Armenian Legends and Poems  at sacred-texts.com
At the end of the eleventh century, chronicles and histories were written in ancient Armenian (Grabar), but there was also a language of the people, in which books for popular use, such as collections of medical recipes, began to be written at this period, as well as songs. When the country again lost its independence many migrations took place. It was not only peasants and citizens who migrated; some of the nobles also sought more secure dwelling places in mountainous districts. The majority of these settled in the region of the Taurus Mountains, and there the emigrants multiplied to such an extent that they equalled the Greeks in number. In their new home they built many churches and abbeys, where they educated the boys of the settlement. Soon they established a number of villages and small towns, and the princes set up fortresses. The Byzantine emperors rather encouraged this progress, as they thought that the existence of small buffer-states on their frontier would serve as a barrier against the attacks of Mohammedan countries. One of these princes, Rubin by name, established himself there in 1080. He chose an impregnable stronghold, and the Armenians of the neighbourhood came and put themselves under his protection. Other Armenian princes, settled in the surrounding districts, adopted him as their chief. Having concentrated and strengthened his power, he ruled his little realm--which was called, after him, the Rubinian Principality--with great wisdom for fifteen years. He was succeeded by his son, Constantine, in 1095. Constantine extended his dominions by taking some almost impregnable fortresses from the Greeks. During his reign many Europeans began to come, with their armies, to the East. They wore the badge of the cross on their arms, and were therefore called "Crusaders." They cleared Palestine and Syria of Mohammedans and set up new Christian principalities in those countries. The Armenians called these strangers "Latins" because they were all Catholics of the Roman Church. Constantine rendered great services to the Crusaders by furnishing them with guides, providing them with provisions, etc., and the European princes, as an acknowledgment, conferred on him the title of "marquis."
The successors of Constantine extended still further the boundaries of the principality. After gaining possession of the mountains and strongholds, they came to the plains of Cilicia and imposed their rule as far as the sea-coast. At this time the Byzantine Empire was very
weak, and the Mohammedan Seljuks and Arabs were not very strong, as they had become divided among themselves and were engaged in strife with one another. The Crusaders had also formed new Christian principalities in those regions, so that the Rubinians had no fears either of Mohammedans or of any other foe. Precisely one hundred years after the accession of Rubin I., the Armenians possessed the extensive reach of territory between the Taurus Range and the sea, where they had built many fortresses, towns, and even ports.
Leo II. (1185) succeeded in repelling the attacks of the Sultan of Damascus and other Mohammedan rulers, even taking some towns from them.
During this period, Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, taking advantage of dissension among the crusading princes, attacked them, and took Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine (1187).
Then a new Crusade was started, led by the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. This monarch sent emissaries to Leo, asking his help against the Mohammedans, promising him a crown as a reward. Leo supplied the Crusaders with provisions and rendered them other assistance. Barbarossa died without fulfilling his promise, but the crown was sent by his successor, Henry VI., after consultation with the Pope of Rome. Leo was crowned king in 1198. The following year, the new Armenian king also obtained recognition from the Byzantine Emperor, who sent him a crown. Leo still further extended his dominions and put the whole kingdom into excellent condition. He did not, like the Bagratunis, re-establish the régime of the Arsacidae, but tried to imitate European institutions, inviting many French, English, and German experts to his kingdom, giving them appointments in the court, the army, and the council. Many new schools were opened in this reign in which the teaching was entrusted to learned Europeans as well as to Armenians.
Arts and handicrafts, commerce and agriculture also flourished under this king. Leo died in 1219 after a reign of thirty-four years. For his great services to his people, he was called "Leo the Benefactor."
It was under the rule of this king that Armenia entered into close relations with Europe. Just as the Zoroastrian Persians and afterwards the Greeks had inflicted all kinds of persecutions on the Armenians in order to convert them to their religions, so also in the reign of Leo II. and for many years afterwards the popes of Rome did everything possible to make the Armenians join their Church. The popes promised the Armenians help against the Mohammedans, they even offered to organise a Crusade, but the first condition was that the Armenians should become Catholics. When the Armenians did not accept these advances, a number of Catholic priests came to Armenia and tried to convert them. These priests were called "Unitors." At this time the Tartars (who were heathens) became very strong and conquered
[paragraph continues] Persia. The Armenian king when this conquest took place was Hetum. This king, though he maintained friendly relations with the courts of Europe, attached little weight to promises emanating from these quarters; he therefore formed an alliance with the Tartars against the Mohammedans. He tried to indoctrinate his new allies in Christian ideas and almost effected their conversion to Christianity. That he did not quite gain his object is due to external causes. Hetum, in conjunction with the Tartars, fought successfully against many Mohammedan sultans, but the Egyptian mamelukes grew strong and the Tartars became Mohammedans (1302), whereupon enmity arose between them and the Armenians. Three Mohammedan races--Seljuks, Tartars, and mamelukes--one after another attacked Cilicia, devastating the country and plundering many towns. The Armenians asked assistance from the Pope and from European kings; help was promised from France, but it never came, so the Tartars conquered Cilicia and slew its king, who, however, was avenged by his youngest brother, Ashin, who collected an army and drove the Tartars out of the country (1308).
The Mohammedan kingdoms became very powerful at this time. The mamelukes dominated, besides Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, and Syria as far as the Euphrates.
The common aim of all the Mohammedan governments was to destroy the independent kingdom of Armenia, because it was the only Christian state in Asia that was capable of rendering assistance to European sovereigns should any of them enter on a new Crusade in order to gain possession of the Holy Sepulchre. When the mamelukes heard that the European states were planning a new Crusade, they formed an alliance with the Tartars and the Sultan of Iconia and devastated Cilicia. But the Armenians made a brave defence and the mamelukes granted a peace for fifteen years. By this peace it was agreed that the King of Armenia should pay a certain amount of tribute and the mamelukes should restore the places they had taken. Again there was talk of a Crusade, and the Sultan of Egypt again attacked Cilicia. Leo V. (King of Armenia) asked for help from Europe, but the only assistance given was 10,000 florins sent by the King of France and a few sacks of corn from the Pope. This was not what the Armenians wanted; in fact they were again left to their fate. The Mohammedan sultan offered to restore Leo's kingdom if he would swear on the Cross and the Gospels that he would have no dealings with the Crusaders. Leo V. died in 1341, and as he had no children the throne passed to the Lusignan dynasty.
There were only four kings of this dynasty: the last king was Leo VI. (1365-1375). He was taken prisoner when the sultan invaded and devastated Cilicia. Thus ended the kingdom of Armenia. After a few years, through the mediation of John, King of Castille, Leo was set at liberty. He came to Europe to ask for help in regaining his kingdom. There was a talk of
a Crusade specially on behalf of the Armenians, but it never went beyond the stage of promises, and the last King of Armenia died in Paris in 1393 and is buried there in the Abbey of St. Celestin.
We have spoken mostly of Cilicia during this period. If we wish to complete the picture of the devastation of Armenia, we must name Zenghis Khan, Tamerlane (1387), and other enemies of the human race, but we will not enter into particulars of their work of desolation.