt to check its progress by taking the Byzantine frontier fortress of Seleucia, but was forced to retire. [1] The Emperor swept on, past Mersin, Tarsus, Adana and Mamistra, which all yielded to him at once. [1]

Leo relied on the great fortifications of Anazarbus to hold him up. [1] Its garrison resisted for 37 days, but the siege engines of the Byzantines battered down its walls, and the city was forced to surrender. [1] Leo retreated into the high Taurus Mountains, while the emperor led his forces southward into the plain of Antioch. [1]

After the emperor had asserted his authority over the Principality of Antioch, he returned to Cilicia to finish off its conquest. The family castle of Vahka (today Feke in Turkey) held out for some weeks. [1] Eventually John invited Leo to a meeting under a false promise of peace, where the prince was captured. Leo and two of his sons, Roupen and Thoros, were subsequently taken prisoner. [5]

His last years in exile

Leo and his two sons were sent to prison in Constantinople. They were soon allowed to live in the court under surveillance and John acted more honorably towards Leo, with the two dining and going on hunting parties together. Leo's son Roupen was later murdered by Byzantine grandees that were envious of his strength. [5]

Leo died in Constantinople. [3]

Marriage and children

The name and the origin of his wife are not known with certainty. [2] It is possible that his wife was Béatrice, daughter of Count Hugh I of Rethel, or she may have been an unnamed daughter of Gabriel of Melitene. [2]

(Leo’s second marriage proposed by Rüdt-Collenberg is speculative.) [2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades – Volume II.: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East: 1100–1187.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Cawley, Charles (2009-04-01), Lords of the Mountains, Kings of (Cilician) Armenia (Family of Rupen), Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, [ self-published source ][ better source needed ]
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Ghazarian, Jacob G. The Armenian Kingdom in Cilicia during the Crusades: The Integration of Cilician Armenians with the Latins (1080–1393).
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Vahan M. Kurkjian (2005-04-05). "A History of Armenia". Website. Bill Thayer. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
  5. 1 2 3 Bucossi, Alessandra; Suarez, Alex Rodriguez. John II Komnenos, Emperor of Byzantium: In the Shadow of Father and Son.
  6. Vahram (2008-09-10). "Chronicle". Text Archive. Internet Archive. Retrieved 2009-07-19.


Leo I, Prince of Armenia
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Constantine II
Lord of Armenian Cilicia
Succeeded by
Thoros II
(in 1144/45)

Related Research Articles

Bohemond II was Prince of Taranto from 1111 to 1128 and Prince of Antioch from 1111/1119 to 1130. He was the son of Bohemond I, who in 1108 was forced to submit to the authority of the Byzantine Empire in the Treaty of Devol. Three years later, the infant Bohemond inherited the Principality of Taranto under the guardianship of his mother, Constance of France. The Principality of Antioch was administered by his father's nephew, Tancred, until 1111. Tancred's cousin, Roger of Salerno, managed the principality from 1111 to 1119. After Roger died in the Battle of the Field of Blood, Baldwin II of Jerusalem took over the administration of Antioch. However, he did acknowledge Bohemond's right to personally rule the principality upon reaching the age of majority.

Toros II the Great, also Thoros II, was the sixth lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains” (1144/1145–1169).

Mleh I, also Meleh I, was the eighth lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains” (1170–1175).

Constantine II, also Kostandin II, was the fourth lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains” (1129/1130).

Leo I, King of Armenia first king of Cilician Armenia

Leo II, also Leon II, Levon II or Lewon II, was the tenth lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains” (1187–1198/1199), and the first king of Armenian Cilicia (1198/1199–1219). During his reign, Leo succeeded in establishing Cilician Armenia as a powerful and a unified Christian state with a pre-eminence in political affairs. Leo eagerly led his kingdom alongside the armies of the Third Crusade and provided the crusaders with provisions, guides, pack animals and all manner of aid. Under his rule, Armenian power in Cilicia was at its apogee: his kingdom extended from Isauria to the Amanus Mountains.

Ruben III, also Roupen III, Rupen III, or Reuben III, was the ninth lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains” (1175–1187).

Ruben II, also Roupen II or Rupen II, (c.1165–1170) was the seventh lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains” (1169–1170).

Hethumids noble family

The Hethumids, also known as the House of Lampron, were the rulers of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from 1226 to 1373. Hethum I, the first of the Hethumids, came to power when he married Queen Isabella of Armenia who had inherited the throne from her father.

Bohemond III of Antioch Prince of Antioch

Bohemond III of Antioch, also known as Bohemond the Child or the Stammerer, was Prince of Antioch from 1163 to 1201. He was the elder son of Constance of Antioch and her first husband, Raymond of Poitiers. Bohemond ascended to the throne after the Antiochene noblemen dethroned his mother with the assistance of Thoros II, Lord of Armenian Cilicia. He fell into captivity in the Battle of Artah in 1164, but the victorious Nur ad-Din, atabeg of Aleppo released him to avoid coming into conflict with the Byzantine Empire. Bohemond went to Constantinople to pay homage to Manuel I Komnenos, who persuaded him to install a Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Antioch. The Latin Patriarch of Antioch, Aimery of Limoges, placed Antioch under interdict. Bohemond restored Aimery only after the Greek patriarch died during an earthquake in 1170.

Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia former country

The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, also known as the Cilician Armenia, Lesser Armenia, or New Armenia, was an independent principality formed during the High Middle Ages by Armenian refugees fleeing the Seljuq invasion of Armenia. Located outside the Armenian Highland and distinct from the Armenian Kingdom of antiquity, it was centered in the Cilicia region northwest of the Gulf of Alexandretta.

Isabella, Queen of Armenia Queen regnant of Cilician Armenia

Isabella I, also Isabel I or Zabel I, was the queen regnant of Cilician Armenia (1219–1252).

Ruben I, Prince of Armenia Prince of Armenia

Ruben I,, also Roupen I or Rupen I, was the first lord of Armenian Cilicia or “Lord of the Mountains”. He declared the independence of Cilicia from the Byzantine Empire, thus formally founding the beginning of Armenian rule there. The Roupenian dynasty ruled Cilician Armenia until 1219.

In the Battle of Melitene in 1100, a Crusader force led by Bohemond I of Antioch was defeated in Melitene in eastern Anatolia by Danishmend Turks commanded by Malik Ghazi Gumushtekin.

The Battle of Mamistra took place in 1152 between the forces the Byzantine Empire and Cilician Armenia, near the city of Mamistra. The Armenians under Thoros II were victorious.

Timeline of the Principality of Antioch

The timeline of the Principality of Antioch is a chronological list of events of the history of the Principality of Antioch.