The Rubenids and Hethumids who had settled in the east and west of Mountain Cilicia throughout the 12th century have been almost constantly confronting each other, personifying two political orientations: the Hethumids were the vassals of the Byzantine Empire, whereas the Rubenids sought to create an independent domain.
In the end, the Rubenids won, creating an independent Armenian kingdom. However, the paradox of history turned out to be that the kingdom they had created eventually ended up in the hands of the Hethumids.
Since the first king from the Rubenid dynasty Levon I had no sons, after the dynastic marriage of his daughter Zabel (Isabella) with Hethum I, the inheritance continued along the family line of the Hethumids. A century of enmity between the two clans was forgotten.
The ancestor of the Hethumids Prince Oshin (died in 1110) moved to Cilicia from a locality near the city of Gandzak (now Ganja, Azerbaijan) together with his soldiers. There, he married the daughter of Prince Ablgarib Artsruni, the Byzantine governor of Cilicia, and was presented with the fortress Lambron in the west of the Mountain Cilicia that he himself had earlier taken away from the Turks.
After the death of Ablgarib, Oshin also inherited the fortress of Paperon. Two branches of his descendants hereditarily owned these fortresses and areas around them during the 12th century. The eldest son of Oshin, Hethum I, whose name is borne by the Hethumid clan, received from the Byzantines the title of a sevast.
Hethum I has owned Lambron in 1110 – 1143. He fought against the Turks but was killed in a battle with the Rubenids. His successor was Oshin II (reigned in 1143 – 1170) who in his turn was replaced by Hethum II. Hethum II was captured by the Rubenids while his father was still alive. He would be freed after marrying Princess Rita from the Rubenid dynasty.
Another family line going from Smbat, the second son of Oshin I, owned Paperon. Smbat had two sons, Bakuran and Vasak. The grandson of Vasak Hethum later became the first king of Cilicia from the Hethumid dynasty (1226 – 1342).
Prince Ruben (Roupen) is considered the founder of the Rubenid clan. The information about him is contradictory and is found only in later sources. In some of them, he is mentioned as a descendant of both the Bagratuni and Artsruni dynasties.
However, there is no reliable evidence to support this. Earlier sources refer to him as one of the soldiers of King Gagik of Ani, which is more likely to be the truth. It was also assumed that Ruben was a vassal of Filaret Varazhnuni. However, this statement cannot be verified with accuracy.
It is believed that in ca. 1080, Ruben captured one of the fortresses in the eastern areas of the Mountain Cilicia. But even here, there is no complete clarity in the question of what kind of fortress this prince owned and how far he was able to expand his possessions.
The more accurate history of the Rubenids only begins with the son of Ruben Constantine I (reigned in 1095 – 1100) who captured the castle of Vahk in the northeastern areas of Cilicia.
It is significant that the year of the beginning of the reign of Ruben was 1080, the year of the assassination of the king of Gagik of Ani. The revenge for Gagik of Ani and for the collapse of his kingdom with a red line passes through the history of the early Rubenids in the form presented by Armenian sources of the 12th – 13th centuries.
Finally, aside from the Rubenids and Hethumids, another genus that played a large role in the history of Cilicia of the 12th century should be mentioned. It is the Pahlavuni (Pahlavouni) clan that also gave many major spiritual and secular figures to Cilicia. The Pahlavunis became known in the Kingdom of Ani at the late 10th and the early 11th centuries.
The family estate of the Pahlavunis was situated in Bjni, on the territory of the present Republic of Armenia. According to chroniclers’ accounts, the Pahlavunis originated from the ancient Kamsarakan family akin to the royal dynasty of Arshakids, as well as to Grigor the Illuminator.
One of the Pahlavunis, Vahram Pahlavuni, until old age was the supreme commander of the Kingdom of Ani. He defended Ani against the Byzantines in the 1040s and died in a battle with the Seljuks at the age of 80.
The son of Vahram’s brother was Grigor Magistros, the Byzantine governor of Mesopotamia. The descendants and relatives of Grigor Magistros were especially famous in the spiritual and intellectual fields. Many of them also occupied military positions before becoming monks.
Some Pahlavunis even reached Egypt. For example, Vahram Pahlavuni, the grandson of Grigor Magistros, at the beginning of the 12th century was a warlord and a vizier at the court of the Ismaili caliph in Cairo. However, he became a monk in the late years of his life.
During the 12th century, the representatives of the Pahlavuni dynasty several times married the Hethumids. Such prominent spiritual figures of this century as the Catholicos of All Armenians Grigor the Young (1173–1193) or Archbishop of Tarsus Nerses Lambronatsi (1153–1198) were the descendants of these marriages.
In the 13th century, the traditions of the Pahlavuni-Hethumid union that had combined their military and intellectual talents manifested themselves in such colorful personalities as Smbat Gundstable, King Hethum II, and other descendants from both clans.