Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was a sovereign principality established during the High Middle Ages by Armenian refugees fleeing the Seljuk invasion of Armenia. It was situated outside of the Armenian Highland in the Cilicia region northwest of the Gulf of Alexandria.
Kingdom of Cilicia was distinct from Armenian Kingdom which had been suffering from political dissensions. Armenian Kingdom has been eventually claimed by the Byzantine Empire, leaving Cilicia the only independent Armenian state.
Kingdom of Cilicia held a significant role in the region, being a passageway from Europe to Asia. Cilicia was a strong ally of the European Crusaders and saw itself as a bastion of Christendom in the East. Ancient city of Corycus was one of the roots of the kingdom’s magnitude.
Corycus (also transliterated Corycos or Korykos; Armenian: Կոռիկոս) was located in Cilicia Trachaea, Anatolia, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Bertrandon de la Broquière, piligrim to the Middle East in 1432-33, noted that Corycus was in 60 miles (96.5 km) from another Mediterranean city Tarsus, original capital of Cilicia. Today the site of Corycus is occupied by the town Kizkalesi, Mersin Province, Turkey.
Corycus consisted of a mainland city and a sea fortress near it. Before being claimed by Armenians in 12th century Corycus had been controlled by the Byzantine Empire. Under Armenians’ control the city became significant nautical trade center along with the Mediterranean port Ayas (nowadays city Yumurtalik in Adana Province, Turkey).
The city was renovated by Armenians, though mostly reconstructions took place in the sea fortress. The mainland part of Corycus’s architecture mostly consisted of recently built Byzantine buildings. The only original Armenian construction was one small chapel, while the sea fortress nowadays has the extensive remains of Armenian rebuilding.
Simon, the Baron of Corycus, attended the coronation of King Leo I in 1198-99. Subsequent Armenian nobles maintained authority in the area until 1360. In 1360 Egyptian army captured cities Tarsus, Adana and invaded Cilicia, depriving the kingdom of access to the sea.
The whole coast except for Corycus moved under Mamelukes’ control. People in the fortress realized they wouldn’t be able to hold the city indefinitely, so it was decided to seek help from Peter I of Cyprus, who removed the Mamelukes and assumed suzerainty.
Cyprus’ king didn’t give particular attention to the city, so the fortress started to lose its significance. Soon Armenians began to leave the city and move to Christian countries of Europe. Corycus remained the continental appendage of the Kingdom of Cyprus until 1448.
In the late 14th century Corycus fell again to the Turks. From 1448 or 1454 after city’s desolation it belonged alternately to the Karamanids, the Egyptians, the Karamanids a second time, and finally to the Ottoman Empire. The Cilician Armenia of the Lusignan dynasty fell in 1375 after relentless attacks by the Mamelukes in Egypt, weakened by an internal religious conflict.
The city has been widely overviewed by travelers and guests. Shortly before death of Thoros II, the sixth lord of Armenian Cilicia, medieval traveler Benjamin of Tudela visited Corycus around 1167. He described Corycus as “the beginning of a country named Armenia, the border of the lord of the mountains and the king of Armenia Thoros’ empire.”
Legatus of Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV passed through Corycus during 1211-12 on his way to Jerusalem. He was astounded by city’s marvelous architecture and noticed some resemblance with Roman structures and ruins in its greatness.
A notable person to live there was medieval Armenian nobleman, monk and historiographer Hayton of Corycus. He is the author of La Flor des Estoires d’Orient (“Flower of the Histories of the East”, in Latin “Flos historiarum terre Orientis”), a historiographical work about the history of Asia, especially about the Muslim conquests and the Mongol invasion, which he dictated at the request of Pope Clement V in 1307, while he was at Poitiers.
His son Oshin served as regent for King Leo IV from 1320 to 1329 after the death of King Oshin in 1320, whom he was rumored to have posioned. Oshin was suspected to be responsible for the deaths of King Oshin’s sister Princess Isabella of Armenia and two of her sons, which he had done in order to remove rival claimants. To consolidate his political power he made his daughter Alice to marry Leo IV. He and his daughter were assassinated in 1329 at the behest of Leo IV.
In 14th century episcopacy of the Catholic church was formed as a result of activities of Catholic missionaries in Cilicia. In 1328 the residence of the bishop of the Catholic church moved from Ayas to Corycus. Despite negative attitude towards those who started to follow Catholicism, followers of both branches of Christianity got along generally well.
French historian and Paleographer Charles-Victor Langlois visited Corycus around 1852. There he discovered inscriptions and writings belonging to periods of rule of kings Leo I and Hethum I. Corycus’ Armenian inscription was mentioned in Guide d’Asie Mineure published in 1895 by British publishing house John Murray. Charles Wilson, Scottish physicist and meteorologist, sketched published writing himself.