Marash (mod. Kahramanmaraş, Turkey), known in the ancient period as Germanikeia, was one of the most important towns in Armenian Cilicia in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. For a brief time (1104-1149) it was the capital of the most northerly of all the Frankish lordships in Outremer.
Marash’s importance stemmed from its location at the intersection of main roads coming from Anatolia in the west across the Anti-Taurus Mountains and continuing on to the cities of Edessa (mod. Şanlıurfa, Turkey) in the east and Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey) in the south.
The main armies of the First Crusade (1096-1099) passed through Marash when first entering Syria on the way to Jerusalem in 1097. At that time, a number of small Armenian lordships contended with one another for control of Cilicia while loosely recognizing the sovereignty of the Byzantine state. Hostile Turkish emirates at Ikonion (mod. Konya, Turkey) to the west, Sebasteia (mod. Sivas, Turkey) to the north, and Aleppo to the south surrounded the region and posed a constant menace to its survival.
It was in the hope of resisting this threat that the new Frankish rulers at Antioch and Edessa promoted the creation of a new lordship at Marash shortly after the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099. The precise circumstances and date are unknown, but by 1108 a descendant of the Hauteville family of Normandy, Richard of the Principate (of Salerno), was ruling Marash with the acquiescence of neighboring Armenian lords.
For the next four decades, four men held the lordship of Marash (which may briefly have had the status of county in the 1130s and 1140s). It was a period seldom free from foreign invasions and internal rebellions. No single family appears to have established a hereditary claim to the command. Richard’s son and heir, Roger, was named prince of Antioch in 1112. It is unclear how Marash passed to the next lord, Geoffrey, who had previously been a monk at a monastery in Rome. Geoffrey rose meteorically in the early 1120s to become briefly one of the most powerful men in the crusader states, governing Edessa as regent during the captivity of Joscelin I (1123-1124).
The high point in the importance of Marash came during the rule of Baldwin, lord from 1136 to 1146. He was probably a son (possibly illegitimate) of William IX, duke of Aquitaine (1086-1126), whose second son, Raymond of Poitiers, then prince of Antioch, installed him as lord. During the ten years of Baldwin’s rule, Marash stood out as one of the major powers of northern Syria and Cilicia, and Baldwin, who died a heroic death in the Franks’ failure to retake Edessa in 1146, enjoyed a reputation for great military valor among Greek, Latin, and Armenian historians of the era. However, Baldwin’s rule coincided with a resurgence of Turkish power to the north and Frankish weakness in the south; the loss of Edessa left Marash isolated and exposed, and the town fell to attacks from Ikonion in 1149. The existence of this lordship in Armenian Cilicia for half a century had little decisive influence on Frankish settlement in Outremer: at best it may have prolonged somewhat the survival of the Frankish states by warding off Turkish attacks from the north.