1269, Armenian Cilicia, Royal, King Levon II. Nice Silver Tram Coin. VF+
Mint Place: Sis Condition: VF+ Denomination: Tram Mint Period: 1269-1289 AD Reference: Bedoukian 1498. Diameter: 21mm Weight: 2.64gm Material: Silver
Obverse: Levon on horseback right, holding patriarchal cross; annulet below. Legend (translated): "+ Levon King of the Armenians"
Reverse: Crowned lion facing right; paw raised, patriarchal cross above Legend (translated): "+ By the will of God"
The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (Middle Armenian: Կիլիկիոյ Հայոց Թագաւորութիւն, Giligio Hayoc’ T’akavorut’iun), also known as Cilician Armenia (Armenian: Կիլիկեան Հայաստան, Giligian Hayastan), Lesser Armenia, or New Armenia and formerly known as the Armenian Principality of Cilicia (Armenian: Կիլիկիայի հայկական իշխանութիւնը), was an Armenian state formed during the High Middle Ages by Armenian refugees fleeing the Seljuk invasion of Armenia. Located outside the Armenian Highlands and distinct from the Kingdom of Armenia of antiquity, it was centered in the Cilicia region northwest of the Gulf of Alexandretta.
The kingdom had its origins in the principality founded c. 1080 by the Rubenid dynasty, an alleged offshoot of the larger Bagratid family, which at various times had held the thrones of Armenia and Georgia. Their capital was originally at Tarsus, and later became Sis. Cilicia was a strong ally of the European Crusaders, and saw itself as a bastion of Christendom in the East. It also served as a focus for Armenian nationalism and culture, since Armenia proper was under foreign occupation at the time. Cilicia's significance in Armenian history and statehood is also attested by the transfer of the seat of the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, spiritual leader of the Armenian people, to the region.
In 1198, with the crowning of Leo the Magnificent of the Rubenid dynasty, Cilician Armenia became a kingdom.
In 1226, the crown was passed to rival Hethumids through Leo's daughter Isabella's second husband, Hethum I. As the Mongols conquered vast regions of Central Asia and the Middle East, Hethum and succeeding Hethumid rulers sought to create an Armeno-Mongol alliance against common Muslim foes, most notably the Mamluks. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Crusader states and the Mongol Ilkhanate disintegrated, leaving the Armenian Kingdom without any regional allies. After relentless attacks by the Mamluks in Egypt in the fourteenth century, the Cilician Armenia of the Lusignan dynasty, mired in an internal religious conflict, finally fell in 1375.
Commercial and military interactions with Europeans brought new Western influences to the Cilician Armenian society. Many aspects of Western European life were adopted by the nobility including chivalry, fashions in clothing, and the use of French titles, names, and language. Moreover, the organization of the Cilician society shifted from its traditional system to become closer to Western feudalism. The European Crusaders themselves borrowed know-how, such as elements of Armenian castle-building and church architecture. Cilician Armenia thrived economically, with the port of Ayas serving as a center for East-West trade.
Leo II or Leon II (occasionally numbered Leo III; Armenian: Լեւոն Բ, Levon II; c. 1236 – 1289) was king of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, ruling from 1269/1270 to 1289. He was the son of King Hetoum I and Queen Isabella and was a member of the Hetoumid family.
Leo was born in 1236, the son of King Hetoum I and Queen Isabella. Hetoum and Isabella's marriage in 1226 had been a forced one by Hetoum's father Constantine of Baberon, who had arranged for Queen Isabella's first husband to be murdered so as to put Constantine's own son Hetoum in place as a co-ruler with Isabella. They had six children, of which Leo was the eldest. One of his sisters was Sibylla of Armenia, who was married to Bohemond VI of Antioch to bring peace between Armenia and Antioch.
In 1262 Leo married Keran (Kir Anna), the daughter of Prince Hetoum of Lampron.
In 1266, while their father king Hetoum I was away to visit the Mongol court, Leo and his younger brother Thoros fought to repel Mamluk invaders, at the Battle of Mari. Thoros was killed in combat, and Leo, along with 40,000 other Armenian soldiers was captured and imprisoned. When King Hetoum returned, he paid a large ransom to retrieve his son, including a large quantity of money, handing over several fortresses, and accepting to intercede with the Mongol ruler Abagha in order to have one of Baibars's relatives freed.
Hetoum I abdicated in 1269 in favour of his son, and entered the Franciscan order. He died a year later. The new king Leo II was known as a pious king, devoted to Christianity. He pursued active commercial relations with the West, by renewing trade agreements with the Italians and establishing new ones with the Catalans. He also endeavoured to reinforce the Mongol alliance, as his father Hetoum I had submitted Armenia to Mongol authority in 1247.
In 1271, Marco Polo visited the Armenian harbour of Ayas and commented favourably about Leo's reign and the abundance of the country, although he mentions his military forces were rather demoralized:
The king [Leo II] properly maintains justice in his land, and is a vassal of the Tartars. There are many cities and villages, and everything in abundance.(...) In the past, men were courageous at war, but today they are vile and chetive, and don't have other talents than drink properly.— Marco Polo "Le Livre des Merveilles"
In 1275 the Mamluk sultan Baibars invaded Cilicia for a second time. The following year, Armenia fought off an invasion by the Turkomans, but the Constable Sempad, Leo's uncle, was killed in combat.
In 1281 Leo joined the Mongols in their invasion of Syria, but they were vanquished at the Second Battle of Homs. Leo had to sue for peace, and in 1285 obtained a 10-year truce in exchange for important territorial concessions in favour of the Mamluks.
Leo died in 1289 from arsenic, and was succeeded by his son Hetoum II.
During twenty-one years of marriage Leo had sixteen children by his wife Keran, ten sons and six daughters. Five of his children reached the throne. The eldest, Hetoum II of Armenia, abdicated after four years in favor of his younger brother Thoros III of Armenia, but was placed back on the throne in 1294. In 1296, their brother Sempad of Armenia blinded Hetoum and in 1298 he strangled Thoros, in order to seize power. Sempad was then overthrown in 1298 by their younger brother Constantine III of Armenia, who was replaced by older brother Hetoum, who then abdicated in 1305 in favor of Thoros's son Leo III of Armenia.
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