1320, Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, Levon IV. Bronze Pogh Coin. F+
Mint Place: Sis Denomination: Kardez Mint Period: 1320-1342 AD Reference: Bedoukian 2021. Condition: Pitted by corrosion, otherwise F+ Diameter: 17mm Material: Bronze Weight: 1.47gm
Obverse: The king seated holding cross and lis symbol. Legend (translated): "+ Levon King"
Reverse: Cross with a small pellet in each quarter. Legend (translated): "+ Struck in Sis"
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 IV or Leon IV (Armenian: Լեւոն Դ, Levon IV) (also numbered Leo V; ) (1309 – August 28, 1341) was the last Hethumid king of Cilicia, ruling from 1320 until his death. He was the son of Oshin of Armenia and Isabel of Korikos, and came to the throne on the death of his father. His name is sometimes spelled as Leo or Leon.
He spent his minority under the regency of Oshin of Korikos. During this period, the kingdom was much harassed by Mamluks and Mongols. In 1320, the Egyptian sultan Naser Mohammed ibn Kelaoun invaded and ravaged Christian Armenian Cilicia. In a letter dated July 1, 1322, and sent from Avignon, Pope John XXII reminded Mongol ruler Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan of the alliance of his ancestors with Christians, asking him to intervene in Cilicia. At the same time he advocated that he abandon Islam in favor of Christianity. Mongol troops were sent to Cilicia, but only arrived after a ceasefire had been negotiated for 15 years between Constantin, patriarch of the Armenians, and the sultan of Egypt.
The regent Oshin had married his stepmother, Joan of Taranto, and Leo was forced to marry Alice Oshin's daughter by his first wife, Margaret d'Ibelin, on August 10, 1321. Oshin murdered a number of members of the royal family to consolidate his own power, and Leo's reaction upon reaching his majority in 1329 was violent. Oshin, his brother Constantine, Constable of Armenia and Lord of Lampron, and Leo's wife Alice were all murdered on the king's orders, Oshin's head being sent to the Il-Khan and Constantine's head to Al-Nasr Muhammad.
Leo was strongly pro-Western and favored a union of the Armenian and Roman Churches, which deeply displeased the native barons. His second marriage on December 29, 1331 to Constance, daughter of Frederick III of Sicily and Eleanor of Anjou, widow of Henry II of Cyprus, further aroused anti-Western sentiment.
In 1337, Al-Nasr Muhammad invaded again, taking the city of Ayas, and Leo was forced to conclude a humiliating truce, surrendering territory and a large indemnity and promising to have no dealings with the West. He spent the last years of his reign holed up in the citadel at Sis, hoping for Western aid. On August 28, 1341 he was murdered by his own barons. His only son by Alice, Hethum, had died before 1331; the barons elected his cousin Constantine II to succeed him.
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