Recruitment Strategy of Levon I, Ruler of Cilicia

Recruitment Strategy of Levon I, Ruler of CiliciaBuilding his state, a King of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from the Armenian Rubenid dynasty Levon I (also referred to as Levon (Leo) II, reigned 1198 – 1219) has been always guided by his intelligence and cunning. Smbat Sparapet described the recruitment policy of Levon I that was based on the principle “it is more useful for kings to save servants than to save wealth” as follows:

“As soon as he learned that there was a man of business somewhere, he sent his messengers to them and attracted them with promises and, as soon as these people arrived, presented them with generous gifts and comforted them. One of them was me, Smbat Sparapet… The country of Cilicia enriched itself with clergy and distinguished princes.”

The effectiveness of Levon’s technique of pacifying the “Armenian arrogance” can be seen on the example of the Armenian Hethumid dynasty. Levon I thought that friends and relatives needed to be imprisoned for their own good. However, this “rule” applied to only the smart since a fool would never learn from his mistakes and would never become loyal.

As Smbat Sparapet testified, the King “wisely revenged” on the Hethumids and “broke their arrogance down.” First of all, Levon allied with them and then married off his brother Ruben’s daughter to their representative.

And when Hethum arrived with his family in the city of Tarsus, King Levon arrested everyone, sent an army to the Hethumid fortress of Lambron and captured it without any resistance. He kept Hethum in custody for some time and then set him free, presenting him with many villages and establishing a friendship with him.

Hethum served him sincerely and wisely for he was a sensitive man of great intelligence and literacy. A few years later, Levon again put Hethum in prison. There, Hethum took the title of a monk. The king went to Vakhk and visited him in prison, and they forgave each other. Then, the King released Hethum and presented him with the monastery of St. Drazark.

At the same time, King Levon managed to attract Hethum himself and his relatives to carry out responsible assignments. Additionally, he appointed them to high governmental positions. According to Smbat Sparapet, Levon I appointed Constantine, the son of Hethum, the commander of the armed forces.

When Constantine after an unsuccessful battle was captured by the Sultan of the Sultanate of Rûm ʿIzz ad-Dīn, the King made territorial concessions in order to free him along with other princes.

Thus, pacifying the “Armenian arrogance” of the Hethumids, Levon I created the conditions for the peaceful transfer of the Rubenid dynasty’s power to the Hethumids since King Levon I had no heirs.

Read also: Cilicia – The Rubenid and Hethumid Principality


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