Armenians – both ordinary people and nobles – received the participants of the First Crusade (1095 – 1099) with enthusiasm, seeing them as allies in the struggle against Islamic rulers. This is evidenced by both Armenian and Western sources.
“In these days, the prophecy of St. Nerses about the campaign of the Romans came true… For the Lord wished with their help to fight against the infidels…
Princes came with their troops to help the Christians to take the holy city of Jerusalem from the hands of the Saracens…,” wrote the Armenian chronicler Mateos Urkhaetsi. The Armenian population and the soldiers supported the Crusaders in their conquest of Syrian settlements.
In the Syrian chronicles, we read: “The Franks have besieged Antioch for nine months. The leaders of the Turks in the city were Cassian and Agouzian… Agouzian came out to depart for Aleppo. But several Armenians attacked him on the way, cut off his head, and presented it to the Franks.
After that, two other Armenians, who were brothers set to guard one of the towers, descended at night, entered into an agreement with Bohemond, and let him into the city.”
Prince Constantine, the son of Ruben, and Oshin, the ruler of Lambron, also came to the aid of the Crusaders with their troops and food supplies. But at the same time, the Crusaders gradually destroyed the Armenian possessions in northern Syria.
It should be noted that the first state of the Crusaders in the east arose after the Crusaders treacherously took Edessa from Prince Toros, although the latter, like the others, helped the “soldiers of Christ”. To be fair, it should also be noted that some Armenians were involved in the conspiracy against Toros as well.
Among them was Constantine Rubinyan who had personal motives against Toros. In any case, among Armenian princes, Constantine was practically the only one to benefit from the Crusade.
Having inherited from his father small possessions in the most mountainous areas of Cilicia, he managed during the First Crusade to take away from the Turks and Byzantines almost all areas and fortresses of the Cilician Taurus, including the fortress of Vakhk which he would turn into his residence.
Thus, the reinforcement of the Rubenid dynasty’s power was largely possible thanks to the appearance of the Crusaders. During Constantine I, an alliance with the Crusaders was secured by dynastic marriages: the daughter of Constantine married Zhoslin, the Count of Edessa, and the daughter of his brother Toros married Baldwin, brother of the leader of the Crusaders Gottfried.
Constantine was also granted the Western title of a count (comte). Around that time, the word “paron” (Western-Armenian writing of the European “baron”) entered the Armenian language first as a princely title. It then reached our times as a respectful form of addressing men, meaning “mister.”
At the same time, the result of the Crusades was a new strengthening of the Byzantine Empire in the region. Although the Byzantines in many ways interfered with the Crusaders, they managed to take advantage of the defeats of the Seljuks from the European knights and to reclaim Asia Minor.
Among other things, the Byzantines were also involved in the struggle for Cilicia. While the mountainous areas of Cilicia were firmly held by the Armenian princes, the plateau Cilicia became an apple of discord between the Greeks, the Armenians, and the Franks (Crusaders).