King Levon V Lusignan, last King of Little Armenia, buried at St Denis, France, 1393
[image: Wikipedia]
Theo Maarten van Lint
University of Oxford

Sis, Cilician Armenia

The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia and its capital Sis were in an increasingly desperate situation until capture by the Mamelukes in 1375 spelled their demise. The king, Levon V Lusignan, spent the next seven years in captivity in Caïro, then took up residence in France. Here he engaged in attempts at creating the circumstances that might lead to a reconquest of his kingdom, which remained fruitless. He did make a diplomatic mission to England in an attempt to reconcile the English and the French. While received with honours and warmth by Richard II, who offered the Armenian king a handsome yearly stipend, differences between the two countries were not overcome. He died in France in 1393 and was buried in St Denis.

Crusades had brought Western Europeans into close contact with Armenians; travellers such as Marco Polo told of prosperous Armenian cities both in Cilicia and on the Armenian plateau (Greater Armenia); and merchants from Genoa, Venice and Pisa traded with Cilician Armenia. But it was rare for the monarch of an Armenian kingdom to come to Western Europe – even after his kingdom was lost.

Cilicia’s difficulties were not restricted to relations with the Muslim Mamelukes: there was inner-Christian tension as well, with factions promoting proximity to the Church of Rome, even advocating union with it, seeing themselves opposed by the majority of the Armenian population, and by the monasteries in Greater Armenia, powerful storehouses of Armenian tradition. While independence was lost, however,

the debacle of 1375 did not mean the end of Armenian civilization. Literary history continued to develop in the Armenian heartland, and here also was located a second focal point of Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic Christian encounter. The literature produced by Latinizing monasteries in Nakhidjevan and those defending the positions of the Armeian Church under the inspiring leadership of successive generations of scholars like Esayi Nchec‘i, Yovhannes Orotnec‘i and Grigor T‘atewac‘i, who died in 1409, tell an equally fascinating story of a people defending its Christianity and its ancient traditions, while displaying a remarkable openness to the wider world.