The Fleet of the Cilician Armenian Kingdom

The Fleet of the Cilician

The Cilician fleet was one of the components of the army of the Cilician Armenian Kingdom (1080–1375). The supreme commander of all the armed forces of the country, including the navy, was the king. The commander-in-chief was the sparapet-constable.

Cilician Armenia had its own military merchant fleet. Armenian merchants – also ship owners – were engaged in navigation and overseas trade. Shipbuilding in the country was rather widespread.

Armenia constantly competed with Genoa and Venice for supremacy on the seas, which often caused wars. These wars were quite often waged in the territorial waters and the coastline of Cilician Armenia.

Armenian and foreign eyewitness chroniclers of the events (Sanuto, Dandolo, a Genoese anonymous author, Hethum, and others) report on numerous episodes of this long struggle that took place in the waters of Cilicia, its ports, and on the coast.

As a country strongly interested in the development of international shipping and maritime trade, Cilician Armenia has always been actively fighting piracy, thereby making a significant contribution to the elimination of interference in free and unhindered navigation in order to enforce the principle of open waters.

Since the rulers of all countries had not only to refuse to protect pirates but also actively fight against them, the first king of the Armenian Cilicia Levon I (sometimes Levon II) led a decisive struggle against piracy. There are even mentions in literature that he personally chased pirates in open waters.

Kirakos Gandzaketsi reports on the naval battle that occurred during the return of Levon II from Cyprus, when a squadron of Armenian warships under the personal command of the king defeated the fleet that intended to ambush him. The pirate fleet commander ship was boarded and sunk, which put the rest of the ships to flight.

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