In 1189, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I undertook the Third Crusade in order to not only seize Jerusalem but also bring back the territories in Asia Minor that once belonged to Holy Roman Empire. The Crusade has been an ordeal for the emperor’s soldiers. The new climate, deficit of water and food weakened them. Horsemen were even forced to eat their horses.
Frederick sent three letters to Cilician king Leo II (sometimes Leo I or Levon I the Magnificent), asking him for aid, permission for the passage of his troops through Cilicia, and calling him to have a part in the Crusade. To persuade Leo, Frederick also informed the Armenian Catholicos Nerses that he is visiting Cilicia with a crown for Leo.
However, Leo fully realized the rationale of Frederick’s actions and was extremely careful with him. Leo’s ambassadors attended the camp of the Crusaders and asked Frederick to not pass Cilicia’s borders.
Alas, the emperor didn’t follow the request. His troops entered Cilicia and set up a camp near the Kalikadnos River. But on June 10, 1190, Frederick’s heavy armor pulled him underwater, drowning him, rendering his army unable to advance.
A year later, Leo together with Richard I of England conquered Cyprus and appointed Guy of Lusignan, the previous ruler of Jerusalem, as a king. Within his state, Cilician king gifted the Templars and Hospitallers various lands to help him protect Cilicia from intruders.
Bohemond III of Antioch chose to eliminate Leo, his influential neighbor, and invited him to his residence. Leo learned about Bohemond’s plans from his wife, who sympathized Leo. The Cilician king himself set an appointment nearby a frontier fortress and captured Bohemond, who was forced to not only acknowledge the supremacy of Leo but give up some of his territories. Thus, Leo became the Magnificent.
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